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Getting Meta-Evil...
July 26, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


  • Just a few news-y type things today, which I'll conscientiously put here at the top so those of you who don't care for pointless rambling can opt-out early...
    First, last night's SmackDown! drew a 4.6 overnight rating, which is up nominally over last week's overnight.
    I thought SD was yet another very strong effort from the Fed, with a top shelf Edge/Jericho main event that ended with Edge, John Cena, and Rey Mysterio together in the ring being hyped as "The Future of SmackDown!"...  also, Rey's debut was tremendous.  The ring entrance was hot (being ejected out of the stage into the air!), and his match against Chavo was very good.
    Obviously, the big question is "If it wasn't Kurt Angle in the limo with Eric Bischoff, then who was it?"...  Hulk Hogan's about the only really big name that leaps to mind.  But then again, when Steph promised to "rip the heart out of RAW," all she walked away with was Brock Lesnar.  So maybe we shouldn't have such high expectations?
    In any case, full results should be posted in the OO SD Recap, filed this week by Eitan Shapiro.  You remember him, right:  the first guy who did SD Recaps here for OO when we re-launched?
  • Chris Kanyon's shoulder injury is a relatively mild one, and he'll be back in the ring in mid-August.
  • Bill Simmons is back at it again on ESPN.com's Page Two...  he'll occasionally slip in wrestling asides or do full-blown wrestling-themed columns.  This time, it's one of the latter, as he makes a case for pro wrestling highlights (Rock/Hogan from WMX8, specifically) being included in ESPN's Top 100 Moments countdown.
    Check it out here.
  • Chris Jericho and Fozzy are actually touring in support of their new record, "Happenstance."  Well, kinda, anyway.  They're doing two shows next week -- Wednesday in Charlotte and Friday in Atlanta -- at mid-sized clubs.  I think I heard somewhere that Fozzy might also do a gig in Australia when the Fed heads over there, but I've already forgotten the details.
  • Speaking of wrestlers in bands: did you know Jeff Hardy and Shannon Moore had a little side project going on?  I didn't...  but they are.  The band is called "Peroxwhy?gen" and you can get more info at www.peroxwhygen.com
  • Turns out the second OO Reader-centric Fantasy Football League filled up awfully fast, too.  But a couple more guys stepped up and have started leagues, and would like to populate them with fellow OO/Wrestling Fans.
    Go to Yahoo's Fantasy Football...  then after you select to "Join Private League," use one of these League ID numbers:  99377 (with password "rawiswar"), or 82913 (with password "james").  Hopefully, all of you who want to play will eventually get in on one of these leagues!
  • As warned, that's about it, newswise...  below, there be opinionated rambling.  Proceed at your own risk.



I don't want to belabor this point, and I know ahead of time it might be a topic of limited appeal...  so I swear to you upfront that I'll try to keep this under 30 KBytes.

What's the topic?  This whole internet wrestling fandom thing.  More specifically, the internet wrestling writer thing, how we relate to the on-screen product.  Oh, yes, kids...  it's META-OOPINION:  rambling not about wrestling, but about writing about wrestling!

It seems to me the vast majority of "online personalities" don't need a special occasion to find something wrong with wrestling.  I know it's out there, and it's always bothered me.  But even here 'round OO, we had a flare up in the last few weeks (sparked by the appearance of Eric Bischoff on WWE TV) of writers making grand displays because of something they didn't like.

Since OO is generally a bastion for more laid back editorializing (and Scott Keith), I was kind of shocked by these displays.  This past Tuesday or Wednesday, I really sat back and tried to figure out what the hell was going on.  Combined with my long-standing discomfort over the generally negative vibe elsewhere on the 'net, I'm left here on Friday to do some formless proselytizing about the mindset of internet wrestling columnists.

Let me start by talking about me.  I know, I know...  my own favorite subject, right?  Whatever.  In this case, I just happen to be the guy I know best.  So we'll start with a little bit of what goes through my head as a way of trying to move on to what goes through the minds of others who write about wrestling, OK?

As I've said time and time again, the fact that people like me do this, and that there is a vast audience for it, boggles my mind.  It seems a ludicrous thing that somebody can sit down, watch two hours of TV, then write what he thought about it, and have an audience for that.  But that said, there IS an audience for it.  And if that audience exists, then why not make it mine?  This is my mindset as a writer:  I try not to take myself too seriously (while still being serious about trying to put out a decent level of quality), but at the same time openly admit that my ego would miss this if it went away.

The one other thing that has really molded whatever "style" I have is this:  I think "wrestling journalist" is a ridiculous thing to call oneself.

Talking about something you saw on TV isn't investigative reporting; and even when there are backstage, news-y type things to report on, these "wrestling journalists" are not backstage, conducting the interviews, doing the footwork to truly get facts.  They are talking on the phone, getting stuff second hand.  By the time it gets to readers, it's been spun every which way, and filtered through lord knows how many different personal biases.  To me, it's akin to "Soap Opera Digest" or "E! News Daily" being recognized as journalism.  I mean, yeah, maybe there is some way to find a dictionary definition that allows you to call yourself that, but in the real world, nobody is taking you seriously.  

I discovered this anti-"wrestling journalist" phobia very early on in my smart fan development.  You can go back to 1993 and find my name on Dave Meltzer's list of subscribers to The Observer.  I was really enamored with the idea of knowing all the backstage gossip, but still, by the time my subscription ran out, I knew I had no intentions of renewing.  Why?  I was well on my way to being able to get backstage news from a plethora of other places, which would not seem to have an innate loathing of the very spectacle upon which it reports.

It seemed to me that with "wrestling journalism" came an inability to enjoy wrestling.  Maybe that makes perfect sense... like the baseball beat writer whose job it is to uncover all things newsworthy about their team, no matter how unflattering.  But as outlined above, this ain't journalism, and you ain't in the trenches with the team getting the dirt.  So I discard that as an excuse to justify the star ratings and the stopwatch/notepad existence that seems to typify the "wrestling journalist."  

At best, this species could be called a "wrestling critic."  But I bet they wouldn't like that.  Because food critics are people who like food, but can't cook.  Film critics are people who lacked the ability to get a job in the industry after graduating film school.  TV critics fail to warn the populace when utter crap like "Baby Bob" is presented in prime time, because they're too busy doing fluff pieces on why "Ally McBeal" shouldn't have been cancelled.  So surely the description of a wrestling critic would probably be less than flattering.

Not that critics are worthless...  if you find one who shares your personal tastes, a critic can be invaluable.  There are elements to most anything that can be quantified and debated, but a lot of things are simply matters of personal preference.  So you have to find a critic with the same preferences if you're going to subscribe to any critic at all.

But in the wrestling world, writers would rather hide behind the "journalist" label.  If you're a commentator or a critical observer or something like that, you limit your audience to people who are interested in your opinion.  If you're a journalist, however, EVERYBODY is your audience, and EVERYBODY has to see things your way, and EVERYBODY has to think you're King Shit.  Because journalists tell it like it is, and cannot be argued with.

At the other end of the spectrum from the wrestling journalist is the Columnist with a Gimmick.  I guess the thinking is that "wrestling fans like gimmicks, so I better act as ridiculously as possible so I stand out with them."  Or something like that.  Even if it's not a "gimmick" in the same way that "The Hurricane" is a gimmick, you can't deny that there is a class of online writer who puts himself and his style above the actual pro wrestling product.

Now, shockingly, I'm not against this practice.  I used to be.  I used to hate it when people insisted on using stage names and stuff like that.  But now, I've actually got guys like this on OO.  Because if you actually have something insightful or interesting to say, it doesn't matter what name you use or how you say it.

Unfortunately, the class of writers who resort to using gimmicks and putting oneself over all the time seem to use those tricks in lieu of having anything worthwhile to say, rather than in support of interesting comments.  You strip the character away, and there's nothing there.  Kind of like Carrot Top.

And you know what the most common "gimmick" is?  It's the "Asshole who hates and makes fun of everything."  No concern for if a criticism is on target and valid...  just a concern for how effectively we can demean a person and his/her efforts.  In this way, the gimmick columnist shares something with the wrestling journalist:  an apparent inability to simply sit back and enjoy wrestling.

So having identified two types of online personalities that I don't much care for, what are we left with?  Well, a narrow middle ground where you can admit to being a commentator, but do it with some of the responsibility that the "journalist" types would aspire to and without the buffoonery that the gimmick columnists use.

Shocking, isn't it?  Me, a centrist?  Taking the middle ground?  You've never seen that happen before...

Anyway, maybe with all that out of my system, you can see some of the things that went in to me being the middle ground kind of guy I am...  there is (or was) a perception that at some point around the time of joining up with WrestleLine that I "lost my edge."  In reality, I started developing a philosophy based on the types of observations I outlined above a bit before WrestleLine.  And even now, after WL, here I am, still the same kind of non-edgy guy.

It wasn't "watering down for a larger audience."  It was me growing up.  I realized just who was reading what I was writing.  I realized that being unnecessarily harsh on a person was not necessary to critique the product.  To synthesize:  I realized that I liked the idea of the subjects of my criticisms not wanting to punch me in the face for being such a clueless prick.

An aside: this actually became an issue one time.  Well, maybe not getting punched in the face, but I did get a pretty serious promo cut on me while covering the Pillman Memorial Show last year.  And it wasn't even for something I wrote; it was somebody else on WrestleLine who was the offending party.  So even if I hadn't already developed a kinder, gentler style, that incident was enough to reinforce the idea that there is little to be gained by making grand criticisms that enter the personal, rather than purely professional, realm.  

And if the worst thing people have to say about me is that I'm not critical enough, then I'm gonna wear that as a badge of honor.  Because I still sneak my opinions in there.  I won't come out and say "Kurt Angle is a worthless shitpile whose matches are boring, whose promos make me wince, and who will never sell one pay-per-view" (note: Kurt Angle is used in this example because if I used Billy Gunn, people might actually think I was being serious).  But I still have strong feelings about what is good and what is bad.  You just gotta read between the lines a bit, and you have to be willing to accept that there are ways to make criticism that don't involve profanity or questioning the sexuality of the parties involved.

All of which starts getting me back to my main point:  the ubiquitous "I hate wrestling" vibe on the 'net. I probably picked the wrong week to do this, since I've had this bubbling up for -- well -- years, really.  And instead, I wait till it's two of my own guys who get worked up into a tizzy...  almost as if THEY are my targets.

Let me spell it out:  they are not.  Actually, CRZ gets heaps of respect for just walking away, and not doing any sort of big public outburst.  Something happened that he didn't like.  He stepped back and questioned, "Am I still a wrestling fan?", and now he's back (hopefully for good).  Beats the hell out of Dave "If it ain't MMA or from Japan, then it ain't shit" Meltzer pretending to be a fan because there's big money in it, anyway...  And Lee Filas:  his "walk out" was just a joke.  It was the response it got him turned it real.  Lee is a wrestling fan; he's just not a fan of ludicrous flame mail.

But elsewhere, be it this week or any other, the overwhelming majority of people writing about wrestling do it in a negative way.  Maybe it's a Tuesday, and they just have to share how god-awful RAW was.  Or maybe it's a slow news week, and they have to fabricate some new way in which Triple H is ruining the business.  Or maybe they're REALLY short on anything to say, so they point out that Eric Bischoff is now the fattest man on the planet.

This show sucked.  This match sucked.  This guy sucks.  Whatever...  it's a baffling level of negativity.  And I have to believe it's because of the belief of the writers that they must be either Wrestling Journalists or Columnists with a Gimmick.  Because if they are fans and these are their HONEST opinions, then they are biggest losers in the world.

Think about it:  what kind of mentally deficient chair-moistener would dedicate four hours of his week to watching something that he hates? And then more hours to write about it?  Maybe they're just masochists?

Given those alternate hypotheses, I suspect that what we've got is a bunch of online personalities who are just being negative because they think it's their job.  And I think that's a shame.  As a reader, I'd feel robbed because the writer is not being honest with me.  As a fellow columnist, I'd feel ashamed that this person is being lumped in a category with me.  But mostly, as a fan of the industry, I'd feel sorry that any chance to cull a constructive criticism out of a long-time and observant fan has been lost because he decided it'd be better to lob senseless attacks in every direction.

It'd be better if the people who presented wrestling news and opinion to online fans did a better job of isolating the real problems and presenting their ideas for real solutions.  But that'd be a perfect world, and we don't live in one of those.  Nope, we live in a place where everyone feels like they deserve 15 minutes of fame, and they'll take potshots at anyone in an attempt to get them.

If my generally optimistic view on wrestling makes me a joke to some other online pundits, so be it.  If my laid back way of making the criticisms I do have makes me soft in their eyes, fine.  If my lengthy dissertation about what I think about their kind pisses them off, big fucking deal.

I'll gladly stand out as the guy who doesn't ever deliver a "Thumbs Down" and tries to convince reader that a show had not even a single redeeming moment.  I'll be the last safe haven for the half-dozen or so fans who don't think that Triple H is an evil backstage genius.  I'll try to focus on the fact that Eric Bischoff has been really good as a performer since his WWE debut, instead of worrying about his weight or non-existent backstage power.  In short:  I'll be a wrestling fan.

And if I ever go a year-and-a-half without seeing a single damn thing that I like, I'll actually have the brains to quit watching and walk away.  


Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.

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