The Hot Topic: Dangerous Games

Rob Taylor

*This column is the view of Rob Taylor alone*

Welcome to this Pre-Christmas edition of THT, this time we have a bit of a mixed bag… Thank you for all the feedback on the Spin Cycles column, a lot of people have asked me to elaborate further on this, so rather than my random thoughts, I thought I’d give a couple of further examples first of how the 10 year cycle does hold true.

Last time I covered the 1990’s and the Noughties… but if you look further back the same concept of change in the middle of a decade, leading to prosperous times at the end of one, are just as true.

In 1984, wrestling began the biggest change in its history, when the WWF began to expand nationally and with it came a new breed of wrestler. The early 1980’s were ruled by technically proficient, but relatively bland stars like Bob Backlund,the signing of Hulk Hogan, a seachange. When Backlund dropped the strap, it was to the first of the WWF’s “cartoon villains”, The Iron Shiek… of course we know Hogan quickly defeated him ut the concept that gave birth to Wrestlemania had been found, drawing on comic book type characters, good v evil, whatever you want to call it… New “stars” were quickly created or repackaged to sell the WWF to the masses… Guys like Junkyard Dog, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jake Roberts, Andre The Giant and Mr T. yep Mr T. just as Steve Austin, Mike Tyson and the Rock played a huge role in elevating the profile of WWE in more recent years, the idea that a massively succesful star of the era, like T, would attend a wrestling show, much less be an active competitor, coupled with the coup of getting Muhammed Ali involved was the catalyst that made Wrestling a serious proposition. It led to the boom period of 1987 and Wrestlemania 3, where creatively and in terms of success, WWE has rarely reached…

The 1970’s? It happened again, though not as wildly successful as other eras, during the mid 1970’s a crop of later to be important stars began to emerge, Ric Flair, Andre The Giant, Bob Backlund, Roddy Piper amongst others, the catalyst for that era was arguably “Superstar” Billy Graham, he was the prototype for the showbusiness, sculpted superstar, Graham was the first World Champion to really use Catchprhases and appearance, the feather boa,tyedye and beard along with the “24 inch Pythons” into one crafted package… While the era was not ready for everyone to be like this, reaction to Graham showed guys they could be more extreme with their characters, the fans would buy it, as well as the tough guys like Sammartino or Harley Race… which led to guys like Jesse Ventura, Adrian Street, Adrian Adonis and of course Hulk Hogan’s characters.

The cycle does work if you look closely enough, every middle decade a new crop emerges to replace the old, new stars emerge, public tastes will change and a boom always comes by the ‘7 or ‘8 year…of course we have to wait 3 years for me to be proved right, but hey, I have faith…

Now onto the main topic, one that will be once more a controversial one, I must preface it by saying that fact is sketchy here, I am talking about rumblings the news has given in the last few days… I don’t pretend to speak for anyone other than if it were me in the situation…

So what is it? Of couse, it can be only one thing, WWE and it’s “gift to the troops” in sending Smackdown to Iraq during the holiday week.

On paper this is a good and noble thing to have done for those who defend the US nation. WWE will of course garner positive publicity, but it would be cynical to believe that is the only reason for the trip.

The concerning part is the reports that some wrestlers who allegedly did not want to “voulenteer” for the trip were pressured, either directly or indirectly with comments about it being a “bad move”.

As I said, I can only speak for myself, but if there is even a crumb of truth to this, not only is it distasteful to the extreme, but also very dangerous on WWE’s part.

So for the sake of argument,lets say that Rob Taylor was a contracted WWE worker of a mid card level on Smackdown, working 280-300 dates per year, told just weeks before that I was expected to fly around the world to fulfil a date in an active militarized zone during Christmas week. I might have a problem, after all, it’s been a tough year with bumps, road schedule etc, surely Xmas is a time to kick back with the family? Especially if it had been planned for some time to take them to Disney or something…If you knew colleauges (or rivals, depending how you look at it) on “the other show” get Xmas off, no hassle…They are not even being asked to make the trip…That too might cause me to ask a few questions… This is, of course, assuming that I even believed in the war in Iraq in the first place, while professionally it would not be something you might talk about in public, I could be the most anti-US involvment person in the world, that too might cause me to say “No thanks”…

As I said, this is pure hypothetical, no one except the people concerned will know what was actually said, but it raises some interesting points that it’s even being rumored (lets face it, most WWE “rumors” are accurate these days)

First off, if WWE was serious about a gift to the troops, why not send the best stars from both rosters over? make the 2 brands fight in front of the troops…that would be something fitting for the effort they put forth… even if interbrand matches did not occur, just seeing Randy Orton for example with his former Marine colleauges for example would be something of interest to all… Were the RAW roster even asked to make the trip? Probably not…I’m sure they can say “The PPV is too close” but 4 or 5 could easily have been spared for a few days.

By making one roster travel, it could be said all the pressure is on one group of guys not to let “the troops” be that WWE or the real ones down. Guys who went sacrificed some time to go and entertain the troops, but according to reports they put themselves directly in the line of fire by doing so…

The risk WWE runs here is that if (and by the grace of god nothing did go wrong) even one roster member was pressured into going on the trip and never came back, what possible reasoning could they have to justify it to their families? “They knew the risks” would not stand up as an excuse, after all these guys are entertainers, sportsmen, actors, whatever you choose to call them, they are not soldiers… Collateral Damage does not apply as a term in wrestling…

The outcome is, no harm was done, everyone made it out in one piece and they likely enjoyed the trip. I guess we will see over the coming months if those who declined to go DO suffer on screen.

I hope WWE has the sense not to punish anyone who didn’t make the trip, in anyway, after all, the very troops they went to entertain are the guys fighting for the right for everyone to make these kind of decisions for themselves…they are indeed fighting to stop people being forced into things they don’t want to do… If it’s false, fair play, if this did happen though, and the truth came out those same troops will probably wish WWE never bothered cos they would have done them and the cause they fight for a disservice.

If you have any feedback about this column, feel free to mail me on, I don’t want to get into political debates, just on the wrestling aspect please…

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