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THE ROCKTAGON
W/ JAMES SWIFT

Yeah, things aren't going to well for your friendly neighborhood J. Swift, faithful reader. Now, as I have rehashed time and time again, I've enjoyed the form of pro rasslin more for the metaphorical content than the surface presentation. Granted, as a wee young one, you enjoy watching it on TV because, hey you're eight, your brain is underdeveloped and watching fat guys in tights punch Mexicans dressed like Spider-Man is the kiddy equivalent of ingesting black tar heroin. But as a guy in his early-to-mid twenties, the best the medium can bestow upon me is a wistful sensation of nostalgia and adoration of times long since lost to the ravages of Father Time and/or the Bush Administration. And for that, most of my reminisces are what we like to call "bittersweet".

One of the things that I've always found fascinating about the pseudo-sport is the theatrical re-interpretation of reality. Granted, it's not all that different from our own: you have competition, trickery, betrayal, love transmogrifying into hate, self satiation, ruthless strategizing, accomplishment. Hell, the only difference between holding down a corporate job and Watts-era WCW is the water fountain. Well, that, and in a corporate job, you can jump off the top rope if you want.

The one discrepancy betwixt wrestling and reality, that I have noted as being most desirable (and mayhap the crux of my post-post adolescent adulation of the industry) is the element of resolution. Like in real life, wrestling is centric to interpersonal misinterpretation, self-fulfilling agendas and shifting allegiances. Unlike the staged counterpart, however, one cannot resolve his or her in reality hardships by donning a luchador mask and going to town on his or her aggressor with a tire iron in the parking-lot post show. Well, unless you live in Guadalajara, I guess.

Without getting all highfalutin with the psychobabble, I enjoy wrestling as a cathartic, reaffirmation of moralistic conviction. On TV, all disputes are settled in a fair environment, with the supreme right hand of Special Guest Referee Lady Justice presiding over the integral contest to ensure the victory of all that is valid, true, and non-hypercritical in existence.

That, and the table spots. They're both pretty good in my estimations.

While the current social stigma of the form isn't going anywhere anytime soon, we can at least thank Hollywood for throwing us a proverbial bone with "The Wrestler". You see, "The Wrestler" is a heart wrenching, captivating tale about the pull of passion, personal commitment and perseverance not only in the industry, but in the great squared circle we like to call "life" to boot. In fact, every fan on the planet owes him or herself to see this landmark piece of celluloid history, and today's encapsulation into the vestibules of remembrance will be dedicated, whole heartily, to this moving, artistic masterpiece.

So without further adieu, let's jump straight into the sheer, cinematic wonder that is."The Wrestler"!

Anyway, our film begins with Larry Henning, father of Curt, cutting a promo at the fabled Cow Palace about how he's going to whoop that ass on Verne Gagne and.

What's that? You mean you're confused? Really? Oh, I see. You thought I was talking about "The Wrestler" from 2008. Oh, heavens no. That movie is a piece of shit and Mickey Rourke can kiss the ass. I'm referencing a TRUE celluloid classic, "The Wrestler" circa 1974. I guess this one requires a bit of exposition, no?

It was the 70s; a time before the internet, cable television and even the WWF. You see, back then, there were these things called "territories". Essentially, certain families controlled all of the wrestling aspects of a particular region. In Minnesota land, Verne Gagne and his AWA faction gave many a Minnesotan something to cheer about. Because there's not much going on in Minnesota, apparently. As a means of expanding national clout, Gagne decided to do one of two things: break the taboo rule of touring across the nation into other "territories", OR. . . make a shitty independent movie starring Ed Asner and hope the seedier theaters in the country could split it on a double bill with The Incredible Torture Show. As evident by this article, the wheels on the AWA traveling wagon stood firmly entrenched into St. Paul soil. Also, this would give the over-the-hill, balding Gagne a chance to stroke his massive ego cock that, in inflated terms, was the equivalent of Hulk Hogan superglued to Triple H's back.

Well, anyhoo, back to the flick. We pick up as Mike Bullard (Gagne) defends his title against Henning as a shadowy guy espouses the twenty gajillion accomplishments of Bullard's career. In the next scene, a secretary is wooed by Don Muraco, as if any woman on Earth could resist the charms of a guy's whose greatest claim to fame is getting eliminated from the WM 4 tournament in the first round. Shit, at least One Man Gang can reveal in the notion that he made it to the semis. Then, Ed Asner (yes, that Ed Asner) makes his entrance, setting up some matches for the company's next event. You can almost taste the disdain dripping from Asner's soul as he mouths "Cowboy Watts".

Next scene, Gagne's wife has a few words with a promoter. See, she's frightened, because there's this one up and coming kid that's already whupped Dory Funk's ass and it's only a matter of time until Baldy McWon'tJob gets centered in his crosshairs.

SHOOT TIME! Oh, holy hell, you can't script stuff like this. In the next scene, the same promoter decides to show up at Gagne's sauna. So we have a flabby, he-booby sporting forty year old chatting it up with a balding, chest-hair encrusted fellow forty year old. The promoter makes Gagne an offer he doesn't like, and as a means of intimidation, Gagne introduces said promoter to The Crusher and The Bruiser. It's a stomach churning scene in it's own right, but my personal viewing of the film was twenty times better.

We have these inspection guys show up ONCE a year at corporate. ONCE. The one day they show up, the one time they get to exchange verbiage with me, and what's playing in the foreground before me? The rest of the afternoon, I had to do my best to explain to the guys around the office that I wasn't watching gay 70's porno during evaluation.

It's not looking any better for my hetero street cred from here on out, either, folks. Next scene, Ed Asner is introduced to Billy Taylor, a guy who might just have what it takes to get the strap off Verne. Of course, Ed travels to Taylor's gym to evaluate the prospect. Much homoeroticism ensues.

You see, Billy is one of them there "Scientific" wrestlers from England- land, and his technique is IMPECABLE. Impressed by what he sees, Ed signs Billy on the spot for a taping at the Boy's Club. You know, they really couldn't make this any gayer than it already is. Elton John painting a rainbow butthole is less homoerotic than what's being displayed on the screen at the concurrent.

More Asner\Secretary banter.

Cue a Wahoo McDaniel dog collar bout.

Cue Ray Stevens vs. some soup can. Promoters in the 70s really knew how to get guys over; not only was Stevens' opponent willing to job, he was willing to DIE for the sake of main eventing. Obviously, as the last four years have shown us, having guys get killed in the ring isn't really great for publicity, so Asner has to roll out the mea culpa to his investors. He promises to make amends for the in-ring manslaughter by booking a "Super Bowl" bout betwixt Billy and Gagne. Because heaven knows, matchmaking legally negates any and all wrongful death charges the family may attempt to trump up.

MORE Secretary\Asner chit-chat. I guess secretary work isn't the most prestigious occupation, but you got to admit: it would be pretty cool to work for something called "The Wrestling Office", wouldn't it? Anyhoo, the secretary spills the beans to Gagne about the uber fight, and Asner is, admittedly.oh, who cares. The best scene in the movie is coming up next. Eff the plot.

Have you ever wanted to see Dusty Rhodes and Dick Murdoch karate fight an entire bar full of patrons that, for some inexplicable reason, are all trained in kung-fu? Of course you fucking do! Trust me, you haven't lived until you've seen Dirty Dick scoop slam an Asian caricature through a pinball machine. You simply haven't.

Oh the old making a guy wear a hat full of beer trick. God, I miss high school.

Next up, we have. . . tennis? The hell? Gagne finally agrees to a bout with Billy. THANK GOD.

Time for a Nick Bockwinkel match. Because? Well, what's easier: hiring and subsequently paying (maybe) a guy to write dialogue, or killing time with match filler? Billy easily defeats Nick with his patented double under hook Supplex. Post bout, the promoter makes the Billy/Verne bout OFFICIAL. It is own, as the kids would say.

Next up, Billy decides to stretch some amateurs in the gloomy confines of some subterranean edifice. This leads to even more amateur wrestling footage that in no way shape or form resembles a French John Holmes film. Nope, not at all. This segues into a primer that establishes, for the audience, the differences between amateur wrestling and professional wrestling, Oddly, they leave out the most telling discrepancy: the notion that one is real and the other is staged. You know, like college and pro football (Have you ever watched an SEC game before? They just PRETEND to tackle each other!)

Did you know that George Washington and Abe Lincoln were professional wrestlers? And that King Henry the 8th of England once bested the emperor of France in a worked bout? UNCITED REFERENCES FTW.

Idle chatter time. Ed, the Sec, and Billy Taylor soak up some sun at a hotel resort, securing some much needed R and R. The purpose of the commingling is to arrange the aforementioned "Super Bowl" bout and the national promoters are none too pleased with Verne's title reign, claiming he's too old to be the national focus. This leads to the best line in the movie: "Dory Funk's bald, man!"

Up next, it's another jazz-flavored catch-as-catch-can bout to display Billy's inert prowess.

After a brief musical interlude (huh-whuzza?), Asner and the Sec are confronted over bistec by the national promoters that want a. . . (gasp) . . . FIX! In a pro wrestling bout! NEVER!

After the old cigar-in-the-mashed-potato routine, Asner and the Sec have a romantic farewell and finally swap the spit. Aww. . . eww. In a backroom meeting, Asner reminds Billy to avoid the DEADLY dropkick. Since Billy is a Briton, he shan't fear a double boot to the face. Uh, OK.

It is now TIME. Billy vs. Verne. The clash of the Men-gods. Only one can win, and only win shall survive. Blink, and you'll miss the Vinny Mac cameo. The crooked promoters confront Ed and his lady friend before the bout and echo the following warning: if Billy loses, Asner DIES. I'm not quite sure how to interpret that one. Maybe it's a metaphor for something? Ed gets roughed up and HERE COMES THE CRUSHER AND THE BRUISER TO MAKE THE FACE SAVE! I marked.

Time for the film's conclusion. The ref goes over the rules (including the old NWA provision that disallows throwing one's opponent over the top rope) and the scuffling begins. Billy breaks out his carnival moves and Gagne sticks to his original game plan (No, not supergluing the title to his waist until the company goes bankrupt). Billy works the leg, but he forgets to keep Gagne away from the ropes, which means we end the reel with a slow mo, first person perspective dropkick to the face. Now that's a hell of a 3D effect right there. Good work, but way too short. The crowd really wasn't in to, and there were a couple of glaring rest spots. I give it [* *].

THE VERDICT:

You know, all in all, I didn't hate this one as much as I thought I would. What's rather ironic about the film is just how eerily similar it is to the much more renowned film of the same moniker. The two movies are basically about the same subject, and the endings (right down to the slow motion filter) are virtually identical. I'm a pretty big mark for 70s cinema and fusion jazz (really), so that probably put an extra half-a-star on my official rating index. Granted, there are far better films in the gamut, like Blood And Guts and the bizarre-beyond-words GRUNT! The Wrestling Movie, but those are examinations to be held at a latter date, my pupils. Oscar caliber it ain't, but its miles above trite like Ready To Rumble and No Holds Barred. And maybe Suburban Commando. I don't know, it's been awhile since I saw that one.

All right, I apologize for this installment's relatively brief length. That's because I am concurrently working on several HYUGE projects that should be ready just in time for the granddaddy of them all. That's right, Jesus' second coming. Or the Mayan Rapture. Whichever occurs first.

In the interim, be sure to hit me up on the Myspace at http://www.myspace.com/xxjswxx. And help a ninja out and Digg some of our articles. Our site needs as much exposure as possible. Last week, Sean was forced to purchase a MEDIUM sized gold Jacuzzi for his ivory tower. You hear that? MEDIUM!

And as a VERY SPECIAL REQUEST, I am imploring, nay, DEMANDING that everyone hit up my collegiate article at the following URL:

http://media.www.sixmilepost.com/media/storage/paper1371/news/2009/02/17/Opin ion/Introducing.The.J.Swift.Underdog.Achievement.Scholarship-3625626.shtml

Please post as many comments on the article as humanly possible so that the school will think I'm a hot commodity, thus ensuring that I will attend an ACTUAL college in the autumnal semester.

Take care,

Your friendly neighborhood J. SWIFT.

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TWF FLASHBACK

November 2006

SATIRE: DISCONTINUED WWE XMAS PRODUCTS!

by Sean Carless

With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).