One of the best. . . and worst. . .things about professional wrestling is the gimmick match, when some sort of stipulation is added to the bout for intrigue or importance. In some cases, it can be a thing of beauty (the Steel Cage, I Quit and Ironman formats come to mind). In others, it can become synonymous with certain talents. If I say “Casket match”, only one man comes to mind; when I see TLC, I think of three teams specifically.
Then we have the bad gimmick matches.
I dare not list examples, for each one both turns the stomach and truly is deserving of its own Throwback Thursday. Let’s just assume you know the kinds of matches of which I speak.
Today’s throwback came along as part of my quest to watch all NWA and WCW PPV’s in chronological order, and while WWE Network seems to be throwing up roadblocks to stop me from doing this (anyone else getting odd glitches galore?), it did not stop me from entering the Chamber of Horror. . . I’ll repeat that.
Let’s see. . . How does one explain the chamber of horror? Well, there was a cage, to start. You knew that was coming. Some wrestlers entered the ring with weapons, including one Hardcore Legend who brought a chainsaw for the fight. . . I believe there were caskets on the floor inside the cage.
Oh, yes, and of course, there’s the objective.
TO FRY YOUR OPPONENT IN AN ELECTRIC CHAIR!
In the middle of the ring was a second steel cage, inside which sat an electric chair. On the side of the larger cage sat a stereotypical “switch”. Find a way to get one of your opponents into the chair, have a partner flip the switch, and DING DING DING! You win!
Congratulations, you killed a man! Paul Edgecombe would be proud. . .
(Bonus points if you recognized that Green Mile reference. . . Double bonus points if you scoffed at me, since Edgecombe was a good man who didn’t really like killing people. Especially John Coffey. Like the drink. . . Only spelled different. . .
Thus ends our literature portion of the column.)
If you’re confused about the match, worry not - you weren’t alone. The fans in the arena were confused, the announcers were confused, even the combatants really seemed to be unsure of what exactly was happening.
And what combatants they were; the list of talents in this match is basically a Who’s Who of Hall of Fame talents from the last 20 years.
Rick Steiner and his brother, "Belly-to-Belly Suplex" Steiner. . . Oh wait, this was back when he was just Scott.
Abdullah the Butcher.
Scott Hall (known then as The Diamond Stud, which is essentially Razor Ramon without the vest or the accent.)
What a cast of all-time greats! Can you believe it?
Wait, what’s that? What did you say? El Gigante was in the match as well? How did I miss a 7’7” behemoth?
(Answer: He was so terrible, I blocked it out. Thanks for reminding me. Jerk.)
“So DC,” you might be saying, “with such a cavalcade of wrestling stars, surely the match was entertaining?”
The match was a train wreck. Not helping matters was the fact that they decided to have this match be the pilot program for the “Refer-Eye”, which was a camera attached to a helmet that the referee wore. So frequently throughout the contest we got a Blair Witch-ian look as Nick Patrick running along the edge of the ring, looking down on the action down among the caskets.
Like I said. Train. Wreck.
There was violence. There was bleeding. And in the end, as expected, there was capital punishment.
Thankfully, WCW “death” is even shorter than what you read in the Bible, for not 3 minutes after he was fried, Abby was up and as wild as ever, taking out the ghoulish orderlies waiting to cart him out on a stretcher.
Didn’t I mention the ghoulish orderlies, dressed up like an early version of Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz? Sorry, too much crap to keep straight.
If you’re a fan of pure wrestling, of crisp moves and clean combinations, of talents giving their all to the “sport” we all love - DO NOT WATCH THIS MATCH!
However, if you believe that in order to truly appreciate this art, you need to see it all - the Good, the Bad and the very, very ugly, then head over to WWE Network and watch the opening match from Halloween Havoc 1991.
When you’re done, let me know if you have any skipping issues. I need to know if my PS3 is quitting on me due to overuse.
This past Sunday, while many of you live-Tweeted your displeasure with WWE’s latest PPV, I had the opportunity to spend my evening seeing the final Mick Foley live show of 2014. Together with GQ, a good friend from high school, and one Doc Manson, we joined the dozens. . . . (and dozens!) of fans who braved the holiday traffic to see the Hardcore Legend at a comedy club in a mall.
I really could call the evening “A Tale of Two Foleys”, and no, Noelle wasn’t there. Sunday night was about the myth and the man, and about satisfaction and disappointment.
The night began with a visit from Santa Claus, of course. Good old St. Nick limped up on stage to talk briefly about the new documentary featuring our main attraction ( I Am Santa Claus), as well as to promote the merchandise we would be able to purchase after the show. Santa looked good, I have to admit. The beard was snowy white, the outfit was very Claus-like, and with a wink and a smile, old Kris Kringle hobbled back to the North Pole. I guess gifting ain’t easy…
After a brief warm-up act by a local guy who, while funny, seemed to spend his entire time looking back to see when Mick would be ready to take the stage, Mrs. Foley’s baby boy appeared. The first thing I was struck with was how good he looked. Now, just last night I saw Foley appear on The Daily Show, and either the camera adds way more than 10 pounds or Mick was wearing Santa padding, because he looked like a completely different guy in person.
I won’t say that he was ‘slim’, but he didn’t look bad. If he had publicly announced he was getting back in shape for a final WWE run as Commissioner Foley, I’d have bought it.
Now, I won’t go into detail of his entire show, mainly because if you haven’t seen it, you really should. Mick Foley was hilarious, and the bigger of a wrestling fan you are, the better you’ll like the performance. We were seated next to a family - older couple and a late teen to early 20’s daughter. All three looked very out of place amidst the typical ‘wrestling’ crowd, and from the sounds of it, none of them were fans of sports entertainment. Why they were there I’ll never know, but I will say that all three seemed to enjoy themselves, which is a testament to Foley’s storytelling ability.
Mick discussed all the things you’d expect, tracing his career from WCW (great story on his first match with the Steiners) to his initial run as Mankind and, of course, ending his ‘set’ with The Cell. There was some Q&A, in which a VERY rabid ROH fan asked if he kept up with the company (FYI, Foley is a big Jay Lethal fan), and another admirer asked a fairly awkward question about whether or not Mick regretted his TNA stint. Throughout his entire time on stage, Mick was a commanding presence - captivating, enthusiastic, engaging. Had my night ended there, I’d have been 100% satisfied.
As Doc, GQ and I stood in line for the ‘Meet & Greet’, we were all pleased with how the evening had gone. I complimented the gent behind me on his Gorilla Monsoon T-shirt (a Barber Shop Window product. Oddly enough, both GQ and I were acquaintances with the founder of that company in high school; in fact, I think he and I are distant cousins), and we all were shocked by seeing Cena and Rollins’ table match so early in the TLC card (thanks to the WWE Network being played on the guy in front of ours phone).
Then, Mick came out, rolling a silver piece of luggage with him. I watched him sit down behind a table and begin to unpack his wares, and as I did this, I began to get depressed. Here he is, the Hardcore Legend, laying out socks (Hanes Her Way), shirts and a stack of photos to peddle. This was not. . .Could not be the same guy I just saw up on stage. It just wasn’t right.
As the line inched closer, I watched as Mick posed for pictures, signed his merchandise and fist-bumped fans (he didn’t want to shake hands, and for that I don’t blame him). I also watched as he struggled to get the credit card attachment working on his phone, meekly asked the wait-staff at the comedy club if they could make change, and as the three of us approached the table, apologized that his stack of photos was low, so we’d have to pick through some pre-signed merchandise at this point.
By this point, and I feel badly about this, but I just wanted to go home. We had been in line for 30 minutes and I felt like, in some ways, the 13 year old wrestling fan that had first seen this mysterious masked man in WWF had been thrown off his own Cell onto the harsh table of Reality. I selected the best picture out of the bunch (the one you see atop this column), thanked Mick for taking the time to write “To DC” on it, forked over my $10 and walked off. GQ and Doc each got their pictures taken (and, I suppose, probably had a more engaging conversation with Mick than I did), and that was it.
For the last two days, I’ve spent more time than I probably should examining the dichotomy of what I had seen, and more importantly, my reaction to it. Why had I been so utterly delighted one minute and then so devastated the next? What had Mick done wrong? In hindsight, now, I see it’s my own fault, obviously. Despite being in my 30’s and, I’d like to think, a fairly realistic person, I had been caught in the act of suspending disbelief. Just as kids are struck when they discover that wrestling is “fake” (or when they realize who, in fact, Santa is), I had been flummoxed by seeing this fantastic stage presence transform into a tired, sore former wrestler who likely wanted to get this line over with so he could go home and finish his 2014 tour. I suppose I can’t blame him for that.
Perhaps this is the ultimate compliment I can give Mick Foley - his stage show was so compelling that I was taken back to believing in the superheroes of my youth, when in the end, it was just one incredible man telling incredible stories about his incredible career. Just a man.
I’ll need to go back and see another Foley show. Not because I want to hear his tales again or because I missed out on a “Cheap Pop” shirt, but because I want another opportunity to meet the man, so I can actually express my gratitude for him for the blood, teeth and sweatsocks he sacrificed. Oh, and to tell him that we NEED a Mick Foley Podcast. Like, today.
Have YOU seen Foley live? How do you handle meeting your heroes? Can you distinguish between the person and the presence?
Discuss, Be Heard, and start using #FoleyIsPod, so we can get this done.