Number Eight: Macho Messiah, Brother Bret, and Reverend Rock
By the time you read this, I will have celebrated the 36th Annual International Douglas Day. It’s been held at least 6 more times than I thought it would, or really even wanted it to be. I stand in amazement at every passing year. This past 12-month span has to be the one I just knew I wouldn’t see to its conclusion. It took more out of me than the last 6 did. The job sh*t, the family drama, going back to work for a paycheck for the first time in 3 years, and the headache of a car were things I had went without for a long time, and was just fine with that. But it’s nice to have more money than I was getting before, and the freedom of having my own transportation was satisfying for as long as it lasted.
I’ve been asked often why I refer to my birthday as “International Douglas Day”. The origin of the name is pretty deep. At a Church of Christ gospel meeting/revival in 2003, preacher Winford Clayborne, the host of the International Gospel Hour, referred to Troy Perry’s International Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. Perry actually calls it Universal, but I’m a syllable freak, so I got hooked on “international”. That’s got a lot to do with me saying or writing my entire name out. Then I had a damned near nervous breakdown as my 30th birthday approached. I had survivor’s guilt over seeing so many friends dying. I got through the meltdown, and promised never to let another birthday pass without meaning something. A couple of weeks later, Dr. Dre’s video to his song “Dre Day” aired on BET. I remembered the original title to the song was “It’s F*ck with Dre Day (and Everybody’s Celebratin’)”. Dre had a day, Troy Perry had a supername for his congregation, and Douglas Wayne Tipton would now have an International Douglas Day. Before you say how nutty that sounds, I’ve got two words for ya: Easter Bunny.
Most of you know from reading the “Cena Says” posting (Number Five) that I’ve been a wrestling fan for at least 20 years. I’ve been witness to the good, the bad, and the ugly of the business. I saw how good a show wrestling can be during the “Monday Night Wars” between Vince McMahon’s WWE and Ted Turner’s WCW. I’ve seen how bad steroid and drug abuse can destroy careers and lives. And I’ve seen how ugly real-life beefs over a wrestling match can get. In the case of the recently departed “Macho Man” Randy Savage, you had all three as well. Savage is a pop icon because of those old Slim Jim commercials, but he’s also one of the most complex wrestlers ever. Savage was so good, so entertaining as a wrestler, his WWE Intercontinental Championship match with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at 1987’s Wrestlemania III not only overshadowed the pay-per-view’s main event, which drew over 93,000 fans to Detroit’s Pontiac Silverdome (Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant for the WWE Title), but it was voted the greatest match ever by wrestling fans until 2005’s Wrestlemania 21 match between Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels. Savage also had a bad reputation for being every bit as eccentric away from the camera as he was on television. His insecurities led to the very ugly ending of his real-life marriage to his on-screen manager, Miss Elizabeth. Unlike the Superman-esque superstars like the legendary Hulk Hogan, (with whom Savage apparently had his greatest love-hate association) and current WWE star John Cena, male fans could relate to Savage, the jealous brute with the most beautiful woman in the world at his beck and call. And women understood how the delicate flower Elizabeth could stand by her often overly-Macho Man.
It turns out the “Macho Man” was even more provocative in death as he was in life. Randy Savage died the day before Family Radio founder Harold Camping predicted the world would end, May 20th, 2011. As we all know, the Judgement Day prophecy didn’t materialize. it wasn’t necessarily Camping’s absurd math formula that’s to blame. Instead, it’s been revealed that Randy Savage laid Jesus out with his patented flying elbowdrop from the top rope. The “Kingdom of the Madness” put a stomp on the “Kingdom of Heaven”, and spared the world from destruction. As a result of his dying to go to heaven to save the world, “Macho Man” Randy Savage is now the “Macho Messiah”, and has recieved his own church.
The Intercontinental Church of “Macho Man” Randy Savage held its first worship service on May 21, 2011, Harold Camping’s alleged Judgement Day. The “Macho Church” is, of course, a parody on organized religion. The guys who came up with the site are probably not as committed to Savage the way many fundamentalists are about their churches. No, wrestling fans aren’t like fundamentalists. Or are they?
Eric Bischoff is one of the most controversial wrestling executives ever. His time as President of WCW brought it its only success, but many cite Bischoff’s poor adminstrating playing a key role in WCW being put out of business in 2001. Since then he’s had a continued presence in the wrestling industry, as well as running a successful TV production with former actor Jason Hervey, and even has his own brewing company. Bischoff is the constant target of longtime wrestling fans’ ire for his role in WCW’s demise, and the fact that his current position as Executive Producer for Impact! Wrestling, the only American wrestling company to currently even slightly compete with WWE, sees him making the same mistakes he allegedly made at WCW. This group of fans are very vocal, yet surprisingly small in number. To that end, Bischoff has given these obsessive fans the condescending name of “ten-percenters”. In other words, yes, there are fundamentalist wrestling fans… When you really begin to look at it outside the box, the similarities are quite glaring between Churchianity and professional wrestling…which explains a lot of why I, among others, seem to be fascinated by both.
Everything has its own language and terms for stuff. In the transportation business, a code word for passengers is a “16”. In the police department, they use the term “187” to say homicide. In the wrestling vocabulary, a “mark” is a fan who admittedly goes for anything his or her favorite star says or does. When you see a good guy wrestler sitting in a publc place with a bad guy, that’s breaking “kayfabe”. When I first heard of somebody getting “slain in the Spirit”, I asked where they were being buried. I’m serious. And no, “alien baptism” is NOT dunking Yoda in a swimming pool.
We’ve got nicknames for just about any and everything where I’m from. I’ve been “Rkl” (a vowelless Urkel) for the past six years thanks to one of my coworkers because of the trademark glasses I wear…which you’ll probably never see me in a picture with. Some nicknames are blatantly opposite to a person, like calling a 6′ 5″ man “Shorty” or a bald-headed man “Curly”. In like manner, longtime WWE star Ted DiBiase is not really a “Million-Dollar Man/Champion”. His “Million-Dollar Championship” belt, made of real gold and diamonds, actually cost more than his house. DiBiase himself admitted this years ago. The name is simply his gimmick. And how do you call a guy “Father” when his religion requires him to dress like a mother and abstain from sex, let alone procreation. As is well documented, that’s caused some problems…
In the wrestling business, the prime target in one’s career is to be a World Champion, or at least compete in the main event at a Wrestlemania. Thousands upon thousands of wrestlers have risked life and limb to be recognized as the best in the business, with a whole lot of them falling short. Having a World Title belt signifies one’s status among the elite of their craft. Even though it has predetermined outcomes, to be the top in wrestling brings some major pay increases. Diehard wrestling fans also buy cheaper replicas of the belts and T-shirts of their favorite souveneirs. (I’ve got a replica of the SmackDown! World Title belt.) Ironically, it’s mostly adult males, who detest John Cena, that made the Cena-inspired “Spinner Belt” the best-selling item in wrestling history. On the other hand, religion takes iconophelia to a whole new, and often bloody, level. The Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, the 9/11 attacks, and the “War on Terrorism” were all justified by passages and ideologies of the venerated “holy books”. And one of the top reasons why the Bible is the best-selling book ever published? Fear of Hell if you don’t buy one. I would know; I recently found 4 in my house and threw them away.
Tithes and Offerings:
On the subject of buying, religion and wrestling have been making serious money for years, with no end in sight. As long as people have a celebrity they don’t mind paying to see, it never will. From perhaps June 1996 to the end of 2001, WWE’s “Attitude era” saw the company become the very first professional wrestling organization to be traded on Wall Street, with an average 7 million weekly Television viewers. Energetic, good-looking mic rippers like the Rock packed fans into arenas every week just to see who he’d verbally (and on occasions physically) assault next. The Rock was at Wrestlemania XXVII this year. I got to go and he is off the charts in person! “Stone Cold” Steve Austin made beating up his boss in the damned hospital look so fun, he ended up making more money in 4 years in WWE than Hulk Hogan made in 9. Despite that timeframe being extremely vulgar, the ten-percenters demand the Attitude Era back almost daily. Until that happens, they’ll gladly pay extra for WWE’s pay-per-view on demand channel. But no wrestler can touch the income made by the “prosperity gospel” preachers, whose tax-exempt status as “faith-based” organizations allow them to live luxuriously and without fear from the IRS. The average church member gives less than half of what they’re supposed to tithe. By feeding on peoples’ greed, the “name-it-and-claim-it” touters get a LOT more than a 10% offering. In 2001, just prior to getting off drugs, I got to go to T. D. Jakes’ Potter’s House megachurch. It was hilarious, and I was NOT high when I went in there! Even if their followers never quite get that Benz or mansion they’re promised by these guys, it’s ok…T.D. Jakes and Joel Osteen will be glad to own them in their place.
The gift of God gab is another facet considered rational in no other settings other than religion and wrestling. In those settings, it somehow sets you apart and above your peers…even if you can’t make heads and tails of what’s being said. I used to love the wrestler most recognizable as the Ultimate Warrior. He wore colorful attire, was very intense, and had a fan following that was the first ever to challenge that of the legendary Hulk Hogan, his Wrestlemania VI opponent. He was also known for some of the most bizarre promos and interviews in wrestling history. Warrior became the first other good guy to defeat Hulk Hogan for the WWE Title, which Hogan resents to this very day. In 1993, to prevent the misuse of his likeness and name for merchandising purposes, and at the expense of what sanity he still had, the man born Jim Hellwig legally changed his name to Warrior. I know…
Warrior’s speaking in tongues really doesn’t hold a candle to that found in Churchianity, in particular the Pentecostalists. My favorite “hoola-la-hotchuh-cha” er was the “prophetess” Juanita Bynum…
Wrestling and religion both have their men who can seemingly do no wrong. Sometimes it’s primarily because they, unlike most of their idols, actually acknowledge their presence. Some are provocative or good entertainers. And some people are inexcplicably exhalted. For his tribute to Randy Savage on WWE television shows, and his defating WWE Champion John Cena with the help of Randy Savage’s Christ-crushing elbowdrop, CM Punk was made the Macho Church’s first Patron Saint. Ten-percenters LOVE Patron Punk, because he’s an incredible athlete and interview, and he’s not a goodie-two-shoes like John Cena. And ten-percenters’ infatuation with Matt Hardy? Well, the fact that he’s constantly YouTubing and tweeting his fans with gossip on top wrestling stars (of which class he isn’t included). In other words, he’s an attention whore, a common trait of ten-percenters. Fundamentalists’ biggest gun has to be Billy Graham, who packed an average of 50,000 people in every convocation he spoke at for over 60 years. Even if the people were drawn together under him, and not Jesus, he encouraged his acolytes to attend the churches they choose…but hinted towards fundamentalist congregations. Benny Hinn has been proven time and again as a phony faith healer, yet the masses still worship him. I’m sorry, but I find it very comforting to see people more disturbed than I am.
Sh*t Only They Would Care About
The similarities between religious and wrestling extremeism show massive absurdities and their car-wreck appeal. They’re ugly, but you can’t help but look. When Edge was forced to retire from wrestling due to a neck injury, he had to give up the SmackDown! World Title. At the 2011 Extreme Rules pay-per-view, his best friend… Christian,and Alberto Del Rio, two other ten-percenter favorites, competed for the vacant title, and Christian won. Two days later, Christian lost the belt to Randy Orton, who the ten-percenters absolutely loathe. They went on pretty much any social medium they could to cry foul. Some fans actually made serious death threats to Orton. The topper was when some wrestling radio show host went on YouTube and listed 15 reasons why he hated Orton. One of the reasons was that Randy Orton had a large erection during his matches… (The video is at the end of this posting) To them, this was all the workings of a vast conspiracy against their hero, and punishment for their liking him. Never mind that Christian doesn’t have the mainstream appeal Orton does. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, when NBC aired the U.S. Open golf tournament with an edited Pledge of Allegiance, fundamentalist “Christian” groups went beserk because the words “under God” were deleted. This represented, to them, an attempt by the liberal media to diminish the “Christian foundation” America was believed to be built on. Jehovah’s Witnesses, considered by fundamentalists as a radical fringe group (yeah, they can talk) were the only “Christian” sect that recognized they were pledging themselves to a FLAG, and refused to do it. Then there’s the flop over the “Ten Commandments” being displayed in public. It’s bad when I, a Deist, know there were 613 points of law in the “Old Testament” for the Jews it was written to, but Christians don’t. And in order to keep a one of the laws, you’d inevitably break at least two or three at the same damned time.
Wrestling and religion share similar power structures. One man rules, and others, including their competitors, get whatever the “big man upstairs” deems them worthy to have. When WWE owner Vince McMahon purchased WCW from the AOL/Time Warner conglomerate and ECW in 2001, he stopped presenting the annual King of the Ring pay-per-view tournaments the next year. That only made sense, because by then, that was his new nickname. He’s been the absolute last word in the wrestling business. Granted, much smaller competitors have been born since then, such as Impact! Wrestling. But the bulk of their top talent and executive staff came from WWE. That includes Impact’s executive producer, Eric Bischoff. Vince had to have learned tricklenomics from watching the Popes and the Roman Catholic Church. It’s the longest-existing superstructure in the world. And leaders in its “Protestant” offspring , including Bryant Warren, who leads the largest Protestant denomination in the world, the Southern Baptist Convention, owe every tradition they have, especially the always-lucrative holiday seasons to Holy Mother Rome. Here’s another something they were pitched, and were forced to like (and ended up loving)…
I don’t dress up for Halloween, but love to watch other people prance about in gaudy attire. Fancy dress just attracts the eye. The “Nature Boy” Ric Flair was my favorite wrestler for years. He’s spent himself into major debt buying his trademark, custom-made ring robes throughout his nearly 40-year career. 2006’s Wrestlemania XXII pay-per-view, held in Chcago, saw Triple H depicting himself as Conan the Barbarian, and being declared the “King of Kings”. He would lose his match against Cena, who came to the ring dressed as Chicago mob boss Al Capone. But in Churchianity, the Popes have been getting decked out since the fourth century, and their “Protestant” subsidiaries like the “Whiskeypalians” and “Predestinarians” have followed suit, if you will. I did this once and had a blast: I was getting ready to perform in the choir and had my robe on. I just up and “walked that aisle” like Ric Flair used to do. Those that got the joke were hysterical. *Ahem*…
If you’re gonna dress like a star, you’ve got to present yourself as one. What better way to do that than a spectacular “triumphal entry”? This is the specialty of WWE’s “phenom” the Undertaker. His incredible ring entrances are the most anticipated part of Wrestlemanias. My favorite wrestling entrance to date has to be Wrestlemania XXIV (2008), as he challenged and defeated Edge for the SmackDown! World Title. By the way, he’s 19-0 at the annual event.
To his credit, the Pope doesn’t have a pyrotechnic show that resembles Dante’s Inferno, but he has a pretty fancy introduction himself, complete with chanting…
The key to wrestling and religion success has to be the use of sleight of hand, and suspense of disbelief. The point of both is to get you intrigued by the drama of the scene as it unfolds and stirs your emotions. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s submission match loss to Bret “Hitman” Hart at 1997’s Wrestlemania 13 made him a superstar. The bloody visage of Austin, refusing to surrender to Bret’s sharpshooter submission hold, showed him as a fighter til the very end. What many fans didn’t know is that Bret didn’t beat “Stone Cold’ bloody; Austin actually had a small razor blade and cut himself open. I absolutely loved Curt Hennig‘s matches. He was billed as “Mr. Perfect”, and fans pretty much believed he was. Unfortunately, he didn’t die perfectly: he was 44 when he overdosed on cocaine. The absurdities of religion could (and probably will) fill an entire blog, but I’ll just stick with my two personal favorites. According to the Nation of Islam, the White man was created in a lab by a mad scientist named Yakub. He used them to try to rule the world…and get revenge on other Blacks making fun of his oversized cranium. Then we get to the “Virgin Birth”… alright, here we go… God decides to have a son by a teenaged girl in the Mideast, but wants her to stay a virgin, so he sends his intangible spirit on her. This spirit I guess touches her on the forehead like Benny Hinn does, and she gets pregnant. Now, the girl has the child, and God its…father, decides it should die to save mankind from sin. Sin includes having a child outside of marriage…like Mary apparently did with God’s son. If you can go along with such nonsense, then it’s easy to see how you can ignorantly defend marriage and worship an illegitimate Christ.
When you dedicate your life and body to something you truly love, many times that within itself is a reward. But it doesn’t hurt to know a job well done will have its perks come quittin’ time. For wrestlers, the WWE or Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame is the big payoff for a great wrestling career. Benefits include a possible lucrative behind-the-scenes role, a gorgeous ring, and airtime. As brutal as the sport may be, its accolades make up the difference. For religionists, the ultimate reward is heaven. It’s one thing to want to please your fans for a living; it’s another to only do right by people because you’re bribed with a promise of eternity in a place you aren’t even sure exists. There isn’t a single trace of tangible evidence to prove Heaven, or even its tormenting counterpart, Hell, exist. What evidence there is is found in the same book that gave us the “Virgin Birth” deal, and even then, the nameless guy in the Bible who did see heaven isn’t allowed to describe it.
Scandals and tragedies:
While wrestling and gimmicky televangelism have long been my “great escapes”, reality is never too far away from either of them. Chris Benoit’s name is not allowed on WWE television after he killed his family and himself in 2007. Why he would do such a horrible thing is up for debate, but the fact that he, like so many wrestlers, including Randy Savage, died so young due to steroid and drug-related problems, bothers me. Benoit was only 40 when he died, and he died a murderer. When I think about sh*t like that and when 34-year-old Owen Hart died in 1999, I almost feel guilty for watching wrestling. Owen died attempting a dangerous ring entrance from the top of Kansas City’s Kemper Arena during the Over the Edge pay-per-view. While Owen’s death was a major tragedy, the fall of Jim Bakker was my ultimate guilty pleasure of the 80’s. He was so over the top in his blatant excess, he was pretty much scheduled for destruction. And the self-destruction of megachurch pastor Ted Haggard is becoming an all-too-common occurence: a profound opponent of homosexuality revealed to be practicing it in the shadows.
On a lighter note, both wrestling and religion have some often unnoticed influence on everyday culture. WWE merchandise can be found on virtually any retail store shelf the world over. One WWE megastar has a milestone in the English language. In 2007, the Rock’s most famous catchphrase, “smack down”, officially became a defined term in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. No, America is not a Christian nation, as the fundamentalists constantly claim, but Mormonism is the origin of one of rock music’s greatest albums. The Mormons believe God lives on a planet populated by nothing but 6-ft. White people called Colab. British rock band Pink Floyd named its 1973 album after Colab’s alleged location… The Dark Side of the Moon.
Finally, we come to the one thing that shouldn’t happen, but pretty much always does…
Clashes with Reality:
When I first became a wrestling fan, I had no idea it was rehearsed and predetermined. Upon knowing it was, it made me respect the fact that these men and women go to great lengths to put a good product out every night. It also overshadowed the fact that the performers are human beings. Before the internet became so prevailant, it was a rare occasion that the real-life personality clashes never became anything other than tabloid fodder. But when Bret Hart competed in what was to be his final WWE match before leaving for WCW, he was expected to wrestle to a draw with his real-life enemy, Shawn Michaels, and relenquish the WWE Title the next night on Raw. WWE owner Vince McMahon saw his Women’s Champion, Alundra Blayze, throw the $25,000 title belt in a garbage can on a live WCW Monday Nitro broadcast in 1995, and had Michaels declared the winner and new WWE Champion at the 1997 Survivor Series, which was held in Montreal, in Canada, Bret’s native country, to prevent Bret from doing the same. The Montreal Screwjob would change the course of wrestling history, and so were Bret’s and Shawn’s personal lives. Shawn Michaels would have to fight for years to redeem himself for his participation in the “Screwjob”, and Bret Hart’s bitterness over losing a wrestling match cost him his marriage, his reputation, and ultimately his career in WCW. It took 12 years for Bret and Shawn to finally make peace with what happened…
It’s the ultimate irony: a real-life hatred that began over a wrestling match was ended in a wrestling ring in a very rare unscripted moment. Would that happy endings like that occurred in religion. Don’t wait on it. Because as long as there are fundamentalists demanding the masses to “turn or burn” towards an eternal realm they have no more proof of than they do God impregnating a Jewish girl, there is no happy ending. As long as there are self-absorbed atheists getting on YouTube spewing their bullsh*t and attacking people for not following their ever-changing whims, just like the Christian fundamentalists, there is no happy ending. As long as Deists attempt to maintain some elitist class, and refuse to show others a possible alternative to the religious tyranny they’ve long sought to escape, there is no happy ending. And as long as we have Mohammedans willing to do this for an eternity with 72 virgins in Heaven…
…no, there will be no happy ending. By the way, even if this was an inside job by the American government, it was still the catylyst for the ill-named “war on terror”. .. and it won’t have a happy ending, either. We owe it to ourselves and to each other to at least try to bring about a happy ending. And it can be done without annihilating those with whom we may not always agree…if we want to.
To close out this posting, let’s take a look at a ten-percenter in action. Here are the 15 reasons to hate Randy Orton. And no, there are no pics of the body part that gets a rise (hee hee) out of our speaker here. Go to 4:40 to get to the boner speak, or just watch the whole thing, and keep in mind he’s dead serious. Either way, it’s a riot…or an embarassment. Later. DWT