Thursday, 12 July 2012

Austin Aries - Faith in Wrestling Restored By Duckman

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” - Michael Corleone, Godfather III.

This must be what it feels like to be one of those women you used to see on Cops back in the day. You know the ones I’m talking about; those fat, drunk, highly emotional women who call the cops to report that their partner is beating them up, only to immediately change their story when the cops arrive. They stand outside their trailer in their night gown saying things like, “he didn’t mean it. He’s a good man. Don’t take him away. I love him. Look, he’s over there sleeping under the trailer with his dog Skeeter.”

It’s probably quite important that I explain I’m not making light of domestic violence in any way, shape or form. And I’m not saying I’m a victim of domestic violence. And I’m not saying I’m a fat, drunk emotional woman from the mid 90s who lives in a trailer park and appeared on a sleazy tabloid style police documentary show. I’m actually writing about wrestling. Trust me, this is going somewhere.

It’s been about three months, give or take a few weeks, since I made a decision that I never thought I would make - I gave up on professional wrestling. After watching for over twenty years I was finished. No more professional wrestling for Duckman. At least, no more professional wrestling as it’s presented by WWE and TNA. I still heartily consume every New Japan show I can get my grubby little paws on. Same for DGUSA, EVOLVE and PWG. I just couldn’t take the unrelenting pile of shit that seemed to be thrown in my face every week by the two major companies. What I love about wrestling was so far away from what I was seeing on TV each week, I might as well have been watching a documentary on how to make traffic cones.

I even gave up on ROH – something I NEVER thought I would do in a million years. I’d have stuck with them if they could’ve got a fucking IPPV show on air during that period but unfortunately that kinda important aspect of their business seemed to be beyond them. Things are better now though. Although the whole, ‘Kenny King to TNA drama’ hasn’t exactly restored my confidence that ROH actually know what the hell their doing in terms of the management and public face of their company. Never mind the fact they billed me three times instead of once for my ringside subscription! But hey, we all make mistakes and they gave me my money back pretty quick. No doubt I’ll be back in the ROH fold before long. We’re probably just on a break right now.

As for WWE? I’d been hanging on with my finger tips for a long time. I was considering giving up completely until this time last year when CM Punk and John Cena made Money in the Bank the kind of can’t miss PPV that WWE seemed incapable of producing. Of course we’re a year down the line and NOTHING has changed in WWE. All the same people. All in the same positions. The same storylines. They had a chance to do something special after MITB last year and well, if you can explain the Nash/HHH/Vince/CM Punk/Cena/Del Rio/Laptop GM/John Laurinaitis storyline - that word being used in the loosest possible form - that followed MITB then you’re a better man than I. You also might be a schizophrenic.

Of course I stuck around for Wrestlemania. I even enjoyed it for the most part. Then they brought Brock Lesnar back on RAW. THEN I really started to care. As someone who has drifted away (actually less drift and more run) from WWE and towards UFC in the past seven years seeing Brock come back and be booked as a major fucking deal really did hook me. I cared again. Here was an angle that I could invest in, just like MITB last year. Something new. Something different from the norm. Something that almost felt real. WWE had worked their magic and I was back. For one PPV…

It wasn’t even the fact that Lesnar lost to Cena in his first match back that pushed me over the edge. Although I can see now that did play a huge part in my levels of ‘not-giving-a-fuckness’ rising sharply. It wasn’t even HHH’s ridiculous arm brace he wore on Raw a while back. The one that looked like the fucking leg of one of those big ass walker things from Empire Strikes Back. I swear to God that thing had gears on it. I hope you all remember that spectacular arm brace. It was the one he forgot to wear when accompanying Floyd Mayweather to the ring LIVE on PPV. Why didn’t he wear it and sell the major injury angle with Brock? Who knows? Maybe he didn’t want to look like a pussy in front of Justin Bieber. I do know if anyone else bar HHH had no sold an injury angle like that, in front of millions on PPV, they sure as shit wouldn’t be in the main event of Summerslam this year!

So it wasn’t Brock losing and then having to disappear off TV that broke me. Or even HHH’s amazing arm brace that had me walking away from WWE. I think it was just the frightening realisation that thanks to WWE’s consistently bad storytelling, the way they constantly belittle their talent both on commentary and in promos, combined with their damaging stop/start pushes for so many of their young talent, RAW had simply become a bad parody of itself. Watching it felt more like watching The Muppets than watching wrestling. Which would be cool if I wanted to watch The Muppets. But I didn’t. I wanted to watch wrestling.

Watching Raw is a chore. It’s something I have to get through, not something I eagerly await every week. I found myself doing the same thing every week: record the show, read the reviews the next day, find NOTHING of interest, delete the show without watching. The feeling of relief at deleting that large chunk off my Sky Plus planner was so uplifting. The knowledge that I could go through the week without having to see Zach Ryder’s gormless hair made me smile.

I just couldn’t watch Raw anymore. Everyone on that show, bar about two guys, are presented like jokes. They’re all losers. None of their matches mean anything. None of their stipulation mean anything. None of their Titles mean anything. There is no interest. No spark. It’s homogenized, corporate, mindless, nonsensical, childish, cruel and unfunny, boring bullshit. It just took me a long time to finally accept that and walk the fuck away.

I can’t say for certain when I gave up on TNA. I think it was probably just around the time they finally got rid of Vince Russo. I’d given the product a chance when Russo was still there. I’d listened to people who said the show was getting better. I watched and I watched and I just didn’t care. There was nothing on that show that ignited a spark of interest in me. It was better. But it was still horrible. It was still Russo written garbage.

The kind of TV show that a 14 year old boy with slightly below average IQ would write. None of the characters had any consistency other than a lack of consistency. All the woman spoke to each other like they were auditioning for Jersey Shore. There were plot holes big enough to drive the last episode of Lost through. I could see Russo’s influence had lessened but his greasy, pizza stained finger prints were still all over it. And if the last 15 years have taught me anything about wrestling it’s simply this – fuck Vince Russo.

So I drifted away from TNA. They fired Russo and I cheered outwardly but inside I’d already given up. It was too late. Bruce Pritchard and Dave Lagana become prominent creative forces in TNA and I still didn’t go back. I read the shows were getting better. They had some great PPVs. People were buzzing about this improved, focused and interesting TNA. This TNA that was booking storylines about wrestlers and the Titles they fought for. This new TNA that made sense. It sounded too good to be true. I refused to go back.

I just didn’t want to be like that fat, drunk, emotional woman from Cops. I’d been smacked around the head with a lamp enough times. “No more,” I cried. “I won’t do this again,” I wailed. “I’ve given up on wrestling and you fuckers can’t make me come back.” I screamed. “Yes I want to press charges, against him and Skeeter.” Ok, now I’m confused...where was I? Oh yeah, wrestling, right.

What I’m saying is I was done. Stick a fork in me kind of done. I was free. No more shitty wrestling shows that make me hate the thing I’ve always loved. No more getting excited about something only to see it destroyed by forces that seem to work against making their shows entertaining or able draw money on PPV. No more John Cena grinning. No more Hulk Hogan hobbling. No more not being able to see ROH IPPVs. It felt great. I always thought I’d be a wrestling fan for life but in the last couple of months I’d come to accept that maybe wrestling just wasn’t for me anymore. That perhaps what passed for pro wrestling in 2012 in the ‘big two’ was something I couldn’t be a fan of.

And then something happened. The rumblings started a few weeks back. TNA really had turned the corner. They were putting a lot of focus on one of my favourite wrestlers of the last 6-7 years. A new star had been pushed and he was now on the cusp of greatness. His performances in the ring and on the mic reminded many of the very best in wrestling history. His name is Austin Aries. And he has made me a believer in pro wrestling again.

If you don’t know the story of Aries rise to become TNA Heavyweight Champion, then you are missing out on one of the best COMPLETE storylines in TNA history. In fact, probably the FIRST complete storyline in TNA history. It wasn’t anything controversial or groundbreaking. It was just wrestling booking at its finest.

A new star was established by winning a mid card Title and then cleaned out his division. Those wins, along with the excellent work by Aries on the mic and in the ring, propelled him to move up the card. With each match and each promo Aries got more over with the TNA fans. He was presented like a star and he acted like one. He was someone to watch. Someone you could support in his climb up the ranks. And support him TNA did until eventually he secured a World Title shot against the long time World Champion and the single biggest heel in TNA – Robert Roode.

But unlike in WWE where Aries would be ‘Swaggered’ back down the card after his segment drew 0.01% less ratings than the week before, TNA actually followed the story to its logical conclusion. Aries won the World Title. They did what no one expected but exactly what should have happened. Finally, for once in wrestling these days, the payoff was the right one. No stupid swerves. No parity booking. They pushed him, he got over and then when the time was right (thanks to TNA’s booking) they pulled the trigger and made him World Champion. The reaction of the crowd at Destination X proves without doubt that the whole thing worked to perfection. It’s very rare people jump out their seats and hug each other in joy at wrestling events these days. That’s EXACTLY what happened when Aries got the three count on Roode and became a true star in TNA.

Just as a quick side note. It’s worth remembering that this is the same Austin Aries who despite all his skills and all his charisma that he showed on the independent scene for years, was deemed not good enough to get on WWE Tough Enough. Remind me, at which WWE PPV did ‘Silent Rage’ win the WWE Title?

TNA’s booking of Aries and his own excellent performances have restored my faith in wrestling. THIS is the wrestling I want to see. Compelling new characters. The climb up the rankings to Title shots. The younger generation of wrestlers being showcased and given a chance to show what they can really do. TNA now appear to be a company that understands how to promote a new star. You make him a big fucking deal. You take the time to let him get over with the audience. You do everything in your power to present him as special and hopefully, when the time is right, the stars align and you get a moment like we got at Destination X on Sunday.

The funny thing is, I’m not even going to worry about how TNA follow this up. I expect Aries to keep the World Title for a month or two but then drop it back to Roode for the logical blow off to Roode/Storm at Bound for Glory. But even if they don’t do that and this is just a short reign for Aries, all the hard work has been done. Aries is a star in the eyes of TNA fans. He’s not a former WWE guy who would go back there in a heartbeat if he could and he’s not an old time wrestler living off a career that peeked 15-20 years earlier. Aries is TNA’s success story. If they continue to book the guys they’ve chosen to push with the same logic, natural storyline progression and great pay off that they have with Aries, then I’m in for the long haul and maybe, just maybe, I won’t ever again feel the need to give up on something I’ve loved most of my life.

I’m not being unrealistic here. I understand that wrestling is never going to be perfect. WWE is still childish fucking nonsense. I will still suffer through what has become the weekly televised breakdown of Vince McMahon’s creative genius. I know TNA won’t always be perfect. I know ROH will fuck up and forget to plug the computer in at the arena for a IPPV.

But with the story of Austin Aries I can be safe in the knowledge that someone, somewhere, still understands what professional wrestling is and is able to convert that into a weekly TV show that I will go out of my way to watch. It’s amazing what a good bit of booking and a super talented wrestler can do to the soul of a jaded 31 year old wrestling fan. Thank you TNA and thank you Austin Aries.

So I’m back. I might be the wrestling fan equivalent of an abused spouse from Cops but you know what? Fuck it. Destination X and Austin Aries reminded me why I love professional wrestling. It’s moments like that that are worth all the other crap. It’s so refreshing to see someone with real talent and passion for the business being rewarded in this way. It’s the same feeling I had when WWE realised how good CM Punk and Daniel Bryan are. Or when Samoa Joe and Desmond Wolf had their initial runs in TNA. My faith has been restored.

I urge everyone reading this to check out Aries win from Destination X. The booking of the match is fantastic. Robert Roode puts in one hell of a performance and proves that a heel can lose clean and not lose anything from it. And above all else, it proves how simple, logical booking with a beginning, middle and end can work wonders.

Well, that’s all from me this time. Thanks for reading guys. Remember you can follow me on Twitter at the slightly amended new handle of @MFXDuckman – yes I’m even back on Twitter! If you’ve got any comments or want to share your thoughts on Aries, TNA, WWE or anything wrestling related feel free to do so. Of course any good ideas will be stolen and reworked into future articles. That’s just how I roll. Now, where is that damn dog? “Skeeter, Impact is on, come on, let’s go.”

Until next time…



1 comment:

  1. Great article. Austin Aries has been money and really so much of TNA has been great lately (some corny stuff, but what can you do?)

    Thanks for posting again. Glad to see you're back!