"We The People." For the past 2 1/2 weeks, these three words have dominated the wrestling world. Who knew that, in an era in the industry where youth is king, a creative veteran would become not only a focal point of a company but also a mainstream news talking point? It's happened. In WWE. In 2013. Monday Night Raw has, for the moment, become a very entertaining show for the "WWE Universe" and wrestling fans alike, but that's another story for another time.
After nearly forty years in the wrestling business, "Dirty" Dutch Mantell is not a household name. Wrestling fans such as myself have long revered the man for his work both in front of and behind the curtain. Unfortunately, rather short national runs in both WCW and WWF have denied many fans the opportunity to take in the Dutchman's talent. WWE has suddenly changed all of that.
In a creative move right out of my own heart, Dutch Mantell recently returned to WWE seconding Jack Swagger. Shortly thereafter we learned that Mantell is now known as Zeb Colter. While the name Zeb is an obvious nod to his Uncle Zebekiah character from 1995-1996 WWF, the character is no longer a mountain hillbilly. Zeb is now a Vietnam veteran (a fact mirroring Mantell's real-life history) with a staunch and vocal stance against illegal immigration.
The Colter character and angle pitting Swagger against Alberto Del Rio have picked up quite a bit of controversy, but Mantell is no stranger to being in the center of the action. Most in the current audience have no clue that Mantell has been a key figure in wrestling history. Thanks to a blog started by Mantell a few years ago, fans were finally able to take an entertaining peek into his rich career in the business. That blog eventually evolved into two different books. We're taking a look at the first of those books, titled "The World According to Dutch."
Although you could categorize the book as an autobiography, I would be more inclined to simply call it a wrestling book. A very good wrestling book at that. While there are some amazing autobiographies by wrestlers available, more often than not the early years of the individuals are less than interesting. Those early years are often followed by college football stories that simply don't resonate with someone like me who has no interest in that sport. In this book, Dutch dives into wrestling after a paragraph or so of background. You can't argue with that approach.
Dutch's book, while definitely full of memories from his own career, also features stories that were told to him in his early days in the business. The Dutchman points out that he may very well be the last living person that knows these stories, so we are indeed fortunate that they are told here. The book rarely delves into Dutch's personal life outside of the wrestling world, but still manages to keep a rather steady flow from the beginnings of his career to more recent happenings circa around three years ago.
Mantell spent time in many of the most beloved territories and promotions of the past thirty years including the aforementioned "big two," Memphis, Smoky Mountain, and Florida. One area that many fans associate Dutch with is Puerto Rico. It seems that no one leaves that particular island without some crazy stories. With as many years as Dutch spent there, the craziest of those tales are right here in the book. You'll also learn why Mantell made just two trips to Japan, a country often revered by wrestlers from that era.
Other highlights are chapters dedicate to stars in the business who Mantell considers to be "graduates" of "The University of Dutch." These are talents that you definitely know but may be less aware of what an impact Mantell had on their formative years in the business. Fans of The Undertaker will want this book. I shall say no more on the subject, but it's interesting to think what tidbits of knowledge Mantell may still be passing on to these talents in today's WWE locker room.
Since many of these stories were edited from Dutch's blog, it's surprising as to how well the book flows and rarely repeats itself. Notations of stories that can be enhanced by footage present on YouTube are included with the caveat that the footage could be removed at anytime. Thankfully, the ones that I felt the urge to check on are still there.
Because this book was self-published, I think it unfortunately slipped through the cracks among many fans. It's an amazingly entertaining book that will hopefully get more attention now that Dutch has been reborn as one of the top characters in WWE. I know that I'm anticipating eventually getting my hands on the second offering from Mantell.
There's never been a better time to take a look at the career of "Dirty" Dutch. With a horrific family tragedy occurring in Dutch's life in 2012, there has also never been a better time for Dutch to come back into prominence in an industry he has loved and nurtured for decades.
Personally, I'm hoping for a long and fruitful run for WWE's new top mouth, Zeb Colter. Just in case there is ever a need to find a new talent for Zeb to lead, I think I have the answer...WE THE PEOPLE!
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Should the belt be small or should it be large? Should the design declare the name of the company of which the belt represents or should it simply be the "World" championship? These are the arguments that fans of championship belts and wrestling in general have debated for years now.
WWE has wasted no time in marketing a replica of the newest design of the WWE Championship. Literally minutes after being unveiled on television, a replica of the championship was made available at around $450. Some are already bashing the championship without even giving it a shot. To begin with, the design is worlds better than the belt that has to be considered the worst of all-time, the "spinner" WWE Championship. That particular belt hit two negative chords with me. Aside from being ridiculous as a whole, in my opinion a championship design should never be customized for a particular champion. Novelty belts such as Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Belt not included, a "sanctioned" company championship should not represent any individual champion in design. While The Rock's Brahma Bull logo does appear on the side plates of the new belt, it appears that these side plates will change depending on the champion thus creating an interesting update to the "nameplate" design seen on so many belts of the past.
Fans can finally rejoice, the spinner belt is history! A new design is set to be with us for the long haul. While many of us hoped for a return to something along the lines of the famed "winged eagle" or "undisputed" championships, I feel that the new kid on the block represents exactly what WWE is, a company providing entertainment that will (hopefully) never fully leave their true roots: professional wrestling.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
This particular magazine about "The Living Legend" doesn't really have a title. It's essentially called "Bruno," but since there is a small "A Collector's Item" tagline under Bruno's cover portrait, we're officially going to refer to it as "Bruno: A Collector's Item." Although most items labeled as a collector's item rarely reach that status, this magazine breaks the rule.
Beginning around late 1970, ads and order blanks for this magazine began appearing in Wrestling Revue. It was not available on newsstands and thus is much harder to find some forty years later than the standard Wrestling Revue issues. At one point several years ago, this magazine sold for several hundred dollars. Some collectors still believe that they are able to sell their own copies for that much, but I have yet to see proof. The large amount was probably the result of two overzealous collectors bidding on one copy. That being said, anyone owning this magazine should know that they own one of the nicest vintage Bruno collectibles around.
One striking feature of the magazine is that the cover folds out to a full-color poster of one of Bruno's most iconic shots. On examples found today there is often much wear and tear on the cover and spine. This is most likely due to fans folding and unfolding the poster. Although there is some text, this is mainly a photo album covering Mr. Sammartino's entire life to that point.
Bruno Sammartino is one of the few 1960's stars that has a seemingly endless supply of merchandise. It's a true testament to his popularity, in an era when merchandising was virtually non-existent in wrestling. There's no doubt that we will be seeing new Bruno DVDs, trading cards, action figures, and video game appearances thanks to his new deal with WWE. As soon as they're available, you'll be hearing about it right here, but I'm not quite sure that any of them will measure up with "Bruno: A Collector's Item."
Thursday, February 7, 2013
So much has been written of the issues between Sammartino and the company over the years. He's being stubborn. They're being stubborn. The company isn't what it once was. They're leaving him out just to spite him. Guess what? None of it matters now. A deal has been made. The news has been bigger than perhaps even those of us that wanted it to happen the most ever could've dreamed. From the legendary KDKA here in Pittsburgh to ESPN, it's front page news. It's a colossal event happening at just the right time.
Bruno has already publicly stated that he is doing this for the fans. Is there money involved? Absolutely. There should be. The man has an absolute right to it. I've met Bruno many times. I've watched him interact with the fans that, especially here in Pittsburgh, still idolize the champ. Trust me when I say, he is doing this for the fans. Others can raise their eyebrow and claim the name all that they want, but Bruno Sammartino will always be "The People's Champion."
Thank you, Bruno.