By Michael Sragow
Question: You always like Mick, even when he errs. But then there's Jake the Snake Roberts, a charismatic loner who has demons, who does crack, and who spends five minutes with his daughter when he first meets her after a four-year absence. Your feelings about him must have changed continuously.
That's one of the things I hope to capture in the film. Jake would remind me of Sam Elliott; he would look great on camera, and had this great voice. There are times when he's very charming and you feel sorry for him. And there are times like after he left his daughter when I would want to throw him out of the car and I would think, this is the most disgusting human being.
It would be interesting to do a fictional treatment of Jake. Wrestlers had told me to be careful around him: They warned me, "You'll really think he likes you, and then you'll be stuck in the middle of nowhere because he'll take your car." And I remember when we were driving, I think through Kansas -- on the third or fourth day we made a stop, and Jake said, "It's kind of cold, why don't you give me the keys to the car and I'll meet you inside?" And I said, "Jake, I'm not going to give you the keys to the car and let you leave me here." And then he smiles that devilish smile and says, "Barry, I would never do that to you."
Question: Terry Funk, the aging happy warrior, is the opposite of Jake. You say that Funk was your favorite wrestler growing up -- and at the end of the film he is still one of your favorites.
In seven days with Jake he ultimately bad-mouthed everybody, except Terry Funk. I tried to goad him, and say, "Don't you have anything bad to say about Terry?" And he would say [in Jake's gravelly voice], "Terry's good; Terry's one of the few good ones. The only good one. Well, there are a few others."
Terry is about to become a grandfather and he's wrestling again, despite his lousy knees and everything. Terry is wonderful. There would be no movie without Terry Funk. Terry is respected in the wrestling business, as a wrestler and as a person, as a man of principle, the way Lou Gehrig was in baseball. Terry signed on early and opened doors for me. He would call up other wrestlers and vouch for me. In the course of the film he announced his retirement, and I went to cover his retirement match. Then he went back to wrestling. And I got calls saying, "He went back to wrestle again, this is going to ruin the film!" I went, "Please, I'm not that naive." Because when we started it was like, [in Terry's soft Texas accent]"I'm going to do my last match." Then it was like, "I'm going to do my last match in the United States." Then towards the end it was like, "I'm going to do my last match in Amarillo." Terry has had more retirements than fill-in-the-blank has had facelifts.
There's a sweet quality to Terry's part of the movie. My favorite part of that is his relationship with Dennis Stamp, who is the guy who hasn't made it. As much of a noodge as Dennis can be, overbearing and ungrateful, especially with Terry, I think he exemplifies something everybody has. Everybody has this desire to belong, to be part of the group, no matter what they do.
Question: Do the up-and-comers know what they're getting into?
They know and they can't wait. Look: The up-and-coming part is the struggle. The least savory people you meet are on the lower levels. Originally the film was going to be about following young guys. I must have seen about 150 young guys. The problem is, because they're young, their stories are not as interesting. There was one guy I was going to follow, who by the time I got my cameras and everything actually made it. He's in the picture, Matt Hyson; he's got his own kind of charisma.
Question: He's the former third-grade teacher -- the English major. There's an odd moment when someone off camera asks him to wipe off some of his blood.
It's so bizarre. I'm squeamish around blood. But after a while you come to accept it. Matter of fact, when you talk to people, and blood is squirting from their heads, you're just having a regular conversation. But with Matt, we had to cut around it -- because I'm laughing. I was thinking to myself, "This is like a Monty Python sketch! Blood's shooting out everywhere!" And I think that's the absurdity of it that I like.
Question: Is there any relationship between your love for wrestling and your comedy work?
I like to say I did this film so I could prove to Hollywood that I could work with white people! I gave Eddie Murphy a video and he said, "Wow, I saw it four times over the weekend. It's great." Eddie's got a real quick mimic's memory; he was blown away by the Jake stuff.
Question: Does that mean wrestling, in your experience, is still almost exclusively white?
Well, it is mostly white, and there aren't many women either. In the ring, most women are used as sex objects. But some women do go to the matches and like wrestling. And Chyna is different, she isn't lumped together with the rest of the women wrestlers.
Question: In her black leather hot pants, boots and halter, she has a Wonder Woman thing going.
Yeah, almost. Chyna has gone through life having to hear people say she looked like a man or she must be a lesbian, but she sees herself as a figure to empower women. In the movie I say she had her jaw restructured to enhance her femininity. She's recently got her breasts enlarged. I know she's conflicted about it, but it's a business decision, and if you're going to sell out you might as well go all the way. Her following is still predominantly male, but she feels great when little girls go up to her in a mall and say, "Wow, you're great -- you're someone to look up to, a woman who'll standt up for herself." She's Chyna: She fights the guys.
Question: But to get back to the relationship between Eddie Murphy comedies and wrestling...
Well, wrestlers are outsiders and Sherman Klump is an outsider in a weird way, because of his weight and his appearance. In the first "Nutty Professor" movie Eddie played all the characters but the family was only in two scenes. In -- I think it's now called, "Nutty II: The Klumps" -- there are only three scenes we shot where he wasn't at least two characters in it. Mama and Papa are having problems, marital problems; after all, Papa's getting older, so he's having performance problems and psychological problems. Granny has a fantasy love scene with Buddy Love [Sherman's slick alter ego] that we have to edit down to get a PG-13 rating. I think Eddie feels very close to these characters, all of them, and I think he gives an even better performance. What's amazing is that it never feels like "Here's a guy in makeup." I hope people respond to him in the role because Sherman is such a decent person. He has everything going for him except for his weight.
I think studios are always pushing Eddie into playing the Black Guy. The Black Guy in a White World. The Black Guy that Really Outsmarts White People. And you know what? As a white person, we're not always going to get tricked. But in the Nutty Professor films the characters are very close to him. He talks about the mother being based on his grandmother. For me, looking at Granny is just like looking at my own grandmother -- same look, kind of freaky. It's a real collaboration between Eddie, and me and David Sheffield.
As for wrestling, the worst thing for me is when they do comedy; it makes me cringe. Whenever I told people I was making a movie about wrestling, they'd say it was going to be funny. I said, "No, it's a serious film." Recently, I took my daughter to an art theater in downtown L.A. to see some documentary about inner-city kids. There were only six people there. But I remember saying with pride, "This is what it's going to be like when my movie opens. I'm going to be opening in art-house theaters. Enough of these big openings! I'm finally going to do an obscure movie!"
Copyright salon.com | March 16, 2000
Backstage, Booker T sends his brother home with his wife. In another part of the building, Jeff Jarrett is being interviewed by Pamela Paulshock when Steiner attacks him and then destroys the set.
Shane Douglas (sorry, I just can't bring myself to call this clown "the Franchise") comes to the ring with Torrie Wilson on his arm. He rants for a bit and then hands the mic to Torrie who proceeds to trash her former (and current real) boyfriend, Kidman. Shane's opponent for this match is Crowbar, who is accompanied by Daffney. The fight goes immediately to the floor where Douglas uses Torrie as a shield. Daffney is back to her usual screaming personna for this one. The match goes back to the ring then back to the floor where Torrie grabs a handfull of Crowbar's hair to pull him off her man only to have Daffney grab two handfulls of Torrie's hair and give it a twist to boot. The fight returns to the ring where Douglas uses his "Franchiser" move to end the match. The next moment Buff Bagwell is on the scene and driving Douglas from the ring.
Backstage, Kidman is being interviewed when Jeff Jarrett interrupts to demand a title shot from the Cat (who we have not heard from yet tonight). Pamela reveals that Mike Awesome has already been granted a shot tonight - and then Kidman attacks and we cut to commercial. In the parking lot, a limo pulls up and disgorges Tank Abbot in half a tuxedo (the top half) and Three Count also dressed to the nines. They carry a gold record and there is a ladder in the ring. One of the wrestlers is hanging the gold record above the ring when the Jung Dragons slip into the ring and attack. Of course, Abbott is a human wrecking machine (or so his publicity tells us), and soon has the situation in hand...until the Great Muta shows up and spits green mist in his face. The Dragon take the gold record and split. Meanwhile in the back, Kanyon is telling Pamela that he has a bone to pick with the Cat because, as he reminds us, he actually beat the new World Champ just a half hour or so before he won the title.
The Cat is on the phone in his office when Jarrett barges in making his demand. Miller calmly tells him that he is disrespectfull and then informs him that his opponent tonight will be Kidman.
In the Jarrett/Kidman match the first spectacular move is a hip toss that sends Kidman sailing over the top to the floor with nothing to break his fall. Not that it slows Kidman down. Both competitors in this one are being driven by frustration and really giving it their all. As Kidman takes the advantage, Torrie suddenly comkes to the ring and gets in Kidman's face. he is trying to get past her and back into the ring when Shane Douglas runs in and takes a punch to the face. Torrie delivers a low blow from behind and Kidman is clotheslined to the floor and then tossed back into the ring. The fight goes on in see-saw fashion with Jarrett eventually king out a victory. Backstage, Scott Steiner is brutally attacking Kanyon. In another part of the building, the Cat tries to hand the US Title to Mike Awesome (who is deep in conversation with Rhonda Singh). He declines the honor, saying he prefers to win his titles. I imagine he's also seen some of what Steiner is doing to people backstage tonight and doesn't want to give BPP any ideas.
The end of the first hour and time for Booker T's first World Title defense - against Mike Awesome. The match is an intense, action packed contest with plenty of heavy shots from both wrestlers. Outside the ring, Awesome picks up a chair that practically falls apart in his hands. He uses it inneffectually and then tosses it away for another one. He gets in a couple of shots with it then tosses Booker back into the ring and goes for the pin. Booker kicks out. Awesome puts him down again and then hits a big frog splash off the top corner. Throughout this match the announcers are making veiled references to Hogan, talking about "people that show up once a month and expect to win titles...", etc. In the ring, Awesome has a table set up on the floor and attempts to powerbomb the Champion through it - but Booker blocks the move then hits a side kick that sends Awesome over the top and through his own table. From there it is all downhill for Awesome who is eventually put down and pinned by the Bookend. Suddenly Scott Steiner is in the ring again and attacking the World Champ. He slaps on a Steiner Recliner until Awesome attacks him and breaks it up. Steiner splits as the World Champion and Awesome exchange admiring glances. Backstage, the Cat is upset and vowing to do something about Steiner's interference.
The Cat is in the ring as we return from the break and calling Steiner to the ring to take his medicine. Steiner complies, but as soon as he arrives at the ring he threatens the Cat and demands a World Title shot. Miller gets right in his face and then attacks him!! Steiner turns the tables immediately and then Booker T hits the ring. Steiner is reeling but then Kanyon runs in and attacks Booker, then Jeff Jarrett runs in and attacks Steiner. The Cat gets loose and grabs a mic to book a three-way dance to determine the number one contender. That brings Goldberg out to demand that it be a four-way dance with himself included. Miller agrees and Goldberg says, "thank you."
Backstage, Norman Smiley is putting Ralphus through an excercise regimine. It doesn't seem to be working... Smiley and Ralphus have a rematch for the Hardcore Title next on the program. Vito just comes out and starts hitting Smiley with his stick ball stick then the match adjourns to the backstage area. Amazingly, the former Champ is dominant in this one - at least initially. He runs Vito into a steel roll-up door and then uses a fire extinguisher on him before Vito regains his composure and the advantage. Meanwhile in the ring, Ralphus is hiding behind a propped table with his fat butt hanging out. Vito sees him right away and deals some punishment before placing Ralphus on the table then splashing him. Norman runs in and hits Vito from behind. Vito falls on Ralphus and pins him.
The Cat is backstage and being stalked by the Dragons again. he deals with them as they attack and then stalks away. In the locker room. Paisly tells a handy stranger dressed in lavender silk to iron a shirt for the Artist. He looks at her with distain and says, "I am the Kiwi - don't ever talk to me like that again." She seems smitten with him. He reminds me of the "Mango" character that appears on Saturday Night Live from time to time lately.
As we return, we see Lenny Lane standing in the crowd with a big sign that says "Use Me".
Lance Storm made a speech calculated to enrage the crowd and then faced the Artist. Their match is one of the better ones that the Artist has been involved in lately and is a succession of back and forth pinfall attempts until Storm pulls the Artist into a submission hold and takes the win. Outside, a hearst pulls up and Vampiro gets out, he opens the back to show us a coffin, its dark wood gleaming richly.
The Filthy Animals come to the ring followed by MIA followed by Kronic. Actually this is a match for the Tag Titles for General Rection and Cpl. Cajun. The Animals are just there to kibbitz at the announce table. After a shaky start the MIA team uses their teamwork to take Brian Adams down. About this time Juvey and Rey Rey get up and attempt to interfere but the rookie team Gimcrack (whatever) and O'Hare attacks and remove them from the ring area. Back in the ring, Brian Clark gets himself tagged in and the tide turns. Still the MIA manage to maintain control. Rection hits his big moonsault and Adams has to save his partner. Then the Champs turn it around again and the a General has to save his partner. Moments later, the Brians hit their new move to take the pin on Cpl. Cajun. Afterward the former Tag Team Chumps hit the ring and pearl harbor Kronic but MIA help drive them off. Backstage, Vampiro is shining up his coffin.
Tony tells us that Bam Bam Bigalow became a real life hero this week by saving some children from a fire and in the process receiving 2nd degree burns over 40% of his body. Solie's wishes to extend our best wishes to Scott Bigalow for a swift recovery and return to competition.
Vampiro comes to the ring and starts a rant directed at the Demon, who shows up with Aysa, who is trying to draw him away. In the middle of a ridiculous rant in which Vamp is trying to convince the Demon to start choking out his fiance, a masked figure comes to the ring with a baseball bat and attacks both of them. Whoever it is, he does a pretty convincing impression of Sting, using the Stinger Splash to put the two of them down before leaving the ring area.
The main event is the four-way dance for the #1 contender status between Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner, Kanyon and Goldberg. Mark Madden seems at a loss to predict who will win this one. I can tell him one thing...it won't be Kanyon. He is definitely the odd man out in this company of monsters. Steiner s distracted momentarily by a vociferous fan at ringside then the fight starts between him and Kanyon, who is completely overmatched. He is thrown to the floor and then brutalized mercilessly. Back in the ring, Steiner starts to apply the Recliner but Goldberg intervenes. This gives Kanyon his first offense in the match and then Jarrett tags himself in. He is all over Steiner, but BPP turns the tables and goes for the pin. Goldberg breaks it up again. This is really a four corners tag match, which means there are always two people available to break up any pin attempt. Finally we get Goldberg against Steiner in the ring and their fight falls out to the floor. This gives Jarrett a chance to take a quick pin on Kanyon and win the match.
Two Cool dances to the ring for their match against T&A and the Hardey Boyz. This is a three way tag team dance elimination free-for -all, sort of... It takes place mainly between members of the Hardeys and Too Cool as T&A stands and watches in admiration. In the end it is Test dropping a big elbow on Scotty to pin the match after Tazz ran out and did one of his choke-out numbers on him.
Backstage the DX guys are trying to figure out what to do about Chris Jericho. Commissioner Foley (who is touring the Mideast) has made a match from afar for the Road Dogg against Jericho on the program tonight. HHH tells him he better win the match or he shouldn't return to the dressing room afterward.
In his match against Jericho, Road Dogg is handicapped by the fact that his buddies are forbidden to interefere on pain of HHH losing his shot at Jericho during the next PPV. He declines an offer by Lilian Garcia to make his usual opening remarks. Jericho's music starts up and the Dogg runs right up to meet him on the ramp, but Jericho turns the tables immediately and puts the Dogg on the recieving end. Back in the ring, the Dogg re-asserts himself and manages to ground the Millenium Bug. Jericho escapes for a bit but the Dogg is still in control and chokes his opponent against the bottom rope. Jericho whips off the ropes and comes roaring back with ashoulder block and a face plant. He goes for the Walls but the Dogg slips out of it. RD goes for a moonsault and misses. Jericho then hits the Lionsault (it looked like he missed the spot and may have dealt a serious blow to the side of the Doggs face with his boot) and takes the pin. In the back, HHH is smashing furniture. In another part of the building the Undertaker (the new Nailz) rides his motorcycle through the hallway, scattering backstage personnel in his wake.
HHH is livid with the Dogg after the break and shoves him down. DX seems to be coming apart at the seams.
The Undertaker rides out to the ring and grabs a mic. His rant is against Kurt Angle for interfering in his Tag Match for the Titles with his brother and then for spilling milk on his bike. He wants Angle in the ring right now. Angle shows up on the platform but seems noticably reluctant to go to the ring. He apologizes again (after a fashion) and claims he is willing to meet UT - but doesn't want to "waste" the match on this San Jose crowd. His every word just puts him deeper in the hole as UT glares at him from the ring. He claims to have something for the Undertaker behind the curtain. He retreats for a moment then comes riding out on a Vespa!! He actually seems to expect UT to trade his motorcycle in on this two-wheeled lawn mower! He rides it down to the ringside area and urges UT to accept his "gift". UT threatens him with bodily harm in response and Angle speeds off up the ramp only to stall out on the platform. He abandons the scooter as UT rides to the platform. UT pushes the scooter off the platform.
Rikishi and Kane challenge Val Venis (who has shorn his curly locks) in a triple threat match for the Intercontinental Title. In the ring, the two monsters take turns squashing the Champ in the corner, then Rikishi goes for the stinkface - but Kane decided to attack him and now the two big guys are fighting while Val watches. Moments later Val takes Rikishi to the outside and rams him hard into the steps. Back in the ring it is Kane and Val one-on-one and Val is not doing so well. Rikishi arrives back in the ring just in time to prevent a pinfall. Val is knocked to the floor and Rikishi squashes Kane in the corner. Kane recovers and knocks Val off the apron before going back to his fight with Rikishi. When Val does get back into the ring he attempts to use the title belt on Rikishi but is foiled and beaten on, then stinkfaced. The second time around, Val manages to deliver the shot with the belt which gets the match thrown out. In the back, Stephanie tries to cheer HHH up but he is smiling already and says he has a "fool proof" idea. He starts explaining it as we cut to commercial.
After the break Stephanie comes to the ring and invites Chris Jericho to come down and repeat their kiss from the King of the Ring. Jericho appears on the TitanTron and pledges his undying love for Stephanie then says he is on his way. His music plays but he doesn't appear. The New New Age Outlaws kind of stumble out from where they are hiding to ambush the Millennium Bug. Jericho appears on the big screen again and tells Stephanie what she really thinks of her while HHH joins his wife in the ring and fumes.
Backstage HHH and X-Pac get into an argument over the latest turn of events and end up challenging each other to a match tonight.
Edge came to the ring with his brother to face Bradshaw (w/Faarooq) in a singles match. Christian was pretending to have the sniffles earlier to duck a possible Tag Title challenge from the Acolytes. This is a classic speed vs. power match-up in which Edge is seemingly at a disadvantage until Christian snuck the ring bell into the ring and Bradshaw took it betwen the eyes. The Road Dogg is trying desparately to talk HHH and X-Pac out of their match tonight but neither is listening to him.
The Hardey send Lita out to face Trish with confidence then the scene switches to T&A and Val Venis encouraging Trish Stratus to her face only to conclude that her goose is cooked as soon as she is out of earshot. The match takes place after the break and Trish tries to head for high ground as soon as her opponent hits the ring. The crowd are chanting "Lita, Lita" while JR claims they are saying "Take it Off". Lita must be listening to Ross because she starts stripping the clothes off Trish - which brings Steven Richards down to do his prudish thing and cover her up and drag her away. He pauses at the top of the ramp to deliver a rant about the fans not knowing what is good for them.
Next up is the HHH/X-Pac match. It would seem that Chris Jericho is tearing DX apart. They start out jawing at each other and then HHH shoves his friend. X-Pac comes back with a series of moves that give him the initiative then HHH comes roaring back. The fight goes to the floor, where HHH is rammed into the announce table, then back to the ring where he re-asserts his advantage. Moments later X-Pac hits his kick series in the corner then goes for his bronco buster - but HHH slips aside. Suddenly Chris Jericho is at ringside and beating on HHH...and the Road Dogg runs down with a sledge hammer to cut off his escape. It was all a set-up to get Jericho in their clutches. The Dogg and X-Pac hold Jericho up while HHH applies sledge hammer blows to his mid-section and then a big one with the handle to his head! Jericho is bleeding as HHH hammers his fists into Y2J's busted head. Official arrive to break it up but DX holds them off while HHH continues with the mayhem.
After the break, the bloody lump that is Chris Jericho is loaded into an ambulance with DX there to see him off.
The main event featured Chris Benoit challenging the Rock in order to earn a Title shot at the next PPV. From the opening bell, Shane seems determined to interfere on behalf of his protege, who doesn't really need his help to dismantle the Champion. He dominates the early going before Maivia recovers and turns the tables. But moments later Benoit is applying a series of German suplexes. Maivia blocks the third one and delivers one of his own which leaves both men laying in the ring. For the most part, Benoit wrestles while the Rock brawls. Maivia is about to take a pin on Benoit when Shane drags the referee out to the floor and flattens him. Maivia leaves the ring to chase Shane who leads him right back inside and into line for Benoit's clothesline. Benoit then grabs a crippler and Shane strips off his shirt to reveal he is wearing the stripes underneath! He calls for the bell despite the fact that Maivia refused to tap out. Shane declares Benoit the winner, but when he and Benoit turn to leave the original referee, who watched it all from the floor, declares the decision reversed and awards it to the Rock on a DQ for outside interference. Jericho and Benoit return to the ring to menace the referee, but the Rock has recovered and attacks them until a phalanx of referees come in to break up the melee.
A lot of people are asking me, "What the hell happened last night..?"
I have only one answer available..."darned if I know."
Was it a work or was it a shoot? A lot of folks, including many inside the business, are swearing up and down that it was a shoot. The post game internet audio show seemed to bear that out, Jeff Jarrett made comments that would seem to indicate it was so, etc., etc. One thing nags at me however, and in this I have to say that I agree with what was said earlier today by Dave Scherer over at the Lariat. Dave said words to the effect, "Everything in wrestling is a work. And the harder they try to make you think it was a shoot...the more likely it was a work."
Unfortunately it appears to me that whichever it was, it could turn out to be a lose-lose situation for WCW and the fans. In fact the only good thing that happened last night to my way of thinking, was making arguably the greatest pure athlete in WCW history the World Champion. Congratulations to Booker T! But back to the topic at hand.
If it was a shoot, then it was disgraceful.
Whatever you may feel about Hulk Hogan, he deserved better then to be dumped on and cursed at on live TV. Like it or not, Hulk Hogan had a lot to do with raising WCW out of the toilet back in 1996, and he continued to "put asses in the seats" as Eric Bischoff so colorfully put it for many years after that. There is no doubt in my mind that WCW could have found a much better way to have handled this whole situation. For one thing, of course, there was a good portion of the viewing audience who had little or no idea what was going on. In that regard it was a poor judgement call even if it was a work.
And if it was a work it will likely eventually result in another nosedive in morale among the workers in the locker room.
Right now, at least to hear them talk on the internet, many of those workers, who feel that they have been held down and denied opportunities because of Hogan's politics, are elated and think dumping Hogan is the best thing that could possibly happen. How are those people going to feel if they subsequently find out that they were worked right along with the audience? Unless they are all in on it, and somehow I doubt that. We already know that Eric Bischoff is fond of pulling the wool over the eyes of the locker room crowd right along with the people in the bleachers. If that is what has happened in this instance, then the results could be disasterous down the road.
So what do I think? I think it was a work. I watched it three times and it felt more like a work each time. I thought the announcer's selling of the whole thing as "not in the script", etc. was way overdone. And I find it awfully convenient that Kevin Nash apparently lost his last friend in the world last night when Scott Steiner turned on him right after all of this went down. With Nash on the outs with everyone, what better opportunity are they going to have to bring back Hall and Nash...and Hogan, as a new formation of the nWo? If that happens then, of course, Hogan and company will be right back on top of the storyline developments and hogging the spotlight again...and pissing off the locker room...again...
I hope I'm wrong...
At least that's the way I see it...
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
This page is a personal tribute andis 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 2000 - Jump City Productions