Volume 2, Issue 136
March 1, 1997
As I mentioned in an earlier newsletter I had the pleasure of being present at and participating in a live broadcast of the "Cheap Seats" program on the Extreme Sports Network this past weekend in Sanfrancisco. This program was hosted and produced respectively by Readers' Forum regulars Hitman and J-BYRD. During the broadcast I was interviewed as well as Jimmy Hart, Sister Sherri and Harlem Heat. What follows as a transcript from one of those interviews. I will be running the rest of them in future issues of the Newletter.
Interview with Harlem Heat
Hitman: Welcome back to the Extreme Sports Network, your in the Cheap Seats with yours truly the Hitman, and joining us now are two of the baddest fellas from WCW... Harlem Heat!
Booker T: Get it right Hitman! Two of the baddest in the wrestling business!!
Stevie Ray: We are the six time and greatest tag team in the history of wrestling!!
Hitman: O.K. I'll try to get it right (laugh). By the way Booker T nice boots brotha..
Booker T: Thank you very much! (Booker T had some Killer Cowboy boots, Stevie ray didn't)
Hitman: What do you got Stevie Ray?
Stevie Ray: Don't worry what I got! Get on with the Interview, this isn't no fashion show!
Hitman: (laughs) Alright, take it easy fellas. Tommrrow night six guys in the ring battling it out for tag team supremecy.......
Booker T: First off Hitman, it's not a six man tag team event its a triangle match!!!!!!!!!!!
Stevie Ray: Get it right please!
Booker T: Let me try to explain the rules to people in radio land that have no clue.......You have the Harlem Heat, the greatest tag team of all time in one corner, you have the chumps Faces of Fear in another, and Public Enemy. Me and my brotha we goin in to this thing, and soon as we finish business we will be payin somebody, tell him brotha....
Stevie Ray: The rules are very very clear. If you know anything about pro wrestling you know who the king of triangle matches is........
Booker T: Tell'em!!!........
Stevie Ray: It's Harlem Heat baby. We won the last title by beating the Steiners , Sting and Lex Luger. The four top guys in the business and we beat them all in the middle of the ring....to win the titles for the sixth time!
Booker T: Public Enemy are two guys that are suppossed to be from the streets, that wanna come down and dance.....y'all have no rhythem!!! But can you dig it!!! Then you got two fishing chumps that escaped from Gilligans Island that want to get on the other side and come at the heat...but brotha I'm going to put it to you like this..when the smoke clears there's going to be fried salmon in the ring, and Public Enemy will know what it's like to come down and grace the shoes of Booker T and Stevie Ray!
Hitman: Hey fellas you haven't seen myself the Hitman or J-Byrd wrestle you know...?
Stevie Ray: WHO????????
Hitman: Me and my executive produces J-Byrd! Give it to em J-Byrd...(J is tripping out)
Booker T: Your boy J-Byrd? He looks like Boy George!!!!!!
(Everyone Laughing hysterically with Stevie Ray and Booker T, J-Byrds face beat red ready to kill me)
Stevie Ray: He looks like he's trying to make a singing comeback!!!
Hitman: (After laughing my butt off) We have some internet questions for you...first one from Ryan Semmes from Mississippi State Univerity....He wants to know (paraphrasing the question) what role black atheltes have in wrestling and is there sterotyping?
Stevie Ray: First off, when it comes to "black athletes", we don't look at ourselves as "black" We are athletes first and foremost!!!!......
Booker T: True!
Stevie Ray: Whatever our heritage is speaks for itself....As far as role models goes......What kid wouldn't like to be like us, you know what I'm sayin??..... Who wouldn't want to be a winner, who wouldn't want to go out and beat people up. We are a role model for American Youth!
Booker T: We're role models because we are from 110th street! We could have fell into all of the problems in life....
Stevie Ray: LIKE RADIO!!
Booker T: We beat people up everyday back in the day, so we put our heads together and said.."look we could get paid to beat people up" and not go to jail....
Stevie Ray: If I beat you up right now Hitman, I might get put in jail or have a lawsuit coming my way...However, if I get in the ring......
Hitman: It's LEGAL!!!
Booker T: That right your just a squirrel trying to get across the street!
Hitman: gotcha. You guys had the gold a few months back, now you don't. You have the Outsiders to deal with now, how do you get the gold back....
Booker T: GET A MATCH!!!!!! You know the titles were stolen from us in October...NOT ONE TIME, NOT ONE TIME, have we received a title shot!! And everytime we have regained the titles the WCW or the white collars up on the 12th floor if you know what I'm saying, put the stipulations down that we have to put the belts on the line THE NEXT DAY!!! What's the problem with that????
Hitman: I hear you. You guys need to get the Outsiders in the ring...
Stevie Ray: NWO had a tag-team invitational tournament last month and we DIDN'T EVEN RECEIVE A INVITATION!!! What's up with that? Six time champs and we don't even get a call! Hall and Nash are a couple of sissy, tall, punks that are runnin from the Harlem Heat.....
Booker T: It reminds me of Mike Tyson fighting all these tomato cans, then finally gets the guts up to fight a true champ and gets K.O'd! Same thing with you outsiders you will be Knocked Out Suckas!!!
Hitman: Next internet question...Donovan from Massachussettes wants to know your contract situation....
Booker T and Stevie Ray: (at the same time) None of your business!!!! Stevie Ray: I know its a shame to live in Mass. but don't call in with dumb questions like that!
Hitman: Fellas good luck tommorrow, hope you get the job done (bad play on words) and beat up some heads or J-Byrd and Myself will have to beat on ya.....
Booker T: (laughs) We are the #1 contenders, everyone will see, if the Steiners didn't have their wreck, this would've been the big wreck!! We the best YOU know it, I know it and even Boy George over there knows it!!!! Everybody on the radio knows it........
Stevie Ray: It ain't no thing!! Hitman: Fellas thanks for joining the show!!!!
Stevie Ray: It's been YOUR PLEASURE!! Booker T: When we hit the Cow Palace it will be like the earthquake his this city again.....
Hitman: We'll take a quick break more to come on the Extreme Sports Network......
End of Interview
(Note from the Hitman: Too bad we didn't have more time, that's radio. Booker T and Stevie Ray were a riot.....they definitely we're in character unlike Sherri. Off the mic, they were very cool and Booker T kicked my butt on the Sony Playstation...he was tough!!)
A Summary of Bret Hart's Weekly Column from the Calgary Sun
This weeks column is entitled Extreme Case of Bad Wrestling
Bret starts out saying "Since ECW was on RAW, I've some things to say about it"
He notes that it was originally known as Eastern Championship Wrestlingand that the upstart group wasn't satisfied with its reputation as a local promotion, not in the same category as the so-called "Big Two" (WWF and WCW). It claimed its wrestlers were just as talented and tough as those in the big leagues, but its wallet was empty and it couldn't buy national exposure in the U.S.
He goes on, "Accepting that it couldn't compete with the big boys, yet determined not to be second-rate, ECW had a business plan to distinguish itself from WWF and WCW as an entirely different -- more "extreme" -- kind of wrestling. To reflect its new approach, it changed its name to Extreme Championship Wrestling. The new name simultaneously defined its chosen style of wrestling and eliminated the perception of regional boundaries".
He says that ECW targeted the segment of wrestling fans who prefer violence and blood to technical ability and fair competition, offering them a gory alternative to WWF-style wrestling. "These fans often get more enjoyment out of trying to finding out what happens behind the scenes in the wrestling business than in watching wrestling. The idea was to establish themselves to these so-called "smart, hardcore" fans as not only the No. 1 wrestling group, but as the only group to cater to a more violent style. Every couple of weeks, about 800 devoted ECW regulars make their pilgrimage to a Philadelphia bingo hall where, programmed by conditioned response, the mob periodically erupts into angry, often profane chants. With impassioned screams of "we want blood," they throw chairs and other objects at the "wrestlers" (and I use that term loosely here) and at each other".
Bret says these are not isolated incidents. "As a group, the ECW's followers have been so desensitized to violence that when talking about a recent pyrotechnic effect that went wrong -- setting a wrestler on fire and burning some fans in the front row -- many fanatics who saw it said it 'looked awesome!'
" As well, women in the promotion are often brutalized by men. As many of you know, WCW recently made me a generous offer to work for them. One reason I didn't go is I wanted to ensure my future was handled with as much integrity as my past. It's not so much a knock on WCW as it is on Hulk Hogan's megalomanical approach to booking. Therefore, I was concerned when I heard that ECW would be appearing on the WWF's RAW show last Monday".
Bret says "I couldn't understand why Vince McMahon would allow the WWF to be associated with something so low-class. It made more sense when I heard it was Jerry (The Jerk) Lawler's fault. Lawler was annoyed by a fanatic who held up an ECW sign during the Feb. 17 Raw. He bad-mouthed ECW -- which is the first time -- and probably the only time -- Lawler and I have agreed on anything!"
Lawler challenged ECW to show up on the Feb. 24 RAW -- and they did. "For a guy who claims to be the king of wrestling, Lawler showed he's nothing but a pawn because he was manipulated by a second-rate wrestling group into giving them exposure on the WWF's most prestigious non-pay-per-view show. Actually, to call ECW "second-rate" isn't accurate because to me, it doesn't even rate".
Bret finds It interesting that ECW wants to be on RAW. "ECW cult guru, Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman) has brainwashed his followers into believing ECW is a rebel group that won't dilute the extreme nature of its "style" to conform to TV censors or arena administrators. While this philosophy has cultivated ECW's loyal following in their home area", he notes that it has kept them from expanding into other venues and limited them to poor TV timeslots in only a few markets. "It is not surprising Heyman is now trying to convince the cable companies his product is similar to WWF and WCW. What better way to show them that ECW has the WWF's stamp of approval than to be on RAW!"
Bret says that the style of the ECW matches on RAW was changed to make them acceptable to censors and fans. "You'd think ECW followers would be outraged the ECW matches on RAW were not hard-core. You'd think they'd turn on Paul E. for selling out everything he'd been preaching to them".
"Instead, they all waved at the cameras".
The Eye On Wrestling
I am quite sure, that a great majority of the readers of this column find no joy in being sick in bed for a few days. Of course, when one needs rest, and relaxation, not many things can be accomplished. This is where the wrestling video tapes, and all their little imperfections play a major roll in passing time, and adding that all important background noise when we should really be sleeping.
I don't quite know what gave me the idea to do this, but I decided to listen specifically to the many announcing teams on the tapes. After all. Wrestling commentators and color-commentators provide yours truly with what is happening during the course of a wrestling match. I thought it might be fun to rate some of the announcers and analysts, and give you a blind wrestling fan's perspective on those who call the action.
It is probably best to begin this by giving you my definition of what an ideal announcing team should be. It is the job of the play-by-play man to call the action. He should give the fans who are watching a match the correct name of a move, damage done to the opponent, ETC. After all of these steps are met, the color commentator, or analyst adds insight and reasons for why things are taking place.
It is without a doubt that the overall worst commentator has got to be Vince McMahon. I can't tell you how many wrestling events and telecasts I have walked away from, not feeling satisfied with my knowledge of what just took place. To often McMahon will describe a move, no matter what it is as, "unbelieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeviable!, "OOOOOOOOO my! What a move!, and other such descriptions. He seems to forget the fact that he is calling a wrestling match. A point could be made that McMahon is only doing what the television audience wants him to do. After all. That is what the screen is for. Right? Wrong! Whenever McMahon works with a partner, too much emphasis is placed on the argument that goes on between the two partners. When McMahon broadcasted with Jesse the Body Ventura, it was Jesse who provided the fans with the action as well as expert analysis. Now when McMahon works along side of Jerry Lawler, virtually no attention is being payed to the match at all by either man.
I have heard that many people never cared for Gorilla Monsoon's brand of announcing, but I must disagree. Unlike McMahon, Monsoon stuck to the match. His view was hardly clouded by such things as whether the men in the ring were fan favorites or not. Granted, his long pathetic feud with Bobby Heenan made his announcing suffer a little, but he never lost the ability to call a good match.
Before I get into my discussion of the best/worst announcers, let me say a few things regarding today's current crop of action callers. The Monday Nitro broadcast team has made significant improvements since its' debut a few years ago. What once was the farce of wrestling announcing teams, has now evolved into one of the most respected in the business. Tony Schevoni is no slouch when it comes to calling the blow-by-blow action. Larry Zibisco will be a wonderful analyst, but he first needs the experience with the mic to polish his delivery. Most importantly, two overlooked, and I think two of the most efficient commentators, Bobby Heenan, and Mike Tenay, are finally getting their chance to shine in the spotlight.
Below I have compiled a list of announcers whom I consider to be the master commentators. If I failed to include one of your favorite announcers, it is probably because it is a lack of exposure that announcer receives in the national spotlight. It is not possible to rate, and view each announcer completely and accurately, since many are never presented for our critique on a national level. So Just who are these Master commentators anyway?
1. I think the overall best play-by-play man in the business is Jim Ross. I am not talking about the Jim Ross that has been relegated to doing WWF hotline interviews, and Vince McMahon's lackey on Raw programs.. There is no question that Ross is just a shadow of what he once was. When Jim was in his prime in the NWA and UWF, he gave the observing fans a complete account of what was going on in the ring. He didn't spend his time reminding everybody that they were watching the Clash of Champions on the Superstation! Jim could make you feel like you were right there in the ring, and provide the perfect blend of expert play-by-play and excitement.
2. Ok Gordon Solie fans, your man is ranked number two in my book. However, putting Solie as number two is like comparing chocolate ice cream to peanut butter ice cream. They both are favorites of mine. So fear not. If Gordon Solie had not made his mark on Professional Wrestling, we would never have been given the tools to even measure the announcing teams as we are doing today. When Mr. Solie calls a match, he combines his wealth of experience and timing, with the student approach to each individual wrestling hold and move. Solie is no glitz. No glamour. But one hardly misses any of those things while listening to Mr. Solie's selfless account of a wrestling match.
3. Lance Russel of Memphis fame is also good at his craft. He takes his time during a match. He seems to saver the action, and his deep southern voice invites the fans to linger a while longer and watch the matches. Lance never insults the intelligence of the wrestling fan, and at his age, he has seen it all in the ring.
4. My overall best color commentator is overlooked by many of the fans. Say what you will about Terry Funk's tactics in the ring, but I think you will admit that he knows his stuff. The man has enormous insight into wrestling, and he is articulate in his delivery. Funk only lasted in announcing for about a year, but that was because he still had five good years of wrestling left in him. Now that the old man has finally decided to hang-em-up, he should really consider a job as a ringside analyst.
5. What would the world of wrestling be like without the flamboyant Jesse Ventura. A case could be made that Ventura has been the best analyst that this sport has ever seen. He calls things as he sees them, most of the time. He is able to add keen insight to the matches he works. However, what cheapens him somewhat is his interaction with his announcing colleagues. Sometimes Ventura distorted the view of a match, only to argue with the play-by-play man.
It is important to note here that all of the above mentioned announcers were and are truly at the top of their field. I have tried to not let personal biases stand in the way, and concentrate on facts as best I could. Depending on your own personal preferences, childhood memories, and other such life shaping events, your opinion may differ. If you really stop and think about it, I think you will begin to realize how important the wrestling announcer is when we consider the overall production of a wrestling program. It is like they say about an official in sports. The less you notice him, the better job he is doing.
And with that, the eye on wrestling is closed until next time.
Note, any questions, comments, criticisms, ETC. can be emailed to: email@example.com. I enjoy communicating with you, the fans of this great sport, and I do read every email sent to me.
Jeremy Hartley is a regular contributor to Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
I'll be back on Monday night. Until then...
Anyway, that's the way I see it...
editor Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
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