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1.07.2009

Shades Of Gray #26

In this week’s column, I discuss The Wrestler, TNA Genesis, Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir, Christian’s move to WWE, Stephanie McMahon, and more. The “Extra Links” offer up some entertaining WWE moments from Christian, Booker T and The Undertaker, as well as interviews from the cast of The Wrestler, and Dwight Howard’s impression of Triple H.

Sounds goods, right? So click that fucking link!

The Wrestler

I finally saw The Wrestler. I was going to write a full review, but here’s one far better than I could have written. It’s written by the best sports columnist there is, Bill Simmons (The Sports Guy), who works for ESPN.com. Fans of the late-90s, early 2000s (now defunct) WOW magazine may remember that Simmons actually wrote a monthly column for part of the magazine’s run.

But of course, I do have a few comments on the film:

- Mickey Rourke is magnificent. Just thinking about Nicolas Cage playing the role of Randy “The Ram” Robinson makes me cringe. I remember when I first heard about the movie (probably about a year and a half or so ago) I checked out the film’s profile on imdb.com and saw that Cage was pegged for the role. Needless to say, I was disappointed. Sure, I liked him in Adaptation – but playing a floundering writer is far different than playing a washed-up 80s wrestling star. As Simmons writes, Rourke is perfect for the role.

- Evan Rachel Wood (who plays Rourke’s daughter) and Marisa Tomei (who plays Rourke’s love interest) are also excellent. The parallels between the lives of strippers (Tomei plays one) and wrestlers are striking. Chris Jericho may want some royalties – he wrote about that parallel in his autobiography.

- I would have been happy just to see a movie that partially portrayed the realities of the wrestling business, but this movie offers so much more. The scene with Rourke and other former stars at a legend’s convention is particularly poignant. This movie is creating discussion on wrestling unions and drug use in wrestling, among other things, and Darren Aronofsky (as well as the other participants in making the movie) should be commended for creating this discussion, even if it wasn't the director's intention.

- That’s not to say it’s an entirely negative portrayal of the wrestling business. Rourke is a flawed and sympathetic character, but after watching the movie, the audience (even those who know little of the business) should come to understand the professional wrestling's appeal, both to the fans and the wrestlers themselves. And hopefully, there will be a greater respect for how tough professional wrestlers really are, while at the same time recognizing the medical issues that abound in the wrestling world.

- Vince McMahon had a private screening of the movie and his reaction was predictable – he didn’t like it. Here’s an official reaction via WWE.com:

“While 'The Wrestler' is a very engaging movie, it portrays how wrestling was conducted in some independent wrestling circuits, unlike WWE, which is a global brand with millions of fans.”

Needless to say, that reaction is missing the point. The fact is many of Vince’s former wrestlers are in the same predicament as Robinson, and many others are worse off: Eddie Guerrero, Rick Rude, and Curt Hennig come to mind. As do Nancy and Daniel Benoit. That’s not to say that Vince is solely to blame – but anyone can see that if WWE had even half the regulations of other sports leagues or entertainment fields (medical insurance, pensions, off-seasons), there would be more healthy ex-wrestlers walking this Earth.

- I sat through the two and a half hour snooze-fest that was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and if Brad Pitt wins the Best Actor Oscar over Rourke, I’ll be pissed. As in -- I’d rather see a 3-year John Cena reign as champion -- pissed.

- Finally: Randy “The Ram” Robinson looks like Dog The Bounty Hunter. It needed to be said.

TNA Genesis

It’s obvious that TNA is counting on Mick Foley’s return to the ring and the return match between Angle and Jarrett to be the selling points for Genesis. Sorry, but that’s not going to be enough to increase the number of buys. In truth, I wouldn’t be surprised if the show does lower numbers than a usual TNA PPV – it’s a weak card. This lends credence to my claim.

Take a look at the card (courtesy of tnawrestling.com):

MICK FOLEY RETURNS TO THE RING - 6 MAN WAR: Mick Foley, AJ Styles & Brother Devon vs. Legends Champion Booker T, Kevin Nash and "Big Poppa Pump" Scott Steiner

TNA WORLD HEAVWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: "The War Machine" Rhino vs. champion "The Icon" Sting

GRUDGE MATCH - RETURN BOUT: Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle vs. TNA Founder Jeff Jarrett

TNA KNOCKOUT CHAMPIONSHIP - LUMBERJACK MATCH: Christy Hemme vs. champion Awesome Kong

THE FINALS OF THE X DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT: One X Division superstar will leave Genesis as the new champion

I understand the rationale behind protecting Foley in a 6-man match (his conditioning is certainly terrible at this point), but sticking Foley into a random match isn’t a very glamorous TNA ring debut for the best-selling author. And it’s hardly the type of match one would expect to see after watching the promo for the event.

It’s nice to see Rhino get another chance at the top of the card. But the reality is: no one believes he has a shot against Sting, Rhino’s not going to sell any PPVS.

There’s just nothing that jumps out at me on this card. I probably won’t even spend the time to catch a free livestream on the internet.

One more thing: take another look at the card. How serious do you really think TNA is about putting over the younger members of the Front Line? I don’t see too many wrestlers on the card who would qualify as such members. A.J. Styles is in a high-profile match, but he was over before the storyline began. Rhino doesn’t count. Here’s what I do see: Mick Foley, Booker T, Kevin Nash, Scott Steiner, Sting, and Kurt Angle dominating TNA. Same old, same old.

Quick Hits

Although it’s been said before, it bears repeating after recently watching The Wrestler, and as we head toward Lesnar-Mir II and the major hype-a-laz that will precede it: Brock Lesnar is the reverse WWE employee. He is not only successful outside of WWE, but more successful. While most wrestlers are generally chewed up and spit out with nothing to show for it, Lesnar left the WWE on his own terms and has turned into the biggest MMA star in the world. I know Lesnar had heat for walking away from the fed after being put over by some of the biggest names in the company (such as the Undertaker) -- but I think it’s safe to say it didn’t hurt the Undertaker much. Anyways, no one is attracting more casual fans to UFC than Lesnar is. Perhaps even more impressive is that he’s getting supposed “hardcore” MMA fans to drop their money to see him get knocked out. Lesnar will once again play the mega-heel against Mir.

Mir looked impressive against Nogueira – but does he stand a chance against Lesnar? MMA-heads, fill me in. I think I’m looking forward to the trash-talking leading up to the fight almost as much as the fight itself -- you know Mir is pissed that he didn’t get the shot at Couture even though he beat Lesnar in Lesnar’s first UFC match -- but I guess that’s the pro wrestling fan in me.

**Spoiler Alert**

According to various online reports, Christian is supposed to do a hit and run on Jeff Hardy and his wife on “SmackDown” this week. He’s also supposed to cause Hardy to lose his WWE title to Edge at Royal Rumble, leading to a match between Hardy and Christian at WrestleMania. (Ladder match, anyone?) Sounds good to me. I just hope his return isn’t lost among the other cameos or returns that usually occur at the Rumble.

**End of Spoiler**

Joey Styles should show Shawn Michaels how to stand up to JBL.

Anyone else smell an HBK heel turn coming out of this storyline with JBL? Just a hunch.

Listening to Stephanie McMahon’s promos is like listening to a girl talk (weird, huh?) -- only worse. She’s uninteresting and speaks in a monotone voice; yet, at the same time, she has a whining quality to her voice that makes me shudder. Luckily for us, she also has huge boobs.

If Goldust lasts through 2009, I’ll be shocked.

Extra Links

1. A 5-man tag match that fell short of Foley’s expectations (Part 1; Part 2).

2. Here’s an entertaining moment from Christian at a past Royal Rumble.

3. Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Darren Aronofsky and Evan Rachel Wood talking about The Wrestler.

4. First Darko Milicic was getting in on the “impersonating-a-wrestler” gimmick. Now it’s Dwight Howard’s turn.

5. Here’s a really funny Booker T moment.

6. This is a little different than “No one makes me bleed my own blood.”


5 comments: on "Shades Of Gray #26"

romello said...

Read the Bill Simmons review last week and it was one of the best articles i 've read all year. Simmons is THE MAN!

romello said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tha Stepdaddy said...

Okay, this movie wasn't as mindblowing or good as I thought it would be. Rourke's performance was fine but nothing to merit all this acclaim he's getting for it. It was just okay. I wont see it again and I wouldn't tell anyone to rush out and see it. I mean, whatever. I was disappointed with it.

I didn't enjoy the wrestling. The acting was alright. This movie actually made me ashamed to be a wrestling fan. It pretty much said "This is what these guys do for you and for fame. They break down and die and are forgotten. Enjoy!" Fuck this film. I didn't care if he died at the end or not. I was just glad it was over. I am tired of people swooning over this picture. I just dont get it. I have been watching wrestling for almost 27 years now and nothing about this film made me a bigger fan or opened my eyes to anything. This should not have been marketed as "The Wrestler" but rather "Let's Make Rourke Think He Doesn't Need To Be In Sin City 2."

Andrew Gray said...

Romello - Yes, Simmons is the man. I read all of his stuff and I love that he's a (former) wrestling fan.

Dante - There's not much I can say other than I like the movie for . . well, reasons I stated in the column. But I can respond to a few things you said:

"I didn't enjoy the wrestling."

I thought the wrestling was as authentic as could be expected from a film, and I liked that they paired Rourke with actual workers (if Ernest "the Cat" Miller counts lol).

"This movie actually made me ashamed to be a wrestling fan. It pretty much said "This is what these guys do for you and for fame. They break down and die and are forgotten. Enjoy!"

The movie is just speaking the truth, which is why so many wrestlers have put it over, including Roddy Piper and JBL, to name a few off the top of my head. You can ignore that reality (like Vince McMahon does) if you wish. Also, like I wrote in the column, I don't think it's an entirely negative movie. It shows how invigorating it is for wrestlers to perform in front of an audience, how much entertainment fans get from attending events and how the crowd likes to participate in the action(with chants, booing, applause, etc.), and the comraderie shared among the boys in the locker room.

CuJu said...

I agree with what you said about the HBK/JBL storyline... I never thought they would actually turn HBK heel until after the tag match on RAW, after HBK was all in Cena's face, and HBK was all serious, kinda pissed, and Cena was all smiling n happy. I DEF DEF DEF!! hope they turn HBK, nothing better than a HEEL HBK, def something to see for new fans that havent seen him turn heel before...