Mark Me A Mark; Rankings (That Don’t Really Matter)

Ken Napzok

Mark me a Mark

            So, The Rock came back to the WWE. You may have heard a little about it this week. Maybe on the Internet… or ESPN… or, well, everywhere. It was a great and grand moment, certainly one of the top five moments in recent WWE memory. Yet there is one thing I didn’t like about. Because of this moment far too many people are saying “I marked out.” True. I did, too. But far too many people are saying this with shame, like it’s a bad thing to completely enjoy something the pro wrestling world produces.

            The natural cycle of life is that you find something you really love or like to do and then you dive right on in. Then the joy that brought you to the table starts to wither away as you get older, the thing you love loses its magic, and the reality of what it is becomes exposed. The joy is gone, gone, gone.

            I started to get involved with the pro wrestling business in 2001. It was a short run. Mostly because it was terrifying. I was a manager. I always wanted to be a pro wrestling manager. I grew up loving Bobby Heenan, Jimmy Hart, J.J. Dillon, and Paul Ellering almost as much as the talent they took to the ring. The night before my first show, I was very confident. I’d been watching the WWF for years, so I knew how to make this work. Couldn’t wait. Then morning broke… so did my fever. The night before I was still in a day dream that had started when I was a young boy, but, on the day of the show, I suddenly realized I might not be sure of what I was about to get into.
            I walked to the ring and the Southern California Indy fans tore me apart before I even took five steps. I got to the ring and cut a promo… the same one I had rehearsed with great confidence the night before… and the amount of “go away heat” raining down on me was soul shattering. The match started and within three minutes I was catching my two hundred pound wrestler as he jumped from the top turnbuckle onto me as I stood fifteen feet below on the floor. My head hurt. It never looked like Jimmy Hart’s head hurt. I walked back to the locker after the match was promptly ignored by everyone in the locker room.

            I stopped being a fan that night. One year later, I stopped my involvement in the “business,” and eventually stopped watching wrestling all together. (I pretty much missed the Post-War era entirely.)  It was all too much of something like work to me. I had seen dark things, heard dark things, got put in a legitimate choke hold by a former WWE developmental talent who didn’t like the booked finish to a match, (Life… flashing… before… choke.. eyes.) saw guys get the call to the big show that didn’t deserve it, saw guys that should have got the call retiring to pick up more shifts at the electronics store.  

None of it was fun.

Then, slowly, over time I started coming back. I’d tune in on a Monday night and see some male cheerleaders yelling about something. Eh. I’d come back a few weeks later and see a Diva that I’d want to take home to Mom. Hmmm. I got back into rooting for Shawn Michaels. I started rooting against John Cena. Then before you knew it I was a fan again. Then in late 2009, I got back into the business side of things with the return of Millennium Pro Wrestling in Los Angeles. My first night back I got to grab a microphone out of Roddy Piper’s hands and then later he punched me in the face. (I spent the next three days proudly displaying my swollen face as a Red Badge of Courage to any one that would ask.) It was a great, magical night… that was a distant memory by the second show when behind the scenes drama spilled into the ring and turned into a shoot fight in the back parking lot and I blew a spot in a match and got whacked in the back of the head with a chair by the NWA World champion as my punishment.

Ah, yes, this still is a business.

Yet this time around I have not taken my eye off my original reason for showing up ringside. I love Pro Wrestling. And there are many things that are happening and still happen that are too be celebrated and enjoyed. They happen week to week and show to show. They happen in promos, scripted or otherwise. They happen when a wrestler starts to grow into his role or when an angle still manages to surprise us. It happens when the Nexus first appears and tears apart Raw. It happens when Diesel… not Kevin Nash… returns to the Royal Rumble. It happens when we see a date in February appear on screen; announcing the return of a great star.(or is it a debut… please still be a debut!) It happens when Davey Richards works his ass off for one weekend in Los Angeles for probably far too little cash, but still has no problem putting over a young champion of a tiny Indy fed. It happens when you get to see Jake “The Snake” Roberts break down in tears before the start of his final match in a hotel convention ballroom. It happens every time Christopher Daniels executes an amazing moonsault. It happens every time CM Punk does just one little thing to make a good moment great. It happens every time you sit down and start to watch an episode of Raw, Smackdown, and, yes, even Impact! and there is that part of you just hoping for something to happen that you’ll pop for. There are moments to “mark out to” every single week. So, do not bottle them up and wait for those once in a life time moments like the Rock returning. Let your Mark Flag fly high.

And that especially goes for the people buried way, way down on the inside. There is a reason you worked your way there in the first place. So, mark out, ya Marks, and do it with pride. If you can’t do that then just stick to watching House Hunters on the Home and Garden channel. See what surprising swerves that can provide you.

TNA had a pay-per-view, y’all.

            The wrestling week actually started with a pay-per-view event. Total Nonstop Action’s Against the Ropes. I mean… Up the Ante. Errrr… Overcoming the Odds. Something like it. It featured a World title ladder match, two extreme tag team legends destroying each other, two of 2005’s top stars in singles match, and Kurt Angle competing for the CUSTODY OF HIS CHILDREN.

            And no one is talking about it.

            You almost have to pity TNA. Based solely on the fact that they present wrestling matches and storylines on television on a national scale, they will always be compared to WWE. That’s just not fair. They really are two different things. There were some great moments on this pay-per-view.  I personally like Mickie James continued chase of Madison Rayne and the Knockout’s Championship. Babyface’s always work a little better when they are chasing as opposed to being chased. When Mickie showed up to TNA, it just seemed like a forgone conclusion that she would roll to the top. She hasn’t yet and I think the storyline is actually working. The Last Knockout Standing match was just another decent building block in this feud.

            And no one is talking about it.

            Jeff Jarrett and Kurt Angle’s sometimes awkward to watch feud continued to build with a Jarrett victory. It was a good match with solid moments and it ended with Kurt Angle, truly one of the greats, leaving his boots in the ring while Tazz sold it as the end of Angle’s career. Pretty decent drama.

            And no one is talking about it.

            A World title changed hands. Bubba Ray put one of his “nephews” through a table. Scott Steiner returned to the ring. And no one is talking about it because The Rock came back home and the WWE once again buried any kind of chance TNA had to move forward. This is because it is generally assumed a move forward by TNA would be an effort to topple the WWE. It isn’t. A move forward by TNA would be to help solidify themselves as the number two company. (And the best bankrolled by a power company. Yay!) Look, we all know (or think we know in our own smarkly fashion) why TNA is floundering, but there have been signs of them trying to make some smart moves, whether by circumstance or planning. The biggest of which is Fortune turning, which allows for some young faces to take over.

This pay-per-view’s card did not have the markings of an event. That can’t be denied. RVD took on Matt Hardy… why am I watching this in 2011? Samoa Joe slept walked through another match. Steiner and the always good Beer Money took on Rob Terry (someone get this guy a Wellness Policy to follow) and two guys that were wearing security shirts just a few weeks ago. And, of course, Jeff Hardy recaptured the promotion’s World title. All fails. Epic Fails. But I just don’t think it’s fair to hold the event and the promotion up to the brand that is WWE and the return of the most electrifying Tooth Fairy in the movie biz and then judge them for it. But, until something changes at the top, this will be their fate.

What’s Mark Cuban doing these days?


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