Tuesday, 1 January 2008

The Two Sheds Review Archives - 2007

I Love Wrestling, But Hate The Wrestling Business

Over the past few months I’ve had a few e-mails about my column, asking me why it was that I only reviewed DVDs and pay-per-views now. “What’s happened to the old style columns you used to write?” they would ask. “Why don’t you give your opinions on what’s happening in the wrestling business anymore?”

Well, today I’m going to open up to you all, to tell you why it is I don’t give my views on the backstage happenings in the wrestling world.

You see, I really love wrestling. It’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. To me, there’s nothing more entertaining than seeing Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels at their peak, nothing better than seeing a Dynamite Kid v  Tiger Mask match, nothing better than seeing Jonny Storm or Jody Fleisch in an acrobatic tour de force, nothing better than seeing Ric Flair, who, despite being near his 60th birthday, is still giving so much to a business that has taken so much from him.

But on the other hand, I really hate the wrestling business. I saw so much crap during my time working in the British wrestling business that it’s turned me off reading about what’s going on in the locker rooms.
 
When you see promoters sabotaging other shows, when you see wrestlers smoking pot and snorting coke backstage, when you hear wrestler/promoters saying they’re not going to put a title belt on themselves, then see them do just that six months later, when you see a wrestler slagging off a fellow worker then acting like he’s a long-lost brother the next time they’re on the same show together, and when wrestlers shake your hand and tell you what a great mate you are, then ignore you for months on end, only breaking their silence to send you a threatening e-mail when you disagree with something they’ve done, it turns you off certain aspects of the wrestling business.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

I once wrote that the professional wrestling business is like no other business in the world. It really isn’t. No other business is scrutinised or criticised like the wrestling business.

It was just a couple of months after I quit working in the wrestling business that I came upon the startling revelation I’ve just made to you all. When the phone calls stopped coming, when my e-mail inbox stopped being clogged up, when I realised the truth about the majority of those working in the wrestling business - that certain people only want to know you because of what you can do for them, because they only want to know you so you can give them some free publicity.

Out of all the people in the wrestling business I’ve met, out of all the people who kept telling me how much they respect me for what I do, out of all the people who came up to me, shook my hand, put their arm around me and told me what a good friend I was, I can probably count only three or four people as proper, true friends. And out of these people, only one of them earns money working as a professional wrestler.

When you see what’s going on in the world around you, when loved ones suddenly lose their lives, when people around the world are suffering because of war and natural disasters, when young kids are killing their peers in classrooms and housing estates with guns and knives, it makes you realise that it really doesn’t matter that Steve Austin won’t do the job anymore. It really doesn’t matter that Hulk Hogan refuses to put anyone over. It really doesn’t matter that one promoter doesn’t book another promoter’s star attraction. None of that shit really matters.

Because when it comes down to it, it really doesn’t matter what a professional wrestler does. Their egos don’t allow them to see that as far as the entertainment and sporting worlds go, professional wrestlers are at the bottom of the food chain, and that’s what stops them from gaining the constant mainstream media attention they crave so badly.

R.I.P. Chris Benoit

It’s 1am in the morning in Tuesday, June 26th. I’m sitting on my bed, switching off my laptop having just typed up some of the notes for my review of WWE’s Vengeance pay-per-view. Raw comes on air on Sky Sports, and the first thing I see is a still of my favourite wrestler, with the caption “In loving memory of Chris Benoit, 1967 - 2007. I find myself saying “you’re fucking joking.”

Vince McMahon then appears on the screen, standing in the middle of the ring in an empty arena. He tells the world that Chris Benoit, his wife Nancy and son Daniel are dead.

I feel numb. I feel sick. I feel like someone has punched me in the stomach. I feel like someone is playing a cruel joke on me.

Over the next three hours I watch as many of Benoit’s peers pay tribute to him. The various WWE announcers look shocked. They look as if they really don’t want to be doing what they are doing. One can’t help but feel sympathy for Dean Malenko, as he tells us how he’s lost his two best friends in the space of just two years.

We see some of Chris Benoit’s finest moments in the wrestling ring. We see him in action against Jushin Liger in Japan, the classic match against Malenko at Hog Wild, winning the Royal Rumble, ending with the poignant moment where, having just defeated Shawn Michaels and Triple H at Wrestlemania 20, he’s joined in the ring Eddie Guerrero. The two best friends, World Champion and WWE Champion, embrace in the ring, each having achieved their ambitions, each of them recognised as being the best they are at what they do.

As the hours pass, the shocking news gradually hits the world. Local authorities announce that they’re investigating the incident as a murder-suicide case. Things are getting worse by the moment.

Fans around the world are quickly changing their views. Whereas people were quick to praise him for his career and his achievements, they began to criticise him without having all the facts at their disposal.

It’s not my place to publicly criticise a man who has given me so much enjoyment since I first saw him in action over fifteen years ago. That’s not my style. I don’t know all the facts, and I don’t claim to. None of us will ever know exactly what happened.

But what we do know is that three people have lost their lives in the most tragic of circumstances, and that the professional wrestling world has lost one of the greatest wrestlers it has ever seen.

Let’s not spend our time condemning the man for what he may or may not have done. Let’s spend our time remembering just how much we’ve been entertained by him, and let’s spend our time thinking about the loss of three lives.

Rest in peace Chris, Nancy and Daniel.
 

Debra Cashes In On The Benoit Tragedy
It’s been almost a week since the world learned of the tragic events surrounding the Benoit family in Atlanta, Georgia. Bret Hart put it perfectly when he said that this is probably the biggest tragedy to hit the professional wrestling industry, even bigger than the death of his brother Owen eight years ago.

While the British press has covered the story, we on this side of the pond have had to use the internet for the most part to get the latest details. That and Fox News.

I hadn’t paid much attention to Fox News before, but now I find myself tuning in on an almost nightly basis to find out what’s happening, and while I don’t necessarily agree with the way that some of our American cousins have sensationalised this story, there is one thing that has really annoyed me, and that’s the way that some people, and one in particular, have used this situation to put themselves back in the media spotlight.

People like Bruce Hart and Joanie Laurer have used the platform they have been given to criticise Vince McMahon and the WWE for things that happened to them in the past. Bruce Hart was extremely critical of McMahon a few years ago, especially when his idea of creating a feeder territory in Canada was turned down. Laurer has been on a downward spiral ever since she quit WWE in 2001, and her appearances in a certain porn video and in “101 Reasons Not To Be A Professional Wrestler” showed just how far she has fallen.

On the other hand, people like Chris Jericho and Bill DeMott have spoken about the situation in a very rational manner, putting things into perspective, telling us of the real pressures that the Benoit family were under.

But there has been one person who has really capitalised on these events, who seems to have been on my television screen on a nightly basis. That person is Debra Marshall, ex-wife of Steve “Mongo” McMichael and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

Marshall is currently working as a real estate agent, and has been out of the wrestling business since she left WWE in 2002. Since then she’s gone through a divorce with Austin, and has apparently tried to gain work with TNA and WWE.

But this past week Marshall has taken the opportunity to tell the world of the apparent hell she went through as Austin’s wife, using the airwaves to tell people how she was a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of Austin five years ago.

She paints a sorry picture of the current state of the wrestling business, of drink and drug-addled wrestlers who spent a great deal of time drinking booze, popping pills and beating up their partners. She tells us how she was constantly beaten up by Austin, and how she wished she had spoken out then, because if she had, Nancy and Daniel Benoit may be alive right now.

But Marshall also tells us that she signed a gagging order when she divorced Austin, how she was paid a large some of money to keep quiet about what happened to her. But she doesn’t tell us what’s happened to that money. She doesn’t tell us why she’s suddenly appeared on the international stage again to tell her side of the story. Did she contact the news companies, or did the news companies contact her? And how much was she paid to tell the same story night after night after night?

I’m not going to pretend that there isn’t a dark side to the professional wrestling business. I worked in the British wrestling business for five years, and saw my fair share of unpleasant things over here. I’m not going to pretend that everything is perfect. Nothing in life ever is.

But if Debra Marshall was so worried about things, why didn’t she turn down the large some of money that was given to her five years ago and speak out then? Why didn’t she stand up for what she apparently believes in then?

My answer to that is a simple one - because she wants to get back in the spotlight. In his biography “Bang Your Head”, Dewey Robertson, aka The Missing Link, tells us how difficult it is for those who retire from the wrestling business to handle life out of the spotlight. They can’t handle the fact that the spotlight isn’t on them anymore, and they’d do anything to get back the attention that they had before.

I truly believe that this is the case with Debra Marshall. She says she’s lost friends by speaking out in this way, but she’s once again in the spotlight, telling people how hard done by she was during her time in the wrestling business. She’s extended her fifteen minutes of fame, on the back of the tragic deaths of three people. While I’m sickened by the events that saw the deaths of the Benoit family, I’m sickened by the way that Marshall is cashing in on this situation.

But going back to what happened last weekend, I will say this. I’ve been a Chris Benoit fan for about fifteen years, ever since I saw him on a New Japan show that was broadcast on Eurosport. I’ve watched his career through his time in WCW and WWF, through two world championship wins, and while I’m deeply saddened by the way that that his life came to an end, I will always be a Benoit mark. Although I will never forget what he did to his family, I will always be thankful for the countless hours of entertainment he gave me over the years.

And I will always say a prayer for Nancy and Daniel, two people who were taken from this world before their time.

Rest in peace, Chris, Nancy and Daniel. Your fans will never forget you.