Category Archives: WWE

I’m Learning Japanese

Back in January, I set an unusual goal for myself. I decided I want to learn Japanese.

It happened because I decided to pick up New Japan for a month just to see Wrestle Kingdom. I had trouble navigating the mixed language site, and I ended up watching the show with the Japanese commentary instead of English. I loved it, and I was intrigued. So I decided to pick up Japanese.

Just a month or two before watching Wrestle Kingdom I heard Kevin Owens tell the story of how he learned English by watching Monday Night Raw. I wondered if it was possible for an American fan to do the same watching New Japan.

Four months later, Duolingo released their Japanese language module. I’ve been working at it ever since, and in July, I re-subscribed to new Japan World. Is it working? Well, no. Not yet. I’m still very much a beginner, but I’m determined. I’m also loving New Japan way more than WWE right now. As a matter of fact I’m planning to drop the WWE Network this fall and go exclusively with New Japan.

I’ll repeat that in case you missed it. I am unplugging WWE this fall in favor of New Japan.

Fans, if you are sick of what you’re seeing on TV, there are options. Vote with your remote. Vote with your subscriber dollars. Pick up New Japan World, or CHIKARATOPIA, or CZW, or High Spots. Or drop ’em all and get the free Rasslin’ channel on Roku.

The WWE doesn’t listen to your complaints on Facebook and message boards. As long as you keep on paying your $9.99 a month, they could care less what you say on Twitter, Reddit, or any other website.

You know what they do care about? People hitting the unsubscribe button. That’s how you get their attention.

Right now, the best wrestling is not at the biggest company. I know I’m not alone in this sentiment. If you are tired of being disappointed, stop setting yourself up for disappointment. Cancel the Network. Find something new. Find something you love and support that. Stop supporting the stuff that’s letting you down.

Opportunity Knocks for Indy Wrestling

Hollywood isn’t making movies for American audiences. The cost of blockbuster films has skyrocketed so high, they can’t make their money back if they make movies for American movie goers. Movies are being made for international audiences. Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Tom Cruise Mummy debacle… Hollywood doesn’t care if we like them or not. They make money overseas. They made enough money internationally to justify making more. This is the trend in Hollywood, and it’s spreading.

The WWE is doing the same thing. You want to know why the Great Khaki is back? You want to know why Jinder Mahal is your Smackdown champion? Because there are 1.3 billion people in India, an audience and a market the McMahons covet. It’s clear they are going after India, and it’s clear they don’t care if it costs them fans here.

While the WWE is focused on India, Jeff Jarrett is loading his roster to make Global Force Wrestling a household name. While the WWE continues to push for subscriptions overseas, New Japan is making in-roads in America, thanks in part to their partnership with Ring of Honor. New Japan now has an app for Amazon Fire and Google Chromecast. I am one of the many waiting for the Roku channel to be released.

This is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for the #2 and #3 American promotions to gain ground. It’s an opportunity for the #1 Japanese promotion to invade our turf. It’s an opportunity for the independents, who never lose sight of their base audience, to steal some thunder.

Two weeks ago on the Kick Out at Two Podcast, Righteous Jesse said something I’ve observed myself. Loops are coming back. Territories are re-forming. The more wrestlers network and share rides, the more promoters are willing to help each other out, the better it gets for everyone.

The time is ripe. It’s the best opportunity the modern day independent wrestling has ever had. Time to seize the moment, ladies and gentlemen.

The WWE wants India. Who wants America?

Kentucky’s Own Hillbilly Jim

I had no idea Hillbilly Jim had a book until I stumbled across a copy at Half Price Books. It’s a light read, one I completed in a day, and I’ll be honest: it’s got flaws. It stars on page one when the author (not Hillbilly Jim himself) attributes the phrase “Pencil Neck Geek” to Jerry Lawler instead of Freddie Blassie. He later refers to Memphis wrestling as the AWA, and he credits Antonio Rocca – not Gorgeous George – as being the wrestler who made people want to buy a television in the 1950s.

Clearly, Hillbilly Jim’s biographer isn’t in tune with wrestling or wrestling history. But he does have a good yarn to tell, and if you can get past the factual issues (most of which have nothing to do with Hillbilly Jim’s story), you’ll enjoy reading the tale of the poor Kentucky boy who rose to become the #2 babyface in the Hulkamania era of the WWF.

Hillbilly Jim is the star here, and he comes across the way you remember him. There’s no dirt, no scandal, no tell-all reveals to be found here. Just a simple story about a Kentucky boy who grew up playing basketball and ended up becoming a major professional wrestling star.

The Amazon reviews are largely negative on this one, and if you’re a stickler for getting the facts right, it will get under your skin. J. Michael Kenyon would have pulled his hair out over some of the errors. But if you grew up watching wrestling in the 80s and remember the infectious grin and positivity of Hillbilly Jim, it’s a trip down memory lane worth taking.

Six Inconvenient Truths About WWE and Indy Wrestling

I don’t like to editorialize about the WWE, and I don’t like to go negative in this space. That said, after hearing the air get sucked out of the building at the end of the Money in the Bank match, it’s time we face some inconvenient truths.

Inconvenient Truth #1: The WWE doesn’t want to push your favorite indy stars. Over the last several years they WWE has snatched up a dream roster of independent wrestling stars, but it’s becoming clear none of these signees are ever going to be “the guy.” Styles, Owens, and Rollins have done well carrying the top belts for long periods of time, but when push comes to shove, the WWE will always favor their own.

Inconvenient Truth #2: The WWE wants the next top guy(s) to be their guys. Never mind that independent wrestlers bring not only an established fan base but experience and ring saavy to the table. The WWE still believes it can manufacture stars from scratch at its Performance Center and push them over the independents. Get used to seeing Sami Zayn staring up in frustration at the latest home grown wrestler on top of the Money in the Bank ladder. This is your new reality in the WWE.

So why does the WWE continue to mine the independents?

Inconvenient Truth #3: The WWE is spending money on independent wrestlers to bleed the indies dry of their top stars. It’s not about enhancing the roster. It’s about hurting the competition by taking away their marquee stars and using those highly paid signees to put over their chosen elect.

So what does all this mean?

Inconvenient Truth #4: Any independent star who has a WWE contract needs to consider more than just the money. That’s a hard, hard thing to do when you’re looking at going from $25 a night to the top of the business, but is the WWE really going to give you your dream shot? The roster is overcrowded. Guys who were on top all around the world are forced to job to pre-fabbed stars. Dalton Castle, Kenny Omega, and the Young Bucks have made the right call, staying where they are instead of taking the money for a one way ticket to obscurity. (Remember how excited we all were when Anderson and Gallows got signed?)

Of course it’s easy for the guys who are being paid well to stay put, but what about the guys struggling to make it?

Here comes the most inconvenient truth of all.

Inconvenient Truth #5: Fans who are sick of it need to seriously consider where they spend their money. If you keep paying for a product you hate and refuse to spend a dime on ROH, NJPW, High Spots, CHIKARA, CZW, or any number of alternatives. Am I suggesting you cancel your Network subscription? Not necessarily. I am saying you should stop spending all that fat cash on T-shirts and Pops and Booty-O’s Cereal and spend a little more on a wrestling product you can care about!

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: one ticket to a WWE show costs the same amount as six tickets to an independent show; or two tickets and two T-shirts; or a six month subscription to the alternative wrestling network of your choice. The money you spend there goes into the pockets of real men and women who need and appreciate it far more than a faceless corporation that long ago decided it knows better than you what you want to see.

Inconvenient Truth #6: The WWE is not about to change its ways any time soon. Indy stars will continue to take the WWE money, and Inconvenient Truths 1-3 will continue to play out.

Knowing this to be true, you have a choice. You can continue watching a product you hate and griping about it online, or you can make a choice to spend your time and hard-earned money on a wrestling show you do love.

Life’s too short to spend on these Internet rants. I’m going to find something I enjoy.

PWG Answers Randy Orton

I could watch this over and over. Not just because PWG chose to troll Randy Orton. But because I love watching the Young Bucks and OI4K mix it up.

Indie Wrestlers Trolled Randy Orton

Indie Wrestlers Trolled Randy Orton terribly last night. = DIVE + RKOsCredits: Lucha Libre Online

Posted by Sportskeeda Wrestling on Monday, May 29, 2017

Crazy is not her only Super Power

A. J. Mendez-Brooks, formerly known as A. J. Lee, may not seem to be the most likely candidate to write a memoir. Only 29 years of age when she completed it, hardly the age one associates with such a book. She had a memorable run as WWE Diva’s Champion, and she was involved in main event storylines involving Daniel Bryan, John Cena, CM Punk, and Kane. But still… a memoir? What story could she have to tell.

It turns out A. J. has quite the story to tell, a story that not only can fill a book for demands to be told. Crazy Is My Superpower is more than just a memoir of her time in the WWE. Its the story of a remarkable life and a young woman who overcame some major challenges to achieve her dream.

A. J. Mendez-Brooks grew up in poverty, the child of “cool parents” who never truly grew up. It’s a heart breaking story of a family that was constantly on the move, always hungry, and always paying for the missteps of her parents.

It’s also a story of mental illness and bi-polar disorder, an affliction A. J. inherited   from her mother. A. J. holds nothing back as she talks about her mother’s struggle to come to grips with the disease as well as her own battles. Mental illness is an uncomfortable subject most people would rather avoid, but Mendez-Brooks strives to remove the stigma of the disease in hopes that others can discuss it more freely and, if necessary, get the help they need.

Yes, A. J. delves into her wrestling career, including a heart-warming look at the man she once called “Grandpa” and now calls her husband, CM Punk, but fans hoping for some inside dirt and stories from the road may be disappointed. Mendez-Brooks takes the high road when discussing people who stood in her way, and the focus of the story throughout remains on the impoverished young woman who rose to become a record-setting WWE champion.

That’s not to say the book is disappointing; not in the slightest. A. J. Mendez-Brooks is a wonderful writer. She will make you belly laugh one minute and tug at your heart in the next. Crazy Is My Superpower succeeds at not only being an entertaining read, but an inspirational one. It’s about girl power, it’s about pursuing your dream, it’s about breaking the stigma of mental illness, and it’s about empowering those who need help to seek it out, just as she did.

Crazy Is My Superpower is a story wrestling fans and non-fans need to read. It’s more than just the memoir of a wrestling career. It’s an incredible story of overcoming all odds to achieve a dream.

Bravo, A. J. I hope this is only the first of many books we get from this superpowered writer.

Flips and Dives

Randy Orton is a 13 time world champion. He is one of the must under-appreciated workers of his time. He is also the owner of one of the best and most loved finishing maneuvers in wrestling history. Period.

Randy Orton is employed by the world’s largest wrestling promotion. They have millions of fans the world over, and yes, they put more butts in the seats than the guys in my area who work a 100 seat arena.

That doesn’t make one better than the other. They are different.

I used to be a WWE only fan. Then I discovered independent wrestling. I haven’t traded one for the other, but I get a completely different experience at an indy show with 100 people than I do at a WWE show.

Independent wrestling is more interactive. The wrestlers can hear you and will always respond. They are not curtailed by the needs of a TV schedule or protocol set in the back.

At most shows, the independent wrestlers have a lot more freedom to move out and into the crowd as well. You don’t doze off staring at a jumbotron on the other side of the arena; if you’re not paying attention, you could end up collateral damage.

Independent wrestling also gives you more bang for your buck. I’ve said it many times, you can walk out of an indy show with a ticket and two T-shirts for less than the price of a cheap seat at a WWE show. Yes, independent wrestling can be a mixed bag, but with a little research you can find out who’s hot, who’s not, and who is can’t miss.

And contrary to popular belief, you will even find some workers who know how to slow down, work a body part, and tell a story.

The WWE gives fans an experience no independent can reproduce. It is a spectacle on a scale the old territories never dreamed of presenting. The independents offer an experience the WWE can’t and won’t give their fans. It is a throwback to what made wrestling great in the first place.

With all due respect to those who have never experienced the indies, there’s something for everyone in pro wrestling, and for those who have discovered the joy of flips and dives in a 150 seat Armory, there’s nothing in the world that compares. Not even the WWE.

It’s not better; it’s different. And that’s okay.

The Ladies Steal the Show at Heroes and Legends

First things first: Heroes and Legends is a fantastic promotion. Based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, this independent wrestling group puts on a heck of a show. Heroes and Legends VIII took place today at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. If the very name of the building doesn’t remind you of the old territory days, the guest list will. Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, and Jerry Lawler were the headliners, and the King even stepped into the ring, giving the fans a classic strap-dropping performance against Dru Skillz.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The day began at noon, when the doors opened and fans came through to check out the vendor tables. Vendors included toys and collectibles, an artist, a few promoters from other area shows, a podcast, and the US military. Wrestlers for the show were sprinkled throughout the vendors to ensure that both wrestlers and vendors got some traffic.

Girl Fight put on a show that started around 1:30. The GF show was depleted due to several last minute cancellations, including Su Yung. The young competitors worked their hearts out, but could not get the attention of the crowd.

Enter Mickie Knuckles.

Mickie and Dementia D’Rose took on Amazing Maria and Samantha Heights in a tag match for the main event. Mickie tried to get the crowd’s attention and pump them up. The crowd gave her nothing, right up until the moment she said, “No Holds Barred, No DQ, Falls Count Anywhere.”

The fans popped, and the ladies literally tore the house down. Samantha Heights was duplexed down a set of bleachers steps and later tossed into a trash can. Amazing Maria was squashed beneath a steel chair. Maria and Samantha were dropped onto a table that refused to give. Fans swarmed, phones held high, to follow the action, with Sugar Dunkerton leading the crowd and the cheers in the front. It was sensational match that set the bar ridiculously high for the main show.

The Razor Ramones punk band played a brief  set mid-afternoon, then proceeded to sell cassettes – yes, I said CASSETTES – to the fans. (More on them later this week.) A battle royal took place at 4:30, with a surprise appearance by Bushwhacker Luke, and then it was show time.

The War Memorial Coliseum proved a great venue for wrestling. The main lights dimmed, and spotlights illuminated the ring, giving the whole room an old school feel. Once again, the ladies rose to the occasion, as the best match on the first half of the card was a Falls Count Anywhere battle between Randi West and Paloma Star, with Hardcore Heather Owens acting as guest referee.

Sugar Dunkerton and the former Adam Rose were an entertaining tag team in the second half of the night, and their match ended with a parade of Rosebuds, including the bunny. Their match was followed by Lawler and Dru Skillz from Indianapolis, in which Lawler gave the fans exactly what they wanted.

The main event pitted local hero Kongo Kong against Ryback, and it proved to be a phenomenal way to end the night. Kong dwarfed Ryback, who is not normally the smaller man in the match, and both men exhibited their power and agility. Ryback had no trouble powerlifting the monster Kong, while Kong brought the house down when he super-plexed Ryback from the top rope. The match became a triple threat when the masked “Ginger Dragon” entered the fray. The Dragon turned out to be Dru Skillz, who won the belt from Ryback, but Ryback and Kong teamed up on the duplicitous new champ – including two top rope splashes from Kong.

A few other thoughts on my first experience at Heroes and Legends:

Rob Conway is as good a guy as everyone says he is. The two of us graduated from New Albany High School in the early 90s, and it was great getting to meet him and hear some of his stories.

Shannon Moore shook hands with everyone in the vendor area when he arrived, even the non-wrestlers. A class act. Mickie Knuckles did the same just before she left.

I got to meet Tyger Smith, who helped train my friends Marc Hauss and Eric Emanon. Nice guy with some funny stories.

There’s nothing more cruel than teasing that we might get a Ninja (Hy Zaya) vs. Demon (Shane Mercer)  showdown at the end of a battle royal – only to see both eliminated by the masked man who won the match. So close!

Did I mention the ladies stole the show? Seriously, the WWE does NOT have the market cornered on women’s wrestling. Mickie, Heather Owens, and Randi West deliver every time. Dementia D’Rose and Paloma Star held their own with the hardcore veterans and dished some serious violence. Samantha Heights and Amazing Maria are stars on the rise.

If you’re in Northern Indiana, you owe it to yourself to check out Heroes and Legends. Jayson Maples and his crew do everything right, creating the perfect mix of classic stars with independent talent. Kudos to everyone who made today such a memorable event.

When I Met Ricky Morton

I never saw Ricky Morton wrestle live in his prime, but I got to meet him one night shortly after I released Bluegrass Brawlers. I was invited to do a book table at an Evolution Pro Wrestling show in Clarksville, Indiana, and the boys were kind enough to set me up at the same table as Ricky.

Ricky didn’t know who I was. He’s a legend in the business, and I was a rookie wrestling writer with one book to sell. He could have taken umbrage at having to share a table with me, but he could not have been nicer. He introduced himself, shook my hand, and asked about the book. He and his son both thumbed through it before the doors opened. He was ecstatic when he noticed a photo of his father was inside, refereeing a match with Jerry Lawler.

The doors opened, and the fans started to enter. Every time someone came up to meet Ricky, to buy an autograph, or take a photo, Ricky plugged my book. I sold ten that night, no doubt in part due to Ricky’s endorsement. He was a class act who could not have been kinder.

It was a thrill to see Ricky inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Friday night, all the mores because of our one meeting. He’s one of the good guys, and I’ll always be appreciative of the way he put me over that night.

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