Category Archives: WWE

Volume Five, Chapter Eight: The Prince of Chyna Memorial Pancake Breakfast, Part One- Ms. Laurer

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First female in the Royal Rumble and first female Intercontinental Champion, Joanie Laurer, aka Chyna, was an integral yet understated part of the WWF’s famed Attitude Era.

On April 21, 2016, the world stopped talking about which side to face their $20 bills… in 2020. That same day, people stopped announcing which toilet they should or do use.

That was the day people mourned two of the biggest innovators of their respective fields. Both were notoriously eccentric, revolutionary, and now gone seemingly way too soon.

Prior to February 1997, women in wrestling either competed against each other, or interfered for their man, with the occasional bump from an opponent.

Joanie Lauer, as Chyna, was the not just the mere eye candy/mean woman like Sensational Sherri Martel. She actually competed with men in major matches.

Chyna peaked right as the WWF was becoming THE wrestling company, so such creative booking could be done. And her role in the beloved “Attitude Era” was pivotal.

Physically, she got some work done to look more feminine, but was also taken seriously enough to be in the Royal Rumble, and get the Intercontinental Championship.

Her feud with Chris Jericho for the belt was one of the most fun angles of 1999-2000. But such novelty, even with the WWF at a peak, could only last for so long.

By 2001, Chyna’s real-life relationship with Triple H was crumbling, and Vince McMahon now wanted her to be the Women’s Champion. She was not happy with either situation.

She wound up being released by the WWF that year, and for the next 15 years, the world was privy to one of the saddest downslides this side of Whitney Houston.

She got heavily into drugs, made an infamous porn flick with X-Pac, and made the bitter ex-wrestler talk show rounds after the Benoit murder/suicides.

She had some brief career revivals and highlights. She went to Japan to teach, had cups of coffee with TNA and New Japan Wrestling and was a fairly popular YouTube host.

Joanie Laurer admitted publicly the body-shaming of her youth, the break-up with Triple H at her peak, and the drug abuse plagued her. It finally took her on April 20. She was 45.

When she debuted as Chyna, nobody could have guessed what a revolutionary figure in sports entertainment Joanie Laurer would be.

Sadly, a decade later, the end was all too clear.

Volume Four, Chapter Four: Vince’s Coronation Speech

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The first and last word in the wrasslin’ business, Vincent Kennedy McMahon. (Image courtesy of Twitter@VinceMcMahon)

On Monday night, March 26, 2001. Vincent Kennedy McMahon the be-all and end-all of professional wrestling. 17 years after nearly monopolizing the industry, he had actually done it. In 1984, he had replaced the longtime National Wrestling Alliance wrestling show on Ted Turner’s WTBS with World Wrestling Federation broadcasts. But the deal was rife with contractual and fan contention.

His quasi-monopoly lasted about eight months, from July 14, 1984 until the night before the first WrestleMania aired (March 30, 1985). But now, thanks in no small part to the implosion of World Championship Wrestling, the company Turner started from the remnants of the bankrupt Jim Crockett Promotions, he now owned the entire wrestling industry.

WCW was in business for nearly six years before they ever actually turned a profit. When they finally struck paydirt, it was because they had Hulk Hogan, the longtime WWF Champion as its front man. Hogan joining WCW gave the company the mainstream focus it had long lacked, and Time-Warner would give him whatever he wanted… as long as Turner was running things.

With the presence of top former WWF stars, WCW actually broke Vince’s chokehold on the business. In 1995, Turner requested WCW EVP Eric Bischoff present a show to go against WWF’s flagship Monday Night Raw. By 1996, WCW Monday Nitro was actually beating the WWF in every major statistic, from TV ratings to ad sales to live event attendance.

Initially, the Nitro introduction was seen as an attempt to splinter a dwindling wrestling audience. Ironically, it had the exact opposite effect; the audience actually grew. Both WCW and the WWF had something different to offer fans. In other words, the wrestling audience had variety to choose from, which made both companies work harder to compete for ratings and revenue.

While conflict between companies is good for fans, such a thing within a company is not. With the increasing margin of victory for WCW, egos began to rise. Many wrestlers also picked and chose when they’d win and lose, leaving the creative process in the air often just until airtime. And even then, matches began to end without a decisive or satisfactory ending. Bischoff completely lost control.

In addition, the establishes stars also refused to help promote the younger talent, despite fans’ interest. With the exception of former NFL player Bill Goldberg, nobody emerged from WCW as a fresh face, even as the old faces kept getting older. The WWF, on the other hand, was constantly giving new stars a chance to shine. After all, their new top stars were one new faces, too.

By the end of 1999, WCW was on its last legs. America Online was about to merge with Time-Warner, and neither company wanted anything to do with WCW, which had went from profiting $35M in 1998 to losing $12M in 1999. By hiring longtime WWF creative head Vince Russo, and putting the WCW belt on comedian David Arquette, the boat just continued to sink.

In 2000, Ted Turner, WCW’s greatest advocate, was forced from his Chairman position due to the Time-Warner/AOL merger. WCW was immediately put up for sale. Vince made an offer in October, but having just signing a TV deal with the National Network (later Spike TV), he couldn’t have two shows on two companies. Then in 2001, Turner TV Chief Jamie Keller refused to air WCW shows.

And so, on Monday, March 26, 2001, Vincent Kennedy McMahon made his coronation speech. It aired on both live broadcasts of Monday Night Raw and the final Monday Nitro. Three days prior, he bought 24 WCW wrestler contracts, and WCW’s 30-year video library, for a mere $3M, a price many wrestlers could actually afford.

WCW is not necessarily remembered for its classic matches. In truth, even during the supersexual “Attitude Era, the WWF had better , if only because of comparison between the two companies. But at its peak, WCW gave the wrestling audience variety, and kept both companies on point through competition. At worst, fans wanted WCW to return to greatness, not implode.

But implosion is often how one-party rule sets in. And more times than not, the winner loses a part of itself as well. And people start to move on or even rebel. Just look at the WWE ratings and buyrates in 2014 compared to 1999, and the growing UFC audience.

The very people who seem to want a monopoly in something are seldom happy if/when they actually get it. The challenges don’t end. They only begin at that point. And the challenges come internally, and externally.

Volume Four, Chapter Three: 21-1

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The sight and sign fans thought they’d never see at WrestleMania… (Image Courtesy of 411mania.com)

At the 1990 Survivor Series pay-per-view, two major debuts occurred. One was the debut of the Gobbledy Gooker, a dancing guy in a turkey suit hatched out of a mysterious “egg” that the World Wrestling Federation had been promoting for months. The fans booed him, and Hector Guerrero, the guy who played him, out of the World Wrestling Federation in weeks.

The other debut was “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase’s mystery tag team partner. It turned out to be Mean Mark Callous, a 6’9″ 300-lb., former World Championship mid-carder. He was renamed Kane, the Undertaker. Later he was just called Undertaker, or ‘Taker.

The Undertaker was introduced as an invulnerable zombie that looked like a literal Grim Reaper. He also walked across the top ring rope and flew around the ring like a cruiserweight. He finished off foes with a tombstone piledriver. And with his new, even more macabre manager called Paul Bearer, he defeated “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka in under two minutes at WrestleMania VII.

At the time, no one could have guessed that to be the start of the longest annual pay-per-view winning streak, and the longest headlining tenure, in wrestling history. When one looks back throughout WWF/E history after 1993, there have been only two consistent entities: WWF Chairman Vince McMahon, and the man whose real name is Mark Calloway.

During the Monday Night Wars, ‘Taker wished those leaving for WCW well, but also galvanized the remaining WWF stars to tough it out. In rare mainstream interviews, he admits as much. Fans toughed it out as well. The Undertaker persona has evolved from a morbid mortician, an emissary of Hell, a straight-up devil worshipper, and a bad-ass biker. And he actually made the sh*t plausible.

Granted, many guys did get career-altering victories over ‘Taker (Mr. Kennedy, Randy Orton, John Bradshaw Layfield). But ‘Taker wanted to help up-and-comers become the future of the business; his legacy in the industry was set early. The only concession he ever kept was the “The Streak” at WrestleMania. It was pretty much seen as a token of respect from Vince and his fellow wrestlers.

‘Taker’s been part-time since WrestleMania XXVI, where he “retired” the event’s other iconic performer, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. Nonetheless, ‘Taker winning at his show has always been a given. Even more likely was his retirement from wrestling without ever losing at the WWE’s biggest event. At worse, he’d at least make it to 24 wins, and possibly lose match #25.

Going into WrestleMania XXX, he was an untouchable 21-0. Brock Lesnar made his WWE rep dominating ‘Taker when he burst on the scene in 2002. But there was no way he’d beat “The Dead Man” on his own playing field. Besides, Paul Bearer, who died just before WM XXIX, was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame the night before.

The crowd of 85K at New Orleans’ Superdome (and the Buffalo Wild Wings at Northgate Mall, where I was watching) was silent as Brock pummeled ‘Taker. He kicked out of two of Brock’s F-5 finishers, and kept the crowd into it. But then came the third. One…two…three. Complete silence. Gaping mouths. For many, it was the literal end of an institution that dated back to childhood.

The post-Mania Raw saw Brock Lesnar’s manager, Paul Heyman, tout his client as the “1 in 21-1” in one of the damnedest wrestling promos ever. Ultimate Warrior made his final, troubling televised appearance before dropping dead the next night. And ‘Taker, always on the post-Mania Raw, was nowhere to be seen. His absence just made the broadcast seem off kilter.

The decision to end “The Streak” was actually made hours before WrestleMania XXX was aired. ‘Taker was suffering from two decades of wear and tear. Both Vince and ‘Taker felt it best to begin the end. But nobody besides those involved in the match, not even those working in the blatantly scripted world of WWE, saw it coming. The response was legitimate, spontaneous shock.

Compare that to when so-and-so says or does this-or-that, and the media manufactures shock and outrage. Unless I pretended to be very naive, or really fake, a gay athlete, a third-world disease on American shores, an election win or loss every other November, or somebody drawing police attention to themselves with horrendous consequences can hardly qualify as shocking or controversial.

I was actually shocked more by that than anything else this year. The bulk of the brouhaha over most things, with the possible exception of international matters like ISIS, Kim Jong-Un, or Vladimir Putin, was far less spontaneous and more fabricated. But then again, when the focus is on self-affirmation, foreign aggression tends to rear its ugly head in times like that.

Volume Four, Chapter One: Montreal

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The key to wrestling’s longevity is that it combines numerous facets of all popular entertainment. The promos resemble TBN sermons. It has the glitz and glamor of a pop concert. It has some sex appeal for everybody. And pantomime as it is, it has the contact of sports. The most important part of wrestling, and all serial programs, is the predetermined story line. It’s the most socially adapted aspect of professional wrestling.

The civil unrest in America is due to everybody not keeping to the story line. People really do believe that others should act solely in accordance to what will please them. When people don’t comply, social media explodes. But story lines can only work if every single person involved “does their part”. With 300M people in the U.S., and an equal amount of possible conclusions, that “part” will never be officially defined.

Story lines only work in fiction, and sometimes not even then. I remember the most infamous meltdown in professional wrestling history. Ironically, it came from my all-time favorite wrestler. From Bret The Hit Man Hart, I learned to imitate his ring entrance and walk again. I learned how to celebrate a win, and survive a loss. Yet it was the one time he didn’t rebound from a loss that always stands out in my mind.

On November 9, 1997, the World Wrestling Federation held its annual Survivor Series pay-per-view. The show aired from Montreal’s Molson Centre. Unbeknownst to fans, the main event had no official finish until the show even started. The end of the match began a decade of turmoil.

WWF Chairman Vince McMahon wanted Bret to lose the WWF Championship belt to The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels. The title change would segue into the new, adult-oriented direction Vince wanted the WWF to go. In protest, Bret refused to lose to Shawn. Both agreed that Bret should leave the WWF, and he signed onto Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling.

Bret’s publicized imminent departure made losing to Shawn a foregone conclusion to fans. Citing a creative control clause in his contract, and his iconic status in his native Canada, Bret still refused to lose. Two hours before the actual match, Vince told Bret he could go to a draw with Shawn, and forfeit the belt in a farewell speech later. Bret Hart just knew he had forced his employer, and by extrapolation, Shawn Michaels, to give him the sendoff he wanted.

Vince soon admitted he had already planned the night before the match to ensure that Bret lost the belt. He and Shawn told the match’s referee, Earl Hebner, the plan right as the match began. Bret wound up losing when Shawn got him in his own Sharpshooter leg lock, and Hebner (and Vince at ringside and off-camera) called for the bell. At first, people sympathized with Bret. Most people can relate to being humiliated on the job.

As the details of what led up to the now-infamous Montreal Screw Job emerged, public opinion changed. Hulk Hogan lost the WWF Title to Yokozuna before he went to WCW. In addition, it was the fans that showed, through the Nielsen ratings, that they enjoyed the new direction. He had been a moralistic hero at a time when fans wanted to cheer unrepentant guys like the cussing Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Shawn Michaels went on to lose the WWF Title to Austin at WrestleMania XIV on March 29, 1998. He retired from wrestling right after the match. Vince McMahon took the real-life hatred fans and even WWF wrestlers felt for him and created a new antagonist for Austin: Vince himself. Their outrageous on-screen feud would lead the WWF to Wall Street and eventually to Vince buying WCW for a mere $3M in 2001.

Bret Hart was already retired when Vince bought the company. Between horrible creative decisions on the part of WCW, the accidental death of his brother Owen at a WWF pay-per-view, and the success of the Vince/Austin story line based on Montreal, he, perhaps rightfully, became very bitter. In 2002, the same year Shawn returned to the now WWE, Bret suffered a stroke. Only when Vince called him in the hospital did the healing process begin.

In 2010, Shawn and Bret finally made peace. At WrestleMania XXVI, Bret beat Vince in one match, and Shawn retired in another. Shawn wanted to go out with a loss to the Undertaker, and did. At last, it seemed to be all over.

Bret Hart’s Hit Man persona was built around rising up from the pain of defeat over and again. To build such a legend, Bret had to lose. Yet the one time he confused fact with fiction, all hell broke loose. The entire wrestling industry changed when a departing wrestler thought others should follow his script. Reality, as usual, threw a wrench in things. And it took years to make peace with it.

Story lines only work in fiction, and sometimes not even then.

Volume Three, Chapter Five: Random Thoughts

Alright, I realize I’m running way behind, and I apologize. I pulled the previous edition because… well, sir, I didn’t like it.  Since I’ve got a lot of stuff to choose from, I’ll just go with a “random thoughts” version.

Freedom to discriminate laws do not compensate for a lack of coping or social skills. The gay wedding cake baker may be cracking gay jokes or buying Chik-Fil-A with the money, or simply tell somebody they’re booked up. Another one just unknowingly baked a wedding cake for a drug dealer. And by the way, with such a law, a Church of Christ cab driver can refuse to take your grandma to choir practice. Business is tricky, isn’t it?

Chris Anderson, Chattanooga’s first openly gay City Councilman, is facing recall. In a room with ten people, would any of his district’s voters actually recognize him? He’s a Democrat, and that was all he needed to get their vote. How can he stop the shootings in Alton Park when it’s a voter’s grandson pulling the trigger? Everybody seems to want solutions, as long as they’re not named as part of the problem.

Kobe Bryant blasphemed against Afrocentric Groupthink. If  Trayvon Martin was walking around in a hoodie marcher’s neighborhood, he’d have been arrested. Somebody Black would have probably called the police. The same culture that demands you defend somebody who looks like you will stand by and let you get killed by somebody that looks like you. Afrocentric culture has produced plenty of prisoners, and not a single President.

To be sure, Jesse and ’em ain’t the only Groupthink slaves. In WWE, you don’t kill a story line if it’s still drawing money and ratings. Groupthinkers LOVE drama, and spend money on and for it. Politicians and the media know this all too well. It’s not coincidental same-sex marriage is being handled on a stately basis. Groupthinkers are naturally manipulative, but the media and politicians are much better at it.

ObamaCare reaches 6M enrolments… or does it? If this thing was such a resounding success, why is it the only testimonials in its favor are coming from anonymous Yahoo! comments? Or people with preexisting conditions? Or kids still on their parents’ insurance? And what constitutes an “enrollment”? It’s not “RACISM!” to ask things like this. I can’t imagine somebody buying a house without at least knowing the address.

Here’s the world’s surest weight-loss plan. The main reason I’m so late posting anything is because I recently purged the hell out of my Facebook page. (I use Twitter like twice a year, so it’s not an issue.) If somebody spends all damned day talking about Teabaggers or Libtards , I’m not trying to hear it. So how do I deal with my haters? No Dr. Farrah Gray meme or book needed; I just don’t deal.

I’m glad I grew up jugging. One good thing about being Black, gay, and having voted Republican is you can take some damned hits. You pretty much have to. If it weren’t for jugging (“Your mama” jokes), I’d only be able to surround myself with people who I unconditionally agree with. Having never met such a person, I’d end up with maybe three actual friends and a million Facebook ones.

Why am I a Deist? Because I like meat, especially pork. Atheists inexplicably believe and know the Bible better than Billy Graham or Jack Van Impe. Churches now worship either the so-called first Black President or the Founding Fathers (I seldom even quote Thomas Paine). And I can’t figure out which denomination is the right one. Besides, I refuse to pay monthly tithes for the MainStream News Believers’ Church of the Fellowship of Xtians.

“Do right because it’s right, not because you’re compelled to.” My late principal, Brother James Warren, said that everyday at school announcements. I can’t stand all this superficial symbolic sh*t that seems to be en vogue. Don’t do positive things for others in hopes of Facebook likes or admiration. Just be straight up with folks. It’s easier than keeping a lie straight.

All right, there’s the updated blog. Next time, it’ll be time to do the blog I’ve been wanting to do for a LONG time…

Volume Two Finale: Vince/Austin 2016

In this, the finale of Volume Two, I’d really just like to add more perspective to many of the things I’ve witnessed.

I never, ever feel bad for mocking Afrocentrism. First of all, not everybody Black engages in it. Secondly, seventy percent of its apologists live in middle-class and mostly White suburbs. And they support Afrocentrism to keep inner city Blacks “in their place”. If you really want to know what White liberals think of Afrocentric culture, look no further than who they elected as the so-called First President: a biracial man raised everywhere but the “hood”. Even worse, look at the virtually any statistic for Black people since 2009.

A lot of my LGBTetc. activist animus stems from my experiences with Afrocentrism. Credit should always be given where it’s due; their rise to prominence happened pretty fast. But they, like Afrocentric peddlers, tend to exalt the lowest common denominator in their community. That’s why there’s so much “gift-giving” and domestic violence in a very small community. And allowing it to go unchecked can undermine any progress made. And no, people do not have to others solely because of who they sleep with. Hell, you don’t, so why should anybody else?

Presidential Candidate and former Illinois Senator Barack Hussein “The Long-Legged Daddy” Obama is, in my view, one of the greatest campaigners of all time. But as the 44th President of the United States, he’s one of the worst Affirmative Action hires in history. You know how AA works: find the first non-White you can, promote him like hell, set him up as a figurehead… and let everybody else lead from behind. As author Shelby Steele points out, “President Obama is more of a cultural phenomenon than a political one”.

Even when the Republican Party did not have a sitting President, they were often the steady, trusted, fiscally responsible hand in Washington. The terms of both Presidents Bush killed that notion. The re-election of Obama has sent them absolutely into chaos. The days of riding the coattails of Ronald Reagan and the Christian Coalition are no more. The Tea Party, touted as a return to the old school GOP, have proven to be anything but. They’ve been relegated to mostly state and local  politics, with their most prominent national figures just kicking back. Why not? They’ll be re-elected out of brand loyalty, anyhow… with the Tea Party in tow.

The Religious Right called Mormonism a polygamist cult for years, then claimed that a Mormon elder, as President, could “bring America back to God”. The same fundamentalist who condemns homosexuality can be found all over GayPatriot comment sections, and letting their near-nude preteen daughters hustle grown men at a church car wash. With no sin left to rail against (the same-sex marriage issue is summarily decided), the religious right is rapidly evaporating as a key force in society. 

And since Gay Conservatives seem to be the only ones giving religionists any sympathy, one has to ask: with same-sex marriages federally recognized, is refusing to get one with your lover make you “living in sin” and “shacking up”?

A young guy from Canada recently pointed out something about most American “atheists”. They are actually not atheists, who do not acknowledge an absolute final sovereignty. Because their worship is ultimately either their culture or, more than likely, an all-powerful government that protects them from their ideological enemies and themselves, they are, by definition, Statists. All religions and the main two political parties have embraced it as of late. And much like those who worshiped the Austrian house painter or the Chinese rice farmer, they’ll bring a whole nation down in the abyss.

If you really want to see if things like MulticulturalismBalkanization, or any form of identity politics has ever worked here’s an idea. Ask your local gay, Black, fundamentalist, Muslim, “atheist” and moderate the best time they’ve lived through in their respective movement. NONE of their answers will match.

President Obama is the best thing to ever happen to talk radio. What else would Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin do without him and the Democratic Party? The Advocate Magazine spends over sixty-five percent of its web space railing on Republicans or somebody else that hurts their feewings. But in the end their greatest and most prosperous weapon is… their biggest opponent.

The same people who swear by talk radio and MSNBC ridicule Vince McMahon and WWE. The funny part is, Vince is more honest than they are.When Vince McMahon and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin got done beating each other up, they both went out drinking, often to the same bar. But they both knew, and even now openly admit, they needed each other… to draw a happily paying audience. WWE fans know it’s scripted, too, but the whole point is to be entertained. Yeah, they get emotional at times, but eventually the match is over, and you’ve got to go home and get ready for the work week. (Shout out to Vince “Not McMahon” Smetana on that one) . And it’s fine to agree with people like Rush or Rachel Maddow, and buy their merchandise. But every so often, I think like other WWE fans. I can enjoy the spectacle, but recognize it as such… especially when it’s not on.