Saturday, April 14, 2018

What WrestleRama Means To Me

What WrestleRama Means to Me

By "Cannonball" Alex Steele

The biggest show of the year.  The Granddaddy of them All. Our Super Bowl, Our Stanley Cup; each of these phrases denotes the centerpiece event, date, or otherwise centrally focused object of a company, a sports team, and, in today’s case, wrestling promotions.

Professional wrestling (or, as it’s called these days, “sports entertainment” (a term I personally detest but ultimately recognize as the proper term)) has been an art form that is now, and has always been, near and dear to my heart.  I didn’t grow up in the 80s with the rest of the Hulkamaniacs, I didn’t grow up with the birth and early days of Monday Night Raw, and I didn’t grow up with the the millions (AND MILLIONS!) of the Rock’s fans in the late 90s; my first experiences in the world of pro wrestling took place in the 2000s, at the very tail end of the Monday Night Wars and the Attitude Era.  And the one era that I was able to take to heart and truly admire and adore was the Ruthless Aggression Era...the Era where one John Cena dared to answer the challenge of a newly bald Kurt Angle on SmackDown. The Era where Chris Benoit (may God damn his soul) won the World Heavyweight Championship and took part in my still-to-this-day-all-time-favorite moment when he embraced his great friend, Eddie Guerrero (may God bless and rest his soul).  The Era where I fully believed that hard work would eventually pay off. The Era where the matches were far more competitive and more sport-like than the Crash TV, puppies and garbage wrestling, Springer-esque content of the Attitude Era.

So, yeah, I’m a Ruthless Aggression fan.  It’s what I grew up with; deal with it.

One thing I did have in common with my older peers that grew up in the 80s and 90s, however, was that WrestleMania was THE biggest show of the year, hands down.  Sure, there was Starrcade, but the WWF had most of my attention. I didn’t even know WCW truly existed until right before it went out of business (and then I read the great book “The Death of WCW” by Bryan Alvarez and R.D. Reynolds to get caught up on what I’d missed).  WrestleMania XX had my favorite line of all time:

“Where it all begins.  Again.”

Now, I know you’re looking at the title of this essay and you’re thinking “waitaminute, buddy, ya spelled WrestleMania wrong, ya jerk!”  And my response is “hey, pipe down, grasshopper.”

Because WWE has WrestleMania.  WCW had Starrcade. ECW had Barely Legal.  TNA/Impact Wrestling has Bound for Glory. ROH has Final Battle.  New Japan has the Tokyo Dome show on January 4.

The Michigan Wrestling Organization has WrestleRama.

For those of you not in the know (most likely ALL of you), the Michigan Wrestling Organization is a local promotion based out of Southeast Michigan, serving the Flint, Fenton, and Burton areas for over 20 years.  We’ve also had shows out in Battle Creek and the suburban Detroit area. It is a promotion that is very near and dear to my heart, and not just because it is one of only two promotions with which I currently participate in the art and the sport of pro wrestling.  This promotion runs things very differently than other indie feds in the area, (dare I say, even the country); in the MWO, we are one big family.

Like any family, we have disagreements and drama every once in a while.  But for every one of those moments, there are tons more moments where everyone is on the same page, and everyone has the same goal in mind: put on a PPV quality show.  And WrestleRama is our biggest show of the year, where storylines culminate, new stars are made, and existing stars are transitioned to legendary status.

Whether it was the Blue Bomber (no, he didn’t have a Mega Buster on his arm) winning the MWO Heavyweight Championship and then unmasking to reveal Pure Fury Jeff Clouse, or Skullz returned to answer the challenge of the monster known as Blackwell, or guys like “The Flatliner” Scotty Fraytown and “Old School” Ric Caurdiea tearing the house down with a match for the ages, the fact remains that WrestleRama has more than its fair share of (kayfabe) drama and action to captivate fans of all ages and all types.

Every year, when WrestleRama season approaches, I get excited.  The anticipation is palpable. I get excited for my comrades as they get to live out stories they’ve planned out for months and months.  I get excited for the fans that know -- ABSOLUTELY know -- they’re getting the best show of the year.

As of this writing, WrestleMania has come and gone, and many have gone on to say it was one of the best Manias in recent history (and scores of other indie nerds have taken the company to task for its perplexing booking).  Go ahead and relive it on the WWE Network, or take time to indulge in its rich history via the WWE Network or tapes you have lying around at home.

On Sunday, April 22, 2018, at the Richfield Road Church in Flint, MI, the men and women of the Michigan Wrestling Organization will be putting in the work to make OUR show the best damn show it can possibly be.  And if you’re in the area, come check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here, dreaming my dreams and planning for my WrestleRama moment, whatever it may be, in hopes that, one day, it will come.  And I hope that, when it does, it will be because I earned it.

Here are some links in case you’re interested:

2018 State of the Union Cliff Notes

Every start of the year, the President of the United States meets with both houses of Congress to discuss where we’ve been as a country, and where we’re going as a country.  This, of course, is the State of the Union address. This year, I wanted to simply watch the speech and write down my thoughts as it happened. And so, presented to you in the bullet points below, are my cliff notes, taken down LIVE as Trump spoke to both houses.  (It was fairly simple to keep up in between the massive amounts of clapping after almost EVERY PAUSE; historically, a recurring annoyance during this speech.)

One of the first people I see walking in tonight is former WWE CEO Linda McMahon.  Let’s hope she doesn’t break a hip (or a castor) getting to her seat.

Mostly curious to hear about Trump’s comments on immigration, the economy, and what’s on the horizon.

Who can forget the time he shaved Mr. McMahon bald in Detroit at WrestleMania 23?  I was live to witness the proceedings.

Trump not getting as much applause as Obama; Congress is split so far down the middle on the DACA issue (and many others, quite frankly) that it’s like the Grand Canyon

Taking bets on whether or not the word “shithole” comes up during tonight’s speech

The coif is looking good tonight; props on the makeup department

It always amazes me how these guys in Congress clap so damn much when, deep down, we all know at least one of them wants to do a run-in with a steel chair.

Wearing black to show unity for victims of sexual assault; my stomach just churned.

Paul Ryan starts to say “prevented”, but then corrects himself; gonna chalk that up as a goof, nothing more.  Y’all take that for what it’s worth.

Swift action already taken during the first months of the Administration; can’t argue with him there

Stand and applause; duck-face

Mentions of Hurricane Harvey, the Las Vegas Shooting; veteran in the house tonight, one of the first responders during Harvey

Firefighter David Dolberg gets a shoutout for his efforts fighting the California wildfires

Now, what are you boneheads gonna do to make sure first responders like Ashley and David continue to get paid?

Congressman Steve Scullius from Louisiana took a bullet and came back to work 3 months later; I would’ve filed for workman’s comp

“I think they like you, Steve.”  Trump’s attempt at a quick joke. No problem here

Trump seeking Dems and Reps to come together not only in times of tragedy, but here and now...good luck.

Nancy Pelosi stone-faced and not clapping at all.  Good to know where her loyalties lie.

The State of our Union is strong because our people are maybe THEY should start running things

2.4 million new jobs created (OK, what kinds of jobs, and where?)

200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone (again, where?)

Rising wages after years as stagnation

Unemployment claims have hit a 45 year low

Black unemployment is the lowest ever recorded

Mexican unemployment have also reached the lowest levels in history

So what about all the homeless people?

Small business confidence is as high as ever (and I wonder how Linda McMahon is involved?)

Propping himself for the big tax reform bill passed before the start of the year...gotta admit, I’m kinda stunned they did WHY can’t they figure out immigration?!

Standard deduction doubled for everyone

$24,000 earned by a married couple is tax-free

Doubled child tax credit

$2000 less for $75K yearly salary cuts tax bill in half……..maybe I’m not that good at math, but I can’t see it

Individual mandate for health insurance gone from Obamacare

Bernie Sanders is also stone-faced; somehow, Socialism still seems to be the answer

$4000 increase a year is pretty good if you want something to hold your dick with...I’ll have to do some research

Must be hard being the only black man within a 2 mile radius; he seems unfazed

$350 billion to be invested by Apple in America, and more workers to be hired

More duck face

Exxon Mobil $50 billion investment; maybe to finish cleaning off the Alaska coastline?

If you work hard, and believe in yourself, you can dream anything, and be anything…...lot of people have said that over the years, but many people still work hard for nothing

We all share the same American flag….you mean the one that some people try to burn in front of veterans in this country?

Faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of America...I beg to differ

Shout out to police and veterans, who deserve our support….SO PUT THE AMVETS AD IN THE SUPER BOWL!

Preston Sharp noticed veterans graves were not adorned with American flags…..I didn’t know that was supposed to be standard protocol.  Who was sleeping at the wheel?

He’s sitting RIGHT NEXT to Meliana….nope, not gonna make that joke

Stand for the National Anthem; shots fired on the NFL and the protesters

HALF of Congress remained seated during that wide pan….holy shit

And ANOTHER wide pan with a 50/50 stand/sit ratio

OK, there’s more clapping going on than I care for at this point; it’s starting to get old

1,500 people lost their jobs for being shitty to our veterans, gonna hire better ones; that’s pretty scary; so, what does it mean to fail, exactly?

Remove Federal employees that undermine trust…...Maybe they’re getting behind removing Trump?

Regulation rollback…...the last time that happened, Bush Jr. and friends put the economy in the shitter

There was a war on American energy and coal?  Must have missed the memo

Chrysler is moving back to Michigan, and Toyota and Mazda are opening plants in Alabama… there will be opportunities abound to steal resources for Alabama’s many trailers

Bets on whose knees blow out first by standing and sitting so much, being taken now!

Terminally ill people need access to experimental treatments immediately; OK, but how are you gonna do it?

Reduce the price of prescription drugs; gooooood luck with that shit, holmes

Stabenow stands up; guess Dems want to lower drug prices, too!  (HAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHA)

Carmella apparently knocked out the ref when trying to cash in her WMITB contract; somehow, this is more important than what’s happening in real life (it’s certainly more interesting, admittedly)

At least Sanders seems to agree with Trump’s desire to get people out of poverty; he just wants to share wealth with everyone

Open vocational schools!

Support paid family leave...don’t they already do this with FMLA?

Now we get to the good shit...immigration; let’s see where this goes

Families of slain girls, murdered by illegals, are here tonight

MS13 gang called out by name

Full house stands for the victims; all right, all right, but what will Dems response be in regards to DACA?

320 million hearts are breaking; last I checked, we had a hell of a lot more people in America

Trump claims his new legislation will ensure this will never happen again……..I highly doubt it.

I want our American kids to grow up and do great things… get them damn Mexicans out of our country!

Americans are Dreamers, too!  SHOTS FIRED!

Thousands of MS13 gang members have either been deported……..or are being fed 3 square meals in our fabulous prisons.

Trump urging Congress to send CJ reinforcements;

4 pillars: path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegals brought to America as children to become citizens over a 12 year period

Fully secures the border (gonna build the wall?  And get the Mexicans to pay for it?)

Close loopholes, and ends program of catch and release (horrible, dangerous practice)

Ends the Visa lottery; not too many people happy about that

Merit-based immigration system; skilled, who want to work, and contribute to society

End chain-migration; a single immigrant can bring in distant relatives (boos and hisses); focus on immediate family (spouses and minor children)

Get the job done!  And more duck face

Much tougher on drug-dealers and pushers to curb the opioid epidemic (does that mean the crooked doctors, too?!)

End dangerous defense sequester; otherwise known as keeping the government open

ISIS on its heels; apparently he, too, disagreed with the Ted Cruz approach, and thank God for that

Justin Peck is a goddamn hero; let’s hope he don’t have any skeletons in the closet!

Terrorists are UNLAWFUL ENEMY COMBATANTS.  Don’t quite remember Obama making that claim

He’s keeping Guantanamo Bay open; not sure what to think about that, since Obama wanted it closed

We no longer tell our enemies our plans….so that shit was happening before?!

Jerusalem is recognized as the capital of Israel;

Tough sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela

And now we’re on to North Korea;

Story about that one dumbass that got arrested in North Korea; I don’t feel sorry for Otto; he should have known that those people don’t fuck around

Story of the North Korean defector; you know he’s shitting his pants knowing Kim Jong Un is watching and plotting his revenge

Light up the entire world?  I wouldn’t have used that phrase…..

USA chants breaking out!  But some dude walked out…...communist

Overall, I think he did a good job; surprising to hear he has one of the lowest approval ratings of any President in his first year; I wonder who’s to blame for that?

No mention of the Russia investigation or the Memo; he’s supposed to release the Memo as soon as his speech is done.

Let’s just keep following his Twitter...THERE’S the real source of truth!  *eye roll*

Friday, September 21, 2012

Subject 23, lone wolf

It's September, and summer is beginning to give way to fall.  The leaves will soon be changing colors in that romantic, brisk way they do, and while we're busy admiring them, Old Man Winter will plot his latest snow-filled attack on the midwest.  And, another great thing about the fall: it's the precursor to the period of time between Black Friday and Christmas Day, also known as "The Mad Dash to Christmas".  And what's the best part about this time of year?  The crop of new releases from our friends at Activision, Ubisoft, the guys doing Halo this year (I'd say Bungie, but they opted out), as well as many others that are either on the way or, in the case of Borderlands 2, already out for our gaming pleasure.  Yes, ain't no time of the season for gamers than Christmas.  Yes, we have to deal with the snow and the traffic and the beyond cold weather, but for most of us, it's worth it.  So why, then, is this newest tome entitled "Subject 23, lone wolf"?

Well, kids, I'm thinking of continuing on the short story of our anonymous modern Assassin friend from the last blog post in honor of the imminent release of Assassin's Creed 3, and believe you me, I'm uber excited about how the story will finally come to its conclusion (and shanking/chopping/hanging Tories in the process, all while moving at the speed of "by Jove, we're buggered!").  My one complaint that I forsee coming from this game, and it may be different for some of you, but I really, REALLY hope that the story focuses more on the Assassins and their struggle against the Templars rather than it being one big tribute to 'MURICA!  FUCK YEAH! and all that shit.  I'd have to imagine that even some of our ancestors that settled in Virginia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania were indeed working for the Templars, though historically they were based off of empires from the past, and the British Empire was one such empire.  Still, the graphics are simply amazing, and I really see myself just hanging out in the woods hunting deer, bears, and the occassional redcoat foolish enough to want to write his name in the snow all by his lonesome.

Anyway, I digress.  Subject 23 has assassinated his latest target, but it looks to have been a setup, as he was caught on candid camera (though he wasn't asked to smile first), and now he's on the run under the paranoid assumption that his former bosses are now out to get him, as well as his Templar enemies.  Of course, the whole thing could just be one big misunderstanding because some jamoke didn't do a thorough enough job of scoping out the place...or is it?

The blood's still fresh on my blade.  Most of it washed off in the pouring rain, though all Abstergo really needs at this point is one drop so they can put it under a microscope.  They'll be able to get everything: DNA, metal particles...they'll even be able to whittle it down to which blade pulled off the attack.  Science can tell these people so many things, but what about the knowledge that could potentially end disease, stop hunger, and even curb poverty?  Nope, that kind of stuff doesn't fly with them.  They're about domination, about control, about herding dissention and living in a perfect world where there are no problems.  What no one bothers to clue everyone in on is that it's a perfect world with no problems because nobody's complaining about anything.  Not if they don't want to catch a baton to the head, or worse, a bullet to the heart.

That's what we're here for.  Or, at least, that's what I thought we were here for.  The Assassins were supposed to wipe out the scumbags and give the world back to the little guy, all while being completely anonymous and working in the shadows, just like the Templars do.  The worst thing about it is that the people, as an entire entity, are one big group of sheep, literal sheep, and the only thing that determines the fate of the world is who gets to herd them.  That's why I, from time to time, have come to question our movement.  Is it even really worth it in the end?  Do the people honestly know what's good for them other than not starving and not getting their heads beaten in for something they believe in?  Is it even such a thing as "belief"?  For the longest time, I've suppressed these questions in the wake of my undying loyalty to the cause, and to the Assassins.  Now I'm starting to think I've been set up, and now everything is coming back to me in one horrible flood.

I've ditched my clothes and my equipment, leaving them with some homeless guy in the sewer.  He kind of looks like me, and he's too sleepy to really understand why he has the stuff on, but the idea I want to give to my captors is that I've been killed.  Of course, they figure out he's just a smelly drunk with atrocious breath, Abstergo's gonna know they've been had.  I don't have that much time, just enough time to fall off the grid and watch the shitstorm brew from afar.

I've also dressed myself to look like one of the commoners.  No hooded sweatshirt for me, no distinctive traits to speak of.  Desmond Miles may be able to get away with that ensemble, but then again, he's under high protection alert, as well he should.  Word around the grapevine has told of a scenario that he was under a coma for the longest time after somehow finding Ezio Auditore's apple, but now he's awake, and apparently, he knows what needs to be done.  All well and good, but is it really going to stop the apocalypse?  Surely Abstergo will find more ways to undermine the public?

Whatever, that's his problem, I have mine.  Right now I just need to get the hell out of here.  Chicago is crawling with cops and double-agents.  It's a pretty crazy time to be an Assassin way out here.  I've reached in my pocket to grab the only things I really can use to purchase transportation: fake credit cards.  This might have worked if it was 1996, but this is 2012, and things are a little more advanced now.  Abstergo in particular can spot a fake before it's even used.  Thankfully, the guy working the booth is just too drained to follow protocol.  I grab my tickets and hop on the train.

For the moment, I'm safe.  For the moment, all I am is just some traveler trying to get out to the countryside for some fresh air.  At least, until the compartment door opens and someone decides to join me.  He locks the door behind him before I've even turned my head.  And now I'm looking at someone very familiar.  Someone who's had my back in the past, but I'm not sure if he's working for the Assassins or just trying to reach out.

"Hugh Jackman?  Really?" he says indignantly, referring to the fake name on the credit card used to purchase my tickets.  "Dude, anyone could see that was a fake card, let alone Abstergo."

"I left my good cards in my other pants, OK?  What am I supposed to do?" I fire back with a bit of a smile on my face.  Well, at least he's busting my chops.  Derek Finnigan.  That's his name.  Works primarily out of the field, but he's been with the St. Louis and Dallas compounds.  He's a freelancer like me, except I'm the one that decided to adopt a number instead of a name.  He's the only guy that knows my real name.

"Spence," he says, "They're looking for you.  Everyone, not just Abstergo.  I mean, I personally think it's fishy, otherwise I'd cuff you right now."  So he thinks it's bullshit, too.  Can't be too sure, though, not in this scenario.

"What's to say you don't have cuffs on you right now, Derek?  For all I know, you could be wired."

His hard, accusatory stare tells me otherwise.  It's easy to tell what he's thinking, but only if you're in my shoes.  I relax a little bit, but he lets me have it anyway.  "And here I thought Nevada meant something to you."  It stings, but I've gotten over it.  He saved my life in Nevada.  A hit went horribly wrong, and he saved my skin, both on the field and back at HQ when the provider of the contract proceeded to tear me a new asshole.  So yeah, in the present moment, I felt like an ass.  Water under the bridge, now.

"It still does.  Sorry, just can't trust anyone these days.  Why me, though?"

Derek shook his head, indicating he really had no answer to that question.  He pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to me.  A manilla envelope.  "You've been reassigned.  Came direct from Miles."

I look at it, intrigued already.  "Damn, so Subject 17's got a hand in this?" I ask jokingly.

Derek's stare goes even harder.  "Not Desmond.  William.  Doesn't get higher than that."

I stare at Derek, dumbfounded.  What in the blue hell does William Miles want with me?  How does he even know I'm still on the grid?  Did I even fall off?  Before I have time to ask questions, Derek answers some of it for me.  "You might want to charter a flight at the next stop.  It's urgent.  And Spence?" he says.  "Use a different name.  Seriously.  You cannot be followed.  Even by our own men."  And then he slips out of the compartment as if he never stopped in.

William Miles, of all people, is assigning me for a job.  I read the dossier, and although I pick up all the important details, I ignore the rest of it.  It's about the job, nothing more and nothing less.  That's what I keep trying to tell myself.  Old feelings start to rise to the surface, and I shove them down, but they're still there, even after everything I've been through.  It's just the way the bastard worded things in that damn letter.

"Be careful out there."

He's always said that.  Somehow I don't listen, either out of rebellion or just because I didn't give a damn.  He hasn't contacted me in over 5 years, and now I'm one of his go-to guys all of a sudden.  Well,  I'll do it.  It's my duty, and I'm not going to shy away from it.  I'm pretty sure you out there can figure out where this is going.

My name is Spencer Miles, and this is my story.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What I might want to write into a story someday

Hey, guys, Condor here again!  I haven't written anything in a few days because my creative muse has been on a bit of a hiatus as of late.  I think the Raw 1000 Review took more out of the tank than expected.  Still, I do want to keep writing blogs, if only to entertain myself (and hopefully whoever reads this religiously, God help you (see what I did there?  Yeah, me neither)).  Self depreciating humor aside, one of the hobbies that I enjoy besides video games is writing.  I have done this mysterious thing called "RP", short for "role-play"ing, on various forum-based websites for the past two years, and the subject matter has been one of three things: Harry Potter after the book series concludes; vampires, werewolves and other supernatural entities in human form; and, in one instance, an extension of the movie "The Breakfast Club".

Granted, these days on the interwebz, anything and everything has some sort of following, and lord knows there are RP sites for just about anything one's heart desires.  The group that I am a part of seems primarily to hover around Harry Potter, which was admittedly a phenomenal book series.  The movies?  I haven't seen any but one, and that was the first one.  I also enjoy the notion of weilding some sort of power beyond my own as a human being, as we all do from time to time, I'm sure.  So why is this blog entitled the way it is?  Well, I needed an idea for a new blog post, and I wanted to get creative with it, so without any further delays, this is something I might want to write in a story one day...

Our kind has been hunted since ancient times, simply because our enemies do not understand the world like we do.  We know that the world is an illusion, a figment of the imagination, that nothing is true, but everything is permitted.  The Word of Man has always been twisted to benefit the few and oppress the many.  Great works have been written, the means behind those works, or the agendas of the men that wrote them, lost to history and time.  But not to us.  Not the Assassins.

The year is 2012, and things look pretty bleak for us.  Most of us are in hiding, trying to stay out of the watchful and ever-present gaze of Abstergo and their Templar minions.  Some of us have already been exterminated, as in the case with the Denver compound.  However, in Italy, subject seventeen, Desmond Miles, was able to escape Abstergo's confines after they found out what they wanted from him.  He was penned in for execution, but Lucy Stillman had other ideas.  She and the other Assassins in her unit trained Desmond to hone his abilities via The Bleeding Effect, though the gruesome side effects of that transition have more and more been taking their toll.

I should know.  I'm one of the worst cases.

There are times when I do not believe that I am human, that I am a supernatural entity being held together by a force I neither understand nor care to.  The personalities of my ancestors shift within me seemingly every hour, and during intense periods of stress, I become schizophrenic, expressing ideas and battle plans and interrogation tactics from several different identities over several different periods of time within minutes of each other.  Hell, we're all schizos, because our jobs force us to to.  At least that's what I believe.

At this point, my name is irrelevant.  I gave myself the codename Subject 23 because that's what it feels like being an anonymous Assassin.  Plus I just have a fascination with the number.  It's all over relligious texts and premonitions.  I'm a lone wolf.  I do not operate out of a unit of Assassins.  I still receive my orders from the higher-ups, but usually it's because I'm in and out of other people's bases.  Even my fellow Assassins that I congregate with do not fully know me or understand me, but rather than resent it or even vilify it, I embrace it.  I embrace being anonymous, nameless, inconspicuous.  By not having an identity, I receive an identity.  I am Subject 23, or just 23 for short, and tonight, I've been ordered to kill someone.

It's raining outside in Chicago.  The raindrops are nice and thick, but are low in number.  My hooded sweatshirt is pulled over my head, white gloves covering my hands so that I don't leave fingerprints.  The hidden blade is concealed within the sleeve, though it will not pass the scrutiny of a metal detector.  Good thing I decided to get in through the roof.  Some bigwig with ties to the RNC, the mob, and especially the Templars.  I was given a name, but names are irrelevant in my line of work.  They are to me.  All I study, all I understand, all I remember is the face.  The dull, empty, cow-like eyes.  The hooked nose.  The trembling lips.  Even in a still photo, I can see the fear radiating from the expression on his face.  He knows he's going to die, and he's going to die to my blade.  For the cause.  For the sake of freedom.  For God knows why anymore, all I know is that I've been told to kill this man, and I'm going to do it because of that fact, and that fact alone.

It's ironic.  We've spent our entire existence trying to convince the people of the world to think for themselves, to have their own opinions, and to seek out their own destinies, yet here we are, in the trenches in a centuries-old war that will never end, following orders just like the Templars intend the people to do.  We've had it explained it to us that the paradoxes existed as two things, opposite in every way, simultaneously.  I don't buy a word of it.  Practice what you preach.  That's what I was taught.  Maybe my forebears were all rebels.  Maybe it's just my natural distrust.  Whatever the reason, I still obey.  Is it out of respect?  Fear?  I'd like to think not, but you always fear what you don't understand.  And there's a hell of a lot I don't understand, even after all my experience.

No time for that now.  Guards in the hallway.  Guys with wives, kids, families, but targets nonetheless if they get in my way.  I prefer not to be seen at all, only killing who needs to be killed.  Silently, almost imperceptibly, I infiltrate the facility.  Senses are maxed out, Eagle Vision kicking in pretty hard.  My path is laid out for me, threat assessments seem to update by the second.  There is nothing of machine origin in my body.  Bionic implants are starting to become more of a reality these days, but for me, it's about using one's senses and nothing else.  Ghosts of people from past lives threaten to break my concentration, but so far, no dice.  I'm in the zone.  And now, I'm in his office.

Fairly large, typical bigwig surroundings.  Putter in the corner, with golf balls and a shot glass being used for the hole.  Mountain of paperwork on his cherry wood desk.  Leather chair with 15 different massaging options.  And my target, staring out a window into the rainy night.  His reflection shows a different face than the one from the dossier.  It is resolute, dignified.  Mournful, but accepting of the fate that awaits him.  It is as if he's been expecting me.  No, scratch that, he has.  No tangible sense can detect that.  This is the kind of stuff you just feel, and for an instant, I hesitate.  Is it a trap?  No, no it's not.  SWAT would have surrounded the place if it was.  There's no one here except a few guards and us.  Why is this so easy?

He answers it for me.

"I've sinned," he tells me, without moving an inch.  "I need to perform my pennance."

I stand up and start walking up to him.  He does not move.  "You know what that means," I say matter-of-factly, with no emotion.

"Yes.  I'm prepared."

I nod, respecting the man's courage.  Odd, usually I don't feel this way.  I have no feelings, I have no emotions.  I am a machine.  I am an Assassin.

His next words hit me so hard I begin to question everything I've ever known.

"It won't make a difference.  Your masters are lying to you."

I stop, processing his words, blade already drawn.  They lied to me?  How?  I've been lied to before, it's part of the job.  Simple things.  Even some complex things, like why we do what we do.  But the cause?  Are they lying about the cause?

Enough of this.  He's the one lying.  He sighs impatiently.  I take it as my cue.

The blade bites through his spinal cord.  I put my hand over his mouth so he doesn't attract attention.  He goes limp.  Blood spatter on the window, no one seems to notice.  It's too stormy out.  I lay him on the floor, hands over his heart.  I close the eyelids.

"Rest in peace."

I take a moment to reflect.  I turn my head to my right, and look up.  Security camera.  How could I have missed it?  Son of a bitch, it was a trap.  And I fell for it.  Alarms start going off.  Air duct nearby, I dart into it.  I crawl as fast as I can.  Voices shout instantly, disctinctly.  They discover the body.  They start searching for me.

Doesn't matter.  I've found my way out.  I head for the sewers.  Out of sight, out of mind.  I hear a beep in my ear.  Headset.  I was on radio silence, but no need to be now.  I flick the switch.  A voice comes over the speaker.  "Is it done?"

"Yes," I reply.  "Target eliminated.  Got spotted by a camera, Templars are gonna be all over it."

"We know.  We didn't see it in our schematics when we first briefed you.  Someone planted it."

"Your masters are lying to you."

"Planted?  Who?"

The silence over the radio is deafening.  That it would take this long to respond to a simple question leads me to believe that I am being set up.

"We don't know."

I breathe out of my nose sharply in disbelief.  They know everything.  That's how they behave, how they operate.  How they could miss a detail like that makes no sense.

"Then you don't know me," I shoot back.

I rip the headset from my ear, place it on the ground, and smash it under my heel.  No one tries to call out to me to stop.  No one asks "what do you mean?".  They were planning this.  Why, I don't know, and right now, I don't care.  I have no idea where they hole up for meetings or whatever, but I do know where their subordinates work.  Most likely they're being told I've gone rogue.  Technically, I have.  But I obeyed their orders in spite of what we as Assassins were taught, and now I'm paying the price for it.

But not before they do.

As always, Keep it Condor!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Raw 1000 review

Your Good Buddy Condor chronicles his (surprisingly) underwhelming experience watching the 1000th episode of Monday Night Raw.

Well, kids, we've done it.  We climbed the top of Mount Everest with only a Granola bar and half a bottle of frozen Gatorade left, frozen in every extremity known on our bodies (and a few I personally didn't know I had), but overall triumphant in our quest: WWE, congratulations, you have successfully produced 1000 episodes of Monday Night Raw.  Not even the Simpsons, an animated television show that we have all known existed since seemingly the Cretaceous Period, could have prayed for or even imagined coming close to this historic mark.  Not even its redheaded (and slightly more talented, IMO) stepchild that airs on Friday nights on the SyFy network (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean) has as many episodes under its belt. Ever since that lonely January evening on the top floor of the "toilet" (Mean Gene's words, not mine) known as the Manhattan Center in New York City in 1993, Vince McMahon and company have been pumping out episode after episode of groundbreaking moments, high-octane professional wrestling action (well, about as high octane as you could get without adding the letters "E", "C", "F", and "W"), and overall more drama than your average soap opera.  Except this soap opera featured dudes in tights, a walking zombie whose caretaker held an urn (who turned into a biker around the year 2000 and lasted till about 2003 before going back to the dark side), pro wrestling's first ever flamboyantly gay character since "Adorable" Adrian Adonis, an unmarketable WCW character that ended up grossing more money for himself and the company than anyone in history....the list just goes on, and on, and ON, folks.  Countless matches, countless wrestlers (deceased, past, present, and most definitely future), and countless moments that made you take a step back and go "wow, I did not just see that".  But you did, hoss.  More than likely, you actually did.

Yeah, it's definitely a black-tie affair, a big deal, if you will.  This is actually the first night since the dread Monday Night Wars that Raw will start going to 3 hours regularly instead of two.  And now that I think about it, only WCW Monday Nitro was as bold to pull a stunt like that.  Raw has had 3 hour shows in the past, but definitely not regularly, so it'll be interesting to see what we, as a wrestling audience, have to look forward to as we pay homage to the past and pave the way for the future (I sincerely hope, anyway, we all know WWE's track record of taking sure-fire success situations and flushing them down the toilet).

So, without another moment's hesitation, Your Good Buddy Condor is happy to present:

The Comprehensive Review of Monday Night Raw #1000!

Obviously we're heading in a different direction, as we don't get the classic stock footage from old to new like we have been for the past several years.  Instead, it's all futuristic and stuff, from what I remember.  Then the video package begins, and it chronicles basically the passage of time from 1993 all the way up to 2012.  The music in the background...I don't very much care for it, but it may appeal to the mainstream fans, so I'm not going to be an internet troll and judge negatively.  Some of the more notable moments I recognized and marked out to (some of which I never got to watch live):
--the Zamboni incident (missed)
--Mark Henry sharing a bed with Mae Young (thank Christ I missed THAT boat)
--Bob Barker sharing the stage of Monday Night Raw (back during the whole guest host scenario that happened week after week for many months, but one that I'm still bummed I missed)
--Donald Trump slapping the taste out of Vince McMahon's mouth
--TYSON AND AUSTIN!!!! TYSON AND AUSTIN!!!!(missed...dammit)
--Stephanie McMahon screaming with rage at Triple H for ruining their renewing-of-wedding-vows ceremony (something that will forever be imbedded in my skull for the rest of my existence, fueling the occasional nightmare)
--Mick Foley upending the Rock right after Tony Schiavone snidely remarked "eh, that'll put some butts in seats" (missed...perhaps you'll notice a trend...)
--Golddust doing his tourrette's syndrome gimmick
--Jim Ross attempting to dance in the middle of the ring (thank Christ I missed THAT boat, too)
--Randy Orton being tossed out of his own house through a window by Triple H (coupled with the worst acting I've ever heard from a woman in my life, she sounded like a car alarm instead of a human screaming)
--AJ kissing CM Punk right before sending him and Daniel Bryan careening through a table (a moment that had happened two weeks before MITB, right around when I started watching the product again)
--Kane chasing Shane McMahon into a limo through the sunroof, only for Shane O Mac to send said limo crashing into the underside of a trailer
--Chris Jericho's very first appearance on WWF television, on Raw no less (really pissed I missed this)
--Christian making an impassioned plea to Chris Jericho about his shrinkage problem ("The little General is making his retreat!"  Ah, memories...)
--John Cena vs K-Fed (shudder...)
--Bret screwed Bret (missed, and didn't understand what was going on during that time until I became smart to the business)
--Shawn losing his smile (missed, and again didn't understand what was going on during that time until I became smart to the business)
--Edge being forced to retire after WrestleMania 27 due to his fragile neck (something I didn't see live, but I was nevertheless shocked.  He was one of the greatest in the WWE modern era, and his heel work post tag-team...supremely awesome)
--Ric Flair's final farewell (well, final goodbye from the WWE, before he decided to go to TNA and bury his career HIMSELF as opposed to having other people do it to him way back in WCW...)
--Triple H making a statement about how Eddie Guererro would be proud and would have wanted the show to go on...

A moment of your time, if I may...

Eddie Guererro was, as you may have guessed from my last rant on the Not-Voldemort Tribute Show, one of the very finest professional wrestlers the world has even known.  While some of you may not share my opinion of the man, and may even find some negative criticism of his work, I understand that he wasn't perfect.  That having been said, he was (and still is, to this day) one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to professional wrestling.  If it's for no other reason, it was because of his work ethic.  Night in and night out, show after show, gig after gig, this man wrestled with the passion and desire that would solidify his career as one of the greatest of all time.  He wasn't just the definition of a wrestler, to me, he was wrestling, much more than Hulk Hogan ever was, ever is today, and EVER WILL BE.  Rest in Peace, Eddie.  Viva la raza.

OK, where were we?  Oh, right, opening package, which has gone on for quite some time...

--The bedpan incident with Austin and Vince in the hospital (in East Lansing, no less)
--CM Punk cashing in his MITB contract to upend Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship ( 8D (emoticon for smiling widely whilst wearing sunglasses, enticing the belief that this was most awesome))
--Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels hugging in the middle of the ring, burying the hatchet forever (missed, but prior research lets me know that it was during the New Monday Night Wars with Tits-N-Ass...)
--Shawn Michaels imitating Hulk Hogan
--And finally, before this article becomes about as long as War and Peace (which it still might by the time this is over)...Shane McMahon informing his father that "I now own WCW!"

Ho boy...another moment of your time, if I may, please...

This, THIS, was the moment in time that we, as collective wrestling fans, needed to realize that something was very, very wrong when it came to Vince McMahon purchasing WCW and thus opening the floodgates to finally have WWF vs. WCW.  Though most fans of the day knew that what was going on in the ring in both companies was staged, scripted, and predetermined, the raw hatred that Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff shared against each other was very, VERY real, and the rivalry between the two companies was as real as it got back during the Monday Night Wars.  The dirt sheets always had to have some article talking about what would happen if a huge star from WCW like Goldberg ever got into the ring against a huge star from the WWF like The Rock or Stone Cold.  Hell, Goldberg and Steve Austin looked almost exactly the same, but their personalities on screen were very different.  Vince could have spent 75% of the family treasury just to get the big guns and have WCW completely wash over the WWF, and I mean the top stars, not the curtain jerkers and the midcarders.  What happened during the InVasion was so horrible, so bad for the business, that it only took about six months -- SIX MONTHS -- to render anything revolving around the Monday Night War rivalry dead, buried, and irrelevant.  These two companies had feuded and competed against each other for over FIVE YEARS, and yet it took just six months for it all to unravel.

So yeah, as we wash that taste out of our mouths, and the opening pyro kicks off, I'm still keeping that travesty in mind as we watch Raw 1000 unfold before our very eyes, praying for the kind of transcendent event that we can all point back to and say "wow, this was when wrestling became fun again."  Then again, wrestling has been fun for quite a lot of people and I've just missed out on the great action.  This is my perspective here, and it is your duty, as a sane thinking person, to ensure you do not get it in your head that this is the end-all, be-all opinion to have.  I implore you to come up with negative criticism as long as it is steeped in triangular logic, i.e. A is B because of C.  Plus, I need feedback on my blogs to make sure I'm entertaining you and not making you fall asleep as you frantically finish off that term paper that's due tomorrow morning.

So, Vince McMahon is the very first person to come out on stage and to the ring when Raw 1000 goes live. Although I think the proceedings are a bit against what was advertised, it is still an appropriate enough moment.  Say what you will about Vince McMahon, especially if you're the type to believe that his ego is so big he crushes competetive, compelling wrestling promotions by just wiggling his eyebrows, but without him, we would not enjoy the product as we see it today.  It certainly would not be a form of entertainment that lasted 1000 episodes, nor would it have been seen in (and in some cases, broadcasted from) multiple countries throughout the world.  Vince says thank you to the fans, does the classic "Welcome to Monday Night Raw" that sends nostalgic shivers through my spine, even if I never actually saw the first episode live on TV (had to do it through DVDs), and then, without a further moment's delay, Vince actually delivers on USA's promise and brings out DX....6 minutes past 8 PM.

Oh well, can't complain too much.  Sadly, I'm simply reminded of DX's resurrection in 2006, when they pretty much feuded with Vince, Shane, and the Spirit Squad.  Hey, remember those guys?  One of those former male cheerleaders is now carrying a powder blue metal briefcase that allows him to have a World Heavyweight Championship match whenever he chooses within the next year.  Shawn and Trips do their normal routine, joking about how something might be missing and how said something might be their underwear, before they get down to brass tacks and unleash our first surprise for the evening...

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, introducing the former 5-time, Tag Team, Champions of the WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORLD, The Road Dogg Jesse James, and Bad Ass Billy Gunn, The New Age Outlaws!  Oh, and Waltman's with them, too.  Still, damn nice surprise, seeing as they even came in driving what may be the very same Jeep (complete with hilariously large cannon) that DX used to invade the Norfolk Scope.  Wow, what a flashback!  And the crowd was LOUD when Road Dogg went into the legendary introduction.  I mean, this crowd is absolutely nuclear right now.  Then Kip and Shawn have a bit of a disagreement on the part where they go "got two words for ya" (and Shawn sounds like he's either battling the flu or trying to do his best Marlon Brando impersonation, cause his voice is horase as all get out), they decide to do it together, but on 3, and seemingly on cue...

HALLELUJAH!  Damien Sandow comes out, with the robe and everything, looking absolutely impeccable.  The first time I saw this man, I was at Hooters in Flint, MI, for Money in the Bank, and I was hanging out with my wrestler friends, and a few of them started clapping respectfully, as if the man was a godsend and an extreme talent that was sorely needed.  And granted, when I saw him wrestle in that match that night, he was impressive.  But as he started to cut a promo that is full of large words and viscous disdain, I now understand why the applause was necessary during MITB...the man is a genius, and will probably be a new force to be reckoned with in the WWE.  You know, it would be just fantastic if Damien were to get a bit of a rub from the guys that revolutionized the industry, pass the torch, if you will.  After all, this is part of the future of the company, and Vince and Co. would be remiss to have this fine fresh wrestler fall victim to five guys that were hot once upon a time but had their time in the sun...

Come on, now.  Two of the five guys in the ring at this point and time are two of the master backstage politicians of this present time, and while one of them lost his smile, the other lost his mind in 2003.  To the group's credit, they didn't just straight up pounce on him, but...yeah, Sweet Chin Music into a Pedigree, and Sandow is out like a light.  Billy Gunn ends up getting what he wanted after all, and closes out the catchphrase to a thunderous ovation.  While I kind of wished Sandow would have wrestled against one of the guys, or even better, had a quick 10-man match, in the long run, this might have been the best way to handle the segment.

Next up, we have a 6-man tag pitting Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara, and World Champion Sheamus taking on the tandem of Chris Jericho, SmackDown's Mr. Money in the Bank Dolph Ziggler, and Alberto Del Rio.  And someone thought it was a good idea to spend a full segment on each wrestler's separate entrance, then go to commercial.  That someone should be brained with a skillet, Cactus Jack style, but maybe that's just me.  The match actually started during the commercial break, and what we saw of the match on TV was so quick that those of us accustomed to having the match build over time were left scratching our heads.  I know that the spotfest to get to the point where Sheamus kick's Jericho's head off to get the pin (therefore making Jericho count the lights once again...maybe he is losing his touch) was abnormally fast, almost as if someone was trying to make sure all the skits got in tonight.  Again, we're trying to focus on wrestling here in the present and the future, so the hell with your skits.

Case in point: AJ is in the back getting ready for her big wedding with Daniel Bryan (and she's as gorgeous as ever, but as we've seen with the Diva Search, beautiful women have, over time, been reduced to being so annoying you'd rather see someone homely looking that can actually wrestle).  Layla comes up behind her and says...something, I don't have a clue what.  Because, you see folks, right around this time, my girlfriend called me, and I put the show on mute so I could talk to her.  I also started to walk around my apartment so that I wouldn't get too distracted.  Even as I sit here typing this, I can tell you with certainty that I did not miss anything of any importance.  I did, however, notice the following:

--Hacksaw Jim Duggan shouting "HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" just outside AJ's door, paying homage to a ridiculous angle in which Duggan would make fun of Lita (then Edge's valet after she cheated on Matt Hardy in real life) by feeding the straight line and then bellowing "HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!", implying that Lita was a woman of ill repute

--R-Truth and Roddy Piper playing jump-rope with R-Truth's invisible friend (I have no idea what that gimmick's all about, nor do I care to know)

--And last and most disgustingly of all, Mae Young (who is still alive after all this time) standing next to a doofus stuffed inside a giant foam hand costume.

Um.......folks, yet another moment of your time, if I may...

I wasn't around to see the angle that led up to this moment in history, but I am certainly not disappointed that I missed it.  Basically, Mae Young slept with Mark Henry (back when he was known as "Sexual Chocolate" and was a bit of a horn-dog), and she got pregnant and gave birth to a hand.  Now said hand was apparently grown up and attended RAW's 1000th episode with his extremely geriatric mother.

Now, I know we're not supposed to take stuff like this seriously.  We're supposed to laugh and then just carry on with our lives.  "Ahaha, it's Hand, he's grown up, OK, let's see the next match."  But, kids, you see...I'm the kind of guy that sees that and wonders out loud "Who the flaming hell thought this was a good idea?!"  WWE is in the PG era now, and when this angle first started, the WWF at the time was anything but PG.  So, even if this was supposed to be a one-off laugh at a cornball wrestling angle in the past, it's still disgusting, because this was during the time where the product wasn't for kids at all.  Having your kids see this guy in the hand-suit and then having them ask you, "Daddy, what's that about?" is all the image you need to envision in your mind to see where I'm going with this rant, which has now ended.  OK...

We then segue to Brunette Trish Stratus (and it took me a few seconds to recognize her, seeing as she was blonde the whole time I've ever seen her on TV), working with Triple H on his yoga.  Of course, as he keeps bending down to touch his toes, he keeps pulling his hamstring (or his quad, if you follow the two times he's blown his quads in the ring, both incidents being unfortunate).  The second time, Trish actually goes behind to encourage Trips, making it look for all the world like she was about to dry-hump him, when the rest of DX comes in.  OK, this was done better when Trips was actually teaching Trish how to hike a football, when Stephanie walked in on the two of them, and Hunter had this zoinks, Scoob look on his face as the great misunderstanding seemed to take place.
And now, the moment we've all been dreading, the one segment that might get more airtime than any other segment on the show, and definitely more than any actual wrestling: it is finally time for AJ and Daniel Bryan to tie the knot.  But like every wedding, we need a priest to make the ceremony binding (at least on a religious level, but that's a whole 'nother topic), and who do they choose to send out to begin the proceedings?

Sure e-fucking-nough, the Doctor of Style himself comes shuffling out of the back, and they even have the titantron from his old days, big lips and all.  This was definitely a genius move, and a genuine mark-out moment for me.  Shame I never got to see his antics with Kamala teaching him how to bowl.  Dude could cut a promo just about as well as anyone in the business back in the day, and he was even the first African American pro wrestling manager, so there's a little history as well.

Time for some social media shenanigans: fans were asked to tweet either #ajido or #ajidont, and the fans were against AJ marrying Daniel Bryan.  Unfortunately, I think if they added the following choice, the numbers would have spoken for themselves much more clearly: #ajidontcare.

Lawler-isms of the night: "I've been married so many times I've got rice marks on my face.", and my personal favorite, "Love is grand, but divorce is 100 grand."

Daniel Bryan's out next, looking dapper in his white tuxedo, doing the "YES! YES! YES!" all the way down the ramp.

I know I've done this far too many times already but, kids, YET ANOTHER moment of your time, if you'd indulge me.  I promise, this shan't take long...

What?  In the blue hell?  Is this gimmick about?  Can anyone please explain why the word "YES!" is such an integral part of Bryan's gimmick?  Is it because it's a large part of AJ's gimmick?  What the hell is this all about?

OK, back to the wedding..."March of the Bride" actually plays over the organ, which is classy, and I have to admit, AJ is looking like an angel clipped her wings and decided to land on Earth.  I get why she's such a hit with the guys these days.

OK, I said at one point that this would probably be the longest skit in recorded history, but...yeah, this is officially the longest skit in recorded history.  And I swear to God above as my witness, if the crowd chants "What!" one more time, I'm gonna go postal.  That catchphrase was old back in the year of our lord two thousand and TWO, yet the audience still uses it to this day!  Ugh, enough.

Strangely enough, nobody seems to come out when Slick gives the supposed cue by finding out if there's anyone that wants to speak up or forever hold their peace, and startlingly, both parties say yes.  But anyone that has watched a wedding skit on WWF/WWE television knows by heart that a wedding under said circumstances never goes off without a hitch, and the hitch goes off right when Slick goes to pronounce them man and wife.  And that's when AJ drops the bombshell that she received a proposal from another man, and that man is..............Vince McMahon?!?!  And then he goes on to say that it's not a wedding proposal, but a business proposal?  Oh, right, we're supposed to find out who the new Raw GM is tonight!  Well, this is an odd time for such an announcement, but the entire IWC and even the WWE universe have been on pins and needles trying to figure out who was behind the emails, who screwed Jerry Lawler out of his victory at WrestleMania 27, and who has overall been responsible for those annoying ass dings.  Well, wonder no more as...........

AJ IS THE FUCKING GM?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?  ARE YOU PEOPLE EVEN SERIOUS RIGHT NOW?!?!  To paraphrase the great Jim Cornette, FUCK THIS COMPANY!  A crazy girl in control of the company?  She was the one behind the emails?  And even if they don't mention that whole angle, still, who the fuck thought this was a good idea?!?!?!

OK, it was probably done for shock value, since no one ever thought this was going to happen, and this is a hell of a twist, but still, come the fuck on!  Maybe it's because we have to establish the future and not look to the past with options such as William Regal, or even Stone Cold, but...FUCK!  AJ?!?!?!  What is she gonna do, make the wrestlers do finger paintings?  Fire people that don't pay attention to her?  Do a skit where she's the bachelor on the WWE dating game and has Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, and Jameson (yes, the nerd, Jameson) vying for her affections, only for her to turn them all down and leap into Kane's arms again?  I need to stop typing right now, lest I give Laryngitis and the hack writing team ideas.

Daniel Bryan sure as hell can't believe it, as his only response to this whole thing is to repeatedly shout "NO!" at the top of his lungs, while AJ screams "YES!" at the top of hers at the top of the ramp.  This goes on for two minutes too long, and we go to break as D-Bry goes apeshit and destroys everything in sight like a petulant child that got a PlayStation instead of an Xbox for Christmas.

We're back from break, and D-Bry is still in the ring, which causes WWE Champ CM Punk to come out.  Seeing as he has a title match later tonight against John Cena, pausing to taunt Daniel Bryan for his getting ditched at the altar may not be the wisest of decisions, especially if the dude decided to take out his frustrations on Punk.  After all, he's still smarting from that MITB loss, but apparently, that doesn't matter, as Bryan Danielson, one of Ring of Honor's most dominant wrestlers and the wet dream for internet geeks the world over, has apparently been reduced to an angry emo whiner who claims to be the greatest WWE superstar of all time (and draws it out slowly and rage-y).  This, of course, prompts the arrival of the Brahma Bull, The REAL People's Champion (sorry, Tito Ortiz), and, more importantly, The Human Catchphrase Machine, The Rock.  Johnson has noticeable goosebumps standing at the top of that ramp before striding down like only he can, as well he should.  This crowd, despite having just been served the single biggest turd disguised as a "payoff" ever, is still going bananas for Rocky.

Rocky then tells Bryan that he doesn't get to say who the greatest of all time is, but rather, the people do, and they respond with "Randy Savage!"  Oh, wait, I'm sorry, they do a Rocky chant.  It's not incorrect, but still, the people could have been very creative on deciding amongst themselves who the greatest of all time really was.  It would have been chaotic, to say the least.  Anyway, since the people have cleared that up, FINALLY, THE ROCK HAS COME BACK TO ST. LOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUISSSSS-AH!  I have to admit, every single time he does this, I still get goosebumps.  The Rock is here for one reason, and one reason only: the WWE Championship.  And he makes this an unspoken point when he divulges the fact that he won his very first WWF title in St. Louis (he didn't actually use the initials, I did, because fuck pandas).  Long story short (not that this blog entry isn't long enough already), after making fun of Bryan's beard and likening him to a certain Baggins from the Lord of the Rings (no, not Bilbo), Rocky inserts himself into the #1 contender's spot for the Royal Rumble.  Whoever is the WWE champion will defend the title against The Rock.

OK, this opens the door to several potential matchups, but still, this is a bit of a dick move, in my opinion.  Rocky, if you were so adamant about the WWE championship, then you would have done what every fan you left behind while you were in Hollywood has wanted you to do: get back in the ring full-time and, I don't know, earn your way to the WWE championship.  Of course, we real wrestling fans should not expect as much from the WWE anymore, but still, the hope is there.  Anyway, Rocky rock-bottoms Daniel Bryan to a huge pop, then walks to the back eyeballing CM Punk.  You know what might have worked here?  Oh, I don't know, a Daniel Bryan/Rocky match?!  What does the second W in WWE stand for again?

By the way, the social media shenanigans are in full force tonight, as fans are asked to choose between three of these potential matchups: Rock vs Punk (the most likely scenario), Rock vs. Big Show (the FUCK?!), and Rock/Cena II (an admittedly decent choice, especially compared to the second option).

Well, even the nitwits putting on this show finally figured out that, by gum, this can't be a wrestling show without some, you know, wrestling, as the Intercontinental Title is now set to be defended by Christian against an as of yet undetermined opponent.  The kicker about this match is that the special guest ring announcer is arguably the very best technical wrestler and Intercontinental Champion of all time, right next to Ricky Steamboat, Eddie Guererro and Not-Voldemort, Bret "the Hitman" Hart.  For a moment, I wanted to believe that Bret Hart was actually going to challenge for the title, but he actually brings out The Miz, which, judging by what we've seen so far, actually isn't all that horrible, and does promise, in fact, an honestly good WRESTLING match.  And I am somewhat vindicated, as this was by far the best thing on the show.  Again, kind of wished Bret Hart was the one to step up to the plate, but good job by the Miz in securing the title.  Not sure how winning the Intercontinental Title would be more important than the WWE title, but this is nonetheless huge.  Great match, and great moment.  Also, some people are going to bitch about Miz being champ as opposed to Christian, but the way I see it, it's a good way to move forward, which is something the rest of the company could learn how to do.

After the next set of commercials, we're back in the ring ushering Der Game out to the ring, rocking the Motorhead music as always.  He's still got his DX shirt on, but he's looking all business right now.  So he can be an aloof, sophmoric jerk one minute and then a bad-ass COO the next?  That's Triple H booking for ya.  Anyways, Trips calls out Brock Lesnar, and here comes the pain...but "the pain" bears a painstaking resemblance to the former owner of ECW, Paul Heyman, and in fact, that's who is indeed walking down the ramp.  Brock is in the building, but Heyman gives Trips his answer to the challenge: no.  I don't think even Tyson Tomko could have pulled that off any better.

Trips threatens to go looking for Brock, and Heyman advises (in that classic smartass voice) that it wouldn't be best for business.  Trips tries to goad Brock out by calling him a coward, and this prompts Heyman to retort that not only is he acting like a child, but that 1) he teaches his children not do to it, and 2), more importantly, he wonders out loud if that's what Hunter teaches his kids to do. 

This starts a very, very long and very, very uncomfortable angle regarding an apparent unspoken rule: it's totally OK to bring kids into the match between Trips and Brock, just as long as it isn't the Levesque kids.  Because by the time this whole thing gets to the tipping point, Stephanie McMahon comes out (admittedly and absolutely smokin', I might add), and eventually gets Heyman to crack by calling him a pathetic parasite and slapping him dead in the face.  Paul actually makes a fairly good point when he says that Stephanie, "Daddy's Little Girl", always seems to get what she wants.  This young woman was born from the seed of the man that made a monopoly of himself by borrowing ECW's ideas and then burying WCW six feet under with the InVasion angle, so if anyone taught Nipple H about how to get what she wants, look no further than Der Furher himself, Vincent Kennedy McMahon. 

On a side note, if they actually bring the kids, the physical kids, into this'll be worse than the Benoit Tribute Show.  Keep it between the wrestlers, WWE.  I'm warning you.  Oh, who am I kidding?  Bet the house and the farm on this: Aroura Rose Levesuqe will make her television debut on Monday Night Raw between now and SummerSlam, and she'll either 1) get pummeled in some way by Brock Lesnar, or 2) be the second child to be the focal point in a "child-on-a-pole" match.  There is nothing good that can come of this unless they keep the focus away from the kids and onto the actual participants in the match.  But good taste has seldom been a forte within the WWE, so when Steph's little girl is shown in the public light, remember: you read it here first, Condors.

Anyways, after Steph starts whaling on Heyman (after bringing up the Levesuqe kids AGAIN!), here comes the pain, for real this time.  Except instead of gunning for the ring right away, he poses on the ramp, then starts stomping to the ring.  Ah, this business is so funny sometimes.  The melee thankfully stays between Hunter and Brock, and the latter is summarily dumped from the ring.  Again, I stress, keep this feud between Lesnar and Hunter and leave the kids out of it.  But they won't.  Ugh.

We then are shown a video package highlighting the one feud that seems to transcend everything that has happened to the wrestling business, the one feud that will be remembered when we're crusty old farts bitching about how Dean Ambrose never got his shot (and whoever else becomes a darling in the indies, if the indies even last that long).  And that feud is Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Vincent Kennedy McMahon.  While remembering this feud is all kinds of awesome, only one half of this feud has confirmed his presence in the building tonight, and that's Vince.  The whole night, I thought to myself, "Where the hell is Stone Cold?  He practically personified Monday Night Raw.  The WWF would have been nothing without him!"

Well, kids, I was stemming and stewing about it until I happened to come across a blog posted by none other than the Texas Rattlesnake himself.  I have to say, having read it, it was a great move on his part to explain why he was unable to attend Raw 1000, and, in fact, refused to do so.  It was because he had much-needed surgery on his knee, and if he would have shown up, he would have done so on crutches.  Now stop and think about that, my friends, and especially my Condors from YouTube, if you happen to read this: imagine hearing the glass break, and the roof being blown off the place as the crowd comes out of their seats...only to see their hero, their god, Steve Austin, hobbling to the ring on crutches.  The man that gave countless Stunners to countless enemies (and allies, for that matter), and opened up case after case of whoop-ass for several years running...hobbling to the ring on crutches.  That image would most likely have done more damage than good to the overall mood of Raw 1000, emphatically telling us that, while these men were great at one time, the fact was, they were getting old, and it was showing.  Austin should be commended for his decision to turf himself from Raw's biggest show for his consciousness for the business that he still loves, and anyone that's still pissy about it after reading about this tidbit...kindly fuck off.  Thank you.

We're back from another commercial break, and several articles are shown as Cole and Lawler talk about the publicity Raw 1000 has...waitaminute...there's one image of a guy in orange tights doing what suspiciously looks like a diving headbutt.  That's not Not-Voldemort, is it?  Cause for that split-second, I could have sworn that's what it looked like.  Not really able to go back and prove it,, anyone that did catch that and even thought it was him...bad, bad timing by WWE.

Anyways, we have another special guest ring announcer, and it's The Fink!  Even when introducing Heath Slater, he made it sound like a really important match, which, trust me, it's not.  Not even the One Man Band can save us now.  I've still got that sour taste in my mouth about Heyman bringing up Hunter's kids too many times.  Anyways, Heath Slater once again vows that his luck is going to turn around, and he issues an open challenge to any legend in the back for a no disqualification match.  The man who decides to answer the challenge...isn't actualyl a man, but rather, it's Lita.  Never mind losing to an old man last week in the form of Road Warrior Animal (who really looked like a shell of his former self, and I was a bit saddened to see it), if the One Man Band can't even upend a woman (an admittedly very skilled and talented woman, who looks as hot as ever), there's no telling where his career will end up from here.

Of course, Lita admits she brought some protection.  No, not that kind of protection, ya pervs.  This is protection that comes in three letters: APA.  Farooq and Bradshaw come out to the ring in the old APA gear for the first time in at least a decade to a thunderous ovation.  Great to see JBL again, even though it would have been even more awesome if he showed up with the horned limo.  Long story short, even Slater figures out that this isn't going his way, and he tries to high-tail it, but he runs into all of the legends that he lost to (except for Doink, who he supposedly beat, thanks Michael Cole), and he's forced back into the ring.  Twist of Fate, Clothesline from Hell, Moonsault, 1, 2, 3, this one's done.  All the legends stand over Slater's broken body, and Ron Simmons does the long pause before going "DAMN!"  Cool moment seeing Vader, Sid, DDP, Animal, and the others.

A feud between Daniel Bryan and Charlie Sheen?  Please, don't be so stupid.  And Sean Mooney still sucks.  There's not much else I can add to that segment.  Instead, I'll use this space to add two more things I seem to have forgotten while creating this super-long blog, making it even more super long: first, Santino Marella and Hornswoggle came down to the ring and started handing "Brawler Buddies" to the kids in the audience.  Normally I'd scoff at that, but I used to have an Ultimate Warrior Wrestling Buddy when I was little, and that thing ruled.  However, mine didn't talk, as these Brawler Buddies did.  Secondly, we had ourselves yet another dose of The Funkasaurus, Brodus Clay, going against Jack Swagger, but before the match started, Brodus Clay brought out one more surprise, and I marked hard when he came out.  Want a hint?  Here goes:

There's only one cat that can bring peace to the War Zone, and that's...DUDE LOVE!

Yes, Dude F'n Love, Mrs. Foley's Baby Boy, breaks out the Tye Dye once again and struts on down the ramp.  Yes, it's a total squash of Jack Swagger (a former World's Champion), but nonetheless, it's a great moment, especially when Foley -- I mean Dude Love -- grabs a tye dye version of Mr. Socko and applies the Mandible Claw to Swagger.  Can't believe I forgot this one!

Staredown between The Rock and John Cena.  Gotta admit, it gave me chills.  I wouldn't mind seeing these two sqare off at the Royal Rumble, but that's a long damn way away, long enough for Rocky to shoot another crappy straight-to-DVD movie and then get in the ring.  As long as he doesn't injure himself during shooting.  God knows it's hard work walking from the trailer to get a PA to snatch you a latte, extra foamy.

Kane comes out for his match next, but then he is interrupted by Jinder Mahal, and he's got more than a handful of backup in the form of Tyler Reks, Curt Hawkins, Drew McIntyre, and the tag team of Hunico and Camacho.  Right away, the Big Red Machine is outnumbered, but the lights go out, and the gong sounds off.  And, also, there goes the roof.  Again.  Dead Man Walking.  Slowly.  Seriously, the time it took for Undertaker to make it down the ramp, Mahal and the boys could have left Kane for dead and then jumped the guardrail.  Regardless, Undertaker (looking like he could join the Road Warriors) and Kane clean house before staring at each other, the memories washing over everyone (including myself) of how these two powerhouses dominated as a tag team, and tore each other apart as enemies.  Taker bows, Kane sets off his pyro, and soon after, we go to commercial before the big main event.

And so, here we are, at the launch pad to the future.  Everything during the course of the night has been building to this moment, and the future of the company most definitely hangs in the balance.  It's unlikely that the company will die if a huge catastrophe were to envelop the main event, because there's too much money behind it, but if it doesn't deliver, and deliver hard, it'll be same old, same old come Raw 1001, and only the diehards and masochists will stick around.

This article has already reached War and Peace proportions (hell, it's probably reached Starr Report proportions), so I'm making this short and sweet, plus there's something to be said about the finish.  Punk and Cena put on a great match, but, of course, Big Show had to get involved, and, to pay homage to seemingly every RAW since the start of the Monday Night Wars, we had a ref bump precede all of this.  Big Show KO's Cena with the WMD, and Punk is left with a decision: wake the ref up and cover Cena, or wait until he gets up so that he can hit the GTS himself.  He goes for the former choice, but Cena kicks out.  Punk then decides to put Cena into position for the GTS, but Cena reverses into the STF(U).  Punk is trying to reach the ropes, but Big Show breaks it up.

Ladies and gentlemen, the 1000th main event of Monday Night Raw, seemingly to pay homage to the Attitude Era (more likely all that's wrong with it), has ended in a disqualification/run-in ending.  To say that this is disappointing is a bit of an understatement.  More on that in a bit, though, as we still have some action.  Big Show is flattening Cena, and Punk just walks away.  Rocky, of all people, decides to interject on Cena's behalf, and he goes to work on show, planting him with a spinebuster.  People's Elbow time...except when he bounces off the ropes the first time, he is met with a flying forearm smash from Punk.  Then he hits the GTS and looks at the carnage, finally walking away to the catcalls of the crowd.  Once again, CM Punk has turned heel.

OK, although the DQ finish was bullshit, in my opinion, the closing moments of the show do offer a promising light at the end of the tunnel.  Granted, it pretty much guarantees Rock and Punk at the Royal Rumble, so I don't expect Punk to lose the WWE title anytime soon (not that this is a problem or anything, it's just that he should probably defend the title between now and Royal Rumble, seeing as it's, I dunno, six months away).  Then again, there's no telling who The Rock will face, but if Punk's heel turn is of any indication, I sorely hope for the return of the "pipe bomb".  Because I'm dead sure CM Punk has some words for Rocky in regards to simply inserting himself in the main event of the Royal Rumble, just like he did at Wrestlemania 28.

Well, kids, you're all dismissed.  Thank you for taking this extremely long journey with me as we remember Raw 1000, but what little hope came out of the main event may not be enough to dispel the clouds of suck that are more likely than not headed our way.  The Hunter-Brock match may very well be centered around the Levesque kids, the show ended with a DQ, the best match of the night was the Intercontinental title match with The Miz (pissing off some people, but not me), and AJ.....AJ!!!...was named the new General Manager of Raw.  Folks, amazing as it sounds, I left Raw 1000 with a mixed bag, but I can assure you, there is definitely shit in it.  Just don't make me stamp it out if it gets set on fire.  My shoes are priceless.

Until next time, friends...Keep it Condor!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Monday Night Raw #1000

1000 reasons to watch Raw's 1000th episode (well, sort of)

Greetings, y'all!  It's your Good Buddy Condor, once again!  And unless I miss my guess, we are a scant 34 hours from the single biggest event on the USA network, like, ever.  And I mean EVER, ever.  Seriously, it just does not get any bigger than this.  If it was any bigger, it could be seen from space.  Actually, even now, it can be seen from space.  I don't know how they did it, but they did it, by gum, and I couldn't be more excited!

OK, OK, lemme stop with the BS gravy train before you guys think I'm some kind of WWE fanboy (who, I believe at this point in our history on the interwebz, are none too appreciated in society).  That being said, this is truly a landmark event, one that will definitely be memorable and, if they pull it off right, may even be one of those transcendant events that we all look back upon with warm pride and admiration (and not just because the WWE media machine tells us to).  While it is indeed true that the main event, Cena V. Punk, will probably not be as great a match as the hype machine is billing it to be, it'll still be fun to watch, even if Cena has only 4 moves.  CM Punk has enjoyed a really long stretch at the top of the Raw mountain as well, and if TV is of any indication, his drawing power might start to wane sooner than later, but then again, I haven't watched the WWE product continuously in years, so what do I know?

I'll tell you, real quick.  I first started watching the WWF (back when it was called that, right before Jamie Kellner pulled out a pistol and shot WCW Nitro right in the head (and I make no bones about using that analogy), and right before the whole mess of shenanigans with Vince, the World Wildlife Fund and the House of Lords), right around the time a young man by the name of Dwanye Johnson, then known as The Rock, was the king of the world, the WWF Champion.  Now, THAT...that was a prestigious title, every bit as much as the NWA World Title before it was buried.  I vividly remember wanting to get in the ring and eventually win the title myself, but as history unfolded before my very eyes in the months and years to come, that dream evaporated, thanks to some of the most horrific booking and business decisions ever seen in this storied industry, but the main point, I am seriously digressing from.  The first real Monday Night Raw episode I really watched front to back that I can remember was the night Stone Cold Steve Austin challenged Kurt Angle for the WWF Title, live on Raw (Kurt ended up upending the People's Champion at No Mercy 2000 prior to this encounter).  The main event that evening was a great and exciting match, and when Austin went down in a heap from an attack from an unknown assailant, only for the camera to pan back and slowly show the visage of Triple H, I, to this very day, remember shouting "I KNEW IT!" at the top of my lungs.  How dare this man deny Stone Cold what was really his? 

In reality, this was nothing new, as far as Austin's career was concerned.  They pretty much booked him to be in arm's length of the title, or even holding it before someone screwed him over, and he went back to chasing the title.  That's how Stone Cold basically got over from where I saw it: he was always hunting the championship that meant more to him than anything in the world, and people kept getting in his way, but he kept Stunning the crap out of them to get them out of his way.  It was a tried and true formula that worked for two different WrestleManias, the second of which kind of perplexes me in the present.

Wait, wait, wait, what the hell am I doing?  This is about RAW, not Stone Cold!  Although it is entirely possible that I simply believed that, since Austin was indeed RAW, it made perfect sense to chronicle his career in an article dedicated to commemorating the single longest running episodic television show in cable history.  But the fact is, I'd be doing many, MANY people a serious injustice if I just talked about Austin.  Because like it or not, the WWF/WWE had countless stars compete "in this very ring" on RAW: Razor Ramon, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Big Van Vader, Mankind, Cactus Jack, Dude Love (all three played by Mrs. Foley's Baby Boy), Val Venis, 1-2-3 Kid/X-Pac, Triple H, The Rock, Chris Jericho, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named (no, not Voldemort), Eddie Guererro, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kurt Angle....the list can go on, and on, and on, but I'd be here all day typing this stuff up, and I'd probably miss DX's opening of RAW 1000 (not that this would be heartbreaking at all to me, nowadays...).

I may make jokes and barbs about how WWE's current product sucks major balls in the eyes of Attitude Era fans and certainly old school wrestling fans of the NWA, but the fact is, none of this, NONE OF THIS, would have ever been possible had it not been for the ambition and the drive of everyone's favorite evil billionaire not named Donald Trump, Vincent Kennedy McMahon.  And trust me, if he ever found the time and decided you were worth it, he would gladly power-strut his way towards you, squint his beady little eyes, and with the patented Mr. McMahon permascowl on his lips, tell you just how he is responsible for the success the company enjoys today.  And even though there are more than a fair share of people that loath and disdain Vince McMahon for gutting the territories and killing them off one by one and nailing the coffin shut on WCW and the Monday Night Wars, you would be a blind fool -- and, dare I say, a fanboy -- if you were to discount Vince McMahon's positive influence on the wrestling business.  His vision enabled professional wrestling to be seen by millions upon millions of viewers, much more than was being seen by partisan crowds in the territories, and his gift for promotion enabled guys that never got their chance in other promotions (especially that galumphing colossus WCW circa '93-'95) to become some of the biggest stars the world had ever seen.  So, yeah, while we all sit down and pine for the good old days when wrestling used to mean something, we should just take RAW 1000 as what it needs to be: a rememberance of the days of old, and even more importantly (hopefully they get this right, too), a glimpse into the future of the sport of professional wrestling, or at least the industry of Sports Entertainment.

And, before I go an inch further, I would be completely and utterly remiss if I did not make mention of another man, one whose countless calls defined the Attitude Era and Monday Night RAW, and made so many stars out of just a few correctly timed and delivered words: the single greatest commentator not named Gordon Solie, "Good Ol' JR", Jim Ross.  This man gave us brilliant calls such as "he's being beaten like a government mule", "running like a scalded dog", "goofy as a pet coon", and my personal favorite, even if I didn't personally hear it, "AS GOD AS MY WITNESS, HE IS BROKEN IN HALF!"  When Jim Ross called a match, you believed it was real, that the issues between the wrestlers was personal, and it truly had drama that went beyond the sex and violence that usually ruled the roost during the Attitude Era.  So leave it to WWE to fire him (on camera, anyway), humiliate him, and then hire him back when they realized no one was watching the show anymore.  But once again, I digress.  Jim Ross was every bit a part of Monday Night RAW as Stone Cold was, if not more.

So, with all of that in mind, let me take some time out of my life to present unto you the top five moments in RAW history that I selected that truly meant something to me, why it meant what it meant, and how I look back on them today.  I'll warn you in advance that these moments may not necessarily be fuzzy, warm, happy moments, but they'll definitely have had some impact in my life.

5. March 26, 2001: The RAW/Nitro Simulcast 

In order to grasp the magnitude of just how monumental this show was, a bit of backstory: Vince McMahon bought out WCW in the month of March, thus capturing the eyes of mainstream media and the entire wrestling industry as he realized his dream of a by-God monopoly.  However, anyone that tuned into that historic RAW/Nitro simulcast that dreary March evening hoping to finally see WWF and WCW declare open war on each other, something most unexpected happened, and something we should have taken as a very, VERY bad omen: Shane McMahon closed out the very last Nitro in the history of existence to further a single storyline that was happening in the WWF, in that Shane, not Vince, bought WCW.

As I was watching this for the first time, I had absolutely no knowledge of the Monday Night Wars, not even aware of the fact that there were two wrestling shows on Mondays at 9 PM, let alone one.  I must have picked the superior one right off the bat when looking for something to watch, because had I chosen WCW first at the time, my views may have completely changed, and the course of my human history might have changed forever.  But I went with the WWF, and as I watched WCW's best handle things in the ring for the very last time, I also had to keep flipping to the WWF channel, though to be honest, the only things I remember from that night are: Booker T winning the WCW title from Scott Steiner, Ric Flair giving the impassioned promo which ended in calling out Sting, Sugar Shane Helms walking out as the WCW Cruiserweight Champion, watching the Cruiserweight Tag Team title participants make their way out for their match, and Vince's promo during the simulcast.

As I look back on this moment in wrestling history, I still think it is one of the watershed moments of the wrestling industry, but it's a bitter pill for me to swallow, just not as bitter as some other pills, as you'll see on down the road.  Still, after reading "The Death of WCW", and the epilogue at the end, I had a newfound hatred for what happened during the so-called "InVasion", and I believe the fact that I used to eat that stuff up all through November of 2001 is a huge reason why I'm ashamed to have been a fan during that era, knowing now that so much history was buried in those 6 short months between the start and end of the that no one wants to remember.

4. July 9, 2001: The Formation of "The Alliance"

Pardon me, but as I typed that, I threw up in my mouth.  While I get the bitter taste of half-digested pizza and ruined dreams out of my mouth, let me paint a picture for you: WCW had finally stormed the ivory towers of the WWF, though in very underwhelming fashion, as WCW's Lance Storm attacked WWF midcarder Perry Saturn, and then later, Hugh Morris attacked...some guy, I don't even remember.  That's how badly booked the InVasion was, I'll have you know.  Anyway, it's a couple of months in, and WCW has already had two matches under their "brand" on WWF TV.  Things have gotten to the point where, during a match, Tommy Dreamer and Rob Van Dam bumrushed the ring.  Several other WWF guys that night turned on their teammates, but that was because each and every one of them were former ECW alumni.  So after an impassioned promo by Paul Heyman, their former head honcho, the match was established: The WWF and WCW, 5 men to a side, taking on a 10 man team in ECW.  The WWF was flushed out of the ring early, and when the WCW guys stepped in...the knowing smirks started to form on their faces, and they welcomed their new compatriots with open arms.

Shane and Heyman then told Vince that WCW merged with ECW, and that these two promotions were going to kick the WWF's ass.  All was right with the world.  The fans were completely ecstatic.  This was truly a war that the fans could buy into.  But, as anyone that saw this show to the end knows all too well, this wasn't about WWF, WCW, OR ECW.  This was about the McMahons.  And never was this more evident than when Shane brought out ECW's new owner...Stephanie McMahon.  As the Billion Dollar Princess walked out from behind that curtain, smiling a mile long, and leaving everyone in shock (and the fans in rage, knowing then and there that the InVasion was never to be taken seriously again), Jim Ross made perhaps the most dynamic call in wrestling history: "July 9, 2001, will be a date that will live in Sports Entertainment infamy."  At the time, he probably did not know just how right he was.

I, of course, was pissed off beyond belief, but for kayfabe reasons, not real-life reasons.  I was just an ignorant teenager at the time, completely obvlivious to the fact that this stuff was completely scripted, and that the winners of matches were known before the guys even walked out of the curtain.  Looking back on it now, though, I still get a nauseating feel in the pit of my stomach.  Vince McMahon decided that his fragile, gargantuan ego didn't allow WCW and ECW to even exist as permeable entities, and they were just labeled as "The Alliance", even though they wore WCW and ECW T-shirts.  The final bout between these two factions boiled down to Rock and Austin (AGAIN!), as if that was the only act to ever really draw money.  While it's by no means a positive memory, it surely meant something to me at the time I first watched it.  Now, I'm questioning just what the hell is wrong with me, and if I should even call myself a wrestling fan.

3. January 20, 2003: The Formation of Evolution

So, inversely, in an effort to get that taste out of our collective mouths, here's something that makes me beam with pride as a wrestling fan without hesitation.  And before you gaffe in abject shock and point out that this is the period of time where Triple H was the order of the day and damn anyone from getting over, let me point this out to you: I know.  That SOB cut off the legs of so many talented performers that I still hold quite a powerful grudge.  Still, at the time of this happening, this was gold in my eyes.  Let's set it up:  Triple H defended his World Heavyweight Championship (given to him by Eric Bischoff on September 2, 2002 after WWE undisputed Champion Brock Lesnar became an exclusive on SmackDown! (hey, remember that?  When the Draft actually meant something?)) against Rob Van Dam, and Ric Flair seemingly interfered to protect RVD from a sledgehammer shot, until The Nature Boy turned and whacked Mr. PPV, causing him to do the J.O.B. (See what I did there?)  After that, Ric started accompanying Triple H to ringside for his matches, and shortly after that, your friend and mine Batista finally ditched Reverend D-Von Dudley and hopped over to Raw, joining the triumverate.  All this while, a young man by the name of Randy Orton was periodically updating the live audience on the status of his arm via goofy vignettes during important RAW segments, which was annoying to me when I watched it, but now that I look back, they were awesome.

So leave it to Scott Steiner, of all people, to be on the receiving end of a 4 on 1 mugging before Trips gets on the mic and cuts this now infamous promo (starts at around 2:56, for those of you that don't like to wait):

(Editor's note: I just realized, after watching this thing all the way through, that this is around the time Golddust actually started the whole Tourette's Syndrome gimmick by being tossed into a breaker box by Orton and Batista.  And I actually remember seeing that on TV!  I'm actually smiling right now as I type this. Even though that gimmick was stupid after it wore out its welcome, it's nice to see the origin of it again.)

So...yeah, we had a new 4 Horsemen on our hands, and although I was a fan pretending what was happening was vile and reprehensible, I knew that this was greatness, until the whole fiasco with Randy Orton winning the World's Title from You-Know-Who (no, not Voldemort, again).  That botched face turn ruined everything for me, and in a few minutes, I'll tell you why.

2. August 16, 2004: Randy Orton gets kicked out of Evolution

This was supposed to be Orton's moment at the top of the mountain, at just 24 years old.  While most of us were still struggling through college, paying off our first car, or just making it paycheck to paycheck, Randy Orton won the World Heavyweight Championship and was probably being paid more money in a week than we mere mortals made in a single month, or even a whole YEAR.  This kid was going places, and it was only a matter of time before he would be able to place himself beside Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Triple H, and Bret Hart as one of the industry's greatest modern-day wrestlers of all time.  Randy Orton was such a hated heel that, at one point in my life, I would imagine him talking down to me and telling me I wasn't worth it while I was in the gym, and that actually motivated me to go that extra mile and bust out that extra repitition.  I constantly thought about how I would work my way up to the WWE just to confront this punk and put him in his place.  That, my friends, is the mark of a great, GREAT heel, and Triple H took one look at this and immediately decided that this town wasn't big enough for the two of them.

Of course, as I watched it unfold before my eyes live, I didn't think this way.  I just suddenly felt sorry for Orton having been betrayed by his mentors and his friends.  Looking back on it now...DEAR GOD! where do I begin?  You had one of the best heels to come along in years, and one of the best chances for the future of the business to grow wings and fly, and instead you pull your pants down and shit on him like you've had the runs for 6 straight weeks.  Quite a hideous and vulgar analogy, but folks, looking back, this did more damage to Randy Orton's character in the ring and the industry as a whole than anything WCW did while shooting itself in the foot.  Except for, possibly, my #1 entry.  Those of you with weak stomachs or thin skin, please do yourselves a favor and back out right now.  If you go one step further, you're acknowledging that you're ready for what I'm about to talk about and, though you may hate me, you also acknowledge that I chose this as #1 for me, and me only.

Last chance to walk!

All right, you asked for it!  Drumroll, please.........

And the #1 moment from RAW that made the biggest impact in my life is.....

1. June 25, 2007: The Chris Beniot Tribue Show

Yes, kids, I named him by name.  You chose to read this far, deal with it.  In no way will I be lauding what he did, because what he did was absolutely despicable and is among the lowest forms of cowardice ever stooped to by a former human being.  Now that this is generally known...

I'm not going to go into detail about the show itself, save for the fact that, a week prior, Vince McMahon had (in the storyline), gone completely insane and left the arena with an eerie serenity, getting into his limo and then having the limo explode.  The next week was supposed to be a Mr. McMahon memorial, but instead, they had to axe the story dead as one of the greatest technical wrestlers in the entire world -- and one of the last few reasons I EVER watched professional wrestling -- well, you know the rest.

The reason this show had such an impact on me is not necessarily the actual show itself, which highlighted classic Benoit matches from all over his (formerly) illustrious career.  The reasons were twofold: one, the shot of Benoit and his close friend Eddie Guererro sharing the same ring at the same time, in Madison Square Garden, at Wrestlemania XX, both holding world championships.  Two men who had invested of their souls in a most unforgiving business had finally reached the top of the mountain together, not through politics, not through backdoor deals, not through buddying up with the writers or the top talent, but by WRESTLING!  MOTHER-F***ING WRESTLING!  I apologize for the profanities, but damn it all, THAT'S WHAT IT WAS ABOUT IN THAT MOMENT.  Professional WRESTLERS doing what they loved more than anything in the world!  WRESTLING!!!

OK, gimme a chance to catch my breath.......hoo.  OK...long story short, they epitomized hard work, and the first reason the Benoit Tribute Show and the aftermath that followed had such a dynamic impact on me was because those two hard workers are now dead and gone, and only one of their legacies are allowed to live on through the ages (and thank God it still does.  We'll miss you, Eddie.).  Now there's really no one left that works hard and is dedicated to the sport on the level that Benoit and Guererro were, and that struck a huge blow in my quest to be a wrestler like them (besides the most obvious reason of not wanting to become a psychopath).

On to the second reason: It's one thing to have lost Eddie Guererro to undiagnosed heart disease.  He might have done some bad things here and there, but overall, he will be remembered warmly and fondly for his heart, his class, and (I can't reiterate this enough) his hard work.  Eddie came back from one of the grisliest car accidents in recorded history and eventually won the WWE Championship from a departing Brock Lesnar.  And most importantly, he was a role model, someone that kids could look up to, while at the same time being just enough of a technical genius to keep even the godless smarks entertained.  And up until that dreaded weekend in June of 2007, Chris Beniot was exactly the same kind of guy: technically sound, not quite as charismatic, but also a role model, someone to look up to.

When I started to moonlight as a professional wrestler for the Michigan Wrestling Organization (a local company based in Michigan near my hometown of Flint) in 2004, one of the main reasons I wanted to get into it was to be as technically sound as Benoit and Guererro and Dean Malenko, guys like that.  Those were the guys that caught my attention.  I missed the boat with Bret Hart, and that really sucks for me, but overall, those were the guys that were busting their asses in WCW while the Hogans and the Nashes and the Russos decided to just coast on paychecks and piss all over the hard work of the real workers.  Benoit was my guy, my reason for liking professional wrestling, and why I was a huge fan even during the dark days from 2001 up through 2003.

And then he had to do something so awful, so unspeakable, that, to preserve their good public image, the WWE had no choice but to completely eradicate him from history.  Had to wipe out every single one of his achievements, his accolades, and especially cherished memories with his face within them, and every bit of it deserved 100%.  To this day, I firmly believe that people stopped watching RAW and WWE programming overall because they decided to pay homage to a murderer and a coward, a scant day after he hung himself in his Atlanta home.  Not even rescinding the night's actions on WWECW that Tuesday did anything to repair the damage that their horrible PR stunt did to the company and the business.  Pro wrestling, sadly, may never be the same for it.

So when RAW kicks off their 1000th episode on July 23, 2012, at 8 PM, I'll have mixed emotions.  For one, I'll still remember the good times when RAW was entertaining, and even during these PG times, I've started watching it again.  But these moments that I've discussed today, while they were not entirely happy moments (and more than likely they'll piss you off to no end), they most definitely shaped the course of not just my life, but the lives of the people involved, and the course of the business and the sport of pro wrestling in general.  So bring your popcorn, your John Cena foam hands, your WWE program books from live events past, and most of all, your passion for wrestling.  Because, good times or bad times, there are still memories to be made, and with the future in front of us, Vince and company have the opportunity to make the future brighter for the company and the sport than it ever has.  Just don't bet the house on it.  Johnny "Ace" Laryngitis is still VP of Talent Relations, after all.  ;)

Happy 1000th Anniversary, RAW.  Here's to 1000 more.  Until next time, guys...Keep it Condor.