A Tribute To Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

“You listen to me, you’ll go straight to the top!  You don’t listen to me, you’ll never be heard from again!”

In the golden era of the manager, played by usually retired or semi-retired wrestlers who were exceptional talkers and could advocate for younger talent who couldn’t do it themselves, no one was more exceptional than Bobby Heenan.  Although, few remember his matches, everybody remembers his promos and colour commentary.  He would go on to inspire a legion of imitators, none of whom could top him.

Nicknaming himself “The Brain” for his supposed managerial genius (he was originally Pretty Boy but had to change it because that was also Larry Hennig’s gimmick), the fans preferred “Weasel” thanks to Dick The Bruiser who kept calling him that during his first year in the American Wrestling Association way back in 1974.  (Heenan’s career as a wrestler/manager began almost a decade earlier.)  Bruiser and his tag team partner The Crusher were feuding with Heenan’s team of Nick Bockwinkel and Ray “The Crippler” Stevens at the time.  Both monikers would survive the entirety of Heenan’s career in professional wrestling.

A natural heel with a very sharp sense of humour, the blonde motormouth who often wore glittery sports jackets had an uncanny knack of drawing heat for himself and the numerous wrestlers he represented.  When Bockwinkel and Stevens split, Heenan guided the former to several AWA world titles.  (He also advocated for the AWA tag champions Bobby Duncum Sr. and Blackjack Lanza.)  In 1983, Bockwinkel faced a popular new challenger in Hulk Hogan.  It began a long-running storyline feud between The Brain and the future megastar which carried over into the WWF shortly thereafter.  (Ironically, they were friends in real-life although they did have their tense moments.)

It was there in New York that Heenan truly shined.  In 1984, he stood in the corner for Ken Patera (who he also managed in the AWA) and Big John Studd as they took on Andre The Giant and S.D. Jones in an infamous TV tag match.  At one point, Heenan climbed onto the apron and handed Studd a pair of scissors.  What followed was the humiliation of The Eighth Wonder Of The World as his unruly head of curly hair was severely cut by both Studd & Patera who claimed his long locks as trophies.  Vince McMahon oversold the moment as the “raping” of Andre’s dignity.

Studd’s ongoing gimmick of offering $15000 (it was originally $10000) to anyone who could slam him (and then reneging on the deal when a few were able to do it) led to a match with Andre at the first WrestleMania.  If Andre couldn’t slam Studd within an hour time limit, he’d have to retire.  He scooped him up and threw him to the mat in less than 10 minutes.  As Andre was trying to throw the money to the ringside fans from a tiny WWF gym bag it was stored in, a frantic Heenan flew into the ring to snatch it from him before it was all gone.

The Heenan/Andre feud would carry on into the summer of 1985 when during a match with Studd in Toronto’s old Maple Leaf Gardens, King Kong Bundy would jump into the ring to prevent The Giant from giving Studd a haircut of his own.  Heenan ordered the bald Bundy to splash Andre whose legs were being held down by Studd.  As Bundy jumped into the air, The Brain would sometimes give him an extra push while he was in mid-air as he repeatedly landed on the helpless Giant’s chest.

A similar moment occurred during a TV segment that same year when Heenan was announced as the Manager Of The Year but because Hillbilly Jim gave his votes to Lou Albano, the “Captain” became the official winner instead.

Rightly infuriated, Heenan demanded his own brand of justice.  Studd tackled Jim and held down his legs as Bundy splashed him several times before the ring was cleared by babyface wrestlers from the backstage area, just like in Toronto.

During Hogan’s title defense against The Magnificent Muraco on Saturday Night’s Main Event in early 1986, Heenan mysteriously replaced Mr. Fuji as his cornerman.  And after he caused the beach bum’s disqualification, Bundy saved him from being choked out by the world champion.  Heenan then instructed Bundy and Muraco to do their worst to Hogan.  Lots of avalanches and splashes followed.  This set up the steel cage match between Hogan & Bundy at WrestleMania 2.  After he retained the title, Hogan got his revenge by atomic dropping, punching and whipping The Brain against the steel structure.  Nothing pleased a crowd more than watching The Weasel get his long overdue comeuppance.  It happened a lot.

When Andre returned, he would find a succession of partners to challenge Studd & Bundy for more than a year.  When The Masked Superstar (the future Demolition Ax) and Blackjack Mulligan (Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas’ grandfather) were repackaged as The Super and Big Machines in 1986, Andre donned a mask himself and became The Giant Machine, a gimmick he recycled for stints in Japan.  The Machines & “Captain” Lou Albano (with a masked Andre in their corner) took on Studd, Bundy & Heenan himself in a six-man encounter at The Big Event in Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium.  The Heenan Family won by DQ.

In a surprise twist at the start of 1987, Andre would turn heel by aligning with Heenan in the build to his world title match against former friend Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 3.  Andre would famously lose that match (The Brain desperately complained for a year that the early false finish was really a three-count) but after Heenan sold his contract to Ted DiBiase he would win the rematch through a screw-job during the live Main Event broadcast the following year.

During this same period, Heenan managed Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff.  After Orndorff & Roddy Piper lost to Hogan & Mr. T in the main event of the first WrestleMania, The Brain accidentally noted on TNT that he talked match strategy without the presence of his client.  Deeply offended and already feeling humiliated by being abandoned by Piper and bodyguard Bob Orton in Madison Square Garden, Mr. Wonderful fired him.  But the following year, after Orndorff turned on Hogan during a TV tag match against Studd & Bundy, they reconciled.  Orndorff would unsuccessfully challenge Hogan in a series of world title matches which included the main event of The Big Event and the steel cage match on Saturday Night’s Main Event.

When Heenan started representing “Ravishing” Rick Rude and started comparing Orndorff unfavourably to him, Mr. Wonderful fired him again and briefly aligned with Oliver Humperdink before leaving the company following the first Survivor Series where he once again became a Hogan ally.

After spending almost two years in prison under questionable circumstances, a now babyface and no longer blonde Ken Patera returned to feud with The Brain, his former manager, and various members of The Heenan Family in the summer of 1987.  In the storyline, Heenan abandoned his former charge, leaving him to rot.  The former Olympic strongman challenged him to a TV debate which led to Heenan ultimately wearing a neck brace long after he needed to.

When former eight-time NWA world champion Harley Race joined the WWF in 1986 and eventually became The King, Heenan stood in his corner until an accident during a Hulk Hogan match led to his retirement two and a half years later.  And no, he didn’t have surgery at the hands of The Immortal One, as The Brain humourously unintentionally asserted in a promo.

At the end of 1988, Heenan made another questionable deal with DiBiase.  He sold Hercules to him so The Million Dollar Man could have a slave which led to a mercifully brief program.

After nearly five years without managing a champion, Heenan finally had something to brag about in 1989.  He helped Rude beat The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania 5 for the InterContinental Championship (Warrior regained it at SummerSlam thanks to the antics of Piper who became an enemy of The Heenan Family) while The Brain Busters (Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson) were able to dethrone the then-longest reigning world tag title holders Demolition during a Saturday Night’s Main Event taping.

When Ax & Smash regained the belts shortly thereafter, Heenan teamed Andre with Haku (who previously teamed with another Heenan Family member Tama) to form The Colossal Connection who won back the straps at the end of the year.  During a WrestleMania 6 rematch in 1990, after Demoltion won the titles for a third and final time, a pissed off Andre who was never tagged in (he was too hurt to bump) finally disassociated from The Brain, a routine that was repeated in a series of subsequent house shows that ended The Giant’s long in-ring career.

Another client who turned on Heenan was Terry Taylor who The Brain renamed The Red Rooster, one of the lamer nicknames in wrestling history.  Taking credit for his early undefeated streak while frequently knocking his abilities, a boiling point was reached during Saturday Night’s Main Event when Heenan’s tirades were aired during the match.  (He was miked for the whole segment.)

After Tito Santana beat him, Heenan ripped into Taylor who retaliated by decking him.  During a later Prime Time Wrestling interview with Gorilla Monsoon, Heenan’s new protégé Steve Lombardi (renamed The Brooklyn Brawler) attacked both men setting up a long series of matches between the two that were mostly won by Taylor.  At WrestleMania 5, Taylor, still going by the Rooster name and now with a silly dyed red faux hawk, easily defeated his former manager in a very quick in-ring encounter.

Things got a lot better for Heenan when he started managing Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig (Pretty Boy Larry’s son later known as The Ax) and guided him to two InterContinental Championship reigns in 1990.  That is, until he started feuding with Ric Flair.  The Nature Boy lost a losers leaves WWF match on Raw to Hennig in 1993 and so The Brain started representing “The Narcissist” Lex Luger who went after Hennig in his place.

Because of his quick wit and intelligent promos, Heenan was paired with both Gorilla Monsoon, his real-life pal, and later Vince McMahon at the commentary table.  The self-professed broadcast journalist would playfully antagonize an always exasperated Monsoon during their many appearances on Wrestling Challenge, Prime Time Wrestling (which spawned The Bobby Heenan Show) and taped house shows at Maple Leaf Gardens, Boston Garden and Madison Square Garden.  Monsoon’s constant refrain of “Would you stop?” whenever The Brain would get under his skin, lie or say something that bothered him was a staple of their endlessly entertaining schtick.

As a kid, I tended to prefer Monsoon and Jesse Ventura, incidentally the first guy Heenan managed in the WWF.  But as a man, there’s no question that Heenan and Monsoon were the best of their era.  When he wasn’t being the Rickles of wrestling, Heenan could masterfully and succinctly assess a wrestler whether he liked them or not.  When he noted The Undertaker’s Frankenstein-like invincibility, he famously asserted, “He’s not human.”  His outspokenness often got him into trouble like the many times he upset The Big Boss Man for mocking his mother which led to a brief storyline.

During the 1992 30-man Royal Rumble match, Heenan was at his memorable best when he shamelessly shilled for The Real World’s Champion Ric Flair who drew number 3 in the draw and ultimately won the vacant world title by being the last man standing.  Heenan’s humourously pleading “be fair to Flair” routine was so good (he’s in a perpetual panic for the entire hour), the entire match was included on a WWE DVD dedicated to his career.  (The entertaining accompanying documentary reveals his utterly charming devotion to his wife and daughter, quite the contrast from his roasty on-camera persona.)

In December 1993, Heenan was literally tossed off Monday Night Raw so he could take a break and recover from a longstanding neck injury.  But in early 1994, he would start working for WCW which allowed him to be closer to his family.  The Brain’s commentary stint there wasn’t nearly as effective as it was in the WWF.  With no Monsoon to drive crazy, it just wasn’t the same.  Dusty Rhodes, Larry Zbyszko, Mongo McMichael and Tony Schiavone were all unsuitable replacements.  The chemistry so easily achieved with his old friend just wasn’t there in the new environment.

The most memorable moments involved an accident and an impromptu eulogy.  Brian Pillman didn’t realize that Heenan was not to be touched which led to a live on-air expletive (Pillman later apologized) and when Gorilla Monsoon died in 1999, Heenan insisted this be acknowledged on the air even though his longtime friend wasn’t a WCW employee.  He later left the commentary table and wept.  (During his 2004 WWE Hall of Fame speech, in a touching conclusion, he wished that Monsoon had been there to see him be inducted.)

As he noted in one of his two autobiographies, Heenan’s experience in WCW was far from positive.  He was let go in early 2000, a year before the struggling company was bought out by Vince McMahon.

After that, The Brain would make infrequent on-camera appearances.  He did guest commentary with Mean Gene Okerlund at WrestleMania 17 during the very short gimmick battle royal (they also found themselves caught in the act with The Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young) and also worked brief stints with the XWF (where he reunited with Curt Hennig), Ring Of Honor (where he feuded with Jim Cornette) and TNA (where he attempted to represent Bobby Roode).

In 2002, Heenan’s charmed life changed forever when he was first diagnosed with throat cancer, a cruel twist of fate for a talented man who depended so much on the strength and bluster of his voice.  The consequences of that diagnosis would greatly affect his physical appearance and the sounds emanating from his lightning quick mind.  He would never fully recover.

Earlier today, after years of surgeries to repair his jaw and numerous damaging falls, Heenan died suddenly at the age of 72 surrounded by close family including his wife of nearly 40 years, Cynthia, and his only child, Jessica, who bore him his only grandchild, Austin, who is not yet 10.

As expected, tributes from some of the biggest names in wrestling past and present have been glowing and with good reason.  Bobby Heenan played a major role in the evolution of the business.  He began working in the WWF just as it was about to make its national expansion.  He helped elevate numerous talents whether they could speak or not.  And he could take a bump over and over again even if most of them were as a manager.  No one could turn an audience against him quite as quickly and as effectively as The Brain did.

Heenan never had a five-star classic as an in-ring grappler.  You can’t achieve that with Weasel Suit matches.  But he didn’t need to.  Heenan was first and foremost a talker, a great talker, one you looked forward to hearing every week.  Sure, he derided you as a humanoid and ham ‘n egger for rooting for the babyfaces that often went to war with his Family members and did dastardly things to make his clients happy and successful.  But he kept you laughing and laughing some more.  And he was smart.  Every time he offered an observation, you listened.  The WWE would not be where it is today were it not for him.

Throughout the history of wrestling, there have been great talkers, managers and commentators.  Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was all three at once.

Rest in peace, Weasel.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, September 18, 2017
2:14 a.m.

CORRECTIONS:  Bobby Heenan was actually 72, not 73.  And he married his wife Cynthia in 1978, not 1974.  The text has been corrected.  My apologies for the mistakes.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, September 18, 2017
11:41 p.m.

UPDATE:  The cause of death, according to The Tampa Bay Times, was “organ failure caused by throat cancer”.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, September 21, 2017
4:04 a.m.

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Published in: on September 18, 2017 at 2:14 am  Leave a Comment  

In An Attempt To Ban Overzealous Trump Supporters, John Cusack Accidentally Blocks 2 Journalists On Twitter. I’m One Of Them.

Being blocked by a celebrity on Twitter is something of a surreal experience.  Out of the thousands of mentions and messages they receive daily, somehow you’ve managed to break through and be acknowledged.  But then, just as quickly, rejected.

Sometimes, there’s a response before you get blocked.  Sometimes, nothing at all.

Usually, when I get blocked by a famous person, there’s a good reason for it:  I’ve pissed them off.

As I noted in this space four years ago, Obama apologist Sophia Bush wasn’t terribly thrilled with my harsh criticisms of her.  After lamely engaging with me twice, she ignored me for a couple of months.  Then, fed up with more criticism, I was blocked.

After arguing with Rosie O’Donnell about an article Radley Balko wrote in The Washington Post, she blocked me, too.

Porn star Eden Alexander, who I was friendly with for years on Twitter, didn’t realize I’m anti-Hillary Clinton (my roughly 800 followers know this wasn’t exactly a state secret) until I pointed out to her the former Secretary of State’s questionable human rights record.  After noting her awful history of espousing policies that disproportionately hurt already suffering people of colour, according to Alexander, an Asian-American, I was exercising my “white privilege”.  Then, she blocked me.  We haven’t spoken since.

I didn’t even realize Bill Cosby was aware of me until out of curiosity I checked his account to see if he was publicly addressing the numerous women who’ve accused him of sexual assault.  Barely active on the social network, I was shocked to see he had blocked me.  I didn’t realize he knew I had been tweeting article after article about his predatory behaviour.  When I was younger, I was a huge fan of his.  But way too slowly over time, as an adult, I’ve eventually grown appalled by his actions.  Honestly, I’m pretty proud of that block.

The same thing happened with Jerry “The King” Lawler.  He was accused by his girlfriend of physical abuse and I tweeted some articles about the incident.  (The matter was eventually dropped altogether.)  That was enough to get me blocked.  John “Bradshaw” Layfield apparently doesn’t like people who support Mauro Ranallo, the former Smackdown Live play-by-play announcer he once worked with and allegedly bullied.  (Ranallo has since resurfaced on NXT.)  I was one of many who suddenly found themselves unable to read his tweets, even though I have never engaged with him on Twitter.

How weird to be blocked by two former colour commentators on Raw.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling doesn’t like those who support BDS for a free Palestine so she blocked me.  I still don’t know why Wil Wheaton won’t allow me to see his tweets any more.  I was actually following him for a while.

Certain journalists aren’t too fond of me, either.

I don’t remember what I did to annoy Tom Hawthorn years ago.  But he blocked me.

Cancer survivor and Boing Boing journo Xeni Jardin, who I otherwise had positive exchanges with, didn’t appreciate my listing of Obama’s worst policies, so, she rescinded my follow and shut the blinds on her tweets.

The Huffington Post’s Lauren Duca had some mysterious issue with me which led to me being blocked by her.  But, much to my surprise, I’m now unblocked.

I’m pretty sure the reason Alexa O’Brien temporarily blocked me was because I’m an Edward Snowden supporter.  Her animus towards him is baffling considering her strong, unquestioning backing of the recently released Chelsea Manning.  (I’ve been a Manning champion, as well.)  We had nothing but pleasant conversations, too.  Strange.

Arthur Chu and Media Matters For America’s Oliver Willis, who I called a “transphobic moron” for his anti-Manning views, don’t want anything to do with me, either.  (The feeling is mutual.)  I blocked Warren Kinsella, the controversial Liberal strategist, before he curiously blocked me.  Used to be friendly with him, too.  Not anymore.

Disappointingly, I can now add John Cusack to this growing list.

Recently, the actor (whose best movie remains The Grifters) and political activist (he was a Bernie Sanders supporter during the 2016 election) decided to mass block a number of overzealous Donald Trump “trolls”, as he frequently describes them, who have been swarming his timeline for months.  (Before that, he had been responding critically to some here and there.)  Unfortunately, this decision has led to some Trump critics getting blocked, as well.  Cusack seemed to anticipate this in a couple of subsequent tweets:

“Block lists have weeded out many of the [Trump] troll bots – but I’m sure some [were] blocked who aren’t trolls so sorry!”

“If you know any non maga [Trump’s campaign slogan, ‘Make America Great Again’] trolls who want to be unblocked let me know – ”

Shadowproof managing editor Kevin Gosztola was puzzled by his blocking, as I was by mine.  Considering the fact that I have been nothing but supportive of Cusack (we’ve had few exchanges but they’ve all been friendly), I’m more than a little miffed by his sudden rejection of my follow.  How did I, and Gosztola for that matter, end up on a Trump troll block list when neither of us have exactly been gung-ho for this misogynistic, racist, serial abuser?

Anyway, the longer I’m blocked by Cusack without explanation, the more irritated and offended I feel by his mistake.  I asked Gosztola on Twitter if Cusack unblocked him yet.  He didn’t respond.

What’s really ironic about all of this?  Like Xeni Jardin, Cusack’s on the board of the Freedom Of The Press Foundation.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, July 6, 2017
2:52 a.m.

Published in: on July 6, 2017 at 2:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka Dies Without Facing Justice For Murdering Nancy Argentino

When I became a pro wrestling fan in the summer of 1985, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was one of my favourites.  He looked wild in his leopard-printed trunks with his unkempt mane of curly, dark hair, and chiselled, tanned physique.  He didn’t wear boots.  He wasn’t much of a technical wrestler but his finisher was fantastic.  Near the end of a match, he would climb the top rope, give the double devil-horned salute (which he rechristened the “I love you” sign), leap halfway across the ring and splash his downed opponent waiting helplessly on the mat.  Three seconds later, victory was his.

He played a major role in the evolution of the WWF from a Northeastern territory once part of the NWA into an independent global phenomenon.  When “Rowdy” Roddy Piper smashed a coconut into his face and brutalized him verbally and physically during his second and most infamous appearance on Piper’s Pit, it led to one of the hottest feuds of the mid-80s.  Snuka ended up being in the corner of Mr. T and Hulk Hogan during their tag team match with Piper and Paul Orndorff in the main event of the first WrestleMania.

Then, he disappeared from the company.  Vince McMahon Jr. openly referred to him as a “basket case”.  After a long stint in the AWA (where he feuded with the racist Apartheid South African supporter Col. DeBeers), Snuka would make a surprise return at WrestleMania 5.  His second run which lasted until the early 90s was a huge letdown.  (He eventually started wearing traditional boots.)  The most memorable thing he did was put over The Undertaker at WrestleMania 7 which began The Dead Man’s 21-match winning streak at the event.

Before he became a popular babyface, though, he was a notorious heel managed at one point by Captain Lou Albano.  (There’s a hilarious YouTube video of him flipping out while being interviewed by McMahon at ringside in an empty arena during a TV taping.)  He challenged WWF Champion Bob Backlund in a famous steel cage match in Madison Square Garden.  He lost shortly after performing the Superfly Splash from the top of the 15-foot structure.  Backlund got out of the way in time and escaped to victory.

But after Albano violently screwed him over, another former heel “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers became his new cornerman.  Snuka started challenging The Guiding Light’s protégé, Don Muraco, for his InterContinental title which he would never attain.  After a fluky steel cage win by the champion in 1983 at Madison Square Garden, a bloodied, infuriated Snuka dragged Muraco back in, suplexed him into position, climbed to the very top with his bare feet touching the barbed wire and jumped off.  This time, he landed right on The Magnificent One, who was also a bloody mess.  This classic moment was witnessed by a young kid from New York who went on to surpass this dangerous bump in 1998.  When Mick Foley was thrown off the top of the Hell In A Cell structure by The Undertaker at the King Of The Ring event landing quite roughly on a breakable announce table, it was clearly an homage to his hero.

But Jimmy Snuka was not a hero.  Despite his accomplishments in the ring, he was a despicable misogynist, an underreported fact during his heyday.  In 1983, while married, he started dating Nancy Argentino.  He would routinely beat her.  During one fateful night in May of that year, he murdered her.  According to the autopsy, she “died of traumatic brain injuries consistent with a moving head striking a stationary object.”  The coroner further noted that she had “suffered more than two dozen cuts and bruises — a possible sign of ‘mate abuse’ — on her head, ear, chin, arms, hands, back, buttocks, legs and feet.” He argued that it “should be investigated as a homicide until proven otherwise.”

It was never proven otherwise and Snuka was the only suspect.  (He preposterously claimed it was an accident.)  But at the time, he was never arrested nor put on trial.  Ask Vince McMahon Jr. why that didn’t happen.  More than 30 years later, however, thanks to decades of dogged reporting by Irv Muchnick, Snuka was finally arrested.  But his health had deteriorated considerably.  Diagnosed with dementia and later, terminal stomach cancer, the case was dismissed late last year without any real resolution.  Much earlier, Argentino’s family successfully sued him in 1985, receiving a half a million judgment but Snuka claimed poverty and never paid.  Just a month after being told he had six months to live, he’s dead.

And now the disgusting spectacle of WWE Superstars singing The Superfly’s praises on Twitter has begun.  And I’m sure glowing tributes are being prepared right this second for tomorrow night’s Raw and Tuesday night’s Smackdown Live.  Expect a dedication at the very start of each program.  How sickening, how sexist, how appalling.

It’s Chris Benoit all over again.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, January 15, 2017
5:15 p.m.

UPDATE & CORRECTION:  There was no 10-bell salute but as expected, tonight’s Raw was dedicated to him in his memory.  There was an overly glowing video tribute that made no mention of his violent misogyny.  Smackdown Live will likely feature the same material on Tuesday.

I misspelled the name of Snuka’s long forgotten victim.  It’s Nancy Argentino, not Argento.  I’ve made all the necessary corrections in the title and text but because hyperlinks are permanent, unfortunately, that mistake will remain.  My apologies for the error.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, January 16, 2017
10:15 p.m.

Published in: on January 15, 2017 at 5:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Lows Of 2016

1. David Bowie died of cancer two days after releasing his final studio album.  First, there was collective denial, then absolute shock and sadness.  His unexpected death set the tone for a miserable year.

2. Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States.  How much considerable, irreparable harm will he cause to the world?

3. Daniel Bryan retired from the WWE due to severe, unrecoverable injuries.  He was looking like the next John Cena.  Now he’s reduced to being a powerless “authority” figure on Smackdown, a supporting player on a reality show and a punching bag for The Miz.

4. Jian Ghomeshi isn’t in prison.  Rape culture is real.

5. The Fort McMurray fire in Alberta.  Such devastation.  It will takes years to rebuild.

6. Fifty Shades Of Black.  A horrifically unfunny “parody” of Fifty Shades Of Grey.  No more Marlon Wayans movies.  Please.

7. Gord Downie’s terminal brain cancer diagnosis.  May he live as long as he can and make as much good music as he is able.

8. The armed protest at the Oregon Wildlife Refuge.  What exactly did it accomplish other than mass ridicule?

9. The rise in racist hate crimes against Muslims, trans people, gays, Black people, Jews, Palestinians and Indigenous communities worldwide.  White supremacy needs to die already.

10. Mr. Fuji died.

11. Gitmo is still open.

12. CM Punk lost his first UFC fight in the first round.  Years ago, Brock Lesnar lost his first fight as well and went on to become World Champion.  So there’s still hope for The Straight Edge Superstar.  He’ll be back.

13. Krystal on Canada’s Worst Driver 12.  An unrepentant narcissist who is an absolute maniac on the road.  The sooner her license is permanently suspended, the better.  Host Andrew Younghusband deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for tolerating this phone-addicted brat as well and for as long as he did.

14. The phony “Bernie Bro” smear from Clintonistas desperate to keep the Vermont Senator from becoming the Democratic nominee for President.  Not only did this erase the millions of women who supported Bernie Sanders (especially Hillary Clinton’s numerous feminist critics and women of colour), it was dastardly and downright insulting.  In the end, Donald Trump is the next US President, so good job, you stupid idiots.

15. Gawker went bankrupt after losing a court case to balding, overtanned racist Hulk Hogan.  Fuck you, Peter Thiel.

16. The very funny Garry Shandling died.  He spearheaded two of the most influential sitcoms of all time:  It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and The Larry Sanders Show.  He was a great Emmys host, too, and a quiet mentor to so many other comics in need.

17. Prince died of a prescription drug overdose.  The incredible legacy he leaves behind which doesn’t even include the thousands of songs he never released.

18. Zack Ryder’s one and only InterContinental title reign lasted exactly one day.  Why do his pushes always seem like ribs?

19. Doris Roberts died.  Both Barones are gone now.

20. Brexit.  The United Kingdom isn’t so united anymore.  What other European nations will follow Ol’ Blimey’s risky lead?

21. George Michael died on Christmas Day.

22. The endless civil war in Syria.  So many villains who should be prosecuted for war crimes.

23. Palestine is still illegally occupied by Apartheid Israel.

24. Matt DeHart is still in prison.

25. The lack of justice for mostly Black and Indigenous victims of police brutality.  The racist status quo cannot and must not continue to protect murderers and torturers of the state.

26. James Ellsworth.  Enough.

27. Chelsea Manning attempted suicide twice (which she was punished for) as she continues to be persecuted and tortured with solitary confinement for exposing deplorable war crimes by the American government.  Release her immediately and let her transition already.  She’s suffered enough for her uncommon courage and conviction.

28. All the terrible films I saw this year:  Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Pixels, Hot Pursuit, Bad Teacher, The Lazarus Effect, Get Hard, the Black Christmas remake, Johnny English, Johnny English Reborn, Damien: Omen II, Born In East LA, The Wedding Ringer, Identity Thief, The Heat, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, No One Lives, Night Of The Creeps, Bending The Rules, The Last American Virgin, Bloodsport, The Last Exorcism Part II, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Basket Case, Krampus, Dolls, Jessabelle, Brain Damage, Wolfcop, The Haunting In Connecticut 2: Ghosts Of Georgia, Street Trash, Zombie High, We’re The Millers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Masters Of The Universe, Observe And Report, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, Silent Night Deadly Night, Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2, Here Comes The Boom, Let’s Be Cops, Death Wish II, Death Wish 3, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, Death Wish: The Face Of Death, Three Fugitives, Evilspeak, Ride Along, Ride Along 2, Knucklehead, Hatchet, Meatballs, Meatballs Part II, The Gallows, Daddy’s Home, The Out-Of-Towners remake, 22 Jump Street, Ted, Hotel Transylvania, Hotel Transylvania 2, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Funhouse, Critters, Critters 2, the Conan The Barbarian remake, Swing Parade, Africa Screams, At War With The Army, Check And Double Check, The Flying Deuces, Deathouse (AKA Silent Night, Bloody Night), The Smallest Show On Earth, My Favourite Brunette, The Perfect Score, Cheech & Chong’s Animated Movie!, And Now For Something Completely Different and The Great Rupert.

29. Only some Russian Olympians were banned from competition in the Summer Games in Brazil.  Why not all of them?  All their Paralympians were barred.  Why the double standard?

30. Cody Rhodes left the WWE.  Even he got sick of being Stardust.

31. MuchMoreMusic was yanked off the air.

32. New2You quietly closed its Lime Ridge location.  I bought so many cheap CDs there over the years.  I will miss it dearly.

33. Ryan Lochte.  What the hell was he thinking?  Oh right.  He wasn’t.

34. Russ Feingold wasn’t able to get elected back to the Senate.

35. “Iron” Mike Sharpe died.  Why isn’t he in the WWE Hall of Fame as a jobber?

36. Amber Heard’s damning testimony about her abusive ex-husband Johnny Depp.  She deserves better and he should be ashamed of himself.

37. The desperate campaign to outlaw the peaceful #BDS movement against Apartheid Israel.  Try as they may, AI and their Western governmental allies cannot stop the inevitable end of violent colonial Zionism.

38. Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds both died during the same week over the Christmas holidays.  Doubly sad.

39. Montreal lost in the MLS final to Seattle.  Boring game.  Penalty kicks are a terrible way to settle a scoreless draw.

40. The Chris Jericho/Dean Ambrose asylum match at Extreme Rules.  Too long and too slow.  No wonder the audience in attendance stayed quiet for most of it.  If it wasn’t for the thumbtacks, the ending would’ve been terrible, too.  Don’t expect this silly concept to be repeated.

41. The overcrowded announce table on Smackdown Live.  Does the WWE not realize that we don’t need three terrible colour commentators all at once?

42. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi.  Michael Bay reimagines the most politicized moment of the misbegotten Libyan invasion as a long-winded action epic.  No thanks.

43. The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 32.  If McMahon hadn’t jumped off the top of Hell In A Cell, would anybody be even talking about this match?  And what was the point of the stipulation if it was never going to be honoured?

44. Radiohead finally released a studio version of True Love Waits and it’s dreary.  I prefer the more moving live version from the I Might Be Wrong EP.

45. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.  Exceedingly manipulative and annoyingly sexist.  I only laughed twice.

46. Ride Along 2.  Will Kevin Hart ever make a good comedy?  Just as bad as the original.

47. The constant, dangerous scaremongering about Vladimir Putin and Russia.  Democrats will blame anybody but themselves for their pathetic electoral performance this year.  Soul searching is not their strong suit.

48. Damien Sandow was fired from the WWE.  That’s not the way you treat The Intellectual Savior Of The Unwashed Masses.

49. The Forest.  The concept is far better than the execution, unfortunately.

50. Rodrigo Duterte, the psychotic leader of The Philippines, who openly admitted to murdering his citizens as part of his horrific War on Drugs.  No wonder he’s an ally of the American government.

51. The Liberals lied about the deal to sell weaponry to Saudi Arabia.  Now it’s up to a Canadian court to decide whether it should be honoured.  It shouldn’t.

52. The overblown incident in the House of Commons when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accidentally elbowed an MP from the NDP during a contentious vote.  Trudeau wasn’t the one who needed to apologize repeatedly.  When even feminists criticized the controversy, you know it was nothing.

53. Kellie Leitch.  Loathsome, dishonest, racist, elitist.  The perfect face for the modern Conservative Party of Canada.

54. Obama & Congress will give 40 billion dollars to Apartheid Israel to help it continue propping up its endless, illegal occupation of oppressed Palestinians over the next decade.  If Netanyahu’s truly upset about the Iran Deal and the USG’s refusal to veto the latest UN condemnation of illegal settlements, he’ll reject the money.  You know he won’t, though.  Because #BDS is hurting Apartheid Israel’s economy.  And Zionism needs welfare to survive.

55. The ongoing, heartless persecution of Palestinian activist and torture survivor Rasmeh Odeh.  End her ordeal and clear her name already.

56. No one has gone to prison for murdering Baltimore resident Freddie Gray.

57. One stubborn juror led to the mistrial of North Carolina police officer Michael Slager who murdered Walter Scott as captured on video.  It’s Rodney King all over again.  Even actual footage isn’t enough to get a conviction for a white cop killing a black man in America.

58. 49 people were murdered at a gay club in Florida by a man who may have been gay himself.  Awful, just awful.

59. The news media’s early, constant coverage of Donald Trump and his long-winded rallies without much scrutiny of his record during the Republican primaries.  Are you happy now, Les Moonves?

60. The ongoing suicide crisis in the Canadian Indigenous community.  We are failing these kids.  We must do better.  We must listen to their concerns and directly address them.

61. Kurt Eichenwald.  He supported the wrong Democrat.  He’s not to be trusted.  And he’s a whiny bitch, too.

62. For the first time in about half a decade, the WWE split its roster again by putting half on Raw and half on Smackdown.  Not only that, they’ve added more championships so now each show has its own World Champion, mid-card-Champion, Tag Team Champions and Womens Champion, plus show-centric pay-per-views.  So lame.  Why return to such a failed concept?  The Raw vs. Smackdown rivalry is phony.  You all work for the same goddamn company!  No wonder your TV ratings suck so bad.

63. The failed coup in Turkey.  It gave authoritarian Erdogan every excuse to crack down on whatever democracy was still left in his troubled country.  Why hasn’t he been kicked out of NATO?

64. There wasn’t a single person of colour nominated for an acting Oscar.  Because of the public outcry, I suspect 2017 will be very different.

65. Media Matters For America going all in for a loser.  Still with Hill, jackwads?

66. Alberto Del Rio left the WWE.  Again.

67. The moral cowardice of Aung San Suu Kyi.  She doesn’t give a damn about the ruthless persecution of Rohingya Muslims in her own country.  Despicable.

68. Nat Turner and Casey Affleck are in contention for Academy Awards next year but face serious accusations of sexual assault and sexual harassment, respectively.  Turner faced a lot of scrutiny and didn’t handle it particularly well, while Affleck, a likely Best Actor nominee, just hosted Saturday Night Live and has routinely been given a free pass.  After decades of protecting Bill Cosby, the entertainment press needs to address this with Affleck directly.  Innocent lives are at stake.  Turner’s victim committed suicide.

69. The Nightly Show was cancelled just as it was finding its satirical voice in the insane world of American politics.  Comedy Central should’ve had more faith in it.

70. Bowie’s Blackstar wasn’t nominated for the Album Of The Year Grammy.  A huge, insulting oversight.

71. Muhammad Ali died.  He was an asshole to Joe Frazier but I’ll always respect his opposition to Vietnam.

72. Corey Graves and Byron Saxton at the Raw commentary table.  Absolutely no chemistry whatsoever.

73. Alan Rickman died.  He may have been a villain on-screen but he was a mensch in real life.  His public support for Rachel Corrie, an activist murdered by Apartheid Israel, should always be remembered.

74. The Wars on Drugs, Black people, Indigenous communities, trans, gay, lesbian & bisexual folks, sexual assault survivors, journalists, whistleblowers, prisoners, women, Sikhs and Muslims continues unabated.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 31, 2016
1:38 a.m.

The Highs Of 2016

1. Hillary Clinton will never be President of the United States.  When you run an incompetent, uninspired, foolhardy campaign, screw over your Democratic opponent and his left-wing supporters thanks to your corrupt political and media allies and then blame everybody else for your own neoliberal stupidity, you get what you deserve:  utter and complete humiliation.

2. Game 7 of The World Series.  One of the most competitive, unpredictable and exciting championship games not only in baseball history, but in the entire history of sports.  It is a damn shame Harry Caray never lived long enough to see his beloved Chicago Cubs end their notoriously brutal 107-year slump.  Cleveland blew it.

3. David Bowie’s Blackstar.  Released 8 days into the new year, I never heard a better album.  Poignant, cathartic, masterful.  He couldn’t have ended his recording career on a higher note.

4. OJ: Made In America.  An epic, thoroughly revelatory documentary miniseries that puts the travesty of the OJ Simpson double murder case in illuminating and often uncomfortable historical context.  Infuriatingly fascinating.

5. Mauro Ranallo joined the WWE as a play-by-play commentator.  It’s so refreshing to hear the actual names of wrestling holds being called again.  Now if only the company would find him a decent colour man instead of saddling him with three unimaginative seat fillers.  Where’s his Bobby Heenan?

6. Jerry “The King” Lawler blocked me on Twitter and no longer does colour commentary for the WWE.  This misogynistic sleaze wasn’t worth following or listening to in the first place.  He did me a favour.

7. Persecuted journalist Barrett Brown was finally released from prison.  May he continue to sing like the proverbial canary.

8. Iggy Pop’s Post Pop Depression.  You can never go wrong writing songs with Josh Homme.  Too bad he’s going to lose the Best Alternative Rock Album Grammy to Bowie’s Blackstar next year.

9. Leah Remini’s Scientology & The Aftermath series on A&E.  A fittingly skeptical companion to the excellent, eye-opening Going Clear movie I finally screened this year.  David Miscavige’s cult is in serious shit.  Time to stop treating it like a religion.  Revoke its tax-exempt status and start making indictments.

10. Portugal won Euro.  Ronaldo’s redemption 12 years in the making.

11. Roger Ailes was forced out of Fox News after being sued for sexual harassment.  Is his most famous political operation going to survive?  Let’s hope not.

12. Despite hundreds of ill-fated attempts, the CIA could not kill Fidel Castro who died of natural causes as an old man.  Will Cuba continue to fight against the scourge of imperialist capitalism?

13. Rob Riggle’s set during The Rob Lowe Roast on Comedy Central.  Absolutely killer.  The wretched Ann Coulter got it the worst.

14. Batman: The Killing Joke.  A surprisingly dark animated version of the graphic novel that deserved a more traditional and longer theatrical release.  Far superior to the disappointing Mask Of The Phantasm, it features a much stronger performance from longtime Joker Mark Hamill.  We could be spared the mercifully brief musical number, though.

15.  The #NoDAPL protest at Standing Rock in North Dakota.  A noble cause that is literally life and death for an already marginalized and brutalized Indigenous community.  We must all rally around these heroic water protectors.

16. Mohamedou Slahi was finally released from Gitmo.  The best-selling author deserves reparations and an apology for his disgusting torture at the hands of the United States government.  Absolutely shameful.

17. The Getaway by The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  They take five years now to put out new albums but the wait is always worth it.  Still funky and instantly accessible, even in middle age.

18. Corrupt, decrepit racist Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio lost his latest bid for re-election and was indicted by the Department of Justice.  The end is near for this fascist monster.  Finally.

19. The Triple Threat number one contender’s match between Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar at Fastlane.  Fantastic action despite the expected outcome.

20. Green Day’s Revolution Radio.  I’m glad Billie Joe Armstrong got sober.

21. The List Of Jericho.  Sheldon Cooper called.  He wants his funny gimmick back.  Uh oh.  I just made the list.

22. The Lazarus soundtrack.  Three more David Bowie gems.  Plus, Dexter sings!  A genuine surprise.

23. Canada won 22 medals at the Summer Olympics, 16 of which were earned by women including the hardworking soccer and rugby squads, their best effort in 20 years.  Penny Oleksiak, Andre De Grasse, Rosie McLennan and Derek Drouin were among the standout individual athletes who excelled in Brazil.

24. AJ Styles’ debuted at the Royal Rumble, feuded with Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and John Cena, and became WWE Champion.  Superstar of the year.  His Extreme Rules match with Reigns in particular was filled with entertaining spots.

25. The AIDS Crisis and Greed Is Good episodes of CNN’s The Eighties.  There remains no cure for both.

26. Weezer’s “White Album”.  Their record sales may have plummeted but Rivers Cuomo hasn’t forgotten how to craft a catchy alt-rock sing-a-long.

27. All the good films I screened this year:  The Omen (1976), Misery, The Visit, Anthony Shaffer’s The Wicker Man (first version), Ginger Snaps, Crimson Peak, Fantasia 2000, Rockshow, Elvis: That’s The Way It Is, Mission: Impossible III, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Maltese Falcon (1931), Satan Met A Lady, The Desert Trail, the original Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, the original D.O.A., the original Psycho, Monterey Pop and Shock.

28. The Miz’ passionate promo on Daniel Bryan during Talking Smack.  The most entertaining mic work he’s ever done.  The Yes Man could’ve easily shut down his argument.  He walked off the set instead.  What a mistake.  The segment may have single-handedly revived the fortunes of the InterContinental Champion.

29. Game two of the Montreal/Toronto MLS semifinal series.  The first time Canada has gotten legitimately excited about mens soccer in 30 years.  An atmospheric juggernaut with plenty of goals, rain, smoky flares and suspense.

30. The Tragically Hip’s final concert on CBC.  Bittersweet and engaging from start to finish.

31. The Tragically Hip’s Man Machine Poem.  Certainly not their best offering but if it’s their final musical statement, it will certainly suffice.  After 30 years, they’re not afraid to experiment with new sounds and ideas.

32. The term “Divas” was finally retired by the WWE.  All women who wrestle for the company are now superstars like the men.  It’s about goddamn time.

33. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair for the renamed Womens Championship at WrestleMania 32.  Incredible spots, high drama, tremendous workmanship.  It should’ve been the main event.  An honourable mention to the ladder match for the InterContinental strap.  A fine exhibition for the future of the company.

34. The hour-long debate between “Donald Trump” and “Bernie Sanders” on @Midnight.  Hilarious.

35. Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool.  More melodic elegance as Thom Yorke beautifully mourns the end of his relationship to Rachel Owen who sadly died of cancer this year.

36. Kevin Owens.  Bam Bam Bigelow without the tattoos and better promos.  His elevation to the main event in just two years is a testament to his considerable skill as a performer.  And he’s Canadian.

37. Braun Strowman.  Turns out he’s much more effective without Bray Wyatt.  And he might be the fastest big man in the business today.  A monster heel with great potential.  He looks like he belongs.

38. WikiLeaks.  The #DNCLeaks and the #PodestaEmails exposed The Democratic Party for what it actually is:  cynical, snobby, clueless and neoliberal.

39. Watching Blu-rays for the first time.  Man, oh man, what a world of wonder I’ve been missing.  Thanks Mom and Dad!

40. The guy from Edmonton who found an escaped cat under a train and took him home before reuniting him with his relieved owner from Saskatchewan.  A Festivus miracle.

41. Hot Hot Heat’s final album.  A hooky farewell from one of Vancouver’s finest.

42. Nancy Grace’s Headline News show was finally cancelled.  Even CNN can’t stand her anymore.

43. The Last Man Standing match between Kevin Owens & Dean Ambrose at the Royal Rumble for the InterContinental title.  It’s no wonder Owens is World Champion on Raw now.  Stellar.

44. Kings Of Leon’s Walls which stands for We Are Like Love Songs.  It should be doing brisker business.  Not a bad song in the mix.

45. Smackdown started broadcasting live.  No more spoilers leaking out days in advance.

46. Billy Talent’s Afraid Of Heights.  Punchy and political at times, rocking and rolling all of the time.

47. Tom Mulcair was given a no-confidence vote by the NDP.  He was never a true socialist.

48. Bernie Sanders’ historic campaign for President, the most successful Jewish candidate in American history.  If it wasn’t for the Clintonistas, he would be moving into the White House next month.  They screwed him like the ignorant assholes they are.

49. Brooke Henderson won a major LPGA tournament as a teenager.  More success coming in 2017?  Let’s hope so.

50. Milos Raonic made the Wimbledon finals, a first for a Canadian tennis player.  Too bad he didn’t win.

51. The Golden State Warriors record-setting regular season win-loss record.  Unfortunately, Cleveland came from behind to snag the NBA Championship from them in the finals.  LeBron James will not be denied.

52. Mark Rylance upset Sylvester Stallone for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  Score one for the anti-Zionists.

53. Dean Ambrose cut up Chris Jericho’s silly Lite Brite jacket.  The Scarf Era has begun.  Drink it in, man.

54. Every Womens Championship match on Raw between Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair.  The best TV rivalry of the year.  I don’t understand why the WWE doesn’t allow The Boss a longer title run.  She deserves one.

55. Pearl Jam is going into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame next year.

56. The #CureForKenza campaign.  This adorable little girl has a second chance at life.  May she make the most of it and thoroughly enjoy her childhood.

57. San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem protest.  It’s a shitty, racist song and we don’t need to hear it anymore.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, December 30, 2016
11:41 p.m.

What Daniel Bryan Should’ve Said To The Miz

Last week, Talking Smack lived up to its name.  Airing right after Smackdown Live every Tuesday night on The WWE Network, the show allows wrestlers a chance to further their storylines outside of the ring and vent if they so desire.  (They must’ve gotten the idea from The Talking Dead, the wrap-up show that follows The Walking Dead on AMC.)

During last week’s broadcast, The Miz was a guest.  One of the hosts, Daniel Bryan, made a pointed criticism about his in-ring work.  The former four-time World Champion claimed that the current InterContinental Champion was “soft” (or did he mean “sawft”?) and that he seemed less than eager to take bumps, particularly punches to the face.  He bluntly called him a “coward”.

In the past, when he was knocked for any number of reasons, The Miz would simply laugh off and diminish such negative views as the work of “haters”.  He even turned it into a T-shirt.  In all the years I’ve been watching him in the WWE, he has never let this get to him.

But judging by his ferocious reaction on Talking Smack, Bryan clearly touched a nerve.  Shaking so much with rage, The Miz passionately defended himself, claiming in his decade-long run with the WWE, he had never gotten seriously hurt.  He went on to hammer Bryan for telling the fans he would return but then retiring instead.

The Yes Man had a very good reason for ending his pro wrestling career, as Miz well knows.  He accumulated so many concussions, among other serious injuries, the WWE would no longer clear him to wrestle.  As he noted to The Miz, he would be back if the company would let him.

That wasn’t good enough for the star of Christmas Bounty.  The Miz suggested that if he was serious about coming back, he’d return to the “bingo halls” where he got his start.  Sticking the proverbial knife ever deeper, the IC Champ claimed that he loves the WWE fans (he’s currently a self-absorbed heel) and would make his title (which he has won on four previous occasions) mean something again.  (Bryan’s last title run in 2015 was with the same belt.)

Daniel Bryan eventually walked off the set which added even more fuel to The Miz’s venom.  With a very noticeable vein bulging out of his shiny forehead, he pointed out the obvious.  When vigourously challenged, ironically, Bryan was the one who showed fear.

But was The Miz right about everything else he said?  Is his “safe” style of wrestling, as Bryan derisively called it, the best way to work?

Bryan could’ve easily demolished his argument but because he abandoned this heated conversation while an agitated Miz was still lashing out at him in mid-sentence he missed a glorious opportunity to do so.  There are so many things he could’ve said instead of just walking away in disgust.

First off, he could’ve asked the IC Champ if he had ever had a classic match?  The Miz would probably respond with his two main event matches with John Cena for the WWE Championship back in 2011.  To which Bryan would’ve noted that his match with Cena at SummerSlam 2013 was better than both of them put together.

Miz would’ve countered that he was Champion that night for just a few minutes thanks to Randy Orton cashing in his Money In The Bank briefcase with a big assist from Triple H.  Bryan would’ve reminded him that the only reason he remained WWE Champion at WrestleMania 27 is because of The Rock.  And that Miz only became the champion in the first place because he cashed in his own MITB briefcase on a fallen Orton during a November episode of Monday Night Raw in 2010.  The only way he was able to keep the title in a 2011 Royal Rumble rematch with The Viper is because of the interference of CM Punk.

Miz would likely go on to mock Bryan for losing the World Heavyweight Championship to Sheamus in the opening match of WrestleMania 28 in less than 20 seconds, to which Bryan would note that his loss led to his eventual babyface push as the fans began enthusiastically chanting “Yes!”, his once purposefully obnoxious catchphrase, in protest that night.  When Miz would take credit for that success, as he did in an interview in 2012, Bryan would argue that despite his love of the fans, they didn’t love The Miz back during his own ill-fated, mercifully brief babyface turn.

The Yes Man could list a whole slew of great matches in his career.  A Money In The Bank ladder match in 2011 (which led to his first world title push), the 2012 Elimination Chamber match for the WHC, the three WWE title bouts on pay-per-view with CM Punk (including one that featured Kane) during the Spring and Summer of 2012, his Royal Rumble 2014 match with Bray Wyatt and that stellar encounter with Triple H at WrestleMania 30 which directly led to him regaining the WWE Championship in a 3-way with Orton and Batista in the main event of that same show.  Both encounters lasted 30 minutes apiece. Could The Miz have accomplished any of this with his “safer” approach?

Bottom line, Daniel Bryan can easily say he had more memorable, important matches in his six years in the WWE than The Miz has had in his entire career even if he did suffer serious physical setbacks that ended his wonderfully inspiring run all too quickly.

As for the IC Champ’s assertion that he’s never been seriously hurt, I can think of two instances where things went wrong at his expense.  The original finish of the Cena match at WrestleMania 27 ended in a double count-out where Miz hit the back of his head hard on the concrete while taking a bump at ringside.  If memory serves, I do believe he suffered a concussion from that.

And then, there was the Raw match he had with Kofi Kingston where he got struck so forcefully with the Trouble In Paradise (basically a spinning kick to the head), you could hear the loud thump of the impact.  Miz looked dazed for a bit after he was pinned.

Interestingly, if Bryan had brought up these instances during their Talking Smack interview, Miz could’ve used them as proof he can take a serious bump and not lose his spot.  To which Bryan would’ve instantly countered that these were rare, unfortunate accidents and he doesn’t handle genuinely safe but tough-looking bumps on a regular basis.

On this week’s Smackdown Live, The Miz delivered another blistering heat-seeking promo that seemed slightly inspired by CM Punk’s brilliant “pipe bomb” promo in 2011.  Once again sounding very defensive, especially when he was booed, he talked about how great a team player he is for WWE.  Whenever the company needs him for PR work, he’s there, dignity be damned.

Daniel Bryan’s promised direct response to last week’s Talking Smack segment, on the other hand, was a huge letdown.  Bryan and The Miz never actually had a follow-up face-to-face encounter which is baffling.  In fact, as Bryan noted on this week’s Talking Smack, it was decided by WWE management to keep them apart on-camera from this point forward.  (Ridiculous.  Talk about poor creative judgment.)  For his part, Bryan apologized for abandoning co-host Renee Young during a hot segment and for pissing off The Miz, although on Smackdown Live, it was more than clear he stands by his original criticisms, as he should.

It’s such a shame he didn’t go further last week because had he done so, he would’ve won the argument.  Handily.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
7:34 p.m.

Published in: on August 31, 2016 at 7:34 pm  Comments (2)  

When Plan “A” Goes Awry: 5 Times WWE Got Lucky With Plan “B” Storylines

In the world of professional wrestling, it all comes down to storylines.  Who’s the hero?  Who’s the villain?  And what are they fighting each other for?

Sounds simple enough.  But to paraphrase a famous poem, even the best laid storylines can go awry.

Wrestlers get hurt unexpectedly, sidelining them for months.  Sometimes they miss shows.  Sometimes they get suspended or fired.  And sometimes the bookers make last-minute changes based on any number of other factors not always within their control like the audience’s lack of enthusiasm.

For every WWE program that seemingly goes exactly as planned (CM Punk/John Cena, Randy Savage/Ricky Steamboat) or flat-out stiffs (Triple H/Kane during the Attitude Era, Red Rooster/Brooklyn Brawler), there are the ones that never happen at all (Bret Hart/Hulk Hogan, Daniel Bryan/The Undertaker).

Then, there are the happy accidents, the back-up programs that were implemented because the real plans fell apart.  These Plan Bs, if you will, sometimes work out so well that you wonder why they weren’t the original storylines to begin with.  In fact, had they not taken place, the history of WWE would be very different.

Here are five notable examples:

1. “The Natural” Butch Reed misses a TV taping (June 2, 1987).

Shortly after winning the InterContinental title from Randy Savage at WrestleMania III, Ricky Steamboat asked WWF boss Vince McMahon for some time off.  McMahon would only allow it if The Dragon dropped the belt.  After a series of cage matches with Savage on the house show circuit, a reluctant and disappointed Steamboat ultimately agreed to the demand.

The plan called for him to lose the strap to Butch Reed during a WWF Superstars taping on June 2, 1987.  However, there was a big problem.  Reed never showed up.

Then-WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan made a suggestion.  Why not use his friend Wayne Ferris as a replacement?

Ferris arrived in the company in the fall of 1986.  Originally booked as a Hogan-supporting babyface, he was floundering.  Fans immediately rejected him.  Things started to turn around for the Elvis impersonator when he asked for a vote of confidence (which he didn’t get) and hired “Colonel” Jimmy Hart as his manager.  Now sounding delusional about having the fans on his side (he never acknowledged their boos), he started to generate heat, especially after whacking Jake Roberts in the head with a real guitar on the set of his interview segment, The Snake Pit.

At WrestleMania III, he got a cheap pinfall victory over The Snake by holding one of the ring ropes.  A similar finish would be used in his IC title match with Steamboat.

Rightly considered an unexpected upset at the time, little did anyone realize how significant this title change would become.  Ferris, billed as The Honky Tonk Man, would start declaring himself the greatest InterContinental Champion of all time, a catchphrase he would repeat in pretty much every promo he would go on to cut.  This greatly offended Savage who would spent the rest of 1987 and early 1988 unsuccessfully challenging him for the belt.

Savage was supposed to win the title for the second time at some point but Ferris refused to put him over.  That meant a change of plans for WrestleMania IV.  Originally, Ted DiBiase was going to win the World title tournament.  Savage, with an assist from Hogan, would pin The Million Dollar Man instead.

Ferris would move on to feud with Brutis Beefcake, the man he was supposed to drop the title to at the first SummerSlam in August 1988.  But Beefcake was ultimately replaced by an unbilled Ultimate Warrior who would squash Ferris in less than a minute.

Because Butch Reed failed to show up for work that June afternoon in 1987, The Honky Tonk Man became the longest reigning IC Champion of all time and played a major role in the formation of the Megapowers.

2. Triple H gets punished for the MSG Curtain Call (1996)

It was a longstanding, unwritten rule in pro wrestling:  no matter what, don’t break character when you’re performing.  But on May 19, 1996, at the end of a house show in New York’s Madison Square Garden, it was openly broken.

In the early 90s, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall had found great success in the WWF as Diesel and Razor Ramon.  But when rival company WCW guaranteed them more money in secure contracts, the lure proved too strong to resist.  After wrestling their final WWF matches at the MSG show, along with their real-life pals Triple H and Shawn Michaels, they climbed into the ring, embraced and raised each other’s arms to the delight of the sold-out audience.

At first, this wasn’t seen as a big deal.  But gradually, over time, there was internal grumbling.  And someone needed to be punished.

Nash and Hall had already left.  As for The Heartbreak Kid, he was a main eventer the company couldn’t afford to lose, even on a temporary basis.  That left relative newbie Hunter Hearst Helmsley.  He would spend the next year or so losing more often than winning.

The timing sucked because Helmsley was going to be pushed as the 1996 King Of The Ring.  Instead, he put over a past-his-prime Jake Roberts in the first round.  The Snake would make it all the way to the finals where he would square off against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Helmsley’s replacement.

After finishing off Roberts with the Stone Cold Stunner, Austin would do a post-match interview with Dok Hendrix.  As Roberts was helped to the back by some referees, The Texas Rattlesnake would cut the promo of his life as he famously bragged, “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!”  Although a heel at the time, in the aftermath of WrestleMania 13 the following year, Austin would go on to become one of the most unlikely babyfaces in WWE history, drawing huge money wherever he performed and being pushed for the world title on multiple occasions.

As for Triple H, he would be pushed as the 1997 King Of The Ring and eventually go on to become a 14-time WWE World Champion.

3. Edge unexpectedly retires, vacating the World Heavyweight Championship (April 2011)

Shortly after retaining his World Heavyweight Championship against Royal Rumble winner Alberto Del Rio in the opening match of WrestleMania 27, The Rated R Superstar shocked the wrestling world by suddenly announcing his retirement.  Due to persistent neck issues and the serious risk of doing further, permanent damage, he ended his career and then officially vacated the WHC.

This put the WWE bookers in a bind.  Edge was supposed to have a ladder match with Del Rio at the next pay-per-view, Extreme Rules.  But with Edge no longer allowed to work, who would face the Mexican Aristocrat for the title instead?

In the end, it would be Edge’s lifelong pal Christian.  Thanks to a last-minute assist from Edge, Captain Charisma would climb the ladder and snag the belt.  Two days later, the babyface champion would drop the title during a Smackdown taping to Randy Orton which set up a series of entertaining rematches, more title changes and a heel turn.  Three years later, Christian quietly retired himself.

4. The Rock gets seriously injured during WrestleMania 29 (April 7, 2013)

In 2011, The Rock was announced as the host of WrestleMania 27.  During the main event, which originally ended in a double countout, he ordered the WWE title match between The Miz and John Cena to continue.  After rock bottoming the challenger, The Miz retained.  The very next night on Raw, Cena and Rock agreed to have a match at WrestleMania 28, giving themselves a full year to hype the encounter.  Rock got the victory.

At the 2013 Royal Rumble, The Rock defeated CM Punk to become WWE Champion.  Cena won the Royal Rumble match to get a title shot at WrestleMania 29.

During the match, Rock got seriously hurt.  (Good thing Cena was scheduled to win back the strap.)  Unfortunately, this affected The Rock’s next program.

On the April 8th edition of Raw, Rock was supposed to be attacked by Brock Lesnar.  But because of his injury, he was instead sent to the hospital for successful emergency surgery.  The Lesnar assault was supposed to begin yet another year-long build to WrestleMania.  But with Rock hurt and eventually back to making movies, this left Lesnar without a dance partner.

Enter The Undertaker.  Although he reportedly requested a match with Daniel Bryan, The Dead Man was ultimately booked to face The Beast Incarnate at WrestleMania 30.  By this point, The Streak was still intact.  Taker had won 21 straight matches at the event.  There wasn’t much widespread expectation it was in any serious danger, despite the red flag promos of Lesnar’s advocate Paul Heyman and a new T-shirt with the slogan, “Eat. Sleep. Conquer The Streak.”

In what was one of the most closely guarded secrets in professional wrestling history, not even the referee in the match knew what the finish was.  After three F5s, Lesnar gave The Phenom his first and only WrestleMania loss.  If The Rock hadn’t gotten that injury against John Cena in 2013, would someone besides Lesnar been booked to break The Streak in 2014?  We’ll never know.

5. A burned-out CM Punk walks away from the WWE after the Royal Rumble (2014)

The Straight Edge Superstar had accomplished a lot in WWE.  Winning Money In The Bank twice.  Becoming InterContinental Champion, a co-holder of the tag titles, and even a multiple-time World Champion.  But there was one goal on his list he had yet to tick off:  main-eventing WrestleMania.

The closest he ever came was WrestleMania 28, when he successfully defended the WWE title against Chris Jericho in the second-to-last match of the night.  (Rock/Cena headlined the event.)

After losing to The Undertaker at WrestleMania 29, Punk requested some time off to heal from injuries, a sabbatical that lasted about two and a half months.  At the end of 2013, there was a segment on Raw to hype the John Cena/Randy Orton world title unification match at TLC.  At some point, with a whole bunch of former world champions in the ring, Punk got into it with former rival Triple H.  It was no accident.  According to reports later on, the WWE had big plans for him that potentially could’ve gotten him that long elusive WrestleMania main event booking.

While feuding with Corporate Kane, Punk became entrant #1 in the 2014 Royal Rumble and lasted almost the entire match before being tossed from the ring by an already eliminated Kane himself.  Shortly thereafter, once again feeling like shit, Punk told the company he was temporarily walking away to recover.

But this meant he wouldn’t be facing Triple H for the first time in 3 years at the Granddaddy Of Them All.  Nor would it mean being booked for the WWE championship match in the main event.  On his way out the door, Punk suggested his replacement for both matches:  old Ring of Honor pal Daniel Bryan.

By this point, Bryan was the most popular babyface in the company.  Already a three-time World Champion, he never had longer than a three-month reign.  (He had longer title runs as US and tag champ.) Here was now an opportunity to push him for a longer stretch.  The problem was he wanted to face the retired Shawn Michaels.  The company wanted him to face old nemesis Sheamus.

The 2014 Royal Rumble was won by the returning Batista who hadn’t wrestled in nearly four years.  Originally pushed as a good guy, The Animal had to turn heel ahead of schedule because the audience preferred Bryan, an inevitability he had already privately warned the bookers about.  Now the number one contender to Randy Orton’s newly unified WWE World Heavyweight Championship, the audience wasn’t thrilled about a main event featuring two former members of Evolution.

In the build to WrestleMania 30, Bryan kept demanding a match with Triple H who repeatedly turned him down.  It wasn’t until the Occupy Wall Street-inspired Yes Movement on Raw that The Cerebral Assassin angrily gave in.  Adding intrigue was the tantalizing stipulation that if Bryan actually won, he would be inserted into the main event, giving him another shot to regain his championship.

On the night of the show, Bryan and H had a tremendous 30-minute opener with the Yes Man getting the win.  Despite a post-match beatdown, complete with vicious chair shots to his arm, Bryan would move on to defeat Orton & Batista to regain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

On the day of his wedding that summer, Punk was officially fired.  Bryan would have to forfeit the title two months later because of a persistent neck injury.  After missing much of 2014, Bryan would briefly return at the start of 2015 hoping to get another title push.  He had to settle for an InterContinental title run that would also be cut short because of another serious injury.  After another long absence, Bryan officially retired on Raw in early 2016.  Punk is now training for his first UFC fight.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, April 9, 2016
12:06 a.m.

Published in: on April 9, 2016 at 12:06 am  Comments (1)  

5 Deserving Candidates For A Proposed Jobber Wing Of The WWE Hall Of Fame

They were paid to lose and lose often.  They only had one job:  to make the superstars they worked with look credible and dominating.

They were the unsung heroes of the glory days of professional wrestling back when the squash match was far more common, particularly on Television.  You would watch them every week as they elevated the statuses of countless big name performers by selling, submitting and getting pinned.

The impolite term is jobber.  The more accepted vernacular is enhancement talent.  Regardless of what you call them, they served a paramount purpose putting over the biggest stars in the history of the business.

By the mid-90s, as WCW and the WWF went head to head on Monday nights, jobbers were mostly phased out.  WCW dropped them first.  When Raw was trailing Nitro in the ratings, the WWF soon followed suit.  With rare, notable exceptions since (think Ryback in all those 2-on-1 handicap matches with nobodies in 2012 or some of the early WWE Ascension tag encounters last year), big names strictly face big names now.

And yet, when it comes to the WWE Hall Of Fame, the massive, historic contributions of full-time jobbers are completely overlooked.  Every inductee thus far has been a superstar of some repute whether they won championships, had great matches or engaged in memorable feuds.  While numerous Hall of Famers got their start as jobbers (Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, Curt Hennig) or ended their careers putting over the next generation (Pedro Morales), that’s not why they were ultimately inducted.

There’s a simple solution to rectify this unfortunate oversight.  Add a jobber wing to the WWE Hall Of Fame.  And induct the following 5 performers in the first year:

1. S.D. Jones

He was the big man from Antiqua who wore those colourful Hawaiian shirts and was defeated so many times on weekly Television by so many major stars.  Special Delivery Jones was one of the most familiar faces on WWF weekend broadcasts in the 1980s even though he almost always lost.  Live events were a slightly different story where, despite defeat after defeat, he still managed to win a number of encounters over fellow jobbers and even big names of the era like Mr. Fuji, “Superstar” Billy Graham, “Luscious” Johnny V & Baron Mikel Scicluna, as noted by the invaluable site, The History Of WWE.

As noted by Wikipedia, Jones was a 3-time territorial tag champion back in the mid-70s when he worked for the NWA.  And the closest he came to duplicating that success was being paired with Tony Atlas to challenge Mr. Fuji & Mr. Saito for the WWF tag belts in a series of matches in 1981.  They always came up short (although Atlas would win the straps with Rocky Johnson two years later during a TV taping).

In 1983, he was one of the many who tried and failed to bodyslam Big John Studd who offered him $8500 at the time if he succeeded.  And he was the first guy on TV to put over a returning Sgt. Slaughter who had been absent from the WWF for two years.  Slaughter would turn face and go on to feud with The Iron Sheik.  Speaking of the Sheik, months after he served his suspension for an incident involving Hacksaw Jim Duggan in the summer of 1987, Jones gave him his first win back during a February 1988 house show at the then-named Meadowlands in New Jersey, also helpfully noted by The History Of WWE website.

In 1985, Jones was famously squashed by King Kong Bundy at the first WrestleMania in less than 30 seconds which helped raise the profile of the monster heel to memorable feuds with Andre The Giant, Hillbilly Jim and Hulk Hogan.  (Jones was Andre’s tag team partner in the infamous November 1984 TV match against Studd & Ken Patera when the Eighth Wonder of the World’s hair was cut against his will.)  That same year, he was even on the cover of the original Wrestling Album.  He’s in the Land Of 1000 Dances video, too.

As Vince McMahon’s marketing machine went into full effect, Jones was the only jobber to get his own action figure.  In fact, he had two.  One with a red shirt and the other with a more typical yellow/blue top featuring painted palm trees.  (Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant were the only others to have doubles.  FEBRUARY 22 CORRECTION:  Actually, Hogan had 3.)  He continued to win occasional matches at house shows while almost always losing on TV (in 1987, he gave Outlaw Ron Bass his first MSG victory) right up until 1988.

In 2006, he inducted his good friend and former tag partner Tony Atlas into the WWE Hall Of Fame.  Two years later, he died just days after suffering a severe stroke.  For all the good he did for two generations of McMahons, S.D. deserves his own induction.

2. Steve Lombardi

Long before he was the cigar-chomping Brooklyn Brawler in dirty, tattered clothing and Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz with his face absurdly painted like a baseball, this New York native was the go-to jobber for putting over so many WWF stars in the 80s and 90s.  When Ricky Steamboat debuted in 1985, Lombardi was the first guy he pinned on Television.  During a 1987 house show at Hamilton, Ontario’s then-named Copps Coliseum, I saw him get destroyed by The Ultimate Warrior.  In 1988, when Owen Hart was The Blue Blazer, Lombardi put him over during Hart’s first match at the revered Madison Square Garden, according to The History Of WWE.  And in 1996, he put over a young Rocky Maivia in a try-out match.  (The Rock praised Lombardi in his autobiography.)

Practically every big name that worked for the promotion during that time can claim they had at least one win over Lombardi.  (During this period, he also occasionally played Kim Chee, Kamala’s masked, safari-attired handler.)  In early 1989, he aligned himself with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan who had just been fired by The Red Rooster during a Saturday Night’s Main Event taping.  Now going with The Brooklyn Brawler moniker, Lombardi attacked Rooster and Gorilla Monsoon during a Prime Time Wrestling broadcast.  That set up a series of matches between Brawler and Rooster that began in February and ended in August.

According to The History Of WWE, and it should be noted they don’t have complete results, Rooster pinned Brawler at least 63 times.  (I bet the real total is even higher.)  In the end, Lombardi only got one victory which came during a MSG show on February 20.  As Rooster was attempting to suplex Brawler back into the ring from the apron, Heenan pulled his leg out from under him and held it down while Brawler got the 3-count.  (Curiously, this would be the same finish in the Ultimate Warrior/Rick Rude WrestleMania 5 match-up that put the IC belt on the Ravishing one two months later.)

At the very next MSG event, Rooster beat Brawler with Heenan notably banned from ringside.  After their program ended, it was back to jobbing for Lombardi until he briefly feuded with the mustachioed Big Bully Busick in 1991.  In late 1993, early 1994, according to Wikipedia, he briefly replaced Matt Borne as Doink The Clown before his brief, ill-advised stint as Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz.  Returning to the Brawler gimmick in 1994 he later won the right to a WWF Championship match in 1997 against then-titleholder Shawn Michaels who only retained thanks to the interference of his D-Generation X buddies.  Lombardi got some measure of revenge when he pinned Triple H three years later in a handicap match on an episode of Jakked.

Although he has made the odd TV appearance since (he supported Kamala as Kim Chee in the gimmick battle royale at WrestleMania 17), these days Lombardi is an off-camera road agent who always attends the annual WWE Hall of Fame ceremony and is often singled out for his contributions to the business.  One of these years, he should be invited to talk about them on stage.

3. “Leaping” Lanny Poffo

Not many jobbers had an actual gimmick but this Canadian-born curly-haired second generation performer with the sparkly silver trunks had a memorable one.  Arriving with his brother, Randy Savage, to the WWF in 1985, before every match, the poet laureate would recite a poem usually about his opponent(s) and get them riled up by mentioning their current rival(s).  Then, he would throw out Frisbees which contained those same verses to every crowd he entertained.  And yes, he wrote every word.

More often than not, it would be all for naught.  He would usually get his ass beat.  (Savage, on the other hand, would go on to become InterContinental Champion and a 2-time World Champion.)

Only rarely would Poffo defeat his opponent (almost always a fellow jobber) with a moonsault off the top rope, a move rarely seen in 80s wrestling.  And he had one of the stiffest punches in the business (at least that’s the way it always looked and sounded).  Poffo’s in-ring abilities afforded him plenty of “hope spots” in his countless squash matches against the biggest names, mostly heels, of the day as he put over a substantial number of them in the second half of the 80s.

During a Saturday Night’s Main Event taping in 1987, Poffo was booked to take a headbutt from Andre The Giant during a 20-man battle royale.  Unfortunately, Andre hit him a little too hard before eliminating him.  Poffo’s face was a bloody mess and he had to be stretchered out of the arena.  According to Wikipedia, the bridge of his nose had to be stitched up.

At a WWF house show in Madison Square Garden in March 1989, The History Of WWE website notes that Poffo turned heel declaring his support for his brother (without acknowledging that fact) who was about to drop the WWF title to Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 5.  From then on, he was The Genius, maintaining his rhyming ways but now also positioning himself as some kind of great philosopher and ring strategist.  (He started carrying around a fancy clipboard he would often use a weapon.)  Channelling the daintier aspects of Gorgeous George, Poffo, now with long straight hair, would hilariously prance around the ring, doing cartwheels all the while baffling his opponents and winning.  The previous year, he put over Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart at the outdoor WrestleFest ’88 supercard in less than five minutes.  In 1989, Neidhart was putting him over.

When his brother defeated Hacksaw Jim Duggan to become the Macho King in the fall of 1989, it was Poffo who recited a poem in his honour during his televised coronation ceremony.  Although Canadian promoter Jack Tunney (the fake WWF President) did acknowledge their real-life familial relationship during a radio interview on a local Hamilton, Ontario radio station in the late 80s, the WWF itself never once brought it up during this era.

The Genius would go on to be “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig’s cornerman and advisor as he feuded with Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship.  In perhaps his greatest moment, with a big assist from Mr. P, Poffo got a count-out victory against Hogan during a late 1989 Saturday Night’s Main Event taping.  (They later stole his belt and smashed it to bits.  It has long been rumoured to have been recycled as the Hardcore title.)  Poffo & Hennig would team up to face Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior on another SNME and lose.  But the post-match clothesline fest would continue to build the Hogan/Warrior WrestleMania 6 storyline.

Poffo would eventually split from Hennig (Heenan would manage him to his first IC strap) and move on to represent The Beverly Brothers for a time in 1991 and 1992 while occasionally teaming with them, sometimes successfully, in six-man tags.  Poffo would leave the company before the end of ’92.

Poffo briefly returned to the WWF in 1994 before being offered the Gorgeous George gimmick from Savage who had somehow acquired the rights to use it.  But WCW never booked him and Savage gave the idea to his then-girlfriend Stephanie Bellars instead, as noted by Wikipedia.

Savage would die of a heart attack while driving with his second wife in 2011.  After many years of resistance (because his brother wanted the whole family inducted which included father Angelo whose yellow trunks inspired Hulk Hogan), Poffo finally accepted the honour of inducting the Macho Man alone into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015.  When is some prominent figure going to induct the poet laureate himself?

4. Barry Horowitz

As he was being introduced before every match, this proud Jewish American would buck himself up with a pat on the back.  The gesture got over so well the WWF turned it into a T-shirt.  Too bad it didn’t lead to many victories.

For much of the late 80s and early 90s, he did jobs for practically every major star you can think of during his tenure.  Only rarely, particularly during house shows, did he ever win.

Things started to change in 1993 when he appeared as a masked wrestler named The Red Knight during a 4-on-4 elimination match at the Survivor Series, his first pay-per-view.  Captained by Shawn Michaels, Horowitz’ team would see all its members defeated by The Hart Family.

Horowitz would go on to challenge The Quebecers for the tag belts by aligning himself with The 1-2-3 Kid.  He would also get an InterContinental title shot against champion Jeff Jarrett.  He lost both bids for championship glory.

Then came 1995.  Horowitz was booked to face one of the Body Donnas, a tag team with a fitness gimmick.  During a solo TV match against Skip, Horowitz got the surprise win which led to the famous Jim Ross line, “Horowitz wins!  Horowitz wins!”  In their rematch at SummerSlam, Horowitz was victorious once again.

After beating Hakushi in another upset, Horowitz started teaming with him.  They would both be eliminated during a traditional tag match at the 1995 Survivor Series.  Horowitz’s final hurrah would be his one and only appearance in the Royal Rumble match in 1996.  Despite drawing a high number (25), Owen Hart threw him over the top rope.  After that, it was back to jobbing until he was let go by the WWF in 1997.  He would go work for WCW for two years before a final run on the indie scene.

Long before his jobber/underdog days in the WWF, Barry Horowitz won a number of titles working the territories in the NWA.  But for all the good he did elevating the stars of his day, it’s his enhancement talent period that deserves to be enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame.

5. “Iron” Mike Sharpe

He was billed as “Canada’s greatest athlete” and in the early 80s was even managed by “Captain” Lou Albano which led to exactly one WWF title shot against then-champion Bob Backlund.  (He lost.)  With a suspicious-looking forearm band, a famously hairy chest and a relentless grunt, things were looking good for this Hamilton, Ontario native, at least in the beginning.  But then, he split from Albano and there were no more title shots.

For a little more than a decade, “Iron” Mike Sharpe, the third second-generation wrestler on this list, was a reliable win for a whole slew of WWF superstars.  He was the first TV opponent for Tugboat.  Along with Tony Ulysses, as noted by The History Of WWE, he helped put over a new team called The Powers Of Pain during their first televised WWF tag bout.  And when Ivan Putski had a comeback match at Madison Square Garden in 1987, as noted by Wikipedia & THOW, Sharpe gave him the win.

When Hulk Hogan needed someone to shoot wrestling scenes for a video that would air on Dolly Parton’s short-lived variety show, Sharpe was the guy who got the job.  (According to Wikipedia, Sharpe was Hogan’s tag team partner when they wrestled in Japan.)  Along with Horowitz, he would continue to work as enhancement talent well into the mid-90s but unlike Horowitz, despite his early push, he would never get another one, although he did beat Boris Zhukov of The Bolsheviks in round one of the 1988 King Of The Ring tournament.  (The Red Rooster made him submit in round two.)

It’s a testament to how good he was as a heel that the three times I saw him live at Copps Coliseum in the 80s, he was always booed by his hometown crowd.  Some time after retiring in 1995, he started a training school for the next generation.  But then an unfortunate gardening accident in 2007 derailed everything (a massive cut on his one of his legs led to a serious infection) and Sharpe basically became a wheelchaired recluse, too ashamed, sick & depressed to go back to his much happier life, until his death earlier this year.

The WWE acknowledged the end of his life through a press release but there were no ten rings of the timekeeper’s bell nor a tribute video on either Raw or Smackdown.  No dedication in his memory, either.  An induction into the jobber wing of the WWE Hall Of Fame would be the best way to honour his seriously underappreciated legacy.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 22, 2016
3:46 a.m.

Published in: on February 22, 2016 at 3:47 am  Comments (1)  

50 Things I Loathed About 2015

1. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper died.

2. The CIA torture report remains classified.

3. Canada didn’t win the Womens’ World Cup.  At least they made it to the quarterfinals this time.

4. Hulk Hogan’s disgusting racism was exposed.  Hulkamania is dead.

5. The startling rise in global anti-Muslim hatred.  From vandalism and the torching of mosques to cruel remarks to ongoing mass surveillance to violent acts against women who wear hijabs and niqabs, Sikh men and others to the family who was forbidden from going to Disneyland to 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed being persecuted for making a clock to the constant torturing and droning of civilians in the Middle East and the despicably cold treatment of refugees fleeing in absolute terror, this decent community has suffered long enough.  It must stop now.

6. Jon Stewart ended his 16-year run hosting The Daily Show.  Trevor Noah has not made anyone forget that.

7. AJ Brooks left the WWE.  One of the best characters and performers of the decade thus far.  She’ll be missed.

8. Donald Trump’s racism and sexism.  It’s enough already.

9. Rob Ford has cancer again.  Hope he makes a full recovery.  Such an awful disease.

10. Despite being caught deflating footballs during a play-off game, The New England Patriots still won the Super Bowl.  Fuck the NFL.

11. Wes Craven died.

12. The NDP’s pitiful performance in the Canadian federal election.  Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to elect a leader who almost joined the Conservatives.

13. President Obama’s ongoing financial support of Middle Eastern dictators, most notably Sisi in Egypt and Netanyahu in Apartheid Israel.  The unspeakably cruel war against Muslims & Palestinians continues unabated.

14. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was arrested for murdering his girlfriend.  Why did it take more than 30 years to close the case?  Vince McMahon and many of Snuka’s former allies have a lot of explaining to do, as well as the original investigators from 1983.

15. The horrific bombing of Doctors Without Borders hospitals in Yemen and Afghanistan.  Saudi Arabia and America have hands so bloody they are permanently stained.  These war criminals must be held accountable.

16. Bill Cosby’s endless gaslighting of his dozens of victims.  He’s already lost the public, now he’s going to lose millions in civil court thanks to several doomed-to-fail lawsuits.  (JANUARY 7 UPDATE:  And he could also go to jail for assaulting Andrea Constand, thanks to last-minute criminal charges filed right before the start of 2016.)  Good thing Cosby Show reruns are profitable.

17. Porn star James Deen, the latest high profile man to be accused of multiple rapes.

18. The “terrorism” episode of CNN’s The Seventies.  Apartheid Israel got off way too easily while the Palestinian struggle was all too briefly mentioned and often misrepresented.

19. Elise Labott was suspended by CNN for tweeting compassion for Syrian refugees, then apologized.  Fuck CNN.

20. Scott Weiland died.  Drug addiction is a fucking bitch.

21. All the awful movies I suffered through this year:  I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry; Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights; Hiding Out; Disorganized Crime; Consuming Passions; The Purge: Anarchy; Blended; Tammy; Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen; Resident Evil: Afterlife; Resident Evil: Retribution; Man Of The House (1995); The Money Pit; The Sender; The Secret Of My Success; Underworld Awakening (twice); Sex Tape; Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde; Prom Night (1980); Dragnet; See No Evil (2006); Maniac (1980); Stagefright: Aquarius; The Reunion; The Walking Deceased; Winnie The Pooh (2011); Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs; Ice Age: Continental Drift; The Messengers; A Night At The Roxbury; Curtains (twice); The Toolbox Murders (1978); Scary Movie 3; Scary Movie 4; Scary Movie 5; Evan Almighty; Horrible Bosses (mostly twice), Ouija; John Carpenter’s The Ward; Weekend At Bernie’s; The Man With One Red Shoe; The Dream Team; Summer Rental; See No Evil, Hear No Evil; Walk Of Shame; Zookeeper; Planet 51; Supercross; Leprechaun 2; Horrible Bosses 2; Sleepaway Camp; Money Train; The Monster Squad; Soul Man; 18 Again!; I Spit On Your Grave (1978 & 2010); Halloween III: Season Of The Witch; Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers; Halloween 5; Halloween: Resurrection; Halloween (2007), Halloween II (2009); Angel, Angel, Down We Go; The Lost Boys; The Boy Next Door; Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian; Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb; Turner & Hooch; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III; Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed; Unfriended; God Told Me To; The Lords Of Salem & House Of 1000 Corpses.

22. Kim Davis, the Kentucky public official who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.  Great.  Yet another right-wing martyr on the wrong side of history.  Can we please find a way to fire her?

23. The sudden, painful injuries of Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton.  The WWE can’t afford to lose anymore top-tier performers.

24. Jared Fogle was exposed, tried and convicted of being a pedophile.  How much did Subway know?

25. My monthly Internet bill is now over 30 bucks.  Why is dial-up so fucking expensive now?

26. All the innocent Americans, mostly Black, wrongly murdered by police officers.  When will Black lives actually start to matter to law enforcement and the government?

27. Saudi Arabia persecutes and beheads way more innocent people than ISIS but keeps getting billions in military aid from the Obama Administration, the Cameron Administration and the now defunct Harper government.  Sickening.

28. The fascist campaign to defund Planned Parenthood thanks to discredited, suspiciously edited videos by an anti-abortion group.  If you don’t like abortion, don’t get one.  Let women decide for themselves what they want to do about their reproductive health.  It’s not your business, fuckers.

29. The ongoing persecution of Bowe Bergdahl.  Honourably discharge this good man already and let him get on with his life.

30. Barrett Brown, Chelsea Manning, Jeffrey Sterling, Matt DeHart and the Hammond brothers are all still incarcerated.  President Obama’s true legacy as the jailer of truth tellers who expose his criminal acts.

31. All the mass shootings in America.  The NRA and gun manufacturers must be challenged more forcefully in 2016.

32. The USA Freedom Act.  A very weak “reform” law.  How about defunding the NSA instead?

33. Donald Trump’s denunciation of former POW Bergdahl.  He’s not a “traitor”, asshole, he’s a torture survivor.

34. Rahm Emanuel is still the mayor of Chicago despite helping to cover up a police murder with his own police department for a year.  The living definition of a piece of shit.

35. Dusty Rhodes died.

36. Alan Kurdi and all the refugees who died trying to flee to safety from the wars in the Middle East.  We must take them in and give them a fresh start.  After all, we’ve been destroying their home countries for years.

37. Hillary Clinton’s mostly white feminist supporters.  You’re setting yourself up for disappointment.  Why not rally around Jill Stein instead?

38. NBC fired Donald Trump from The Apprentice then allowed him to host SNL.  Way to be consistent in your “values”.

39. Neither The Toronto Blue Jays nor The Chicago Cubs made it to the World Series this year despite both getting to the second round of the play-offs in their respective leagues.

40. The horrid, anti-democratic C51 was passed.  Don’t expect Prime Minister Trudeau to repeal it.

41. The horrible stampede at Mecca.  Because Saudi Arabia is a Western ally with oil, there is no justice.

42. The January & November massacres in Paris, France.  So much for “we fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here”.

43. CNN’s constant fearmongering about “terrorism” thanks to reporting every unsubstantiated Obama Administration talking point on-air.  Why don’t they just rename it the “we’re all gonna die network”?

44. Stephen Colbert’s first Late Show.  So bad I bailed about halfway through.  I’ve yet to sit through a full episode.

45. The 50 Shades Of Grey movie.  S&M Twilight.  The least stimulating sex scenes of 2015.

46. The Woman In Black 2.  The atmospherically spooky first one made sense.  Uneven number two wants to inspire a franchise it can never be.

47. Shameless Zionist Sheldon Adelson bought the Las Vegas Journal-Review.  This won’t end well.

48. Howard Stern’s deplorable smearing of Roger Waters who supports BDS and a free Palestine.  Apartheid Israel has the worst allies.

49. Wife beater Ray Rice won almost all of his back pay (some 3 million dollars) after successfully suing the Baltimore Ravens for firing him after his pitifully soft 2-game suspension.  The only good news is that he’s not currently playing in the NFL.

50. Gitmo is still open.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, December 28, 2015
2:52 a.m.

Published in: on December 28, 2015 at 2:53 am  Comments (2)  

50 Things I Loved About 2015

1. Omar Khadr was finally released from a Canadian prison.  He should’ve never been sent to Gitmo in the first place.  May he finally have his name cleared, his sight restored and enjoy his new life in his new home.

2. Same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States, ten years after Canada had already done so.  Better late than never, nonetheless.

3. The Triple Threat WWE World Heavyweight title match between Brock Lesnar, Seth Rollins & John Cena at the Royal Rumble.  A real treat to see most of it for free on Monday Night Raw the night after it happened.  (Remember that terrible January snowstorm?)  Brutal & gripping, it featured a breakthrough, daredevil performance by Rollins who would go on to have his best year yet.

4. Danko Jones’ Fire Music.  He’s still got it.

5. The Bray Wyatt/Roman Reigns Hell In A Cell match.  The feud never made any sense (“Anyone but you, Roman”?  What?) but these young talents worked hard nonetheless and delivered some memorably stiff spots.  Seriously underappreciated effort wrongly overshadowed by the disappointing Undertaker/Lesnar HIAC.

6. The unloved Sun News Network went off the air permanently.  It’s not missed.

7. The indefatigable Jason Leopold, the self-described “FOIA terrorist”.  Fitzgerald was wrong.  There are second acts in America.  Currently breaking countless important stories for Vice, I’d love to see him write for The Intercept.  He was right about the true significance of Hillary Clinton’s private email server scandal.

8. The FIFA reckoning.  The end of the Step Ladder era.  Good riddance.

9. Muse’s Drones.  Timely, spirited bombast pointed directly at President Obama’s illegal assassination program.

10. Professor and author Steven Salaita won a justifiable six-figure settlement from the UIUC after being wrongly dismissed before ever starting his new job there, all because he publicly opposed the 2014 Gaza massacre by Apartheid Israel on Twitter.  Talk about a vindictive screw-job.  He deserves better.  Thankfully, he found another job, wrote a book about his experience and is carrying on.

11. Seymour Hersh’s thorough challenging of the official Obama narrative regarding the assassination of Osama Bin Laden.  We’ve been lied to from the very beginning.

12. Team Canada’s record-setting Pan Am Games performance.  Will this lead to a higher Summer Olympics medal haul in Rio?

13. Wrongly persecuted journalist Mohamed Fahmy was finally released from an Egyptian gulag and returned to Canada, no thanks to John Baird and the Harper Administration.  His two years of torture are finally over.

14. Revolution Records opened in my city.  17 CD purchases thus far with hopefully many more to come.

15. Bill Cosby blocked me on Twitter.  Warren Kinsella blocked me after I blocked him first.  Why so fearful, fellas?

16. Lindsey Graham & Bobby Jindal’s failed Presidential campaigns.  Terrible Republicans with terrible ideas outmatched by worse Republicans with worse ideas.

17. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mostly compassionate refugee policy.  Why federal elections matter.

18. The escaped llamas.  Too bad they were captured.

19. Persecuted attorney Stanley Cohen was freed just before Christmas.  He should’ve never been imprisoned in the first place.

20. The return of Alberto Del Rio to the WWE.  Glad he beat John Cena for the US belt.  He’s in the best shape of his life and remains a killer in the ring.  All he needs is a solid rival.

21. The sudden legal trouble the obnoxious Martin Shkreli finds himself in.  No one sympathizes with anyone who jacks up the price of vital medicine by a considerable margin.  Greedy asshole.

22. Apartheid Israel and its right-wing supporters couldn’t prevent the US from making a deal with Iran with regards to their nuclear facilities.  Zionism is dying.

23. Daniel Bryan won the InterContinental title in a decent multi-man ladder match at WrestleMania 31.  A shame he didn’t get to have a long reign.  He has the most miserable luck.

24. Much to my surprise, President Obama outright rejected the Keystone XL pipeline extension.  Where were the protests for all the other US pipelines, including the existing XL which Obama quietly authorized?

25. The United States began restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba.  One of the few positive accomplishments of The Obama Administration.

26. Cranky, stubborn, journalist hating, Stephen Harper supporter Earl Cowan.  Hilariously out of touch with reality.

27. CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou was released from prison.

28. Diane Sawyer’s interview with Caitlyn Jenner.  Fascinating and deeply revealing.

29. All the good movies I saw this year:  Veronica Mars, Tarzan (1999), The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane, Prince Of Darkness, The Hitcher (1986), The Thing From Another World, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Halloween (1978) and National Treasure.  Plus two great ones:  Comic Book Confidential and The Drop.

30. The Bushwhackers’ acceptance speech at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony.  Hilarious and endearing.

31. Norton Security only required one massive download after installation.  My last Norton Antivirus required dozens.

32. The Stephen Harper era in Canada is over.  We lost so much international respect and credibility these past nine years.

33. Brandon Flowers’ The Desired Effect.  Happily stuck in the 80s.  The more I hear him sing, the more he reminds me of a young Billy Joel.

34. Wrongly incarcerated and severely tortured for over a decade, British family man Shaker Aamer was finally released from the hell that is Gitmo.  May he find peace and tranquility and sue America for as much as he can get.  Here’s hoping his torturers get prosecuted someday.

35. Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston, the current WWE tag team champions.  “New…Day rocks.  New…Day rocks.”  They’re also very funny, especially on commentary.  I’m loving the trombone.

36. Jorge Ramos.  Get rid of Anderson Cooper and replace him with this fearless journo who is just as tough on President Obama as he is on Donald Trump.

37. The Wyatt Family/Team ECW extreme rules match on Monday Night Raw the night after TLC.  No blade jobs necessary.  This one had plenty of memorable spots:  Braun Strowman flying over the announce table, Bubba Ray Dudley catching a flying kendo stick, Strowman clotheslining a falling Tommy Dreamer off the apron, Strowman carrying Dreamer then running and crashing through a barrier & Erick Rowan splashing Rhino through a table for the deserved win.

38. The Iggy Pop segment during the Miami episode of Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown.  The whole show should’ve been about him.

39. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s numerous scandals.  He’s right at home in the Republican Party.

40. David Sirota and the International Business Times.  They did first-rate reporting on numerous shady, corrupt Presidential candidates.

41. Seth Rollins cashed in his Money In The Bank briefcase to win the WWE World Heavyweight title at WrestleMania 31 during the Brock Lesnar/Roman Reigns match.  A good story with a great ending.

42. CNN’s The Seventies.  Despite its flaws, a riveting history lesson.

43. Ontario’s new progressive sex ed curriculum.  Why didn’t this exist when I was in school?

44. The Guardian’s eye-opening series on the once secret American drug war gulag Homan Square.  The Chicago PD remains as ruthlessly corrupt as it’s always been.  Spencer Ackerman deserves a Pulitzer.

45. The Palestinian BDS campaign continues to be a major pain in the ass to Apartheid Israel and its hypocritical, in-denial supporters.  May it continue to do so until the occupation finally ends.

46. The Intercept.  Now so much more than just a place to read the latest infuriating NSA disclosures.  An increasingly vital website.

47. Larry Wilmore’s relentless mocking of serial drug rapist Bill Cosby.  He’s hasn’t forgotten about you, motherfucker.  Neither have I.

48. Nicki Minaj calling out Miley Cyrus on the MTV Video Music Awards during her acceptance speech (too bad it didn’t lead to a Hell In A Cell match) and Kanye West’s hilariously moronic acceptance of his Vanguard lifetime achievement award.  Paul Heyman needs to teach him how to cut a coherent promo already.

49. This line from The Jim Gaffigan Show:  “You look like every bad guy on Downton Abbey.”  Killer.

50. Adele’s Hello.  The woman’s got pipes.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, December 28, 2015
2:16 a.m.

Published in: on December 28, 2015 at 2:16 am  Leave a Comment