Thursday, July 5, 2012

For Cold Hard Cash

With two episodes up on YouTube's Awesomeness TV, The Underground so far has more style than substance, but that's all right (for now, anyway) since, as in all 21st-century consumer branding, tone is what new enterprises use to draw an audience, and The Underground's jumpcut editing and highly processed cinematography set a smoky tone of grunge and energy, with the same excessive attitudinal saturation that supercharges the Fast and Furious series and any number of Jason Statham movies. Okay, so it caught my attention.

The first episode (published two weeks ago today) is introduced by King, who claims to be the top man in The Underground, a super-secret fight club that we are supposedly entering well after its startup. King is a pale, long-haired, nattily dressed hipster (think "Jack White circa eight years ago"). King is "King," he tells us, because he earned that title fighting his way to the top of The Underground. We will have to wait to see whether King will actually ever wrestle in defense of his title.

In the first episode, PW3 (aka Matt Jackson) versus Hayashi (Mike Hayashi), we see a small crowd of extras, attractive young "fans," crowding around a wrestling ring in what looks like a 19th-century textile mill. Everyone is fashionably dressed, and the fans look more like models in a Courvoisier ad than the T-shirt- and baseball-cap-wearing crowd we usually see in TV wrestling. The match is not bad either. Hayashi is the babyface, earnest, dedicated skateboarder-type. PW3 is the arrogant heel, accompanied to the ring by a classy-looking blonde named Liz. The action is infused with a lot of Japanese-style chops and kicks. It's fast without being particularly furious. But both wrestlers are young and good looking and know what they're doing in the ring. I'm intrigued. Throughout the match, we get cutaway shots of the crowd, in particular one brooding young man, who we are later told is a wrestler named Stone (aka Nick Jackson, who, with brother Matt, constitute The Young Bucks elsewhere).

At the match's end and in the series' trailer, we're introduced to some of the other players in The Underground, and they are, on the whole, very young, good looking, and vaguely familiar. I can't say yet whether I like this new series. It's too soon. As I said, I'm intrigued by it. What I've seen so far is promising, without yet being satisfying. It looks like a lot of money is being thrown into it. I can't tell yet either whether I like this new development in TV wrestling, which takes the phoniness of kayfabe and polishes it up, giving it a hip, pseudo-edgy luster, thickly (perhaps suffocatingly) applied. (This is in stark contrast to the low-overhead, balls-to-the-wall, anything-goes spirit of Beyond Wrestling, which goes in entirely the opposite direction.) Right now I'm finding The Underground entertaining as eye candy, but it remains to be seen whether its substance will ever catch up with its style.

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