I try not to say unkind things on this blog about wrestlers and wrestling. Okay, I take potshots at WWE now and then, but what wrestling fan does not? And I haven't said the worst that can be said (and is said, often) about WWE. And, yes, my love for wrestling is never unconditional. Still, my usual approach is to wax enthusiastic about what I love or find intriguing in wrestling and ignore whatever doesn't move me. I realize that not everybody likes what I like, and often I don't like what everybody else likes. So why be mean? After all, this is all supposed to be fun, right? And none of it seems to have any cosmological or epistemological importance. It isn't even what puts beans and beer on the table at my house.
That said, I dipped back into Florida Championship Wrestling recently. I don't have cable or a satellite dish, so these days I depend on the Internet and DVDs for my pro-wrestling kicks. Championship Wrestling from Florida was my first love in TV wrestling, back when I was a born-again Christian teenager in Miami. It was, for years, the one vent I allowed to my repressed homosexuality. The purple-prose commentary of Gordon Solie always carried (I felt) an undercurrent of eroticism, and it inspires much of what I write in this blog.
FCW became a developmental tool of WWE about four years ago and gained a shiny, loud, and garish new presence on cable TV. It has all the charm of an artificial Christmas tree bought ready-decorated on QVC. It's not my taste, but it is a taste I can appreciate, as "camp." FCW acquired some of my favorite wrestlers from other promotions and began to transform them into WWE characters. Tyler Black, whom I adored well before he was a champion on Ring of Honor, became Seth Rollins. In February, Seth became the FCW heavyweight champion. I'm happy for him, but lately he strikes me as about three-quarters the wrestler he was two years ago. (The Cruella Deville hair does not help.) What FCW and WWE have done to Black (and Black allowed done to himself) is hard to forgive, but I do. I understand "business," even though FCW and WWE appear to have little understanding of what makes ring wrestling a ritualized form of popular "art." Vince McMahon set out to make pro wrestling for people who hate pro wrestling, and he succeeded. Gradually, it is becoming pro wrestling only for people who hate pro wrestling. (There. That was a potshot.)
To give it its due, FCW has introduced me to some fine wrestlers, notably Tyler Reks (unknown to me before FCW) and Corey Graves (Sterling James Keenan at 1 Pro Wrestling in the UK). And FCW has done a fine job in transforming Brett "Beef" Wellington at Ohio Valley Wrestling into Brad Maddox, 5'11", 204#. Wellington was in better physical shape at OVW (in its years in between being a developmental tool for WWE and one for TNA Wrestling), but his squeaky clean character was bland and not very interesting, albeit pretty to look at. Maddox is a better developed and more exciting character, narcissistic and erratic, a classic bully. When I first heard that Wellington was turning heel, I frankly held no hope for the transformation, but FCW and Maddox succeeded where my imagination had failed.
In the screen captures above, we see him in the final minute of a match against Richie Steamboat, 6'1", 215#, broadcast earlier this month. At the end of a timed 15-minute bout, Maddox, frustrated by the fact that he has done everything but pin Steamboat, resorts to hair-pulling and "foreign objects" (one of Solie's trademark catchphrases, by the way), but, in the end, by an out-of-nowhere yet totally expected surge of moxie, Steamboat gains the final pin. (You can watch the full 51-minute show, including Rollins and Graves in other matches, here on YouTube.)