By Scott Bowden
Scott Bowdens Kentucky Fried Rasslin
2006-10-19 - KFR Heat Lamp: Scott Bowden grades Test, analyzes Angle's angle, muses on THE MARINE and jeers Joe's premature "title run"
KFR Heat Lamp: Scott Bowden grades Test, analyzes Angle's angle, muses on THE MARINE and jeers Joe's premature "title run"
Failed Test: It's no longer a debate as to whether or not a WWE-operated version of ECW can successfully capture the essence on a much grander stage of what made the former Philly-based promotion special. McMahon and Co. are not even trying. Clearly, Vince wants to take the brand name created by Paul Heyman and built on the back and blood of others and turn it into his vision of Extreme Championship Wrestling: a mishmash of a product that's not quite ECW, not quite RAW and (thankfully) not quite SMACKDOWN! In other words, ECW is just another WWE TV show.
First of all, Test--a guy who wouldn't even be a credible threat on talent-starved SMACKDOWN!--is being pushed as a ruthless badass devoid of any emotion...in ECW. At first, I thought it was another example of a failed WWE attempt at ironic comedy. But then I heard poor Joey Styles forced to put over Test's supposed ruthlessness after a chair shot on an unsuspecting Bob Holly.
Physically, Test certainly appears impressive, but his laughable, barely coherent promos kill any chance he has of ever being considered anything more than Stephanie McMahon's former cuckold. Why isn't Heyman doing his promos a la Brock Lesnar's early days? If anybody ever needed a manager as a mouthpiece, it's Test.
Asking Test to string a few sentences together to build him up as a tough guy would be like asking the same of the ol' Mongolian Stomper (Archie Gouldie) -- who was actually a Canadian who had picked up a Southern accent after working Alabama and Tennessee for so many years. Instead, Stomper always had a manager speak for him as he stood in the background -- silent but deadly. Test isn't a horrible worker, but he's one of the worst promo guys at this level -- yes, even worse than Jeff Jarrett.
And even though traditional ECW fans abhor anything connected with John Cena, on Tuesday's show, ECW's Styles was also forced to gush over THE MARINE's "unqualified success." Worse, the viewing audience was also treated to footage of the densest of marks flipping out over the action sequences and the film's many explosions. "You'd have to be crazy to miss it," one pubescent teenage girl squeals. Well, call me crazy. Hell, make that insane.
This past week's ECW show also featured a Singapore Cane Match -- billed as featuring the deadliest weapon ever used in the promotion -- between Sandman and Matt Striker, which ended in a weak countout just as the action was getting intense. (That's like promising a Texas Death Match and having it end in one fall -- or like how the WWF used to promote such matches.)
No matter how much Heyman stresses that the one aspect that made ECW unique was in delivering clear-cut winners and losers (i.e., very few disqualifications or countouts), this new ECW continues to take the easy way out when devising finishes.
While the Sandman we're getting now (sans Metallica theme song) is more like Sandman-Lite, on Tuesday's show, I couldn't take my eyes off him. Sandman looks like a character who should have been drawn into the KILL BILL VOL. 1 anime sequence. He's so damn interesting to watch, commanding your attention from the start -- much like the Superstar Grahams and Randy Savages of days gone by.
OK, before you send me e-mails, I'm not saying Sandman's on Savage's level workwise. Certainly, he's no Ricky Steamboat or even a Stone Cold (who patterned some of his gimmick after Sandy), but Sandman has got something that separates him from the rest. I think he could establish himself a star with the right push -- even on RAW.
Of course, I could almost see Sandman being fired before receiving a big push on the "flagship" show. I'm reminded of how Vince recently released longtime ECW valet Francine because she didn't look the part of a traditional WWE diva. To quote Owen Wilson in BOTTLE ROCKET when asked about wearing tape on his nose prior to an ill-advised robbery of a bookstore: "Exactly!" Francine may have had the look of a turn-of-the-'80s porn star, but she offered something different than the usual WWE diva. Francine was rough around the edges, sort of what like used to epitomize what ECW was all about. (Francine's certainly aged better than her former ECW charge, Shane Douglas. But then I might be biased because she has breasts.) Yet another sign that Vince wants ECW to adapt to his own homogenized vision of sports entertainment.
Incidentally, Rebecca, ECW's female interviewer, looks like a sexed-up version of Marsha Brady. And while that's groovy and all, it seems there'd be a place on the roster for a sassy, intelligent female behind the mic. Besides, Rebecca's shtick appears to be the same as Maria's, who happens to have the role down better.
Angle's angle: "I haven't taken painkillers in three years. Wait. Make that...18 months." Oh, boy. Here we go. Upon completion of a 90-minute telephone PR conference in which Kurt Angle levied allegations against Vince McMahon and WWE, the Olympic Gold medalist called back moments later to clear up an answer he'd given earlier when asked about his painkiller use. When Kurt said "three years," apparently he was thinking of when he actually started taking extra-strength Vicodin. In reality (whatever that might be in this business), Kurt's now saying his addiction ended 18 months ago. At the very least, he corrected himself.
Anyway, the biggest concern for those who care about Angle is that we just want him to be OK. Sure, I'd love to have him back in the ring, especially if TNA will push him as the legit serious competitor he truly is; however, the last thing anyone wants is another tragedy. Personally, I found it a little disconcerting when Kurt blew off Eddie Guerrero's death by saying the Mexican star was sober and died with honor. I think most everyone agrees that Eddie's past abuse more than likely caught up with his continued use of steroids and perhaps painkillers. I firmly believe Eddie was off street drugs and alcohol, which was why he was able to resurrect his career in the first place. But think about it: Eddie's body was freakish for a guy of his age and size at the time of his untimely death.
Guerrero may have been clean from a wrestler's standpoint (particularly his own), but more than likely he continued to view performance-enhancing drugs as a lesser evil -- in my opinion. It bothers me that Kurt cannot see (or more likely, acknowledge) this possibility.
The point: Is Kurt really clean and healthy? Or is he merely clean and healthy by Kurt's standards? I don't know.
As a fan, I want Kurt to finally be recognized as a modern-day Lou Thesz, the former six-time NWA World champion: legit tough guy and a serious athlete who brought an unmistakable air of credibility to a business that probably doesn't deserve it. (Not surprisingly, Angle was the last pro wrestler I ever read of Thesz putting over as a total wrestler.)
Angle came close to reaching his potential during his last run as WWE World champion, but it was short-lived. And with Vince Russo writing for TNA again, there's no telling what ridiculous scenario Angle might find himself in.
In the time between his interview last week and this week's press conference, Angle's gone from positioning himself as a victim who was let go and disrespected by WWE to the man who orchestrated his own release. Angle implied in his press conference that he broke down in McMahon's office to make it appear that he was ... well ... a broken man. This is a departure from what he said last week when he claimed that McMahon said something to the effect of "an Olympic gold medal and a cup of coffee don't mean shit." OK, I can certainly envision the Mr. McMahon character saying that, but somehow I can't see the real Vince (like there is such a thing) saying that to Kurt behind closed doors without a camera running. Geez. Makes you wonder who's working whom. Could be Angle's merely trying to work himself? For his sake, I hope not.
As concerned as I am for his well-being, I must admit that I'm looking forward to Angle's appearance at TNA's BOUND FOR GLORY PPV this Sunday. Angle gives TNA a much-needed shot in the publicity department, especially when things are heating up with the promotion's hottest star, Samoa Joe. I keep telling myself that the limited travel schedule will be a blessing for a man like Angle, who badly craves the spotlight but might not be prepared to handle the traps that go along with such a lifestyle.
Say it ain't so, Joe: Back in the day when World title changes were as rare as a Dick Murdoch steak, part of the anticipation for the fans was envisioning your hero actually wearing the strap.
As a young fan in the kayfabe era, when titles were treated with seriousness and respect (hence the rarity of title changes .. almost to the point of absurdity), it was wonderfully surreal to see a babyface pose victoriously with the strap in the end. Especially with the NWA belt, the (perceived) most prestigious title in the sport.
On that note, most diehard TNA fans have been living and dying with Samoa Joe, the man who has been pushed as the organization's own Goldberg (except with far more natural ability and in-ring psychology) -- the undefeated Samoan Submission Machine. Joe has grown up with the organization, developing a cocky heel persona to match his ability over time, while the promotion has worked to find its own identity. TNA fans have a lot invested in Joe, who along with A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels established the credibility of the X-Division championship and helped put the promotion on the map. But I think it's safe to say that over the last two years that most TNA fans have wanted Joe to break through to the World title picture, which has been dominated by Jeff Jarrett and various other WWE also-rans.
I won't complain about a Joe vs. Christian ladder match -- last week's IMPACT main event -- but the Samoan carrying the 10 pounds of gold without actually winning it is just plain wrong. Whether intended or not, they've brought Joe along slowly, keeping him out of NWA title matches until now. While the angle of a frustrated Joe carrying around the strap and daring foes to take it fits his character, it seems like a premature payoff to me. A lot of TNA fans want the strap on Joe -- now he's holding it without actually winning it. Poor psychology on TNA's part. But I'm not going to be the one to take the belt from him.