Friday, October 8, 1999

Ringside Shadows #77: Reader Feedback, Gorilla Monsoon's Death, Droz's Injury

(quick note; the links referenced in this old column don't work anymore, as the site they reference has been down for years..)

It's a bit later than I'd hoped, but better this than never.. I've got a couple thoughts, a couple memories, a couple opinions and a link or two to boot. It's been a dark week for the lives of wrestling fans, from the passing of the legendary Gorilla Monsoon to the injury of the Droz. I'll touch on both those instances, plus I'm in a nostalgic mood today, so I'll even bring up a bit of recent news regarding George Steele, and possibly a trip down memory lane. You never know..

Before all that, though.. I was checking out a recent issue of 'The Deal' (well.. ok, the monday review.. not quite recent..), and happened upon his link to the "Mack Daddy of Columnists" poll. I was surprised to see my name even featured in the list, let alone set to move on to the next round. At current count, I'm running with a surprising 86 votes. So, I'd like to take this chance to thank those responsible for nominating me, and everybody who has taken or will take the time to vote for me.. It means a lot, and I really appreciate it.

Again, to check out the poll follow this link. And with that, it's on.

Gorilla Monsoon: 1937-1999

I can't really do much justice to the efforts this man gave for the business he loved. The WWF put forward a perfectly fitting tribute at the beginning of last night's Smackdown, which I really hope to see on air to start Raw this Monday. As a fan that made the pilgrimage to the WWF in the mid-80s (Wrestlemania 3 was my first true experience), Gorilla was my eyes and ears for the first half-decade of my experience with this sport. Behind the mic, he was always the voice of reason.. contrasting the wild and self-centered acts and attitudes of Jesse Ventura and Bobby Heenan. I can't even think of how many evenings I spent with Monsoon's voice calling the action as a Jake Roberts or Rick Rude did their work in the squared circle.

As an athlete, Gorilla was well before my time. My father often talked about catching his matches on KDKA, TV Pittsburgh and Grappling's only true "living legend", Bruno Sammartino (Zbysko's never been half the man Bruno was..) has nothing but good things to say about Mr. Marella. As has been mentioned before, his famous airplane spin sequence with Muhammad Ali was among the most memorable events of it's time. In a day when Pro Wrestling had no mainstream publicity, this was an event that knocked the world on it's ass. In a year that will undoubtedly be remembered as "the year we lost Owen", I fear Monsoon will be forgotten in the rush.

I grew up with Gorilla, and I was in as much pain as I was happiness when he made his last WWF appearance, at Wrestlemania XV. His health was visibly waning, and it tore at my heart strings to see such a man reduced to the shell that stood before. Yet, as my heart wept for this man, my chest swelled with pride as the Philadelphia crowd rewarded him with the final ovation he would ever hear. What a roar.. fitting for a king. Never did anyone deserve such an ovation as much as Monsoon did that eve. Now, the monster sleeps. His aches are finally healed, and he's in a better place.. Godspeed.

The Droz Injury

I'll be the first to admit I wasn't Droz's biggest fan. Frankly, I thought his ringwork had years to go, and his mic work was slightly below-par. His gimmick was something of a Buff Bagwell rip-off, and I didn't think his heart was ever really into it. However, as somebody on the verge of his big break this loss is devastating. Just as things were starting to look up for this young athlete, his career has apparantly been cut short.

I hate to be so frank, but those are the breaks. In any sport that involves physical conflict, those participating are at risk. It's happened more than enough in the NFL, it's happened in the NBA, it's even happened in gymnastics. Wrestling is quite lucky it hasn't happened more often, considering the physical nature of the action.

Not to lighten the air of Droz's injury, but he's lucky. The spinal column wasn't damaged, and though he may never walk again.. he's alive. Things could've been much worse.

Questions will more than likely be asked, fingers pointed in the direction of D'Lo Brown, who was responsible for the mishap with a blown ligerbomb. Accidents do happen, it's a fact of life. Sometimes the athletes are able to catch the error in time (See Chris Benoit at the '95 JCup, avoiding a botched top-rope tombstone that could have broken Chris Jericho's neck), sometimes it all happens too fast (As is the case with Owen/Austin and the infamous 'broken neck' incident). If anything, it goes to show you that nobody knows what they're doing 100% of the time. D'Lo and Owen were (and are) two of the most talented workers in the WWF's history, without denial. If these two have botched moves this badly in the past, it makes me worried about the greener athletes, and less experienced men on the roster. The world's a scary place, and sometimes accidents happen. My thoughts and prayers go out to Droz and his family, and here's to a speedy recovery.

More Letters!

I keep getting mail... and I love it...

Let's see, Armando Trevino responded to my question about Juvi's utterance during Nitro:

"I don't know if you were being sarcastic in your post saying that you didn't understand what Juvi said after dropping the "people's elbow" on Kidman last night, but if you really didn't understand, this is what I heard; after the elbow, Juvi walked to the camera and said, "I know your role", a reference to the Rock, obviously. I can only speculate that Russo or Ferrara told Juvi that the Rock would mention Juventud in his promo with Jericho later that night. I just don't think it was coincidence that Juvi drops the blatant "elbow" and Rock mentions Juvi on the same night."

Thanks for the translation, Armando, and it truly wasn't sarcasm on my part. My attention was elsewhere, plus the audience noise kept me from understanding exactly what Juvi said. Interesting interaction between the Rock and the Juice this past week, which has sparked something of a mini-debate in my mailbox. As for Russo and Ferrera, I seriously doubt they had anything to do with the situation.. though it does make sense. I think Juvi just stole the elbow, and Rock saw it and decided to comment on it during his interview later in the show. They went down in order, and I think that's the logical way things worked out. Then again, it'll be interesting to see what the Rock's lines look like now that the writers are out.. Thanks for the e-mail and verification anyway.

Brandon had a couple comments on Schiavone's slaughtering of Psychosis this past Monday.. kick 'is ass, Seabass..

"Hey drq, you were right about Schiavone saying that he never won the belt with the mask on, he had a little memory lapse. But, later on in the match he had an even bigger memory lapse and called Psychosis a former cruiserweight champion. He needs to pull his head out of his ahem. Take it easy."

Schiavone is a complete moron.. I think it's universal. I can't find enough proof to satisfy myself as to this fact.. :P Thanks for the e-mail, and for reading.. had something to get off his chest about my statements regarding the Rock/Juvi encounter..

"I enjoy reading your columns but the statement you made about the Rock and Juvi was uncalled for. I think you were kidding, but I am not sure. Like John C. said, there is no way the Rock is jealous of Juventud Guerrera. Sure Juvi is a better worker, but The Rock is probably the most over face in the Big2. It was just another example of the big2 taking shots at each other."

My comparisons between Juvi and the Rock were meant to be in good fun, as comparing these two is almost like comparing apples and oranges. Juvi could kick the hell out of the Rock in the ring, both with match rating and workrate while Maivia is way over, and much better on a mic. Both men are incredibly charismatic (I'd give the edge to Juventud), and I'd love to see the two of them go at it sometime. The slaps they've been throwing back and forth over television are fun. I liked seeing the "DX invades WCW bit", and I like seeing it now.. so long as it doesn't take over each program. Thanks for writing in, and for reading

Stephanie had a couple words about the Hart/Benoit tribute that took place Monday Night..

"The only complaint I have about the Bret Hart/Chris Benoit match last night was the fact that it ever happened in the first place. In my mind, Owen Hart was once again a "sacrifice for the ratings." Bret Hart can't deny it, and WCW can't deny it.

Bret Hart specifially stated in his recent column in the Calgary Sun, "I don't approve of anyone who says they are doing something to honour my brother Owen when it turns out they stand to gain from it either financially or through publicity." In my eyes, WCW did both...and the fact that Bret saw this as some sort of "classy tribute" to his brother is disgusting.

Don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with Bret Hart wanting to honor his brother. But he did it in light of the fact that Owen died in the Kemper Arena. If WCW had been in another arena for Nitro, there would have been NO tribute match. There would have been no "Owen" chants, and Chris Benoit probably wouldn't have worn an Owen t-shirt. In my mind, there's no arguing that.

This match happened because WCW saw a way to take advantage of the tragic death of Owen Hart. Who benefits from this match besides WCW? They get the ratings. They also get the cash the fans in Kansas City paid to watch the match.

You are certainly entitled to your opinion...but to me there was nothing "right" about this. When the WWF did their two-hour tribute to Owen, it was his big extended family...and as Jim Ross would say, "A haughty display of human emotion." There were tears, and was the way Owen should be remembered. I'm sorry to say, but when I think of Owen, I don't want to visualize Bret pointing at the catwalk in the Kemper Arena. I'd rather remember Owen the way everyone in the WWF described him-as a family man, a professional, a prankster, and a great friend to his colleagues.

I don't feel this brought a sense of closure to Owen's tragic death. What it did, I'm sure, was bring back a lot of painful memories to a lot of people. WCW's focus last night should have been about Owen the person- not the way in which he died, but the life that he lived."

Probably one of the best, most thought out letters I've ever received. As you say, everyone's entitled to their own opinions, and that holds true here. Allow me a chance to explain my reasoning..

This match, as you say, wouldn't have happened if it weren't in Kemper Arena that evening. Things would've gone on as usual, and no tribute would've taken place. However, WCW would've come around to Kansas City at one time or another in the future, and Bret would've had to face the arena that cost his brother his life at some point. This show was scheduled before the tragedy earlier this year, and I think it was a good move to give a nod to the performer whose life came to an abrupt halt in the ring those months ago. The outrage over WCW's ignorance of the event would've surpassed that of what we're seeing now, with WCW's 'exploitation' of Owen's death, had they put this show on without mentioning the youngest Hart, or the arena's importance.

I do agree with your questioning of Bret Hart and his selective memory. Bret is probably one of my favorite workeres of all time, but I often disagree with his public assaults upon the WWF and his brother in law, Davey Boy Smith. Undoubtedly, WCW will profit from Bret and Chris's match this past week, but I don't believe that was the first thing in his mind... even if it should've been.

In my eyes, the WWF and WCW have now finally both offered their own unique tributes to Owen.. the WWF's more timely and visibly heartfelt, the WCW's possibly more proper and fitting. I honestly believe that each was 'right' in their own way, and we can finally begin to move on now that Bret apparantly has. A final thought, I don't think Bret was looking to the rafters that night in Kansas City, but beyond to the heavens.. where his brother looked down and smiled.

Thanks for the well-thought, and well-stated e-mail, as well as for reading and respecting my opinion. Rest assured that the same holds true for you and yours.

Finally, Disco Dave had a question about the WWF's "new main eventers":

"I was wondering what you think about Val Venis and Stevie Richards/Stevie Love/Dude Richards sort of being thrust into a semi main event role. With them being involved with Mic Foley and The Rock, this does give them some good exposure. What is your take on this(if you could understand what I just said or meant) Thanks man and keep up the ass kicking writing you do."

Honestly, I hadn't really considered it. The WWF is making another move with its younger generation. Not only with those you mentioned, but with Jericho's near-immediate elevation to a main event level, the WWF is laying groundwork. I may not agree with their choices (I think Edge is better suited for elevation than Venis at this time..), but I can't argue with their aim. Stevie Richards is an amazingly funny and entertaining guy, as well as a good worker, and I love what he's doing with the Dude Love gimmick.

Hell, I'd take Mideon in the tye-dye, if we got to see that Titan Tron.. hilarious, pure Foley, stuff on the intro video.

Anyway, to answer your question: I think it's smart. This is how you're supposed to build future main eventers. This is why the WWF is still on top. This is why WCW is in such a hole.

And I'm out for now. I'll be back Tuesday, or before.
until then, i remain

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