Tag Archive | "WWF"

The Allure of the Squared Circle: My Fascination with Professional Wrestling

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I have been a fan of professional wrestling since I was four years old.  I am 20 years old now.  For the sixteen years that I have been a fan, people either look at me weird or they are excited to know that I am a fellow fan.  It’s either one extreme or the other.  Rarely has there ever been an in-between response (or “tweener” as smart marks call it) when I bring up the topic of professional wrestling.  Regardless of the response I get, I am still a fan and I always enjoy discussing, arguing about and watching wrestling, because it is a major part of my life and it has been a huge influence on me.

 

I remember first discovering WWE (WWF as it was called back then).  I was four years old, watching Sesame Street in the living room with my parents and my brother.  My brother kept whining about wanting to change the channel.  My parents kept insisting that he sit through Sesame Street, but when I was done eating, they allowed him to do so.  So he clicked the remote to change the channel.  And that click changed my life forever.

 

I looked on the screen and saw a bald man with a mustache and beard, sporting black trunks, black kneepads and black boots.  I did not know his name at first.  But his character and the way he beat down his opponent drew me in as I stared at the TV screen.  After many mentions of his name by the commentators, I came to know that I was watching Stone Cold Steve Austin.  This was the wrestler who would become my role model.

 

From that point on, my interest in professional wrestling grew.  I would watch RAW IS WAR and eventually SmackDown every week, learn the names of the wrestlers, their characters, their moves etc.  This became the sport I would constantly talk about with friends.  While everyone else talked about baseball or football, and quoted RBIs, home runs, touchdowns or penalties, I talked about who became the World Champion at Wrestlemania.  I’m a huge Jets fan, but I can quote how many times Stone Cold won the World Championship before I can say how many passes Vinny Testaverde managed to complete.

 

Even though this was my favorite sport, I would go throughout childhood being made fun of for being a fan of “fake wrestling” and “watching two sweaty guys touch each other.”  To be honest, their teasing did not bother me, because I knew what I was watching, and even though it was not completely legitimate, it was still entertaining.  Also, I grew to know the trials and tribulations that wrestlers go through in order to make it in the business, and how some fall short, while others make it to the top.  This realization made me love wrestling even more, because I came to learn the dedication that it takes to become a pro wrestler and how that dedication must be maintained throughout their entire careers if they truly desire to be successful.

 

However, as cool as it is to watch wrestling on television or on the computer, there is absolutely nothing that compares to buying a ticket, traveling to the arena, sitting down with some good friends and family and watching the show live.  My first live wrestling event was WWE SmackDown in East Rutherford, New Jersey in November of 2003, shortly before Survivor Series.  I attended the event with my cousin, my uncle and my dad.  I remember the drive on the way to the Continental Airlines Arena (what is now known as the IZOD Center), talking with my cousin about the storylines, matches, etc.  We were ecstatic and could not wait to get into the building.  Once we got into the seating area, I immediately gazed at the entranceway where the fist was below the SmackDown logo and I was hooked.  I looked around and saw the thousands of fans in attendance and that made me even more pumped.  As soon as the SmackDown theme song “I Want It All” hit and the fans started cheering, my cousin and I stood up and screamed along with them.  I was lost in the moment, as I had my fist in the air and my voice on maximum.  And once Kurt Angle’s music played, my cousin and I along with the rest of the crowd chanted “You Suck!” along with the beat of the song.  We went on to have a great night watching some incredible entertainment.

 

Since then, I have attended many live shows from WWE events to various independent shows around my area.  It is a very special feeling being there live and interacting with thousands of fans who share the same interest in wrestling as me.  It is also very interesting talking with these fans and hearing some stories of their many pro wrestling escapades, such as meeting the wrestlers (which I, myself, have done), talking with the promoters or simply being involved in a crowd  brawl.  The wrestlers I have met are extremely down-to-earth and some of the most humble guys you will ever meet.  The promoters/owners that I have conversed with are very pleased to be talking with fans because they enjoy receiving feedback on the product, which is very respectable, because the fans are what drive the wrestling business.

 

Wrestling is such an interactive business and that is why I love it.  What makes it different from other sports is that it presents a blend of athletic competition and entertainment solely aimed at pleasing the fan.  It does not matter who wins or loses a match.  It does matter, however, how good the match is.  As long as both participants put forth their best effort in a match, or an entertainment segment, the fans are happy.  Pro wrestling has a certain magic, and that magic keeps bringing fans, including me, back for more.

 

 

Celebrity Apprentice: A Win-Win Situation

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I cry at commercials.  Not all commercials, only those that are shot in and include familiar touchstones of my beloved New York City.  Thus, did this geek whose TV viewing once relegated primarily to documentaries and concerts get suckered into watching The Apprentice.  Understand that for most of my life, midtown Manhattan was my old stomping ground, career-wise, while the rest of the city was my playground.  The closest that I ever got to The Donald was to ride his escalators in the Trump Tower like a human yoyo, just to see how often I could get away it with it.  I suffer from altophobia, you see, and the side panels on those escalators are clear.  The higher I climbed and the more I gazed downward, the longer the drop to those gorgeous, sun-splashed peach tiles (splat!).  A stone’s throw from the Trump Tower sprawls the emerald jewel of Manhattan — Central Park — where I’d romped often as a kid, a teen, and an adult who’s refused to grow up.  You get the gist.  I began to watch The Apprentice for those quick, bittersweet scenes of my beloved city spliced into each week’s competition.


However, the show quickly became a guilty pleasure, a modern-day Coliseum set in boardrooms and other corporate venues in and around the city of my birth.  Having not watched the show religiously for every single season, I nearly bailed when The Donald instituted celebrity contestants instead of the normal cutthroat crew of gladiators, such as Omarosa, the “love to hate her” 14-karat you-know-what.  This season, however, I’m more or less glued to my set because this final round of celebs includes three rockers, and I do love my rock n’ roll.


Frankly, I’d wanted to see Bret Michaels, Poison’s glam-rock front man, Sharon Osbourne, music producer and Mrs. to Ozzy, and most of all, Cyndi Lauper, iconoclastic punk rock goddess, kick the other contestants’ butts.  The battles unfold in the Big Bad Apple, so I reasoned that it was time to pull off the gloves via the rockers.


I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting much of Bret, as glam-rock ceased being my bag the minute that The Man Who Fell to Earth (Bowie) actually came down to Earth to show the world his musical chops.  But Bret quickly grew on me.  He seemed a pretty logical guy and a very loving father yearning to contribute his knowledge, skills, and creativity to his team’s efforts.  Having eschewed other flashy rocker-icons as well as so-called reality shows, including the one that stuck its cameras under the Osbournes’ noses, I didn’t know much about Sharon.   But she had an edge to her that, despite her proper British upbringing, I appreciated.


As a fellow New Yorker, Cyndi Lauper was another story.  In fact, she is a beautiful success story highlighting how it was once possible for an artist who did not march to anyone else’s drummer to get airplay on commercial radio and carve a career in music.  Born in Queens, Cyndi struggled early on in her career, wondering if she’d actually be able to sell a record.  Captain Lou Albano of the WWF, and Cyndi’s then-father figure, advised the girl who just wanted to have fun that maybe people didn’t want to hear the same type of voice on the radio over and over, and since she was unique, she should go for it.  She did, and the rest is history.  While Cyndi’s accent and seemingly scatterbrained perspective has put a few noses out of joint on this season’s Celebrity Apprentice, I find her a breath of fresh air.  She could have sold her soul to the devil, as so many radio-friendly voices have done.  But she remained true to her craft, speaking her mind at every turn and promoting other artists along the way.


This past week, The Donald mixed up the remaining members of Tenacity (the women’s team) and Rock Solid (the men’s team) so that Bret and Sharon were partnered with Maria Kanellis, a young, very pretty WWF diva and model.  She’s also a hard body (they don’t get much harder than hers).  Blend these ingredients into the natural fire in her belly, and Maria made a great addition to the rock contingent, particularly for this week’s dual-focus task.


The teams were directed to create as well as deliver an exercise routine for a New York fitness club, and to garner donations for each project manager’s charity of choice.  The monkey wrench was that for each donation, there had to be a live human being participating in the workout.   Although Sharon took the helm on this project, Bret pulled out all the stops, trading on his bad-boy rocker persona to brainstorm and design “backstage passes” for the workout participants, a hot-cool promo piece that contained a few typos no one cared about, and the foundation of a hilarious and effective regimen that included such moves as the “tour bus trust,” “air guitar,” and “praying to the porcelain god.”  Sharon assumed the job of hitting up business associates for donations.  Maria took the routine and ran ably with it, to the point where the execs at 24-Hour Fitness, the task’s sponsors, are seriously considering implementing it into their own program.


By contrast, project manager Holly Robinson-Peete led a team sorely lacking in creativity, both in the conception of its proper but blasé workout routine and its promotion.  Tenacity also suffered from the absence of Cyndi, who’d had a prior commitment to Lady Gaga (from whom Cyndi extracted a donation of $25K and thus contributed greatly to this task; so much for her scatterbrain, huh?).  From Day One, Holly has been nasty and insensitive to Cyndi, so I’ve decided I don’t like her one whit and will pop a champagne cork when the actress-Autism crusader is sent packing.  I also didn’t enjoy watching Holly wheedle money out of her contacts for her charity while her two team members, trendy Australian chef Curtis Stone and 1992 U.S. Gold Medal Olympian Summer Sanders, ran their rumps off across town doing everything else.  I really didn’t get it when Holly — who has been so critical of many other contestants, and who claims to have quite of bit experience fundraising — appeared to be making a botch job of what is known in the philanthropic world as “the ask.”


I warmed up slightly to Holly as, once in the boardroom, she tearfully and genuinely praised every one of her team members, including Cyndi.  But I still wanted to see her eat crow and jump into that big yellow taxi heading toward where she’d be leavin’ on a big ol’ jet airliner.  Much to my amazement as well as Holly’s, her crew won the task by reaping nearly $80K more in donations than Sharon’s team (24-Hour Fitness gave each team $24K for their charity, which figured into the final coffers).  No one saw this upset coming!


Set upon by Trump and his progeny like the velociraptors of Jurassic Park, it looked as if someone’s head on the rocker’s team would wind up on the chopping block.  Sharon, who had been ill previously and who had taken on the role of project manager for the first time, was loath to let Bret or Maria go.   As Sharon very decently and righteously offered herself as the sacrificial lamb, The Donald went gunning for Maria.  Just when I sure he was going to fire Maria’s oh-so-toned butt, New York’s richest man announced that, since everyone on both teams had done such a fine job, he wasn’t canning anyone that night!  All parties survived to duke it out for another round, next week.


So, Celebrity Apprentice is a guilty pleasure.  The show exists to make money for its network and advertisers, probably gives The Donald a good chuckle, and stimulates awareness of various worthy charities as well as much-needed donations to those organizations.   Rarely has this reality show focused so much, as it did this past week, on that latter goal.  For one bright, shining moment, all the gladiators threw down their swords and bonded over their success in pumping funds into their charities.  Although Sharon Osbourne’s team was only supposed to walk away with the sponsor’s $24K, Holly Robinson-Peete graciously promised Mrs. Ozzy another donation, apparently from the pile her own team had raised.  These charities are the HollyRod Foundation for autistic children and their families, whose website is http://www.hollyrod.org/ and Sharon’s foundation of choice for the prevention and treatment of colon cancer, which can be accessed via http://www.cedars-sinai.com/Patients/Programs-and-Services/Colon-Cancer-Program/.

 

As that rarified, warm and fuzzy moment is over, lovers of blood sport and lovers of the Big Apple need not fear.  We can all tune in to the next installment to see who goes for whose throat in the race to win Celebrity Apprentice.  Before you tune in, say a prayer please, for Bret Michaels.  Although the competition is taped, we are down one kick-ass rocker.  As of this writing, the intrepid Bret Michaels remains on the critical list of an unnamed hospital, attempting a valiant recovery from a brain hemorrhage. 

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