While normally I would be publishing this weekend edition on Saturday morning, this weekend is Christmas and I am going out of town. So I have prepared this edition with a wrap-up of the weeks events and a reprint of a Solie's Christmas Tradition at the end of the page.
But first, here is the final installment of our article which answers the burning question of modern wrestling, "What ever happened to Black Bart?" :-)
(Dallas Observer, November 6-12, 1997)
By Thomas Korosec
From the first row of seats, pro wrestlers Kit Carson Wendt and Nic Cangiamilla shout tips and advice to the students while Fowler, in street clothes, climbs in himself to show how it's done. "This is why I don't come down here too many Saturdays -- I can't stay out of the ring," he says.
Then Cangiamilla and Wendt take turns giving the more advanced students some ring experience. Student J.R. West, a wisp of a man, goes at it first with muscle-bound Cangiamilla, who wrestles under the name "Glamour Boy" Nic Golden. In a few minutes, West goes to the fists. "Use the ones you know!" Bart yells as West throws a few chest and gut punches, stomping his foot in near-perfect timing, amplifying the blows.
Eighteen-year-old Jason Gallaway, a Red Oak High School graduate who's attended another wrestling school and is being "polished up" by Bart, goes at it next with Wendt, an agile 210-pounder. "Get behind me, get behind me," Wendt urges Gallaway at one point, playing the near-finished wrestler scraping himself off the mat. After a few minutes, Gallaway grabs his side in honest pain and Bart breaks it off. "Maybe my muscles were too much for him," Wendt says.
Then there's a little talk on strategy: "If you're a bad guy, the idea is to go two-on-one with the good guy as often as you can," Wendt instructs.
It doesn't take long for the athletic Wendt to get a reputation among Bart's students as a good technician who likes to firm up the pressure and get physical. "When he body-slammed me, I thought, man, I felt that. That was the hardest body slam I've ever felt," says Patton, who has been in Bart's tutelage for eight weeks and says the whole thing reminds him of Army basic training.
Wendt, who has a dozen years in the business and eight more as amateur wrestler, describes himself as addicted to the ring. "I'll do anything if the money's good. One time I jumped off the rafter of an armory and fell 30 feet onto a guy," he explains nonchalantly.
Fowler signs him up during the practice to wrestle for $45 a match, more if the gates improve. Giving a bit of promoter's advice, Fowler suggests Wendt put a little peroxide on his hair. The next week, his mustache is bleached blond.
In Wendt's opinion, Bart is doing an honest job with his students. "Some promoters take their money up front and burn 'em," he says. "These guys are good for the time they've spent."
Wendt, who wrestled for a while with the WCW in the early 1990s, says wrestling is so competitive that sharp skills are more of a must than ever. "You have to be good or people see right through it." But getting to the TV big time is another matter. "When they want you, they call," he says. "It's a funny business. When it's good it's good...When it's bad, it sucks."
On the night of student Jason Gallaway's professional debut, Fowler has the crowd of 300 or so eating out of his hand.
He's set up a hokey "Witch Doctor's Corner" near the ring, an "illegal" oasis decorated with plastic Halloween skeletons where the villains rule.
Fowler has some theatrics worked out for later in the night: a "battle royale" with seven guys in and around the ring, hammering on the ref, roaming into the audience, etc. The headliners, "Blackbird" Action Jackson and "Iceman" King Parsons, are Sportatorium regulars. "I don't give 'em everything they want," says Fowler. "I give 'em nearly what they want."
Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Cold Shot," Bob Marley's "Jammin'," and some dance cuts warm up the thoroughly integrated crowd. In the sparsely filled stands are sheetrock installers, discount-store clerks, retired factory workers, and their kids or grandkids, who have paid between $5 and $10 for their seats. Fully half of the audience is 14 or younger.
Gallaway, dressed in a blue jersey with black flames, is paired for the first fight on the supporting card with Chuck Singer, a 212-pounder who looks about twice as wide as his rookie opponent.
After a few minutes of hip tosses, pile drivers, and body blocks, Gallaway is clearly sucking wind. Like most of Bart's students, he is a little surprised at how much stamina a match actually requires.
The action drags for a bit, the "dead air" is doing nothing for the crowd, and Fowler thinks it's a good time to break away.
"Here, let me introduce you to my partner," Fowler says. But what happens to Gallaway? "Oh, he wins," says Fowler, casually predicting the finale in which Singer jumps from the top rope, misses Gallaway with a spinning splash, then is cradled and pinned. "You think I'd let one of my students lose his first match?"
Check Out Solie's Westling Radio!!
Its funny how not having to sit in front of the TV typing for five hours can change one's perspective a bit regarding the goings on in our two favorite promotions. I have come to realize that describing things blow-by-blow tends to put me a little too close to see the big picture. The result of this revelation is that I am seeing the emergence of patterns which I didn't previously discern...but more on that later.
On RAW this week we had pretty much more of the same.
The "Helmsley/McMahon Era" continued to play out with silly gimmick matches interspersed with scenes of the "happy couple" dispensing favors and humiliation in roughly equal measure. The Greenwich Posse has been re-cast as the new corporate stooges while the New Age Outlaws provide the boss' muscle and everybody else nervously waits for whatever pronouncements are handed down from on high.
There is something strangely familiar about all of this. It harkens back to when the "Mr. McMahon" character first emerged in the wake of the Montreal screw job of Bret Hart. It would seem that the WWF is firmly in recycle mode these days.
Oh, there are the odd variations here and there, like Chyna's inexplicable underground support for Chris Jericho for instance. I'm still trying to figure out if she is simply preserving him for her own opportunity to knock him off...or if this is the beginning of some new love/hate twist in their relationship. Time will tell...
Of course, there was the obligitory weekly debasing of womankind represented on this edition of RAW by the first ever (but unfortunately, probably not the last) "Holiday Topless Top Rope" match fiasco. As is not uncommon, the WWF promised something impossible then (naturally) failed to deliver. This feature match definitely lost something because the Burger King wasn't there to make his usual tasteless jokes and exhibit his schoolboy mentality.
On the upside of that last point, I would love to see more of Michael Hayes in the announce position. His gravelly-voiced delivery and heelish point of view were a welcome change from the likes of Kevin Kelly.
And through it all the shining beacon of sanity is, of course, Mick Foley, who refuses to cowtow to the current regime and who is building up to the main event at the Royal Rumble, rumored to be his swan song. This week we saw him take on multiple Santas in a Boiler Room Brawl which was disappointing for its brevity and lack of radical spots. No doubt that is because the battered and bruised Mankind is no longer able to perform them, which begs the question of why this match was promised in the first place.
The one really bright spot on the program was Al Snow vs. The Rock - solid, in-ring action that managed to tell the story better then any number of backstage promos.
Over at Nitro everything is in organized confusion.
During the first hour or so of the program I was starting to discern a pattern in what has been going on over the last few weeks, as I mentioned above.
For some time now I have been talking about the parody that the new writing team has been putting on of the current WWF storylines.There were a lot of nay-sayers, people who insisted that what they were doing was "copying" and not parody, but eventually it began to sink in and some of those same people changed their tune. "Okay, its a parody, but can't they come up with something original like the WWF?"
This, of course, ignored the fact that the WWF spent most of last year and the year before frantically copying WCW angles, trying to find something that would work for them to win back the TV ratings which the Turner organization had dominated for 18 straight months. Angles like the NOD, DOA and DX which clearly imitated the nWo (DX even stole the WolfPac's crotch chop for goodness sake!) The Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness vaguely resembled every storyline Kevin Sullivan's been involved in since the early eighties - and who could forget Gillberg - oh, but wait - wasn't that...a parody??
But getting back to the pattern - what I began to see is that this parody which the "Powers That Be" have been foisting on us, has a purpose. It was revealed when Kevin Nash came to the ring and made his "boys don't screw boys" speech. Never mind that later we found out his sentiments were completely bogus, the point was made that what we have been watching is a booking team seduced by their own power and wreaking havoc among the occupants of the locker room in order to satisfy their own egos - sort of like what HHH and Stephanie are doing currently in the WWF (again - who is copying whom?)
The take off on the infamous Montreal screwjob kind of mis-fired during the Starrcade program. One essential difference between the two was that, in this case, the current Champ didn't lose his title. Although it could be argued that matched against the monster Goldberg, Hart was as good as dead anyway so maybe there was a slight parallel - but it seemed pretty anemic to me. This was somewhat made up for by the pure nWo style screwjob perpetrated at the end of Nitro - but bringing back the nWo opens up a whole new can of worms in my opinion. It might have been better not to have gone there. But I'm going to withhold judgement - again, time will tell...
It was interesting to see the Varsity Club back in action. We'll have to see if that turns out to be anything. Oh and yes, that was former ECW personality Kimona making her WCW debut as their valet, Leia Meow.
The ladder re-match between Chris Benoit and Jeff Jarrett was less then spectacular and resulted in Jarrett taking the US Title, but still featured a few good spots, and having the ladder sabatoged was certainly an original touch.
One thing that struck me - probably just a missed spot - was that it was actually Roddy Piper who was covering Goldberg when the referee counted the challenger out. Somehow, however, that meant that Hart won the title back - go figure...
Speaking of Piper, some of the best stuff on Nitro this week involved the Rowdy one. Having him go in with a baseball bat and reveal that the TPTB's "throne room" was actually a set was priceless theater. Much of it was marred by his rambling delivery during his rants. He tends increasingly to stray off into pointless diatribes, but his characterization of the disillusioned ICON of wrestling was, for the most part, very nicely drawn and even the rambling could be inferred to relate to his character's state of mind.
At least on Monday night this week, it seemed to me that Nitro had more going for it to hold my interest.
Thursday Night saw things clear up on Thunder and get muddier on SmackDown.
Bret Hart narrated a highlight reel at the beginning of Thunder which outlined how he and the other nWo members supposedly suckered us all in to believing they were at loggerheads when actually they were conspiring to resurrect "the band". How much of this has really been pre-planned is open to speculation, of course, but it was pretty effective theater none-the-less. At least this nWo makes a promise to be different this time. Later in the show, Creative Control transformed themselves back into the Harris Boyz while Curt Hennig, Shane and La Parka were hung out to dry thus leaving the TPTB's stable undiluted by midcarders and jabrones. Jeff Jarrett has to be delighted that he made the jump when he did.
Meanwhile, Goldberg stalks the halls, a man on a mission (and I don't mean Mable or Mo!) - that being to act as a one man nWo wrecking crew to determine "whose left..." - and making good on that pledge. The visual take off on "Psycho" at the end of the shower scene was classic.
Tony Schiavone sat in on color for Juventud tonight and I was never happier to see him. Tony said it best concerning Evan Karagias and "Three Count" - "get the hook..." Thank God for Chavo, Jr. Later in the show, Tony almost gave away the fact that the program was taped on Tuesday by complaining to Scott Hall about, "...what you and the nWo did last ni...uh... a few night ago on Nitro..."
PG-13 made their wrestling debut in WCW tonight in a losing match (actually a double DQ but trust me - they lost) against the Varsity Club. Leia Meow did jumping jacks and push ups for us...'nuff said.
A motley crew was the way Eddie G described them and indeed, the combination of Hacksaw Jim Duggan and the Filthy Animals is about as motley as you can get. Ah, but it's sweet to see the old Hacksaw coming back to the forefront of a happening angle against the Revolution. You younger fans just don't know how important Duggan was the sport in the years before he ever appeared in the WWF. He and the Junk Yard Dog were the kings of the Mid-South promotion, inspiring intense loyalty among their fans. Duggan's feud with Ted Dibiasi was the stuff of legends.
To me Tank Abbot is just a talentless Jim Neidhart wannabe, the less said about him the bet... Meanwhile, the "David and Daphne" saga is just starting to warm up. And is it just me or is Norman Smiley becoming the clown prince of WCW as he desparately holds onto his Hardcore Title? Even Finley, Knobbs and Meng together can't seem to take it away from him as they keep stumbling over each other.
All this, topped off with a fairly good (if short) encounter between Chris Benoit and Bret Hart in the main event (which was spoiled by Jarrett running in with a silver guitar), made Thunder an emminently watchable program this week.
By the way, when Goldberg paused to look down at his forearm after smashing the side window of TPTB's limo during the overrun, it was because he had just ripped a big gash in it as he withdrew it through the broken glass. I thought he managed to recover admirably considering the wound had to be stabilized before he was rushed to the hospital. I'm hearing that it may keep him out of ring action for a couple of months - although I am sure they will still keep him stalking the halls in the meantime.
As I mentioned earlier, the WWF tried to muddy the waters on SmackDown from Dallas by serving up a predictable swerve as Stephanie pretended to turn on her evil hubby at the beginning of the show. Sorry Vince, but that one was just too transparent to hold water. My first reaction, and I'm sure most other viewers' was, "Yeah, right..." Selecting the Big Red Dummy as her bodyguard only made it that much more obvious.
As much as I never cared for "Too Much" - Too Cool w/Rakishi are really growing on me.
Stephanie's cover was maintained when Test was actually allowed to have an uninterrupted match (including a little payback doggy style action) and beat the Road Dogg while HHH and Billy pretended to be trying to figure her out in the back. Then later she set Billy against Kane with similar results as the good guys once again got a little revenge.
Speaking of revenge, Mark Henry, with his girlfriend's assistance, got to put some hurtin' on Bubba Ray Dudley (who seems to have been miraculously cured of his speech impediment - no doubt by UPN Standards and Practices).
And no matter what else happens, the Rock is always irrepressible and a sure crowd pleaser. You just gotta love the Rock! One comic moment happened when a staffer inadvertantly started to come down a stairway behind Maivia just as he was in his close up and set to deliver his tag line. The offending crew member quickly scurried out of sight. The Rock's feud with Al Snow was fueled by a cage match tonight with the stipulation added that Snow would get a World Title shot on Monday if he won. Having the referee stay outside the cage, then have to come back inside to make a count made a pinfall victory nearly impossible, but this contest easily won my nomination for "Match of the night".
During his match with Kurt Angle, Edge managed to outflank the Olympian at every turn until Steve Blackman came down and clocked him with his kendo stick. Blackman's relationship with Angle was at least as inexplicable as Chyna/Jericho (but not nearly as interesting) until his encounter with Stephanie backstage immediately following the match.
One hopefull sign was the legit female wrestlers (and BB) protesting against the pool-based degradations they have been subjected to on a weekly basis. Ivory was the instigator of this revolution as she challenged "the Cat" to a "real" wrestling match in the ring. Unfortunately we know that this is simply a storyline and not likely to curb the excesses of this proven ratings booster. And it was that well known protector of feminine dignity, Chyna, who took the match in Miss Kitty's name and put Ivory down with a Pedegree before letting the Champ take the pin.
Tonight Christian and Jeff Hardey teamed up by choice because Matt is in the hospital due to injuries suffered on Monday night. A much stranger mating was their opponents. Kaientai accompanied by the Mean Street Posse! Another good match and surprisingly, the Posse didn't interefere even though there charges lost.
One thing I am noticing is that along with their marginal clean-up of some of the more offensive aspects of their programming, the WWF seems to actually be trying to deliver a little more wrestling action these days.
In the big main event finale, Mick Foley took on the The Big Show for the WWF Title with HHH suspended over the ring in a cage for some reason. Christian, Edge, Test and Jeff hardey served as security guards of sorts. The match itself was largely uneventful with the Show taking the more severe bumps throughout. As the combatants fell out to th floor, the cage containing HHH began to lower and Steph pretended to not know what was happening. Suddenly the heel locker room ran in to take care of the four "security guards" and Stephanie entered the ring, freeing HHH as the announcers continue to pretend that she was being menaced by her husband. Foley was convinced and came in to "save her" only to be set upon by HHH and DX. Stephanie then revealed what we all already knew by smooching wih her husband. The happy couple ended the show by saying they had two words for us..."Merry Christmas".
Since I am out of town tomorrow night I won't be able to report on ECW this week...but there is this...
'Twas the night before Christmas and all round the ring.
Not a creature was stirring not a dad-blasted thing.
All the ring ropes were hung round the apron with care,
in hopes that the wrestling fans soon would be there.
The tickets were sold, the nachos were hot.
The vendors were ready - there were fights to be fought.
I sat in the office awaiting the action,
with visions of putting on a major attraction.
When out in the lobby there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter.
Away up the aisle I flew like a flash,
jumping the barrier, avoiding the trash.
The worklight reflecting the newly washed mat,
gave a eerie pale glowing - or something like that...
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer..?
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
but who was wearing some tights and boots with soles thick.
He was ready for action, at least so it seemed,
he was older than dirt, he would likely get creamed.
But he was determined, a fight he would make,
and I figured he might be a match for the Snake.
Now the wrestlers arrived and before I could shout,
he was right in their faces, he was calling them out!
"Now, Piper! Now, Hogan! Now, Bubba and Benoit! On, Hitman!
On, Stone Cold! On, Nitro and on RAW!
From the top of the heap to the jobber on call,
I'll bust you all up, I'll take every fall!"
So up to the ring like the dickens they flew,
with Hollywood Hogan and Saint Nicolas too!
And then in a twinkling, I heard the bell sound,
the wrestlers went over the ring to surround.
It's a handicap match he shouted with glee,
"...the numbers are even, all of you against me!"
He was dressed in all fur, from his head to his foot,
and his clothes were all covered with ashes and soot.
He was really a mess but it made him look fierce,
as the entire arena his war-cry did pierce.
His movements so fluid, his chops were like lightning
When he bulked-up and posed, it was really quite frightning.
Hogan was up first, his feint was a ploy
as Santa said "You've been a very bad boy!"
Hulk tried to grab him, but his blows didn't land,
as bunches of fur came off in his hand.
Santa just sidestepped the Hulkster's mad rush,
then brought down a forearm, his hopes he did crush.
Then Stone Cold attacked, and was knocked on his can,
the Hitman was pummeled, Benoit turned and ran.
The Undertaker walked on the ropes then fell down,
the King was knocked out to the floor on his crown.
The Big Show then slipped as he walked up the stairs,
Randy Savage went flying they were losing in pairs!
Ric Flair went "wooooo..." as he fell on his face
And Santa just laughed as he stepped up the pace.
Scott Hall was edged out, and Nash he got creamed,
there were bodies all over, it was like a bad dream...
He was everywhere at once, he moved like a flash,
he gouged this one's eyes and that one he splashed.
He handled them all with the greatest of ease,
Then he looked at the time, and collected his fees.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
and giving a nod, to the top rope he rose.
He said "Oh goodness! I've got to be gone."
"I've a long night ahead" he said with a yawn.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a shout,
the fight was all over, he'd layed them all out!
But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,
"Merry Christmas to all..."
At least that's the way I see it...
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
This page is a personal tribute and is in no way connected to any of the wrestling promotions mentioned on it. It is dedicated to the Dean of Wrestling announcers, Gordon Solie.
Copyright 1999 - Jump City Productions