Thursday, April 5, 2012
A Rock, A Brock, A Lord, & An Indian Chief
It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it's actually a one sentence summary of the week that was in pro wrestling. Every once in awhile I chime in on current headlines that pique my interest, and with a week like this I don't know how I can help it!
By now the world knows that The Rock won his year-long built match against John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII. Early numbers indicate that The Rock may very well have lured back lost fans for the show. That doesn't indicate that those fans will stick around to become members of the WWE Universe.
Was The Rock winning the right decision? Sure, The Rock was in his "hometown" of Miami, but I don't think that I'll ever understand the logic of jobbing your bread and butter out to a less-than-part time wrestler. Being the admitted Cena fan that I am, I'm starting to feel frustrated for the guy. The "fans" that feel they're too good to cheer for him are tainting his glory years. They're the same "fans" who would trample grandma to get his autograph. That, coupled with the WrestleMania loss, has me asking, "Where does John Cena go from here?"
That question is apparently answered by the next news item: Brock Lesnar. I doubt there were many fans watching on Monday Night that hadn't heard a bit about Lesnar returning to his wrestling roots. Despite that, how many fans...err...members of the "WWE Universe" actually know who Brock Lesnar is? Do WWE Universe members watch MMA as well? If they don't, perhaps my flying saucer should pop in on the Universe through some wormhole, because I don't watch it either. That said, I do keep very light tabs on that industry and I was around for Brock's original run from beginning to end. I'm talking WWF dark match beginning, here.
When he first debuted and, along with Paul Heyman, ran roughshod over the company's finest, I was a fan. Great wrestling background, believable, and entertaining. Various factors soured me and in turn made me rather indifferent for Lesnar's return. Maybe it was the fact that his wife is someone I could never stand. Maybe it was his botched WrestleMania moment. Maybe it was the fact that they REALLY should have kept him with Heyman as long as possible because that voice just doesn't match the look.
No. Although all valid points on my end, it was something else. It was after being pushed to the moon and basically having the entire (willing) roster thrown at his feet, the man had the audacity to whine about the schedule and leave. As many of you know or could have figured out, if there's someone in the business that I don't really care for, I usually leave them off of these pages out of respect. Mr. Lesnar didn't respect the business, so therefore I really don't have much respect for him.
My other negative reaction is actually generated by the company itself. In taking Lesnar back, they're accepting hand-me-downs from UFC. WWE is often criticized for not making enough new stars. I'll stick up for them in this case--they've being doing a great job of that as of late. Why not stick with those guys? Why spend ungodly amounts of money on damaged goods from MMA and shove them in the main event spotlight for a year? Honestly, it makes me sicker than the thought of Santino winning a Royal Rumble.
The reaction on Monday night should have indicated that the WWE Universe will accept Lesnar back, but it really doesn't. Monday Night's crowd was very different from most WWE Universe gatherings and should not be used as a measuring stick. Many respected wrestling analysts are wondering if he'll even stick true to his entire one-year agreement with WWE. Time will tell on all accounts. I think WWE should have taken heed to the credo that "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it." Brock's first wrestling run? Ran away. His football "career?" Failure. MMA? Quitter. I hope they aren't thinking of booking any 'Mania main events anytime soon.
One man who I do hope makes it to the main event scene is another former WWFer who made his return this past Monday Night. Matt Bloom, formerly known as Prince Albert and A-Train, returned as Lord Tensai. Instead of outright reminding viewers of his former aliases, WWE is simply saying that Tensai was a former WWE superstar who went to Japan and became even more menacing. That, along with a stellar squash match on Monday night, is a great sign to start.
The presentation isn't actually all just a gimmick. While many fans (myself included) enjoyed his original run with the company, Bloom did indeed go to Japan and improve his in-ring skills greatly. As Giant Bernard, Bloom dominated New Japan Pro Wrestling and was a member of several tag team championship teams. I always felt that TNA could have had a great star in Bloom, but his appearances for that company were limited to their Global Impact shows.
As Lord Tensai it appears that the former A-Train was scheduled to be in several high profile programs upon his return. While it still appears that a push is in order, I fear that the return of Lesnar may overshadow this. Since Lesnar's appearances are limited even if he does contractually fulfill them all, perhaps Lord Tensai will still become a name that we recall when thinking of legendary wrestling "big men" down the line.
Speaking of legendary, we have lost yet another member of the "greatest generation" of wrestlers. Joe Scarpa, known to millions the world over as Chief Jay Strongbow, has passed away at the age of 83.
I often speak of the group of six or seven names that will be brought up in conversation by even the most casual viewer of 1980's and 1990's wrestling. If you go back to the 1970s, especially in the northeast, Strongbow makes that version of the list.
Chief Jay Strongbow was the guy who never made it to the world title, but honestly didn't have to. His popularity was right where it needed to be. In the fans eyes, you had to get past Strongbow to get to Bruno Sammartino or Pedro Morales. Getting past the war dance wasn't all that easy.
Like several other Native American entertainers such as Iron-Eyes Cody ("the Indian with the tear"), Joe Scarpa was actually of Italian descent and had a very successful wrestling career under his given name in the 1960's. It was as Strongbow that Scarpa carved out his place in not only wrestling history, but true Americana.
It's been a roller coaster week for pro wrestling. Whether the news excites you, upsets you, incites you, or makes you a bit nostalgia for times past, I think we can all agree that the spring of 2012 is one that will be long remembered in pro wrestling, for better or worse.