Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Remembering Bison Smith


Bison Smith could make you believe in whatever story he was in. He could be scary, he could be fierce, but when I met him, he was also humble.

A polite wrestler I saw standing on the bleachers at the Frontier Fieldhouse in 2009, who didn't have a bad word to say about anyone.

He passed away today from heart complications at only 38.

Update: Current word was that it was cardiac arrest, as announced by Dutch Mantell on his Facebook. He was in Puerto Rico for a match scheduled for WWC.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Restructuring the belts, PPVs and Bryan vs. Punk

So first, I’d like to tackle a very popular idea. It seems that a lot of people want to see Punk vs. Bryan at WrestleMania. This is almost too simple to book.

Punk has a match with Alberto Del Rio. Have him win the belt back.

Between Survivor Series and Royal Rumble, Punk can fend off ADR and anybody else who wants to bother him for the belt. This gives him a 5 month reign.

As for Bryan? Simple. For as long as the Money in the Bank briefcase has existed, the stipulation has ALWAYS been that he who owns EITHER case, can cash it in against ANY World Heavyweight Champion he chooses. Even the red and blue paint on the cases can’t deter the holder from making that choice. It’s up to the owner of the case.

SO!! Why have Bryan face Mark Henry ~ or Big Show ~ or that constant screw up Randy Orton ~ when he can just as easily cash it in at ‘Mania, and not only have a chance for the belt, but put on a nice, long pure wrestling match with C.M. Punk, and have a shot at ending up back on Raw? Really, the idea is child’s play.

But the rest of this isn’t about Bryan’s chances for any belt, instead it’s about the belts themselves, and a rather disturbing trend. Here we go!

So Monday I caught both of WWE’s Heavyweight Champions (Alberto Del Rio and Mark Henry) go up against C.M. Punk and Big Show, in a tag team match. Long story short, ADR wins via underhanded tactics and pins Punk. Sounds normal, right?

Well there was a mighty big problem… this was a mid-card match.

This was by no means an isolated incident either. For over a year the “main” titles have taken a backseat on several of the WWE’s major cards, most notably at last year’s TLC, when then champion Miz took a backseat to a non-title bout between John Cena and Wade Barrett.

One more time, the WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP played second fiddle to a NON-TITLE MATCH.

This is a big problem. I understand that to those in charge, the belts are nothing more than props. Cute accessories that look just darling with the latest fashion choices of it’s holder.

BUT the fans watching this are NEVER supposed to feel that way about the belts. And neither should the wrestler holding it.

Essentially, this booking blunder tells each and every wrestler in the back, that the belts mean NOTHING, and ergo if you are fighting for the ownership of said belt, you are in effect fighting for NOTHING.

Is this really what you want to tell your whole roster? That for all intents and purposes, they are fighting to become the temporary owner of a belt that will have them playing mid-card at a major show to let’s say… The Rock yammering on for 20 minutes? Johnny ace and HHH seeing how many times they can use the word “business” in a speech? A re-re-re-re-re-play of a skit gone wrong, or a WrestleMania recap? That may be more depressing to think about than Tyler Reks’s last push.

So the top belts mean nothing more than MAYBE a mid-card hurrah, and the wrestlers have no real reason to keep fighting in the WWE.

And judging by the buy rates of the last 10 PPVs (compared to the buy rates of a few years ago) it looks to me like the fans couldn’t care less either.

This could be solved rather easily, with just a simple restructuring. Here’s how I’d fix this mess.

So I’ve penciled out an episode of Raw, following a PPV. The rosters of Raw and SmackDown are standing around the ring, as whomever is in charge stands in the center. Now I’m going to be VERY generous and sketch this out for about 20 minutes. God knows none of the clowns in charge can figure out how to cut a believable promo in under 10 minutes.

So the monkey in charge (Oh let’s pretend it’s Johnny Ace) announces that at the next PPV, there will be TWO title-unification matches.

First unification match is certainly the World Heavyweight belt match. And BOTH the Spinner belt AND the WCW-knockoff title are history. Reasons why should be obvious. It’s been 6 years since I last heard anything NICE about the Spinner belt, and the SmackDown title has been nothing more than a cursed WCW knockoff, with it’s title history riddled with more than 3 Vacations and more than a dozen different instances, where the belt changed hands to to crummy screw jobs (Undertaker isn’t allowed to do a Hell’s Gate??) and multiple 3 and 4 ways involving dudes who not only DON’T need the damn belt to get over, they’ve already held the thing more than 6 times. (HHH, Orton, I’m looking at you.)

So I’m ditching both belts for a more classic design. Something close to the “Eagle belt” we all grew up admiring, but with a slick, hunter green strap. Hey, the belt is allegedly worth “money” right? So green here becomes the new black. From here on, ONLY this belt will be seen in the main event of ALL forthcoming PPVs, with the exception being Royal Rumble. I’d super-sell the idea that this is THE belt to hold, and if you’re not holding it, you are NOT the face of this company. This gives the wrestlers something worth fighting for. Besides, the roster is pretty much fused at this point, so there’s no need for two belts.

The second title unification belt will be for the Intercontinental and US titles.

When I was a little girl, the I.C. belt was the second to last thing you ever held before getting “THE” belt. If you held the I.C. belt, you were an instant SOMEBODY.

Now? These two belts are listed as the “booby prize” belts, meaning that unless your name is Miz, you hold these belts and it signifies the end of whatever push you had. Worse? It also means that for the next 6-10 months you will be doomed to stupid storylines that wreck your reputation. You might end up going from legitimate threat to joke status overnight, and even if you’re one of the best wrestlers on the roster, having ANY association with these belts means that once this run is done, and the skanks and comedy relief wrestlers get bored of you, you’ll end up wasting many a night on the low and dark match cards, wondering what went wrong. Many a booker/writer screams to be throttled for letting this happen to those wrestlers.

So here’s where I would unify the belts, and unveil a new title. I was thinking of calling it the “International Title” acknowledging it’s roots as stemming from the European, US and I.C. belts. This would be a smaller title, white strap, belt plate would feature an etching of two wrestlers in a test of strength, signifying that holding this belt is a test to see if you’re ready for the main title. I’d market it like that, breathing a sense of believability into it’s holders. (Something that a few of the more recent champs have had a hard time with when it comes to the fans.)

Next, it’s time to re-structure the tag team titles. I’m ditching the “penny belts” because they’re ugly and nobody wants them. Instead, we’re going back to the late 1990’s style. Average gold plate, blue straps. I’m also bumping it up on the card, so that for all PPVs, this belt is defended right before the international title, which is the last match before the main event.

Next, it’s time to re-introduce a high flyer’s belt. Now I’ve penciled the name in as “Cruiserweight” but I really don’t think stealing WCW terms would help anybody at this point. I could call it the “Light Heavyweight” title, but that’s always sounded like an oxymoron to me. Science tells us that unless your weight is somewhere in the middle, you are either light-weight or heavy-weight. You cannot be both, hence where other sports have a middle weight title. The belt itself will have a daring new design. Gold plate in the shape of a circle with an etching of a man doing a plancha through the second and top ropes. This belt would be defended before the tag titles at all PPVs, and would be the #1 focal point for Superstars ~ which would be re-formatted as a strictly wrestling program, 2 hours in length, focusing on the youngest, newest and shortest competitors.

NOW HOLD ON!! I know what you’re thinking and the answer is “NO!!” holding this belt does NOT mean you will “never” obtain the main title. That’s a notion I would squash right here. The main reason why the Cruiserweight belt failed, was because the morons in charge deemed that being the holder of the “I-am-under-6-feet-two” title instantly meant that you are never going to be good enough for a stronger belt. Let this be a thing of the past! Holding this belt means you are one step away from holding either the tag or International belt, which is of course your last major step before Heavyweight title contention.

Lastly, the Diva’s belt is to be thrown into a trash can and set “a”-BLAZE. (How many of you catch that? ^_~) Instead I’m bringing in the Women’s belt. But not just any belt, I’m bringing in a new version of the strap the Fabulous Moolah held when she started her 28 year reign. That’s right, white strap, medallion in the center with a tasteful close-up photo of the current champion.

Also, the belt has some steep stipulations. In order to be eligible for the title, you must be able to do the following:
1 ~ You MUST be able to be a mat technician. If you are unfamiliar with hammerlocks, armbars and basic submissions, leave now.
2 ~ You must have been on the televised roster for at least one year. No more of this bullshit where catalogue models earn a title shot in under one hour of their TV debut. If you can’t hold the attention of the crowd within one year of my letting you near the ring, you are gone.
3 ~ You must dress as though this is a SPORTING competition. Simply put, if you’re wearing less than a singlet, you’re gone.

Now why the strong stipulations? Simple. Once upon a time, the Women’s belt was one that was at least mildly respected. That’s a very big word that does NOT apply to today’s sloppy female division. I think that’s why most fans are ignoring the fact that Beth and Natalya are heels and cheering these women. They are REAL women and REAL wrestlers, always a profitable combination.

Now as I briefly mentioned, I’d bring back Superstars. Even if it’s internet only, the show will be restructured. Gone are the recaps and WrestleMania moments, in it’s place will be a two hour, weekly event that puts the smaller and younger wrestlers respectively, into their own limelight. Twice a year we can have a “special” episode where both the Women’s and Cruiserweight belts will be defended. This gives the fans a legit reason to watch.

NXT of course would be GONE. The remaining roster can be sent to Superstars.

With the roster now fused, Raw and SmackDown go back to the way they used to be in 2001. SHOWS. No more of this “brand” crap.

Each televised show will have no more than 15 minutes TOTAL for promo time, and the WHOLE roster has to share it. That’s right, no more 20 minute speeches, no more degrading skits, each wrestler has less than one minute to sell his story. With a roster of 60+ people, I can’t really waste time on blabbing. The average wrestling fan has less than a 30 second attention span for each wrestler, if I can’t tell a story within that time frame, I risk losing crowd interest. If it’s a REALLY big storyline, I’ll stretch out the time frame, but if it’s (let’s say) Santino vs. Dolph Ziggler as a filler match, then I really need to keep up the pace.

Also, no more storylines involving the morons in charge or the announcers. If I don’t see your wrestler’s license, you do NOT have airtime this week. Furthermore, I’d keep a cap on how crazy an announcer can get. It’s all fine and dandy to have a voice that speaks up for the heels, but when it becomes the focal point of Raw, it’s out of control. All announcers will be given a choice. You can either be a manager, and follow your favorite wrestler to the ring ~ OR ~ you can be an announcer. Pick ONE, you do NOT get to be both. No more sticking your ass into storylines.

For two hours, I can probably book between 6-8 matches. This should give everyone enough time to be seen, without being sent out in the dark during a commercial break.

As for the PPVs? It’s time to cut them down completely.

The point of a PPV is for it to feel like a special event. If there’s a PPV every two to three weeks, it’s no longer special, and at $55 per event, it’s no longer cost-effective to the average wrestling fan.

So I’d drop the price. $24.99 is a decent price for most PPV events by which more people can afford to see it on television, without being gauged. Ordering the event for your tv? Receive a snail mail coupon goof for the merchandise (DVD) from this event.

Next, it’s time to drop the number of events. 18 events is crazy, 12 was too many, so it’s time to go back to the way things used to be. 5-8 per year is enough to make a tidy profit without over saturating the market. It’s also easier to make the shows feel special this way. And for $20 a DVD once the event is no longer live, I better damn well make it feel special!

Then I’d roll out a special internet feed via my site, since TV sales aren’t doing so well. If you can’t catch the PPV via televised PPV, come to my site for the iPPV. $24.99 gets you the internet feed plus a special discount on all current and future merchandise based on said event. (Example: a snail mailed coupon for half off the DVD of the event.) By making the fans feel like kings and queens through special offers like this, I can curb internet stealing just a bit, make myself a tidy profit and keep them coming back for more. (Word of mouth travels fast!)

Now each PPV can comfortably play host to 9-10 matches. The structure of each event may look like this:

1 ~ TBA
2 ~ TBA
3 ~ TBA
4 ~ #1 contentership match for the I belt
5 ~ #1 contentership match for the World belt
6 ~ Women’s Belt
7 ~ Cruiserweight Title
8 ~ Tag Team Titles
9 ~ International Championship
10 ~ World Heavyweight Championship

Now the first three matches can be anything I want them to be. Special attraction matches, grudge bouts between long standing rivals, additional #1 contentership matches for the other belts, whatever I think best fits the card. I can even pull back the main contentership matches to earlier in the card, if I have a dog collar, TLC or Ladder match to squeeze in. But by keeping the titles in the limelight, I can give all of the wrestlers something to strive for, a reason to do better and wrestle at their best.

Another thing to is that each re-match wrestler has a “back-of-the-line” clause. No more of this nonsense with the same two people trading the belt back and forth for 9 months, or this BS with one man trying three PPVs in a row to get back a title. Instead it’ll work like this:

If you are a challenger and you LOSE your shot at the main belt ~ You go to the back of the line. We will have a NEW #1 contender next PPV and it AIN’T YOU!!

If you are a champion, and you LOSE the belt, you get ONE more chance at the next PPV. If you can’t win it back, you go to the back of the line.

Furthermore, each title feud would not last more than a few events. No more trading the belt back and forth like I said. Each feud has a limit of four title contentions. Whoever is holding the belt after match #4, that’s the winner of the feud, there ain’t no more, loser goes to the back of the line.

That keeps things exciting and also makes the heels more believable, should they win/retain due to cheating or DQ. This could also help an underdog face appeal to the crowd.

Now this entire article didn’t even take me too much time, nor would it be that difficult to reenact. It’s simple to follow, cost-effective, and most of what they would need to pull this off is already in the inventory.

Friday, November 11, 2011

5 things that puzzle me about wrestling fans

I’ve been alive for 25 years, and for just as long I’ve been watching wrestling. But even after all this time, there are some things that still puzzle me.

1. Why is it that so many fans piss on the Indies, yet never even bother watching more than 2-3 matches from there? ~ I’m constantly trying to push people to pay attention to the Independent leagues, where actual wrestling exists, but seemingly nobody has the balls to sit down, and watch a 10 minute clip on YouTube. “It’s BORING! It’s DUMB!” Say the bitchy little naysayers, and yet none of them can even name me ONE Indy league.

Others still ask me how they can at least preview an Indy league before committing their hard earned $10 to it, and I say the same thing. “YouTube them. Google it.” And always I hear the same complaint. “That’s too HARD! It’ll take too much time! Obviously it’s not worth my time if I have to Google it.”

Do you see how LAZY that looks to me? The same person who said that they can’t be bothered to Google one Indy promotion, will then spend about 55 minutes of his time YouTube searching the same 3 Chris Jericho videos he has on VHS and DVD… and on his Facebook wall ~ again and again and again.

2. Why is it that people will watch either WWE or nothing at all? ~ I’m constantly seeing the ratings for Raw and SmackDown dip, as more and more people I know give up on the company altogether. This guy’s not getting booked at all, that guy’s being de-pushed, I’m sick of Cena and Orton ~ are some of the myriad of complaints I see every week. “So stop watching that then, and check out AAW with me.” Is my encouraging reply.

“NO WAY!! It’s not WWE.” Is the pig-headed sentiment I usually get back. Why? We’ve established that you no longer wish to see the WWE as it is now, so why the sudden defense? Is it honestly that hard for you to fathom giving something else a try?

3. Why it is that most fans can bitch about the WWE, but if I do it, I’m somehow “naïve” or “stupid”? ~ I tried an experiment once.

So this year, Christian won ~ and then lost ~ the SmackDown belt. The entire title reign lasted less than a weekend, and everyone got pissed. It wasn’t enough that he lost the belt, it was made worse that his push was thrown away so that Randy Orton could hold the belt a 10th time. Truth be told, I don’t think Randy should have even held it the first time, let alone the other 9, since he’s sloppy, has too quick a temper, and has yet to be anything like the wrestler his father, uncle or grandfather were, but I digress. Christian was screwed, and even non-wrestling fans knew it.

Now unwittingly, I shared the exact same sentiment as a man on a YouTube page. (Since I don’t remember his name, let’s just call him “Rodger”.) Rodger and I both posted the same sentence:

“Christian just got SCREWED out of the title. I say we boycott SmackDown this week to show the WWE the mistake they just made.”

Now when I posted this sentence, I got the following responses on many a chat, forum and channel:

“You’re so naïve! Oh here we go again with Kori’s naivety rearing it’s ugly head. Look stupid, just because you and the other internet SMARKS can withstand 60 minute matches at your backyard Indies doesn’t mean the rest of us can. It’s JUST an angle. If you don’t like it STOP WATCHING dumb Kori!”

Rodger posted the EXACT SAME sentence I had.

“DUDE you are SO right. Fuck WWE. Let’s boycott Raw too!”

What the hell? Am I THAT intimidating that this would happen? So it’s alright if a MAN says it, but not me, right? Gotcha.

Nice to see the lack of manhood on the internet.

4. Why is it that people will defend that which annoys them? ~ Picking up from the last segment, a lot of people have been upset this year over stupid decisions made by the WWE. I’ve seen some alarming comments from people about Muppets, wrestlers that have been dropped lower on the card than need be, storylines that got stupid fast, all kinds of complaints from people who actually work 3 or more jobs a week, just to afford 5th row tickets to the next house show.

I’m always being told “Well just stop watching then!!” from these exact people when I point out the mistakes of this company. So a few times, I’ve turned the tables and asked them to do the same thing. “Just – STOP – Watching.”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! They’re um like the BIGGEST company in the world! Stupid Kori, why um it’s just a storyline, and I don’t always have to agree with it. I’m a fan and I know that. You’re just a hater.”

A similar reaction can come from a child, who professes to have outgrown his favorite toy, yet will scream and holler if another boy touches it.

5. Why is it that I can read the writing on the wall, and nobody else can? ~ So it seems that I over-react to things. Alright, I can point out a few occasions on which I am guilty of this. But still there are things that are starring us all in the face as I type this:

1. The WWE stock has dropped from $25 when it opened in 1999, to $8-10 in a mere 12 years. We CAN’T just pretend it’s all the economy’s fault, when other companies in the stock market (such as Mattel) have not suffered nearly as badly as the WWE stocks.
2. The ratings for Raw and SmackDown haven’t seen a 4.0 since Brock Lesnar quit.
3. The WWE has lost NXT and Superstars’s TV deals in the same year ~ and at this rate may not even be able to renew Tough Enough for a full second season.
4. The PPV buy rates have DROPPED to less than half of their typical revenue.
5. Overseas house shows that used to draw an easy 10-15,000 people are now barely bringing in 4-7,000 paid fans. A drop in the bucket? Maybe, but losing more than half of 15,000 fans is NOTHING to be happy about.
6. The merchandise at Wal*Mart, K-Mart and Target are NOT selling well. Hell, even multi-action-figure wrestler himself Evan Bourne pointed it out:

7. The storylines are crappy re-hashes from older ~ FAILED ~ storylines of years past.
8. The youth are being undermined and pushed down, in favor of pre-manufactured sports entertainers.
9. Many of the talent being pushed are over-groomed girly-men and non-wrestling talentless tranny-bitches. (Minus the beauty.)
10. WWE is bleeding money with each failed movie. (The Reunion is quickly becoming it’s own meme for having lost so much money.)
11. Creative is so mentally bankrupt, that they keep begging McMahon to beg back former WWE employees ~ to NOT use them. *COUGH BRET COUGH*

I’m watching WCW flash in front of my eyes each week, as I see one Russo-esque swerve after another. (HHH is is not is in charge but broke up with his boyfriend Kevin Nash and Johnny Ace now has power. HAH?? Is this WWE or TNA???) And yet every time I point ANY of this out, I’m either greeted with “Stop watching” or some sort of long-winded explanation as to why I’m somehow “wrong” for believing that a company that rakes in millions of dollars could “ever” fall. Oh stupid me indeed, why there was only ONE Enron, ONE WCW in the world, why it could “never” happen again… even as I’m watching every store in the area clearance off WWE merchandise and condense the aisles to a fraction of what they were before.

Now I’m not saying we’ll all wake up tomorrow, and have the WWE just disappear, but I am saying that the day is coming where the company as we know it now will cease to be. Hell, the company we fell for as children is LONG gone.

GONE are the days of competent valets that don’t try to hump every wrestler who appears on screen, stylish dresses and ladylike entrances. In place of strong women I can be proud of, we have girls not good enough to be the skank ass whore that is Snooki. ~ That’s right I went THERE.

GONE are the days of wrestlers acting like MEN, knowing when to say “NO!!” to a moronic booking idea ~ for now we have little, simpering girls, who pout and cry should the idea of saying “I dunno” cross their minds. “OH but Vince might fire me, and I wanna wif out my WWE dweams.” REALLY??

GONE are the days of superhero, larger than life wrestlers in a WWF ring, touting the virtues of eating your milk and drinking your vitamins, as they fight in storylines no more complicated than good vs. evil. Instead, we have ill-coordinated groups that lack focus, little boys in sparkle pants that bitch and moan about who gets to wear the matching mask, angry puffy men who can’t seem to cut a convincing promo ~ or for Heaven’s sakes do ONE good Hammerlock ~ without a training video, shimmery boys with hair much more shiny than my hairspray-laden curls ~ wearing much more makeup and body glitter than Boy George at a Lady Gaga concert, and of course, the 30-somethings who act like an urban 12 year old, jorts included. (What happened here??)

The WWF we had as kids was dead and gone long before the Monday Night Wars. And really if you think about it, WHY would anyone want to work there anyways? Think about it, we have so many interviews, DVDs, podcasts and internet videos from most of the surviving cast of the 80’s and 90’s WWF we loved so much as kids. And each one of these ex-WWF wrestlers ~ even Hogan ~ have stories about what a sick place the backstage area was. Steroids, drugs, unclean rings, NO medical insurance, rampant alcohol and sexual abuse, oh sure those things never truly went away, but is that really the element you’d want to be in? More scary are the after effects these guys warn about. Liver, muscular and stomach damage from those chemicals, STDs, mental trauma, frienemies (fake friends who are really your enemies) suddenly that story--line of good vs. evil looks really blurry.

So it’s clear that the WWF we once knew is gone, and the current WWE product is suffering. So why are people ~ even after realizing this ~ are still willing to defend it, the moment I say anything?

Now my best two guesses are that there are some real misogynists on the web, and that those who swear they aren’t are at the very least in denial about the state of what they think is wrestling. However I’m open to other suggestions ~ ideas more manly than an insult hurled in my direction.