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You Are What You Tkatchev
July 30, 2004

by Erin Anderson
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


You know, it's all Rocky Swift's fault. His column, "Comparative Analysis of Pro Wrestlers and Their Corresponding Japanese Challenge Food," started all this nonsense. The format for that brilliant piece of work has since been used twice on this site, first by The Rick, and again by Cory Harris. Naturally, I wanted a piece of the action, but I am not an expert in weird Japanese shit that passes for food, or mixology, or exotic diseases. I instead picked a topic that I know quite a bit about: gymnastics.
No, stay with me here. It's not a sport that too many people follow on a regular basis, but as a former gymnast myself, I follow it religiously and, like an ass, give commentary whenever I watch the sport with a layman. But the Olympics are only a few weeks away, and gymnastics is generally one of its most popular sports: everyone watches it 

once every four years, even if they can't tell a cartwheel from a Tkatchev. And unlike at the Sydney Games, the United States has a terrific team (the reigning world champions) and is favored to win the gold this time around. Why not familiarize yourself with the squad we're sending to Athens now? You'll seem like quite the Captain Smartypants when you impress your friends with your gymnastics acumen.

I'm going to stick to female gymnasts because, quite frankly, about as many people watch men's gymnastics as they do women's basketball. It's just not as aesthetically pleasing, and nobody, not even former gym rats like myself, follows the sport too heavily. And most of the competitors outlined here will be competing in Athens: any others I spotlight should still be familiar to you.

And now, time for Part Four in Comparing Wrestlers to Other Crap.

Svetlana Khorkina

Ric Flair 

Common characteristics: Stylish, Old, No aversion to nudity

Russian Svetlana Khorkina has already cemented her spot as one of gymnastics' all-time greats, but she's still out there competing at a very high level. In fact, she's one of the favorites to win the gold in Athens, and is the current World Champion. This will mark her third Olympics, which makes her ancient by gymnastics standards. She's awesome. She knows she's awesome, and has no problem telling you so. This makes her a bit of a "heel" in the gymnastics world, but she's so entertaining that it's hard to begrudge her for that; she has a style and grace that most other gymnasts simply don't have. When her team loses, she lets it all out: in Sydney, there was memorable footage of her screaming at her teammates unintelligibly in Russian when she knew they'd lost the gold. She has only one discernible weakness: in the last two Olympics, she's lost the all-around gold because of a fall on the uneven bars (her best event.) And she has no aversion to nudity: she's posed for the Russian edition of Playboy.

Ric Flair has already cemented his spot as a WWE Hall of Famer, but he continues to work on a very grand stage. He's in his mid-fifties, which is ancient by wrestling standards. He's awesome. He knows he's awesome, and won't hesitate to tell you so. That attitude makes him a heel, but he's so entertaining that you don't really care; he has a style and air about him that most wrestlers simply don't have. When Evolution is losing, he lets it all hang out at ringside: he'll scream unintelligibly at anyone who will listen and experience something resembling an epileptic seizure in the process. He has only one discernible weakness: any time he goes to the top rope, he gets slammed off. He also has no aversion to nudity, if the story of the Plane Ride From Hell is to be believed.


Carly Patterson

Chris Benoit

Common characteristics: Technically flawless, Machine-like, Lacking in personality

Carly Patterson is the best gymnast on the U.S. team, and current co-national champion with Courtney Kupets. She was the silver medallist at last year's World Championships. Her gymnastics is technically perfect and difficult, and easily admired by anyone who's competed in the sport -- the "smart" crowd. But occasional gymnastics watchers may not feel the same way, as Carly lacks the bubbly personality of gymnastics stars past, like Mary Lou Retton. In fact, she seems to lack any type of personality through no fault of her own: she's extremely focused on her physical performance and doesn't worry about playing up to the cameras. Fans may appreciate what she does out on the floor, but find her a little too machine-like to really root for her.

After a long 18-year journey, Chris Benoit finally became the World Heavyweight champion earlier this year, much to the delight of the IWC. His ring work is technically perfect: he is sharp and precise with all of his moves; almost machine-like. For those reasons he is incredibly popular with the "smart" crowd, but Benoit is not without his detractors: casual fans are not quite as enamored with him. They may appreciate his technical ability, but he lacks the personality of some of his other peers and thus doesn't quite connect with the fans the way a guy like Rock or Jericho can. This is not necessarily because Chris Benoit has no personality at all, but he's concerned mostly with the wrestling and not hamming it up for the cameras the way certain wrestlers-turned-movie-stars do.

Oksana Chusovitina

Shawn Michaels 

Common characteristics: Performs well on a limited basis, On the comback, Family-oriented

Oksana Chusovitina is a gymnast who has competed on the international level (first for the Soviet Union, now for Uzbekistan) since the late 80s and is now 29 years old: a fossil in the gymnastics world. She retired in 1998, but has since staged a comeback and has proved that she can still compete with the younger gymnasts -- winning a gold medal on the vault at last year's World Championships. She competes only a limited basis, though, mainly as a vault specialist. And it's all for family reasons: Oksana is competing to raise money for her 3 year-old son's leukemia treatment. Check out this website if you'd like to help.

Shawn Michaels is one of the greatest wrestlers of the modern era and has been around for a long time, but was forced to retire in 1998 due to back problems. He's now made a miraculous recovery and continues to wow audiences with his performances, showing that he's just as good (if not better) than some of the youngsters he's working with. But he only performs at this high level on a limited basis. He's more of a family man now, and is in fact on hiatus at this very moment to be present for the birth of his child.


Paul Hamm

AJ Styles  

Common characteristics: Talented, Yet almost completely unknown

You may have heard of some of the gymnasts I've mentioned here, but Paul Hamm? Doubtful. He's the reigning World Champion for the men and an incredibly talented gymnast. Unfortunately for him, most people don't care. And why is that? Because men's gymnastics simply isn't followed as heavily as women's. He's the best of the best, but not on as big of a stage as his female counterparts.

The casual WWE fan knows most of the wrestlers I've mentioned here, but A.J. Styles? Don't count on it. He's a huge star in TNA and an incredibly talented wrestler. Unfortunately for him, the casual fans have no idea who he is, only because TNA simply isn't followed as heavily as WWE. He's the best of the best, but not on as big a stage as his WWE counterparts.


Mary Lou Retton

Chris Jericho  

Common characteristics: Charismatic, Talented, Victorious under extenuating circumstances

Mary Lou Retton became America's sweetheart in 1984 when she won the all-around gold at the Olympics. She was wildly charismatic and incredibly popular: the perfect combination of personality and gymnastic talent. But Mary Lou's legacy will always have an asterisk attached to it, because she only won the gold in the absence of the powerful Soviet gymnasts, whose country was boycotting the Games. She may have won the Big One, but only did it when all talent was not present and accounted for. At the next Olympics, Soviet gymnast Elene Shushunova walked away with the gold, leaving the Americans in her dust.

When he plays a babyface, Chris Jericho is always wildly popular: he's the perfect combination of personality and wrestling talent. He became the first ever Undisputed Champion in 2001, but he only won the gold in the absence of the always-powerful Triple H. Jericho may have won the Big One, but was only able to do it when all talent was not present and accounted for. Much like the Communist Soviets, Triple H quickly won the belt upon his return and left Jericho back in the mid-card.


The Pommel Horse

William Regal 

Common characteristics: Deceptively tough, Visually unimpressive, Under-appreciated

Upon first glance, the pommel horse doesn't look like much. It doesn't have the same take-your-breath-away quality of men's high bar or women's floor exercise, but it is incredibly tough nonetheless: it is most comparable to women's balance beam in terms of difficulty, where exact placement and perfect timing are essential. A talented pommel horse worker is easily appreciated by gymnasts, but is very unimpressive to more casual fans of the sport.

William Regal isn't the most imposing-looking wrestler, but he's tough-as-nails under that decidedly British exterior. His realistic, brawling technique is very low-key and doesn't have the same take-your-breath-away quality that someone like Rey Mysterio does, even though both styles of wrestling are equally difficult: exact placement and perfect timing are essential to performing it successfully and safely. Other wrestlers and some "smart" fans can easily appreciate Regal's abilities, but his style is very unimpressive to more casual wrestling fans.


Courtney McCool

Rey Mysterio

Common characteristics: Tiny, Graceful, Awesomely-named

You immediately notice two things upon first seeing Courtney McCool: she is quite small, and has a badass name. Her gymnastics is especially beautiful to watch, but it's not necessarily because of what she does. It's how she does it that makes all the difference. Her form is flawless and graceful, but that never gets in the way of her doing some very acrobatic moves. Watch her on the floor; blink, and you'll miss a perfectly-executed flip or a twist of some sort. Other gymnasts may be able to do what she does, but it won't be nearly as pretty.

Upon first seeing Rey Mysterio, two things become apparent: he's quite small and has a badass name. His wrestling is breathtaking, but not necessarily because of what he does; it's how he does it. His execution is perfect and almost graceful (a rare quality in today's wrestling world), and maintains that with all of his acrobatics. Blink and you'll miss some insane flipping, twisting lucha libre move that'll make your eyes bug out of your head. Sure, other wrestlers might be able to do what he does. But who cares? It won't be nearly as pretty.


Annia Hatch


Common characteristics: Power, Power, Power, and Power

Annia Hatch, a 7-time Cuban national champion now competing for the U.S., is on the American Team for one reason and one reason only: her strength and power. The three "all-around" gymnasts who were selected for the team were not very strong vaulters, so Annia has been brought in because she's a monster on that particular event. She's not particularly good on any other apparatus by international standards, but her vaulting ability more than makes up for it.

Batista, once stuck in a dead-end gimmick and now with the most dominant wrestling stable in recent memory, is a member of Evolution for one reason and one reason only: his strength and power. The three other members of Evolution are all much more proficient in the "all-around" aspect of wrestling: promos, ring sense, and personality. Batista was brought in not because he's particularly good at any of those things, but because he's freakishly strong and can act as the "enforcer" of the group. He's not really good at any one aspect of the sports entertainment business, but his power more than makes up for it.


The Old
Vault Apparatus

The First 
Ultimate X Match

Common characteristics: Great Athletes dealing with Faulty Equipment

The 2000 Olympics in Sydney was a showdown between the Russians and the Romanians, and should have been an epic battle for the gold medal in the all-around competition. Until the equipment got in the way, that is. In what has become an infamous moment in gymnastics history, the vault was set two inches lower than what is considered standard for the sport for the first half of the competition. Two inches may not sound like much, but it is huge. For a comparison, try this: for the last round of the Masters tournament in golf, shorten half of the competitors' clubs by two inches. Then, don't tell them that their clubs have been shortened, and watch them all fall apart! Gymnasts were falling all over the place, and the momentum of the event had been altered by no fault of the competitors. The folly was discovered by gymnastics officials -- requiring officials to fix in the middle of the competition -- and the affected gymnasts were allowed to vault again, but it didn't matter. The competition had already been irreversibly affected by bad equipment. It was embarrassing and tragic all at once. The vaulting apparatus has since been altered, but it still can't change history.

The first Ultimate X Match in TNA should have been a classic, given the competitors involved. They all busted ass, but through no fault of their own, the equipment got in the way and interrupted the flow of the match. The "X" part of the equipment (a pair of criss-crossing high wires upon which was strung the X Division title belt) that hung over the ring shook quite badly, and the belt fell from its perch a few times -- requiring officials to fix it in the middle of the performance. It was embarrassing and tragic all at once. The equipment has since been fixed, but it can't rewrite history.


Mohini Bhardwaj

The Hurricanrana  

Common characteristics: Difficult to pronounce, Visually impressive, Foreign

Like Annia Hatch, Mohini Bhardwaj (pronounced Mo-HEE-NEE Bard-WASHZ) was brought onto the American team because of her strength on the vault. Although born in the U.S., she is of foreign descent: her father is Indian and her mother is Russian. The typical response upon hearing her difficult-to-pronounce name is, "Huh WHAT?" Her vault and tumbling on the floor exercise are very impressive, but she is a trickster among more substantial gymnasts like Courtney Kupets and Svetlana Khorkina.

The hurricanrana is a foreign wrestling skill brought to us by the Mexicans, and its name doesn't quite roll off the tongue like "body slam" and "suplex" do. Just ask Jim Ross.  The move itself is quite impressive to watch, but it is a trick often used (notably by Lita and Gail Kim) to disguise limited movesets in the presence of more talented wrestlers like Victoria and Molly Holly.


The Entire Russian National Team

Triple H

Common characteristics: Omnipresent, Fading talent, Recently unable to capture the gold

The Russians have always been a dominant force in the sport of women's gymnastics, first as the Soviets, and now as a democracy. It's impossible to watch a World Championships, Olympics, or European Championships without them featured prominently. But lately, they haven't shown the same skill and grace under pressure as they are historically known for. Their last team gold medal in an Olympiad came in 1992 as the Unified Team. In '96 they were beaten by the Americans, and again in 2000 by the Romanians. This may be attributable to the lack of depth on the team now that they don't have an entire Socialist Republic from which to choose a team, or possibly because of an inability to perform when the pressure is on (in 2000, they lost the gold because of four straight falls on the balance beam.)

Triple H, for most of his career, has been a dominant force in the world of sports entertainment, first as just a wrestler, and now as the Boss' son-in-law. It's impossible to watch an episode of RAW or a pay-per-view without him featured prominently. But lately, he hasn't been able to pull through when the pressure is on. At WrestleMania he was beaten by Benoit, and the same result came in a triple-threat rematch. More attempts at the title at Vengeance and this Monday's RAW have been futile. This may be attributable to Triple H losing the magic touch he once had, or possibly because of an inability to win with the company he keeps (in his last two tries, he lost the gold because of interference from a retard.)


Erin Anderson is an Atlanta native and a student at Georgia State University. Since writing about wrestling didn't go over too well with her English professors, she vents here at Online Onslaught.

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