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Dr. Darin Davis

Minnesota independent pro wrestler discusses past experiences and the current state of pro wrestling

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Tag: WCW

Has TNA started their own “Attitude” era? Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a few changes to the programming that by themselves seem pretty insignificant, but combined seem to indicate an actual company direction. I know, I’m making the assumption that TNA Management actually has a plan. Or even that they have the idea that they need a plan.

With the turn of Abyss and a more serious Jay Lethal, there aren’t any “cartoonish” characters left. On top of that, they’ve gone from bleeping the word “ass” on the broadcast, to allowing the word a**hole to be said multiple times per episode. It’s even part of Mr. Anderson‘s gimmick. Add the bit with Angelina Love‘s backstage camera shot and you’ve got the start of a more “adult” TNA.

Back in 1998, the WWE started running more edgy angles, violence, and swearing to compete with WCW. TNA has dipped their toes in the deep end a little bit with some hardcore thumbtack matches and flaming tables (I’m not going to comment on the “glass” this time). Now it looks like they’ve got their whole foot in.

Will it be the start of something good, or just another attempt of TNA copying what was successful in the past and keeping their fingers crossed?

Interesting ending to the 3-hour June 7th Monday Night Raw episode. The NXT rookies wreaked havoc on John Cena, the commentary crew, the announce table (including the announcer), and the ring itself. Not sure where they’re going with this,other than an nWo angle. Probably the best and most unexpected thing I’ve seen happen in the last couple of years. At least as far as storylines go, which I don’t care too much for to begin with.

Also interesting to see that the WWE ring is built the same way most of the wrestling rings are on the independents. Sheets of foam board insulation with their edges duct taped together, on top of 2″ x 12″ planks, on top of a steel frame (one of our earlier rings used 4 x 8 foot sheets of plywood instead of the planks).

On the same program, however, was one of the most embarrassingly awful series of skits the WWE has put on with the actors from the new A-Team movie. For all the flack TNA gets, they haven’t put on anything rivaling the WCW appearance of RoboCop.

Okay, I’ll admit I watched the A-Team as a kid. But if I saw Mr. T break out of handcuffs on the Tonight Show, I’d call B.S. (not B.A.)

If the A-Team movie is really “the biggest blockbuster of the summer” as they kept boasting, Hollywood has a lot worse problems than piracy. In fact, they may have just created the perfect pirate-proof product. Actually, most pirates just download stuff because they can, not because they actually intend to watch it, so I take that back.

Please, please WWE, get rid of the Raw guest host crap. You’ve got a general manager now. You don’t need to turn every show into a two hour product placement.

I pity the fool that keeps milking the guest host gimmick.

I surrender!

TNA IMPACT! is moving back to their previous Thursday night time slot after trying to directly compete with the WWE on Monday nights for the past two months.

I haven’t followed the whole ratings game for quite awhile, but I’m assuming this means that the ratings dropped. If the ratings didn’t increase at all, or didn’t increase as much as they had hoped, it doesn’t seem like reason alone to move. I don’t think there is added cost for airing a taped show on Mondays instead of Thursdays (I think they would normally tape on Mondays anyway). When they were live it was probably a bigger deal. Probably more of an issue for SpikeTV, since they’re the ones that had to shuffle the rest of their schedule around.

Some would say that TNA is “waving the white flag” and surrendering. Others would say… okay, everyone is saying that. Including me.

I didn’t think it was a good idea to begin with, so it’s pretty easy for me to say, “Told ya so“. But to be honest, I didn’t really know that it wouldn’t increase ratings. I was probably not on board when Bischoff decided to go head-to-head against the WWE on Monday back in the mid ’90s (although I was at the first WCW Monday Nitro at the Mall of America). That turned out to be a huge success, with WCW beating the WWE in the ratings for 84 consecutive weeks.

But that was a different time, and a different set of rules. WCW was able to beat WWE by taking away part of their viewership. People had to choose between one program or another. There weren’t many options to watch both, except for putting a tape in your VCR or flipping between channels.

Fast forward to today, where we can watch TNA at any time of day (delayed by a week) using Hulu or TNA’s own web site. Or using their DVR (TiVo, DirectTV, etc.). People no longer have to choose between watching one over the other. They don’t have to worry about missing something, because they can always watch it later. There is no scarcity here (manufactured or otherwise).

Hopefully for TNA, they won’t lose more viewership due to people not knowing when the hell they’re on.

Below are links to some wrestling-related blog entries & articles that I found interesting during the month of November 2009.

  • Carnage Chronicles: Wrestling 101Jerry Jarrett writes about how the “Art of Professional Wrestling” has been lost, and comments about what has happened in TNA since he started it in 2002.
    I hope he’s right about Hogan and Bitchoff (intentionally misspelled) “turning TNA around”, but I doubt it.
    You can read my thoughts on that in a previous post (It’s WCW All Over Again)
  • City Pages: Hulk Hogan InterviewCity Pages interviews Hogan about his book and how his life is going down the crapper.
  • Stunt Granny: Ric Flair Getting Married AgainWTF? Flair is getting married for the fourth time. Maybe he should listen to some of his shoot interviews first, where he talks about some of his previous wives bleeding him dry in divorces.
  • The Inno View: “I Respect You, Bookerman!”A look back at Brian Pillman
  • WrestleZone: Hogan vs. Flair in Australia — Three pictures from the Hulkamania tour of Australia featuring Hogan & Flair. I really figured Flair would stay retired, but I guess he has to save up some cash for his next divorce.
  • Missouri Wrestling Revival: Welcome To Wrestling — Former Harley Race Wrestling Academy instructor Matt Murphy is writing a series of articles about the insides of pro wrestling. They include topics like training, creating characters, booking, and running TV. There are 11 chapters so far, but the link above is for the first one. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to navigate from one to the other except to do a search for “chapter” (or something similar).
As I run across things, I’m also going to be adding them to my Delicious bookmarks page (http://delicious.com/drdarindavis). You can also find the last 10 of them on the right side of the page towards the bottom.

Below are links to some wrestling-related blog entries & articles that I found interesting during the month of August 2009.

  • Stunt Granny: TNA makes some creative changes; still sucks.Lost Dutch Mantel, but Russo is still there
  • WWE.com: Ricky Ortiz ReleasedWWE cuts loose another one from the roster. I wasn’t a fan of his.
  • Rantables: Dropping Like FliesDiscussion of the recent injuries in the WWE and what “Creative” might do about it.
  • Rantables: #38 — Really, Vince?Discussion of McMahon‘s frustrations with the company’s “inability to create new stars.” While I’ve never been a fan of Eugene, but I agree that Vince still tries to promote the big “muscleheads” over the smaller guys with the talent.
  • The 450 Splash: Another WWE ReleaseGoodbye Eugene. Hey, I was just talking about you…
  • WPXI.com: Kurt Angle Arrested/Kurt Angle Is InnocentI bookmarked this story back on 8/16/09, but by the time I put together this post the headline on the site had changed from “Wrestler Kurt Angle Arrested“, to “Attorney: Kurt Angle Is Innocent“. Why wouldn’t the update have been filed as a separate story? Maybe by the time you read this, the headline will be “Kurt Angle Cleared of All Charges“, or “Jeff Jarrett Sleeping With Kurt Angle’s Ex-Wife“.
  • Variety: WWE Added to Talkshow CircuitOh, boy… I’ll comment on this in a separate post when I get around to it. The WWE wants to be one of the stops on celebrity publicity tours, in between Letterman, Conan, and Regis & Kelly. On one hand it seems like a brilliant idea. On the other hand it can only lead to problems because it makes the product worse tailoring the show to the celebrity.
  • Stunt Granny: Vince Wants His Own Cable NetworkWith a library of over 100,000 hours of programming, Vince McMahon wants to start his own basic cable network to showcase it.
  • Wresting DVD Reviews: The Rise and Fall of WCWReview of the latest from the WWE. Sounds like there are a good set of matches, but the documentary part tends to “rewrite history” and leaves a lot to be desired.

As I run across things, I’m also going to be adding them to my Delicious bookmarks page (http://delicious.com/drdarindavis). You can also find the last 10 of them on the right side of the page towards the bottom.

Radio microphoneI saw some photographs  a few weeks ago on Wayne McCarty’s site from the recent Heavy On Wrestling (HOW) card in Superior, WI. In the past few months, in addition to local independent wrestling stars, they have brought in Christy Hemme (TNA, WWE), The Honky Tonk Man (WWF), Terry Funk (NWA, WCW, ECW, WWE,…), The Highlanders (WWE), “Spirit Squad” Mikey (WWE), Cherry (WWE), Eugene (WWE), and Mick Foley (WCW, ECW, WWE,…).

Usually, when a small promoter brings in a big name from out of town, they tend to lose their shirt. The draw never covers expenses. When they keep doing it, they’re usually doing it to “buy” some friends (a “money mark”). That works until their savings run out, and then they end up stiffing the workers and skipping town.

Trash Talking Radio has an interview with HOW promoter “Heavy D” (RealPlayer requiredI hate RealPlayer). Listening to the interview, it’s pretty clear that this promoter is not one of those people. As he states, “there’s a difference between putting a show together and being a promoter.” Getting sponsors (Miller Lite, Domino’s), getting radio time on morning shows, selling advertising, getting newspaper coverage, getting venues, and making sure that the product looks and sounds good.

Even though he has only been promoting for a couple of years, they are already drawing 800 to 1000 people per show. I’ve always had mixed feelings about bringing in big names rather than making names out of local talent. Several wrestlers from the Minneapolis area have been involved with the promotion, and it would be good to see those guys get more name recognition up north. Get them to the point where people will want to go to the show just to see them, and not because someone “famous” is on the card. That’s what it sounds like the promoter wants to do, although it’s not clear at this point if he would phase out some of the outside talent or not.

It will be interesting to hear how this progresses.

As a follow-up on an earlier story about the WWE getting into Japan and heading back to the ’80s, I’ve read a few posts where people are wondering if TNA will step up to the plate and fill the void (if there ends up being a void) of wrestling programming for those of us that are more than 14 years old.

From Wrestle WorldNew “Kid Friendly” Direction for WWE, could this be TNA’s opening?:

WWE has been taking a drastically more Kid Friendly direction. The storylines are cleaner, less sex less violence… They have brought back the classic heel/face story lines. Gone are the days of grey area. What about TNA you ask? Well, Mick Foley seems to think its worth a shot. And if it’s good enough for Mick, it’s good enough for me.

JustJeff09 writes about TNA:

I’ve been TIVO’ing TNA for the last year or so and I find myself fast forwarding less and less. I’m a huge mark for the X Division guys… TNA is faster paced with better storylines. The mix of old WWE’ers with the new generation works well.

I wrote a post called Circling the Bowl? back in January about some of my problems with the TNA product. The main problems I have with them is that they seem to be copying some of the WWE or WCW angles or ideas when they could be doing so much more with the talent they have.

Another post on Wrestle World- Ways to Improve TNA:

…if TNA continues running its program they way it is now, I don’t think Vince will be losing any sleep… TNA needs to stop ripping off WWE and attempting to be the same company. Remember WCW? How did that end. ECW at least used to offer an alternative… TNA also has the X Division which is amazing. It is actually exciting to watch. TNA also has a new interesting story line with the MME (main event mafia) vs young talent.

I agree with most of what they have to say, except for the MME. The whole Main Event Mafia thing has gotten a favorable reception, but it smells like the NWO to me (except in this case it would be the OWO: The Old World Order). The thing that made the NWO interesting was that it hadn’t been done before (at least in the time that I’ve been watching wrestling), and that it introduced shades of gray- an alternative to just “good guys” and “bad guys”. You could argue that the lack of respect that Sting is complaining about and the “young lions” disagreement with that could have fans cheering or booing either side. But I haven’t seen anything to make me think they aren’t going to just duplicate what’s already been done instead of taking it to another level.

From Off The MatChanging the face of wresting forever:

How many times have we heard that from TNA, WWE, WCW, et all? I’m all for the hype, but seriously. Do we need yet another earth-shattering announcement that will cause the world to spin off its axis and hurtle uncontrollably at the sun?… There is simply no way to live up to that pronouncement.

It will only end up “changing the face of wrestling” if we’re able to look back on this and say that it was the beginning of a legitimate competitor to the WWE. Otherwise it’s just another angle.

From Pinakin’s WeblogI’m Glad:

i’m glad…That TNA has started revamping themselves in a big way and stepping up the non-wrestling aspect of their shows… The wrestling was always there. (Many times it has been better in the TNA ring than anywhere else) But the one thing they lacked was the high quality production values…

While I’m usually not as interested in the non-wrestling aspects of the shows, it’s probably because they’re bad (or that they could be better). I see his point. I would agree that making the production better would help. Part of that is not copying everyone else.

Will TNA step up? Only time will tell.

I’ll continue to track the amount of time I view the program to see if anything changes.

Next WWE Japan Champion

Next WWE Japan Champion?

There have been a few stories going around lately about the WWE pushing harder to get into Japan. The WWE sees Japan as one of the most important overseas markets.

Here are a couple of quotes from a USA Today article:

“Japanese fans are changing,” [Funaki] told The Associated Press. “The key is to give them more opportunities to watch WWE. If they see it, they’ll get it.”

and

“Even if you’ve never watched it before, you can jump in and start watching because it’s good vs. evil,” said Ed Wells, Vice President and General Manager and WWE Japan. “We always refer to ourselves as sports entertainment. We created that genre in the U.S. And it’s something that we are now, as of this year, taking really worldwide.”

Is this a good thing?

There have been many times over the years that the WWF/WWE has steered toward the ridiculous, whether it was a particular storyline or a particular character, to the point where I just didn’t want to watch anymore. Not that other national promotions haven’t done some really stupid, embarrassing stuff as well —

Robocop in WCW, I’m talking to you brother!

When you got to the point where you thought American professional wrestling was just unwatchable,  you could always get a hold of a Japanese tape and see some great wrestling action without all of the soap opera, crazy product tie-ins, kiddie-safe fare, or black-and-white storylines (e.g. “good” vs “evil). The WWE of late seems to be going back to the ’80s, where apparently everybody had to have a second job to make ends meet. They had garbage men, dentists, clowns, undertakers. Now we’re getting a carny. [Coming from a “doctor”, maybe I shouldn’t be too critical about that part]

With the WWE trying to become a bigger fixture in Japan, I’m getting a little heartburn. Will it become popular enough in Japan that the other promotions will have to adopt some of the WWE’s format and storylines to compete?

How long before we see Godzilla wrestle Rosie O’Donnell in a “King of the Monsters” match?

[Updated 10/25/08: Fixed broken link at bottom]

This is a continuation of a previous story of my experience in wrestling training camp.

In June of 1997, a couple of months after the Peacemaker Center closed down, Eddie Sharkey teamed with wrestler Terry Fox to restart the training camp. They set up shop in Coon Rapids, MN.

Even though I had done some training already, they thought it would be better if I just started over so I’d be in sync with everyone else. The new recruits were myself, Robbie and Mike Thunder, Hellraiser Gutz (a.k.a. ECW’s Bam Neely), PrimeTime, “Opera Man” (theres another story there), the Mighty Angus, and referee “Diamond” Joe. Gutz’s tag partner and real-life uncle Blood was also there, partly to get back into the game, and partly to give the new guys some pointers.

Besides Sharkey and Fox, we had two other wrestlers involved in training us. Charlie “Thunderblood” Norris, a Minnesota native (literally a “native“) had been working down in Texas as part of a tag team with Sam Houston. Charlie came back home to this area and brought Sam with him. They worked some shows around the area for the better part of a year before Sam went back. While they were here they got involved in the camp.

Other than Eddie, working with Sam (and Charlie) was my first “brush with fame”. I remember watching Sam wrestle for the WWF in the mid ’80s. He had a feud with referee-turned-wrestler “Dangerous” Danny Davis (hey, that’s a good wrestling name). And now I was in the ring with him.

When I lived up in northern Wisconsin, I remember coming down to Mission Creek in Hinkley, MN with my dad for a wrestling card on Father’s Day weekend. The promotion called itself the NWA (not the National Wrestling Alliance), but booked on the card were some AWA wrestlers such as Larry Zbyszko and Johnny Stewart. Also on the card were a few wrestlers that would go on to the national scene at various levels. They were “The Lightning KidSean Waltman (WWF, WCW), Ricky Rice (AWA), Derrick Dukes (AWA), J.W. Storm (WCW), and Charlie Norris (WCW, AWF). And now I was in the ring with Charlie.

The ring was outside, so every day at the start of camp we would have to reassemble it. And every day at the end of camp, we would have to disassemble the ring down to the metal. The ropes, canvas, and plywood would rot if we left it out in a rainstorm. Everything was stored each night in a shed that was completely dark inside and not quite tall enough to stand up in (unless you were Little Kato). That meant that at least once a week you would bang your head on a rafter.

If there was a show that weekend, then Friday night we would take the entire ring apart and load it on the trailer. At the show, we would take the ring off the trailer and put it together, then disassemble and reload after the show. On Monday, we would put the ring back together.

At the camp we also had a few sections of amateur wrestling mat that was placed on the ground outside of the ring. We could have pairs of wrestlers working on mat moves and various things while others were inside the ring, and then have people rotate in and out.

If you want to play basketball, you have to learn how to dribble, pass, and shoot. If you want to play hockey, you need to learn how to skate, pass, and shoot. If you want to be a professional wrestler, you need to learn to run the ropes, learn to take a bump, and as William Regal once said in an interview, you need to learn how to “hit people very hard in safe places.

A typical training day would start out with everyone running the ropes and taking bumps (everyone’s favorite). Then we would form a line and go through several drills to learn basic moves. One person gives the move to everyone in the line, then they go to the end of the line and take the move from everyone else.

The basic moves that we would do drills on were: body slam, armdrag, hiptoss, biel throw, fireman’s carry, shoulder tackle, clotheslines, drop down, drop kick, side headlock takeover, front face takeover, small package, roll-up, clothesline, lateral press.

I remember Robbie got a “stinger” on either his first day or first week of camp after taking a front face takeover and getting his head planted into the mat. His arm when numb for awhile. Fun!

Other days would be more specialized drills, like being thrown through the ropes, or over the top rope, backdrops, suplexes, punches, kicks, chops, and forearm strikes.

Terry would get in the ring and work with the trainees, while Eddie would usually instruct from the outside.

I remember getting really sunburned one weekend tubing down the Apple River in Wisconsin, and then coming to camp on Monday finding out that we would spend the day working on chops. Yay! Since that day I will put on sunscreen even if I’m just taking out the garbage.

For the chopping drill we would stand in a circle and everyone would take turns giving a chop to the person on their right. After a few times around, we would change direction and give it to the person on your left (payback!). Same type of thing for punches, kicks, forearms across the back, european uppercuts, etc..

After the drills were done, we would usually pair up and work through matches. While one pair was using the ring, the other people would work on the mats outside.

A few times during the summer we would have some “celebrity” guests. Ken Patera stopped a couple of times (after a 12-pack I think). “The Judge” Randy Gusto (“owee, owee, owee”) stopped by after the Old Country Buffet and actually got in the ring despite “having a big dessert” (I’m not making this up). There were a few more that I can no longer remember.

In the fall, as the weather started getting colder, we had to find a place where we could work indoors. We would end up moving to a garage in St. Louis Park, MN. Besides the wrestlers mentioned above, the new location would be the training grounds for many that would become big names in the regional and national scene.

But I’ll leave that for Part 3

-========-

Terry Fox continues to run his promotion [MIW]. Wayne McCarty has some pictures of Terry’s latest training camp w/ Austin Aries on his blog.