Thursday, 16 January 2014

Breaking Kayfabe – Jim Cornette By Adam Timmins (@AdamTimmins83)

“Not another Cornette DVD” will be the response to this in some quarters. Personally I could listen to Corny all day; but for those who aren’t as enamoured, it should be pointed out that this one covers new ground, as essentially it recounts Cornette’s turbulent spell in ROH between 2010-2012.

To begin with however, they briefly touch on Cornette’s falling out with Kayfabe Commentaries over their YouShoot with Vince Russo. Cornette felt they were trying to imply in their advertising that he was going to contribute to said product; which of course, he would never do. But all that got sorted and they’re now friends again. Which is nice. Oliver then moves onto the Russo-Cornette beef – surely it has to be over more than differing wrestling philosophies? Cornette states that that’s precisely what it is; that he feels that Russo is in large part responsible for killing wrestling; wrestling is dead, there is now only sports entertainment.

They then have an interesting discussion with regards to what killed wrestling; Oliver argues that the development of technology – including, but not restricted to the internet –meant that wrestling could no longer control information like it used to. The business became exposed, and once the genie was out of the bottle it was impossible to put it back. Cornette uses the analogy of magic – no-one knows how Kriss Angel got seemingly flattened by a steam-roller and survived; but everyone knows not only that wrestling’s a work, but how it’s worked, and thus the suspension of disbelief is largely gone. Interestingly, Cornette also argues that one of the reasons wrestling died was because in the 80’s, the wrong people – i.e. television (or perhaps major television that should be) started taking an interest. A powerful argument and one I think you could apply to football in this country. Oliver argues that if wrestling has been in decline since the end of the Hogan boom period, how do you account for the resurgence of wrestling in the late nineties? Cornette makes the case that it was just a fad, and it subsequently petered out. I’d also be inclined to agree with this: a lot of the people who went to WWF events in the Attitude era went not because they liked wrestling, but because they wanted to see Steve Austin, and later The Rock. When Austin hugged Vince McMahon at WM17, it pretty much spelled the end of the Attitude era.

We then move onto the bulk of the DVD, which covers Cornette’s recent spell in ROH. Again, cynics might argue that the whole thing is an exercise in self-justification, and to an extent it is – Cornette largely fails to discuss in detail the creative direction of the company (and moreover, Sean Oliver doesn’t press him on it – perhaps the DVD’s biggest failing is that Sean let’s Cornette ramble on for too long. Granted, it’s entertaining, but it pretty much turns the DVD into a Cornette shoot rather than a Breaking Kayfabe release, if that makes sense) – it would have been interesting to hear his justification for the largely disastrous Richards/Edwards feud, or the booking of the dire WGTT – although one suspects that Cornette’s answer for the latter would be the standard line he trots out here, which would be “you don’t build a serious wrestling company around the Super Smash Brothers” (who he uses in this shoot of his exemplar of all that’s wrong with indy wrestling.) But he did make a couple of remarks about Kevin Steen which I thought hit the nail on the head, most notably “he’s the perfect guy to be your top star if you’re working in front of 400 people in a rec centre.” Talking about shooting TV, he also notes that instead of cutting a four minute promo like he was supposed to, Steen would cut an 8 minute promo to appeal to the 10% rather than the 90%. Apart from these and a couple of other asides however, Cornette largely leaves the booking alone. (To be fair to Steen, I agree with a lot of his criticisms of Cornette’s booking; but Cornette’s criticisms of Steen are spot on).

What he concentrates on is the technical set-up, Sinclair’s influence, and the iPPV disasters. When Cornette came back on board, he pitched that the company should essentially do what OVW did – run TV from a single building and produce it in-house – that is to say, buy their own lighting, cameras, equipment etc. The ROH website should be redesigned, and ROH should run their internet PPV’s in-house, as opposed to using Go Fight Live. However, when Sinclair bought the company, their goal was to run it as cheaply as possible – and there’s a difference between being prudent and cheap. This lead to the numerous PPV disasters; apparently when the feed went out during the Glory By Honor chain match between Generico/Cabana vs. Steen/Corino just before the finish, they had to get them to stall so they could try and restore the connection before they went home. The set-up for iPPV’s almost inevitably consisted of someone at some point saying “can someone run to Radioshack and get 100 metres of audio cable” – not the sign of a well-organised PPV provider. During Showdown in the Sun, the feed went out just before the Cole vs. O’Reilly match, leading to both men having to cut impromptu promos to stall for time. In the end they couldn’t get the feed up, and had to carry on with the show. The company then decided to run Border Wars in-house as suggested by Cornette – but the technology wasn’t up to scratch and the website crashed. On so on. It got to the point where they needed up running Boiling Point as iPPV, just to show that they could – even though the card was a b-show at best. The upshot of it all is now everyone’s mind connects “ROH IPPV” with the words “disaster” or “farce.”

Cornette recounts other nonsense that’s happened since Sinclair bought ROH. Joe Koff is a kind of ROH equivalent of Dixie Carter – someone knows little about wrestling heading up a wrestling company. Cornette reveals that Adam Pearce was supposed to be bought in as co-commentator after Nigel McGuiness became on-screen matchmaker – but the merchandise guy went to HR to complain (and the grounds that Pearce had threated to hit him back in 2010 when he left – Pearce has agreed to apologise to said guy as a condition of coming back), so HR nixed the potential return. Cornette also has a lot to say about a guy called Greg who was the admin guy, but came from Sinclair – once again, someone who knows nothing about wrestling making wrestling decisions. Apparently the plan for the Wrestlemania weekend shows was to bring in some NOAH guys; but this was nixed by the office, who felt that they could draw just as well without said talent. Cornette mooted bringing in Tom Pritchard to work as an agent, only for that to get shot down as well. It all came to a head at a TV taping in November 2012, when Steve Corino was injured in the last match, and Cornette found out that all of the Sinclair guys had fucked off, leaving him to deal with it on his own. Cornette blew a gasket, and the next day a mutual parting of the ways occurred between ROH and Cornette.

In many ways this is a depressing DVD to watch; in the sense that it’s sad to see someone like Cornette lose their passion for the business – if it can happen to him, then it can happen to anyone. But I remember when Bobby Heenan left WCW and did a shoot interview, he was ridiculously cynical about the business and prophesising it’s demise; a few years later he was raving about the Michaels vs. Angle match at Wrestlemania. So maybe Cornette will get his love for the business back in time. But surprisingly, the DVD ends on a heartening note. Sean asks Cornette what TV he’s watched recently, and this leads to a discussion about things like TV and Film, which Cornette has always loved, but due to wrestling commitments has never really had time to get into in the depth he would have liked. So maybe it’s time for Cornette to go away and do some other stuff for a while; after all – and this is a point most of us should probably take cognisance of – there is indeed more to life than wrestling.

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