Wednesday, November 22, 2000
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
Too much 'Extreme' can ruin a show
After staging its first three events in front of disappointing crowds of merely 300 to 500 fans at the Fire Park Sports Complex, Western Canadian Extreme Wrestling finally drew an estimated audience of nearly 1,000 people to its fourth event on November 17th. The message had spread among Calgary wrestling fans via word of mouth and the Internet that there was something cooking of incendiary proportions over at Fire Park. The near-sellout crowd that this event drew was considered a watershed. Too bad the fans who came out didn't get nearly as good a show as the first three had been.
While its first three events were nothing short of excellent, WCEW tripped over its own feet with its fourth effort. The promotion which bills itself as "the dawning and continuation of a new era in professional wrestling" reduced itself to little more than a sideshow curiosity, as several of its matches featured the ridiculous use of things such as tables, garbage cans, cookie sheets, and ironing boards. The use of these things was ridiculous because not one of these matches had been specially designated as a "no disqualification", "anything goes" or "hardcore rules" match. This is an important point, because if matches like this are not specifically designated as ones in which the rules of "competition" are allowed to be circumvented, then the implicit message from WCEW is that circumventing the rules is permissible not only in these kinds of matches (which is fine), but in potentially ANY match on ANY of its shows at ANY time. Clearly, this was the kind of environment the purveyors of WCEW were attempting to establish during the show. That's not the kind of wrestling I believe in or support.
After a short but terrific mat wrestling clinic between The Sledgehammer and the Japanese star Otani, fans at Fire Park witnessed what was clearly going to be a "hardcore rules" match between Gary Williams and someone calling himself Massive Damage. When one of the competitors tosses a garbage can into the ring before the introductions are made, one can safely assume "hardcore rules" will be in play. Okay, everybody loves a good "hardcore" match once per show. The trouble was, no one made specific mention of the fact that it WAS a "hardcore" match -- not the ring announcer, not the people who write the programme, not anybody. But it was such a great match, I decided I wasn't going to nitpick.
The real trouble started a couple of bouts later, when Steve Rivers faced Johnny Devine. A garbage can was used in the very early stages of this bout, and there was no action taken by the referee. The sudden silence of the crowd was eerie. People started turning to each other with quizzical expressions as if to say, "Didn't we just see this?" An assortment of other household items and weaponry was used in this bout as well. Again, no one ever specifically stated that such things were allowed in this match. Having just witnessed the WIlliams-Damage encounter, certainly no one was expecting it.
A similar situation unfolded in the main event, a tag team match between the Durrango Brothers and Ali & Soddam Insane (Soddam Insane a main eventer? Whatever.) It was almost as if the wrestlers arbitrarily decided to halt the match at one point and rely exclusively on the myriad of weapons that was incorporated into the match from that point on, including the use of two tables. I'm as big an afficianado of a good table shot as the next fan, but there was simply no stated pretext where this would have been allowed, and that's wrong.
The obvious answer to my objection to this kind of "anything, anytime, anywhere" wrestling is, "What do you expect from a promotion that bears the word 'extreme' in its name?" Indeed, anybody who is even remotely familiar with wrestling today will be aware that the word "extreme" denotes exactly this kind of content (in addition to the free use of vulgar sexuality and other tasteless entertainment, which thankfully WCEW has stayed away from). The pervasiveness of the "extreme" genre is what caused me years ago (along with others) to rule out the offerings of most of today's wrestling promotions as a credible, believeable form of entertainment.
In point of fact, I had actually raised my concerns about this sort of thing with a representative of WCEW on several occasions prior to the promotion's first event, and was continually assured that things would not go that route despite the presence of the word "extreme" in the show's name. It speaks volumes that the person I spoke to about this no longer wishes to have her name associated with that of the promotion she used to represent.
WCEW's fourth show did feature a few really good bouts (Sledgehammer vs. Otani, Great Gama vs. Greg Pawluk, Marvin Pope & Gemini vs. Vic Viper & Bill Yates). In future, the creative minds in the dressing room should limit "hardcore"-style matches to one bout per card. The Williams - Damage bout was a fine example of a really good "hardcore" match -- or would have been if it had been the only one, and if it had been specifically designated as one, which it had not been.
In fairness, the purveyors of WCEW (as opposed to the wrestlers) do not have a great deal of experience in putting together a wrestling show. If they did, they would have capitalised on the success of their first three excellent events with this one. My hope is that the mistakes that WCEW made in its fourth event will be seen collectively as an aberration, a blight on an otherwise sterling record, and a mistake from which to learn and to never be repeated.
Michael Dean Kozbial is from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.