Sunday, November 29, 2009

An "intense" look at Vance Archer

Intensity. It is defined colloquially referring to strength, level, amplitude, or magnitude. Usually, when this term is used on someone or about someone, it refers to the person's attitude. It's very strong, very direct, very powerful. It refers to how a person approaches every aspect of their life, if not a certain part of their life. This is usually head-on, full-on, immersion with some extra energy. In wrestling, an intense wrestler is usually a brute of a man or a woman. Some intense wrestlers include Snitsky, Test, Mike Knox, Umaga, Psycho Sid, Bruiser Brody, Buzz Sawyer, Cactus Jack, the Necro Butcher, Homicide, Abyss, Kane, Batista and the Sheik. Those wrestlers are intense for their strength and their unpredictable hardcore nature. Then there's Raven, Jake "the Snake" Roberts, Eddie Kingston, Jimmy Jacobs, Kevin Sullivan, Edge, and even Rowdy Roddy Piper and Chris Jericho. They are considered psychologically intense using their vast intellects, pure cunning, or underhanded diabolical nature to get their points across. Where does Vance Archer fit into all of this? Well, they say he's intense, and although it seems he'd fall into the first category, his silent, stoic, half smirk may prove otherwise. Then again, he might not fall in either category. One thing is for sure, though: his arrival on ECW came rather conveniently, and he has to make due with it or he may never be seen as an intense wrestler again.

Thanks to wikipedia, I can give you all an in-depth look at Mr. Archer and what he's made of. His real name is Lance Hoyt. In the year 2000, he began his training under Solo Faitala and debuted in July of that year against Tarzan Taylor. He worked the Texas independent circuit until 2005, under many aliases, such as Lance Steel, Breakdown (a name he chose when he had to wrestle in his street clothes upon forgetting his ring gear), and Shadow, a dark villianous character. He maintained his Shadow persona for all 9 years of his time with Professional Championship Wrestling (2000-2009), fighting stars like Ahmed Johnson and Paul London and starting a faction called "The Dark Circle". He held the PCW Tag Team Championships with Wally Darkmon in 2006. In 2007, he was the first AMW Heavyweight Champion after beating Shawn Stasiak (former WWE superstar). He lost the title in a three-way dance match involving Action Jackson and Mike Foxx. After which, he was "released" from his contract only to have signed a PCW "legends contract". He was commisioner of the organization for a brief stint until his imminent departure.

While working in PCW, Hoyt maintained a steady position wrestling for TNA: Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. He was hired to work there in March of 2004, acting as a bodyguard/relative named Dallas for the then-TNA X Division star Kid Kash. On April 7th of that year, Kid Kash and Dallas won the vacant NWA World Tag Team titles in a tournament, defeating Low Ki and Christopher Daniels of Triple-X in the finals. One week later, they dropped the tag belts to D'Lo Brown and Apolo, only to win the belts back the subsequent week. They then lost the belts to America's Most Wanted on June 4th. Hoyt lost some exposure when Kid Kash was suspended from TNA in June, but regained some of it, helping Kid Kash in his feud with A.J. Styles. In January of 2005, he chose to wrestle under his actual name of Lance Hoyt, as instructed by then-booker Dusty Rhodes, to avoid confusion between himself and Diamond Dallas Page, who was wrestling for TNA at the time. Hoyt and Kash competed as a tag team until Kash was fired from TNA on April of 2005. Hoyt then took part in the TNA Lockdown Pay-per-view event on April 19, 2005, teaming with Chris Candido to fight Sonny Siaki and Apolo in a cage match. During the match, Candido suffered a severe leg injury, Hoyt was pinned, and then Hoyt was attacked by the Naturals, Candido's associates, turning Hoyt into a fan favorite. On a side note, the injury Candido suffered would ultimately lead to his tragic death afterward.

Hoyt's career started receiving a strong fan following, leading to his becoming a character called Hoytamania, referencing the "Hulkamania" movement surrounding Hulk Hogan. His career led him to feud with Team Canada, lose to fellow big men Abyss and Monty Brown, and get eliminated in a 10-man Gauntlet Match at TNA Bound for Glory of that year. The match was to determine the new #1 contender for Jeff Jarrett's NWA World Championship. What followed was a tag team formed by Hoyt and Matt Bentley, that ended in a violent feud that ended at Destination X. After many months off, Hoyt returned to TNA to team up with Ron "the Truth" Killings, in a tag team battle royal which they lost, and in a winning effort against Bentley and Frankie Kazarian. Hoyt would take part in the Fight for the Right Tournament where he lost to Abyss upon being one of the last two men in the match. When that failed, he continued his teaming with Killings to win some matches. Hoyt then started acting as a bodyguard of sorts with the Voodoo Kin Mafia of BG James and Kip James, which ended with Hoyt turning on them and becoming a heel when he saved Christy Hemme from Kip James after the VKM won their tag match at Slammiversary. After Hoyt failed to defeat Abyss and even Kip James on TNA Impact!, he and Christy joined up with new TNA hire Jimmy Rave, a notable independent wrestler from such organizations like Ring of Honor, to form the Rock 'n Rave Infection. They became a comedy rock trio, complete with Guitar Hero controllers, Hemme screaming on a microphone, and Hoyt and Rave impersonating Slash of Guns N' Roses, and Vince Gill of Motley Crue, respectively.

As part of this new faction, Hoyt took part in and lost the "Cuffed in the Cage" match against "Super" Eric, changed his name to Lance Rock, and lost to Matt Morgan on that same day after Morgan beat Jimmy Rave. Since then, the team lost against virtually every tag team in TNA until Hoyt was released from TNA on February 10, 2009. Hoyt then wrestled in All Japan Pro Wrestling for a short while until signing with the WWE on April 26, 2009. He went to the WWE farm system organization, FCW, under the name Lance Archer. He changed his name to Vance Archer and later debuted on ECW in November of this year. On a more personal note, Hoyt appeared on such shows as the Jenny Jones Show, elimiDate, Scrubs, and Room Raiders. Hoyt also played basketball, football, and baseball, attended Texas State University and played there as a quarterback, has a degree in English, and worked in a nightclub, where he met his wrestling teacher.

That's quite a short resume, but a rather intense one if you look at it from a certain standpoint. Now, he's Vance Archer, and he has intensely ran through whomever has gotten in his way. As I stated before, it was a rather convenient debut for Archer, with all types of implications to it. Here's 3 such implications that I figured I'd share with you all that may very well determine his future.

First off, he debuted one week after another intense individual made his departure from the ECW brand. That wrestler was Sheamus. He was Irish, pale, red-headed, and brutish. He put the hurt on whomever got in his way and dominated virtually every match he was in. Then, when word got out that he was gaining some support from Triple H backstage, he was sent to Raw, depriving ECW of at least one stand-out dominator of a heel. Enter Vance Archer. Are those some big shoes to fill if you're Archer? Well, let's see: Sheamus left to Raw and "retired" Jamie Noble (kayfabe), decimated the competition in his Survivor Series match, and is now the #1 Contender for the WWE title. Yea, I think it's safe to say that Archer has a lot to match, don't you? Sheamus would have to be seen as a pretty big deal for this to happen. Archer, well, is not quite there yet.

Secondly, Archer's debut and subsequent success will mirror the veritable success of his fellow TNA expatriates that now call the WWE home. So far, those who have come to the WWE from TNA have either done it as a return of sorts or as a chance to continue their careers away from TNA. What's the verdict on their careers? R-Truth returned to some pretty decent fanfare. Too bad his match record couldn't match it. He's lost to a number of many important talents, curtailing whatever chances of his becoming a big star. He even cleanly lost to a star the WWE clearly demoted in C.M. Punk so he can prepare R-Truth for the main event scene. Throw in a failed attempt at reinventing his character, and that's R-Truth, a wrestler who is paying his dues at great lengths for being with the "enemy". Gail Kim returned to losses, losses, and more losses to the worst in the Women's and Diva's divisions as well as decisive losses to the best. That's what she gets for joining the "enemy" and establishing their women's division. Christian was supposed to be the person responsible for Jeff Hardy's attacks. However, due to an internet leak and Vince McMahon's general disdain toward Christian, he is now relegated to wrestling on ECW and is now the current owner of the ECW championship. That's not so bad or wouldn't be if, say, Christian was involved on pay-per-view events to a much greater capacity. Then again, can you expect much from a guy who went to the "enemy" afer being spurned by the WWE? I'll sum up Braden Walker in an equation, since the story is just too annoying to hear: former TNA star + big mouth about accomplishments + bad gimmick = instant failure. Do the math! Now, Archer wasn't anyone to bury the WWE while in TNA, but that doesn't put him in the clear at all. This brings me to my third and final implication.

Lastly, Archer is yet another powerhouse of a big man who has debuted in the WWE that...for lack of a better term, has no dimensions to him. Then again, he's another wrestler who, for lack of a better term, has no dimensions to him. Mike Knox is a brute who just developed a need to destroy the human body. Snitsky became a bald brute with bad teeth. Tyler Reks is a surfer from California. D.J. Gabriel is a party animal from England. Vance Archer is intense. The big question is this: and? What else do or did they bring to the table? Why not spend the time to flesh out these guys with better backstories? When you just shoot these guys out there with nothing to go on, no one reacts to it, and in turn, no one cares about it. Sure, Vance Archer is an intense wrestler, but so is Batista, and we already know why he is intense, what he brings to the table, and why he should be watched. Shoot, even Sheamus is branching out using his Celtic roots and his unique look as extra flavor to his blatant disregard for others. What's so special about Vance Archer? Just because someone mentions the intensity of another, doesn't guarantee abject success. So, Archer has his work cut out for him.

Vance Archer is an intense wrestler. However, his intensity should be focused on being seen as something other than a cheap replacement for a far more valuable wrestler, along with his need to be more than just a useless TNA castaway as well as a bland, one-dimensional character. He has to step away from those schemas and be more than just that. I have an idea. Why not have the intense Vance Archer do some research? Study the tapes. Watch the promos. Be bigger and better than those around you by learning from the best. Find out what intensity is by observing the intense. If you can do that, and can become a truly intense wrestler, then the world will take you seriously. Being intense is more than just a smirking scowl and an endorsement from some general manager. If you work on it, it can be a belief, a mindset, or even a lifestyle. In Archer's case, it's a wrestling style. That's great for you, Vance, granted you were the first to do it. Sadly, you weren't, so you have a long way to go. To your credit though, you're doing a prety decent job, which is more than I can say for some guys with gimmick issues..

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fan Appreciation Week: The failures and successes of the new ECW

For this year's ECW analysis, we have Vafa Behnam giving his insight on the failure of the new ECW. Check he and Nic Steenburg out at the website below:

Creatively speaking, it's their way of booking the WWE in a fantasy format.

Now, can ECW be seen as a failure? Well, let's see: it's the rebirth of the 7-year old revolution, coerced by Paul Heyman and Tod Gordon, and is lived vicariously through many different means. Compared to what we saw then, what we learned then, and what we encountered, it's not exactly a very good comparison. I could go on and on as to why that's the case, but this time, it's Vafa's turn. So, here we go. Feel free to comment on such:

What I would like to talk about in this post is how the new ECW completely embarrasses the original ECW. Its very essence does no justice to its past, whatsoever. What I would also like to mention is how ECW could not be listed as the C show. As bad as it sounds or seems, it's actually still pretty promising.

How does the new ECW embarrass its predecessor? For one, ECW stands for Extreme Championship Wrestling (notice the emphasis on the first word). Nowadays, if you switch on the channel, one bloody chair-shot is really asking for it. Even if in the old ECW, there was no hardcore action(which was rare), there would surely be explosive high-flying, terrific technical maneuvers, or extreme strength as a fine, blood-pumping substitute. If you need some evidence, search up any pre-2001 ECW video. I've even done the liberty of selecting a video right here:

Notice that at ringside in the video, you see tables, chairs, trash cans and tons of other hardcore weapons. Now, one part of ECW's failure has just been proven. However, three to four years ago, it wasn't the C show because of its wrestling talent. See, back then, it was real entertaining or at least remotely entertaining. Nowadays, ECW is neither. It's a place for youngsters to job while looking to make an impact, or washed-up has-beens who are looking to restart their careers. Even if they get the occasional wrestler who has talent, they instantly export him or her to some other brand, and in exchange, they get even more youngsters and has-beens.

Back in the day, heck, back three to four years ago, ECW would have some of the top talent in the WWE on the roster, such as the first and only ECW and WWE champion at the same time, six time IC champion, Mr. Money in the bank for the year of 2006 and grand slam champion, RVD, the world's largest athlete, the only wrestler to have held the WWE, WCW, and ECW titles, and highly decorated wrestling titlist, The Big Show and even the owner of the WWE, Vinny Mac was on ECW. So, what disappoints me the most is how ECW let itself go, dropping in entertainment, and most importantly, letting down its fans. Sadly, this problem has spread like a virus, and all over the WWE, brand by brand. I hope that one day, the WWE would reconstruct ECW, and make it a real brand, not some sort of a joke. What is good about ECW is that it is a place to revive old-timers, and test out new talent in the main event. If ECW wants to continue as the C show and wants the training ground for has-beens and youngsters, then they are on the right track. If ECW wants to become an entertaining, blood-pumping A show, then there's lots of work to do...

My opinion: a well-thought analysis by Vafa. Good job on your submission, my friend. I have basically echoed what Vafa wrote in as many posts as I could. It's up to the WWE to see the err of their ways and make ECW what it could be, what it should be, and what is what meant to be: a revolutionary entity here to change the face of professional wrestling, on par with that of Raw or Smackdown. You don't have to like it, but darn it if you don't respect it.

Next week: we take an "intense" look at Vance Archer. In the weeks to come, we look at the fallout of the Burchill/Hurricane war, ECW's existence at Survivor Series, the returns of the ECW Christmas Wish List and ECW predictions for year 2010, and to start off the new year, we look at how the new creative direction for the WWE might affect ECW.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Old habits die hard, and old wounds still tear easy

Due to circumstances beyond my control, the proposed Hurricane/Burchill analysis will wait until the week of December 13. Don't blame me. The WWE didn't want to book a match they talked about just a week ago for whatever reason, so, yea, can't help that.

As I was making my rounds through the internet, I came across an interview from Rob Van Dam for the UK Sun newspaper and website. As it turned out, he still had a lot to say about the new ECW, his final months in the WWE, and how Vince really did his work at trying to destroy ECW. He recounts how he never expected ECW One Night Stand 2005 to be a continued tradition, but its success produced a return engagement one year later. He spoke about how it was going to be difficult to get the same feel for the next One Night Stand PPV, as wrestlers would decline due to death, commitment to other feds, or just distaste for the WWE. He also stated that his victory over John Cena at One Night Stand 2006 was the crowning achievement of his career. And, why shouldn't it be? He broke the glass ceiling in front of the fans that made his career and captured the WWE title, meriting his use and values as a wrestler. It also gave ECW value and gave Rob a chance to celebrate among his real fans (like his loving wife). However, his breaking the ceiling of glass didn't come without a price, as he makes mention to a few scathing stories of how it all came about, flaring up his old wounds. I can't make mention of them all as I don't fully remember them, but I do remember a few things that stand out.

Before I go on, here's a link to an excerpt to that interview:

If my facts are wrong, look this up and feel free to correct me.

RVD made mention of how the ECW originals in 2006 were made to look like bad guys when they were featured on the ECW vs. Raw: Head to Head television special as they battled perennial good guy, John Cena, as well as when they welcomed two current heels into the fold in the forms of Kurt Angle and the Big Show. It didn't help ECW's cause when they were grossly outnumbered on that event by Raw's faces and heels, and beaten in the final moments of the show in a brawl. RVD also mentioned how Vince McMahon would go out of his way to curtail RVD, Paul Heyman, and even Tommy Dreamer's attempts to legitimize ECW as a brand when it was created. Vince would tell Paul that he would have to appeal to the casual fan or new ECW follower by making many changes to the product, which included adding failing WWE stars, disqualifications, silly gimmicks, and setting up the ECW style as a stipulation instead of as an unwritten rule. Paul, Tommy, and Rob would agree, knowing that this was going to happen in all eventuality as it has in all wrestling organizations. They just weren't aware of the lengths Vince would go to in order for it to happen. Sure, Vince would not allow RVD to win the title after his arrest, but the pending moves after such were virtually incredible. RVD made mention as to how Vince told him that the people chant "ECW" because it was he who got them to for the past set of years. At that point, Rob knew that talking to Vince was a big waste of time and that any arguments they had would always end up with Vince winning out. You can only talk to a wall before you grow tired and try to lead a horse to water. Rob then made mention of the December to Dismember PPV, one of the worst PPVs in ECW history, WWE history, and even wrestling history. He mentioned that this would be the place where ECW was officially dead and for good reason. The whole PPV was littered with bad moments that could not be fully equated with the original ECW feel. However, Rob said it was the main event that sealed the deal of ECW's death. It was an elimination chamber match that was going to showcase the changeover of the old ECW to the new ECW. How was this done? Simply put, RVD was defeated in this Elimination Chamber match, and Lashley won the ECW title instead. It didn't help that RVD was one of the first eliminated from the match. But, it was at that moment that the originals of ECW admitted the death of any trace of the original ECW in this new entity. RVD went on further to mention how Vince rubbed it in their faces when he won the ECW title for himself in the following year. It was a destructive move, to say the least, not to mention a very disrespectful one. Then again, can we really be surprised when it comes to Vince and his ego? No, not really, but it still hurts and is still obscenely difficult to accept.

To be honest, the fact that Rob Van Dam can still talk about this and not seem bitter is surprising. He's actually pretty mellow about the situation, as he is about many other things in life. However, the fact that he is mentioning all this beyond the fact that it all happened about 2 to 3 years ago, coercing his departure in late 2007, still rings true and damagingly loud in our ears, hearts, and minds. Now, some people will say that RVD and any originals who still talk about this should really just get over it and accept the fact that it happened and they should move on. However, you'd be a fool to say that they should, especially if they spent the best years of their life trying to define ECW as its own entity. They shed blood, sweat, and tears to maintain a living while wrestling in ECW. It was their lives. It was what defined them in the world of wrestling. It was who they were. So, when they see their very lives paraded around like a lifeless marionette by a power-mad puppeteer to fit his own whims and ego, they can't help but mention how sick they get or how disappointed they get. It really hits home with them, and you can't blame them for being bitter. I mean, sure, the WCW guys who are now in the WWE might have their reservations about how WCW was a success in certain areas and a failure in most others, but still deserves a level of respect. Yet, when the company is trashed, they take it upon themselves to harp the negatives, and they should, for good reason, because the horrible mismanagement of a successful company that made up their livelihood should not be forgotten, or brushed aside. ECW, despite its mismanagements, was not gentrified to the point where even the stars didn't want to be there. While it was tough to be in ECW due to the lack of pay at times, the dangerous conditions in matches, and even the lack of stars due to competition, it paled in comparison to working in WCW, where although you were guaranteed more money, you weren't guaranteed a good piece of mind. If anything, it came down to the money, but if it came down to raw ability and just having fun showing it, ECW was the better fit.

See, RVD has every right to be bitter at this point in life, as does Paul Heyman, and others. Paul Heyman, to his credit, did everything to kowtow to his bosses with the December to Dismember PPV, but no matter how well he did, he would have been looked at as a failure. Never mind the fact that the WWE did everything to make sure the PPV was atrocious in one way or another. It was Paul's fault because he was creatively in charge of it all. So, he took the fall for it, and was relieved of his duties creatively, until his contract expired. For the second time in his life, he saw his baby or his stepchild taken in by nasty foster parents against his will or his volition. The first time, he openly gave it up to save himself from debt. This time, he had joint custody of this child, and it was swiftly taken from him when he was labeled unfit to raise it by its other foster parents (Note: I really hope I'm not offending anyone with this choice of an analogy. If I do, I humbly apologize as it might hit home with whomever is reading). I mean, the former WCW wrestlers liked WCW, but when it was taken by the WWE and turned into a joke during the Invasion angle, they probably hurt over it, but not to the point where they could fully defend WCW, as it was hard to do it with what went down near its end. It's safe to say that virtually everyone involved with WCW was hurt by WCW's infrastructure one way or another. I say virtually because there were most likely some that didn't feel the effects at all as opposed to those who felt it to the fullest. However, you'd be remiss to think that there are or were any ECW originals that wouldn't defend ECW if it were being treated like trash. It was the place for stars to get their big break, the place for stars to wrestle without limits, and the place to help change the face of professional wrestling. Now, it's just a name in name only, as nothing, save for Tommy Dreamer represents ECW in any way, shape, or form in the current iteration.

If any of you get a chance, read that article and its follow-up. Take stock in the words from the only ECW star, virtually homegrown from ECW, that actually broke the glass ceiling and reached the top of professional wrestling, when others would have never been given the chance. Sure, you can mention Benoit, Jericho, and even Guerrero, but we all know they got their real training and notoriety from their respective countries. Maybe I'm tooting the wrong horn here saying what I said, so feel free to disagree. I just think that RVD is worth listening to, if not for the reason I mentioned, but for the reason that, to this day, he is still considered one of the most popular stars to come out of ECW, to the point where he is still cheered, revered, and even demanded in wrestling to this day. He got over being Rob Van Dam, despite what organization he was in, and that was mostly attributed to ECW.

Old habits do die hard and at times, old wounds still do tear easy. In RVD's case, the habit to talk about ECW, defend it, and discuss what it has become is still very fresh in his life and even unavoidable. ECW was RVD's life, and you'd be remiss to discredit any portion of your life that was considered a great era or time period. However, the wounds RVD received or already had upon being associated with the letters ECW at its re-edification in 2006 have never healed or may never heal because of his association with ECW. All he wanted was to relive the glory days, if not for one night, for a little while. Instead, he got a full-fledged return that was less than stellar as time went on. It was hard to deal with, but RVD knew or had to know what to expect out of Vince, based on his track record. That, however, didn't mean that he should be the least bit depressed, outraged, or bitter about the outcome. You wouldn't want pieces of your life left in the hands of a bad storyteller.

I will say this: Rob's interview does shed some light on two distinct truths that I have come to contemplate. I remember a promo RVD had at ECW Barely Legal 1997 about how he was worth more money in ECW and not worth more money elsewhere. In truth, ECW is the same way, but instead of money, it's worth more respect and honor on its own than it does under someone's watchful eye and control. Another truth comes from Vince and RVD's conversation about ECW fans chanting "ECW" and how it was Vince who taught them that. Well, Vince, you might not have taught them to chant "ECW", but, based on your actions, you sure as heck taught them not to.

Reader appreciation week is next week for the Thanksgiving week. If you're interested in blogging about anything concerning the new ECW (2006 to present), let me know and I'll post it for next week. Otherwise, I'm off next week.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Yoshi Tatsu: reaching new horizons

I just finished watching the Ricky Steamboat/Randy Savage Intercontinental title match at Wrestlemania 3 and was once again, amazed at the talent of both men. What caught my attention, however, was Steamboat's promo before the match. He expressed great rage towards Randy Savage for his attack to Steamboat's throat. He made it clear that he would get revenge, win the title and reach new horizons. A few days later, before writing this blog, I thought of a person, who, like Steamboat, is from the Pacific, is an athletically sound wrestler with great aerial tactics, scientific prowess, and raw energy that makes him a very popular wrestler. Like Steamboat, he may very well remain a face for the majority of his career, entertaining the crowd for the majority of, if not, the rest of his career. Like Steamboat, he had a chance to reach new horizons by capturing gold. However, he failed to do so, as he lost to Christian for the ECW title. Quite obviously, I'm talking about Yoshi Tatsu. However, unlike Steamboat, Yoshi can still reach new horizons without the need to win a title. Yet, just like Steamboat, he may never fully get to relish in that opportunity.

Yoshi Tatsu has finally started to turn heads in ECW, with his ability in the ring. His rise to the top is rather reminiscent to Kofi Kingston, only without the undefeated streak. I would say that about 4 to 6 months from now, he will be seeing greener pastures on Raw or Smackdown. In my opinion, it could go either way as to where he ends up. Whatever the case may be, he can make a serious push for the Intercontinental or U.S. Title and probably walk off with it, but maybe in a few tries. In fact, I'd say that with the right marketing, he could even be very approachable and acceptable to many fans alike. However, it is in this air that Yoshi faces true danger. See, Yoshi Tatsu is from Japan. He doesn't speak English, he's already being portrayed in a comedic light with his incessant need to say "Thank you" (Tajiri did the something like this when he first showed up), and he's got the wrestling chops to outshine the majority of the lower and middle card. Throw in the fact that he's a cruiserweight and you have enough key reasons as to why he'll never see true success. Then again, as mentioned, neither did Steamboat.

Ricky Steamboat's most notable feud in his WWE time included his battle with Randy Savage after getting assaulted to his throat and larynx. The feud culminated at the Wrestlemania, as mentioned with Steamboat winning the IC title. However, no more than a few months later, he dropped the title to the Honky Tonk Man. All that hard work, and only 4 months of success. He never got the IC title back since then. In fact, he disappeared from the WWE shortly after the title loss. He showed up in the NWA to battle Ric Flair on a number of occasions. He returned to the WWE on a short-term basis, then he disappeared to WCW for a possible push there. Why didn't Steamboat go places? Well, he spoke English, his gimmick was very much like the "Karate Kid" or "Bruce Lee", in a sense (which could be seen as a positive or negative, based on your opinion), and he was very over with the crowd. Plus, his ability in the ring was virtually flawless. My guess: he wasn't big enough, size-wise, to make any waves since Vincent K. McMahon liked bigger stars, and also, his gimmick wasn't as flamboyant as the Honky Tonk Man's or others. Tough break, but he made some strides at least to make himself notable.

Yoshi Tatsu, albeit in a similar situation, or could be in a similar situation, will have it much worse for himself. His lack of comprehensive English-speaking skills can put him at a definitive disadvantage, when it comes to giving promos or interviews. He's probably one backstage segment away from embodying a negative stereotype (I can see the anime-references coming a mile away. Shoot, someone had a sign talking about him with the Yoshi character from Nintendo on it). He's a cruiserweight, which means he'll be shuffled towards the lower card, possibly on the losing end of things. Lastly, he's received good training from his former organization, New Japan Pro Wrestling, which may put him at odds with many wrestling politicians backstage that don't want to be shown up by his ability to execute maneuvers better than others. Truth be told, it looks like he's behind the 8-ball on this one. Don't believe me? It's happened before, in fact on 4 occasions.

Taka Michinoku came in as the answer to WCW's rising cruiserweight division, winning the Light Heavyweight title, and embroiling himself in different feuds, including with his fellow stars in Kaientai, Brian Christopher, and the Oddities (which was when he teamed with Kaientai). How did his career pan out? He literally destroyed his shoulder in 2000, watched everyone but himself and Funaki get fired, got relegated to an idiotic tag team gimmick with Funaki in Kaientai as they were voiced-over like a bad martial arts film (in case you were wondering, it was Shane McMahon doing the VOs, I'm sure of it), then was fired. Funaki remained in the WWE, only to become a backstage interviewer speaking in broken English, then later became Cruiserweight champion for a short time, only to linger on as a jobber, and is now called Kung Fu Naki, with a martial arts gi, a red headband, and a crane kick as a finisher. Yea, idiotic, I know. Jimmy Wang Yang was originally a dangerously skilled Japanese wrestler in WCW with Kaz Hayashi and Jamie Noble, before getting signed on to the WWE as a member of the Japanese mafia, supporting Tajiri. When that fell through, he was just another martial artist, teaming with Billy Kidman until he was transformed into Jimmy Wang Yang, your stereotypical Asian person trying to be a Southerner. Where did that take him? It got him a few choice victories in tag team and singles wrestling, but never any titles, and then, out of nowhere, he was suspended for a wellness policy violation and hasn't been on the winning end of any matches since then. It's bad enough he had a gimmick that was already wearing thin since its beginning, despite his tremendous ability. The suspension just made things worse. Lastly, we have Tajiri. After appearing briefly on WWE television, he joined ECW and was embroiled in a long-time feud with Super Crazy. It was enough to get him an ECW Television Title and a few ECW World Title shots. Upon coming to the WWE, he was already a flunky for William Regal. He then became Torrie Wilson's love interest, and then he became a heel, but not before winning the Cruiserweight championship, I believe, along with some other titles, if I'm not mistaken. After many stellar runs as Cruiserweight champion, he departed from the WWE in 2005. This was attributed to his grief of the loss of Eddie Guerrero as well as his travels straining on his marriage. However, as respected and as cheered as Tajiri got, he never received any forward movement, even when Rey Mysterio was getting it, and he was smaller than Tajiri, too.

Some of these examples might not seem very prevalent, but they all share one thing in common: they, like Yoshi Tatsu, all have had the same problems coming into the forefront of their careers. Be it a language barrier, size differentials, bad stereotypes or even just general talent, it wasn't enough for them to go anywhere near a major singles title, let alone a major mid-card title, if not for a long period of time. It could have even been just general backstage politics, but the outcome remains the same. Yoshi Tatsu had better be ready to expect this for his career. It's just a bit depressing and saddening only because the WWE can choose to be progressive and allow for a change by allowing for a foreign star to succeed, let alone one of a different nationality. Like it or not, you won't be seeing many foreign stars as champions in major wrestling organizations in the U.S. We got that chance with Yokozuna (even though he was Samoan, in reality, but he still wasn't American). We even got that with various Canadian stars (but they spoke English, so there was no language barrier). Simply put, the possibilities are too few and far between to consider it progress. That said, Yoshi Tatsu might not see anything more out of his career but a possible IC or U.S. Title run....that could end in a blink of an eye.

Yoshi Tatsu is slowly but surely reaching new horizons as a superstar in ECW and in the WWE, as a whole. It doesn't look like he'll go very far, as based on past examples, but there is always hope. Rey Mysterio could barely speak English, and sadly, he still barely can in some instances, but he was still given the World Title for his merit, his ability, his heart, and his connection with Eddie Guerrero (a connection that would make him a key culprit in the exploitation of Eddie's life...after his death). Kofi Kingston spoke English, despite a forced and labored Jamaican accent, and he has won the U.S., IC, and World Tag titles within the first year and a half of being on Monday Night Raw. He did have his fair share of losses, but now he's embroiled in a feud with a top main eventer in Randy Orton. Does this show promise for Yoshi? You could say so, but with all the things against him for possible forward progression, it's very hard to say. Regardless, you'd be a fool to discredit his amazing ability, which is his biggest selling point in ECW. If it got him a title shot, it can get him a spot on a better or bigger brand.

Yoshi Tatsu has his career right in front of him and has to do his best to make the best of the situation that he's in. In fact, all superstars who find themselves in limbo, jobbing here and there, or not even showing up on t.v. should do the best with the situation they are in. Showing initiative, despite the negatives is always a good sign for upward movement. Although it might be too late for some, it isn't for Yoshi Tatsu. Who knows? He might actually reach those "new horizons" that so many of his brethren from Japan have missed. Or, he could just be relegated to some Japanese Anime-related gimmick/stereotype....which just screams of creativity.....

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

ECW: love it or leave it...

Sheamus, formerly of ECW fame, has made his debut on Monday Night Raw, 2 weeks ago by destroying Jamie Noble in a match. He did it again this week while during the match and even after the match, proving his dominance once again. Between those two matches, he got even with Shelton Benjamin and defeated him on his last ECW match before completely going to Raw. However, on the ECW side of things, what really mattered was the internal feelings about the move. When asked by Abraham Washington on his show, ECW G.M. Tiffany made it clear that if a person did not want to be in ECW, they could leave. No questions. No fuss. Just leave. Now, where have I seen this type of bravado before, when dealing with ECW? Oh yes, from Paul Heyman. Funny how things remain the same, the more things change.

Paul Heyman controlled ECW from 1993 until its last show in 2001, putting together at most 7 years of incredible, ground-breaking wrestling. There were compelling storylines, well-wrestled scientific matches, incredible promos, innovative characters, and some of the most violent wrestling you would see in the United States since the days of the Shiek and "Classy" Freddie Blassie. Paul had no problem taking in stars who needed exposure, experience, and just a place to work, but when the topic of leaving ECW ever came up in a convo, Paul made it clear that he wasn't going to try to compete with WCW or WWE's money or offers. If you wanted out, then go. Apparently, it holds true for this iteration of ECW as well. I just never thought it would be said, mentioned, or even considered. Also, instead of jumping to different companies, it's about jumping to different brands. So, I guess Sheamus figured that there wasn't enough on ECW to conquer that was worth conquering. The ECW title wasn't enough. The remaining competition wasn't enough. It had to be the greener pastures of Raw that would be enough to satiate the needs of the Celtic warrior. Either that, or Triple H's influence, but that's another story...

So, if ECW isn't enough for certain stars, why is it that certain stars we would love to see succeed on other shows like they would deserve to, don't consider the same thing? Why is it that some of the most skilled stars and veterans on ECW don't take it upon themselves to do so? The easy answer of course, is backstage politics. But, if that wasn't even a factor, why not have some stars just up and leave? Is it because they stretched out their chances on the other brands? Is it because they are biding their time until they are ready to burst onto the scene elsewhere? Whatever the reason may be, I have a few stars in mind that should just up and leave ECW with the talent they have and try to make a run on Raw or SmackDown. In fact, I only know three stars.

First, there's the Hurricane. The Hurricane has the wrestling credibility to be a big time high-flyer on SmackDown, let alone a great singles wrestler who utilizes ground-based moves. If this hasn't been proven, just look back to his singles matches with Matt Hardy when he used his alter ego, Gregory Helms (or so it's believed to be his alter ego...wink wink). They had some of the best midcard matches on SmackDown at that time. Helms proved he could hang with bigger stars, and had some crucial maneuvers that could secure him victory against bigger stars, be it bigger in star value, or bigger in size. I remember Helms defeating Rosey, a 300+ lb Samoan superhero sidekick, with a well-place "Shining Wizard" to the side of his head. It's the wrestling knowledge that Helms acquired through his tours of Japan and such that has polished his wrestling style extensively. As it turns out, the Hurricane has the exact same skill set and expertise. If we are seeing stars like Morrison, the Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Evan Bourne, and even Kofi Kingston who have comparably the same size as the Hurricane along with the charisma (if not somewhat lacking for some of them), utilize their skills against stars their size and caliber as well as stars beyond those limits, why not the Hurricane? Is it because he's a tired act? Is it because he's not as sharp as they are? Or is it because he never had that opportunity nor deserved it?

Second, there's Shelton Benjamin. Say what you will about his expertise, his style, his attitude, or whatever, but you can't take away the fact that he is the best pure athlete in the WWE today. He has the speed, the agility, and the athleticism to go very far in the WWE. He is cut in the same mold as that of the aforementioned stars, but has the ring experience they do not in the WWE (with the exception of the Hurricane). He would and should be a star looking to leave for greener pastures and ply his trade on another brand. However, with his track record looking less than stellar on those shows, due to his rather stagnant title runs, his go-nowhere storylines, and even his lack of....well, whatever he was told he was lacking, it wouldn't be prudent to take another risk like that. Regardless, if anyone should be taking that risk on ECW, it's definitely Shelton.

Last and definitely not least is Christian. About 11 years ago, he debuted in the WWE. He went from promising cruiserweight, to Gothic sensation, to incredible tag team wrestler, to charismatic new sensation, to midcard star, to proven commodity, to big fish in another organization to returning veteran looking for a big run to ECW champion. The biggest question on everybody's mind was this: why didn't he return to a more prominent brand? Yes, we might know the answers. However, if you take out that part, you get to thinking about the true answer. Christian stated he wanted to become ECW champion. Ok, well you've done that. Isn't it time to step up your game, or is being a big deal in a small place enough for you? Christian should and would be that upcoming star in whatever title pictures you consider on Raw or Smackdown. Would it have been he battling the Undertaker instead of C.M. Punk? Would it have been he doing battle against Punk or Jeff Hardy? Would it be he that is next in line for a shot at the WWE title? We may never know at this point. Or at least, we won't know as long as he is content to be on ECW.

Tiffany made it short and sweet: if you don't want to be on ECW, then leave. Guess what? There are at least three stars that we would love to see leave ECW and continue their runs or success elsewhere. Christian, Shelton, and the Hurricane are all capable enough to gain some ground on whatever show they go to. In fact, they probably have. However, numerous setbacks prevented them from ascending. It ranged from general malaise towards the job, forcing them to look elsewhere, or even a general lack of interest in doing more with one's career. How did they find solace? By heading to ECW and re-focusing their careers. I say, the time for re-focusing is done. They've gained their focus. They have the tools necessary to be more than they were before. They can make the jump and it wouldn't be a problem. However, the WWE doesn't see it that way. Sadly, they don't either, so leaving ECW isn't in the cards now or maybe forever.

It's the new version of ECW. Like the original ECW, you either love it or leave it. Christian, Shelton, and the Hurricane might not love it, would probably love to leave it, but can't due to the same problems they had before coming there. Since this is the case, they have no choice to stop "loving to leave" ECW and start loving ECW as it is. However, since the quality of ECW has been better than Raw's or Smackdown's, despite terrible ratings, I wouldn't consider leaving ECW either. Sometimes, it's good to be with that growing expansion team for a while, then that high-priced team that doesn't go anywhere for the most part.