Poem of the Week: Work in Progress

Work in Progress
October 29, 2017

We all strive for perfection. On that you can rely.
One thing remains, however, that none of us can deny:
Reality ain’t perfect, right down to humanity.
Knowing that, too, it can be a pain to be the best one can be.
Impossible is it for anyone to live and not make mistakes.
No matter one’s competence or intentions, life rarely gives us breaks.
Perseverance and wisdom, then, are paramount to success—
Resilience in adversity’s face when we’ve obstacles to address
On our own or with someone in our corner to help us along the way,
Growing with each step we take as we do each night and day,
Recording our successes and missteps, learning from what we do wrong,
Each time performing better at each task as we march along.
Such is the way we achieve our goals from the cradle to the grave.
Success, after all, befalls upon those who see forth that effort’s made.

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
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                         Amazon.co.uk

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In Relation to My Work: Wrestling Society X: What It Was & What It Could Have Been

Wrestling Society X: One of the shortest-lived wrestling shows ever to hit television...but why?

Wrestling Society X: One of the shortest-lived wrestling shows ever to hit television…but why?

How’s it going, readers?

Seeing as how World Wrestling Entertainment has been slowly but surely trying to pull itself back together over the past couple of months following a decidedly disappointing WrestleMania 32, I finally felt the gumption to discuss something that I’ve wanted to ever since I first started talking about wrestling on this blog back on June 12, 2012. This particular topic is important to me in that it relates to a time when I was starting to become a wrestling fan again after several years of having not watched much of it. You see, after the McMahon family had bought out World Championship Wrestling in the March of 2001 and Extreme Championship Wrestling went bankrupt a mere month later, my interest in the art form died down quite a bit. Call it petty, but with all due honesty, one of the great things about the late 1990s and the year 2000 as far as wrestling was concerned was the variety that we fans had right then and there to watch on television. I remember the World Wrestling Federation, first and foremost, for having a wide assortment of larger-than-life personalities for its audience to invest its collective self in, from its main attractions like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Mankind, and Triple H to mid-card acts like Too Cool and Rikishi, the Godfather, D’Lo Brown, the Lethal Weapon Steve Blackman, the Hardy Boyz, Edge & Christian, and so forth down the line. Essentially, if you were a wrestler in the WWF during the Attitude Era and were somehow not “over” with the crowd in one way or another, either a) you were being woefully misused, which was admittedly true for a small portion of the roster at the time, or b) there was something about you personally that just wasn’t clicking with the fans. On a similar note, ECW had owner Paul Heyman at the helm putting his creative genius to the test as he determined how to make the most out of his employees’ best attributes and presented his audience with a product that, in its own intense and decidedly profound way, deeply affected the industry as we now know it with its own trademark style of wrestling. Even WCW could put on an entertaining show with the likes of such talents as Sting, [Bill] Goldberg, Diamond Dallas Page, Booker T, “The Total Package” Lex Luger, the Four Horsemen, the many talented high-flyers from its Cruiserweight Division, and (before the angle had grown completely out of proportion) the New World Order prior to the year 2000, when the company’s eventual demise became all too apparent for the masses to bear. There was something for everyone during those days as far as taste in characters, wrestling styles, storylines, and match stipulations were concerned, and though the overall edgier tone of each of these three federations wasn’t quite as safe for kids as the previous era had been, it was nonetheless a breath of fresh air all the same for the rest of us.

Fast forward to the spring of ’01, though, and the landscape changed for the worse, as I’d just mentioned. With WCW and ECW out of business, the WWF/WWE had become the only game in town, as far as mainstream wrestling went, and the past decade-and-a-half or so has seen many wrestling products, shows and full-fledged organizations alike, come and go with varying degrees of fanfare for their arrival and/or departure. I could try to include David B. McLane’s Women of Wrestling to this list as one of them, although WOW had actually hit the scene in the September of 2000 during the waning months of the war between the WWF and its competitors and closed its doors on March 3, 2001—exactly twenty-three days before Vince McMahon’s on-air announcement of his purchase of WCW. I can, however, include the likes of Total Nonstop Action/Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and Lucha Underground as well as several independent federations such as Shimmer, Shine, Pro Wrestling Guerilla, EVOLVE, Dragon Gate USA, Chick Fight, Women Superstars Uncensored, Chikara Pro, and Kaiju Big Battel, just to name a handful. I can also name the likes of such shows as Lucha Libre USA, the Urban Wrestling Federation, Johnny Cafarella’s two sleazy GLOW knockoffs CRUSH and Wrestlicious, and the topic of this specific editorial, Wrestling Society X. Now, chances are that if you were an active wrestling fan during when this program made its debut on MTV and was subsequently pulled from the network within the midst of its one and only season, you were able to see it for yourself and witness it in all its out-of-control, unrestrained glory, much to either your amazement or your utter dismay. You see, WSX has quite a reputation amongst diehard wrestling fans as being one of the worst wrestling shows ever to hit the airwaves on account of its deliberate tailoring for the MTV crowd (as well as 18- to 24-year-old males in general) by Big Vision Entertainment, the same production firm that served as a parent company for the even more notorious Xtreme Pro Wrestling from 2008 to 2012. All the same, there have been wrestling fans who have openly admitted to liking WSX for its absurd, tongue-in-cheek representation of the art and have managed to enjoy it in spite of its many flaws. Derek Burgan of F4WOnline.com has proven to be one such individual, seeing as he once boldly proclaimed the following:

“WSX will join Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, Firefly, and other TV greats in the pantheon of shows Americans were too stupid to ‘get.’”

Prepare to step into the Bunker for a look back at one of the most bizarre wrestling programs you may ever see...

Prepare to step into the Bunker for a look back at one of the most bizarre wrestling programs you may ever see…

As for my own opinion on Wrestling Society X, I think it’d be easier for me to tell you by breaking things down one point at a time. After all, while there have been many things that had gone wrong with the show that even its fans can’t deny, there were also aspects of it that I felt it did well for which many reviewers at the time didn’t give it enough credit, whether such people were blinded by their own arrogance, ignorance, and/or immature disdain at the product or they simply couldn’t see the good because WSX’s faults were just too thick for them to look past. Without further ado, then, let’s take a closer look at this oft-ridiculed project and see what Big Vision did right and wrong with it so that current and future wrestling promoters alike can learn from its example.

1. Theme and Roster

Behind the scenes with the roster and crew of Wrestling Society X

Behind the scenes with the roster and crew of Wrestling Society X

In a manner similar to Lucha Underground, Wrestling Society X took several key players from the independent circuit at the time (as well as its one and only homegrown wrestler, Youth Suicide, and a handful of XPW veterans) and pitted them against one another in a sort of kayfabe underground fight club held within an “abandoned warehouse” known as “the Bunker.” Unlike LU, however, the show had never officially established there to be any particular authority figure commissioning these matches to take place, and before each episode, the audience would be treated to a brief performance by a certain music act such as Black Label Society, Three 6 Mafia, Pitbull, Sparta, and Good Charlotte. If you ask me, I could have done without these mini-concerts, mainly because they took away so much precious time away from the rest of the show, which could (and should) have gone towards the matches and angles for each episode. Besides, not to sound uppity, but as a wrestling fan, I tune in to wrestling shows to see wrestling, not some rock band or rapper trying to work up the crowd with its/his/her latest or greatest track. Then again, the “M” in “MTV” does stand for “music,” so…at least it made the show a little more fitting for the network, I suppose. One thing that I’ll always defend when it comes to WSX, however, would be its roster. Sure, the wrestlers may not have had much in terms of mainstream name recognition at the time, save for the likes of Vampiro, “6-Pac” Sean Waltman, and—even though these two only appeared in the first episode—ECW icons New Jack and Justin Credible. Their talent, however, is something only the most unforgiving (any, more times than not, hypocritical) wrestling fan could deny. Thankfully, then, several of them were able to move on in their careers beyond WSX to gain recognition in other promotions, from Tyler Black of the tag team Doing It for Her and Matt Sydal becoming Seth Rollins and Evan Bourne, respectively, in WWE to Joey Ryan, Matt Cross, El Mesias (a.k.a. Ricky Banderas), and Jack Evans all paying characters in LU. Likewise, Jimmy Jacobs, the other half of D.I.F.H., and Colt Cabana, the man behind the mask of WSX’s resident old school grappler, Matt Classic, have long been considered two of the most well-remembered alumni of Ring of Honor, where Tyler Black also spent a portion of his wrestling career before his Seth Rollins days. Heck, even Vampiro is active in the wrestling world today as Lucha Undergound’s color commentator and the “master” of one of LU’s more beloved personalities, Pentagon, Jr. Good for them, if you ask me, because as far as I’m concerned, they all deserve at least something following this show’s untimely end and shouldn’t be held accountable for WSX’s more negative aspects. Trust me when I say, however, that we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Matt Classic: WSX veteran who's also appeared in Chikara Pro, amongst various other independent wrestling promotions

Matt Classic: WSX veteran who’s also appeared in Chikara Pro, amongst various other independent wrestling promotions

In addition to the wrestlers’ talent was the fact that every single one of them had a character with tag teams—of which there were as few as eight and as many as ten, depending on who’s counting—sharing a common theme between each member, which is one of the biggest issues that professional wrestling has faced for years in recent times. Better yet is how most of these wrestlers were allowed to basically play themselves, save for a few tweaks in their original personas to fit the narrative that Big Vision Entertainment was trying to tell with them. Such “tweaks” include Tyler Black and Jimmy Jacobs personifying the two extremes of stereotypical emo behavior and Scorpio Sky being an award-carrying braggart convinced of his own greatness who ironically won only one of his matches during WSX’s existence…and against a jobber, no less. In one respect, Big Vision was wise to allow this process in that it helped establish these wrestlers’ identity with viewers who had yet to become familiar with them while encouraging fans who did know who they were to tune in and find out what their stay in the Bunker had in store for them during a given week. Similarly, better-known wrestlers like 6-Pac and Vampiro were allowed to keep whatever identity they once had in whatever major federation (WWF/E, WCW, ECW, etc.) they were once a part of in an effort to draw in lapsed fans from the late ‘90s. Even those characters who were specifically created for the WSX product stood apart from the rest of the pack and had a purpose that wasn’t based solely on comedic appeal. Matt Classic fit this bill to a T in that his mission in WSX was to teach its more acrobatic wrestlers (of which there were many) the values and principles of old school wrestling firsthand and show them that there was more to the sport than just wowing the fans with crazy, oftentimes death-defying aerial maneuvers. On the other hand, some of the exaggerated characters were a little too goofy, off-putting, or otherwise over-the-top for even me to appreciate. Joey “Magnum” Ryan’s shtick with his trusty bottle of baby oil and constant wardrobe malfunctions, in particular, really got old fast, regardless of how well they fit his gimmick. On a similar note was the name of the Bunker’s resident top heel. Seriously…“Ricky Banderas?” I’m sorry, but if there’s a joke behind that name, it’s long escaped me. Regardless, everyone was able to stand out from everyone else on the roster, thus making them all more memorable as participants in this short-lived project.

What exactly is Shimmer alumnus and WSX backstage interviewer Lacey staring at that might have her looking so disturbed?

What exactly is Shimmer alumnus and WSX backstage interviewer Lacey staring at that might have her looking so disturbed?

Also on WSX’s payroll were Shimmer alumnus Lacey as the program’s backstage interviewer and co-host of WSXtra, WSX’s Internet-based recap show, as well as commentators Kris Kloss and Bret Ernst. Of these three, Lacey was undeniably the best at performing her duties in interviewing the members of the active roster and following up on the goings-on they’d been dealing with in the Bunker, from their feuds with certain other wrestlers to winning and losing streaks and even various rumors involving them (i.e., Matt Sydal’s friction-laced relationship with his valet/kayfabe girlfriend Lizzie Valentine). Sure, it was all pretty much standard stuff, and she’s far better known for her wrestling ability in the independent scene, but considering what little time she’d eventually spend in that role, I say she did a good job. As far as Kloss and Ernst as WSX’s commentators are concerned, though…meh…I’ve heard worse, I guess. I know Kloss has a very negative reputation amongst wrestling fans that dates as far back as his days as XPW’s play-by-play guy for more or less being a poor man’s Joey Styles, but truth be told, I’ve never watched nearly as much of that promotion to find that out for myself. As for his work here, I could take him or leave him, although his commentary never commanded my attention the way Jim Ross or good ol’ Joey could back in the day. Cliché for me to say, I know, but it’s the truth, and quite frankly, I don’t know which aspect of his commentary style got to me the most: his apparent inability to pitch his volume at key moments during the matches he called, his occasional tendency to call certain moves by the wrong name (i.e., calling a top-rope clothesline a “high cross body” and a moonsault a shooting star press), his penchant for saying “Oh my goodness!” enough times per match to encourage viewers to partake in a drinking game, or his frequent bickering with his broadcast partner Ernst. Speaking of Bret Ernst, though the guy was far from the worst color commentator I’ve ever heard in pro wrestling history, he nonetheless could have definitely benefitted from a refresher course in pro wrestling history—and from an improvisation course as well—before signing on with WSX. I know MTV wanted Big Vision to recruit a wisecracker for the role and that Ernst was apparently the best guy they could find, what with how successful he’s been in his career as a standup comedian, but trust me when I say that anyone who’d watched WWF Raw Is War back in 1997 could have easily told the guy that the original D-Generation X consisted of Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Chyna. X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws wouldn’t have come into the faction until later on, thus making that particular miscall one that I’m sure Ernst will never live down. Of course, I also remember his constant bad habit of contradicting either himself or the in-ring action upon which he and Kloss were commentating. One particular botch I remember him making was during the WSX Championship match between Vampiro and Ricky Banderas from episode eight where he assumed that the barbwire-laced coffin Banderas had brought with him to slam Vampiro into wouldn’t explode, only to take back what he’d said when the coffin did explode upon Banderas putting Vampiro through it and say that he’d meant to say the opposite. Aside from all that, he was…okay, I guess…not terrible by any stretch, but not exactly outstanding, either.

WSX commentators Kris "Oh My Goodness!" Kloss and Bret Ernst

WSX commentators Kris “Oh My Goodness!” Kloss and Bret Ernst

I’ll say this, though: If Kloss and Ernst were the only two commentators for WSX, I could have handled that well enough, flaws and all. Adding the weekly musical guest(s) to the commentary table, however, was murder, seeing as the guests rarely—if ever—said anything worth a damn to whatever story the wrestlers were trying to tell in the ring and more likely than not would distract Kloss and Ernst from doing their job. If anything, their comments usually took away from the matches and in-ring segments, especially moments that were meant to have a crucial effect upon the WSX story. Clipse on commentary during episode four certainly didn’t bring any benefits to the advent of Ricky Banderas, I’ll tell you that much…but I digress. Moving on…

"The Most Hated Man in Professional Wrestling," WSX ring announcer Fabian Kaelin on WSXtra episodes 1 and 10: What could this physical transformation be hinting at?

“The Most Hated Man in Professional Wrestling,” WSX ring announcer Fabian Kaelin on WSXtra episodes 1 and 10: What could this physical transformation be hinting at?

Finally, there was ring announcer Fabian Kaelin, the “Most Hated Man in Professional Wrestling,” according to the WSX DVD set’s own inside cover—named so because of his ring announcing on the show, which was so loud and heavily animated that I’m surprised he was able to keep his voice at all for when he co-hosted WSXtra alongside Lacey. Truly, if there was anyone on the WSX payroll who represented the heart and spirit of the show more than anybody else, it’d have been him based on his bold and unapologetically in-your-face onscreen mannerisms. Such was much to the distaste of most wrestling fans who openly admitted to seeing the program, but not me, believe it or not. In fact, I myself would have found it interesting if things unfolded during the course of the show to reveal that he was actually the onscreen “commissioner”—the ringleader, if you will—of the one-ringed circus known as the WSX Bunker who organized the matches for the sake of his own insane sense of entertainment. That way, he could have been a kind of authority figure similar to what Dario Cueto is in Lucha Underground, thus giving the fans a genuine reason to hate him as a character to coincide with their contempt towards his ring announcing. If nothing else, there had been a couple of instances in which he could have very easily fit that role, the first being his announcement in the final episode of WSXtra of an upcoming tag team tournament in the second season that obviously never came to be. The second and decidedly more indicative incident was his calling for a time limit draw at the ten-minute mark during the Jack Evans-Human Tornado match from episode nine, complete with him nodding and smiling sinisterly at the two competitors as the crowd booed his announcement and protested with a “Let them finish!” chant. He also had this thing going on as the show progressed when he would change his appearance bit by bit until he loosely resembled Alex, the villainous protagonist from Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange, walking stick and all. This gradual transformation served as an indication that there had to have been more to him than had originally met the eye, which thus makes me even more disappointed that season two had never come to be, else fans would have very well gotten a glimpse at how far the guy’s transformation/evolution would have gone. All that being said, then, Fabian didn’t bother me nearly as much as he did most everybody else, and I honestly believe that he definitely had more purpose being in the Bunker than I think most people have given him credit for.

2. Presentation

A "shocking" turn of events during The Filth and The Fury's tag team match against the Trailer Park Boyz as Teddy Hart electrocutes "Spider" Nate Webb

A “shocking” turn of events during The Filth and The Fury’s tag team match against the Trailer Park Boyz as Teddy Hart “electrocutes” “Spider” Nate Webb

One of the biggest problems plaguing Wrestling Society X was its thirty-minute timeslot opposite the second half of WWE’s reincarnation of ECW on Sci-Fi. For one thing, running directly up against WWE programming in and of itself has proven to cause problems for any alternative brand of wrestling in the past, save for during the oft-reminisced Monday Night Wars, when WCW Nitro had managed to beat WWF Raw for eighty-four consecutive weeks in the ratings. Even worse, in my opinion, was WSX’s paltry weekly runtime, as half an hour is never enough time for any contemporary wrestling show to provide proper development for its characters and angles or to show its audience the kind of quality matches they rightfully expect. Not only that, but viewers could have received even more wrestling matches per week with a properly booked hour-long show than they did with what they’d received at the time. Sure, the company would try to make up for such a deficiency with their Internet show, but considering that WSXtra was more or less WSX’s equivalent to WWF/WWE’s Metal and Jakked from back in the day (i.e., a recap show with bonus wrestling matches to boot), such an effort only offered so much consolation. Even worse was the fact that both the main show and WSXtra would showcase events that would lead into the next episode of the other show, which only made it almost obligatory for viewers to watch both shows in order to get the full scope of the WSX product—assuming, of course, that they wanted to see the product’s angles developed in full—and further begged for an explanation as to why the main show was only thirty minutes long to begin with. After all, what sense did it make for Big Vision to make their intended audience watch one program on television, lead them into tuning in to another program on the Internet, have them watch that program, lead them back to watching the next episode of their televised program, and continue the cycle until the end of the season when simply having them watch one full hour of their product on TV each week would have been much simpler and therefore much more logical? This is particularly true in the instance that their most recent televised episode would later make its way onto MTV’s website later on anyhow, and fans could simply hear recaps of each episode via the Internet (blog posts, 411Mania.com articles, podcasts, YouTube videos, etc.) anyway, thus rendering the whole practice pointless. In fact, the more I think about this whole situation, the more convinced I am of the possibility that WSX was originally meant to be an hour long in the first place, yet MTV—out of obliviousness to the needs of a successful wrestling program—only gave them their half-hour time slot in hopes that that would be enough with which Big Vision could work to put their show together…only to be decidedly wrong in the end.

WSX Championship match between Vampiro and "6-Pac" Sean Waltman: Proof of how things can LITERALLY blow up in your face if you're not prepared to win in the Bunker

WSX Championship match between Vampiro and “6-Pac” Sean Waltman: Proof of how things can LITERALLY blow up in your face if you’re not prepared to win in the Bunker

Then again, if there was another, more distinct reason as to why WSX eventually became one of the most hated wrestling shows of its day, I could sum it up in three simple words: style over substance. To be more specific, I could also use the words “spectacle over psychology,” considering just how many of the matches relied on explosions and electrocutions, among other special effects, in order to give them a shamelessly raucous feel and thus make them more appealing to the minds of the demographic that Big Vision wanted to attract. Sadly, this approach only backfired on them in that these effects were obviously just one big gimmick that actually made the matches in which they occurred come off as hokey and unbelievable as far as kayfabe went. The program’s choppy editing didn’t do the matches much justice, either, seeing as what the producers presented their TV audiences with lacked so much fluidity and was thus so discordant for the average human eyeball to watch that I wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d read or heard complaints from viewers about whatever headaches or even seizures they’d suffered either while or from watching WSX. It wasn’t as if the editors were trying solely to hide whatever botches had taken place during these matches, either, as I’ve been told was (and, more likely than not, still is) the case for Lucha Underground. After all, as I’d mentioned earlier, MTV only gave Big Vision Entertainment thirty minutes a week to showcase their product—with commercial breaks and musical performances included, by the way—meaning that their televised matches were doomed to be only partially shown within the show’s final format. Just think how great it would have been, though, for instance, to have been able to witness the program’s inaugural match between Matt Sydal and Jack Evans in its entirety as opposed to having it reduced to a fraction of the time and with so many annoying jump cuts occurring the whole while. Whether the match ultimately would have proven to be an amazing show of athleticism that also told a compelling story or little more than the same type of glorified spotfest that many wrestling fans have complained about in not-too-distant times may be one thing. One can only imagine, on the other hand, just what had to have been lying on the cutting room floor as far as WSX’s broadcasted matches went that would have helped makes them even more memorable than they already were…and in a good way at that.

One moment "The Anarchist" Arik Cannon's connecting with us, the next he's not. Protip for filming a wrestling promo: Pick a format/angle and stick with it!

One moment “The Anarchist” Arik Cannon’s connecting with us, the next he’s not. Protip for filming a wrestling promo: Pick a format/angle and stick with it!

Worse yet, this same overdone editing also ruined its fair share of backstage segments and in-ring promos by showing fans only part of what the talents onscreen had said or done. The first episode is most notably indicative of that, seeing as fans were treated to four different promos involving wrestlers who were bound to participate in the WSX Rumble later that evening for a shot at the Wrestling Society X Championship. Justin Credible, Chris Hamrick, New Jack, Teddy Hart, Joey “Kaos” Munos—all were shown backstage either cutting promos or involved in segments with other wrestlers concerning their participation in the match to come, and yet, we only got to see/hear snippets of what they had to say to try and get an idea of who they were and what they were about as far as their respective niches in WSX were concerned. I certainly would have loved to hear the entirety of Justin and Teddy’s pre-match promos, that’s for sure—all the better to find out what they stood for as competitors and what they hoped to receive by winning the battle royal in addition to contendership for the belt. The same goes for Kaos and his very chopped-up segment with his tag team partner, Aaron “Jesus” Aguilera, as viewers were only given the slightest idea that he’d be the one to enter the battle royal, judging from the words that the two halves of Los Pochos Guapos were exchanging. As for Hamrick and New Jack, I can’t help but wonder what the former man had said to have upset the latter? Seriously, the whole matter struck me as being quite vague, and the fact that the segment had been cut down to a mere few seconds only made me wonder just what Big Vision had cut out to make it fit into the episode’s final draft. Such is probably the biggest example of this nuisance, but if I had to choose one more to illustrate my point, I’d direct people’s attention towards “The Anarchist” Arik Cannon’s promo from WSXtra episode six concerning his intent to avenge himself against the Cartel for interfering in his debut match against Delikado, beating him down, and humiliating him by giving his head a “cement” bath. Arik’s unconvincing promo-cutting at the time aside, I couldn’t help but feel annoyed at the constant shift of viewpoint from the front to the side of his clearly unaffected face, seeing as I felt that the editing was keeping him from connecting with me as a viewer. Honestly, it felt to me as though he were trying to tell me directly one moment about his disappointment with himself for not being prepared for the Cartel to assault him, only for the POV to shift and make me feel as though he was sharing his story with someone off screen—even though it was obvious he was still talking directly into the first camera. Now, granted, this hasn’t been the only time in which TV shows have used this tactic for one reason or another, including programs on PBS, of all things. Regardless, such a shift of focus has always proven to me to be rather jarring and, in a way, insulting—almost as if the editor doesn’t trust the people at home watching to have a long enough collective attention span to pay attention to the host or other presenter as he/she is trying to connect with them. Heck, there have even been commercials that have pulled this stunt, and it hasn’t proven to be any less irritating with them as it has with full-fledged programs. For Big Vision to apply this kind of formatting to their own show, therefore, was inexcusable, regardless of which network was broadcasting WSX at the time.

Hey, at least SOME of them look excited to see things go down in the squared circle.

Hey, at least SOME of them look excited to see things go down in the squared circle.

To further detract from the authenticity of the show’s presentation were the piped-in crowd effects that would play throughout every match and in-ring segment. Sure, I could tell that Big Vision was trying to elevate the excitement surrounding these segments, but really, these effects—just like the electrocutions and explosions—only made matters come off as campy and unrealistic, specifically considering just how few audience members actually were in attendance at each of WSX’s TV tapings. Sure, WWE and TNA both have been guilty of doing similar garbage on their television shows, such as piping in cheers and turning off microphones on booing crowds for the sake of wrestlers whom they want to get over with the fans yet aren’t. Then again, WSX’s crowd effects were so much harder to ignore not only because of how they played constantly throughout the course of the show, but also because of how apparent neither the original set for the WSX Bunker from the show’s premiere (taped February 10, 2006) nor the set that Big Vision used for the rest of the season (taped November 11-16, 2006) were exactly fashioned to house enough fans to make such noise begin with. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not necessarily trashing either design in this regard. If nothing else, at least they both did what they could to emulate the interior of the abandoned warehouse within which the program was supposed to take place. Truth be told, if I had to choose which design I preferred, I would have to say the second one, only because I think the red ring ropes showed up much better on screen than the first ring’s dull blue ropes did—especially within the second setup’s dimmed lighting, which added more to the program’s overall atmosphere than I think certain viewers realized. Of course, one thing that I question wholeheartedly about the crowd was the fact that they were all plants rather than paying customers. Granted, I understand the idea that MTV and Big Vision would want its live studio audience to come to the Bunker and show some enthusiasm in support of the wrestlers and the product as a whole, but…really? Paying people to come see their show? I’m sorry, but I just think it would have made far more sense for them as a business to have their audience in attendance pay to see them live. At least that way, they would have had a decent word-of-mouth source of support for their product and would have been making money rather than spending even more of it, thus making the show that much less expensive to broadcast on a regular basis. I mean, what was the purpose of them literally hiring their crowd in attendance? Damage control in case real fans would somehow defecate all over their product the same way so many wrestling fans did (and still do, believe it or not) on the Internet via their podcasts, forum posts, YouTube videos, and blog entries? Because if that was the case, then maybe—just maybe—I could see Big Vision’s point. However, I think that if WSX’s overall production didn’t leave quite as much to be desired, such a problem wouldn’t have been as serious to deal with as it had turned out to be. Having said just that, I’m pretty sure you all can guess how I also feel about the program’s occasionally faulty (i.e., wavering) sound quality, especially in conjunction with the wrestlers’ entrance themes and Fabian’s ring announcing, and the unnecessary use of shaky cam during an on-screen explosion or electrocution or during the performance of an particularly impactful maneuver by one wrestler against another. I’m pretty sure “Vicious” Vic Grimes didn’t find it necessary flattering when the camera would shake whenever he would collide with an opponent who was lying in the turnbuckle, dive onto them with an aerial maneuver, or have a foe slam him into the canvas.

To think, too, that Kevin Dunn would eventually start using shaky cam as a great way to spice up the action on WWE Raw in recent years, albeit with a little less frequency as here on WSX. Note to WWE production staff: If such a trick didn’t help this short-lived wrestling brand as far as in-ring storytelling went, what made you think that it was a good idea for you to add it to your own company’s production?

Lucha Libre USA Masked Warriors: An MTV2 wrestling presentation that succeeded in quite a few ways that WSX didn't--including an televised introductory special

Lucha Libre USA Masked Warriors: An MTV2 wrestling presentation that succeeded in quite a few ways that WSX didn’t–including an televised introductory special

One final thing that I would like to mention about Wrestling Society X’s presentation concerns something that I wish they would have done before they even aired their first episode, regardless of how minor it may have seemed at the time. You see, three years and some months later in the summer of 2010, Lucha Libre USA: Masked Warriors debuted on MTV2 with a brief documentary called Behind the Mask that gave viewers a look into the promotion’s content. Having aired on MTV2 and once available for viewing on MTV’s website, this special briefly explained lucha libre’s history in Mexico to prospective fans as well as introduced to them a handful of the wrestlers who were scheduled to participate in the show, such as Marco Corleone, Lizmark, Jr., LA Park, and R.J. Brewer. From what I remember, reviewers received this short special pretty well and found it that much easier to invest themselves into the overall product than they ever could have with WSX the way MTV had shown it. The fact that MTV actually allowed LLUSA to put on the show they themselves wanted to put on rather than make them cater things specifically to “their” audience only made the matter sweeter for that promotion, too, and allowed them to enjoy two seasons on MTV2 rather than just one. I seriously doubt, though, that they would have even garnered that second season, had the network not allowed them to establish trust with their fans via BtM first—particularly considering what had gone down with WSX three-and-a-half years earlier. Now, granted, such a warm-up special wouldn’t have magically improved the WSX brand by itself, as the bookers, production crew, and onscreen talent would still have had to do their part in making the show itself amazing. However, for the sake of setting the scene in the name of good storytelling, I think an “Episode Zero” would have been very interesting, even if the show itself had indeed been allowed to air for a full hour each week and could thus flesh out angles and characters more thoroughly than it actually did. If nothing else, it more likely than not would have explained to fans what Wrestling Society X was all about, who all the wrestlers (or even just the main ones) were, what the rules were for both standard matches and whatever stipulation matches there would be in future episodes, and so forth, and all in the name of drawing potential fans to the product. This could have especially worked considering the notion that Big Vision Entertainment recognized each performer’s accomplishments in other federations, both on their original, now defunct website (WSX.mtv.com) and on the air, as they could take their time to explain what competing inside the Bunker meant to each wrestler. I myself could definitely see such an episode work in the instance that WSX were at all to deviate from the standard wrestling show format and instead be a televised docudrama of sorts that revolved around a fictitious wrestling promotion…you know, kind of what like Lucha Underground is nowadays.

3. Wrestling and Booking Issues

WSXtra Episode 7, Scorpio Sky vs. Youth Suicide: One of the few WSX matches where psychology actually came into play

WSXtra Episode 7, Scorpio Sky vs. Youth Suicide: One of the few WSX matches where psychology actually came into play

After having pointed out as many flaws in Wrestling Society X’s final product as I have, I’m pretty sure some of you are wondering if the wrestling was at least any good, to which I say…sure…as far as athleticism was concerned. After all, as I’ve mentioned earlier, the one aspect of the product that I’ll always defend no matter what is the talent of the wrestlers, and I can say with confidence that if there was anyone responsible for making this heavily loathed product at all tolerable to anyone, they’d be the ones. Without question, these participants made the most out of what material the bookers had given them for the sake of putting on matches that were meant to be fun and exciting. Sadly, the bookers could only give ten minutes at most to each of these exhibitions, save for certain gimmick matches (which I’ll explain soon enough) or bouts in which the WSX Championship was on the line. Even the matches that were filmed for WSXtra weren’t booked to last any longer than this time limit, although considering that these particular exhibitions at least didn’t involve any unnecessary pyro or electrocutions, one could still say that they were better than most of the televised matches on account of this virtue alone. Viewers still had to put up with those pain-in-the-neck crowd effects, unfortunately, and while there may not have been as much material cut out of these matches as there had been the televised bouts, even they still had their fair share of those annoying-as-all-hell jump cuts. Also, remember what I’d said about the WSX philosophy being “spectacle over psychology?” Well, aside from the special effects that I’d mentioned earlier, many of the show’s matches also revolved around the insane high-flying prowess of many of its performers. Sure, this whole premise may sound fast-paced and as such an absolute thrill to witness, but in reality, the bookers merely spoiled the fans with such flash and did little to balance things out by steadily building these matches up towards these high spots. Such storytelling would have helped to make these high spots feel special and thus worthy of the fans’ praise, which—as even the most casual amongst wrestling fans knows—has long been the thing that makes wrestling so compelling. To be fair, there was the occasional match or two that involved this kind of psychology, such as the WSXtra match between Youth Suicide and Scorpio Sky in which Scorpio took advantage of a particularly nasty fall Youth had taken two weeks prior on television by focusing his attacks on Youth’s back. Sadly, matches like these were few and far between, and most of the storytelling that took place during WSX’s exhibitions came in obviously booked spots (e.g., various “hardcore” “stunts” that I intend to talk about later on) and in individual instances in character portrayal. The miscommunication between the easily distracted lady lover Aaron Aguilera and the hapless Kaos, the polar personality clash between the gentle Jimmy Jacobs and the furious Tyler Black, the groove-happy stud Human Tornado being fazed but never damaged after taking a shot to his “Balls of Steel,” stereotypically snotty debutante Lizzy Valentine being the key to both her cocky “preppy” boyfriend Matt Sydal’s success and his failure as a competitor in the Bunker—all of these are examples of the kind of storytelling that WSX leaned more towards. Personally, as much as the lack of in-ring psychology disappointed me, I can respect this kind of dedication towards characterization, even if such character development nevertheless wasn’t as calculated and conscientious as it otherwise could have been, had the bookers taken greater and more careful strides with it. Similarly, I can just as easily see where one can hate this kind of thing, judging from the kind of characterization each performer received on the show, regardless of how closely each gimmick matched whatever gimmick(s) he/she had prior to signing up with the WSX brand.

The most anyone ever saw of T.J. Perkins as Puma on television as a wrestler for Wrestling Society X. To think, too, that this spot was meant for Delirious of ROH fame!

The most anyone ever saw of T.J. Perkins as Puma on television as a wrestler for Wrestling Society X. To think, too, that this spot was meant for ROH’s very own Delirious!

Additionally, Wrestling Society X had a number of stipulation matches that either came onto the scene simply for the sake of a cheap thrill or were simply too ridiculous for their own good—oftentimes both. For one thing, just as TNA had been guilty of having gimmick matches on iMPACT! for the sole sake of an easy ratings pop during the late 2000s, WSX was guilty of having certain stipulation matches take place for the sole sake of having them. The WSX Rumble is most definitely one such match, especially considering the fact that it took place as the second match and main event of the very first episode. Quite frankly, I didn’t mind the idea or purpose of the match itself or even the specific rules that the participants had to follow during it. After all, if one can understand how a King of the Mountain match goes in TNA, then one can definitely follow the principles of a WSX Rumble, as it simply starts off like a standard ten-person version of WWE’s own Royal Rumble. Then, when the tenth competitor enters the fray, the bout becomes a ladder match, and whoever climbs a ladder to the top and grabs either of the two contracts that have been suspended beforehand above the ring earns himself/herself a shot at the WSX Championship. Fair enough, in my opinion…if only the participants had been built up beforehand as credible contenders for the belt. As I’ve mentioned earlier, however, the ten men in this match were hardly even built up as characters, period—most notably considering that this match was on the show’s debut episode. Never mind New Jack, Chris Hamrick, Kaos, Teddy Hart, and Justin Credible, either, as Alkatrazz, Puma (a.k.a. T.J. “Manik” Perkins from Lucha Libre USA and TNA), Youth Suicide, and even Vampiro and 6-Pac hadn’t even been introduced on the show until they’d come out to take part in this event. Worse yet for Puma was how he didn’t even get a chance to show off his talents on television, seeing as Vampiro had eliminated him from the match almost as soon as he’d entered the ring, and the whole spot had been edited in such a way so that it looked as if it’d taken place during a commercial break. On a similar note, as if battle royals as a general rule aren’t chaotic enough as a match type, the inclusion of foreign objects only made this event even more of a car crash. In one respect were the props that the ring crew had set up just outside the ring through/into which competitors could throw their opponents, from the standard-issue table to an electric box full of “live” wires and a small steel cage rigged with explosives—all the more to, predictably enough, heighten the spectacle of the whole affair, regardless of whether or not the match really needed it. On the other hand, though, were the weapons that were used in this match, from the guitar that New Jack ended up smashing over the head of referee Danny “Monchichi” Ramirez a la Jeff Jarrett and “Honky Tonk Man” Wade Farris to the bucket of thumbtacks that Youth Suicide had brought down to the ring, only to have Vampiro powerbomb him onto the very same thumbtacks he’d deliberately spilled in the middle of the ring. Throw in WSX’s trademark over-the-top editing, and you have one of the most downright anarchic matches ever to be broadcasted on national television…for better and for worse, depending on how you choose to look at it.

Lil' Cholo of the Cartel tries to submerge Aaron "Jesus" Aguilera into a tank of "vicious" piranhas in WSX's Piranha Tank Death Match from the unaired series finale.

Lil’ Cholo of the Cartel tries to submerge Aaron “Jesus” Aguilera into a tank of “vicious” piranhas in WSX’s Piranha Tank Death Match from the unaired series finale.

Then again, the WSX Rumble was only the first of a solid handful of gimmick matches that Wrestling Society X had showcased, for later on in episode three would come a TLC (Tables, Ladders, and Cervezas) match in which Los Pochos Guapos would unite and try to avenge the abuse that Kaos had been suffering at the hands of Luke Hawx and Alkatrazz. The bout was what anyone would expect: a death match in which tables, ladders, and beer bottles were available as weapons. However, it was the only one the two tag teams had ever had against each other, and just as with the WSX Rumble, this bout received very little buildup prior to when it took place. On a like note was the double main event of WSX’s season (and series) finale: a Piranha Tank Death Match between LPG and Delikado and Lil’ Cholo of the Cartel and an Exploding Cage Time Bomb death match between The Filth and The Fury and Team Dragon Gate—both booked to mark the end of the program’s only season and provide a logical yet premature conclusion to each angle, both of which only lasted two matches total. Yes, the Cartel had a thing for marking beaten-down opponents of theirs with dead fish, and Team Dragon Gate’s chances of becoming the top tag team in the Bunker figuratively “blew up” in their faces prior to the arrival of their new manager Sakoda. Even so, both LPG’s feud with the Cartel and Team Dragon Gate’s vengeful retribution against all to whom they’d lost could have carried on for at least one more match each before coming to a decisive close. Alas, episode ten of WSX apparently had to end with these two gimmick matches to ensure that Wrestling Society X went out with a bang instead of a whimper. Thankfully, at least the Exploding Cage Time Bomb Death Match was fun and very well performed by Teddy Hart, “M-Dogg 20” Matt Cross, Genki Horiguchi, and Masato Yoshino…up until Sakoda just had to force his way into the cage and interfere on Team Dragon Gate’s part with the help of his trusty flare gun. To think, too, that the whole purpose of Sakoda “reprogramming” Horiguchi and Yoshino was to make them unstoppable on their own rather than to help them win on account of him lending them an unfair advantage! As for the Piranha Tank Death Match…well…if nothing else, at least the bookers get points for originality for coming up with it. I mean, outside of WSX, the only wrestling promotion I know of to have something remotely close to this kind of match would be Big Japan Pro Wrestling (BJW). Unfortunately, because the Cartel always traveled as a full pack, for the most part, one could pretty much see Kaos and Aguilera’s loss to Delikado and Lil’ Cholo coming from a mile away, what with faction manager El Jefe and team muscle Mongol being right there to help the two workhorses earn yet another cheap win for the record—and without the referee even trying to ban them from ringside on top of that! Besides, even if the odds were completely even, the very premise of the match is actually quite tedious in that in order to win, one team must completely submerge a member of the opposing team into the piranhas’ tank and cover the tank with a lid for a three count. I’m sorry, but in order to accomplish such a goal, one would have to rely on a reliable tag team partner or otherwise be really, really quick in shoving one’s opponent into the tank, finding the tank’s lid, and covering the doggone thing for three whole seconds. Plus, considering just how infamously dangerous piranhas are, what with their strong jaws, finely serrated teeth, and notorious aggression, why would anyone want to participate in or even be a spectator for such a potentially lethal match for real? Come to think of it, even if the piranhas were fake (the only way to ensure the safety of such a match), such fakeness would only draw further ridicule from those who dislike professional wrestling on account of its scripted nature, thus proving the ridiculousness of such a gimmick beyond the shadow of a doubt.

"M-Dogg 20" Matt Cross ends up taking it in the backside during the Exploding Cage Timebomb Death Match between The Filth and The Fury and Team Dragon Gate.

“M-Dogg 20” Matt Cross ends up taking it in the backside during the Exploding Cage Time Bomb Death Match between The Filth and The Fury and Team Dragon Gate.

Come to think of it, Wrestling Society X didn’t even need special gimmick matches to find a way to work in a few “hardcore” spots into its in-ring product, as there were plenty of times in which the action went out of the ring and/or foreign objects came into play. The WSX Rumble, after all, was far from the only time in which tables came onto the scene, as I do remember The Filth and The Fury’s televised match against the Trailer Park Boyz in which Teddy Hart electrocuted “Spider” Nate Webb, set him up on a table, and sent him through it with his signature corkscrew senton bomb, the Open Hart Surgery. I also remember a WSXtra match between Keepin’ It Gangsta and Luke Hawx & Alkatrazz in which Ruckus set up KIG’s “diamond”-encrusted ladder in the middle of the ring, climbed to the top, and came crashing down upon Hawx, who’d been set up on a table that was every bit as “blinged out” as KIG’s ladder. There were also the use of exploding lightbulbs, shattered disco balls, and of course, Sakoda’s trusty flare gun. Then…there was the fireball that Ricky Banderas threw into Vampiro’s face when he made his debut on episode four. Now, granted, fireballs weren’t anything new to pro wrestling, even back then. Just look at what went on during the Undertaker’s 1996 feud with Mankind in the WWF, various instances in Jerry “The King” Lawler’s USWA career, and even Hollywood Hogan’s match against The Warrior at WCW’s Halloween Havoc 1998 for some examples in which fireballs came (or almost came) into play. Even so, this particular incident has gone down in the books as being the event that sealed WSX’s fate, as MTV officials saw the spot as being unfit to air on the network. I can’t really say that I blame them, to be honest, especially seeing as the thing singed Vampiro’s hair. Furthermore, we can all discuss parental responsibility regarding kids and the media here all we want to, but to put it quite bluntly, if I myself were running a major television network, cable or otherwise, I wouldn’t want to suffer any backlash from angry parents whose kids were wowed at the sight of one man setting another on fire and felt the need to replicate the act themselves. Kind of makes me wonder just how necessary it was for Sakoda to have carried around that stupid flare gun shortly afterwards, I must say. On the other hand, I do think that with the existence of a proper line of communication between Big Vision and MTV, the whole crisis could have easily been averted in the first place. To think, too, that there still were other mistakes that the booking team had made, such as wrestlers who were supposed to be babyfaces performing heelish actions like nailing opponents in the groin and ambushing heels either post-match or during the heels’ matches against other babyfaces, illegal men entering the ring during tag team matches and being open to eat a pinfall from the opposing team, and people who weren’t even supposed to be in the match at all entering the ring right in front of the ref’s eyes to help out their man without causing a DQ! After this whole fireball debacle, however, talking about any further booking backfires is practically pointless—especially considering that MTV had pulled WSX episode four from its scheduled air date on February 20, 2007 and aired an edited version of it a week later on February 27. Afterwards came Big Vision’s March 2 announcement that MTV had cancelled the program and that episodes five through nine would be aired on March 13 as a two-and-a-half-hour-long season finale of sorts, leaving the true season finale, episode ten, to be a DVD exclusive. From there, the rest, as they say, is history.

Ricky Banderas prepares to throw a fireball into the face of Vampiro and unwittingly bring about the death of Wrestling Society X as it has been recorded.

Ricky Banderas prepares to throw a fireball into the face of Vampiro and unwittingly bring about the death of Wrestling Society X as it has been recorded.

Finally, if there was one thing that honestly disappointed me about Wrestling Society X’s in-ring product, it’d be the lack of variation in wrestling styles that the show put on display. After all, in spite of the talent of the wrestlers Big Vision had already acquired for the show, it seemed to me even then that they could have done something to mix things up and not rely as much on high flyers as they did. I know this may sound quite minor, if not outright petty, but inasmuch as every single one of their tag teams had at least one high flyer in it and how its “X-Division”-esque division was easily one of the more heavily featured acts on the show, it would have been nice to see a little something different thrown in every now and then for a change of pace. Some solid chain wrestling would have definitely given viewers just that, for one thing, as even ECW had been a place for the likes of Joe and Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, Perry Saturn, Lance Storm, Peter “Taz” Senerchia, and the nowadays infamous Chris Benoit to showcase their technical mastery. Yes, a good number of the high flyers could very well have proven to be as good on the mat as they were in the acrobatics department, and I sincerely believe that it would have benefitted the product as a whole if the bookers would have allowed them to showcase their mat skills to an equal degree as their high-flying abilities for the sake of proving that there was more to them than simply being high spot artists. That being said, for WSX to have had such wrestlers as Nigel McGuinness, Bryan Danielson, Chris Hero, Austin Aries, and Kevin Steen—men who were not only relevant at the time and working outside of WWE and TNA, but who were likewise known for their solid technical wrestling skills—could have really benefitted them. Not only that, but these five men in particular could have also held their own when it came to developing strong characters for themselves. Just ask anyone who has seen their work in Ring of Honor or, in the case of Danielson as Daniel Bryan and Steen as Kevin Owens, as active members of WWE’s roster. Aries, too, had made quite a name for himself in TNA before he left as both a wrestler and a character, and even in spite of the terrible booking that went into his TNA persona Desmond Wolfe, McGuinness had earned for himself the respect of the company’s fan base during his tenure. Of course, as much as I can go on and on about this particular topic, I also can’t help but wonder as to just how the larger wrestlers who were already on the WSX roster would have been used outside of tag team action. Seriously, what would have happened if, say, Keepin’ It Gangsta, Luke Hawx and Alkatrazz, or Los Pochos Guapos would have broken up and their respective members would have gone on to become singles stars? Ruckus, Hawx, and Kaos would have very well joined the high flyers’ division, no doubt, but what about Babi Slymm, Alkatrazz, and Aaron Aguilera? How long would it have taken the bookers to have built any of them up to become credible contenders for the WSX Championship? What about Vic Grimes, Arik Cannon, Youth Suicide, and even Matt Classic and Mongol? Would there have been a midcard title for the likes of them to earn later on during WSX’s existence in the same vein as WCW’s U.S. Championship or TNA’s Legends/Global/Television Championship? That, for what it’s worth, I would like to know.

What Irritated Me Most about Wrestling Society X

Random Guy as Furious WSX Detractor: GRRRRR!!!!! IhatethisWrestling SocietyXIt'ssostupidIt'scrapIt'skillingmybraincellsaswespeakRRRRRAAAAARRRRGH!!!!!!!!!!! Leonardo DiCaprio as Me: Ugh...bitch, puh-LEASE...shut! UP!

Random Guy as Furious WSX Detractor: “GRRRRR!!!!! I hate this Wrestling Society X! It’s so stupid! It’s crap! It’s killing my brain cells as we speak! Who would DARE bring this unholy spawn of all that is wrong with the world upon us wrestling fans!? WHO?! TELL ME!!!RRRRRAAAAARRRRGH!!!!!!!!!”
Leonardo DiCaprio as Me: “Ugh…bitch, puh-LEASE! Shut! UP!”

Having said all I have about Wrestling Society X, I know that I’ve painted myself out to be one of those wrestling fans whom Derek Burgan claimed once upon a time to be “too stupid to ‘get’” the show. The reality is, though, that that’s not the case at all, as I do recognize what Big Vision Entertainment was trying to offer folks: a badass yet light-hearted and all-around insanely fun wrestling program that didn’t take itself very seriously and tried its damnedest to stand out from the competition. To be quite honest, I definitely wanted WSX to succeed, even if only for there to be an alternative to WWE and TNA on the mainstream scene and as such another place where up-and-coming stars in the industry could get a chance to shine. Sadly, though, it clearly didn’t, and on account of its own many faults at that, which ultimately made it come off as something that its creators had slapped together haphazardly with the volume turned up several hundred decibels on the consequential insanity. We’ll never know, either, what would have become of this production, had the two parties in charge had a better idea of what they both wanted to achieve and would have cooperated more closely with each other in hopes of making their goal both mutual and a reality. After all, while a lot of WSX fans understandably blame MTV for not showing Big Vision Entertainment the support they deserved in order to produce a program that wrestling fans—and, for that matter, even non-wrestling fans—would have found far easier to watch and support week after week, the truth remains that Big Vision has itself to blame as well for not keeping its head on straight, in the game, and out from between MTV’s corporate posterior. Not only that, but let’s face it: The company tried so hard to appeal to its target audience with WSX that it unwittingly yet ultimately alienated many a wrestling fan and as such cheated themselves out of what could have been some reliable word-of-mouth support via message boards, podcasts, blogs, video forums, and possibly even various sources outside of the Internet. Simply reviewing the ratings that the show received from its MTV debut on can show just that, seeing as their January 30, 2007 premiere netted them a solid 1.0 rating, which eventually dropped off to 0.7 the next week and never elevated beyond that point. This rating eventually sank to a 0.3 on their ninth and final broadcasted episode during the tail end of the show’s five-episode “season finale” on March 13. Needless to say, Big Vision itself ended up calling this entire run WSX’s “First (and Last) Season” and has vowed to never renew the brand, which is a promise that the company has kept to this very day. Even if wrestling fans had a collective change of heart regarding this absolutely off-the-wall take on their beloved art, bought the WSX DVD set in droves upon its initial release, petitioned Big Vision to bring the series back (albeit on a different network, more likely than not), and otherwise set out on a campaign to revive this much-maligned program, I’m convinced that Kevin Kleinrock and company would have stood their ground and left the brand buried six feet underground within the secure confines of Vampiro’s exploding coffin. Perhaps it’s all for the better, as one would argue, although I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who still speculate as to what would have happened to WSX, had Big Vision and MTV actually cooperated to present us with it in a different light. What if the show had aired for a full hour rather than a measly half-hour? What if they’d actually built their wrestlers up properly throughout the course of the show and relied on actual in-ring psychology instead of straight-up, nonstop, in-your-face strings of high spots? What if they’d eased up with all the unnecessary special effects and actually let their wrestlers do their thing with paying fans cheering them on instead of paid plants and a sound machine? I could go on and on with these questions, but I think you all get my point.

Independent Wrestling Matters (Pinterest.com)In fact, the only thing that really got under my skin when it came to Wrestling Society X had nothing to do with the brand itself, but rather with the backlash—no, scratch that…the hatred—it received. After all, disliking anything and being able to talk rationally about what makes you dislike it is one thing. Flat-out going off on a rage-induced tirade over it, on the other hand, is something else altogether, and much to my exasperation, I’d heard and read so much of the latter upon becoming familiar with WSX that it quite frankly made me feel mortified to be a wrestling fan myself on account of sharing a label with such indignant, melodramatic, ill-tempered brats. Now, look…we all come across things in life that upset us, especially when those things involve the hobbies and interests we love. Even so, is losing our cool over these things—specifically things as minor as television shows—really the best way to handle our disgruntlement? Was WSX in particular that personally offensive to certain wrestling fans that they had to curse and scream about it on their weekly podcasts like out-of-control kindergarteners? Were the show’s flaws really so severe that they merited once-prominent adult members of the so-called “YouTube Wrestling Community” to post videos of themselves going on nearly six-minute-long tantrums about how “ugh…disgusting” they felt the show was, failing to elaborate on certain points that they brought up (e.g., why the commentary was subpar), pounding the desks in front of them like rabid apes, hyperventilating over minor nuances like tag team names and wrestler-valet pairings as if even they were serious defects, and ending it all by whining about the headaches they just gave themselves and how they wanted their “mommies” to make the pain stop? I personally don’t think so, but that’s what I heard and saw shortly after WSX made it to air, and even then, I found myself wondering just how seriously I was supposed to take these jackasses and how they were ever able to garner any subscription base at all from anyone if the behavior they’d displayed was the norm that their audiences had come to expect from them. However, the detractors who annoyed me the most were those who went as far as to insult the talent, especially those who acted as if the wrestlers themselves were the ones responsible for making the product lackluster simply on account of their “indie wrestler” status. Sure, some wrestlers with indie circuit experience may have trouble with cutting promos, portraying characters, and even telling a story in the ring, but that criticism doesn’t apply to all of them and thus shouldn’t be used as a blanket judgment against everyone from the independent scene. Besides, homegrown talent from the major promotions can be just as prone to these three faults, even after undergoing developmental training, and for the record, WWE and especially TNA have used indie talent in the past and continue to do so today with said talent more often than not managing to get themselves over with the crowd to some extent in some way. The same can be said about Ring of Honor, which still mostly uses names from the independent circuit and has pretty much been an independent federation itself for the first six to seven years of its existence, and while they aren’t by any means the biggest wrestling promotion on the planet, even outside of WWE, they’ve still maintained some buzz around them for quite some time. The whole notion, therefore, that independent wrestlers “can’t draw flies” isn’t always true. If anything, it’s more of a matter of a) the platform upon which a given talent can prove his/her worth in the industry and b) the talent and the promotion’s management and bookers meeting each other halfway so that the talent is able to get over with the crowd and in turn draw eyes to and make money for the promotion. Regardless, in WSX’s case, the material that the bookers had given their wrestlers to work with wasn’t necessarily as tidy, polished, or meaningful as it could or should have been, and the show’s production was every bit as rough, thus making matters worse for it and its wrestlers. That being said, even if the performers were at all accountable for WSX’s failure, they were at most the least likely to blame and didn’t do anything wrong aside from what most other wrestlers would have been able to do with Kleinrock and crew’s booking.

"You wanna talk? Fine. Let's talk...but CHECK YOUR TEMPER AT THE DOOR, you little twerp!"

“You wanna talk? Fine. Let’s talk…but check your temper at the door, you little twerp! GOT THAT!?”

To sum things up, I have no qualms with people disliking Wrestling Society X per say. We all have our opinions, after all, and no wrestling promotion is for everyone. Heck, most of this editorial has been me basically listing the program’s issues, according to my own point of view, and quite frankly, I doubt I’ve covered every single last one of them. Basically, my beef is with just how vehement and even mindless WSX’s detractors have been in terms of criticizing it because at the end of the day, it was still a wrestling show that thankfully remains in DVD form as well as online in various video forum uploads for others to observe and even enjoy at their discretion. Besides, believe it or not, this program was able to attract favorable attention from other wrestling fans for daring to be different and fun with what little it had as a TV production and with a roster that most full-fledged wrestling promotions would kill for and an idea that, at its core, wasn’t theoretically bad (i.e., the whole underground fight club theme). If anything, it was the execution of said idea that left much to be desired, and I’m sure that if wrestling fans could find it in them to approach the issue calmly and collectively, they could not only discover the program’s true mistakes, but also figure out how to present WSX in such a way so that it would appeal to an even greater audience than it ultimately did. Trust me. I’ve actually seen worse wrestling shows in my day than WSX—shows that I’m sure others would not shy away from showering with every bit as much derision as this program has received in the past nine-plus years. I’ve certainly given Wrestlicious a tongue-lashing back in the day, that’s for sure. Guess what, though: Even Wrestlicious I can critique candidly and honestly without caving in to my disdain, going off the deep end, and pointing my “finger of blame” at the wrong people. All that in consideration, everybody, feel free to like what you like and dislike what you dislike. Just be sure to point out the actual issues of what you dislike, though, should you feel the need to openly talk about it, and don’t scream out about how much of a “disgrace” it would be if, say, WWE or some other major promotion was to extend an invitation to the talents from the show you’re not fond of and give them a chance to earn a spot on its own roster. Trust me…if the WSX detractors who were knocking the show’s talent saw these people perform in a promotion that they actually approved of, they wouldn’t have been so quick to verbally urinate on them as they had. Remember…it’s not always where you’ve been prior to making it to the big leagues, but what you do once you’ve made it and where you go soon afterwards.

Final Thoughts

Wrestling Society X: Wasted Opportunity (AminoApps.com)All things considered, I don’t look back at Wrestling Society X as being the unholy atrocity that so many “smarks” claim it to be. If anything, I see it as simply a heaping mass of wasted potential that died almost as quickly as it had been born, which I find to be a crying shame more than anything else. Heaven knows just how much I, like so many others, ponder over where it would have gone and how it would have evolved, had it only aimed to attract an audience that would have done it more justice than whom its parent company and the network it was on were hoping to win over. Yes, I know that wrestling fans in the 21st century have proven many a time to be fickle, immature, impatient, and disgustingly demanding, and it may seem impossible to please them, what with how often and how loudly they’ve complained about the wrestling industry over the past fifteen years and how much they keep doing so today. Not only that, but if ever the legendary words of John Lydgate about being able to please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time ever rung true, they certainly have never rung any truer than with today’s wrestling audience. Trust me, though, when I say that if you manage to produce a wrestling show that pleases most of them on a consistent basis, then you’re definitely doing something right, as their endorsement of your product will surely bring you even more fans over time. Unfortunately, while WSX was still a fun show to watch for those who approached it with a sense of humor, its numerous flaws still prevented it from truly being the great—if not, in fact, amazing—product that it could have been. The thing, too, is that some wrestling enthusiasts speculate that it would have been much better off debuting during the late 1990s to early 2000s when professional wrestling was at its peak. One could even argue that if MTV really wanted to capitalize on the pro wrestling craze, they were much better off giving ECW a home when TNN (nowadays known as Spike) took their program off the air on October 6, 2000. Heck, one can even speculate as to whether or not it would have benefitted WWF/E if good ol’ Vinny Mac would have founded a promotion similar to WSX in 2000 (minus the obvious MTV “flair,” of course) instead of dumping millions into the XFL, given this new brand over to his son Shane, and have him run it independently from the main WWF/E brand. I, however, am of the opinion that Big Vision Entertainment simply should have been smarter when it came to developing and producing WSX. The show could still have had the same swagger and jocosity that had set it apart from the other wrestling programs on TV at the time, but toned down some so as to not seem quite as desperate and pandering as it did and so as to make room for more thought to be put towards in-ring psychology, character building, and plot/angle development. There was no need for excessive pyrotechnics, dubbed-in sound effects, insane gimmick matches brought in for a cheap ratings boost, or even plants when it came to this brand making a name for itself. All it needed was better, more consistent production values and a solid to fantastic in-ring product to support the whole “underground” theme for which they were going. They had the talent to pull off the latter part of this equation, too, had they just let said talent step on out to the ring and do what they did best. It also would have helped, as I’ve said before, if MTV worked more closely with them and gave them the support they needed to put on the high-quality wrestling show that WSX deserved to be. After all, as any fan knows, the pro wrestling industry is at its best when there’s competition, and believe me when I say that even today, WWE could use some strong competition to keep it on its toes, what with TNA reportedly being in dire financial straits, Ring of Honor not having shown as much growth in recent years as it could have, Global Force Wrestling not having lived up to their promise over the past couple of years, and even Lucha Underground—the closest thing to what WSX could have been, had it survived at least up until 2008—is only in its second year on the El Rey Network. Alas, WSX never became anything of the sort and instead is just one of countless wrestling productions to have risen and fallen between the spring of ’01 to now in hopes of becoming the alternative for which fans of the art have been craving.

Rest in peace, Wrestling Society X, and on behalf of those who wanted to see you live up to your potential, thank you for the memories.

*****

On an unrelated note, I also want to take this moment to commemorate yesterday, May 23, 2016 being the seventeenth anniversary of the untimely passing of Owen James Hart, one of the most talented and beloved pro wrestlers of his day. Rest in peace, Owen. Fans worldwide will forever miss you.

Owen James Hart (May 7, 1965-May 23, 1999): Thanks for the memories, Owen. We'll never forget you.

RIP Owen James Hart (May 7, 1965-May 23, 1999): Thank you for the memories, Owen. May your legacy live on for all time.

*****

Such are my thoughts and Wrestling Society X—a topic that I’d been meaning to cover on this blog of mine for some time now. I know it’s been a long read, but that you all for taking the time to stop by and give it a look. Feel free to stop by next time I post something new, and in the meantime, don’t be afraid to check out my author pages at Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk if you haven’t already. Until then, thanks again for your support, and happy reading!

Regards,
Dustin M. Weber

*****

Wrestling Society X (c) 2007 Big Vision Entertainment. Additional materials used in this article are as follows:

WSX Bunker w/Pyro, WSX Fireball Incident, and WSX Wasted logo: Wrestling Society X: A Wasted Opportunity by Jason at AminoApps.com
Matt Classic: ChikaraPro.com
Lucha Libre USA logo: (c) 2010-2014 Lucha Libre USA, LTD
Angry Man image: CBSNews.com
Leonardo DiCaprio Wolf of Wall Street: (c) 2013 Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures
Indie Wrestling Matters pic: Pinterest.com
Colin Mochrie (Whose Line Is It Anyway?): (c) 2013-2016 Hat Trick Productions, Warner Bros. Television, Angst Productions, and Warner Horizon Television
Owen Hart pic: OnlineWorldofWrestling.com

All opinions expressed within the above document, however, are solely those of the author himself.

In Relation to My Work: Creating a Compelling Professional Wrestling Persona

Pro wrestling history has experienced many a character over the years that fans still remember fondly today…

Welcome back, readers!

Well, it’s back…my little segment entitled “In Relation to My Work,” and in this particular installment, I will be discussing something that I’ve actually been wanting to talk about for over a year at this point following my publication of UWWX: The Underground Women’s Wrestling Xperiment back in the December of 2012. In fact, this particular topic has actually been back on my mind quite a bit on account of my recent dillydallying around with WWF Smackdown! 2: Know Your Role for the Sony PSX. As I’ve made allusions to before on February 9, 2013 on this blog, if there’s one feature of any wrestling game that catches my attention the most, it’d be its Create-a-Wrestler feature. Without a doubt, whenever a particular video game contains a feature that allows me to interact with the game itself on a deeper level than simply taking what the programmers have already given me and being satisfied with it, more times than not, I learn to love said feature, and the CAW mode in most wrestling games from 1998 onward is certainly no exception to this rule. As a matter of fact, such modes often prove to be the most fun for me in that they help me learn about professional wrestling on a level that, in its own way, is more personal and interactive than simply selecting one of several already established wrestlers and helping my chosen grappler grab the gold in Season Mode. You see, CAW features in wrestling games teach me both as a gamer and as a wrestling fan the importance of having a large, varied arsenal and knowing not only how, but also when to use such maneuvers. For example, it makes more sense to start off with simple weardown holds such as headlocks and leg grapevines earlier on in the match than to slap on more devastating submission holds such as guillotine chokes and anklelocks for the simple fact that the fresher an opponent is, the more likely he or she will be likely to shrug off and escape such holds, thus making them seem less effective in the long run. Not only that, but what makes a wrestling match more exciting after all is said and done—executing one’s most high-impact slams and crippling holds against an opponent right off the bat or slowly but surely working one’s way up to such moves towards the end of the match, all the while exchanging takedowns, weardown holds, and simple punches and kicks in a competitive toe-to-toe bout?

Of course, all of that constitutes only the mechanics of professional wrestling. On the other hand is something that is of arguably equal importance in terms of making one’s mark in the pro wrestling world, and that something is the development and presentation of one’s in-ring persona. After all, how many times have you visited certain message boards or forums dedicated to pro wrestling and have either read or heard someone complain about a certain wrestler for having essentially no personality or character to speak of and as such not really standing out from the rest of the roster of whatever company he or she belongs to? Chances are that if you identify yourself as a member of what has long been known as the Internet Wrestling Community, you’ve probably read and/or heard your fair share of arguments like this. Heck, even if you only check out such forums or message boards on an occasional basis, you’ve become at least vaguely familiar with the term “vanilla midget,” which is basically what less forgiving wrestling enthusiasts call those wrestlers who lack the definitive character development of their more defined brethren, even if only in said fans’ eyes. This very term is a particularly unfortunate one for a wrestler to be called in that it defines him or her—either rightly or wrongly—as being bland, boring, and completely devoid of personality and therefore not worth paying any attention to. Needless to say, no wrestler wants to be labeled such a thing, especially considering the fact that unlike boxing, mixed martial arts, Olympic wrestling, and various other full-fledged sports, pro wrestling is an entirely different breed of venue—a type of sports-theater hybrid, if one will, that relies just as much on storytelling and larger-than-life personalities as it does raw athleticism. Now, don’t get me wrong, people. I myself enjoy a great wrestling match just as much as the next person, be it a smooth-flowing technical wrestling clinic or an acrobatic display of high-flying prowess or even a good old-fashioned, hard-hitting brawl. However, while any given wrestling match might be considered great or even a classic based solely on the work rate of the wrestlers involved, such a match often enough ends up meaning so much more with the help of not only mindful, logical booking, but also (and moreover) keen, distinct character portrayal and the evolution of such personas both inside and outside the ring.

...as well as those that they'd surely love to forget.

…as well as those that they’d surely love to forget.

Unfortunately, over the course of history, wrestling fans have witnessed many a pro wrestling character that has failed to work—many an in-ring persona that has become more infamous than famous within the eyes of fans and pundits alike on at least one level or another. Worse yet is how there has even been at least one entire wrestling promotion that has, in all its existence, been carried upon the backs of such poorly developed characters. However, no matter how many personas have been developed throughout the entirety of professional wrestling’s existence, it always seems as though certain wrestling promotions have yet to learn and remember what separates the cherished characters from the reviled ones and keep such a vital piece of information in mind when presenting new personalities to their audience, be they ones that they themselves have forged for their performers to portray or ones that the performers have created for themselves. I sure know that in all my years of being a wrestling fan, I’ve come to know many an in-ring persona that I’ve come to hate for X, Y, and Z reasons as well as those I’ve come to enjoy, and it is out of my personal desire to continue seeing more of the latter and less of the former that I write this particular article. Will the eyes of any major wrestling promotion ever fall upon it? Not likely, but hey—if nothing else, at least it makes for a good exercise in catharsis. Therefore, without any further ado, allow me to draw upon my years of being a fan and, in a ways, student of this oft-misunderstood form of entertainment and share with you all three important points necessary to keep in mind when creating a timeless in-ring pro wrestling persona.

The Ringmaster vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin: Two characters portrayed by WWE legend Steve Williams

The Ringmaster vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin:
Two characters portrayed by WWE legend Steve Williams

Point 1: The wrestler must have it in him or her to portray the persona in question.

This first step should more or less go without saying. After all, if an actor or actress in a movie, television program, or stage performance falls short in portraying the role he or she is supposed to be playing, then his or her performance is bound to suffer. Sure, it never hurts such professionals to broaden their range and learn to adapt themselves to a wider range of genres and/or character archetypes in hopes of providing themselves with a more stable acting career. Even so, not every professional in this field can do so, be it on account of their choice industry’s tendencies to typecast them based on earlier successes or some sort of insufficiency on their own part. Sadly, the same holds true for professional wrestlers, for not every wrestler has the same kind of flexibility that Christopher Daniels had when he played Curry Man in 2008 TNA or that Cody Rhodes had in 2011 WWE with his “Undashing” gimmick or, for that matter, the way Mick Foley or Dustin Rhodes had with any of the characters they’d played over the course of their respective careers. Then again, even when a wrestler does end up playing a persona well, there are instances in which it’s the character that’s holding the wrestler back by not allowing him or her to make the most out of his or her talents as a performer. One such example that readily comes to mind for me in terms of the performer and the character not meshing as well together as they otherwise could have is the Ringmaster, a character that was portrayed in 1995 by none other than the man whom fans refer to today as “The Texas Rattlesnake” and “The Bionic Redneck” (amongst various other nicknames), WWF/WWE legend Stone Cold Steve Austin. To get a glimpse of how Austin operated under this gimmick, please click on the link below to check out his match against Scott Taylor as archived on WWE: The Stone Cold Truth from 2004 from WWE’s very own DVD library.

The Ringmaster vs. Scott Taylor

Now, some of you might be wondering, “What’s wrong with this gimmick, exactly, aside from his [admittedly] dopey name? If nothing else, it at least showed how great of an in-ring technician the guy was as well as how well he could play a cocky heel through his ring work. Not only that, Austin was allowed to do what he did best aside from wrestle, and that is cut a decent promo.” That may be true, but here’s the thing: The Ringmaster character didn’t allow Austin to shine the way he did when he became Stone Cold. After all, as wrestling fans who are keen on their history of the original Extreme Championship Wrestling would remind us, ECW founder Paul Heyman gave Steve the opportunity to demonstrate his mastery of the mic as soon as he stepped into the company in 1995 after having Eric Bischoff fire him from World Championship Wrestling. Still recovering from a triceps injury at the time, Steve was clearly in no condition to wrestle. However, that did nothing to keep him from cutting promo after promo on WCW and particularly Bischoff (Click here for his most famous of them all.), and from that point forward, Steve had already begun to forge his “Stone Cold” Steve Austin persona despite him taking on the name of “Superstar” Steve Austin at the time. It was by feeding upon the anger, resentment, and bitterness that he’d felt concerning his termination from WCW that his promos helped him to explore and present an edgy, no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners side of him that wrestling fans continue to remember fondly to this day. In short, regardless of how well Steve had played the Ringmaster during his rookie year in the WWF, that same character did little to make the most out of his ability to present himself as a true pro wrestling superstar. The Stone Cold character, on the other hand, was a much more natural fit for him.

As Adam "Edge" Copeland himself will tell prospective wrestlers, even if you are given a character to portray by a promotion's bookers, it's ultimately you who brings that character to life and allows it to evolve over time.

As Adam “Edge” Copeland himself will tell prospective wrestlers, even if you are given a character to portray by a promotion’s bookers, it’s ultimately you who brings that character to life and allows it to evolve over time.

“But what if the promoter I’m working for gives me a character to play that I just can’t portray for (Insert reason here.)?” Well, one of the key pieces of advice that any successful wrestler from over the years can tell you is this: Never be afraid to approach your employer and make a suggestion on how to adapt the character so that he/she is easier for you to portray. Such was how WWE Hall of Famer Adam Copeland adapted Edge—a street-roaming loner who later evolved into the “Rated R Superstar”—to be his WWF/WWE character from debut to retirement. The same can be said for how Mick Foley was able to step into undoubtedly his most beloved wrestling persona of all time, Mankind, who was originally going to be named “Mason the Mutilator” and whom Mick has presented in two distinct manners as both a heel and a babyface. In fact, it has often been suggested that the best way a wrestling promoter can promote any performer on his or her roster is to assess the performer’s qualities (wrestling style, wrestling skill, promo skills, acting mannerisms, etc.) and either forge a marketable persona for that talent to portray or take whatever preexisting persona said talent might have and tweak it ever so gingerly to make it presentable to the promoter’s intended audience. It seems as though the WWE has been taking this approach, too, this past year by giving its fans such memorable characters as the Shield, the Wyatt Family, and the Real Americans. Even Fandango, the 2013 incarnation of WWE wrestler Johnny Curtis, and his valet Summer Rae have been given characters that have gotten over with the crowd to some degree, and as of the December of 2013, certain episodes of WWE television have shown Brodus Clay—formerly known in 2012 as the Funkasaurus—returning to his monster heel roots. Unfortunately, there are still some products of WWE’s current (at least as of this article) creative process that have left a sour taste in certain fans’ mouths. On one hand is Xavier Woods as a stereotypical “shuckin’ and jivin’” black babyface rather than as a more intelligent, educated African American character. The same could be said for Wade Barrett’s most recent persona, “Bad News” Barrett, no thanks to the questionable writing that had gone into him for the first month or two of Barrett taking on this persona. Also, many of Drew McIntyre’s fans would love to see him regain the midcard prestige that he once had prior to his fallout with his ex-wife Taryn Terrell and perhaps reach even greater heights within the company. Unfortunately, WWE management has made no open attempt to move him out of the Three Man Band, last time I’ve checked, and it may take them a while to respond to such fans’ requests. Regardless, though the company’s creative direction may not be flawless, they’ve nonetheless shown that they can produce solid, distinct characters for their wrestlers to portray, and only time will tell if such personas will stand the test of time in a fashion similar to the way that characters of earlier eras (i.e., the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling and Attitude eras) have. For further explanation on how the WWE can make the most out of their characters, please check out this video by YouTube wrestling examiner Alex “Dalyxman” Hicks from December 19, 2013.

Hornswoggle vs. Chavo Guerrero: One of the most hated feuds in pro wrestling, not just because of the matches they had, but because of the ever-so-predictable outcome of each of those matches

Hornswoggle vs. Chavo Guerrero:
One of the most hated feuds in pro wrestling, not just because of the matches they had, but because of the ever-so-predictable outcome of each of those matches

Point 2: The persona must have a solid level of depth and development.

To put it simply, if the crowd can’t buy into your persona, then what’s the point in even portraying it? Such is the responsibility of both the performer and the promoter—the performer for being able to play the role at least reasonably well and the promoter for crafting the persona adeptly enough in the first place to take full advantage of the performer’s physical and personal capabilities. With all due honesty, then, this point does indeed draw upon the first point I’ve made. Moreover, however, it enforces the responsibility of the promoter to forge a decent character in the first place for the given talent to portray. After all, nothing can kill the career of a gifted in-ring performer like a gimmick that completely reduces him or her to a glorified comedy act. For example, one of the worst ways to create a wrestling character is to simply slap a gimmick onto a wrestler—especially a gimmick that had been done before in a pre-existing, more successful and beloved wrestling promotion—give said wrestler a bizarre and often pun-based ring name, and say, “Boom! There’s your character.” This process is nothing short of lazy and superficial, for most such gimmicks have only a bare minimum effect on separating the wrestler from the rest of the roster in that most such gimmicks are so transparent that even people who are not wrestling fans can see right through them. Similarly, rarely—if, in fact, ever—do such gimmicks do anything significant in terms of meshing well with their performers’ best traits or otherwise bringing out the best in them. Such is the problem with every wrestling promotion as yet that has followed the same model as Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Yes, GLOW had its time back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when people were so used to seeing wrestlers playing cartoony, over-the-top characters in very vivid and colorful (almost garish) costumes. However, time change, and as they change, so do people’s tastes. As such, though there is still room even today in most wrestling promotions for the occasional goofball personality, people’s attitudes since the Attitude Era have started to gravitate more towards those wrestlers with personas that are more realistic and reflective of certain attitudes and beliefs and away from the more overblown archetypes and stereotypes of years past. Such is part of the reason why David B. McLane’s Women of Wrestling failed to hold the interest of many a wrestling fan back in 2000-01, as I’ve mentioned on June 12, 2012, on this blog. Sure, the characters were, as I’d said then, more like girls’ action comic book heroines and villainesses than the burlesque comedy characters that GLOW had had, but even so, with many of these characters receiving little to no storylines involving them and as such little to no character development over the course of WOW’s initial run (e.g., Boom Boom the Volcano; Caliente; Jane Blonde; and Tanja, Warrior Princess), how easy could it be for people who saw the show to look beyond these personas’ gimmicks and see them as anything more? Even those characters who were involved in prominent angles in WOW (e.g., Terri Gold, Lana Star, Danger, Riot, Patti Pep/Patti Pizzazz, Ice Cold, and even Thug and Selina Majors) failed to attain the whole larger-than-life status that they otherwise could have received, had it not been for just how lazy the booking was for that promotion, thus killing whatever chance they would have otherwise had to develop properly. Don’t even get me started again, either, with Johnny Cafarella’s Wrestlicious from 2010, which more or less copied GLOW’s formula in full and tweaked it to make its own product even sleazier and cheesier than even GLOW’s second through fourth seasons could ever hope to be. Even if there was any character development during that promotion’s existence, the show’s sloppy and poorly booked wrestling and uninspired and outright tacky humor left such a bad taste in the mouths of many a wrestling enthusiast at the time (myself included, for the record) that it failed miserably to shine through, and the characters came off as being little more than empty fetishes that Cafarella and his sidekick Steve Blance had slapped on to their women in order to make them fit in with the theme they were aiming for.

Matt Cimber's Femme D'Action: All I can say is this: Mr. Cimber, please...do NOT make this as bad as Johnny Cafarella had made Wrestlicious.

Matt Cimber’s Femme D’Action:
All I can say is this: Mr. Cimber, please…do NOT make this as bad as Johnny Cafarella had made Wrestlicious.

Luckily, there is a way to help make sure that even the most far-fetched and unconventional personas work in pro wresting, and that is to actually flesh each character out. Basically, what a promoter needs to do here is ask himself the following questions:

“Who is [Wrestling Character X]?”

“Why is he/she in this promotion?”

“How does he/she plan to accomplish his/her goal?”

“What does he/she stand for or against?”

“How does he/she get along with everyone else on the roster?”

“How does he/she get along with the fans?”

The list goes on, but I’m sure you get the point. After all, without a fitting backstory and personality to accompany his or her gimmick, the character is nothing more than an empty shell, and as such, why would any fan want to support such a bland, lifeless fabrication of a persona? Thankfully, from what I’ve seen of former GLOW director Matt Cimber’s 2013-14 project, Femme D’Action, he seems to understand this philosophy and has given readily discernable backstories to each of the characters he has created for his show. Who are they? What are their respective outlooks on life and the world? What are their goals as competitors in this promotion? These are questions that Cimber has apparently asked himself when creating them for his show, especially judging from the auditions he has featured on his website in which various women have competed to take on these roles. Granted, I still have my reservations about the whole project at this moment, seeing as how much GLOW flavor Femme D’Action still has, from the campy and sometimes ill-fitting humor—which Cimber has embellished with a laugh track, of all things, a la Wrestlicious/GLOW—and the ethnically stereotypical nature and pun-based names (e.g., Su Nami and Kim Chi) of many of these characters. Even so, at least like Mr. McLane before him, Cimber has tweaked the original GLOW formula and moved forward with it, which is still a far cry from what Cafarella did back in 2008-2010 with Wrestlicious. Not only that, but I personally find it to be ironic in a way, considering that it has been well recorded that McLane had left Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling back in 1987 after its first season had run its course on account of a disagreement he and Cimber had had concerning the nature of the show. What makes the irony even more palatable, however, is the fact that McLane was the one who wanted an actual wrestling promotion whereas Cimber felt that there was no need to change the whole “action comedy” formula that GLOW had had at the time, seeing as how it was working for them then. All this in mind, then, I hope I’m not all that out of line in cracking wise and saying that one can teach an old dog new tricks after all. Regardless, though I’ll have to actually see Femme D’Action in full before passing final judgment upon it, at least it seems as though Matt Cimber has realized with this new work of his something that Steve Blance and Johnny Cafarella never could: that it takes more than just an empty gimmick to make a captivating and ultimately memorable pro wrestling persona; it’s also what goes into the gimmick—namely, personality and backstory—that matter as well.

Fatima, Kenyata, The Patriot, Tattoo, Ravae, Su Nami, Kim Chi, and Ultra: Eight character concepts for Matt Cimber's Femme D'Action, all of which you can read about on the show's official website

Fatima, Kenyata, The Patriot, Tattoo, Ravae, Su Nami, Kim Chi, and Ultra:
Eight character concepts for Matt Cimber’s Femme D’Action, all of which you can read about on the show’s official website

Of course, as I may have said before on this blog, the best characters in pro wrestling are those that are organic—products of the wrestler’s own imagination that they have fleshed out themselves and can play the most naturally with bare minimum, if any, modifications made to them by the promoter to suit the promotion’s needs. Yes, there have been many characters over the years that have been successful in the pro wrestling business—Undertaker, Mankind, and to a degree, Kane, just to name a few—that, despite being complete fabrications of the promotion’s creative team, have nonetheless become immortalized in pro wrestling history and beloved by the fans who were fortunate enough to see said characters in action, whether they grew up watching those very personas on their TV sets back in the day or even if they simply saw a video posted on the Internet featuring them. However, sometimes the most popular characters in any given wrestling promotion are those that feel the most real—that seem the most likely to exist in real life—that are, in many ways, extensions of the wrestler’s own personality. Arguably, these characters are the ones whom wrestling fans find the easiest to invest time, energy, and money into based on the simple notion that they represent ideals that they themselves can identify with one way or another, such as the rebellious Stone Cold Steve Austin and his violent resentment towards a boss who tries to cheat him out of every opportunity he strives for or the loveable underdog Daniel Bryan who, despite his small size, puts his superior mat skills and ferocious fighting spirit to the test night in, night out to prove that he belongs in the same ring as any muscle-bound giant whom the Authority also has on their payroll. Both of these examples represent aspects of life that people can identify with and say, “Hey, I’ve got to put up with crap like that at work/school, too. You know what? I’m going to root for this guy.” The same can be said for A.J. Lee, a woman whom we’re all supposed to hate because of her arrogance and how she apparently made her way to the top by making out with the right guys in the company, yet we end up loving anyway because she has the guts to distinguish herself from every other woman in the promotion and speak out against something that we ourselves find to be utterly ridiculous the way most IWC fans despise WWE’s Total Divas (Please watch the following promo to see what I’m talking about.). Furthermore, the characters with whom these personas clash are often enough equally relatable to identify as aspects of life that we ourselves find ourselves forced to overcome, such as Vince McMahon as the belligerent, condescending boss who cheats us out of everything we deserve or Randy Orton as the “chosen one” who receives all the awards and merits in the company when even the company’s customer base insists—nay, demands—that we receive those merits instead. Such foils further add to the story we’re watching and, in turn, the personalities we’re expected to root for, further proving how organic characters are the ones that prove most effective for any wrestling show and, in turn, further proving that a wrestler needn’t a ridiculous, overblown gimmick in order to get over with the crowd; he or she simply needs to be himself or herself.

Organic Babyfaces vs. Organic Heels: The kind of feud that wrestling fans have become more and more invested in over the years

Organic Babyfaces vs. Organic Heels:
The kind of feud that wrestling fans have become more and more invested in over the years

Point 3: The character must fill in some sort of niche within the wrestling product within which he or she belongs.

To put it bluntly, it’s impossible for everyone to be a main eventer in any wrestling promotion, whether or not he or she deserves it. Every promotion needs a pecking order of some sort: main eventers, upper to lower midcarders, undercard players, and scrubs/jobbers. There thus has to be a niche for every wrestler and, in turn, a niche for every character. On a similar note, a promotion’s got to have a little bit of something for everyone: noble do-gooder babyfaces, monsters who win their matches by flat-out obliterating the competition, loveable but luckless underdogs, dastardly heels who triumph over the forces of good with underhanded tactics, and yes, even the occasional comic relief character. What matters, therefore, with all this in mind, is whether or not a promoter can answer the following question: “Where does this wrestler with this character belong on my roster?”

Mick Foley as Mankind: One of the few comedic characters in pro wrestling history ever to be openly accepted as a main event player, thanks to the serious side that the performer put on display while portraying him

Mick Foley as Mankind:
One of the few comedic characters in pro wrestling history ever to be openly accepted as a main event player, thanks to the serious side that the performer put on display while portraying him

One common rule of thumb is to keep comedic characters out of the main event and relegate them instead to the midcard at the very most. Granted, there are exceptions to the rule, specifically if said comedy character has a serious side that the wrestler portraying him or her can play up. Such is the case with Mankind—a character that was initially introduced as a disturbed, self-mutilating creature of mayhem who eventually came to develop a softer, more benevolent side once he turned babyface and—though still a bit deranged in his own way—nevertheless developed an offbeat sense of humor (i.e., using a sock named “Mr. Socko” as opposed to his original two-finger glove when applying his signature Mandible Claw) that not only distinguished him from the other wrestlers in the WWF at the time, but also resonated a lot with the fans. Even then, however, it still took careful booking and Mick Foley’s brilliant portrayal of the Mankind persona (i.e., the following promo) to ensure his credibility as a top player in the company and make for certain that he would receive the huge pop that he did on the evening of January 4, 1999, when he won his first ever WWF Championship from The Rock in the main event of Raw Is War. Otherwise, would Mankind have been as over as he was with the crowd had it not been for the development that went into him on both Foley’s behalf and the behalf of the WWF booking committee at the time? Would other comic characters within the WWF during the day (e.g., the Godfather, the Headbangers, or any of the Oddities) have been as believable in that same role as Mankind was? Not likely, according to most wrestling fans. After all, unless you’re running a promotion like Nickelodeon’s W.A.C.K. from 2006 or the Studio Kaiju production Kaiju Big Battel (misspelling of the word “Battle” being intentional)—both of which are aimed towards a specific audience (i.e., W.A.C.K. towards young kids and KBB towards fans of superhero comic books and Japanese pop culture)—chances are that you’re trying to present your product as a more serious and at least semi-realistic product. In such a promotion as this, where the goal of the promoter is to provide the illusion that whatever competition is going on in the ring as being real, chances are that said promoter isn’t going to bill someone with a comedic gimmick as a main eventer in the first place, much less award the wrestler portraying that persona as the possessor of the company’s top championship—midcard championship, perhaps, but that’s about it. Therefore, one shouldn’t expect to see the likes of any character in the same vein as Doink the Clown (babyface incarnation, leastways), the Repo Man, Terry Taylor as the Red Rooster, Kerwin White, Eugene, Simon Dean, or Hornswoggle being the center of attention for such a product.

Awesome Kong and Alpha Female: Two big, powerful, skillful women who could very well coexist in the same wrestling federation, so long as their characters weren't identical

Awesome Kong and Alpha Female:
Two big, powerful, skillful women who could very well coexist in the same wrestling federation, so long as their characters weren’t identical

Another thing to keep in mind is that pro wrestling characters are best presented in a snowflake fashion, meaning that—to paraphrase the old cliché—no two should be identical. In other words, if you’re running a wrestling promotion that has two big, powerful, dominating women on the roster—say, for example, Awesome Kong and the Alpha Female—what is the one definitive trait that sets these two women apart? I’m not talking something as minor as skin color, either; rather, I’m talking about something deeper and more intrinsic. Obviously, it’s be a little absurd to have both of these women as heels, seeing as having two monstrous, bone-crushing “she-beasts” (for lack of a more flattering term) would only tilt the balance of literal power to favor the heels in the company. That in mind, it would only make sense to feature one of these women as a babyface, particularly in the instance that one of these two women has any amount of seniority in the company over the other. In this instance, the promoter can book one of the women—Awesome Kong, for instance—as an unstoppable force of nature for a long while, smashing the competition match after match until she finds her reign of terror brought to a screeching halt by one of the other women on the roster, who picks up a clean upset victory over her in their match against one another for the championship. Then, you can feature Kong trying to attain revenge against this other woman—be she Nikki Roxx, Gail Kim, Cheerleader Melissa/Alyssa Flash, Natalya Neidhart, or anyone else like these women—and end up losing time and again simply because this other woman just has her number. You can even have her pick up her one definitive victory over this adversary of hers to end their rivalry once and for all and even win back the championship she’d lost to her initially. Then, later on down the line, you can introduce the other dominant woman—the Alpha Female, in our example—and have her simply destroy every single woman who dares to step into the ring with her, including Kong’s old rival, which thus catches Kong’s attention and stirs up within her bad memories of the feud she’d had with that third woman and how hard it’d been for her to finally defeat her simply because “Rival X” was that much of a thorn in her side. From there, you can allow the contention between Kong and the Alpha Female fly as the two contend against one another bout after bout, making each fight a contest of skill, will, cunning, fortitude, and even morals and ideals, using promo packages along the way as well to further heighten the animosity between these two women until their final match. During this time, the fans should be able to see for themselves each woman develop her own distinct persona from her opponent, and not only in terms of personality, either, but also—at least quite possibly—in terms of wrestling style as well, especially with one woman being the definite heel in the program and the other being the definite face. On one hand, one of these women could put her technical skills on display as she tries to whittle her adversary’s strength down to nothing with weardown and submission holds while the other can rely more on sheer strength and hard-hitting brawling tactics to try and maintain the upper hand against the first gal. Finally, after that last match when the dust clears and one of these two queens of devastation raises her arms in triumph, the fans will finally know who the ultimate destructive force amongst all the women in the company, and from there, the bookers can find a way to further distinguish one woman as a babyface and the other as a heel throughout the course of each woman’s tenure with the company. Granted, this is a rather crude way to feature two very similar wrestlers and demonstrate how they can create their own divergent in-ring personas, but hopefully, it illustrates my point on how differentiation can benefit two very similar wrestlers who just happen to be in the same company.

Bret "The Hitman" Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, and The Best There Ever Will Be...both as a wrestler and as a pro wrestling persona

Bret “The Hitman” Hart:
The Best There Is, The Best There Was, and The Best There Ever Will Be…both as a wrestler and as a pro wrestling persona

Lastly, there is one thing to keep in mind when it comes to making a niche for certain characters in a pro wrestling product, and that is when it comes to assigning a given persona’s alignment. Here’s the reason why this aspect is important: Wrestlers end up changing alignment from face to heel (or vice versa) and back again quite frequently—sometimes more frequently than necessary, but that’s a matter of opinion that can be discussed some other time. In fact, some of the greatest wrestlers of all time from Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant to Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock to Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, and Randy Orton have been both heel and face throughout the course of their careers, and though one can argue that this wrestler or that was or is better as one of the two alignments than the other, the fact of the matter remains that alignment shifts—for right or wrong—still happen. Therefore, when it comes to a given wrestler’s in-ring persona, the question remains as to how said persona behaves when as a face and when as a heel. Take the character of Bret “The Hitman” Hart, for example—a proud mat technician from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and a member of one of the most time-honored pro wrestling dynasties of all time, the Hart family. For the most part, the Hitman character is remembered as a man of honor who takes pride in his craft and is always out to prove that he’s “The Best There Is, The Best There Was, and The Best There Ever Will Be.” However, there was a time prior to that when he and his brother-in-law Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart were tag-teaming together as the original Hart Foundation with “The Mouth from the South” Jimmy Hart as their manager. During this time, they proved to be one of the most dangerous and despicable tag teams in all of the WWF. Sure, they were great wrestlers who had fantastic teamwork, but it wasn’t just their skill that made them such a memorable heel tag team; they had their fair share of dirty tricks up their sleeve as well, including the aid of Jimmy Hart and his trusty bullhorn—aid that, unfortunately, would turn around and bite them in the seat of their pink-and-black tights when the two became a babyface tag team and ended up losing their WWF Tag Team Championship to Jimmy’s charges at the time, the Nasty Boys. During their heel run, however, Bret’s cool, clam, calculating demeanor played off nicely with Jim’s often wild and manic mannerisms to illustrate a clever contrast between their two personalities that was as great as the contrast between their two individual wrestling styles. This further illustrated not only who they were as a tag team, but also who they were as members of that tag team, and by illustrating who he was as a member of the Hart Foundation, Bret later found his identity as a singles wrestler—a master of the mat whose relatively small size made him stand out from the giants before him and the man-mountains he often faced inside the ring, from Diesel to Psycho Sid to the Undertaker. There was one more heel run for Bret in the WWF, however, prior to the initiation of the WWF/WWE’s Attitude Era when the Hitman’s pride turned into disdain towards the American people and he became the self-righteous, condescending leader of the pro-Canadian, anti-American Hart Foundation. It was at this time that he faced two of the greatest foils he’d ever had in the WWF and, quite possibly, his entire wrestling career. On one hand was Mr. “Oh Hell Yeah” himself, the foul-mouthed, finger-flipping rebel named Stone Cold Steve Austin, formerly a heel himself and the instrument of this very heel turn of Bret’s when the two of them switched alignments at Wrestlemania XIII in a legendary submission match. On the other hand was another less-than-wholesome character, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, the leader of the original D-Generation X—a stable that immortalized itself by disrespecting wrestling tradition, chopping their crotches in the face of authority, and telling their detractors to “S*ck it!” any which way they could. Without a doubt, one can easily see how two such nemeses could get under the skin of a man who fought for what was wholesome, honorable, and right in the world and make him snap, turning him into such a jaded, bitter shell of his former self as the industry he knew began to change into something that he loathed and failed to recognize.

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To wrap things up, ladies and gentlemen, developing one’s persona in professional wrestling is every bit as important as—if you’ll pardon yet another cliché—knowing the difference between a wristlock and a wristwatch. Yes, match quality is an important element to keep in mind when putting together the ultimate wrestling show, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of the business. After all, this is sports-theater we’re talking about rather than a full-fledged sport, and while the athletic competition of a solid wrestling match may be enough to reel in an audience, it’ll be the characters inside the ring who’ll be giving the audience to come on back for more—compelling, memorable, intelligently booked characters who will forever live on in pro wrestling history for inspiring future generations to partake in this unique industry. Such is the lesson that not only wrestlers need to learn, but also promoters, and should this lesson be applied not only in the WWE but in any other wrestling promotion, be it in mainstream culture or in the independent scene, then who knows? Maybe this business—which has been in a slump since the spring of 2001—will at long last achieve the greatness it once had. In the meantime, wrestling fans shouldn’t give up hope, for while character development may not be the only problem wrong in pro wrestling today, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to look into it.

RIP Johnnie Mae Young (March 3, 1923 to January 14, 2014):
Thank you for the memories, Mae. You will never be forgotten.

Thank you all for your time, and before I sign off, I’d like to take this moment to express my condolences to the friends and family of women’s wrestling pioneer and Professional Wrestling Hall of Famer and WWE Hall of Famer Mae Young, who had passed away yesterday on account of an illness that has yet to be disclosed to the general public. Having started her wrestling career in the 1940s, Mae has been recorded as being the first ever NWA Florida Women’s Champion and United States Women’s Champion as well as the trainer of her own best friend and fellow women’s wrestling legend, The Fabulous Moolah. Even in her later years, Mae continued to demonstrate a longevity in the pro wrestling industry that remains unmatched by any other woman in the history of the business, and without a doubt, I myself—along with many other wrestling fans around the world—will miss her.

Thank you for all your contributions, Ms. Young. You will not be forgotten.

In the meantime, if the initial topic of this article has interested you, feel free to visit the following videos for further information.

Top 10 Wrestling Characters that Could Have Worked by NYG4LIFE123

WWE Character Gimmicks that Attract a Wrestling Fan by TheWrestlingGurus

Aside from that, though, until we meet again, take care, everyone, and thanks again for stopping by.

Regards,
Dustin M. Weber

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Author Pages: Smashwords.com

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                          Amazon.co.uk

PS: All credit for the photographs used in this blog entry go to the following sources:

Hulk Hogan: Blogs.VillageVoice.com

Andre the Giant: OnlineWorldofWrestling.com

Ultimate Warrior: TravisSttoetzel.com

Stone Cold Steve Austin: MemeCrunch.com, wrestling-match.com

The Undertaker: WayneWilkins.hubpages.com

The Rock: NotIntheHallofFame.com

Beaver Cleavage: Custom Beaver Cleavage Titantron by NotRicoRidriguez

Simon Dean: en.wikipedia.org

The Zombie (ECW 2006), Johnny B. Badd: Wrestlingforum.com

Mantaur: Blip.tv

Gobbledy Gooker: Catch-AmericanWifeo.com

WWE’s Ringmaster: ECWFrenchTribute.free.fr

Edge: AllWrestlingSuperstars.com, WallSave.com/Unchained-WWE.com

Hornswoggle vs. Chavo Guerrero: Metacafe.com

Femme D’Action Title Card and Character Concepts: FemmeDAction.com

Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon: BleacherReport.com

Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton: WrestleEnigma.com

Mankind as WWF Champion: WWEOutsider.Tumblr.com

Awesome Kong: WrestlingLove.com

Alpha Female: RingBellesOnline.com

Bret “The Hitman” Hart: HWWPapers.com

Mae Young (RIP): UGO.com

All opinions expressed in this article, however, are the author’s own.