Antisocialist for CM Punk One day you went to take out the trash and someone was waiting there for your autograph. You’re a prick when you won’t take a picture with a fan at an airport at 2AM. There was one thing you loved more than anything And that was to be a punk rock wolverine in somebody’s backyard and to be really good at something that a lot of guys never learn how to do proper. I am not mad at you for walking out on the action figure and video game money. You threw your body into so many glass ceilings and came back early still nursing your wounds, because they needed you and the pop you would bring when the sound of static and the first Vernon Reid guitar riff blared through the speakers. But you were never a fan of going through the motions just because you needed to heal. You looked around and saw your opponent’s knees become fragile, the men you traveled down the road with begin to lose feeling in their arms when their necks betrayed them. It was impossible for you to be the body you were before and all the changes you were told would be made were empty promises couched in the anthem best for business. They could have at least come through on the ice cream bars. So it’s okay if you want to chill in your loft and enjoy what the years of being a fighting champion brought you: a lair in the heart of your stomping grounds, a flourishing new marriage, a chance to breathe for the first time in years. Blackhawks season tickets you can actually use. Never say never is the other song on your playlist. You remixed it on a red carpet, screaming never ever ever, and people who have never known 320 days on the road swear off of your cult of personality while legions more still chant your name in Rosemont, hoping they can conjure you from the gorilla position. I wish you walks on the beach that aren’t broadcast one still shot at a time. I wish you find that spark that makes you want to put on kickpads again, to come out from behind the LCD screens bearing a fist clutching lightning, to shout Ben Grimm’s battlecry from bended knee. But now is the time for you to put away all your luggage. To learn what it is to be a fan again. If you never return, we understand. But we will never stop chanting your name. The Whipping Teeth after Bobby Heenan and Robb Q Telfer The best mouths in the industry are never off duty. They are there to keep the ham-and-eggers in line. To let them know You listen to me, you'll go to the top You don't listen to me, you're never heard from again. To make their broadcast colleague so exasperated that all they can utter is a defeated will you stop. To argue the legality of a Greco-Roman hair pull. In a land of athletes and competitors, they make assets like cunning and intelligence look like heel moves. Their influence undeniable on a generation of performers who wanted to wrestle like Ricky Steamboat but talk like Ric Flair. Because we always need guys who can talk. Men who can tell you how much their client will dominate the contest by giving you the verbal equivalent. Men who can talk and back it up. Between a backdrop and a camera lives a place for men who can talk. If they’re angry enough they might fire their words so hard that people call it shooting. Paul Heyman was a self-titled schmuck from Jersey who talked his way backstage and talked his way into helping Dusty Rhodes book the shows. He talked his way into assembling a squad of assassins, ever-changing, to make him look good. Mick Foley may have leapt off of his roof onto a pile of mattresses, but it is the fading VHS promos of a young Dude Love that made Paul Heyman talk Mick Foley into using his frustration to make people feel things about wrestling besides apathy or adrenaline. Mick Foley lost his ear in a German wrestling ring, but is the malcontent Mankind who makes the beast fully human. Chris Jericho was born into hockey and community college communications classes. He drinks rock ‘n’ roll for breakfast. Chris Jericho is like Madonna. He has many iterations. Everyone of them knows how to make a crowd part of the show. Punk-Ass Smartmouth WCW Jericho picked fights with Goldberg and unraveled a ream of old printer paper as he read his list of 1004 Holds in order in the center of the ring. They had to cut to commercial. Bobby Heenan is that asshole uncle at the family reunion; the one who says the most terrible things but still gets the funny motherfucker pass. Husky Harris was called the Tank With The Ferrari Engine, but when he retreated to Louisiana and watched a lot of Cape Fear, Bray Wyatt was born preaching the gospel of the swamp and creating such a magnetic presence that when he walks to the ring, the arena goes dark and people turn on their cellphones like lanterns. They are called the Fireflies. They are hungry for his words. Wrestling at its base is guys fighting and guys talking. Everyone wants to go heel because the bad guys always have the best dialogue. John Cena is a superstar babyface who rose to prominence as a shit-talking freestyle rapper who majored in Thuganomics. Everybody hated that guy. He was just another action figure until he freestyled on a tour bus one night. If you can talk your ticket is written. CM Punk dropped pipebombs. Steve Austin was the Intercontinental Trash Talk Champion. Randy Savage said a lot of words in a row while spinning in a circle, and we loved every word we never understood. Even Hulk Hogan learned the importance of The Big Speech. The day he formed the New World Order and told the fans to stick it broke thousands of little Hulksters’ hearts. One action, but lots of incendiary words. To sell yourself to the audience you cut a promo. You become the best salesman in the office. You will have to be as compelling as phrases like wallowing in the muck of avarice or Do I have your attention NOW. If you have something to say, there’s your mic. Prove it. We always need guys who can talk. Lure, Or Paul Heyman and I Go To Hot Topic Because It’s BOGO T-Shirt Weekend After Ellyn Touchette Even before we enter the store, When we are still by LensCrafters, scream-o music throbs from Hot Topic’s retail orifices, making small children uncomfortable and forcing old people to cross to the other side as if these Sons of Slipknot have a posse (caveat: in this mall, they very well may). Paul chuckles and says, This sound was cutting edge back when we had Shane Douglas drop the belt in Philly. Now it’s just elevator music. He’s dressed to the nines (as is his way) and I couldn’t feel more like a fanboy in my Daniel Bryan ballcap and nWo T-Shirt, but the truth is it’s Buy One Get One weekend at the one place in the mall that still carries wrestling t-shirts, and really cool ones. Not the ones with cartoonish depictions of Technicolor superheroes (though Paul and I do have a feverish debate as to whether or not he’d be the perfect casting for Doctor Octopus in a Spidey movie— there’s nothing wrong with superheroes in context after all). The display upfront is overflowing with those adorable POP! collectables made by FunKo, the ones that look like Hello Kitty attempting cosplay. The Architect of Extreme raises his eyebrows And beelines for them— My kids love these, he tells me. Dark Willow! I reply. We hold up little Groots and Green Lanterns to show each other that we may or may not buy. Arrrgh, Paul. I can’t get caught up here. I came to find some t-shirts. I walk in to a wall of Adventure Time, Marvel Comics, and vintage logos from 90’s bands. The 19-year old bangled employee leans on the counter looking at me, attempting customer service via mental telepathy. I ask her, Do you have any t-shirts that say “I’m a Paul Heyman Guy”? Who’s Paul Heyman? I look over to Paul with my head on a swivel. He’s loading up a basket with the cutest Walking Dead bobbles you’ve ever seen. He’s heard none of this. I want him to set down the basket and say Ladies and gentlemen, My name is Paul Heyman, and I am the advocate for Rob Sturma and his shopping needs. I want him to spend ten minutes dressing down and deconstructing the terrible floor plan executed by the assistant manager. He only sets the basket down on the counter and says, I’m definitely getting these, as soon as my friend is done picking out shirts. Rob, did you find anything? Uh, yeah. An old school Macho Man in lavender and one with a retro Bash At The Beach logo. And some Punk stuff on clearance. Put ‘em in the basket. Paul, are you sure? He insists because we both know there’s nothing like a good sale. The Nerd Bait at the entrance has worked. Most Likely To Recede For T. Bollea You weren’t the first to wear a colorful doo-rag. Superstar Billy Graham was on that tip when your mane was still thick and lustrous. Back when you answered to Thunderlips and showed the world how tiny Rocky Balboa really was. Even with lifts. Back when you could part your hair to one side. At first it was headbands, A throwback to your bass-playing Florida past, but the forehead was a fighter, Terry. It grew at the rate of your popularity. By the time you formed the New World Order, the doo-rag Was back in black. Because I’m a rebel biker, brother. No, the Undertaker was a rebel biker. And he wore a bandana. You really should just go full Jason Statham Or Patrick Stewart. Hulkster, those final platinum strands crawling down your skull Are telling you they want to be free. Bald is beautiful, dude. 1980 was fun but presidents have come and gone since then. We’ll do a Kickstarter for the clippers if your assets are tied up. The last time The Ultimate Warrior put on his mask, he had a crewcut. You know how jacked up Ric Flair’s head looks now. Don’t do it for me, Daddy. DO IT FOR ALL THE LITTLE HULKAMANIACS IT’S A HAIR VS HAIR MATCH AND YOU’RE THE WINNER BRUTUS THE BARBER BEEFCAKE CAN HELP BRYAN CRANSTON SHAVED HIS HEAD AND THE RATINGS WERE OFF THE CHAIN SUPERCUTS AT THE SILVERDOME IN A STEEL CAGE No seriously, Terry. Just shave it off. Unlatching for Ric Flair You were cock and swagger Also Spake Zarathustra and feather bow You never worried about the character Because you never played one Decades of being the template The Man Platinum tresses so you would be Gorgeous Timeless Eighty thousand dollars on hand-made robes When you howled into the dark, the dark howled back. But it was time to slow down. To take your Hall of Fame ring, to let someone else be the Man; to evolve-- It is tough to wear your age In a world of the young and hungry. You hear them say I’m sorry I love you as they put you down for the last time. It should be the last time. You wear the last time on a watch, A promise that you will not ask to do this anymore. The problem with wrestlers is that it is easy to believe your own myth. Your tastes in champagne and cigars, The honeymoon suite on Space Mountain, the one with the revolving door. Now you do whatever you can To hear the dark howl back. To feed the beast. You are legacy. Please know this. The ramp will always honor your boots, welcome your thousand dollar shoes. This is not an unlatching. This is a thank you and a throne to sit in. You’re still the Man, and for once, we love The Man.
December 23, 2014