Despite how Thanksgiving-bloated I look in the video thumbnail, this was one of the most fun I’ve ever had on a podcast. @afterbuzztv, @jquasto, @catherinekelley @thewalkingdale. #Raw #TLC
This is fun. @mccarthyredhead, @TheTomSibley and @VinceAverill do a phenomenal job retelling a story I was lucky(?) enough to be involved in following the most recent Pro Wrestling Guerrilla show in Reseda. If you don’t listen to their podcast, “We Watch Wrestling”, check it out. It’s one of my favorites.
Here is an audio recording of a show I did in October. Bryan Cook’s amazing creation, Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction. Well, I won. And I chose to write about someone near and dear to my heart - Walter White Jr. aka Flynn White from Breaking Bad.
Was it in poor taste? Yes, very. Very very much so. But that’s the nature of the show. My friend Katie, who basically does all the podcasts for Nerdist, came up to me after my set and said, “That was disgusting… but hilarious.” And that was probably the goal. Also, when my good buddy, Mike Burns, won Competitive Erotic at JFL Chicago over the summer by choosing Guy Fieri, he posted a link to his piece on Facebook (which was reposted on Vice.com) and said, “IF YOU ARE A MEMBER OF MY FAMILY DO NOT READ THIS. I’M SERIOUS, MOM." I would like to add the same. You’ve been warned.
So Major League Baseball’s owners voted to go ahead with ‘vast expansion’ of instant replay next season. And I hate it. Here’s why.
First, let me get some things out of the way…
I don’t want to get all Ken Burnsy on you, but baseball is an old fashioned game. That’s why we love Fenway Park and Wrigley Field and hate AstroTurf and aluminum bats and steroids. It’s why uniforms are still basically based on ridiculous fashions from the 19th Century and baseball managers still have to wear them - even though no manager has played in a game in 27 years. I mean, to make 68-year-old Jim Leyland roll out of the clubhouse like he’s playing baseball player dress-up in the same shit Little Leaguers wear is crazy. Comedians have been making jokes about the equivalents (say old Joe Paterno in Penn State shoulder pads or Phil Jackson in Lakers short-shorts) for years. But that’s what baseball does. And I don’t want that changed either.
Yes, I watched the Armando Galarraga 28-out-perfect game in 2010. And Jim Joyce made a horrible call. But guess what - both of them became beloved because of it. They went in to business together afterwards. And since I hate the Cardinals and the Yankees, I know that for every 1996 Derek Jeter/Jeffrey Maier home run, there’s a 1985 Don Denkinger call at first base. Bad calls are just as much a part of the game as bad throws, dropped fly balls and home runs off of Jose Canseco’s head. It’s just that, to be in the Majors, everyone on the field has had to prove they don’t do any of those things every often.
Okay, that being said, here’s the real reason I don’t want instant replay…
I love when managers freak out. You do too. Admit it. It’s one of the greatest things in American sports. It’s one of the greatest things ever, period. And instant replay will deny me the satisfaction of watching said American greatness.
The late, great Earl Weaver is one of my favorite all-time managers because he was ejected from both games of a doubleheader three different times. And twice before a game even started. The guy even had a career-long feud with an umpire named Ron Luciano. And that’s not even the umpire from the famous, “You’re a liar, Earl!” video that I love so much. An umpire once asked Earl Weaver if he wanted to look at his rule book and Weaver said no, because he couldn’t read braille. He told another guy that if he showed up to the What’s My Line? game show wearing a mask, a chest protector and a ball/strike indicator, nobody would be able to guess he was an umpire. He kicked dirt on them. He turned his hat backwards so he could scream as close to them as possible without touching them. And that’s just Earl Weaver. We’re not even getting in to the legendary meltdowns from guys like Lou Pinella or some of the amazing minor league videos out there. I want dirt kicked! I want caps thrown on the ground! I want bases tossed! And I want old men to do all of it wearing ridiculous uniforms even though they don’t play!
Here’s another fun example…
In 2004, I convinced Mike Burns to sneak back into a bar he’d been kicked out of by wearing a fake mustache… because that’s what I’d seen Bobby Valentine do in a Mets game after he was ejected in 1999. Valentine’s plan didn’t work. Mine did.
Baseball is the one of the last bastions of the old school meltdown. Tennis has had it’s share of John McEnroes, but those wieners are screaming up at those lifeguard chairs while the umpires stare ahead motionlessly like British pussies. And other sports have things like referee whistles and coaches wearing suits. They don’t have the majesty of the swooping ‘yer-outta-here’ motion that baseball umpires get to do. And they don’t have old men in children’s clothing with anger management problems overreacting like maniacs right before and right after that happens.
Earl Weaver died this past January. Don’t make all of the fun go with him.
I just had an audition at E! and, before I could check in with reception, a guy in a shitty suit and sneakers barged in and demanded a meeting with the network.
And when the lady gave him a number to call, he loudly launched into “When You Wish Upon A Star.” I caught the tail end of it on my phone. Sorry about the pole being in the way for most of it. I didn’t want to be obvious and you never know just how crazy anyone in L.A. is.
When I went back to the receptionist to get my parking validated, I was informed that the guy had been forcibly removed by security. That’s when I leaned in to the receptionist and said, “I just want you to know… that I have the most beautiful singing voice in the whole world.” And she shot me a serious look and said, “Don’t you start too!”
Remember this story I posted back in March? It was about Dr. Conrad Murray (the guy who murdered Michael Jackson)’s girlfriend not wanting to kiss me in a commercial audition. I told it on You Made It Weird and I do a version of it on stage.
Anyway, today I was hanging out with my friend Brady and he mentioned having a commercial audition at a place that I also frequent for commercial auditions. And he said he liked to audition in the ‘big room’ there because it used to be a recording studio and Michael Jackson had recorded there. And I didn’t know that. He said they even have a photo of him in that room from when he recorded. This was all news to me.
So when I got home, I Googled it. Because I know that big room well. I auditioned for the Burger King and Nike spots I did this year in that room. And sure enough, Michael Jackson recorded almost all of Off The Wall in that room in 1979.
Then it dawned on me…
The room where Michael Jackson recorded almost all of Off The Wall… WAS THE SAME ROOM WHERE THE GIRLFRIEND OF DR. CONRAD MURRAY - THE MAN WHO MURDERED MICHAEL JACKSON - REFUSED TO KISS ME IN AN AUDITION!!!
That’s just like a big Hollywood showbiz snake eating itself over and over for my amusement. I already enjoyed having that initial experience. But this was just like Life Columbo coming back into the room and saying, “Just one more thing.”
Don’t stop til you get enough, Michael.
NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the National League. And I don’t really know who’s second. Just for fun, I’ll say it’s Jose Fernandez. Or a non-hurt Matt Harvey. But Kershaw is so far-and-away the best (like Justin Verlander in the AL in 2011) that a lot of people want him to be MVP as well. I’ll go on the record and say that I hate when pitchers (especially fucking relief pitchers) win the MVP award. They have their own awards and they’re probably not the most ‘valuable’, anyway. The only exception I would make is if A) a pitcher is dominant in his league (leads in things like strikeouts, WHIP, ERA, etc) and B) the position player debate is murky and/or it’s 1968 in the American League and every hitter sucks. Of course, that year Denny McLain won the AL MVP because he had 31 wins, even though Luis Tiant probably had a better year and nobody had read Moneyball yet. If you get any of those references, I’m proud of you.
The problem for Kershaw with the MVP award is that Andrew McCutchen has way too many things going for him. 1. He has the best stats in the league (slightly edging Paul Goldschmidt). 2. His team will be in the post-season, which always helps. And 3. That team happens to be the Pittsburgh Pirates, who haven’t had a playoff team OR A WINNING SEASON since 1992. Like, they’ve lost more games than they’ve won for the past 20 years. Remember when Barry Bonds tried to throw out slow ass Sid Bream in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS? That was their last playoff appearance. And their last winning season. Give the goddamn MVP to McCutchen.
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera
Yup. I bet Mike Trout feels like Albert Pujols did from 2001-2004 when Barry Bonds flew too close to the sun. And man, Chris Davis is such an asshole. But it’s Cabrera. You know it is.
AL Cy Young: Max Scherzer
He’s probably going to win this on his 21-3 record, alone. But his overall stats beat Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma, Chris Sale, Anibal Sanchez and all the other AL frontrunners. If Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, Scherzer was #2, at least for 2013.
Last Saturday night, as I got into a car with Tom Sibley, Matt McCarthy and Vince Averill to head to Night 2 of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s Battle of Los Angeles, Sibley turned to me and said, “Are you ready to have the greatest night of your life?” And I didn’t know how to answer. I’d never been to a PWG show before. I mean, I’d heard about it. Plenty of times. A lot of people know I’m a wrestling fan. And they also know I live in Los Angeles. So when fellow wrestling nerds inevitably asked, “Have you been to PWG?” and I told them I hadn’t yet, it was like a gigantic automatic loss of street cred. I’d been to three SummerSlams in a row. I go to Monday Night Raw whenever it’s in town. I go to Lucha Va Voom almsot every time and I’ve even gone to a couple Championship Wrestling from Hollywood tapings. But saying I’d never been to PWG show was like a self-professed comedy fan in L.A. saying they love the Jay Leno monologue on The Tonight Show, but they’d never checked out Meltdown on a Wednesday.
After a short drive and an early dinner, we parked at the American Legion in Reseda and proceeded to wait in line with the other diehards for about two hours. Because that’s what you do. I’d been warned before by Vince that the smaller the wrestling venue is, the fatter the fans would be. But in this case, everyone seemed pretty cool and normal. Well, not everyone. There were some hardcore fatso dweebs, but for the most part, people were young and seemed to have their shit together. The women were surprisingly un-hideous. And there wasn’t a vibe of the "It’s still real to me, dammit" guy that I was kinda expecting. TV’s Ron Funches was there. Jonny Loquasto came later. Justin Donaldson from UCB was there. And I overheard a kid in line talking to Funches about his brother - who happens to be a famous Indian comedian from South Carolina. I mean, these were fucking hipsters! At an indy wrestling show in Reseda. And most of them had been the previous night too. People couldn’t stop talking about someone named Brian Cage having a really bad landing from a botched powerbomb. They loved talking about the match with “Psycho Shooter” Drake Younger and Joey Ryan, where everyone thought Younger was going to dump thumbtacks into the ring, but instead he used hard candies and Legos while the crowd chanted “You sick fuck.” And they talked about how “Mr. Wrestling” Kevin Steen and “The Kentucky Gentleman” Chuck Taylor took a fan’s San Francisco Giants cap from the front row and proceeded to throw it on the mat and perform their moves onto the cap. And I’d never heard of most of those people. My initial thought was, “Who would go to Reseda two nights in a row to watch indy wrestling in an American Legion hall?” The answer to that question is EVERYONE WHO HAS EVER BEEN TO ONE OF THESE SHOWS, THAT’S WHO. It was the most amazing goddamn thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
To try to put things into perspective, I’ll use the most recent WWE SummerSlam as an example. Two of the matches on the card seemed to blow everyone away. They were CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar and Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena for the WWE Championship. They were incredible. The rest of the matches were just okay. Some were even pretty awful. But Punk-Lesnar and Cena-Bryan were amazing. Afterwards, as I was talking about those two matches in a bar, Jesse Popp still asked if I’d ever been to a PWG show. He and Vince agreed that while those two matches were great, one of the PWG shows Popp had been to had a spot so insane that he literally fell out of his chair marking out. And when Dave Meltzer (the Bill James of professional wrestling and the critic/guru from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter all wrestling nerds worship) reviewed the Punk-Lesnar and Bryan-Cena matches, he gave them both 4.5 stars. In case you’re not aware, a 5 Star Meltzer match is so rare and prestigious, it has its own Wikipedia page. The last WWE match with a 5 Star rating (and only four other WWF/WWE matches have gotten 5 Star ratings, anyway) was John Cena vs. CM Punk from Money in the Bank in 2011. When I got that on pay-per-view at my old apartment back in 2011, I almost hyperventilated. Even non wrestling fans were jumping out of their seats and going ape shit in my living room. The most recent 5 Star match (Tomohiro Ishii vs. Katsuyori Shibata from last month’s New Japan G1 Climax) was suggested to me by a few friends. And when I watched it, I jumped out of my chair screaming “OH MY GOD” a few minutes in. So that’s how good a match can be. Sure, the version of pro wrestling most people are used to is mostly character-based and the actual matches are usually secondary to the storylines. But it’s not always the case. Some of these guys can do amazing things. The American wrestler with the most 5 Star matches is Ric Flair, who has six. And three of them are his classics with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat from 1989. But at the top of the list of the most 5 Star matches is a guy from Japan named Mitsuharu Misawa. He may have looked like a chubbier Benico Del Toro, but the man was in twenty four goddamn matches with 5 Star ratings between 1985 and 2003. That’s insane. And after some Googling following the show, I decided Misawa is a major reason PWG is so good.
Professional wrestling, like comedy or anything else, is subjective. Some people love the WWF’s Attitude Era with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and the Rock and DX. Or they like the Hulk Hogan Era. Some hardcore fans loved ECW. But it seems like, for a vast majority of wrestling snobs, the greatest era in the history of professional wrestling happened in the 90’s with a promotion called All Japan Pro Wrestling. It’s their Richard Pryor Live in Concert. And by contrast, Hogan vs. Andre the Giant from WrestleMania III would be Jeff Dunham. All Japan’s top stars at the time were Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, Toshiaki Kawada and Akira Taue and collectively they’re known as “The Four Corners of Heaven.” Their matches are the stuff of Internet legend. Not all their matches necessarily hold up in 2013, but if you were to just say, "6/3/94" to the nerdiest of nerd fans, they’d know the exact match (Misawa vs. Kawada) and tell you it was a flawless masterpiece and the greatest thing of all time. These four guys took the torch from a previous generation of great AJPW wrestlers and perfected the “King’s Road” style of wrestling. Their matches built slowly to bigger and bigger moves, constantly teasing finishes and signature moves. Their in-ring action played off of previous matches and finishes, telling a story within the context of a match based on the performers’ histories with each other. Oh, and they could get dangerous as fuck. Misawa was the mastermind behind most of it. When I was reading about the Four Corners of Heaven matches, I immediately thought of the insane series of WrestleMania matches the Undertaker had with Shawn Michaels and then Triple H between 2009 and 2012. The main difference is that Dave Meltzer never gave any of those matches anything higher than 4.75 stars.
In the tape trading era of wrestling nerddom, All Japan matches were a Holy Grail wet dream for fans outside of Japan. Nobody had ever seen that style of wrestling before. But Misawa’s style would have the biggest effect on American wrestling after he formed Pro Wrestling NOAH in 2000. That year, Misawa left All Japan Pro Wrestling after a dispute with the new owner (Giant Baba’s widow) over the direction of the company. And of the 26 Japanese wrestlers on the AJPW roster, 24 followed Misawa to his new promotion (one of the two who stayed was Kawada, who legitimately hated Misawa). And then AJPW also lost their TV contracts to NOAH. The Biblical name reflected the new beginning for those 24 men. But at NOAH, Misawa also set up relationships with independent American promotions, like Ring of Honor. And when ROH guys (independent wrestlers who could tour and do things like NOAH and PWG) would return from Japan, they had new skills and inspiration for their matches. Kobashi and Misawa even came to ROH events in 2005 and ‘07, much to the delight of nerd fans. When Misawa died in the ring in 2009, PWG posted that their company “would not exist, or at least not resemble its current form, were it not for” Misawa. ROH fans (and then PWG fans) adopted the streamers from All Japan and Pro Wrestling NOAH and the wrestlers adopted a style that would make them the top indy promotion in America. Indy wrestling was looking less like The Wrestler and more like violent Japanese performance art. Except that the fans were chanting “Ho-ly shit!” and “This is awesome!” for most of the show.
To go along with the PWG quote about Misawa, WWE itself could not exist in its current form without ROH. CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Antonio Cesaro, Seth Rollins and Evan Bourne are just a few of their guys who were indy stars before getting the call from WWE. They just signed El Generico and Sami Callihan to NXT, their developmental promotion. And all of the above have wrestled at Pro Wrestling Guerrilla over the past ten years. In fact, on their fifth show in 2003 (An Inch Longer Than Average - they usually have crazy names), you could have seen Punk and Bryan, as well as Colt Cabana and TNA’s Samoa Joe. It’s how I’m guessing people will talk about stand-up comedy shows in Chicago from 2006 and 2007. And that’s probably why one of the ‘celebrity’ sightings at Saturday’s PWG show was William Regal, who was there to scout talent for WWE. I’m guessing he wasn’t disappointed. PWG’s roster consists of the best independent wrestlers from around the country. Of ROH’s current roster, Adam Cole, ACH, Kevin Steen, Kyle O’Reilly, Michael Elgin, Roderick Strong and Tommaso Ciampa were on the show I attended. And while ROH is getting its iPPV issues sorted out and other promotions like Chikara are in (fake?) hiatus, many nerds in the Internet wrestling message board community are saying that PWG is the best promotion in the United States, independent or not (and arguably second in the world to New Japan Pro, who is having its own renaissance similar to AJPW in the ’90s). Got all that? It’s okay if you don’t. I didn’t when I walked in to that American Legion hall on Saturday. But afterwards, I just wanted to know (or have an idea of) why what I’d just seen had blown my goddamn mind.
What I saw was hours of insane matches and non-stop ‘top this’ moments and huge bumps with no breathers, except for the intermission (where everybody was raving about what they’d just seen). And if you’re sitting anywhere in the crowd you’re part of the show. Guys come flying, flipping and diving into the crowd from the ring while everyone scrambles to get out of the way. At one point, Kevin Steen (by far the most popular performer with the fans) landed in a chair right in front of me before he was attacked by Johnny Gargano. Most of the matches warranted a “this is awesome” chant from the rabid crowd. After Kyle O’Reilly beat ACH in a roller coaster of a match, the crowd chanted “please come back!” to ACH. Fans scream-sang Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” to taunt the Young Bucks before they and Adam Cole triple super kicked (very talented) female wrestler, Candice LaRae. Michael Elgin (who had his own 5 Star match with Davey Richards last year in Ring of Honor) held multiple wrestlers in a suplex for upwards of a minute. And Brian Cage got to powerbomb Tommaso Ciampa on top of chairs and the concrete floor as revenge for the botched spot the night before. These guys (and girl) were holding nothing back, beating the shit out of each other (and occasionally the fans) for our entertainment. And I’ve never seen anything like it. And that was before Steen hit the ring to end the night with a giant swerve in the storyline to leave the crowd chanting “what the fuck.” This was one of the very few things in my life that had been hyped up too much, but actually exceeded my expectations. I don’t know if it was the greatest night of my life, but I’ll be back again. Because one of these nights it just might be.
UPDATE: Here’s a video of some of the highlights.
#pwg #prowrestlingguerrilla #misawa