It’s Still Real To Me A Wrestling Column by Michael James Hall 3

It’s Still Real To Me A Wrestling Column by Michael James Hall

This is probably the first time you’ll be reading about my beloved pro wrestling on the hallowed virtual pages of God Is In The TV and, many would say, there are very good reasons for that; it’s fake; it’s silly; it’s brash, loud and annoying; it’s violent and unpleasant.

Thing is though? It’s all of those things and it’s none of them – it’s ballet with chair-shots, it’s poetry with piledrivers, it’s high drama writ large across town halls, arenas and stadia across the world. The wrestling is soap opera without the bullshit – every problem gets solved in the ring and believe me, EVERYONE’s got a problem in pro wrestling. When the wrestling’s in town the carnival is here, vaudeville is back, movies are being made live in front of your disbelief-suspending eyes.

Over the last few years a narrow majority of people I’ve met on the music ‘scene’ have been closet wrestling fans – recently, since the emergence of CM Punk and the appropriation of wrestling culture by some punk and hip hop kids (this has been going on at a less visible level for years by the way), these fans have emerged proudly from that closet, pointing at the Wrestlemania sign and making a fake belt around their middles with their hands. It’s time us indie scum stood up and were counted for our love of the game.

The wrestling is as real as you’re willing to let it be and I’ll lay it on the line and let you know that I believe it’s an art, and most important, an art form unlike any other– it’s like the bitter t-shirt says ‘Pro Wrestling is Real, People Are Fake’…

We’ll be dropping a few reviews and a bit of commentary here once in a while and we’re happy for you to get in touch via facebook or twitter (@michaeljamesh) and let us know what you’d like to see, whether we need to shut the hell up or how wonderful we are. We’re gonna open things up here with my review of the recently released ‘The Attitude Era’ triple-disc DVD – expect reviews of the Hell In A Cell 2012 DVD and the Survivor Series 2012 DVD to come soon from other members of the clique…


The Attitude Era 3DVD (WWE) Out Now

Well I hate to start with a downer but this lengthy, pricey triple disc effort is extremely unlikely to give newcomers much of a flavour of what WWE’s legendary ‘Attitude Era’ was all about – at the same time, diehard fans will be baffled at the match selections and crazy omissions.

Starting with disc one’s documentary, a superficial, glossy, lazy affair (was nothing learned by WWE production from the superb CM Punk documentary last year?) we’re in standard DVD doc territory – a VERY limited number of talking heads put over the years from ’97-2001(Pat Patterson? REALLY?), celebrating it as a glorious time for the industry – the Monday Night Wars, Kane and Undertaker, Stone Cold Vs Rock, and, as Big Show himself puts it – a time when ‘nothing was meaningless’ with storylines that played out over months and more often than not, actually made sense (take note current bookers!).

There’s a little too much of the bullshit of the era here – Vince Russo’s tragic ‘Brawl For All’, Christian calling Val Venis’ cringeworthy porn star gimmick ‘cool’ and Mark Henry referring to an unbearably homophobic storyline as something that ‘may have helped people’ (he means the gays, folks) are lowpoints but glimpses of the still exhilarating Austin/McMahon beerbath, the madness of the hardcore 24-7 title period and the invention of the TLC match do give you a clue as to just how important those years were.

There are the briefest of mentions of the backstage clamour to keep a top spot, the steroid scandal of the late ‘80s that nerly felled the company and how the product nosedived after McMahon finally bought out WCW in 2001 and found himself without any meaningful competition but they amount to very little so swiftly are they covered. Marvel instead at the appearance of Monica Seles ringside during the height of WWE’s adult popularity….just plain weird.

The following discs boast an array of promos, segments and skits that are sometimes absolutely stunning, sometimes of vague interest and too often just bizarre filler;

In the first bracket we have the stunning Lion’s Den Match between Ken Shamrock and Owen Hart from Summerslam ’98 – it’s testament to how inventive and talented both of these performers could be; and there’s the outstanding Angle vs Austin vs Rock vs Taker vs Triple H vs Rikishi Hell In A Cell match from Armageddon 2000 which perfectly encapsulates the kind of star power WWE boasted at that time AND how hard they were willing to work to keep their spots.

In the middle there are skits from the likes of Marc Mero, plenty of fun Rock promos and a couple of key ‘turn’ moments – which is all well and good but almost impossible to enjoy without narrative context.

At the bottom of the barrel rest matches like Bart Gunn vs Steve Williams drawn from the previously mentioned Brawl for All concept. It’s unwatchable, it’s amateurish and it’s embarrassing. At best. Not AS bad but, hey, bad, is the D-Lo Brown vd Jeff Jarrett match from SummerSlam ’99…I mean, you’ve got to be kidding. There’s even ANOTHER D-Lo Brown match in the shape of his tag match with the execrable Godfather against the best-forgotten Too Cool. Is that GENUINELY the best you could do WWE?

So sure The Attitude Era is probably the most exciting and interesting time period in the modern history of pro wrestling BUT this is not how you celebrate it…the WWE 13 game actually has a storyline feature that better represents the spirit of the season. As potentially thrilling but sadly disappointing as a John Cena Hurricanrana.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.