Thursday, September 27, 2001

Ringside Shadows #176: The Mid-80s WWF Crew Goes MTV

The mid eighties were truly a strange time for the WWF. On one hand of the spectrum, they had what seemed like a vice grip on the wrestling audience in general, from coast to coast. Much of this, granted, was due to their unbreakable grasp of the television airwaves during the era, but I think an equal part can be attributed to the athletes that gave their hearts and souls to the fans night in and night out. Legendary names like "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, The Iron Shiek, Bob Backlund, Andre the Giant, Ricky Steamboat, Paul Orndorff, Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan were hitting full stride, all at the same time. To be honest, the roster boasted by the WWF at that time could almost overshadow their lineup even today. It was that visible, that outstanding, that good.

But on the other side of the coin, while these humongous names in the industry were putting on some truly memorable matches, matches which would go on to define their careers, they were doing so under a pretense that was almost unheard of prior to that day and age. They were doing it all in the form of a children's program.

It was the era of Rock'n Wrestling. A day where MTV was new, fresh and exciting. A day when the WWF saw that new trend and got in on the ground floor. Undeniably, his association and cross-promotions with the stars of MTV during the mid eighties was one of Vince McMahon's shining moments of genius. It brought an unbelievable new rush of fanfare to the once-dying spectacle, infusing pro wrestling with a lifeblood that still flows strong today. It gave men like Roddy Piper the opportunity to make or break themselves in the big time, and in Piper's case he ran with it.

Unfortunately, this inventive new marketing ploy also brought about more than a couple side effects, one of which I'll be observing closely here today. While I'll be the first in line to congratulate Vince for ensuring the WWF and wrestling in general would survive well into the twenty-first century, I'll also be among the first to criticize him for carrying it too far. Case in point; a little music video entitled "The Goonies R Good Enough," by one Cyndi Lauper.

If that title rung a little bell in the back of your mind, I'm not surprised. Yes, this was the music video for that catchy little Lauper theme song to the classic 1985 motion picture, The Goonies. Don't worry, the sheer mention of its name sends me spiraling down happy memory lane as well. You're not alone. However, if you're asking yourself what this particular flick has to do with the WWF, you're probably not alone. None of the WWF's stars appeared in the movie itself, (hell, Lauper was held to a single, brief, grimacing shot on the TV screen) and as far as I can tell they weren't used to promote the film either. However, Vince's boys are, for whatever reason, plastered all over this music video. And what a hoot it is...

So, aided by my brand new copy of The Goonies on DVD, I plan to drag my way through this treacherous little bit of music history, if just to record its relevance to the wrestling community. It's gonna be a fun ride, and if nothing else should prove to you just how far Vince McMahon is willing to go for shameless promotion. If you thought WCW's little escapade with "Chucky" a few years back was bad, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

This little cinematic masterpiece opens up with a far shot of a gas station, with the lovely Ms. Lauper jogging from off camera right into the thick of things. As a cheesy announcer tells us the bank is ready to foreclose on this quiet little station, we catch our first glimpse of something WWF: "Captain" Lou Albano, better known as 'that guy with the rubber band earrings,' is attempting to reason with a portrait of a pirate. Albano reveals to no one in particular (seriously, nobody's on screen) that this pirate was his long-lost relative, and if he only knew where he'd buried his treasure, they wouldn't have to lose the gas station.

As Cyndi complains about the neighborhood, one of her colleagues, boasting a sign that reads "Free cookies with gas," welcomes the day's first customer; a stretch limousine. Everyone rushes outside to meet this friendly new customer, but we (being avid followers of the WWF's current product) know better. Sure enough, the limo rolls to a stop and out steps "Classy" Freddy Blassie, followed by Roddy Piper and the Iron Shiek. While the Shiek rustles some random papers around and attempts to speak English, Piper tells us in his own roundabout way that they are now the legal owners of the gas station. Quoth the Shiek; "Listen, lady! This is my property! Now! So get outta here, you! Lazy! American! Bum! Athtaynatchaa!"

Piper pokes fun at the poor woman's cookies, and the sound of a cow is sounded off in the distance. I shit you not. The Shiek even blames it on Blassie, seeing as how he's been responsible for the majority of the WWF's past troubles with bovine-resembling bowel movements. Piper shoves a finger in Albano's face, which sets the whole group off on a monumental shouting match, a brawl which is only interrupted by a red pickup truck, driven by The Fabulous Moolah, with a giant plastic cow in the bed. "Milking" this cow is Nikolai Volkoff. This is just surreal.

The verbal sparring escalates, (nobody noticed Nikolai, who began singing moments later) leading Piper to remove the smiley-face button from Lou Albano's shirt and stomp a vicious mudhole all over it. And he's wearing his wrestling boots. A suit and tie, with a pair of maroon wrestling boots and the initials "RP" in fancy, fancy letters. God, how I loved Roddy Piper. What with all this screaming and button-stomping going on, it's a good thing they got a cardio machine like Piper for the gig... I think Hogan would've blown up by now.

Cue the music that'll be haunting my dreams this evening.

Hibachi chefs wheel a giant stove onto the lot and start tossing salt and pepper shakers back and forth. They're all in uniform. I couldn't make this up if I tried. Cyndi pays no mind to the custody battle going on at the front of her station, and instead begins singing, servicing the red pickup Moolah has abandoned, but Nikolai still occupies. Wait, scratch that, she isn't servicing the car. She's feeding the plastic cow a bottle of milk, through a straw. Holy god, what have I taken to produce such hallucinations? Now Nikolai is singing backup.

If nothing else, this video's giving me some happy memories of Cyndi Lauper. I had such a crush on her around this time, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't carry through to today. Not exactly what you'd call a common beauty, but she's hot in that "punk chick" kind of way. But I'm getting off track.

OK, Nikolai's just turned heel. He's left the relative safety of the back of that pickup, where he was singing pleasantly alongside Cyndi. Now he's joined Piper, Blassie and the Shiek in tossing the male gas station attendant around. Meanwhile, Lauper heads inside the station and begins taking down decorations from the wall. I guess they'll be giving up the gas station, as the Shiek has gone through all the legal channels in his quest to... hold the phone! When Cyndi pulled down the picture of Capt. Lou's pirate relative, she discovered a giant hole in the wall! How'd they miss that when they hung up the portrait in the first place? Nevermind that, as she dives in headfirst and gives me a nice peek at her backside in the process.

The Iron Shiek's dialogue is subtitled for a split second, proving it wasn't just me that thought he was having trouble with his English earlier on. And Cyndi's discovered some sort of treasure map. A skeleton's got a real death grip on the map (wokka wokka,) and instead of running away, she just sits there, widens her eyes to an inhuman degree, and screams. This is fun in a real "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" kind of way. Cyndi peeks to her left, and OHMYGOD THERE'S A BUNCH OF KIDS IN WHITE SHIRTS. Lauper's scared now, but still isn't really trying to get away. The kids shuffle around a bit, and suddenly... magic! Their shirts spell "GOONIES." Looks like most of the kids from the film were available for the video shoot. We've got Mikey's big brother, Chunk, Mikey himself, Data, Mouth, and the annoying lesbian blonde girl. And they've all got really cheaply made shirts on, each containing one letter to the word 'goonies.' How clever. Regardless, Lauper is overjoyed to see them, and they compare their corresponding treasure maps.

Time now for worthless, out-of-place but essential, clips from the movie.

Back to the video, and a woman with green skin, dressed in purple rags, has appeared from out of nowhere. "PIRATES!" screams the captioning at the bottom of the screen. Yeah, that's the first thing I thought of when I saw the woman with the green skin. Now we've got Pirates, as a few ominous characters dressed in animal skins appear for good measure, also from out of nowhere. Funny, these guys look more like cavemen than pirates. They also bear more than a striking resemblance to Roddy Piper, Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Shiek... Piper didn't even bother to remove plaid from his wardrobe. I guess he's the Scottish pirate. Either way, they're carrying all the Goonies away, leaving Cyndi to deal with the mysterious green-skinned "pirate" woman on her own.

Back at the gas station, the others have discovered the hole in the wall and climb in, giving the viewing audience plain shots of their asses, as well. And Cyndi's still running... the Goonies have vanished again, and the Scottish Caveman Pirate Wrestlers are after her now, too. She covers all the bases, running past skeletons and Hibachi chefs, (now located in the caves) before the pirates and the green woman corner her on a giant log, crossing a rushing river. Fans with detailed memories of The Goonies would remember this scene from the movie. It's where Data uses his "Slick Shoes", and I only remember that much because I know of a band who took their name from that line. The song's almost over, so we've got some issues that need to be sorted out in a short amount of time here... how's it gonna end??? The suspense must be too much to withstand.

Cyndi looks left, she looks right, she cries, she collapses, she... asks Steven Spielberg for help? Good god. Spielberg actually appears in the video from an editing room, (probably in the process of cutting this footage from the final version of the film itself) and lends us his ageless wisdom. "Well, the first thing you sh..... I don't know..." Talk about a random video. If nothing else, I've given you ammunition for future games of "Seven Degrees of HBK." Steven Spielberg? He appeared in this video, alongside The Iron Shiek. The Iron Shiek appeared in a Mick Foley skit in the days leading up to his "I Quit" match with the Rock in the late 90s. Mick Foley was later given his powers as commissioner of the WWF by... Shawn Michaels! You win! I win! We all win! Oh, yes... the video...

Cyndi cries a bit more, while the unfrozen caveman pirates build dramatic tension by just waving their swords from the relative safety of either side of the log. Suddenly, the water picks up and... the announcer tells us "and now for part two!!!" Words can't describe how happy this makes me. I don't think I can withstand it. I'm so happy, my butt-cheeks are clapping.

I guess Cyndi didn't get away after all. The water just poured over her and then she gave up. So, as the song heads to remix city, the scene is relocated to a pirate ship, where the heels are celebrating and the faces are slaves. This is just like the night after Starrcade '97! Lauper is punished for her crimes by carrying water around the deck. In a skimpy blue dress. Hey, even the plastic cow made it to the ship! He's hanging out in the background, but I'm sure he'll be a vital component to the story later. The Goonies are here too, but they're in shackles, kept busy by the WWF's finest by digging endlessly into giant barrels. What they're digging for is still a mystery.

Cyndi's asked by the green-skinned woman to get something from off-deck, and suddenly a giant octopus is swimming towards the camera. Cyndi's still singing, but she's also fighting a humongous tentacle. She sends it off in a huff, cutting away at its arm with a sword, and suddenly everyone's broken free of their shackles. The woman with the green complexion is defeated moments later, as a bucket is placed over her head. All they need to do now is hit it with a chair. The faces have found a treasure chest, and it's suddenly time for more scenes from the movie.

The heels are distracted, as the prisoners have thrown some jewels their way, and that poor, poor Iron Shiek. I don't think he could bend over at the hips even then. Everybody else is diving for the cash, and all he can do is throw his arms up in the air. Jeez, and this was only a short while after he dropped the WWF World Title to Hogan. How did the guy ever manage... did Vince just feel sorry for him?

All the Goonies deliver the remaining jewels to Lauper's open arms, and are rewarded with kisses. OK, now I'm jealous. Back at the station, everybody piles out of that hole in the wall with oodles of diamonds in hand. Outside, Nikolai, the Shiek, Piper and Moolah have a little hatchback in their clutches, and dammit! They're threatening to fix his alignment! Will somebody stop the damn match! The reappearance of the former owners doesn't sit well with the WWF's biggest names, and they won't take the jewels in exchange for the rights to the gas station.

Lauper's had enough. She whistles, and in a puff of purple smoke arrives the single strangest thing I've seen all day. And considering the video I've just watched, that really says a lot. Andre the Giant emerges from the cloud, dressed for all intents and purposes like he was just zapped through time, dressed like a Roman Gladiator. He's even got fluffy brown panties, and a giant golden bird chest plate. And, yes, he is also wearing his stunning blue wrestling boots. Good lord.

The heels play scared and vamoose in a hurry, with Andre in hot pursuit. Piper even tries to climb into a passing Camaro, but they wisely had their passenger side door locked. Oh, god, and Nikolai somehow got ahold of both Piper and Albano's smiley face buttons. He's wearing them where his nipples would be. Nikolai Volkoff has one smiling nipple and one frowning nipple.

And that's it. Wow. The fact that Vince made these guys somewhat respectable again after a move like that is a testament to his incredible ability as a booker. Hell, Freddy Blassie was even used as the federation's most respected old veteran less than three months ago. I bet if they'd shown this music video right before that segment, a lot of the impact would've vanished.

I don't think I'm capable of delivering the kind of words necessary to sum up a clip the likes of which I've just described, so I won't even attempt to do so. All I'll say is this; I'm sorry to have put you through that, and check back next week when I'll have something a little more on-topic to discuss. Guaranteed.

As for now, though, I'm off to a moment of silence in my room. The cow never made a return appearance at the end of the video, and I've been reminded of just how strong my crush on Cyndi Lauper really was. Today is not a good day. Today is a day of sorrow.
until then, i remain

Saturday, September 22, 2001

The World's Greatest WWF Unforgiven 2001 Preview

It took some finagling, but the WWF finally convinced me; what they've got going into this here PPV is a damn good lineup with more thought put into the build than you'd guess at first glance. Just about all the bases are covered here, with a few high-octane clashes several months in the making, a couple rematches from Summerslam, and only one match that might have trouble getting the job done. With the single deepest, most expansive roster in modern wrestling history, the WWF's really starting to set off some fireworks here, with gems like Tajiri / Rhyno and Van Dam / Jericho coming into sight almost as afterthoughts.

Tajiri vs. Rhyno
U.S. Championship

It's taken a bit of criticism as being "last second" and "sloppy", but I thought the build for this match was just about perfect. For those who missed it, Rhyno speared Tajiri during a commercial break on Raw, while he stumbled up the entrance ramp after a tough match. Now while those out there knocking the booking here certainly have their points, I think they're missing something really important; this is just how Rhyno needs to be built. He doesn't work as a lacky, somebody mindlessly taking and following orders.. the monster from Detroit is best handled as the out-of-control madman, the loose cannon, somebody with a fuse so short, the victim doesn't even realize he's ignited a spark before it's blown up in his face. Not only that, but it woke up the live crowd, who was more than likely leaning back in their chairs, expecting nothing while the WWF was at commercial. The assault came out of left field, and that's something I think the fed could use to their advantage a bit more in the future.

Unfortunately for the Japanese Buzzsaw, I don't see this match achieving much more than a re-elevation of the Rhyno persona and perhaps another step or two in the relationship between Tajiri and Torrie. The gore seals the deal here.
Winner: Rhyno

Raven vs. Saturn

Knock WCW all you like, but when push comes to shove and we look back at the legacy both major federations have left in the years following the end of the Monday Night wars, the Atlanta-based promotion will at least have the edge in one category; when they rent a wood chipper, they know better than to shove an entire telephone pole in on live television. Remember the whole ordeal with Chavo Guerrero, Jr and Pepe, his magical horse-on-a-pole? Yeah, I know, I'd blocked it from my memory as well. Well, the WWF opened up that whole can of worms once again this past week, with the utterly-ridiculous little skit between Saturn and Raven on Raw. Sure, the match we'll get out of it is bound to be interesting, but I'm not convinced the end result will be worth the means it took to get there. If anything, Saturn deserves a big bonus for staying in character throughout the whole mess, screaming as though he'd just lost his best friend. Let's just hope Monday night doesn't feature an ongoing tribute to Moppy video montage.

Seriously, though, these two have a pretty extensive history together and it would be fun to see that played up. I don't want to see the re-emergence of the Flock or anything to that degree, but a little noticeable familiarity and some inventive counters to each man's standard arsenal would be a nice change of pace. Last I took notice, they could both still go... why not just let them do what they're paid for? Raven needs the win, but Saturn took the fall on Smackdown. That leads me to believe our chances of seeing an Evenflow are slim this Sunday night.
Winner: Saturn

Rob Van Dam vs. Chris Jericho
Hardcore Championship

It's been a lot of fun watching Rob Van Dam's breakneck elevation to superstardom these past few months, and if this past Monday night is any indication, "Mr. Monday Night" has lit a fire under someone who'd been in dire need of a kick in the ass for several months; his opponent this Sunday eve, Chris Jericho. It was like watching a different guy in the ring on Raw, as Y2J broke out some fancy counters he'd been ignoring since leaving WCW and had one of his best matches to date under the watch of McMahon. Someone, I can't remember who, but someone, mentioned the possibility of a double turn here... and I, for one, would absolutely love to see it. Of all the times in the past when the tricky maneuver's been mentioned pre-show, this one makes the most sense. Jericho's in dire need of the change, and Van Dam will be a face within the next few weeks, whether the WWF turns him or not. It's a situation that'll benefit both parties, and one that I think's quite likely. Besides, Van Dam has yet to drop a match on PPV since arriving in the big time. Jericho goes over here.
Winner: Chris Jericho

Dudleys vs. Hardys vs. Storm & Hurricane vs. Spike & Show
Fatal Fourway for the WWF Tag Team Championship

Man, the WWF always finds a way to sneak the Big Show into the picture, don't they? How many times can a man fail before the bookers start to realize he's a problem? This'll be good, chaotic, fun, with a few storylines interweaving at once. You've got the Dudleys, and their ongoing feud with their little brother Spike, The Justice Society / Hardys feud, and the whole thing umbrellaed under the WWF / Alliance war. The Dudleys and Hardys are familiar enough with one another to put out a good brawl in their sleep, so no worries there. Jeff Hardy and Lance Storm proved the ex leader of WCW's Team Canada is more than ready to make an impact in his new home, so we won't have a problem in that instance, either. Spike's good fodder for just about any match, provided he doesn't spend too much time playing the face in peril. So the only real variables here are Helms and the Show. Really just a filler match here, with the usual suspects putting the same pieces into the same places. I'll take the Dudleys to retain.
Winners: The Dudley Boyz

Edge vs. Christian
Intercontinental Championship

Talk about your perfect build. Everything about this feud has been done right thus far, at least in my opinion, with the slight exception of Christian's crappy new music and entrance. And it was all suddenly worth it when Edge made his triumphant return on Raw, saving Tajiri from the dreaded one man con-chair-to. The audience ate it up with a spoon, and even used the magic word when asking for seconds. There really isn't much to say here, as ye olde bookers have pretty much said it all for me. This is how a feud should be built, how a tag team breakup should follow through, how two stars should be born. It's a tough call, but I'm gonna go with Christian here. This is a feud that shouldn't be rushed, and in order to be taken seriously, Christian needs to establish himself as somebody who could beat Edge in the middle of the ring. As of right now, I don't think he's quite there yet.
Winner: Christian

Undertaker & Kane vs. KroniK
WCW Tag Team Championship

The amount of criticism headed the Undertaker's way has been cut down drastically lately based, near as I can tell, primarily on his willingness to take the 3D and job the tag titles to the Dudley Boyz. He's also thrown in a new maneuver or two, but continues to no-sell almost ridiculously throughout his time in the ring. Sure, he fell to the 3D... but that was only after he nearly destroyed all of Kronik by himself, and pretty much did the same to the Dudleys themselves moments earlier. Hell, if he didn't lay down to their finisher he'd look like a complete ass. So, to put it simply, I've yet to return to the Undertaker's defense. But I'm not closed-minded enough to ignore the fact he deserves the opportunities he's getting. He's still popular, still a big name, a top draw. He still commands respect and will likely have one last strong run at the top before his days are through.

What I am, though, is confused about why we're supposed to even begin to buy Kronik's chances this Sunday night. Nearly every assault they've performed has been from behind, singling out the Undertaker when Kane wasn't around. And even half of those instances were met with some stiff Undertaker offense. If the American Bad Ass can almost put these two away all by his lonesome, what are we meant to believe about their chances going in there against a fresh Undertaker AND his brother Kane?

I don't expect this match to be worth much, and thus am purposely setting myself up to be pleasantly surprised.... right...? Kronik might get a few punches in here and there, and Stevie Richards will probably interfere, resulting in their lengthiest offensive stint, but in the end there's little to no chance the brothers are dropping their second set of tag titles in as many weeks.
Winners: Kane & The Undertaker

Shane McMahon & Booker T vs. The Rock
Handicap Match for the WCW Championship

Doesn't really seem like Booker's got much of a chance in this one, does it? If anything, that should be a red flag for you.. things are rarely as they seem in the WWF. Then again, under that thought process, Shane McMahon doesn't really seem like he's got a chance either. And I'd hate to see the WCW World Title around Shane's waist only a few months after the product was relaunched.

One of the coolest angles in the follow-up of Summerslam was Booker's immediate degression into the super-dangerous, violent heel monster. It was great to see him destroying people like the Big Show, guys who the WWF crowd have grown to accept as big time names. Imagine what the result would have been if Booker and The Show had met in WCW. Without a doubt, the Book is regarded by "experts" and fans alike as a big name now, among the top 5 names in the industry, and a threat who shouldn't be underestimated. It's a shame that's taken a back seat in the last couple weeks to the former WCW champ's renewed interest in the safety of one Stephanie McMahon, but it was a necessary evil all the same.

Meanwhile, I can't say I've really been enjoying the Rock lately. While his ringwork continues to grow beyond my wildest dreams, he's begun taking the easy path in his promos. Like Austin and Angle before him, The Rock's taken his act to a more hardened audience, only he's not threatening to throw his opposition from the top of some nameless high location. Instead he's been filling his promos with more and more blatant sexual innuendos and more risque language. Good for a laugh once or twice, but not something I'd like to see week in and week out. And, just a month after the WWF desperately needed his return, doesn't it seem like the Rock's back to treading water already?

Regardless, these two stack up well on paper and provide for some interesting verbal spars. I never thought I'd see the Rock carrying the WCW title, but now that he is the belt's starting to regain some of the glory it once shone of. The competition's strong, the title's beginning to mean something again, and Rocky's a legitimate champion. I don't expect that to change Sunday Night. Rock to retain.
Winner: The Rock

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle
World Wrestling Federation Championship

Man, did Angle's face turn come to fruition at precisely the right moment or what? Less than a month after his big turn, itself a response to Austin's jump to the WCW bandwagon, and US Patriotism takes off following the attacks on New York. I hate to refer to those horrifying terrorist bombings as "the right time", but Angle certainly was in the right place when they happened. Now, instead of portraying the silly parody of the American spirit, Angle's become a true American hero, cheered for the very same things that made him such a dork not six weeks ago.

One of the things I don't really agree with, though, is the severely vicious turn this entire angle's taken in the past few weeks. It's actually become somewhat hard to tell who's supposed to be the heel and who the face in this feud, with each man attempting to top the other as the weeks go by in terms of physical intimidation. I enjoyed the simple nod to history Austin made, throwing Angle's medals from that bridge in Detroit. I snickered when Angle covered the ring with milk and chugged a couple gallons, Stone Cold style. I thought it was a bit out of hand when our Olympic champ threatened to throw his opponent off a bridge in Toronto, and I found it sick to see Angle return from a 'broken neck' within 2 hours. Perhaps the WWF should've concentrated on what made this feud such a success in the first place; the competitors' naturally opposing personalities and the stellar match they had last month at Summerslam.

But no amount of needless build-up and strange nods to history will be able to destroy what these two must have in store for us when the bell tolls at the Unforgiven main event. Their styles compliment each other to the point where every collision feels epic, and that's something special. Add to that the overpowering patriotism permeating every arena in this country, and the fact this is taking place in Angle's backyard of Pittsburgh, and you've got a recipe for instant success. When the dust settles here, and the hometown boy's arm is raised, prepare yourself for an ovation the likes of which you've never heard.
Winner: Kurt Angle


I'm not usually a big fan of so many rematches only one month after a big WWF event, but in this case there seems to be adequate interest and reasoning for such a move. Angle and Austin's story isn't quite finished just yet, and Booker T has believable reasoning in asking for a rematch on the big stage. There's a bit of filler near the opening of the card, and a few loose ends asking to be tied up, but for the most part this one's a natural step forward from what we saw at Summerslam. I'd be surprised if Test isn't added to the roster before showtime, considering the amount of air time he's seen lately, and let's all pray together that Shane doesn't grab the WCW title from Rocky in the semi-main event.
until next time, i remain

Friday, September 7, 2001

Ringside Shadows #175: The More Things Change...

How's that for a particularly nondescript subject line, eh? The real interesting thing is how many particular subjects I could cover in the world of wrestling, regarding the obvious historical overlaps in its history over the years. Why, everything from the base maneuvers around which the entire sport is based to the complex yet subtle development of identifiable characters is fair game under the broad umbrella of a subject I've chosen here. But no, I'm not here to compare Kurt Angle's moveset to that of Frank Gotch... nor am I here to discuss the similarities between Steve Austin's "Vince huggin'" character and Georgeous George I. All that's certainly very interesting and all, (not to mention possible fodder for a future column, now that I've mentioned it) but I'm here to talk about an angle.

Did that one throw you for a loop? Are you setting before your computer scream, muttering "but drq, the WWF recycles angles every alternating week"? Well for your sake I'd hope not, but I'll explain nonetheless.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the WWF's revisited angles more often than not in the last few years... usually tarnishing the memory of the original feud in the process. Then again, there remain a few memories that truly benefit from being shaken up and revisited once in a while. Take a glimpse at Kurt Angle's ride on the milk truck a couple weeks back on Raw or Austin's disposal of the Olympic Champion's gold medals on Smackdown this past week. Sometimes the old formulas work even better amidst new circumstances, and we all benefit from it in the end. Sure, this wasn't the first time we'd revisited that dark night on a Detroit bridge years and years ago. It was, however, the most memorable.

Similarly, if I put my mind to it, a lot of the so called recycling of angles could be quite open to interpretation. Was Val Venis a shameless Rick Rude ripoff? Rude was never a porn star, nor did he ever work an angle involving the dismemberment of his "little buddy", but his actions were quite similar to those of the young sir Venis years later. Hey, both their theme songs featured a prominent saxophone riff... if that isn't gimmick infringement, I don't know what is. Under that mentality, Mick Foley's last few years were spent as a Stone Cold knockoff, as his new theme song features the sounds of broken glass, (albeit alongside the sounds of a car wreck and twisting metal) clearly ground commonly tread by the mighty Stone Cold. There remain so many silly connections you could make between the world of yesteryear and the world of today that almost anyone can connect any one wrestler with another if they had enough time on their hands. Is Kevin Nash a carbon copy of Bruno Sammartino, because both men won the WWF Title in a match that lasted less than one minute? I honestly don't think so, and I'd wager you don't either. They shared a similar moment during their heydays, maybe two, but for the vast majority of their careers the two were quite different.

And that brings me to the angle I'm here to discuss today. It borrows a bit more from the past than the Nash / Sammartino instance I mentioned above, but the prevelant theme remains the same. You can borrow from the past, sometimes quite heavily, and still succeed with flying colors. However, there's a razor thin line that, when crossed, can bring the entire mountain down upon you. It's that line that William Regal and Yoshihiro Tajiri have been toeing to perfection for the majority of their current angle. Newer fans might be wondering which angle this "master / servant" relationship is a recreation of, but I'd hope that my fellow older fans are beginning to nod their heads and smile. They remember the long-running angle between Ted Dibiase and Virgil.

Now my memory gets a bit foggy about parts of this one, but I believe I've got most of the important details down in the long term banks. If I recall correctly, the Million Dollar Man was among the WWF's premiere heels throughout his active run with the company. Even late in his career, when teaming with IRS against the likes of Earthquake and Typhoon, Dibiase managed to turn the crowd on him with uncanny precision. This guy could walk into an arena filled with friends and relatives and have them screaming for his blood in five minutes flat. He was that good. Remind you of anybody?

Was it really almost a year ago, at the WWF's European PPV spectacular, Rebellion, that William Regal strode before his British countrymen with the European Title firmly around his waist, and was nearly booed out of the arena before he'd finished his pre-match speech? Crash Holly took the gold from Regal on that night, and walked away the unlikely hero.

I'm not sure when Virgil first appeared on the scene alongside the "Million Dollar Man," but I'm quite sure of one thing; Dibiase always had complete mental control over his assistant, and made absolutely sure we knew it. On the occasion that Dibiase lost an important match, Virgil was always held at fault. More often than not, Ted could be found hiding behind his bodyguard rather than instructing him. The important thing, though, is how long this went on. Dibiase berated Virgil, both verbally and physically, for a period of more than a year. MORE THAN A YEAR. In a day and age that sees gold changing hands every other week it's hard to imagine a champion holding their belt more than six months, let alone an angle lasting that long. However, in this instance it was absolutely necessary. With every passing week, Dibiase would somehow manage to step up his abuse just a little further, as fans' pleas for Virgil to stand up for himself grew louder and louder. Finally the young grappler decided he'd had enough, and under the tutelage of Roddy Piper, turned on his tormentor and took his prized possession; the million dollar belt.

Unfortunately, Virgil's story doesn't have a happy ending. Even though he was possibly the WWF's biggest babyface directly after his turn, the bookers dropped the ball and put him in nowhere feuds in the middle of the card. Inexplicably, he remained incredibly over for quite some time before the poor bookings finally took their toll. Virgil slowly faded from the spotlight and wound up in WCW, where his reputation was further tarnished by stupid angles with the nWo, the West Texas Rednecks and the "Powers That Be."

What I saw over the first few months of Tajiri and Regal's association was almost a complete reenactment of those events. Tajiri had the explosive moveset and charisma to really grab the audience's attention, and just as it seemed he was ready to break through, Regal was there to pull him back down again. Whether it was Tajiri or Regal who took the pinfall, the blame was always on the shoulders of the Japanese Buzzsaw. Fans were becoming increasingly sympathetic towards him, and you could already feel the tension mounting.

Unfortunately, something changed along the way... a rival promotion named WCW made their much-anticipated invasion, and suddenly Regal was a face by association. Since then, their big Dibiase / Virgil recreation has been put on the backburner for the time being. Sure, seeds are still being planted to remind fans that the Commissioner's a dick, but it'll be quite some time before they're ready to harvest at this rate. And, looking back, perhaps that's for the best. The last thing the WWF needs to do with this angle is rush it.

Played correctly, this could be interesting in so many ways; to younger fans, it's bound to be a whole new experience from the ground up. For older fans, it'll be a fun ride to see what's altered along the way. The new workers filling the old roles will certainly put a twist of their own into the mix, but the basic premise will more than likely be the same... keep your fingers crossed they handle Tajiri better on the follow through than poor Virgil. Here's hoping that one occasion is the exception to the rule; the more things change, the more they stay the same.
until then, i remain