Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Piece of my Mind March 28th 2008 by "The Big Cheese" Sal Corrente

If you are a real fan of professional wrestling you should be infuriated at the WWE. It’s one thing when someone fails because they don’t have the skills or abilities. If you saw the Chris Jericho segment on Monday Night Raw you now know that the WWE is capable of proving what wrestling fans want to see.

The segment that opened the show with Ric Flair was what wrestling is supposed to be. I can appreciate a good heel and that’s what Jericho is. Of course Ric Flair is an incredible heel in his own right. Any of us that have known Flair knows that he loves being a heel. In most recent years he hasn’t been allowed to portray the role of a bad guy. Once you reach a certain legendary status in today’s wrestling world the fans won’t let you be a heel anymore. They will cheer you no matter what you do. I can remember when the Road Warriors started to clearly transition into characters that the fans loved. They had a kick ass style that fans started to embrace. In those days it was a new thing and Verne Gagne just held on to the old world way of thinking the Road Warriors were going to work heel and the fans were going to accept that. The fans didn’t accept it and continued to cheer long and loud for Hawk and Animal.

I was present at the Ice Arena in Totowa, NJ when Verne Gagne ran a show trying to get a foothold in the northeast. He had the Road Warriors against Bob Backlund and Baron Von Raschke. It was a poor choice of a match to make. In the northeast Baron Von Raschke was never anything other than a heel who challenged Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF title. The Baron was a good name in the Midwest and a large fan favorite but in the Northeast against The Warriors he was a glorified jobber. At the time of this match Backlund was the former champion who’s Howdy Doody style was clearly past it’s time if it really ever had a time. The fans cheered every heel move that Hawk and Animal made, legal or illegal, until they double teamed The Baron for the pin.

So, in the case of Ric Flair, he will forever be a baby face along the lines of Hulk Hogan. It was Vince McMahon who was surprised the most when Hulk Hogan fought The Rock. The cheers that night were for a heel Hulk Hogan as he beat on the industry’s biggest star at the time. It was another monumental night in the world of wrestling where direction mindsets were changed. It was this type of event that will never allow Ric Flair to be booed again. When Jericho attacked Flair at first it looked kind of weak but it brought to mind Gorgeous Gary Royal who was probably scared for his life when he started wrestling me. I was basically untrained and self taught. He said “kid you make it look fake and I will make them believe it”. Well, at first Jericho was making it look fake but Flair was making people believe it. Those guys then both took it up a notch. I do think that once Flair got hit with the camera that the attack should have stopped and he should have laid there bloodied and battered. It doesn’t matter that common sense says that wrestlers should have poured out of the back to help Flair but didn’t. All that mattered to me was that creative finally got it or Vince or Stephanie or whoever finally got it. They gave the ball to the veteran quarterback and he executed a game plan that worked. It wouldn’t have surprised me if a fan or two had jumped the rail. That’s what is great about our business ... people want to believe in it. It doesn’t matter how often Vince winks at people or blatantly says that wrestling is fake when a Chris Jericho goes out there and is a classic nineteen seventies heel and Flair sells for him like he did people start going into belief mode. Of course, this all changes when Santino Marella comes out to wrestle Mickie James, but it was there. It happened and it can happen again. So if you think the WWE can’t give us what we want you are wrong. They just chose to give it to us when they are damn well good and ready.

There is a certain group of people attached to any sport/entertainment event that can be referred to as the core audience. These people will participate in multiple if not all revenue streams. This group of people would be very appreciative of things that might just be considered right. In the old days promoters did certain things to accommodate other promoters. It led to things like a young Ric Flair wrestling in Madison Square Garden. I saw the Von Erichs, Tommy Rich and Austin Idol and how about Greg Gagne wrestling on the undercard in Shea Stadium of the Sammartino vs. Zbyszko event. These guys added no value to the ticket but WWE had these now legendary stars as a part of their events and in many cases on film. I have in the past mentioned that Abdullah the Butcher has never worked in Madison Square Garden or even for the WWE. How about the Midnight Express? Why should a guy like Bobby Eaton, one of the greatest guys and workers in the past two decades have to one day end an illustrious career without ever wrestling in Madison Square Garden? These few instances, and there are many others, that could happen would be a way of giving back to the fans who stay loyal. I know that Vince McMahon does many good things. A lot of those are even done anonymously. But when it’s all said and done he should remember to save a dance for the people that brought him to the dance.

I spoke to someone this weekend and asked him what it was like to work with a certain individual. He responded and said it was great and so was working with these other folks. He said "in the business you find the best people to work with are the ones secure in themselves. The worst ones are the ones on the way up or on the way down." I found it very interesting you see I wasn’t speaking to a wrestler but to Robbie Rist of The Brady Bunch (Cousin Oliver) and Mary Tyler Moore Show (David Bellmore Baxter) fame. I found it funny how I immediately thought about the wrestling business when I heard his input.

The photo here is from the main event from WrestleReunion 1. The madman from the Sudan Abdullah the Butcher along with Kevin Sullivan as they prepare to team with C.M. Punk against Dusty and Dustin Rhodes along with Mike Graham

This has been a piece of my mind