RBTR – Humble Pie

Mitchell Gadd

Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of Reading Between The Ropes. Following Matt Hardy’s decision to resign with the WWE and turn down an offer from TNA many people suggested that Matt Hardy had sold out on the fans that supported his stance against the WWE and, most importantly, had sold himself out; his values and his beliefs. I didn’t entirely agree with such sentiments, save one or two comments. Hardy, reportedly, was offered a bigger deal than he had before being released and, more significantly, was given back the security and the job he loved that should never have been taken away from him in the first place. So, now suggestions that Joey Styles has also sold himself out have surfaced, it’s only natural to analyse whether the ‘voice of ECW’ is also being unfairly scorned.

What rubber-stamped my opinion on the Hardy situation was simply that Vince was the one who came crawling back to Hardy. It smacked of an admission of a mistake, and of an owner eating some humble pie. While I acknowledge that Christian and Chris Jericho have taken a ground-breaking (for modern day athletes) and honourable stance against Titan, I was also the first to say that in applauding their decision I am in no way objecting to those that wish to ‘stick it out’ or, as some more ruthless souls have chosen to put it, ‘come crawling back’. While waxing lyrical about Jay Reso’s decision I did not for a second berate Spanky.

In hindsight, one could say that Hardy is a fool for coming back, but if he is happy and he feels financially secure, we cannot argue with the man’s decision. It’s his decision – and he must live with it. Christian and Jericho showed they could walk away on their own terms and they didn’t need the company like the company needed them. Matt Hardy’s story showed that the company didn’t want Hardy but, in the end, they needed each other. I have no doubt in my mind that Vince Mcmahon HATES the fact that Matt Hardy is over and sees him as nothing more than a curtain-jerker or a spot-monkey, if you will. However, he had to bow to fan pressure, and Hardy had to bow to his natural instincts; the security and cosy familiarity of his long-time home.

So, where does Styles fit in this equation? There’s no doubt that Styles has a cult following but even the most loyalist of the Stylites have questioned his decision to be the ‘voice of Raw’. It’s well documented that the WWE’s number one choice was Mike Goldberg and perhaps turning to Styles as a ‘last resort’ was another slap in the face to the former ECW announcer. Those might also remember the comments from Titan following the demise of ECW that Styles’ previous work in ECW did not count as significant sports entertainment announcing, and that it would act as no beneficiary should he apply for a job at Titan. Make no mistake about it, the WWE ridiculed just about everything Styles has worked to achieve towards his legacy as an ECW announcer.

It was as if the WWE saw Styles as Mcdonalds employee asking for a job at Gilford and Sons Incorporated. The WWE saw Styles as David Long applying for Dave Meltzer’s job at the Wrestling Observer (just kidding, Longy). So, now Styles is working for Titan and is aboard the gravy-train, so to speak, but does that make him the Mcmahons’ bitch? Does that mean he’s under the thumb of the very company that laughed at every syllable he uttered as an ECW announcer?

Absolutely not.

If Vince initially digested a crumb or two of humble pie over the Hardy situation, he’s swallowing a gallon of the stuff over Styles. Again, I’m convinced Mcmahon hates, no LOATHES, the fact that he had to turn to Style, effectively recognised that he was the best of the announcers on the market, save Mike Goldberg. Sure, Styles wasn’t his first choice but Mcmahon would have done ANYTHING to avoid having to hire Styles. In that sense I don’t mean offering a WWE contract to every announcer going besides Styles. I mean searching within himself and swallowing a whole load of pride before making that phone call. Mcmahon has had to come to terms with that fact that Styles is loved and was, perhaps, one of a very select few that the fans would have openly accepted as a legitimate replacement to Jim Ross.

And yet I find myself in a similar position to Mcmahon, himself. I went on record for many years saying that I did not like Styles as an announcer and couldn’t come to terms with his mannerisms. Maybe I could put that down to being a very periodic ECW viewer, stemming from the initial poor access to ECW material in the UK and to a stubborn resistance against the hardcore elements of ECW once said access was achieved. I was never a great fan of the company. The odd match here and there would entertain me, but the majority of the matches and the workers didn’t appeal to me at all. Styles was also one in that boat. However, I was always willing to accept a place in the minority in making my own opinions on Styles. And that’s what they were… MY opinions. I was always honest about my dislike for Styles, despite knowing some of the reactions negative comments against the man would have provoked amongst the loyalist ECW contingent.

Now I find myself being honest with the fact that Styles is a superb choice as the new voice of Raw. Monday nights needed a change. They needed to be freshened up. Goldberg would have done a fantastic job in doing just that, but Styles can do an even better one. The era of Raw under Styles’ guiding voice feels like a fresh start and gives the whole product a new feel that it desperately needed. I have no doubt that Styles will win over other fans, like he has done with me, that were either unfamiliar with his ECW work or just not accustomed to it.

However, Styles’ biggest challenge will be in winning over those that loved him the most. A strange predicament indeed. The very fans that loved his alternative style of announcing and his general domineer which reeked of the antithesis of anything WWE may find themselves struggling to come to terms with the fact that he is now working for the Mcmahons.To those fans I say you should lap up this era. It’s another case of the WWE acknowledging the little engine that could in Extreme Championship Wrestling.

For the WWE to turn to a man who they berated and ridiculed as a broadcast journalist for so long is the ultimate irony, and while there are those who question Styles’ decision, I would ask them to watch as Styles dishes out another spoonful of humble pie to Vince Mcmahon.

Until next time,

Mitchell L. Gadd

(Editor’s Note: During the last two paragraphs of this article it was reported that Eddie Guerrero had passed away. I toyed with the idea of just ending the column there and then, but decided to give it a finish. I apologise if that finish appeared to be abrupt, but with the gravity of hearing such news at this time, one can only appreciate my state of mind. Thank you.)

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