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What about important news and politics?
I was reading all this Trump stuff, and it doesn’t feel like we’re reading news for the reason we used to, which was to get a better sense of what’s going on in the world and to enrich yourself by being aware. It seems like we’re reading wrestling rumors. It’s like reading about what happened on Monday Night Raw. When you take a step back, it all just seems so sensationalized. Trump’s gonna get impeached! No, he’s not. None of that shit’s happening. But you are going to read all the articles. So if you take yourself out of it, you’re not infected with this toxicity all the time. Also, guess what? Everything is fine! I’m not out of the loop on anything. Like, if something real is going down, I’ll find out about it.
But you’re choosing to be uninformed.
I’m not choosing ignorance. I’m choosing to not watch wrestling.
Ansari isn’t the only cool person I know who’s described the current political climate as something like wrestling, but he’s the first person to compare reading the news to reading dirtsheets. That’s some specific, knowledgable nerdery right there. It’s almost as if Ansari has spent a lot of time reading wrestling rumours, and knows how sad and toxic it could be. Or he’s just a smart dude and can put that together without a couple years of Wrestlezone refreshes under his belt.
I didn’t mention this in my report, but the long, strange tradition of Toronto as WWE’s “bizarro land” continued this week:
To the WWE, Toronto is sometimes “Bizarro Land.” To those who live here, we march to the beat of our own drummer. Toronto has a history of going against the WWE grain. Hence why Bayley was booed and Jinder Mahal was cheered as Raw, Smackdown and 205 Live emanated from The Big Smoke this week.
As for why we do this? John Powell has a theory:
Mahal’s current stint in the WWE mirrors that of Bret “Hitman” Hart to some degree. In the late nineties, Hart was welcomed as a hero in Canada and the rest of the world but portrayed as a villain in the U.S. when he turned on his American fans for not supporting him during his feud with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Although they were at times crass about it, for many outside America, Hart and the Hart Foundation (Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, Davey Boy Smith and Brian Pillman) expressed their general feelings about America while many Americans rightfully railed against those who would put their homeland down.
I think a lot of people forget that WWE is not only an American product, but tinged with a lot of Americana. Jinder Mahal’s pro-India character isn’t something Canadians are as likely to boo. As for Bayley, Toronto crowds are a lot like Brooklyn’s: knowledgeable. These are people who subscribe to the Network and watched Bayley in nXt, and they’re unsatisfied with how her character has been portrayed since moving up to Raw.
Imagine you work in WWE’s tech section. It’s your job to create video content for WWE’s various outlets, like WWE.com, Youtube etc., and imagine you’ve been doing this job for nearly twenty-five years. Imagine you started in mid-1993. It’s possible that the first thing you were assigned to do was erase Hulk Hogan from WWE’s distributed content, because Hulk Hogan no longer worked for the company and that’s how WWE operates. Any VHS tape with Hogan on it had to be taken off the shelf. Any highlight package could no longer feature Hulk Hogan. Wrestlemania III’s highlight was now the Intercontinental Championship match. You did the work. Hulk Hogan didn’t exist.
Imagine it’s 2002, and you’re still in the department. An order comes down from the boss, and he wants you to find all those old clips of Hogan and start putting them in everything, because he’s back. Hogan has to go in the intro video now. Hogan has to have a DVD. Everything is Hogan, Hogan, Hogan.
Then, just over a year later, you’ve got to undo all of that. Hogan isn’t happy being just another wrestler, and he bails. Any tshirts, website designs, promo packages, and entrance videos you may have been working on in the Hogan folder all go into the vault. Who’s Hulk Hogan? Never heard of him.
It’s 2005. You’re still making stuff for WWE. Your boss asks you to put together a Hulk Hogan video package for the Hall of Fame. You breath a sigh of relief. It’s Hogan content, which is…somewhere in that stack of hard drives over there, but it’s a Hall of Fame package. That means it’ll be the end of it, right? Nope. He’s back, and he’s headlining Summerslam. Also, can you build a Larry King Set quickly? They need it for reasons.
The day after Summerslam, they ask you to wipe Hogan from everything again.
Hogan comes back for next years’ Summerslam, but it’s against Randy Orton so nobody cares to do much work. Oh, except, can you make something for Brooke Hogan’s CD?
It’s 2014. Nobody’s even talked about Hulk Hogan in years, except at how much of a goddamn disgrace he’s become. You’re working hard on the graphics packages for Wrestlemania 30. You get a memo. You cry.
Not long after, you’ve got to delete it all again. The Network has started, and you just recently redid all the video packages. You begin to wonder if Hulk Hogan is the reason you drink and don’t believe in God.
It’s 2017, and you enjoy listening to Jerry Lawler’s podcast, but you don’t love this part about how they noticed you’ve been slowly integrating Hogan back into video packages. You didn’t even realize you’d been doing it. Oh god, you think you to yourself. It’s happening again.
The last time I was at a Smackdown show was in the summer of 2004. A lot has changed since then, but two things were eerily similar: the WWE Champion was a repackaged tag team loser turned into a xenophobia-rustling cartoon character, and Smackdown still feels like the B-show, even if it’s better than Raw.
These notes are from the 8 August 2017 episode of Smackdown. Actual results are here.
- It feels like a treat to just see wrestlers live. On TV, they’re larger than life, but live in front of you, the performance is king. It’s easier to follow a match live: there are no distracting camera cuts and no commentary. It’s just you and the wrestlers. This Smackdown was no different, even if there were no real standout matches, it’s still special.
- Wrestling is objectively just better live. Even wrestlers you barely care about are more interesting in person.
- I was at Raw last year, and the 3-hour runtime was pretty exhausting by the end. Smackdown seemed to fly by. It wasn’t just that it was only two-hours. Commercial breaks seemed shorter. Each scene felt compact, as if they knew they had a lot of ground to cover and needed to keep it moving.
- Smackdown and Raw really are both the same length of time for the Live audience: roughly 3 hours of televised wrestling with 1 or 2 untelevised matches. Smackdown’s third hour is dedicated to the cruiserweights on the Network-exclusive 205 Live. It’s a lesser show, and it’s presented after Smackdown. It’s a strange setup, and it feels even stranger in person. 205 feels like it should happen as a prelude to Smackdown.
- The crowd knew 205 was the lesser show, too, as more than a quarter of the people left just after it began. During the commercial break, the announcer let us know there would be a tag team Main event (AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura vs Kevin Owens & Baron Corbin), and I wonder if they began doing this as a way to keep people around for 205 Live.
- That tag match was just pure fun, and reminded me that untelevised WWE matches are much looser, safer, and way more fun to watch than most televised WWE matches. WWE has an untelevised show in Toronto again in December, and I’ll be there for that.
- Naomi has the best entrance in the entire company.
- As for what I said above about Smackdown still feeling like a B-show. It’s probably just inertia, but I’ve never really been on “Team Smackdown” as a thing. Even when it’s good, Smackdown still feels like a slightly lesser brand than Raw. Perhaps because it’s not differentiated enough. Perhaps because it went years as a taped, canned, unexciting show, and the brand feels tainted.
- I was strangely disappointed that John Cena and Baron Corbin sniping at one another at the top of the show didn’t somehow turn into a tag team match. I thought I was watching Smackdown?
- I had a great time. Go watch live wrestling.
ML Kennedy comes on the show to discuss what is and isn’t real in WWE’s narrative, what isn’t and isn’t cannon, when and why these things change, and how you can drive yourself crazy if you stay a fan long enough.
- ML Kennedy
- Vince McMahon kills kayfabe in the 80s
- Vince McMahon kills kayfabe in the 90s
- Undertaker complains on raw in 97
- It’s always sunny Emmy’s episode
- Teen Titans Go
- WWE countdown – eccentric oddjobs
- Mr America
- Table for 3 – Eric Bischoff, Jim Cornette, Michael Hayes
- Anthony Purrkins on Instagram
- What’s Different in Canada: Coffee Crisp
- Total Divas
- Watch WWE Network in Canada
- WCW Saturday Night
- Fashion Peaks
- Sting vs Jeff Hardy
Eva Marie and WWE have mutually agreed to contractually part ways as of today, Aug. 4, 2017.
In a first-time meeting between the two, Nakamura became the number one contender to Jinder Mahal’s WWE title when he defeated John Cena on SmackDown tonight.
USA! USA! USA!
NJPW is actively courting [US] viewers, hiring a full-time English language commentary team, running a best-of show on American cable TV, and promoting events in the United States for the first time. The company has found wild success—the already ubiquitous Bullet Club’s merchandise is now for sale at Hot Topic—and has wildly swung and missed guessing at what an American audience wants from its shows, as evidenced by the Long Beach, California crowd’s rejection of Billy Gunn’s IWGP Intercontinental Championship match with Hiroshi Tanahashi. The company’s expansion plans are generally hazy; while it’s clear there will be more American shows in the future, how quickly those will happen and how they’ll take shape.
All four are good points, and all four need to happen before the vaguely-defined “casual” wrestling fan will take notice. Being a fan of NJPW in America is still a bit like running Linux on the desktop.
Currently in the midst of wrapping up the back half of its third season, Lucha Underground hasn’t been gifted with a fourth season renewal yet, and while Chaisson couldn’t confirm one for us solidly, he did say that the show’s future “looks good” and that one of the things really being discussed right now is where to place it on the network’s schedule going forward. He and famed filmmaker/network head Robert Rodriguez love the show and can’t wait to make more.
Don’t mess with me, you guys. I need my fix.