Diva Dirt’s own Jennifer recently shared a great story:
In an interview I had a few weeks ago, we were asked, ‘If money was no question, and if you didn’t have to work for your livelihood, what would you do?’ My hand shot up. I was honest; I said, ‘I’d wrestle.’ The whole room erupted into laughter. The interviewer said, ‘Really?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I would love to wrestle.’ She thought I was the most interesting person in that interview, hah. I make no apologies – I’ll admit I’m a wrestling fan and if the conversation goes farther I admit my real passion is for women’s wrestling. If folks aren’t mature enough to handle that, then sucks for them. They don’t know what they’re missing.
I love this story for several reasons. First of all, I love people’s passions. I don’t care if you love the Civil War, collecting bottle caps, or writing poetry. I am interested in hearing more about it. I like seeing someone’s eyes light up when they talk about something they care about. I love how Jennifer didn’t worry about the reaction in the room. That’s the great thing about believing in something, about having a true passion. You feel it inside of you and that’s all that matters. I also love this story because it made me think, “Jesh, how would I truly answer that question?” What would I truly love to do with my life?
Well for starters, I know I wasn’t born to be a project manager. The job is fine, I work with nice people, and I enjoy business travel, but I don’t jump out of bed every day and mark out because I get to generate project plans. When I was a kid I saw the movie JAWS and wanted to be a marine biologist, but now I’m afraid of the ocean. Plus I don’t really want to be in a small boat all the time…I like my TiVo too much. So I’m glad I didn’t follow through with that. The truth is that I’ve always kind of known what I wanted to be when I “grew up”. I was born to be a booker. I was born to script professional wrestling. I never figured out how to pursue this dream, but I started to feel this way the night I saw my first match, October 1985 at the Hershey Park Arena. The next thing I know I am buying my first Big John Studd action figure and I’ve been booking ever since. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the actual matches, but I have always been more interested in putting together the card, of building the excitement of an entire show from one match to the next. I think I’m pretty good at it too, because ever since 1985 I have been putting asses in seats.
(Actually, what I was REALLY born to do was be on ABC’s “The Bachelor”. I can’t believe I will live my entire life and never participate in a rose ceremony. Apparently you can’t be married and be on the show (I’ve checked) and they are not interested in letting me host it. I love the current host Chris Harrison, but if he ends up duct taped to a tree someday, well, I don’t know anything about that. At some point I plan to write a book called “The Bachelor: How to Guarantee Yourself a Home Town Date”. It WILL be a best seller. “The Bachelor” Wii game comes out August 3 and my wife and I are gearing up for a big night of champagne and roses. And yes, I am serious.)
I started booking shows when the WWF released their initial line of LJN action figures. The first 5 figures were Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant (with the Speedo trunks and afro), “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka, the Iron Sheik (minus the drugs), and Big John Studd. The LJN figures were made of hard rubber and although the paint would always chip off and you couldn’t “bend’em” very well (like the commercial promised), you could throw them around and have a great time. Over the next few years the line of LJN action figures grew exponentially and pretty soon I had a solid roster to work with. I was running shows all over the country and doing my best not to mimic the current WWF storylines, although Hulk Hogan did always seem to have the title, until Ted DiBiase bought it from him (coincidence!!) I meticulously drew up the cards and recorded the match results. Admittedly some of the LJN figures were poor replicas of the real stars, but the overall line remains my favorite set ever made. At the time my parents felt I may have played with these things a little too much (well into my high school years, but that’s off the record of course.) I do think it’s funny that while many teens were stuffing Playboys under their beds I was hiding George “The Animal” Steele from my mom. The LJN figures have become rather valuable over the years and thanks to eBay I have been able to go back and complete my collection. (I swear if my wife and I ever file for divorce we will have no problem slitting up the furniture, but if she ever comes after my mint condition Terry Funk LJN it will be ON like Donkey Kong!)
I enjoyed booking the LJN figures, especially because I could completely control the storylines as well as the results. Towards the end of the 80’s, however, wrestling video games started to migrate from arcades to home video game systems. I wasn’t a huge gamer, but I played the WWF video games because I was so into the WWF back then that I consumed everything Titan Sports could spit out (yes, including the famous ice cream bars). In hindsight, the first WWF video game, WRESTLEMANIA, for Nintendo was so horrible it defies description. (I hope I never find out in person, but I’m pretty sure “hell” is nothing more than playing this game as Andre the Giant with a big foot floating around the screen.) Slowly new games started coming out and the graphics started to improve. The game play started to improve. The WWF rosters started to become more exciting. By the time I hit college I started booking WWF shows on my Sega Genesis, enjoying the transition from action figures to video games for two main reasons: 1) video games are more socially acceptable in college, and 2) it really is difficult to wrestle a 6-man tag team match when you’re playing by yourself and the figures keep falling over. The one drawback to video games – I’ve never been a very good player so I would sometimes get disappointed in the actual match results when the computer opponent would beat me.
During the late 90’s wrestling video games really started to take shape. Graphics and game play were immeasurably better than just a few years before and each release would feature additional wrestlers and match types. I tried each game that came out, but since I wasn’t 100% on board with the WWE Attitude Era I decided to take a break from booking shows. I needed to refresh my batteries (although I did go through a brief spell where I broke out the old LJNs again…I’m not really proud of that. Guys old enough to rent cars shouldn’t be touching up the paint on Corporal Kirshner’s boots. On a related note, I was single at the time.) I started to follow wrestling more intently during the later stages of the Monday Night Wars and found that I enjoyed the WCW product quite a bit (another thing I am not real proud of). Around that time WCW released a few video games and on the way home from work one day I decided to dust off my booking skills and give it another go. That started a 4 year journey through the NWO, the Four Horseman, Sting, Goldberg, and the Filthy Animals. At the time I thought I was really hitting my groove…like before, I was putting asses in seats around the country. Sadly I stopped booking these shows when WCW was sold to Vince. I even worked that into my storylines. More than Turner’s wrestling company died that day my friends.
I stayed away for a few years until I stumbled upon a nice little game called “Fire Pro Wrestling”. The game had a really nice “create your own superstar” feature and so I spent the next 32,760 hours recreating the old WWF roster from the late 80’s. “This is going to be great!” I thought, now I can mix the old school roster I love with modern video game features (which is what the recent “Legends of Wrestlemania” game was supposed to do until you realize Michael “P.S.” Hayes is on that roster and the last time I checked he was in as many Wrestlemanias as I was. Stupid.) Fire Pro was a cute game and again I started booking shows around the country, recreating the “booking style” of the late 80’s, not the current Raw, Smackdown, monthly PPV structure of today. I would let the computer simulate both opponents because, as I mentioned before, I was never very good at mashing buttons. For a while I enjoyed this but there were problems on the horizon. I had fun creating the storylines, but once again I was getting a frustrated by the match results. For example, in my Wrestlemania main event Hulk Hogan won the WWF championship over Randy Savage…by submission…using (are you ready for this)…an arm bar. Major fart. That’s not sending the fans home happy. Eventually the pressures of family, maintaining a home, and working fulltime made it difficult to keep my little Fire Pro wrestling company running smoothly. With little fanfare I closed my booking sheets forever. I still buy the WWE Raw vs. Smackdown games but that is just because they feature the Fabulous Firebird and the other Divas.
I recently went back and looked at some of my WCW match results, especially the few months leading up to my final Starrcade in 2002. It’s funny, at the time I thought I was being so clever, showing so much creativity and ingenuity as the WWE was invading my virtual WCW. But now what jumps out at me is that there is no “f-ing” way any of these storylines would ever happen! Sure I thought they were cool ideas, but check this out. This was the main event of that Starrcade: Hulk and Vince McMahon defeated Ric Flair and Eric Bischoff for full control of WCW. Oy! Also, Goldberg defeated “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Sting defeated the Rock. Um…I don’t think so. The balance of “what I wanted to see happen” and “what would really be possible” was terribly out of whack. Then it kind of hit me – that’s really no different than what many of us feel every week when we watch wrestling on TV. We always think we know what the booking sheets should say, regardless of the backstage politics or reality of the situation.
Before we get to the point of this article (it’s about time no?), I am going to clear up the biggest booking travesty in the history of the WWE. A mistake so egregious that it bothers me even to this day. Go back to Wrestlemania 4 and the world title tournament. Coming off of the landmark Hulk vs. Andre main event at WM3, the WWF came to Atlantic City and booked a 14-man tournament for the WWF title that was eventually won by the “Macho Man”. But do you realize that the WWF robbed us of a Randy Savage – Ricky Steamboat rematch in the second round of that tournament?! Their match at WM3 is universally regarded as one of the most important, influential, and exciting matches in Wrestlemania history. So what does Vince do? He has the Dragon lose to Greg “freakin” Valentine in the first round of the tournament. Really!? A Savage – Steamboat rematch where Randy gets revenge on the Dragon wouldn’t have been a great moment? Instead Vince has Steamboat lose clean to the Hammer (his only win after 1986) as a “thank you and bend over” since Ricky was leaving to spend time with family. Sensational. I hope Vince bought Ricky dinner first. Thinking about this makes me want to grab my Adrian Adonis action figure and poke my eyes out.
I started thinking about writing this column after TNA and WWE booked big women’s title matches for their recent PPVs. At TNA’s Victory Road Angelina Love challenged Madison Rayne and the WWE booked 2 Divas matches for Money in the Bank. Holy cow! At the time I thought this was a huge opportunity for all the girls to show they belong on PPV. So in the end, did these shows deliver what I had hoped? Did TNA and WWE book these matches properly? Sadly no. Unfortunately I think each federation committed a huge PPV mistake. Let’s start with Victory Road, a match that saw Madison lose the championship to Angelina thanks to the interference of a mysterious biker. Here is how our Cryssi described Madison’s title defense:
There’s really no kind of clever, interesting, or amusing way of introducing what happened on Victory Road. Madison and Angelina squared off in their long anticipated championship match and instead of just letting the girls have a hard fought match with a well deserved victory for Angelina, TNA had to throw us a curveball. No doubt, they think they’re being clever. Idiots….I’ve decided that stifling my opinions for the benefit of others is a horrible thing to do as a writer, but sheesh. Victory Road hasn’t given me much to work with because the majority of it wasn’t just ugly. It was disgustingly ugly and that’s a whole lot of ugly. In fact it’s so much ugly, I don’t even know where to begin.
As Cryssi points out, TNA had a solid championship match booked for the show, and Madison and Angelina should have been given a script that showcased their talents and left the viewers satisfied. They should have been given a match that, regardless of the result, featured two women battling hard for the Knockouts title. However, for some reason TNA thought the interference of a “mystery biker” would be a good idea, an unexpected outcome that would throw the viewers. And maybe it WOULD have been a cool idea on a regular episode of Impact. What resulted at Victory Road was confusing, deflating, and ultimately dissatisfying. When you are asking people to buy a PPV you need to deliver a match that feels important so they believe they got their money’s worth. I’m guessing you don’t want people using words like “disgustingly ugly” when they are done watching it. I guess TNA is following the “Who Shot JR?” approach of using a cliff hanger to increase interest in their weekly program. The flaw in this theory is that if people think Impact is where the main storyline points occur they will be less likely to pay for a show that is merely a footnote days later. Major swerves on PPVs ultimately negate their importance because only a percentage of their weekly viewers can afford (or choose) to order the show. I believe weekly television should be used to generate interest in the product and PPVs should be used as the payoff. Madison and Angelina deserved better.
WWE’s Money in the Bank was a decent show that saw both champions retain their belts. Now, we already covered the quality of these matches on the audio shows. It wasn’t Layla’s best performance and her defense against Kelly was marked by a few missed spots. Ultimately that’s OK. Not every Ricky Steamboat match was Hall of Fame caliber either. Layla defeated Kelly and at the end of the day I thought this was the best result for the company. On the next episode of Smackdown Layla didn’t wrestle but at least she and Michelle film a backstage promo that kept them on TV and kept their storyline moving forward. However, after a solid victory over Eve at MITB, Alicia was nowhere to be seen on Monday Night Raw. No match. No backstage segment. No audio commentary. Nothing. To make matters worse, Eve was in action and she came to the ring looking like she just got engaged. She was smiling, happy. What?!? Less than 24 hours before she lost a championship match and I would have expected her to be in a foul mood on Monday night. Nope. So basically there was no carry-over from Money in the Bank, both for Eve or the champion Alicia. So why exactly am I ordering these shows again? Remind me why I care what happens on PPV if the next night basically erases the emotion that should be evident in their program.
On the Diva Dirt audios we were very critical of these booking decisions. Sometimes our disappointment can be misconstrued as criticizing the actual performers, and in the case of Layla and Kelly Kelly, I do feel they shoulder some of the blame for an average match. I think they were a bit nervous given their relative lack of experience on pay-per-view. They’ll be fine. Most of our disappointment, however, was directed right at the writing teams for both TNA and WWE. For me personally, I felt the MOST let down by Eve’s character following her loss to Alicia. It’s no shame to lose. But I want to feel the correct emotion from the wrestlers, a sense that they “give a crap” if they win or lose. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief regarding the competitive nature of the matches, but I expect the wrestlers to hold up their end of the bargain and steer us on this emotional journey. More and more we’re seeing this kind of disjointed booking severely impact the faces in these companies, like Eve and Gail Kim for example. Heel characters are inherently more interesting and can somewhat get by on personality despite shaky booking (there is a reason Chris Jericho never wants to work face again.) Hell even Jillian seems like a lunatic recently because the Bellas keep tricking her. You’d think a girl would actually be upset about losing a Divas title match.
I agree with Prescott’s recent comment on Diva Dirt:
What really suffers is development and storylines because all of these seeding feuds feel awkward as you really like the heel anyway, they’re the ones that really get to emote and invest, and the time window is so short fans aren’t compelled to care about the face and their integrity, ambition and tenacity. These things can work, vanilla as they are, if they’re properly held on to and cultivated in this ADHD era.
Prescott has a point there. Properly cultivating feuds and characters ultimately comes back to the writers (I almost wrote bookers again, but then I remembered they prefer to be called “writers”). I think both TNA and WWE wasted a golden opportunity here to put over their women’s divisions. I know one thing, if I was booking these shows, Eve would have come to Raw hell bent on recapturing her status as the #1 contender and there wouldn’t have been a silly “mystery biker” riding around the Impact Zone. Hmmm, that gives me an idea. Say, when does Raw vs. Smackdown 2011 come out anyway? I’m feeling the creative juices flowing again!!
– Mr. Glamazon
PS – I’ve decided to release the “Mike Knox Jokes” from their contractual obligations. I wish them all the best in the future endeavors. (In truth, I just couldn’t squeeze any more humor from that stone…although if he ends up in TNA I’m back in business baby!)
PPS – This column would have been finished 3 days ago but then Mattel thought it would be a good idea to unveil a new Beth Phoenix doll at Comic-Con last week. I reacted like Fred Sandford finally having the “Big One”. After doctor-ordered rest and rehabilitation I am once again back on my feet. Mattel can expect a bill from my insurance company any day now.
PPPS – Follow me on Twitter @dlb19338 and if you are follower #100 I’ll send you my extra King Kong Bundy LJN figure…of course the paint IS chipped a little bit.