Story of the Yes! Movement

Until Southern States Wrestling gets some new matches to air (hopefully from the Thanksgiving Extravaganza held last Wednesday), here’s a different kind of rerun that I found while checking out the new YouTube section as I while away the last few hours of my free month on The Network:

While it suffers from the usual WWE spin (some other guy was actually the first to call Daniel Bryan a Goat Face…guess he wasn’t anybody important), this 163 second video highlights the tremendous entertainment potential of the top-notch WWE production crew that is constantly wasted by a senile chairman who’s only agenda is to entertain himself.
If only Beau James had these kind of resources at his disposal…

WWE Network “Customer Service” Story

Hey Scott,

I never e-mail you, but I'm a reader of your work for going on 10+ years now, and felt compelled to share my experience interacting with @AskWWENetwork on Twitter with the fellow Blog-ites (or whatever name you have for us).

A few weeks ago, when the Network was doing the Smackdown anniversary deal and was uploading all that Smackdown-related material, I went to go pull up the 2004 episode they uploaded/aired, which had the Eddie Guerrero-JBL cage match that I never saw before.  I didn't catch it on the live stream, but that's one of the best things about the Network, right?  Everything is available to watch on demand, IMMEDIATELY!

Not exactly.

I went to the year filter under "Smackdown Replays" and noticed that 2004 was not available to choose.  "OK", I figured, "I can just use the search engine and pull the episode up that way".  Well, I think all Network users know how well that probably worked out (side note – I mean, really, it's been 8 MONTHS and you can't get the search feature working at least somewhat properly?). 

My next thought was to reach out to the @AskWWENetwork handle on Twitter and let them know of what I perceived to be a minor, easily-fixable issue.  All you have to do is add a filter…it can't be that big a deal.

@AskWWENetwork Just a heads up, 2004 isn't available from the Smackdown Replays drop-down menu filter, so you can't access the 2004 episode.

@JFratt Hey there! Thanks for letting us know. We'll send this information to our tech team for further analysis. ^AW|

Fair enough. Again, this shouldn't be a major issue, so hopefully the filter will pop up in the next day or so.

Two days later, I decided to sit down and watch the Network…but it was kind of sticking in my craw that I couldn't pull up a show I wanted to watch. So again, I decided to reach out.

@AskWWENetwork Noticed this still isn't fixed. Any update?

The reply I received wasn't very helpful.

@JFratt Unfortunately, we have received no further info, we hope to have an update soon! Thanks for your patience. ^JS

OK. Well it was a holiday weekend in the States, maybe they just need the right person in to take care of this…say it with me…minor issue.

Well, a week passed. Two weeks. Three weeks. Finally, today, a MONTH later, I decided to ask again, just out of morbid curiosity as to how something so simple to fix could be neglected so easily. I replied to the thread from a few weeks back so whoever was responding could see what I was referring to.

@AskWWENetwork Is there an update on this? This seems like a pretty minor issue that should be easily fixable.

The response didn't seem to make a ton of sense.

@JFratt Thanks for reaching out. We have no further info on when those episodes will be available. Stay tuned for a future update. ^SO
Did you read the question I originally asked before you inserted your typical, blow-off response that you've been sending out to quite a few users about quite a few topics? (Check their timeline and see what I'm talking about.)
@AskWWENetwork You didn't read the problem correctly. There is an episode already available that you can't access because the drop-down…

@AskWWENetwork …menu doesn't have the year listed to choose from. I'm not asking for info as to when episodes would be available…

@AskWWENetwork …this is regarding an episode that already aired that subscribers can't access.

Alright, I aired my grievances, and spelled the issue out pretty well, methinks.

@JFratt Unfortunately, we do not have an update regarding when these will be available to view. Sorry for any inconvenience. ^SO

So this whole deal was…"helpful". Look, I've been a subscriber since Day One. And I'll probably continue to be one, because I love the idea behind this product. Lord knows it satiates my appetite for wrestling better than today's lousy product does. And again, I know it's ONE little episode of Smackdown and it's definitely not as in-demand as the Nitro episodes were, or the ECW material, etc, but to me, this is a great illustration and a microcosm of how disorganized and poorly executed this has been, in many ways.

Anyway, I know this was long and maybe drawn out, but I figured it was worth sharing…I'm sure other readers have had experiences that are somewhat similar in nature.

Keep up the great work, Scott. Always been a fan and will continue to be one!

​Thanks, I'll pass your concerns on to the blog technical staff and get back to you once we figure out the best way to respond to your positive feedback.  
If it helps, everything I've heard about people who are involved with the Network is that they're just as frustrated as we are due to budget cuts overriding any other consideration, so I wouldn't hold your breath for things to improve any time soon.   ​

Story of TNA Making An Offer to CM Punk Disputed?

Mike Johnson from PWInsider.com has this to say about the story of TNA making an offer to CM Punk from this week’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter


“For whatever reason, there have been several stories making the rounds about CM
Punk over the last several days. Since we have received so many emails about
them, I’ve asked around, and here is what we’ve found out.

 
Is CM Punk signing with TNA?
One story that began making the rounds yesterday, attributed to Dave Meltzer
of The Wrestling Observer (although I want to make it clear that I have
no idea whether Meltzer ever actually reported this) is that TNA made a big
money offer to Punk to come into the company and were turned down.
I reached out to several high level TNA sources last night and this morning,
I heard back from each as they were preparing to head to Japan. Each of them
said there was no truth to the story and one commented, “No offer was made,
officially or via an intermediary – no truth to that rumor.”
In asking a few friends that are close with Punk yesterday as well, all of
them scoffed at the idea Punk would ever want to return to wrestling, much less
for TNA.

Punk at OVW?
We’ve also been asked about stories that Punk was backstage over the weekend
for Ohio Valley Wrestling and that the locker room had been ordered not to speak
to him while he was in the locker room. While Punk was indeed at the show (he
arrived with Cliff Compton, a close friend), he was never in the locker room.
According to several OVW regulars who worked the show on Saturday, Punk arrived
early in the day and went right to OVW owner Danny Davis’ office. He was never
in the locker room. The wrestlers were somewhat aware he was there but there
were no explicit instructions made by anyone to leave Punk alone.


So, again, we are told there was nothing to this.”

Personally, seeing how TNA seemingly makes offers to anyone let go from the WWE and has recently lied about Vince Russo working for them, I can see TNA lying about this as well. And saying you doubt someone’s reporting without having read the full story it is petty, IMO.

So, what do you guys think?

Newsday story on Jeff Jarrett-Toby Keith, with comment from Jarrett

It’s Nashville Wrestling, where the lead babyface has a cheating wife, drives a Ford truck, and drinks a lot of beer!   
Come to think of it, that worked pretty well for another guy…

Review: A Christmas Story 2

A Christmas Story 2 Review by James Fabiano Still getting over the post-Christmas letdown?  This movie won’t help… My name’s James Fabiano, I’m a longtime reader of the blog, as well as an occasional contributor to comments threads.  This is the first time I’ve attempted to write something for the site.  I have written wrestling and movie reviews for other sites way back when, but have kind of laid off for a couple of years.  But… it takes a special kind of movie to bring me out of retirement. OK, we all know the story of “A Christmas Story” by now.  Not just the plot of the movie, but the story of the movie itself.  You know, holiday movie based on Jean Shepherd’s “slice of 1930s Americana” (as TV Guide used to put it in its movie listings) comes out in 1983, doesn’t exactly set the world on fire.  Then said movie hits cable and home video, and builds a following until it becomes a full-fledged Christmas icon and has its own 24-hour marathon Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Not to mention tons and tons of merchandising, and with that said, what happened 29 years later was probably more inevitable than Mrs. Parker asking Ralphie what he wanted for Christmas.  Sure there were films before then that were based on Shep’s writing, but none took the direct approach that Warner Premiere did when it made the direct to DVD “official” sequel, “A Christmas Story 2.”  Yes, without using any Jean Shepherd material, nor Jean Shepherd still here to offer any input or role.  Everyone who knows me knows that I am a rabid fan of the original ACS, and I have been so way before the hype.  From the beginning pretty much…when I was 6 I laughed at the commercials and the slide scene with Ralphie and Santa, and I vaguely remember being taken to the theater to see it.  I’d always watch it on HBO, from which grew my love for the “Oh fudge!” story arc.  From there, I followed it wherever it was running, and bought the VHS and later DVD.  I hope to one day take a trip to Cleveland to visit the Christmas Story House as well.  So I guess I was compelled either way to give this sequel a look, no matter the potential for a train wreck.  (Don’t worry, I used Netflix, I didn’t buy it)  (WARNING: Spoilers will appear from this point on!!!!) SYNOPSIS It’s six years since the original ACS, Ralphie is now 15 years old and has a new Christmas wish: a new car.  However, unlike his quest for the Red Ryder BB gun, this one takes a backseat to other wacky holiday time antics.  For you see, the car is actually the means to another end, as Ralphie wants to impress dream girl Drucilla (Drucilla?  But I thought Esther Jane was “Ralph’s” love interest in the Shepherd stories!  And it’s not like she didn’t cameo in ACS1).  And both plot points are further overshadowed when Ralphie takes the car for a test drive and ends up wrecking it.  Now he must earn $85 to pay for the damage, can he do it, with the help of his ever-present friends Flick and Schwartz?  Meanwhile, kid brother Randy lives out Buck Rogers fantasies, the Old Man is still battling the furnace and has developed a sudden frugality as well as an interest in ice fishing, and we get some appearances by familiar places, things, and jokes.  OBSERVATIONS – Pretty unspectacular opening credits, with everything from the Warner Premiere logo (CLG Wiki addition!!) and up appearing amidst snowfall on a black background.  The music is nondescript (more on that later), and they use a generic “comedic” red font.  Compare to the MGM lion roaring, followed by those chimes, building up to Paul Zaza’s “Deck the Halls” heralding the words “A film based on the works of Jean Shepherd” and finally, the music peaking as the title card comes up.  – Speaking of which, they could have done worse than re-use Zaza’s music, or try better in recreating it.  The music we are stuck with is generally generic and borders on sitcom quality at times.  – Here’s Cleveland Street, but it looks almost too polished.  And the background of factories, which look like cutouts, makes it look more like a model.  – Nat Mauldin is our narrator, and I am wondering now if they could have at least gotten the person from the Cingular commercial from a few years back… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60MdEMK4VZY …at least he made an attempt to sound like Shep.  Mauldin sounds more like Adam West rattling off familiar Shepherdisms (he hits “There it is…Cleveland Street!” and “the Battle of the Lamp” within seconds of the movie’s start) along with other Shepherd-style metaphors.  – Randy’s still here and is more talkative, being presented as a couple years older.  As mentioned before, he is obsessed with Buck Rogers and pretends to shoot the milkman, bragging to his mother that he really got “the son of a bitch.”  Cursing little kids are FUNNY!  Now, did you like the moment when Ralphie blurted out that phrase after being duped by Little Orphan Annie?  Good, because it is used 2-3 times within the next 20 minutes alone.  Maybe more in general.  See, the thing about ACS1’s cursing was that it was used sparingly and not to worry, most of the adult jokes would fly over youngsters’ heads (thinking of the “Oh! A blue ball!” line).   ACS2, unlike Ralphie’s mom at the dinner table, was NOT more subtle. There’s this, and later on, we revisit the evil Santa, who uses every word except the obscentiy itself to imply that his wife is a whore. The further beauty of ACS1’s “obscenity” was that it was either mixed in gibberish or “unintentional.”  I still say Flick’s cries of “Stuck?” with his impeded tongue was one of the best getting crap past the radar moments ever. And it’s never altered on any of the TV viewings!  – Mrs. Parker of course warns Randy about getting the soap…hey, I get that reference!  Regardless, he gets wrapped up again for the winter weather (I get that too!) and lets out another S.O.B. bomb.  – Now, we see Ralphie finally, and well, it’s like an older person dressed up as 9-year-old Peter Billingsley for Halloween.  Or the Hanna-Barbera version of drawing “aged” characters…think Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm in the ’70s.  And speaking of the Flintstones… – There’s the Old Man, played by Daniel Stern.  Now, I think the casting department considered this “clever,” because he was the narrator/adult version of a younger character on a hit TV show, and hey, A Christmas Story had one of those too, so huzzah!  Anyway, Wrestlecrap’s R.D. Reynolds hit the nail right on the head when he compares this incarnation of the Old Man to Fred Flintstone…he is just too gruff and blustery.  And we SEE him in the furnace, way to kill the mystery!  Similarly, Stern also does Darrin McGavin’s “gibberish cursing” both off AND on camera.  He even does gibberish singing at one point.  It worked when it was unseen because, as I said, it adds to the mystery and chaos of what could possibly be going on down there.  Here, it just makes Stern look more like a cartoon character. This should be no surprise, considering that Brian Levant directed both Flintstones movies and some of the Scooby-Doo TV movies.  Actually, further research on Levant shows that he also directed or worked on: several *’80s* Happy Days episodes, The New Leave It To Beaver, and the sequels to Problem Child.  Need I say more?  – Mrs. Parker, according to the narration, “still collects bacon grease like it was gold dust.”  First, an obsession with Dustin Rhodes is generally unhealthy.  Second of all, I do not remember her doing this at all in the first movie.  I guess since she was mostly the straight person to everyone else’s wackiness, they had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to give her some kind of quirk too.  And she looks YOUNGER than Melinda Dillon.  – Another problem I had with this movie was that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSwSzoFaEcA The narration carried most of the first movie, after all.  I guess since everyone is older, especially the kids, they would naturally talk more.  But still, it’s really jarring. – Older he may be, teenage Ralphie still has the fantasy sequences he did as a 9-year-old.  The most interesting one involves a Nazi soldier holding Drucilla captive and Ralphie coming to the rescue, but still, never once is the car involved.  That shows what the REAL goal of Ralphie’s is.  Other sequences are no “soap poisoning” or “Ralph : A++++++++++++”.  They try to kind of have a nod to the latter in a dream sequence where Ralphie is the employee of the month at Higbee’s, though.  – So Ralphie’s dream car gets wrecked when a model reindeer impales it in slow motion, giving the writers an excuse to revisit the “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuudge” line, pretty much delivered the same way.  A word on the “dream car” angle, if I may.  Could they have picked a more cliched plot for this movie?  And on top of that, the protagonist must also earn money to make up for damages?  I’m sure Bob Clark wouldn’t settle for having A Christmas Story driven by such sitcom-quality plots.  Then again, he DID come up with Baby Geniuses… – Was it me, or does someone refer to the Old Man as “Hank” at one point?  They want to totally demystify him and his escapades, don’t they? – Anyway, Ralphie, Flick, and Schwartz do a number of odd jobs in Higbee’s (wow, they mentioned something else from the first movie, let’s give a big cheer!) to earn money.  Amongst their adventures: gift-wrapping, during which they accidentally wrap up someone’s baby (infanthood trauma is also FUNNY!) and are abandoned by their co-worker, a lush older woman (drunk ladies are funny too!); Ralphie trying to master removing the bra from a mannequin; mishaps while offering perfume samples; Ralphie dressed up as a reindeer and getting slugged for standing up to someone who tried to steal money or some such thing; and the boys serving as the elves for another Evil Santa, in which Ralphie gives a passionate speech about phony Santas, and Flick and Schwartz (who, by the way, are hard to keep track of because they are so generic) get in a giant candy cane duel.  As R.D. said, if you’re going to rip off “Santa With Muscles,” you’re one sorry movie.  Though Levant may have been ripping off his own “Jingle All The Way,” as that too contained a fight breaking out at a mall Santa’s kiosk.  Oh, and said Santa is actually Gary Chalk.  Now that’s just Prime.  – A further word or two about the Evil Santa.  We touched upon him earlier and he totally fails compared to the (say it with me) SUBTLETY of the Santa in the first movie.  The point of Santa there was not only to show how it seemed everyone was against Ralphie’s quest for the rifle, but also to depict the childhood fear of mall Santas, no matter what they do or don’t do.  Yes, the ACS1 Santa makes snarky comments to his elves, but generally doesn’t say or do anything nasty to the children, well, until Ralphie’s face meets his boot.  This, on the other hand, is what the ACS2 version does to literally every kid who visits him.  And for a nitpick, there’s no neat slide, nor elves that remind me of my uncle (“Hey, kid, the store’s closing!”).  – Oh, also, in the montage of jobs the protagonists do, Flick gets his tongue stuck to something again.  It’s a pneumatic tube for sending messages this time, and almost takes his whole mouth with it.  First, it’s even less visually appealing than the original gag.  Second, Flick WILLINGLY sticks his tongue into the tube this time.  What’s up with that?  Is he a masochist? (Marianne Faithfull’s uncle originated that word, by the way!)  Did something about the original incident turn him on, and now he must stick his tongue to everything?  It would have been funnier if Scott Schwartz was still playing Flick, cause he DID end up in a profession involving tongues and poles for a while… – Back to the Old Man, who as mentioned before, is taking up ice fishing because he didn’t want to pay 40 cents a pound for a Christmas turkey.  The Old Man I knew would try his darndest to haggle a cheaper price, he wouldn’t just throw his hands up and quit like that.  After all, “the Old Man loved bargaining as much as an Arab trader, and he was twice as shrewd!”  – Randy, meanwhile, is brought along on the fishing trips, but comes to dread them.  Leading to a confusing bit where he bites into a hard candy bar and hurts his tooth, and now must go to the “scary” dentist.  I thought he did it on purpose to get out of the fishing trip, but it turns out he dreads the dentist just as much as the trip.  And for good reason…the dentist turns out to really be a brute that never used Novocain.  No it’s not a dream sequence.   – So, Ralphie, Flick, and Schwartz have come up a dollar short of the $85.  They desperately look for something to sell (referencing the Little Orphan Annie decoder pin), when Schwartz reveals that he still has his lucky dollar from Hannukah.  Cause instead of figuring it out from his name, the movie has to spell it out for us that he’s Jewish this time.  Not sure if Shep ever intended him to be so.  The boys get in a struggle, during which they “triple dog dare” each other to go at it, and where they try to get Schwartz to “say uncle.”  Yay, they said “triple dog dare!”  Woo, yay, I remember that from the first movie!  Oh, and Flick and Ralphie end up pantsing Schwartz in the effort to get the dollar. – Out of nowhere, however, Ralphie has a coming-of-age moment and that leads him to use the money for homeless people he saw by the store earlier…as well as a certain familiar gift for the Old Man.  He takes the homeless people to the Chop Suey Palace, which is pretty much useless now since political correctness took away the possibility of revisiting that joke.  But I guess it’ll remind people to buy a ceramic model of the restaurant to complete their Christmas Story collection.  – Despite his spending spree, Ralphie is let off his debt to the car dealer.  And then Christmas morning comes, and a teen Ralphie still races Randy down the stairs to get at the presents.   The Parkers still play Santa, and Aunt Clara has sent another package.  Only it’s not for Ralphie, it’s for Randy this time.  Hilarity ensues, as does an ‘80s/‘90s photography montage (with flashes and Polaroid graphics).  When the family thinks they’re done, Ralphie tricks the Old Man into thinking a rat got into the kitchen, leading him on a trail that ends with him finding Ralphie’s gift for him: a new Leg Lamp.  Just like a horror movie villain, nothing can kill good merchandising.  Mrs. Parker, however, acts like she DID see someone rise from the dead. – Now, I know they have to push the Leg Lamp, both as an icon of the ACS universe and as something you can buy in various forms.  But I think a better scenario would have been this: another story arc in the movie has the Old Man finally getting a new furnace.  Wouldn’t it have been great if Ralphie was the one to get it, making a down payment with some of the money?  True, he probably didn’t have enough, but ACS2 hasn’t exactly been springing for realism.  That would have been a good callback to the Old Man’s reply when 9-year-old Ralphie said that he bet he didn’t know what he’d get him for Christmas.  – Not to be outdone, Ralphie gets his car.  He talks the Old Man into allowing him a test drive, but while he’s checking it out, the car almost rolls away and crashes again.  I actually expected this, and I honestly found this a GOOD nod to the original, because you wonder if something is going to go wrong with Ralphie’s gift without them blatantly recreating the scene.  But disaster is averted, and what’s more, Drucilla is a car expert and is interested in Ralphie and his gift.  So Ralphie gets the girl, and they literally ride off into the sunset, end of movie.  I was surprised they didn’t spring for a “The End” graphic given that finish.  FINAL THOUGHTS Well I didn’t expect much going in, so I wasn’t disappointed.  Basically it was a glorified ad for the first movie, as you could see a lot of the stuff they did done better there.  And like Ralphie sticking Red Ryder sales pitches into Look magazine, it couldn’t hurt to keep the movie’s universe’s people, places, and things fresh in viewers’ mind for when they wanted to do some holiday shopping.  Outside of that, this was a cheap, 90-minute sitcom that is of course unworthy of the ACS name, and unneeded without any Shepherd writing to warrant its existence.  P.S. : Now I wonder…were “A Summer Story” and “Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss” really bad as well, or did we just not like them because they weren’t “A Christmas Story”?

Cucch’s Book Review: “Chris and Nancy: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death.”

Well, my last book review had someone allege that I had fallen off the wagon and was back on drugs. So WHY NOT this book?

No wrestling fan will ever forget where they were on Monday, June 25, 2007. It was a day that evoked some pretty tangible memories. I have stated my own as such in reviewing two of the books authored on the wrestler once known as Chris Benoit. I say once known, because WWE canon has all but erased the man, ex-sponged him from history.  The unfortunate thing is that many of us who were fans of the man cannot simply do that. The horrible reality still stares us in the face, strikes us in the heart like a flaming dagger. Here was a man celebrated for being an in-ring maestro, an absolute artist who took the medium of pro wrestling to its rarest of heights, a man who was never truly appreciated by whatever American organization was pushing or de-pushing him, a man not necessarily understood by the so-called “unwashed masses” of wrestling fans, who ascended to the top of the organization’s mountain, and provided a orgasmic release from many longtime fans, real fans, inside fans who truly understood, or thought they understood, what pro wrestling was all about. Here was a wrestler’s wrestler, the heir apparent to the thrones of both Dynamite Kid and Bret Hart, a man who personified the in ring craft as the truest form of art, who gave his all for the fans, who paid his dues. Chris Benoit was every wrestler’s favorite wrestler. That is a statement many have made. I was one of those die hard fans who enjoyed everything Benoit had to offer, left on the table, sacrificed for. And now…as far as my friends go, I look like the biggest moron in the world. All because of one horrific weekend in 2007.

That is a paragraph that, more or less, not necessarily word for word, that I have had to write when discussing the relative merits of my favorite wrestler for six years now. The events of that weekend not only shook WWE to its core, but all of wrestling and its many fans, and all of America, and I dare say Canada and Japan. The Benoit double murder suicide was catastrophic in a sense that it destroyed the psyches of so many people in so many places, from so many walks of life. It was an unthinkable act perpetuated from the most unlikely source. So we thought. And to this day we still grieve.

Now, I have reviewed both “Ring of Hell” and “Benoit”, and both are recommended reads. I have steered clear of reviewing the nameskae of this website’s book for a while now, but, trust me, it will be forthcoming. What I want to address, what needs to be reviewed, is Irv Muchnick’s “Chris and Nancy.”

It is, by and large, the most salacious book published in this post 6/27 world. While many who read my reviews probably know of my distaste for Irv Muchnick, this is one book where I can lay most of my bias aside and acknowledge the facts. Irv has written a hell of a book here. It is detailed and fairly accurate. Yet, there are aspects of the book that I still find distasteful and loaded with anti-wrestling hubris.

This book is not so much a life history of Benoit, or even a history of Nancy Toffoloni.  It isn’t even necessarily a character study. The basic gist of this book barely has anything to do at all with Chris, Nancy, or Daniel Benoit, really, God rest two of the three souls. No, this book is more about the investigation of Fayette County Georgia police officials, the ineptitude of DA Scott Ballard, and WWE’s reaction to the whole sordid mess.

The book features two quick and dirty chapters on the life’s of Chris Benoit and Nancy Toffoloni. Like 50 pages worth. Not much, and other books have done their lives justice better, like “Ring of Hell”, “Benoit”, and, yes, “Dungeon of Death.” All do a better job of describing the humanity of the individuals who perished better than this book. Even if none directly deal with the most tragic figure of the tragedy, Daniel. What Muchnick does is expose the holes in the whole shitty investigation by the Fayette County Sheriff’s department. It depicts a police force not equipped for the crime that happened, and a complete ineptitude from the office of the District Attorney Scott Ballard. Muchnick actually does an amazing job of laying out the issues that any sane person, wrestling fan, non wrestling fan, would allay in terms of the evidence provided. For that, it is just an outstanding read, and one I recommend whole-heartedly.

Another aspect of the book, as Muchnick strays from the actual history of the Benoit family, is the link between Benoit and Dr. Astin, which, do not get me wrong, is significant. But if you are to write a proper story on this whole sordid mess, you NEED that backstory. Muchnick merely plows ahead, ignoring the humanity of what happened and delves straight into the why, what and how instead of the more significant WHO and WHY. Now, Astin was no angel, a complete asswipe drug dealer with no conscience or fear of repercussion, which may be the one positive that came out of this whole nasty mess. A corrupt Doctor off the streets means less drugs funneled to dependent addicts without a script. For that, I applaud Law Enforcement.

The largest portion of this book, like most else, is devoted to the Media Circus surrounding the whole affair. It was a joke. But whereas other books deal with the Press following the crisis, this one details Congress’ handling of the shit. And, much like the hearings of Major League Baseball? It is absolutely laughable. I will not get into details, because no detail is needed. All that needs to be asked is these: Has Pro Wrestling been charged? Has MLB been charged? NO. I sit here on a night where a lifetime ban of Alex Rodriguez (justified) is being bandied about. What wrestler has truly been called out? NONE. And it will sadly remain that way.

Irv Muchnick’s “Chris and Nancy” is a fine book, but far from the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But it IS must read. The only thing that pisses me off about it is the fact that he constantly, CONSTANTLY, in footnotes throughout the book, makes reference to the materials he came across in studying the case. And they are available for $25 from Irv AFTER the fact.

A true journalist, that Muchnick.

Deadspin story about Hall and Roberts living with DDP


In case anyone hasn't hit you up with it yet, this is a pretty fantastic read on DDP helping out Jake and Hall.


G

reat read.  I'm just endlessly fascinated by this whole DDP/Hall/Roberts story.  And Jake's "spaghetti" promo in there had me laughing for a bit because you can just picture him delivering that exact reading.  Kudos to the author of this.

Book Review: “Superfly: The Jimmy Snuka Story”

This is a wrestling biography not many people know about. Hell, I didn’t know it existed. But it is truly amazing when you have a library card and do an online search with the call number 769.812…

I need to be honest up front: I was never a big Jimmy Snuka fan. By the time I became a wrestling fan, in 1989, Snuka was little more than a jobber on the WWF totem pole. Did he have an interesting look? Surely. Was he great in ring, or on the mic? I did not know, because by that point, Jimmy wasn’t getting much more than ten minutes in ring and maybe two or three in depth promos a year. My lasting memories of the man dubbed Superfly were of him inexplicably making an appearance at WrestleMania V; of him getting squashed at Mania VI by Rick Rude (although that match offered some funny commentary from Steve Allen of Tonight Show fame: “I like Snuka because he’s wearing my wife’s underpants.”); and of course, WrestleMania VII, as the man who initiated Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak.

Don’t get me wrong, as the years went along, I became smart to some of Snuka’s exploits. I was a BIG Mick Foley fan in the 1990’s, and WWF did a magnificent job of showing just how great an influence Jimmy Snuka was to a young Mickster, notably the match from 1983 against Don Muraco. When I started following ECW in the mid 1990’s, I became aware that Snuka was the first ever ECW Champion. I know, not the same ECW it would become, but it is still a historical tidbit.

I will state this though: I wish I could have experienced the Jimmy Snuka phenomenon as it was happening. Hell, even retroactively. It was just there were so many other goings on in the late 90’s/early 2000’s that had my undivided attention. It was just that Jimmy Snuka sort of fell through the cracks with me.

It was in that vein that I picked up Jimmy Snuka’s book from the library and was hoping for some enlightenment, hoping it would provide me with some sort of impetus to go and watch old footage of Snuka.

Instead, the book left me scratching my head.

Its not that there isn’t enlightening material in the book. Far from it. It documents Snuka’s beginnings as an Island boy to the pinnacle of the wrestling profession. The book just falls flat at times though. Snuka had a prolific career in ring…and possibly a more prolific career OUTSIDE of the ring.

The best parts of this book are the testimonials from other wrestlers, workers such as Ricky Steamboat, Matt Bourne, Mick Foley, Roddy Piper, Rocky Johnson, The Rock, etc etc. I never realized how close Snuka and The Rock were, for instance. Christ, can you imagine having an “Uncle Superfly?” Sounds pretty damned cool to me.

Listen, I have always provided myself on a certain degree of biographical information in these reviews…that aren’t really reviews. My point usually is to hope to elicit a few of you to go out and further your already extensive wrestling knowledge. This book is different.

While I could acknowledge the books strengths, there are far too many weaknesses. The book is one of the most contradictory bios on a wrestler I have ever encountered. Take this small excerpt for example:

“Years later (Buddy Rogers) became my neighbor in New Jersey, and I believe he had an affair (with my wife). I also think he bashed me to people and said I got (my wife) hooked on drugs. But I didn’t force (my wife) to take drugs. We just did them together. But I was responsible for bringing the drugs into our home.

Trust me, that excerpt is just the tip of the iceberg. Jimmy admits to cheating on his wife religiously, but becomes upset when she does. The quick section on the infamous Nancy Argentino episode is just ridiculously conflicted. Superfly had nothing to do with it, brah, or the preceding days events involving 6 policemen and their German Shepherds arresting Snuka in a hotel room. Nope. Total misunderstanding. If you want more information on this stuff, even Irv Muscnick’s book is better. Snuka gives you nothing. He maintains that he was not on cocaine that evening where Argentino died, but states more or less that he was on coke throughout his entire WWF run. He maintains he drank a shit ton while in the WWF, but was just drinking lightly that day. While smoking weed. Throughout the vast majority of the book leading up to this point, page 91 might I add, Snuka comes across as almost loveable. And for the remaining pages of the book after this, Snuka almost, ALMOST becomes detestable.

Listen, I am far from what one would call a respectable human being. I have dealt with some pretty foolish demons. But Snuka seems the master of denial. There is a whole section about what an awful drunk Snuka was. Yet Jimmy glorifies his drinking, mentions going through a quick dry out, epiphany…and maintains he could still have a drink here or there. That is NOT the way recovery works, trust me. You can either handle it or not, drink or not, drug or NOT. It took almost divine intervention in the form of a pretty serious physical issue that got Snuka to finally quit drinking…somewhat. He almost was on death’s door, recovered…and STILL was going towards the bottle. MY. GOD.

Another thing mentioned by Snuka in his book is his infidelity. Now, while some wrestlers tend to show some remorse for cheating on their significant others, Snuka almost makes no effort, instead regaling in his infidelity. The infidelities seem to be Snuka’s career highlights. He pretty much states that Wilt Chamberlain and Ric Flair don’t have shit on him. Later on in the book, Snuka relates a story, besides that Buddy Rogers one, that he felt his wife was cheating on him with a neighbor. Now throughout the book, and especially during the Nancy Argentino section, he states that he “…nothing but loves the women brudda. I would never hit them.”  Yet he describes amazing physical battles with his WIFE Sharon for the better part of their marriage. Yes, she seemed to be siphoning off his money, but, Christ man, have some consistency in your OWN memoirs.

These are just a few of the inconsistencies in this book, and there are many, which is saying something seeings as its only 173 quick pages. People have been asking me to rate books. I don’t like doing that, as it seems to me like rating the LIFE of a wrestler, and that is unfair. Instead, I will start rating these books using these three ratings:

BUY IT

READ IT

TRASH IT

In that order. Read it really means check it out of your local library. Buy it means it is well worth your hard earned dollars. Trash it is reserved for the dregs of wrestling books, the absolute bottom of the battle, or, in wrestling parlance, the drizzling shits. This book is borderline. And it is not bordering on BUY IT, that is for sure. I will have to give it a READ IT if only because of the testimonials given by Snuka’s peers. Snuka seemed to be a pro’s pro, and that alone is admirable. Plus, Snuka was a freakish natural athlete, so that has to count for something.

Unfortunately, for all the laid back island bravado, it just seems to this reader that Snuka was a maladjusted human being. Almost bi polar, or MPD afflicted. I am sure diving from the top rope, headbutts, and drug abuse did not help his memory. But this book, well, it is not the ***** affair the man was looking for. Far, far from it. As far from American as the Fjii Islands.

But, brudda, its still worth reading.

Book Review: Ring Of Hell: The Story of Chris Benoit & The Fall of The Pro Wrestling Industry.

With all apologies to Scott’s excellent book, “Dungeon of Death,” that book focused less on Benoit and more on the pervasive culture of death prevalent over the last decade and a half in pro wrestling. Randazzo’s book is focused on Benoit as the central character in professional wrestling’s toxic cocktail of morbidity.

Marvel at the ludicrous bargain even big name wrestlers accept with WWE: an independent contractor’s job at a multibillion-dollar corporation in which global TV stars enjoy the benefits and job security of migrant laborers, pay their own travel and health expenses, rarely see their families, and are obliged to maintain a naturally impossible physique and perfect attendance record despite a demanding 150-plus-days-per-year travel schedule and an ever accumulating inventory of bodily wear and tear. Worst of all, they must voluntarily sustain irreparable injury to their brains and bodies in the process of making what is usually laughably bad TV.”

With that assessment by author Matthew Randazzo V (really? V? Seems slightly pretentious to me), “Ring of Hell” makes the author’s intentions crystal clear: he does not like or respect pro wrestling. Indeed, at times this book becomes his personal dumping ground, and even in some of the subtle wrestling appraisals he gives, one cannot miss the seething pure hatred the man has for the business of pro wrestling. It practically jumps off the page.

This is going to be a slight departure for me. I generally prefer to review a book and generally summarize the careers and happenings of the performer named on the cover. I like to mention their memories and observations while also trying to provide perspective. This book is different. I have found it to be the best book written on Benoit, but for obvious reasons, it does not include Benoit. Add to that that it is a total, sweeping indictment of the professional wrestling industry as a whole, along with the author’s obvious disdain for the business we are all fans of, and it makes for a very difficult review. As well, I figure most, if not all, who frequent this site know the story of Benoit in its entirety, so I do not wish to insult your intelligence. I only hope I am up to the task.

For all I have said about the author, WrestleMania V, he obviously did his homework. Reading the bibliography alone makes that apparent. Add into the mix that he obviously understands the business and the terminology that abounds during this book proves that the man was pristine on his research. He picked the correct websites, the correct contacts, everything. To boot, he is obviously a gifted writer, as I found almost no egregious errors in the tome, either grammatically or analytically.

As well, the book gives a remarkably straight ahead account of the man before he became the monster. We all know Benoit was a hopeless mark of the Dynamite Kid. Dynamite might be one of the greatest in ring talents we as fans have ever seen. But it cannot be denied that he was, likewise, one of the most insufferable pricks outside the ring the industry has ever encountered. And the author, Clash V, does a remarkable job of pointing that fact out. Benoit could not have picked a worse role model. Dynamite was a phenomenal wrestler, no doubt, but it cannot be ignored that he was just an awful human being and, with his self destructive wrestling style, the LAST guy anyone should pattern their career after.

The book does an excellent job of chronicling Benoit’s rise to the elite. Author In Your House V should be commended for that. What is particularly intriguing is not necessarily Benoit’s wrestling indoctrination at Hart House in Calgary, but at the NJPW dojo. These are some of the more enlightening chapters, and it offers clues as to why Benoit became such a slave to the game of wrestling. Complete physical and psychological breakdown. Author SuperBrawl V discusses the ritualistic hazing in the dojo’s as unique to sports. Obviously, the author has never played a game in his life. Sure, having NJPW “Young Boys” in training have to perform such demeaning acts as collectively jerking off into a jar, only for one young boy to have to imbibe it, is extreme. But hazing, or in this case, ribbing, is prevalent in all of sport, all over the world.  I will admit that the NJPW dojo took it to the extremities of human nature, but some of the rituals described in the book are no worse than anything this author expedience playing high school, legion, pony league, ANY sport at any young level. To try and condemn pro wrestling as unique in this action is purely laughable. Although, pro wrestling is probably the worst in acting upon that particular medium.

Benoit, obviously, went on to huge Japanese stardom and success, along with, as author Bound By Glory V says, his wrestling doppleganger: Jushin Liger. The items on Liger in this book are outstanding, in my opinion. The Liger/Benoit self flagellation society climaxed with the Super J Cup in 1994, and again in 1995. It proved junior heavyweights were draws, and Benoit and Liger were kings amongst them.

Benoit, still a huge star, a demigod, in Japan, wanted to test his wares in the United States. To that end, he started with WCW in 1993, under a booker he liked, Bill Watts. Watts was seen by the rest of the WCW roster at the time as passe and too old school, too disciplinarian. Well, after Stu Hart and NJPW’s dojo, Benoit was refreshed. Unfortunately, Watts was let go. It is during this section of the book with WCW’s early ineptitude that we get some great one liners. My favorite? Dusty Rhodes was inexplicably named head booker after a disastrous late 80’s run that led to Jim Crockett Promotions being bought out by Turner. Upon being reinstated as booker in 1991, his line to Turner Executives and wrestlers alike? “Hi, I am ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes, and I the rake and you the leaves.”

What is, and was, even worse, was Hulk Hogan descending upon the promotion in 1994. While I have said the author is far from unbiased towards the wonderful world of pro wrestling. But author Big Daddy V seems to hold a special place in his contemptuous heart for Hulk Hogan, who he deems “Hiroshima” Hogan. To quote Scott Keith, I love shoot comments that aren’t supposed to be shoot comments. That might be the greatest nickname I have ever heard for Hogan during his WCW run. Author Clash of the Champions V just derides Hogan’s self destructive policies from 1994-1995, and it is refreshing to see, as many who viewed the product at that point, those of us who watched WCW as an ALTERNATIVE to the glitz, glamor, and pure sap of WWF, were troubled by the arrival of the very symbol of Vince glitz. I won’t lie, I was a Hogan mark up until then, even through his ridiculous title win at WrestleMania IX. Once he descended upon WCW? Wow. The level of discourse switched.WCW became Hogan’s plaything, and I do not think anyone can deny that. To further advance the level of ridiculousness, Kevin Sullivan was a main booker, and ended up becoming the bane of Benoit’s existence.

I will assume that the intelligent people reading this site realize the damage the Sullivan feud did to Benoit. Benoit was supposed to dupe the marks and the locker room into thinking he was actually schtuping  Sullivan’s sex symbol wife. Benoit was married with kids, and a total introvert. All Benoit cared about was his next match. Sullivan was eventually told, midway through his feud with Benoit, that it was unbecoming for a booker to still be wrestling actively. Sullivan, a shitty wrestler (one of the few times I agree with the author’s sentiments) was told once the feud was over, so was his in ring career. Sullivan did the oh so sensible thing: He dragged the feud out for almost two years. Initially, it was supposed to be Brian Pillman and Sullivan.

Pillman was a Stampede graduate and great friend of Benoit who was almost as talented in ring, but light years ahead of not just Benoit, but ANYONE on the stick. Pillman was also known as a drug addicted sexual deviant who sired child after child with varying women of varying provenance. Pillman went absolutely fucking crazy in 1996, with a purpose: he wanted to be able to support his expanding family. So he devised a plan to turn pro wrestling on its ear: The Loose Cannon. Trust me folks, this was brilliant shit from a man who was VERY smart to the business. Pillman, a jobber at least and a Horseman at best for WCW, did not want to be pigeonholed. He wanted to be transcendent, as his old partner Steve Austin was becoming.  So he perfected the “Loose Cannon” character and was signed to giant, first time, WWF guaranteed bucks.

What is important to Benoit was that Pillman died in the early morning hours leading up to the “Badd Blood” PPV in October ot 1997. It was the first of may deaths of friends Benoit would experience. Pillman, the man so strong that he could fuck a chick hanging upside down in gravity boots, a man alleged to have such sexual repartee that people accused him of having his sex life appropriated to Penthouse Forums, was the first of many experiences in death for the alleged “Best in the World.”

Benoit obviously departed from WCW once his interminable nemesis, and the man directly responsible for hooking up with Nancy Toffolini, was restored to WCW booker. It has been WELL documented what went on with the WCW title switch at WCW Souled Out 2000. Benoit, along with Guerrero, Malenko and Saturn jumped to WWF, luckily able to invoke a clause that Mike Graham invoked. In past years I would have mentioned it, but Mike died this past year, so it would be without taste to mention it here.

Benoit went on to a solid career in WWF/E. (From here on out it is WWE for my own sanity). He wrestled in main event PPV matches against Rock, Angle, Undertaker, and the whole lot. Unfortunately he fucked up his back and neck in a cage match against Angle, and was sidelined for almost a year.

Here is where the book gets touchy. A pure mat animal like Benoit was obviously going to doubt himself during this period. Add in the ungodly amount of steroids he was taking, and depression was a given. Randazzo V does a tremendous job of piecing together the manic-depressiveness Benoit must have been enduring. Benoit triumphed at WrestleMania XX with his best friend Eddy Guerrero in tow, but Benoit was already experiencing the effects of PTSD and tremendous brain damage.

When Eddy died, November 12, 2005, Benoit’s delicate psyche fractured. I do not think any wrestling fan can doubt that. By the time of the events of June 24, 2007 came about, Benoit was a fraction of a man. His brain was fucked. His marriage was fucked. The man was FUCKED. Listen, Chris Benoit was my absolute, #1, favorite wrestler of all time. Yet, when the news came on June 25, 2007, that he, his son, and his wife, were dead, I knew immediately. Benoit did it. That is not to say that realization was not a pure kick to the johnson. It was awful. Benoit is portrayed in this book as both the best of men and the scourge of society. Randazzo is an excellent writer, and, while he excoriates Benoit’s profession, he absolutely sings the praises of the man himself. I have mocked Randazzo V throughout this review, but the fact of the matter is, as much as the author hates wrestling, he has crafted a remarkably even handed account. That is the sign of a great writer,

In short, Randazzo V, for all the grief I have given him, is a great writer. He did his homework, tempered his beliefs, and has written probably the best of the quick, exploitative books authored on the monster Benoit. For that, my hat is off to him.

And Scott Keith, as good as your book was, this is better. I will now jump off the Sears Tower headlong onto a thumbtack for my transgression…