Watching Old School Raw this week was a pleasant experience. Granted, it didn’t have the gravitas of previous ‘first episodes of the year’ where we’ve seen Bret Hart return or the Undertaker walk onto the ramp, but there was a sense of fun that’s been missing for months. Yes, most of this was due to the returning legends but also the lantern lit debut of Daniel Wyatt and Brock Lesnar being thrown out of the ring by The Big Show. For months I’ve felt apathy towards the product when I should have been excited. I didn’t watch the last three PPV’s and I was disappointed to see Triple H derail yet another wrestler’s storyline (CM Punk to Brock Lesnar to Daniel Bryan).
I made a rare ‘vent’ about this several months ago after ‘The Night of Champions’ PPV which played off like a very expensive episode of Raw. I try to be positive in my writing but that was the start of my 2013 malaise. With online avenues such as Twitter and Facebook, we can argue and cajole till our heart is complete. If someone writes something or says something we don’t like, we get behind our keyboards, still with an air of anonymity, and attack people. It’s all a bit, well, weak. I wrote my column about ‘Night of Champions’ knowing that, probably, the people I was criticising wouldn't read it. It was a vent. If I had a chance to meet face to face, I'd probably still air my criticisms but behind a nervous air of Englishness. Most people that write on the internet and social media wouldn’t act that way in front of the person they’re talking to.
On Old School Raw, I suddenly realised, in this age more than any other, there is a particular character we need to see. The Bigmouth. The one who isn’t afraid to get into people’s faces and tell them they’re doing a bad job, or that no-one likes them or, quite simply, that they’re nothing compared to them. I’m not talking about the average wrestler promo. Some of Cena’s promos are great but I wouldn’t call him a bigmouth. Same with Triple H. I’m on about guys like ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper. Men like Zeb Coulter. Men like, and Hotrod said it first, CM Punk. In an age of playing party politics and trolling, it’s great to see characters enter the ring and say it how it is. In the PG –era, we need more of this.
Roddy is one of my all-time favourites. I always like his returns because he quite often gets brought in to deal with the younger talents on the roster almost with an air of incredulity. Seeing him with the The Shield this week was great because, as good as Ambrose is, it was like watching a man versus a child. Again, that is no criticism of Ambrose, but it was played like Roddy was the man, in his pit with a bunch of punks.
If it wasn’t for bigmouth Piper and his ‘pit’ we wouldn’t have had The Highlight Reel, The Cutting Edge and the Peep Show. Mind you, we wouldn’t have had Miz TV too so maybe it’s not all good. The Pit was famous for being a controversial segment which would see Piper personally attack the people who entered it. Of course, it was there to gain heat and further storylines but, just like Punk attacking Kevin Nash’s promo skills, the mix of scripted with personal made it a must-see segment for years.
The famous coconut incident when ‘Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka entered in 1984. The two were friends but still, when you watch the segment, Piper is rude and borderline racist. He does everything he can to catch the ire of Snuka and the audience. He attacks the fact that Snuka thinks he’s a big-shot and a bigger deal than him. He hates the fact the crowd loves the ‘Superfly’. Watching it back, it’s a nasty little segment and Jimmy was legitimately outraged at the time at the ferocity of the attack. The bigmouth had struck again and, by doing it, the two had one of the best feuds of the year. Yes, some of the comments do feel as if they’re from a very different age and we don’t want to see non-caucasian wrestlers talked to like that, but that’s also the point of the bigmouth. They say morally reprehensible things which make us hate them. If you watch JBL patrolling the border, or Zeb Coulter and his patriotic rants, the language has been cleaned up but the ‘bigmouth’ idea is still apparent. They say things we don’t agree with and they say it to people’s faces.
What is always great is when two bigmouths meet up. Again, Piper’s Pit gave us Ambrose and Roddy this week but back at WrestleMania 21 that other vitriolic bigmouth, Stone Cold Steve Austin, came face to face with the Rattlesnake. Again, it’s a cracking segment as Piper tells it how it is and, after the initial slaps to the face, Roddy talks ‘trash’ to Austin telling him that in the rebel stakes he’s nothing, he’s done it all before. Again, maybe he believes it a bit. He takes the piss out of the ‘what!’ chants and, after Austin’s retort, all Roddy has to do is look him in the eye and smile as he says the ‘Cool Hand Luke’ quote, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” If nothing else, the bigmouth is always clear in what he’s doing and saying whether it’s a slap to the face or Chris Jericho calling Shawn Michaels a coward.
Obviously, the pipebomb is probably one of the most pivotal ‘bigmouth moments’ of the past five years. CM Punk was genuinely annoyed with not only his own standing in the company but also how the big storylines were playing out such as the Miz headlining WrestleMania. He’s says it how it is and attacks the idea of what it is to be ‘the best in the world’. He was given the mic and allowed to sit, with his Stone Cold T-Shirt on, and attack the company and the management. He broke the fourth wall and took the house down. Many people claim they knew most of what Punk was going to say but even now it seems controversial and a personal diatribe on the powers-that-be.
What was great was that, for once, we agreed with the bigmouth (even though he blamed the fans for him leaving too). This is perhaps where the role has changed. Piper was deliberately controversial in his attacks on Jimmy Snuka and Bruno Sammartino to create heel heat. Stone Cold was, essentially, a heel that the crowd loved because they wished they could talk to their bosses and co-workers like that. If Piper was the man we’d never want to be, and Stone Cold was the man we wished we could be, then Punk and his pipebombs was the man we could be. He attacked the fact that The Rock was headlining WrestleMania a year in advance, and why not? Here was a man who’d left the company, deliberately got rid of his wrestling name to make it big in Hollywood and then returned to the biggest match of the year. Where did that leave the rest of the roster? It left them nowhere because when management doesn’t trust your work, even when you’re trying your hardest, you leave. Many of us will have been in that situation. It’s horrible but, still, Punk said it how it was. He was a bigmouth on a mission and it was all the more memorable for that.
Of course, there have been other bigmouths. Arguably, Chris Jericho was one but my problem was, as a fan of his, I was always sort of on his side. He was such a good villainous bigmouth that I wanted him to take Rey’s mask off. He highlighted the fact the Shawn Michaels did feign an injury to beat Batista. He was the ‘best in the world’ long before CM Punk got dressed up as a gangster for John Cena’s WrestleMania 22 entrance and that’s why The Hotrod is still the man.
Yes, times have changed. On Monday, he was a good guy in the face of The Shield but he still took it to the new kids on the block. When Roddy was at his best, he was a horrible, nasty piece of work that we wanted to see get taken down. He said morally reprehensible things and would eventually get beaten down because of it. Times change and now the bigmouth represents the things we want to say but quite often can’t as opposed to the things we would never say because they’re terrible.
It’s always funny when someone tries to take on a bigmouth though. Yes, John Cena can drop in a few ‘backstage’ truths about Randy Orton but it’s there to advance a story. Same with Triple H trying to be all cool and snarky with ‘Phil’. For me, when you see Roddy go against Sammartino it’s like generations clashing and Bruno is almost shocked at this bully who has no class. You could argue the HotRod and Stone Cold segment is similar but these are two excellent talkers going face to face. For me, maybe because it’s recent, but the 2011 confrontation between CM Punk and Kevin Nash is great because it’s not only two generations clashing but it’s also a personal attack on a massive ego that helped to destroy a business that had hundreds of employees. It’s almost like CM Punk is taking the big man down, not only for fun, but for us. So, to see a bigmouth in action, here’s one of my favourite recent Raw segments as CM Punk goes against ‘the bearded giraffe’.
Please follow me on twitter @HughFirth or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org All constructive criticism is appreciated.
Ta ta for now and hopefully see you next week.