Derek Burgan reviews ROH's Secrets of the Ring w/Jim Cornette
I should let it be known up front, to assuage any fears people may have about the production quality of this DVD, that we are talking about a top-of-the-line level in both the audio and video department. I'm not pulling your leg here as I'm convinced that if the WWE were to do their own version of shoot videos they wouldn't look or sound any better than what ROH is putting out now. The picture is sharp, the sound crisp, and you can tell the company has sunk a pretty good amount of money in whatever camera they are using.
Now that that is out of the way, what can be said about Jim Cornette? In my mind he ranks right up there with the likes of Bobby Heenan and Mick Foley in the group of people who I could listen to for hours when they start talking about wrestling. I grew up on Jim Cornette; first as a manager in WCW (I can remember his "turn" on the Dynamic Dudes like it was yesterday), through the WWE (one of my favorite parts of the Monday Night Wars was when Jim Cornette would get a segment to just blast WCW), and everything in-between such as his stints as owner of Smokey Mountain Wrestling and his current position as booker of Ohio Valley Wrestling. A couple of months ago I traveled down to Philadelphia to check out The Midnight Express Reunion show specifically to see Jim Cornette as it was Cornette who got me into Ring of Honor. That's right, I had been told for at least a year to check out ROH but at the time I was recapping SmackDown for the Torch and felt that I had more than enough wrestling with just the WWE. Eventually I read about Jim Cornette appearing for ROH at Wrath of the Racket and thought, "Well, now is a good as time of any to give these guys a shot."
And I haven't looked back since.
Seriously, Cornette got me into getting my first DVD, but it was the quality of ROH that got me hooked as it was a presentation of wrestling that was completely opposite of what I was seeing in the WWE every week. Here I was every week on the Torch bitching about how the WWE had stupid storylines that had no continuity along with matches that completely sucked ass most of the time, but ROH was different. ROH had guys I had never even heard of such as Paul London, Deranged and Jack Evans having matches that were blowing my mind. I hadn't been this excited about wrestling since the WWE Attitude Era and before that, the ECW revolution. Enough about me and ROH though and let's get on to the show~!
ROH's Secrets of the Ring series is different than their Straight Shootin' series in the fact that Jim Cornette isn't asked 1,000 questions to give quick answers to. He is given a subject and then he takes that subject and just talks about it until he has said his peace. This is a really interesting idea and is perfect for a guy like Cornette who will sidetrack himself and go off into hilarious rants on things that have nothing to do with the subject, before remembering what it was he was talking about in the first place. This series is geared towards the fans who want to know more about the business and definitely a must buy for those who are in the business, or aspire to one day be in wrestling. If you're buying two or more wrestling dirtsheets, or reading several wrestling websites during the week, than this is a DVD for you because it will give you a deeper appreciation for why good wresting shows are good, and explains why bad wrestling shows probably stink. It's like being able to pick the brain of one of wrestling's all time greatest minds for two hours.
One of the first areas of discussion Cornette gets into is the art of promos. Cornette believes that the sole purpose of promos is to sell a match (try telling that to Kevin Nash) and thinks that they need to come from the heart and not memorized from a script. Cornette explains that he tells his OVW trainees that if they memorize what they are going to say before hand, they are just going to sound like a robot. Cornette also makes a great point when he says guys shooting promos on each other is less about acting and more about reacting. There is no better example than this in practice then in the WWE who have 10-20 minute promos that seem to go on FOREVER because the guys aren't trained to react to the crowd and instead go through with whatever was written for them, even if it is dying in front of an audience. Did anyone catch that Simon Dean segment on RAW a couple weeks back that seemed liked it was five hours long? Conversely, being able to pick up on the crowd liking something will allow the wrestlers to stretch out something that is getting a reaction to build to a bigger pop.
|"Mother Theresa may be the only complete babyface in the world." Jim Cornette, explaining how there is always *something* a heel can comment on when confronting a babyface.|Cornette does a great Dusty Rhodes impersonation and said that while most people can't understand a thing Dusty says, when it's time for Dusty to cut a promo to get people to want to see a match, he would deliver in a big way. Cornette went into the differences between what makes a good heel promo and what makes a good babyface promo and this part of the DVD should be watched by every single person in wrestling today. There is nothing that pisses me off more than watching Monday Night RAW these days and seeing HHH shoot a promo that should have been given to Chris Jericho or Chris Benoit. Cornette explains that there has to be truth in a heel promo, but it can't cut too close to home, or basically you get what ran WCW out of business when the NWO made us all realize the babyfaces on the roster were either old, weak, short or stupid.
Cornette covered the areas of what makes a good heel character and what makes a babyface. Cornette was quick to point out that "the only rule of thumb is that there is no rule of thumb." This is a good point because there is a world of difference between why Gene Snitsky is a good heel, and why the Rock was one. Cornette talks about heel needing human traits that are un-likeable and "be that!!" He also talked about a smart heel being tough as nails but knowing when to back down from babyfaces. I could probably throw in another dozen WCW examples of how they didn't do this and how you can trace the downturn of their ratings and attendance because of it but what would be the point? Even if you could go back in time and give Vince Russo and Eric Bishoff a copy of this DVD, I am positive they would throw it in the trash because by gawd they know more about wrestling than Jim Cornette or those idiot fans.
|"If you go out there and try to sell chicken for 15 minutes and it's a vegetarian crowd, you'r e f---ed." - Jim Cornette on listening to the audience.|When talking about how matches should go, Cornette goes into a good discussion on how the crowd reaction should determine how a match goes even though he always tells his OVW students to "not let the crowd dictate the match." Cornette vehemently disagrees with wrestlers setting up their matches move for move ahead of time and he gives some very valid reasons for his argument. This is a subject I have disagreed with Cornette about, but after listening to him talk about it more, I'm slowly changing my mind. Cornette said that the wrestlers need to react when something goes wrong in the ring and when a preplanned spot fails the wrestlers stand around like, "Oh shit" and don't know what to do next. Cornette feels this exposes the business just about more than anything and he gave a great example of an OVW show where a wrestler accidentally got legit hurt during the match and the wrestlers didn't know what to do. Cornette was livid because he felt "this is wrestling, he's supposed to be hurt!" and felt it was a slap in the fans face to acknowledge real injuries and but not the "fake" beatings they hand out in the ring every night.
Cornette gets very animated throughout this entire DVD which is just a blast to watch. I have a feeling that he would have a stroke if he saw any of ROH's Scramble Cage matches because he was adamant about believing guys today think too much about upcoming spots to the point where they don't sell the moves they are getting hit with. Jim Cornette's impersonation of a ping pong ball is priceless while explaining this and says that you have to give the crowd a chance to applaud so the match can't be just one highspot after another. Speaking of highspots, Cornette tells how much the business has changed when he says the first time he ever heard the expression "highspots" was when he was backstage for the first show he was booked on. The Old School didn't have the sheets or the Internet and I have to believe that Jim Cornette wishes both would disappear but acknowledges you can't stuff the genie back into the bottle.
Cornette believes that great talent has a chance to overcome bad booking (see TNA) but great writing can't overcome bad talent. Cornette is a big believer in that the talent drives the business and I can see that to a point, mostly because good writers stay far away from wrestling though. I believe that if wrestling had bookers as good as the people writing Lost for ABC, 24 for Fox or Oz on HBO they could produce a great wrestling show with just about any roster. Cornette had a great point on the four groups he feels make up the available audience to watch wrestling an this included the hardcores that watch no matter how bad a show is (see TNA again), casual fans and people that really don't like wrestling at all. I really liked it when Cornette said (and you gotta picture him moving his arms while saying this), "You'll get these (people). If you're good you'll get these. If you'll lucky you'll get these. But you'll never get these because they have other stuff to watch." This is exactly what Kevin Dunn of the WWE needs to realize so we can stop having to put up with f---ing Rat Searches, Al Wilson marriages and Mae Young dry humping Tough Enough contestants. You will NEVER convince someone like my girlfriend to like wrestling. EVER. It is f---ing pointless to try and yet the WWE always wastes their time trying to cater to people like her and it's not like they are the only ones because TNA gave a whole lot of money to that goof Jonny Fairplay for the exact same reason. You might as well throw money out of a window and save yourself the headache.
|"I don't think there's old wrestling and new wrestling, I think there is good wrestling and bad wrestling." - Jim Cornette|Cornette goes into the role of a manager and the psychology of tag team wrestling. This was very informative and it gave me a lot of things to think about next time when I wonder why some tag teams seem to be so much better than others. If you want to know why some "hot tags" actually hurt a wrestling match, you need to see this DVD. Cornette almost hyperventilates when discussing gimmick matches and this leads to him taking a shot at HHH when saying, "What is this sledgehammer business? Give me a break. Keep it believable." Another person he tears into is "that prick" Vince Russo. Cornette explained that you can't have your audience expecting surprises because this was the trap Paul Heyman fell into in ECW, but when you do have surprises they have to make sense and that was something Vince Russo never gave a damn about. How many belts did Russo ruin in WCW anyway when he had stuff like Madusa winning the cruiserweight title and even that goof Oklahoma winning a belt? I'm sorry, I forgot I said I would stop talking about WCW.
If you are an internet fan, and you know you are since you are reading this, Cornette wants you to "lighten the f--- up." I laughed out loud when Cornette talked about guys watching matches with their notebooks, but that's a story for another time. Cornette went into the area of who to study in wrestling if you want to do it right and he brought up Jerry Lawler, which was a running theme throughout the DVD. You can tell Cornette has a lot of respect for what Lawler did in Memphis and this gives me a better idea of why Cornette came into the ECW Arena to help out Lawler during that "Holy Shit" angle of the century a few years back. Cornette tells people to study the Old School greats and see what works. "When you steal from one person it's plagiarism, when you steal from me it's research." Be'lee dat playah.
The tape concludes with an "ROH Sampler" which is highlights from some of the best angles and matches from 2004 including stuff such as John Walters facing Doug Williams for the Pure Wrestling Title and that crazy finish to the show at Reborn: Stage 1. Personally, I think ROH should consider putting another extra on the disc such as one of the matches from the Midnight Express tapes Cornette is selling, or a match from ROH's sister promotion, FIP. I'm sure just seeing one of the old Midnight's matches would get people to order the tapes and FIP needs all the help it can get in terms of letting people know it exists.
Overall Thoughts: This is a no-brainer for students of the wresting business as being able to listen to Jim Cornette for several hours speak about the ins and outs of wrestling is invaluable. I would say it is a must see DVD for fans of OVW, ROH and other high quality independent wrestling such as IWA Mid South as it gives great insight into why these companies are successful, at least in terms of a booking standpoint. This is a DVD for everyone who is sick and tired of the WWE giving us $250,000 Rat Search contests, making HHH the "heel in peril" and fully scripted promos that sound like nothing a real human being would say. To paraphrase Cornette himself, this is the way wrestling ought to be, and the way you like it.Click Here to preorder the disc or head on over to www.ROHwrestling.com and check out all the other DVDs they have to offer.