Monday, July 29, 2013

Everybody dance now, plus styling and profiling

The Catholic blogosphere and other religious commenters are all talking about the bishops participating in a flash mob style dance at World Youth Day this weekend. It drove home how I'm not very good with the kids. If the choreographer urged me to participate in something like that, I'd have taken a deep drag on my cigarette, blown smoke in his face and said, "Go pound sand." And that's all I got to say about that.

The strange, sad career of former WWE champion Ric Flair:
Earlier this month on WWE NXT Ric Flair was in the ring at Full Sail University, and the crowd was eating his act up. That should come as no surprise—Flair has been one of professional wrestling's most popular and enduring acts, hitting his peak in the late 1980s and never looking back.
For once he's not selling himself, though those days aren't gone either. Instead his daughter Ashley, wrestling as "Charlotte" for the WWE's developmental system, is making her television debut. Although the high definition television isn't kind to his 64-year old face, complete with phony tan, 40 years of scars and dyed, thinning hair, you'd never guess watching that Flair's life, once again, is embroiled in turmoil.
Maybe if you've spent the last two decades fending off one crisis or another, you become bulletproof? Maybe Flair, after all that has happened, is invulnerable to the slings and arrows of life?
In the ring he talks about the business he loves. And while wrestling has been kind to him in many ways, it's also cost him everything he's ever had.
Families. A child. Money. Pride.
If Ric Flair hit his peak in the late 1980s then that means I've only been watching wrassling long enough to witness the beginning of his decline. The character of Ric Flair was awesome:


By all accounts, Ric Flair the man identified too strongly with his character. You can't live the Nature Boy's lifestyle forever. It's a hard business that's taken its toll on a lot of men. Many of them died before their time such as Owen Hart and Eddie Guerrero. We may never know what drove Chris Benoit to murder his wife and son, and then hang himself. The outcomes of the matches are predetermined but wrestlers are still tremendous athletes. UFC fighters have four or five fights in a year, but pro wrestlers are taking bumps almost every day. Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown are only a fraction of the matches these men and women do. The Benoit muder-suicide was what made WWE switch to PG programming. Attitude era marks like me are known for being complainers, but I for one think it's a good thing that WWE is taking greater precautions with the mental and physical health of its talent. The PG era isn't bad because it's PG; that's lazy thinking. Wrestling was PG throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but those guys cut some intense promos:


The PG era is bad because the booking is horrendous. Or I should say it was. The product has been steadily improving since the start of this year. Wrestlers are on the road for most of the year. It's a very hard life. Is it surprising that many of them turn to alcohol or drugs? Ric Flair made a lot of bad decisions in his life. He loves the business, nobody disputes that. And like Trips said in the article, it's hard to hang it up after a career in the spotlight. But in Flair's case, he needs the money. He should have stopped wrestling in the 1990s at the latest. It was sad to see him going well into his fifties and sixties. I have my disagreements with Jim Cornette, but one thing on which he and I are in accord is the nature of TNA programming: a bunch of balding old guys yelling at each other over things that happened fifteen years ago. I shudder with disgust when I think of Ric Flair's time in TNA and like to pretend that it never happened. I will be astonished if TNA lasts until 2014. Dixie's parents won't be content to give their daughter a wrestling allowance forever. They're losing money hand over fist now that they've left the Impact Zone at the behest of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. Hogan, Bischoff, a wrestling company in terminal decline... I'm seeing a pattern here.

I was a child during the Rock n' Wrestling era and a teenager during the New Generation and Attitude eras. That was back when the business worked hard to maintain kayfabe, i.e. making sure the guys were always in character in public. The internet makes that old way of doing business impossible now. That WWE Divas show that premiered last night? They never, ever would have done that thirty or twenty years ago. Now the backstage drama is a reality show. Of course I watched it. I love the Bellas. They're, ah... great in the ring. Yeah, that's the ticket.

But the end of kayfabe also makes it possible for the fans to know when their favorite superstars are hurting. Jake the Snake Roberts and Scott Hall are cleaning up their lives with the love and support of the fans. I pray Ric Flair can bounce back from his latest troubles.

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