With 2009 fast approaching, it's time to take a look back at the great moments of 2008. Join me on Monday as I begin counting down the greatest moments of 2008. Share your votes on what you think the great moments of 2008 were.
Once upon a time, wrestlers sold a chairshot like a gunshot. When someone got clobbered with a chair, they went down like a sack of potatoes and usually bled and bled. Who can forget Larry Zbyszko cracking Bruno Sammartino with the chair as the build-up to their famous feud? Bruno crumpled to the mat and he looked like he'd stuck his head in a wood chipper (okay, it wasn't that bad but boy, did he bleed!). Nowadays, a chair shot is more of a transition move than anything. A wrestler gets hit with a chair then their opponent locks in a chinlock.
Granted, things are nowhere near as bad as they were during the mid to late 1990's when wrestlers routinely fell through multiple tables, got blasted with everything from frying pans to cheese graters, and the Hardcore Title doubled revenue for the cookie sheet industry. Only after the WWE saw half of their roster join the Neck Injury for Men Club of the early 2000's did they realize that things had to be toned down. In fact, I I give the WWE a lot of credit for trying to put the genie back in the bottle. They still have a way to go but they've actually managed to get fans to not expect a near-death experience during every pay-per-view.
Still, there's something to be said for when a chair shot really meant something or a move on the concrete meant a wrestler might not get up. When Ray Stevens gave Jimmy Snuka two piledrivers on the cement, Snuka not only spilled more blood than a slasher movie but he sold the injury with a neck brace for weeks. Remember when Jake Roberts DDTed Ricky Steamboat on the cement during an episode of Saturday Night's Main Event? The match didn't even get started because Steamboat was out like a light (according to an interview I saw with Jake Roberts, Steamboat didn't tuck his head correctly and was legitimately knocked out). That's how it should be when an opponent's head gets blasted into the cement.
The same goes for certain weapons. As much as I pop when I see Triple H pull out the sledge hammer, I still shake my head every time he uses the sledge hammer. Not only does he blatantly cover the hammer with his hand when he uses it but its effectiveness is downplayed. I remember when Helmsley first used the hammer (I think it was against the Undertaker). He blasted the Undertaker with it and The Dead Man went down. It was Helmsley's great equalizer. Nowadays, it's a setup to the Pedigree. A sledgehammer shot should automatically equal broken ribs or worse. The only time I've ever seen Helmsley's hammer (that sounds like one of Stephanie McMahon's pet names for HHH) sold effectively was when DX fought the McMahons and the Big Show in a Hell in the Cell match. Helmsley blasted Vince McMahon across the back with the hammer and Vince sold it for weeks and weeks.
Sure, once in a while it's cool to see a wrestler no-sell a move that other wrestlers would go down from. That's how you get monsters like The Undertaker over. However history has shown that the more you use weapon shots, the less effective they become to the fans and that's when you have guys kicking out after being put through twin stacks of flaming tables i.e. the original ECW.
Foreign objects and other weapons should be special occasions and they should be the wrestling equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction. After all, if a guy can shrug off multiple chair shots, how in the world are you going to sell Chris Jericho's Codebreaker as a finisher?
Some people have asked me where they can get the book from. Well, the official word is that the book is en route to stores and it should be in people's hands by next week. The following book outlets have ordered the book but that doesn't mean your local outlet will necessarily have it (so you may have to ask them to order it). If you run into any problems finding it, please email me!
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Wrestling, like any form of entertainment is about conventions and how they are handled. Fans of Superman are willing to believe that a yellow sun and Earth's lesser gravity empower Superman to well, superhuman levels. They also are willing to believe that a pair of eyeglasses is enough to conceal Clark Kent's true identity. Wrestling fans have their own conventions too. There is the idea that wrestlers want to settle their differences in the ring. It doesn't matter if someone robbed you of a title, jumped you in a parking lot, or stole your wife-the place you settle your differences is in the ring, not in court. There's also the idea that wrestlers can absorb an insane amount of punishment. I remember when I was a kid, announcers would boast about the superhuman endurance of wrestlers and how they could take beatings that would hospitalize a normal man.
Over the years, new conventions have come out. One of the strangest is the idea that wrestlers can be seen backstage but no other wrestlers seem to know what has happened (even though they can see everything on TV should they have access to a set). Case in point, a couple of years ago the WWE did an angle where Stephanie McMahon drugged Shawn Michaels' bottled water on-camera and in the ensuing half hour before his match, no one bothered to warn him. That would be believable except the whole premise of wrestling is that it's a legitimate real-time sporting event, not a drama about a sport. I remember when TNA first came out and they tried to be more realistic by sending camera crews to the back if something was going on but before long, they said screw it, and adopted the WWE "cameras are everywhere" bit.
The WWE has also become notorious for their supernatural bits. Whether it's Kane using fire or the Undertaker returning from the dead, some superstars have magical powers that no one else can use. Does it make sense? Usually not. The Undertaker can return from being buried alive and yet he has trouble with chair shots in the ring. Kane can be thrown into a dumpster that is on fire and return the next week without a scratch and yet a beatdown with a metal pipe puts him on the shelf.
As someone who's followed many kinds of entertainment- soap operas, comic books, science fiction & fantasy, and of course wrestling, I've come to the conclusion that as long as conventions are consistent within the storyline world, fans will usually go along with them. Take comics for example: We know bullets bounce off of Superman without anyone getting hurt from the ricochet. That's one of the conventions Superman fans buy into. Likewise with kryptonite, whip out a little green K and Supes is flapping around like a fish out of water. That's why a lot of fans had a problem believing Big Blue could lift a land mass made out of kryptonite in Superman Returns (just one of many things that turned off fans to that film).
A good example of this is Randy Orton's punt kick to the head. While I applaud the WWE for building the move up as something devastating, it doesn't fit in with the rest of the moves around Orton (and I know I'm far from the only person who feels this way). The basic problem is that people can get piledrived, blasted with chair shots to the head, and put through tables without any long-lasting effect and yet Orton's boot to the head equals an automatic concussion?
It's all about making rules for your fictional world and keeping them consistent. When you stop doing this is when you start getting into bad storytelling.
Hey now! First off, thanks to everyone who's been pre-ordering the book. It looks like the book is doing some good numbers at Amazon and it's actually been in and out of the top 100 wrestling books since December 1.
If anyone is having a problem ordering the book outside of the U.S., I have a few copies available for sale. If you have a paypal account, you can get a signed copy for $19.95 U.S. +shipping. If you're interested, please PM me.
Thanks again for everyone's support. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on the book!
I just got the new SmackDown! vs RAW 2009 video game for XBox and it is awesome!~ (Editor's Note: I've actually been playing it for about three weeks now) I've been a big fan of video games ever since the days of the old stand up arcade game Tag Team Wrestling (how can you go wrong with a game where you win by repeatedly kicking your opponent in the nuts?) and while there's been a lot of crappy wrestling games out there (check out my list of the worst wrestling games of all time over at my pal RDLee's blog), the SD vs RAW series has been one of the better ones. That's not to say the series hasn't had its critics.
Like the Madden NFL series, this one gets a lot of flak because the new edition often seems like a glorified repackaging of the previous year's edition, only with updated rosters. It's a valid criticism but like Madden, it's hard to argue with the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" school of thought. Why redesign a video game every year if the fundamentals are solid?
Whatever your thoughts on previous editions of SD and their repetitive nature, this year's edition really stands out. The gameplay is amazing fluid (unlike TNA Impact which is just a mess). the AI is for the most part actually intelligent, and the new features for the game make it set it apart from everything before it.
First off, the graphics are amazing. For years I've heard about how 3D graphics have made video games so lifelike but this is the first game to really back this promise up. Playing this game, I was overhwhelmed at how lifelike the wrestlers looked and awed by the amount of detail. As the match progresses, the wrestlers begin to sweat and grimace with pain. During one match, I noticed the ECW announce team calling the match. It was really like being in the arena. Even the sound seems to have improved. You can notice the audience getting into the match if you put on a noteworthy bout. For the first time, you really feel like you're in the ring.
Second off, the added gameplay features really make this year's edition seem like something more than an updated roster that sets you back sixty bucks. First off, there is the traditional campaign mode where you can take a created wrestler or WWE Superstar from the beginning of their career all the way in to the Hall of Fame. Second, there is a second storyline mode The Road to Wrestlemania which allows you to play several characters along with a co/op mode featuring Batista and Rey. While I've only played two characters so far, the storylines seem individual. Replay is an essential component for most gamers and while the campaign mode isn't perfect, the addition of the Road to Wrestlemania gives this one a lot more value.
Is the game perfect? No. The movesets for each wrestler while not as redundant as years past (where guys like John Cena had the same moves as technicians like Chris Jericho) still could use some beefing up. The collision detection is one of the best yet but there are still a couple awkward spots. Worst yet, tag team matches end up being the longshot camera angle that makes for some annoying gameplay at times.
It's hard for me to tell someone who's been tired of playing the SD vs RAW series to buy yet another edition but this one really seems worth your money. With downloadable content on the way, this one should give you your mony's worth. While previous editions of SD vs RAW haven't always justified a sixty dollar investment, this one really does. If you feel burnt by previous editions, I don't think you'll feel the same way here. This is one wrestling game that offers a lot of different things for wrestling fans and video game fans.
Mike Rickard II is the author of Wrestling's Greatest Moments (published by ECW Press), a look back at the greatest matches, angles, and feuds of the last thirty years. The book is now availble for pre-order through amazon.com