I like to think that I’m a positive chap. I like sunny days and rabbits hopping in fields. I like a cold beer on a hot day and shedding a tear or two to a romantic comedy. Last week, I might have dropped into a bit of negativity with my column. Maybe it was that fact that I had the norovirus. Maybe I was in a bit of a downer generally. A couple of readers picked me up on it. Like I always say, constructive criticism, bring it on. I want to get better at this ‘shizzle’. So, due to the fact that the sun is shining as I write this and I’m drinking a cold Stella Cidre with ice, I’m feeling far more positive today. That’s not to say future articles won’t be critical if need be, I’d be doing a disservice to those that read if I’m not honest with how I feel, but, in keeping with my mood, and as a positive response to recent criticisms here’s my new column.
Things that make me happy in wrestling and make me want to keep watching with particular reference to wrestlers that make me smile, inspire me and/or keep the product in a good place through history Part One (and you can probably see why this wasn’t the main title above).
1. The Shockmaster
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
This might seem like an odd one to start with. Why be inspired by what was one of the biggest cock-ups in wrestling history (apart from the David Arquette incident obviously). Well, I’m not going to go into my personal life (you don’t care and, honestly, I don’t care much about me either) but I am involved in acting and directing. If you’ve ever appeared on stage (specifically) then you might have had that awful moment when things go wrong. A line is missed. A prop is forgotten. An injury occurs. Well, it’s how you deal with these moments. Did Fred Ottman’s career take off after this? No. It pretty much carried on in a lower mid-card way until his retirement in 2001. When you watch the video though, not only is it very funny (Sorry Fred. It is hilarious) but I like the way he gets back up and carries on. It’s that moment when things have gone wrong but you fight on through.
Remember the Daniel Bryan ‘tie’ incident? Bryan was released from his contract and briefly returned to the independent circuit. He didn’t give up. He didn’t stop wrestling and he sure as hell didn’t stop entertaining. He eventually returned as the surprise member of Cena’s Summerslam team against The Nexus. It’s moments like these, when the world is kicking you down that you have to put on a smile and fight back. If you fall over, just put them helmet back on and wait for your pre-recorded voice to play over the speakers. If you can keep your head...
2. Chris Jericho
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
Perhaps more than any wrestler, Jericho always brings a smile to my face. His work ethic is brilliant. As I’ve mentioned before, he is a student of the game. His promo work, in-ring ability and story-telling is first class. Read nearly any columnist on this site and you’ll read how much they like and admire him. Some like the fact that he understands how the mid-card works and puts them over as much as one individual can. Some like his storied history. Some like the attention to detail. His DVD is the best WWE have produced in my opinion (although the Punk and Edge ones are great too). He is so honest about the business and when things did and didn’t work. He is honest full stop. He respects the history of the business and those that have been involved with it.
One of my favourite moments might actually be one that a lot of people hate. It was his 2012 return. If you want to see how one performer can control an audience, just watch that clip. The cheers are deafening on his entrance and the boos are monstrous on his exit. He pissed off so many people. Face to heel in seven minutes. He knew what he was doing. His facial expressions and body language played everyone. It’s not my favourite moment. How can you have just one with such a performer, but I think it sums up Jericho’s power. And if you can have that power and still be humble and a true student, then that is an inspiration to us all.
3. Edge and Christian
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
This is a story that is a great inspiration. It’s about friendship. It’s about two friends who wanted to achieve a dream. Together. It helps that they are two truly likeable blokes who, admittedly, have had their ups and downs but have remained true to each other. Adam Copeland and William Reso went to Wrestlemania VI to watch Hulk Hogan face off against The Ultimate Warrior. Ten years later they stood (and sat) on top of a ladder holding the Tag Team Championships. They then continued to fight on through to the top of the business and gain the top titles. When it all comes down to it though, Edge and Christian were just Adam and ‘Jay’, two friends from Canada that pushed each other all the way. If I can be a friend like that, and fulfill my dreams, then I’d be happy.
4. Eddie Guerrero
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you lose everything, and I mean everything, what do you do? Some people give up. They sit down and close their eyes. Let the world wash over them. Some stand back up. It’s a moment in nearly every Rocky fight. He’s on the canvas, but he won’t give up so, what’s he do in the face of adversity? He stands up and faces it head on. In 2001, Eddie was arrested for drunk driving and released from his contract. His life had been one of out of the ring mistakes and excesses and now his time was up. A life on the independent circuit beckoned. He didn’t give up though. He carried on fighting till, eventually, he frog-splashed Lesnar and out-witted Angle. He was the man, and he took the responsibility seriously, getting upset when PPV buys were down that he’d headlined. He wanted to be the positive face of the company. He made me smile in the ring with his antics. In fact, I was so excited when he faced Mr Kennedy and ‘cheated’ to win. The ‘old’ Eddie was back and I couldn’t wait. Unfortunately, that weekend, fate had other plans, but for one moment, when Eddie was stood in the middle of that ring, smiling and holding the chair, he was the man who’d lost it all but fought back. If you can do that, surely you can be an inspiration to others.
5. Ric Flair
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
I don’t want to write too much about Flair as the incident with his son is too fresh in the memory. He’s had a storied career. He had championships, money, women. He had the retirement match and then went to TNA. He’s had ups and he’s had downs. At the moment, Flair is a man with the biggest loss of all. His son. He stood up, though, and he went to New Jersey this year for Wrestlemania weekend. Because he wanted to be with his other family. To stand with them, hug them and cry with them. Because sometimes family isn’t just blood, it’s in the blood. If you can lose it all and start again, you’re someone who can stand tall with the others and I admire that.
6. The Undertaker
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
I’ve only been writing these columns for a couple of months and yet I’ve realised that The Undertaker keeps cropping up. I’ll try and stop it but my admiration for the legend is unquestionable. He keeps on pushing himself, even if his body can’t quite keep up (and I don’t mean in the matches, if anything, I mean after the matches). I watch his bouts and just cheer and smile and, during the ‘End of an Era’, cry a little too.
He’s a once in a lifetime sort of performer. In fifty years, people will still talk about him. He is wrestling. He’s made an ‘over the top’ character work in the world of pipe bombs and realism. How? Just by believing it himself when he puts on the hat.If I can push myself physically, I’ll be happy. Watching Taker do it leaves me in awe.
7. John Cena
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
John Cena. Controversial figure. Some love him. Some hate him. Does he create an atmosphere that no others can? Definitely. What I love though isn’t so much what he brings to the ring (although, is it a coincidence that he’s had so many 4-5 star matches against varied opponents?) but what he brings out of the ring. He is the face of the company, in every aspect. Yes, he sells the merchandise and brings in the ticket sales. It’s the other stuff though. Does it matter that a bunch of cynical, angry adults don’t like him? Does it matter that the cat-calls of him being a Hogan figure (in a negative way) are sometimes louder than the plaudits? No. Listen to the dueling chants next time, the ‘Let’s go Cena’ ones are slightly higher pitched because they’re shouted by children. And they love him. Isn’t this a positive sign of inspiration? His work for the ‘Make a Wish’ foundation is superb (and that moment last week on Raw brought a lump to my eye and a tear to my throat). He genuinely cares when he meets the children. He likes surprising them and making them smile. For some of these children, it will be the favourite memory in their lives. The moment Cena shook hands with them. When that figure, who the adults all hate, gave them a hug and said ‘never give up’. If he can do that, then he deserves our respect more than most.
8. Shawn Michaels
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
I’ve spoken of Jericho being a student of the game. I might as well have said ‘a student of Shawn Michaels’. If there is a wrestler who has been more concerned with changing his life, leaving the business and rebuilding himself, it’s Michaels. He didn’t like what he saw in the mirror. He’d ‘lost his smile’. It takes courage to step away from the thing that’s made you and reconsider everything. Michaels did it and, arguably, returned stronger than ever in 2002 and won the title. After that, he was more concerned with putting on a clinic every time he entered the squared circle.
How could be better himself? How could he and his opponent tell a story that would captivate a worldwide audience? How could he push himself to the very limits? Interestingly, he came across an old adversary in The Undertaker who wanted to do the very same things and so it came to pass that two veterans put on one of the best matches ever at Wrestlemania XXV. For those 30 minutes, Michaels and Taker held the earth and everything in it and, which is more, were men amongst men.
Ta for reading. I’m off for my second Cidre (and yes, I pronounce it that way too). As usual, all constructive criticism will be appreciated and, let’s be honest, probably serve as inspiration for a forthcoming column! My shout-out goes to those who commented last week for making me have ‘a bit of a think’.
Ta ta for now and hopefully see you next week.