Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Since when does the WWE care about the Territories?

Back in 1982, Vincent Kennedy McMahon bought out his father, Vincent J. McMahon, and took control of what was then World Wide Wrestling Federation. (WWWF) As soon as the ink was dry, the man dubbed by the older wrestlers as "Little Vinnie Junior" severed ties with all of the Territory based companies his father and grandfather had ties with. Starting with the NWA.

Right after this, "Little Vinnie Junior" started skimming from the top of every roster (starting with the Verne Gagne's AWA and then going north to Stu Hart's Stampede) and doing his level best to not only put these companies out of business, but to stamp out wrestling itself.

By 1985, one year almost to the day that Vince Sr. passed away from cancer, Vinnie Jr. had started the Rock N' Wrestling Connection, and was busy as a bee trying to clamor for Hollywood. By 1989, he had seen to it that his company (at the time, WWF, currently WWE) was as far away from wrestling as you could get, with loud, colorful characters, paid interviews with Entertainment Tonight and of course, movies.

Since the 80's, Vince has done everything in his power to deny, put down and stamp out any memory of the Territories. He wants people to pretend that the WWE is all there ever will be with wrestling, and that everything else either doesn't exist, never happened, or otherwise is beneath the almighty McMahon.

So explain to me why then is he "suddenly" interested in it now?

This is the two page article WWE monthly just posted on the Territories:

Understand this, Vince McMahon Jr. never does anything without a reason. And it's always a bad one.

On the surface, this looks like a harmless, respectful article. It may even seem like Vince is nearing his "not feeling well" stage and is just acknowledging his roots. After all, the NWA is the only reason why this company exists at all.

Once upon a time, Jess McMahon (a retired boxing promoter from New York) started up a promotion called Capitol Wrestling. He co-promoted it with Toots Mondt, the Goldust Twins and a few "concerned investors".

The first show TANKED. They were laughed right out of the building, and after the first few weeks, everybody bailed except for Jess and his tiny roster of 12.

Things looked bleak, but just before he was able to close the company, the NWA stepped in. They made Jess a deal. You become a branch of the NWA, and we take care of promoting the next show, getting the fliers out, and we'll loan out a few of our wrestlers.

Jess couldn't wait to sign the papers. Capitol became a success. But Jess wasn't able to stick around to see where it was going.

It's a McMahon family trait that the men will hide when they are ill. They don't want illness to get in the way of business. So when a McMahon says "I'm not feeling well" and he means it, for the love of God get him to a hospital. It's a sign that his time is running out.

Not long after Jess said "I'm not feeling well" he died, leaving the company to his son, Vincent.

Vince Sr. was a tough but fair promoter, and most of his roster respected him. I've only heard nice things about him so far. He re-dubbed Capitol "World Wide Wrestling Federation" and soon, it was strong enough that he could travel with the roster outside of their territory.

He wasn't ruthless either. If he knew that a local promoter had a more popular wrestler on their roster, he'd call them ahead of time. I hear they would trade wrestlers back then, and always he had a decent, civil relationship with many rival promoters.

But once he was ready to "not feel well" he had a problem. Who gets the company?

There were many investors who wanted to take over WWWF, and plenty of promoters who would have kept things as they were, but his daughter-in-law Linda, pushed and pressured Vinnie Jr. into taking the throne. And like I said earlier, Junior severed ties.

So if you are a WWE fan, this looks like Vince is trying to honor his past.

Don't be fooled.

Anytime Vince pays tribute to or otherwise acknowledges something outside of the WWE scope, there is a storm on the horizon. Examples:

ECW ~ Vince started "helping them out" financially. Pretty soon, he bought out the roster, demoted all of the ECW alumni to joke status, erased their history, re-wrote their legacy with a pre-NXT show on Sci-Fi, degraded them, and then systematically threw them out when he lost interest.

WCW ~ The moment DX tried to invade with the tank, the war was at it's peak. Over the next two years, Vince took Jericho, The Radicals and anybody he could from the roster. And then in March of 2001, he became the sole owner of the company. He spent the rest of the year denouncing those wrestlers and making a mockery of the company. Of the entire roster that he picked up, only Rey Mysterio Jr. is left. And you wonder why he keeps violating wellness? And sure, Booker T and Jericho eventually came back. But one is doing commentary and the other is on suspension, and both needed a multi-year sabbatical, leaving Rey the only one still there from the 2001-2002 set.

Stampede ~ He took interest in them just long enough to learn how to spell "Bret Hart". In fact, watch the 3 disc Bret Hart set they actually put out. Bret can tell you how fast he went from answering to his dad, to wearing a cowboy outfit at a WWF house show.

XWF ~ Oh sure, Jimmy Hart might not have thrown in the towel 100% until 2011 (if you ask the geniuses at Wikipedia) but he didn't even have to. Once Hulk Hogan had decided at the end of 2001 to leave XWF and go back to Vince, he had taken 3 quarters of the roster with him. Royal Rumble 2002 should have been titled "XWF Take-over" considering how many veteran wrestlers hogan had swiped from XWF, including Mr. Perfect, who was originally swiped from...

AWA ~ Oh Vince had some mad love for the AWA. His first acquisition was also a man his father had previously thrown out: Hulk Hogan. Hogan's hasty exit meant going back on a handshake agreement with Verne, causing the rest of the wrestling world to suddenly rely on contracts only, whereas before, a wrestler's word of honor was all one needed. By 1989, Vince would take Mr. Perfect, Scott Hall, Shawn Michaels, Marty Jannetty and a nice big slue of other wrestlers off of Verne's hands. And with the AWA bleeding money, they had little defense against the man who would also take back Sgt. Slaughter, Jimmy Snuka and of course, swipe their ideas too. Next time ESPN Classic plays it, watch the tag tournaments from 1990-91 and tell me what you see.

Smokey Mountain ~ The first 900 times the WWF told the man who would someday be Kane "Creative has Nothing for You" he would wrestle out in the Southern Territories for Smokey Mountain, then steered by Jim Cornette. Once Vince took a good, hard look at who Jim had, the take-over was imminent. Jim, Kane and a good number of them were swooped up faster than you can say "Tennis Racket".

The Territories aren't the only areas Vince is suddenly taking interest in. just last month he was adding photos from Ring of Honor and TNA, and still has their information littered all over the site. (Use the search bar.)

Vince knows that ROH was just purchased a year ago by a TV Company ~ one that's in more homes in the US right now than USA, with channels that can be accessed using bunny ears. It's a matter of time before ROH is more TV accessible than all of WWE's cable-only shows combined, and with the WWE Network in constant limbo, it's obvious that people will be more willing to adjust the bunny ears for ROH than to pay a cable/satellite company hundreds of dollars a month for regular service, plus an additional $6-20 for the WWE Network. Not to mention that ROH is already doing cheaper and longer iPPVs in the growing internet market than WWE's overpriced $54.95 HD DirecTV feeds. Vince will be watching them even more closely, just to see who else he can pseudo-push and then bury. (Oh yeah, Bryan looks REAL SANE after those Diva whores, don't he?)

And then there's TNA, currently host to Hulk Hogan and his beloved daughter. They just started Open Fight Night, their strongest and most exciting TV idea since current WWE employee Dusty Rhodes suggested Lockdown. And with contracts up in the air right now, Vince is wasting no time in seeing who he can scoop up. Oh, and don't be fooled by that cute PR article on their reporting Mr. Weinstien to TNA before the lawsuit. Vince had already decided who he's taking before they did the "honest" thing. Don't believe me? Then answer me this. Where are Ric Flair, Alex Shelley and Matt Morgan? Here's a hint: they won't be on iMpact this week.

My advice to all promoters is to keep alert. Odds are good Vince has another few takeovers planned.

And to you wrestlers, ask the ECW and WCW alumni how good this worked out for them.

Pay attention. The storm is coming. This is your warning shot.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

30 things to think about for The Lion King

It was the summer of 1994. I was 7 and living in a hotel out in Wayne, New Jersey. The movie of the year had just come out, and I was all too thrilled to see it. But while enjoying this Disney film, I had to endure endless whining and complaining from the adults at the theater out by the mall. Even my mom was having a conniption fit, but I just didn’t get it.

I didn’t quite understand what all the complaining was about until the following week, when I started reading books like crazy about my then favorite animal, the lion.

But most of my understanding didn’t come until after I finished reading Hamlet (My 2nd least favorite Shakespeare play. Spoiler, everybody dies.) and then more so after I started researching the anime Leo the Lion. (I don’t count the movie. It’s not a part of the continuity. In fact, skip it.) So now watching this again as an adult, I have a few issues with the continuity of The Lion King.

Now of course, I’m not an idiot. I can see that some things had to be changed to make this a kids’ film. But considering how dark this movie is even after the multitudes of re-writes this must have gone through, I still have a hard time seeing why this was pitched to the G-rated market. (Some scenes are better for tweens.)

So here are my issues:

1. The opening scene. Why are all of the zebras, antelopes, gazelles, giraffes, hippos and elephants coming out to see Simba’s ceremony? Lions EAT these animals. Of all the things these animals could appear for, you would think that the birth of he-who-will-eat-them would be the last event they’d want to show up early for.
2. Rafiki is a mandrill. Mandrills have blue bottoms. Baboons have red bottoms. So in Lion King 1 and a half, why does Nala (supposedly smart and understanding of other species) refer to him as a baboon?
3. Rafiki is a mandrill. Mandrills and lions do not get along. If he was a real mandrill, he would have flung Simba into the nearest wall, swung him by the tail and then dropkicked him off of Pride Rock.
4. Lions are born in litters of three. Why is Simba an only child?
5. Lions are born blind and remain that way for a few weeks. How was he able to gaze up at Rafiki’s stick?
6. I’m not surprised Scar looks the way he does. Once in every 15 or so litters, you get a lion cub that’s just plain messed up. I am surprised that Scar would want anything to do with Mufasa’s kingdom. Male lions venture off on their own by the time they’re what we would consider “late teens”. By now he should have his own pride and not even remember Mufasa. With this said, Mufasa shouldn’t even care that Scar wasn’t at the ceremony.
7. That reminds me. Why don’t Mufasa and Scar have another sibling?
8. Zazu is a bird. Lions eat birds. Why is he advising Mufasa and bossing around the other lions?
9. Mufasa is a morbid character! Every other line out of his face is about death, specifically his own. Why was this considered ok for children?
10. Why does Simba sing “Just can’t wait to be king”? This implies that he wants his father to die. That’s really the only way he’s getting the throne.
11. When a male lion has his own pride, the lionesses are in effect his concubines. Unless Nala’s father abandoned she and her mother (which can happen in the lion world) doesn’t this mean that Mufasa is her father too? Doesn’t this make Nala and Simba brother and sister? And in the sequel, does this mean that Kiara and Kovu are related too?
12. Disney did a great job of making Mufasa seem like a good father figure. Most male lions just laze about. The lioness does the hunting of prey and rearing of children.
13. Hyenas are not hunters. All of the scenes where the hyenas are attacking the lions are wrong. Hyenas are part of the dog family and are scavengers. They wait for another animal to kill and eat from whatever is available (generally zebras and gazelles) and then the hyenas eat whatever is left. Their main enemies are vultures, not lions.
14. The scene where Mufasa is disciplining Simba is wrong too. When a lion cub disobeys his father, the father eats the cub. Then the mother kills and eats the father. Then she is killed and eaten by the rest of the pride. Finally, the pride disbands, and each lioness searches for a new male. But I guess animating this would have cut the movie short and made it impossible to distribute with a G rating.
15. The “Be Prepared” number is wrong on so many levels. How on earth did this pass the MPAA? We have hyenas marching exactly like the Nazi’s, we have Scar singing gleefully about murdering his brother, we have hellfire and images of the hyenas playing with the dead, and one more thing… lions and hyenas have nothing to do with each other!
16. Is anybody else creped out by how close Simba and Scar are, prior to Mufasa’s death? Anybody? No? Ok.
17. Simba’s eyes keep changing from a bright yellow around the iris to white. Real lions have cat eyes. Last I looked they were white.
18. How did Mufasa’s death scene skirt past the MPAA? Considering how it was filmed, you would imagine all of the coalitions of 1994 jumping down each animator’s throat.
19. In 1994, one of the coalitions petitioned to have Elton John’s cover of “Circle of Life” remove the chanting in the opening lyrics. The chanting (for those without the original 1994 Cassette Tape) is the same chanting from the movie version of the song. So chanting you find offensive… but Scar pushing his brother to his death you find ok??
20. Simba snuggling Mufasa’s corpse. I can’t really be the only person finding this scene creepy and morbid. I even have a trading card of this scene, right after Simba’s done nibbling and gnawing at his color-changing-dead-dad’s ear. In fact, this was in all of the kiddie books too, now that I remember it. Even the bit with Scar sending the hyenas to kill Simba.
21. Timon is a meerkat. Pumbaa is a warthog. They are both lion food. And lucky that Simba at this point is damaged enough to make them his friends and adoptive parents. And why didn’t Timon want Pumbaa to say “fart”? At this point, we’ve already discussed death and murder, so I doubt anybody could be offended at it.
22. Timon and Pumbaa are clearly a couple. They adopt Simba. Simba grows up straight. This was in 1994. I’d like to imagine the rest of us can catch up with Disney.
23. Yes lions can eat grubs. Do we need to see it?
24. A lion cub is an adult at four years old. Simba looks to be about a year old almost when Timon and Pumbaa adopt him. (You can tell by the lack of spots and the rambunctious nature.) So the Hakuna Mattata number takes place during the coarse of three years. That is one long song!
25. On the HD print of the movie, you probably can’t see it too well, but in the VHS print, when Simba falls onto the dirt, you can read the word ‘SEX” in the sky. Now all of the Disney staffers have tried for years to say that it really spells “S.F.X.” but nobody has yet to buy it. Also, if you have a ridiculous amount of time on your hands, you can catch the offensive word in select scenes of Beauty and the Beat, Tangled, Aladdin, Pocahontas and if you really have too much time, The Little Mermaid.
26. Simba and Nala probably conceived Kiara in the reunion scene. Even at 7 years old, I knew lion sex when I saw it. Again, where was the MPAA?
27. Simba grows up to be a whiny, self-centered douche. There. I said it. And now that I think about it, he never really dealt with his emotions over Mufasa’s death. No really, think about it. Mufasa dies, Simba runs away, Hakuna Mattata!
28. The scene with Scar pimp-slapping Serabi was a shock to see in the theater. I wonder if he tried anything, like Hamlet’s uncle with Hamlet’s mother?
29. Real hyenas would not have killed Scar. This was also a gruesome visual.
30. When the original kid books for The Lion King came out, they listed Nala and Simba’s child as a boy. In the sequel, Kiara is a girl. Was this a misprint in the original books, a simple ret-conning of Kiara’s gender, or was there another cub that Rafiki dropped?

I know you shouldn’t take a cartoon so seriously, but really wasn’t anybody catching this at Disney?