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THE ROCKTAGON
W/ JAMES SWIFT

God, I feel old.

Yesterday afternoon began as a typical evening saunter: with Dr. Brown firmly gripped in my left palm and my right hand twitching to click and clack some Flash-based Tecmo Bowl. After dropping 78 on the '91 Cin-SHIT- natti Bengals with my beloved, nigh unstoppable Jay Schroeder piloted L.A. Raiders, I glanced an eventful glance at the calendar before me.

"March, 2009"

Wait a minute, wasn't that last digit a "1" just awhile ago? Dude, PRIDE FC was still kicking, Chuck Schulinder was still pumping oxygen and there were OPTIONS on Monday night fake-fisticuffing viewing . . . what the hell happened?

Well, despite my best efforts to deceit myself, I had to face the music: "time" had happened, that's what. And with it, all I could do was weep a maudlin, Milton-esque snivel as I was forced into dwelling on the expedient fleeting of my bygone era of youth.

It's hard to believe, hell, almost unfathomable, really, to allow the notion that EIGHT freaking years have transpired since the final WCW Nitro broadcast. It seems like only yesterday that me and my brood gathered around the hulking cathode cancer transmitter and watched, in awed helplessness, as our wayward childhood sentiments were slowly engulfed by the icy clutch of corporate convergence.

I can't remember the last time I even hit the "Recall" button on my remote, and that sumbitch was punched more times than Rihanna in the years betwixt 1995-2000. The Monday Night Wars basically proved the functionality of the whole "Free Market Competition" theory to my feeble middle school intellect, and there's nary an unshaved ape on the Intraweb Rasslin' Community that doesn't look back on the time of dueling corporate powerhouses as, and I quote, "the best fucking thing ever".

Today's marks are embarrassingly uncultured on the ways of wrestling's yesteryear. Do you really consider the ongoing WWE - TNA schism a "war"? Russian horse balls, I retort. The battle of Eric B.'s deep pocket books and Vince McMahon's, uh, reluctance to adapt was more tumultuous than any in- ring contest in the pseudo-sports fabled legacy, and the Nitro - Raw fight to the death, with its ship-jumping, corporate raiding and entrepreneurial treachery is considered the absolute zeitgeist (no, not the shitty documentary nor equally shitty Smashing Pumpkins offering) of the industry's on AND off screen product.

So, how did the grueling, bloody "Monday Night Wars" get instigated? Well, students, it's time to reflect upon the wrestling world's equivalent of the first shot at Fort Sumter. . . The First Episode of WCW Monday Nitro!

Much like the American Revolution, the kick start of the epic inter- promotional hostilities began with a less-than-stirring opening salvo: whereas the Redcoats were gingerly accosted by a motley crew of malcontent yahoos at an artillery depot, Eric and Ted's assault on Vince McMahon's sports-entertainment stranglehold occurred at that sacrosanct hall of wrestling yore:

The Mall Of America. Yeah, fuck holding an event at Madison Square, we're going national at a venue sandwiched amongst an in-door roller coaster ride and an Orange Julius stand. FUCKING MONEY RIGHT THERE, HOLMES!

Well, outside of event planning that harkens to "Dawn of the Dead" nostalgia, the WCW higher-ups actually do an admirable job of establishing the company during the opening banter of the broadcast. Eric B. flaps his lips about how great his company is while Steve "Mongo" McMichael, ever the cunning linguist, reminds the viewers at home that "apropos" doesn't mean one is digging around in the dirt with farm implements. In other words, Steve McMichael is one dumb mother fucker. HERE COMES THE HEENAN! Honest to God, I could be told I had pancreatic cancer made out of AIDS cells and if Bobby Heenan waltzed through the door, I would still mark. To kick off out inaugural contest, Jushin "Thunder" Liger struts to the ring while totally not-at-all racist, stereotypical Asian tea kettle music blurts over the PA system. Some tardus maximus in the crowd is holding a sign that reads "Where The Big Boys Play WCW". Sorry to display my Journalistic roots here, but I simply cannot let a grammatical 9/11 such as that one slip by my RADAR. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I begin to ponder that particular fan's (undoubtedly unfulfilling) existence. I mean, shit, its live television, and the best you can do is scrawl Magic Marker on cardboard? I can envision the following transpiring before his arrival:

Fat, slovenly girlfriend: Hurry up, Clem! We need to get down to the rassling show before all the good seats get taken!

Clem: One minute, honey! I really want to make a sign that a national audience can enjoy, so I wish to elaborate on a very deep, meaningful. . .

Fat slovenly girlfriend: (lights cheap-o unfiltered while simultaneously gobbling a foot long turkey and ham sub) AYE SAID GET YOUR ASS IN THE YUGO AND DRIVE ME TO THE MALL STORE!

Clem: Oh, well fuck syntax. It's not like some smart-assed college kid is going to mock my improper utilization of the English language fifteen years from now. . .

Oh, I kid. There's no way that guy could've ever landed a girlfriend.

Cue the horribly out-of-date, overtly-boisterous pop-rock, because Flyin' Brian is making his way ringside. You have to admit, this is a pretty bizarre match-up to expose as a company's introductory product, and as much shit as the I-Dub-See likes to give the Bisch, you have to give the fellow credit: he was willing to put over both international AND lighter weight talent at a time in which the only way to succeed in WWF was to be American and Human Growth Hormone. So far that, I say kudos to you, Golden Boy of wrestling.

Typical arm-drag-y opening, with Jushin landing a cartwheel kick on Brian while in the corner. Eric B. notes that "Jushin got him right in the earlobe!" Yeah, that's Pillman's one glaring weak spot, the cochlea. Never mind the fact that his heart weighs twice that of an orangutan's. WORK THAT FUCKING EARDRUM, JUSHY!

Chops and a GOD-AWFUL botched moonsault from Liger. It's almost as if Pillman was WAITING for him to jump on him. Oh, wait, that's because he was. Well, bollocks. A chin lock that eerily prognosticates the coming of Randy Orton ensues. Chops, head scissors, more chops and a shit-tacular hurrancanranna from Pillman. Proof that Heenan is the greatest person ever, part one: "He nearly whipped him from Bloomingdales to Macy's!" Mongo calls Bobby "The Hernia" as Liger locks in the Mexican Surfboard. Pillman lands another head scissors, takes a dive and eats a Liger roll to the outside. But those rolls weren't even buttered! I call bullshit, waiter! UGLY, uh, brain buster (?) on the apron from Pillman, which facilitates a body splash off the tope from Pillman, which Liger sells like a Power Ranger doll melting in a convection oven. Pillman gets crotched, Liger lands a Super Plex for a two. Pillman lands a "defensive" drop kick and LIGER BOMB! Pillman no sells. GOD DAMN! Liger nearly cripples himself as he lands a top rope hurrancanranna. Seriously, how he managed to avoid spinal surgery after that botch is a miracle of modern medicine. Brian responds with a Tornado DDT. Just a 2. It's like watching a precursor to all of those Lynn / RVD bouts in ECW: a sound, underweight technical guy and a high flyer that has no qualms about sending people to the hospital. I'm not sure if that's a compliment or criticism. Out of nowhere, Pillman lands a flipping roll-up for the pinfall.

Winner: Brian Pillman, thusly making backstage plumbing the loser (Ask Jim Ross about this one, kids!)

Eh, short, botchy-as-hell, but it was entertaining, and the historicism of the bout doesn't hurt either. We'll score that one a [The 6th Day] and be done with it.

Taped promo time. Sting: "Ric Flair, you're a dick". That's pretty much the summation of it, I suppose.

The ensuing Hulk Hogan promo, emanating from his short-lived

-Mania themed restaurant, is a work of post-modern genius: Hulk states that he has high-starch carbohydrates running through his brain and that throngs of children will begin disrobing as he feeds the ex-Big Boss Man pre-processed Italian food concluding with a post-meal bodyslam. Salvador Dali doesn't have shit on The Hulkster, brother.

 

U.S. Title bout time. Ric is challenging, Sting is the champ and . . . HOLY SHIT, it's Lex Luger! Dude, he was on WWF TV just a week ago! And folks, shit JUST GOT REAL in the War for Monday night. One of the all time great NO FUCKING WAY moments in mark history right here, folks.

A brilliant, brilliant kick to the sack from Bischy.

And, oh yeah, WCW's marquee rivalry is re-heated in the ring. Now THAT is what we like to call "strategizing".

Typical Flair / Sting beginning, with Sting dropping some nasty Press Slams on the Nature Boy. Hip toss, drop kick and Flair takes a breather to the outside. Ric breaks out the sneaky stuff, and Sting no sells his offense. Slam, of the press variety. Again. Double dump to the outside. Flair begs for mercy when the two return from exile. Stinger Splash missed, improv bulldog on the spot. Stinger Splash redux, and Sting eats spinning elbow. Still tastes better than anything on the Pasta Mania menu, though. Commercial Break Time! And we're back, with Flair on the offense, and headed up top. Hmm . . . I have NO idea how that's going to turn out. As Sting misses a splash of his own, out strolls Arn Anderson. FUN FACT: Arn Anderson and J. Swift share the same hometown. And if you're wondering, yes, the preferred way to greet someone in Rome, Georgia is the Spinebuster. Ric chews some clotheslines (like some autistic children are fond of doing), and it's time for Flair's patented Flair Flip corner bump. It's an American institution, I tell you. Ten punch, hip toss, and Sting continues to whip that ass. Backslide counter near fall exchange sequence initialized. Top rope Super plex, which leads to two fantastic acts of salesmanship: one on behalf of Flair, and the other on The Brain: "That made my monitor go out! It went black!" Sting jaws Anderson, and Flair clips the back of the knee, which allots the Figure 4. Ric refuses to let go of the ropes, and Arn decides to interject himself into the bout. Arn rips off his shirt, revealing 25 percent of the nation's burliness and the former Horsemen begin a scuffling.

Winner: Uh. . . I think Sting, but there was never an official verdict rendered. What injustice!

These two have had a gajillion and four great bouts in their day, and while this is obviously one of their lesser efforts, it's still pretty damned enjoyable. A worthy [The Running Man] bout and it's time for more offbeat shenanigans.

As Arn makes his way back to ringside to confront Sting, SCOTT NORTON threatens Eric B! NO, DON'T YOU DARE! Mongo stands up for his man, and then Randy Savage shows up to challenge Norton to a match RIGHT THEN AND THERE. And in case things weren't surreal enough for you, up next is a musical interlude trumpeting the arrival of SABU to WCW. SPOILER: That didn't go over so well.

Back from commercial, and Mean Gene is in the middle of the ring, telling us about how he had the opportunity to purchase real estate when he was 8. CONGRATS TO YOU, MIKE HILL FROM CULLMAN, ALABAMA! I hope you had lots of fun with your BRAND NEW 1995 Harley Davidson Soft Tail and didn't drive it off a cliff in a drunken stupor. But then, again, we are talking Alabama, here.

Next, Eric B shills for Saturday Night. Johnny B. Badd (pre Death List, obviously) will be taking on DIRTY Dick Slater and Sting unites with The Macho Man to take on the terrible twosome of The Blue Bloods. I'M SOLD. Almost as much as I am for the following Vincent K. Wallstreet promo, back when he was called "Michael Wallstreet". So, it's supposed to be I.R.S. playing The Million Dollar Man, right? I wonder why that never took off? Oh yeah, because it sucked.

Out comes Big Bubba Rodgers. Jesus, how many different jobs has this guy had in his life? He was a Cobb county cop, a Guardian Angel type vigilante in New York and a corporate, private sector security guard in Stamford. That guy sure as hell got all the mileage out of his Criminal Justice degree as he could, huh? Some, special, person in the crowd holds up a sign that reads "IOWA LOVES WCW". So . . .you drive over one hundred miles to a free wrestling show simply to inform the masses that your sparsely populated state enjoys fictitious tussling? What else can I say about that other than "Awesome"?

Synch up the world's worst Rick Derringer doppelganger. The Orange Goblin has arrived, with Jimmy Hart en tow, sporting the ensemble Apollo Creed was decked out before his murder at the hands of a drugged up Russian. Sadly, Hart shall not suffer the same fate this eve.

Well, this is going to come as a huge surprise, but this match isn't very good. Heenan mocks the Minnesotan weather, while Mongo shoots his credibility in the ass by saying that Hogan is a "technician". About three minutes in and Hogan whiffs on a kick that the camera catches ALL OF. You know how some "hardcore" (read: loser) fans call missing punches or kicks "daylight"? Well, that was freaking perpetual summer solstice right there, my friend. Mongo almost redeems himself by stating "Well, that one connected!" when Hogan goes for a second boot. Cartoon spot, and Bubba takes a prat fall. More shenanigans, and Bubba and Hulk end up brawling on the outside. Hogan utilizes the most scientific maneuver in his arsenal (choking a guy with a jacket) while Hart distracts the ref. And with such deplorable antics as that, why exactly was the Bash At The Beach turn a surprise? The reverb of a Bubba Slam stimulates Hogan's DNA, and suddenly lips get puffed out and fingers get wagging. Bossman quickly sniffs shoe polish and eats the irradiated ham hock.

Winner: Hulk Hogan, those needing irrefutable scientific evidence that eating large quantities of pasta allots superhuman capabilities.

These two had some fairly respectable bouts in the F in the late 80s, early 90s. My, what a difference five years makes. [End Of Days]

Post bout, the Dungeon of Doom attack The Hulkster. With the aide of Lex Luger, the almighty Orange one fights off the tenacious onslaught of Kevin Sullivan in a jogging suit and Earthquake wearing a headband. A Lex / Hulk showdown is teased, but Macho Man and Sting run out to play peacemakers. Yes, I am well aware of the irony of Macho Man coming out to aide a guy that kind of killed his ex-wife and another guy that spent his entire career flushing him down the corporate shitter.

Commercial break, and when we return, Mean Gene is moderating a verbal jiu- jitsu bout betwixt Lex and Hulk, which, quite surprisingly, is halfway tolerable. Four minutes of jabber later, and Lex gets a title shot NEXT WEEK. Wowzers at such a reveal.

And of course, such a monumental show can only close with one finale: Steve Mongo McMichael talking to a terrier dressed as Satan. Cue the flaming end credits, and that's a wrap for the inaugural edition of Monday Nitro.

As far as debut shows go, that was a relatively fun opus. Pretty much all of the major story arcs of the time were hit on, and the in-ring action was decent enough to keep the faithful seized throughout the broadcast. Of course, the immortal image of the first Nitro is etching of Lex Luger strutting out to ringside, which was a HUGE deal back in the day, for reasons that are kind of boring today.

All in all, it's kind of hard to believe that something so, well, light- hearted spawned what would become one of the most spite-filled contests in the annals of competitive lore. It's also fairly entrancing to view shows from this timeframe, as it was the point in time RIGHT before the twin paradigm shift of the N.W.O. and ascension of Stone Cold as a character. That means there's a palpable feeling of SOMETHING in the air, and despite the cartoon costumes, goofy dialogue and archaic music, you could just FEEL the rumblings of something big about to transpire, and you DEFINITELY get that sensation from watching this show.

Any vaunted historian already has this one gilded and placed in an airtight vacuum in his or her collection. If for some dumbass reason you haven't seen this show already. . . you might want to.

Well, that's all she wrote for this week. In the interim, I'm working on a pretty big-assed article in celebration/admonishment of this year's WrestleMania, and before then, I'll likely have my NEW venture established. My, what could that ever possibly mean for The Rocktagon? Stay tuned, faithful viewer. . . I mean, reader. Stay tuned. . .

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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.).