A Rumination on Wrestling (or My Review of the Royal Rumble)

Neal Gee
March 8, 2013

I
like porns. My personal preference is for a porn without a plot. I like to just get down to business without the completely superfluous story. Putting a plot into a porn is like putting a jacket on a dog. The dog can handle the cold just fine, and the jacket is only there to please the onlookers. Nevertheless I must admit on the rare occasion, I do enjoy seeing a completely ridiculous jacket on an obviously disgruntled pooch. Likewise every once in a while I will indulge in a porn with a plot, just to mix things up; say, a UPS man delivering a “package” to a damsel in distress. Now before elaborating, I should say this is not an opinion piece about gender or racial equality. It is not an opinion piece about the exploitation of sex workers. Let me make it lucid the reason I am eschewing these topics is that you readers who know Neal Gee know where I stand on these subjects! Instead, I am merely using porns (and dogs with jackets) as a metaphor for my enjoyment of another spectacle. A spectacle that leaves me feeling just as dirty and ashamed, yet curiously satisfied. Of course, dear readers, Iím speaking of wrestling.

It is clear that watching wrestling is very much like watching porns with plots. There are the intimate encounters, the gaudy dress, and the underlying story. Much like acting in a porn, I secretly long to be one of the actors in a wrestling match. I think we all do. What is it like to get paid to do this for a living? Thatís a question I “wrestle” with on a semi-regular basis, or at least when Brett calls me up to tell me about the latest wrestling DVD or pay-per-view available at his abode. Yet at the end of the day, that feeling dissipates as Iím convinced wrestlers, much like adult entertainment workers, carry all sorts of emotional baggage, as well as venereal diseases. The Wrestler, with Mickey Roarke, is supposed to be a spot-on depiction of the life of one of these lovable giants. A life I personally don’t care to live.

Now, Brett Whitehead asked me to write a review of the 2013 Royal Rumble. He asked me to write a perspective piece, from an outsiderís view. As Ray O’Connor observed, Iím like the Jane Goodall of wrestling. [Note to Dr. Goodall: Iíll try to avoid the all to obvious parallel of comparing gorillas to wrestlers, thereby denigrating your noble work.] Despite being somewhat naÔve to the current state of the wrestling industry, Iíve been a closet fan for years.

Growing up in the late 1980s, as many young boys are wont to do, I watched classic WWF wrestling action. I would go over my friend Gabe’s house, play WWF Wrestlemania Challenge on his Nintendo Entertainment System (8-bit of course) and watch the hour or two of coverage on Saturday mornings. I was especially intrigued by the character names and personas: eg. Brutus the Barber Beefcake, Jake the Snake Roberts, Rowdy Roddy Piper, the Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant. I think Gabe was a member of the original Hulkamania. Honestly though, I can never remember actually seeing Hulk Hogan wrestle, as I feel that was saved for the main events, of which we didnít get on our non-cable television service. Gabe also had the toy wrestling ring and the aforementioned character dolls. I can call these figurines dolls now that Iím older and more mature, but heaven forbid anyone call them dolls at that age: They were action figures, man! Sorry for the digression. Brutus the Barber Beefcake was my favorite. As a refresher, his finishing move, so to speak, was to put the sleeper hold on his opponent, and then, get this, cut his hair! That almost sounds welcome to me now. A free hair cut, shit, Iím down for that . . . well that would be if I had hair. Consequently, he only really fought opponents that had hair. Hmm, I just realized that right now. Could this whole thing be rigged? Nah. Anyway, I would throw my Brutus the Barber Beefcake doll from a good twenty feet away, carom him off the drop ceiling in Gabeís basement (which was all banged up from the frivolities of youth) spectacularly landing in the ring, just beating up on any GI Joes that may have also found their unfortunate entry into the faux contest. If youíve never tried to put a sleeper hold on a plastic figurine, youíve missed out on your childhood.

Flash forward a few years and Gabe and I are now roommates in college. I donít recall watching much wrestling in high school, but as with so many of you, Iíve successfully repressed most of that part of my life. For some reason, Gabe had fallen in love with WCW, and I was along for the ride. We would religiously watch the Monday night matches, salivating as we awaited arrival of the wolf pack. Suddenly, the lights would go out (not in our dorm room, but on TV) and we would hear the howl. Ohhhh boy! Here it comes! And readers, correct me if Iím wrong, but I believe the Hulkster also transitioned to WCW and became evil. [Neal, this is true. And just so everyone knew he was evil, he dyed his beard black! -ed.] Well, thatís pretty much all I have to say about WCW. Life is like a wrestling match. You never know what confrontations youíre gonna get.

In terms of the wrestling companies, my patchy recollection goes like this. WWF was the original king in the 80s. That collapsed and there were WCW and WWE. WCW had the big names in the mid to late 90s. Then WCW disappeared and we have WWE as the main company right now. Okay, I know Iíve glossed over and perhaps trivialized major rivalries and minor companies (like ECW and ROH), but thatís my point. I am not a huge wrestling aficionado, so youíre reading a unique perspective on the Royal Rumble. Itís like having an automotive journalist write a review of the Super Bowl: yes, we know the mechanics but we may not have the keen insight of a seasoned wrestling writer, i.e. one Brett Whitehead.

Okay, weíre getting close to the main event of this article. One more trip down memory lane though. If youíre getting impatient because your attention span has dwindled from watching too much TV and playing too many video games, feel free to skip ahead. Now, if youíre still with me, flash back to 2007. I just met Joanna, and by proxy, Jess. Jess was dating this handsome, bearded young gentleman: Brett Whitehead. Brett and I quickly developed an affinity for one another, and as it turns out we were living three blocks away from each other in the Trolley Square neighborhood of Wilmington. On one of my first trips to his apartment I couldnít help but notice the extensive DVD collection on his bookshelf. No, this wasnít a collection of porns. This was the next best thing: wrestling! Brett put on the Ultimate Warrior DVD and in no time I was blasted back to my childhood, sitting in Gabeís basement watching wrestling on his rotary knob TV with the rabbit ear antenna. Brett and I played a game (or three) of chess, drank a beer (or five), and discussed his passion for wrestling.

Visits to Brettís apartment quickly became a weekly thing. Visits that would entail wearing a hoodie in the middle of summer and sitting in his apartment with the A/C blasting. Why? Because we could. And hoodies are awesome. At one point I think I was seeing Brett on a more regular basis than Joanna. But thatís safe for me to say at this point in the article, because 1) Joanna will probably never read this rag, and 2) If she does, she will probably not get this far in. After proofreading the first paragraph of this article, she quipped “Is English your first language?” Yes, it is, thank you very much. Okay, so back to Brett. During this time I got reintroduced to all the classic matches of the 80s and 90s, the rivalries, the good guys and the bad, the tag teams, you name it. I was also introduced to ECW and some of the gnarliest, most gruesome wrestling matches ever to be filmed. Of course I fell in love with ECW, and would request, neigh, demand to see the worst of the worst every time we had a chess night. I would say Brett is the reason Iím writing this article right now; after all, I donít know many other people that would be happy to drop the $60 or whatever it costs for wrestling pay-per-view.

So that brings us to the 2013 Royal Rumble. Or not quite. One more tangent. But Iíll keep it quick this time. A few years back, Brett, Jess, Ray and I went to a ROH (Ring of Honor) wrestling match in Philly. This was the first time Iíve ever seen wrestling live. If you never have, you need to. If you have, you need to again. Iím in this latter category. Man, was that a lot of fun, especially watching Brett accost the wrestlers. I believe a review of this epic evening has already been written and posted on Brutal Horse. Iím too lazy to search for the link right now, so interested readers, just click on Archive and youíll find it. [ Neal, this is not true, Brett wrote up that night for another website: http://pwtorch.com/artman2/publish/ROH_News_29/article_47397.shtml -ed. ]

So that brings us, once again, to the rumble. I want to start out by revisiting my early sentiment that watching wrestling is like watching porn. Of a handful of good one-liners I dropped while others in the room were absorbed into the action, the one that resonated the most with the crowd was “I feel like Iím an hour and a half into a porn.” Watching a live event like this is just too much of a good thing. The first five minutes were exciting. They were intriguing. Iíd say they were a lot like the first five minutes of a porn: I know why Iím here and what Iím looking for. After that, Iím emotionally and physically drained. So put yourself in that position, and youíll know where the rest of this review is going.

To set the stage of what I was walking into, I was already a half an hour late to the start. I was dining with my parents at Mrs. Robinos, an Italian staple of Wilmington. Usually, superb food and service. That night, however, was an exception. The service was dog slow (whatever that expression means cause dogs are quick . . . have you never seen greyhounds race?) and the food was below par (technically that should be above par to keep true to the golfing metaphor, as scoring above par is bad, but Iíve digressed once again . . . I love that word). I ordered the spaghetti with clams fra diovolo, which was about the hottest pasta Iíve ever eaten. So my belly was singing like a bird by the time I got to Brett’s. Iím not sure if he’s aware to this day of exactly how many farts I absolutely buried in that chair in his living room. Speaking of the living room, assembled before me, gripped by the action on TV were Brett Whitehead, Steve and Laura Awesome, and Mailman Lou, or Letterman Lou as Joanna prefers, and you readers know I love good alliteration. Now, Brett, Steve, and Laura went to Wrestlemania last year, so I know they were all big fans. The interested reader may care to read that review posted on Brutal Horse. Itís long and funny, like Dirk Diggler (get it?!). Mailman Lou, who tends bar at Dead Presidents and Nomad, was also clearly a huge fan and as was the case with the others, extremely knowledgeable about wrestling.

I missed the first two matches and had to consult Wikipedia for who wrestled and the outcome: Antonio Cesaro, defending WWE United States Champion defeated The Miz in the singles match, and Alberto Del Rio, defending world heavyweight champion defeated Big Show for the Last Man Standing match. I only know the Miz from that MTV reality show that I cant’t mention without infringing on copyright.

Okay, so now over 2000 words into this article, Iím ready to begin my review. The first match was the tag team match for the WWE Tag Team Championship. Defending champions Team Hell No (Kane & Daniel Bryan) wrestled Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes & Damien Sandow). I have a few observations about this match that I care to share. First, Daniel Bryan looks like Grizzly Redwood. Iím guessing only Brett and Ray will get that reference. Second, Iím informed he used to be a good guy whose schtick was yelling “Yes!”. Now as a bad guy, he changed to “No!” but the crowd still says “Yes!”, which is funny on its own. This is really the odd couple pairing as Kane just frightfully towers about Bryan, which is clearly the appeal. Third, Team Rhodes Scholars (no I will not point out how ridiculous the name is) is probably the pretty boy team as I remember the Harts were when they were a tag-team dynamo many moons ago. This match was over pretty quickly as it really was nothing more than then palette cleansing sorbet before the namesake entree.

The rumble began with Dolph Ziggler and Chris Jericho, who lasted a surprising amount of time. In keeping with the Jane Goodall spirit, here are my observations concerning the rumble. First, each character has a glamorous albeit lazy entry into the rumble. This serves well for the wrestlers that get eliminated quickly but still long enough to make their appearance fee; e.g., The Godfather who was eliminated by Ziggler after no more than a couple of seconds. Whatever, heís just gonna go back stage and bang the dog shit out of those girls. Wait, what did I say about not wanting to be a wrestler? I may need to amend that. Next, I appreciated the sheer clusterfuck of so many wrestlers in the ring. It is like an orgy where you, the cameraman, and announcer, donít know who to watch first. Third, the rumble itself went on for quite a while. I mean a long while. I have no idea if this is typical, but this is when I dropped the gem of a line “I feel like Iím an hour and a half into a porn.” Enough already. I got my stroke. Iím happy. Why is this still going? It did get more entertaining and cliff-hanging, if you will, when Brettís favorite wrestler, John Cena entered the ring. I instantly recognized his entrance music as Brett uses it each year at the Beer Drinking Royal Rumble. For a favored wrestler, I thought his entrance was a tad early, but as history would prove, he prevailed by ultimately pinning Ryback. Two more observations before moving on: Daniel Bryan knocked out his partner Kane, which means heís tired of being the bitch, and you can really get a sense of the popular wrestlers by how long they stay in the ring. The corollary is the wrestlers with the shorter times in the ring better start looking for a full time job at ShopRite, cause their tenure is about up.

On to the main event, the WWE Championship contested by defending champion Chick Magnet Punk and out of retirement superstar The Rock. The only thing I wanted to see was a Peopleís Elbow, and I let the living room know of my intention. I was assured, many times over that I would get to see at least one elbow. I donít know why I enjoy the elbow so much, maybe itís the fanfare and build up, maybe it is the way the Rock sells it, maybe it is the sheer brutality of getting hit with an elbow by an almost 300lb man who has more muscles than a Mr. Universe contest, or maybe itís a move for the people (a rather Marxist/socialist sentiment, wouldnít you say). All I know is I frickin love this move, and Iím a libertarian. So about 20 minutes in to the match, when CM Punk was on his back on the mat, the Rock began going through the motions for my Peopleís Elbow . . . when . . . the lightís go out! Oh no! What happened? Maybe this is where New Orleans got the idea to botch the lighting for the Super Bowl. Lights on. Panic ensues. The Rock is on the mat and CM Punk gets the quick 3 count. Wait wait wait. Hold on. Okay, CM Punk can win, thatís fine, I donít care. But no Peopleís Elbow? You could hear a pin drop in Brettís living room. Everyoneís jaw was on the floor. Could this have been the Shield interfering? Nah, cause that would cost CM Punk the championship as was stipulated before the match began. Enter Vince McMahon. Looking sharp by the way. It was the shield! Blast! But wait, the Rock wants to what? No no. Canít be. Restart the match? Vince agrees. Match restarted. Even Rico (the neutered cat) had a hard-on at this point. The Rock is on fire. He looks smooth. He is busting moves with such precision and accuracy CM Punk has no chance. It reminds me of Brett reigning goals on Big Game James in FIFA on PS3. Down goes CM Punk. Heís on the mat. Here it comes!!!! A Peopleís Elbow. Game over. The Rock is your new WWE Champion.

Itís now pretty late, and Iím tired. Itís a Sunday night after all. So that about wraps up my experience. Much like the actual match, Iíve written a lot of build up and kept the review of actual wrestling pithy. Neal Gee will be in attendance (virtually) of course at this yearís Wrestlemania. Catch him April 7 2013 at Brett and Jessís place.

neal.gee@brutalhorse.com
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