Saturday, December 11, 2010

Testa's Take: Episode 2

TNA Un-Mercer-ful
By: Adam Testa 

Earlier this week, news broke that a top-tier talent from Ohio-based Absolute Intense Wrestling had signed a deal with Total Non-stop Action Wrestling, a move that instantly sparked debate and turmoil amongst Internet fans.

AIW officials launched a campaign on Facebook criticizing this superstar for leaving for TNA, calling the transition a "lateral move."

In an earlier column, which has drawn a bit of attention and controversy itself, I chimed in with my thoughts on the situation. That was before the name of the departing superstar was revealed.

Now the news is out: "No Mercy" Tommy Mercer will be the newest performer on the TNA roster. Mercer participated in one of TNA's Gutcheck challenges and earned an appearance on an upcoming edition of Impact, where will be part of Jeff Jarrett's open MMA challenges.

The kicker? He's supposedly Amazing Red's brother.

Before lamenting over these decisions, let's step back a bit and look at Mercer as a performer.

PWZ's Adam Testa believes Tommy Mercer might be selling himself short by signing with TNA, and would be better served spending time in WWE's developmental program. Testa believes "Mercer has the size, ability and look to make it in Vince McMahon's world."
I have had the opportunity to see him perform live a few times with Southern Illinois-based All-American Pro Wrestling, and I've seen his performance from this year's AIW Jack of All Trios tournament. Mercer has continuously impressed me as a wrestler.

While recapping an AAPW show for a now-defunct website, I noted the impression that he left on me, going so far as to compare him to former World Wrestling Entertainment Champion Randy Orton. Mercer has the size, ability and look to make it in Vince McMahon's world, and that's where he should be headed.

After I posted that article and pictures, Mercer e-mailed me about it. He seemed to be a genuinely nice guy who obviously appreciates the fans and what they mean to wrestling. I have nothing but respect for Mercer and don't want to come off as if any of these rants, raves or opinions are meant to demean him.

But with that said, the way he's already entered TNA shows the problem with a relatively unknown independent star signing with the company. Sure, if a performer with a more recognized name - like many ROH stars - was signed, they would likely get a nice build-up treatment. Not the case here.

Yes, it's no secret that both WWE and TNA bring in independent stars to play supporting roles on programming and to help backstage. AIW Absolute Champion Johnny Gargano appeared on an episode of NXT as one of Michael Cole's bodyguards; AAPW Champion Shane Rich has appeared on Raw a few times and worked with top-level stars to develop pay-per-view match ideas in the past.

Most of these appearances, however, are meant to be one-offs or basic level tryouts. Many times these stars do not even receive a name or recognition on television. They're not signing contracts days after first appearing.

With Mercer, the first impression the fans now have of TNA's newest acquisition is that he tapped out to Jeff Jarrett in a very short time period, and did so while portraying Amazing Red's brother. There have been many successful "brother" duos through the years - including the real-life siblings of Matt and Jeff Hardy, the widespread Dudley family and the combination of Edge and Christian - but something about this pairing doesn't register on the same level.

Earlier this year, Amazing Red was the X Division Champion. It appeared the company had some faith in renewing a push for the young, athletic, talented superstar, but such was proven to not be the case. Red eventually dropped the belt to Jay Lethal, who in turn dropped it to Robbie E. Red has all but disappeared from television, and the belt has become a bit of a joke.

Upon entering a new company and building a new persona, does one really want his first impression with the audience to be that he's the brother of a superstar they haven't seen in months and who they likely don't even care about at the present time? What happened to the days of a person making his own connection with the crowd rather than having a manufactured one handed to them by the company?

Nothing has happened yet to prove that Mercer will keep the "Red's brother" gimmick going, but what happens if he doesn't? Oh yeah, TNA will call into the question the believability of professional wrestling. Someone will surely point out that duos like Edge and Christian have gone on successfully with breaking the "brothers" mold and changing it to "like brothers," but that seems more likely the exception than the rule when it comes to a successful formula.

If TNA keeps the association, what happens then? Does Mercer get put in a tag team with Amazing Red? That could produce some interesting matches, but it's unlikely this duo would pass teams like Beer Money, Generation Me and even Ink Inc. in the tag team ranks. Of course, TNA does appear to enjoy having teams come out of awesome pay-per-view matches only to fight two security guards - and in some cases, lose.

Does being this man's brother put one on the path to glory?  Tommy Mercer could soon be able to answer that question.
It's just hard to imagine Mercer finding success in TNA after being exposed to the audience as Amazing Red's brother. With a talent like this, the company could've had the opportunity to build a new babyface character with ease. There's no guaranteed formula on how to do that, but it surely doesn't begin with an Amazing Red affiliation because as great of a performer as he is, Red is not part of the Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff plan for prosperity.

The number one criticism of fans in response to Mercer's departure has been AIW's reaction to losing a star. But looking at it from the company perspective, they are losing a top-level performer who could have been the face of the company in 2011 to a competitor where he'll instead likely wallow around in a meaningless existence playing second fiddle to former WWE and even World Championship Wrestling performers.

From Mercer's perspective, signing with TNA may mean a bigger paycheck and more exposure. If that's a gamble he's willing to take, that's his choice. Hopefully he has at least negotiated a deal with TNA that will allow him to still work independent shows, especially if he's on one of TNA's "per-appearance" contracts.

Personally, I'd love to see Mercer succeed on a national level. He definitely has the potential, but I can't help but think he'd be better suited in WWE developmental right now than TNA. Hopefully appearing on "Hogan's Playhouse" won't ruin Mercer's stock in the eyes of Vince McMahon and his Connecticut-based cronies. This kid could be something special in the future.

As for AIW, losing Mercer is a blow, but it's far from a mortal one. The company still has several top-level performers of its own and has become known for bringing in excellent outside talent, ranging from CHIKARA's Tim Donst to WWE United States Champion Daniel Bryan.

Word has it that several other AIW stars have also been contacted by TNA, so things could change. But no matter what happens, the company will find a way to pull through. Its promoters have found a way to create a product distinguished from the rest and will surely continue the climb up the ladder of U.S. independent promotions.



AIW presents its final show of the year, "Nightmare Before X-mas 4" next Friday in Lakewood, Ohio. 

Scheduled for the show are:
- Johnny Gargano vs. Facade in a ladder match for the Absolute Championship
- Tim Donst vs. Jimmy Jacobs
- Angeldust vs. (SHIMMER Tag Team Champion) Portia Perez for the Women's Championship
- Tommy Mercer vs. a mystery opponent; Mercer will also address the crowd about his TNA signing
- Aeroform (Louis Lyndon and Flip Kendrick) vs. The Olsen Twins (Jimmy Olsen and Colin Delaney) for the Tag Team Championships
- And more...

Testa is a semi-retired professional wrestling journalist. He is an occasional contributor to Bleacher Report and Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist. He supports independent wrestling.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Testa's Take

Greetings and felicitations, my little droogies. Tis I, your faithful and ever humble Zeitgeistian narrator, JLB. I invite you to cup your hand to your ear, or even do what they do in Westerns and press your ear lobe to the cold earth. Do you hear it? The rumble of the impending Great Awakening of pro wrestling journalism?

It is roughly one month to launch, and though we are not "officially" open for business, it sure as hell couldn't hurt to let out a few appetizers to give people an idea of what they can expect to see from PWZ. Allow us now to serve up a quality appetizer that will make even the best batch of loaded cheese fries look second rate by comparison.

Our good friend Adam Testa, he of monumental fame and critical acclaim with The Southern Illinoisan, has been gracious enough to take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to share with us some of his thoughts on an interesting situation brewing on the American pro wrestling landscape. It probably wouldn't surprise you, faithful reader, that our old friends from the great land of Orlando (TNA) are involved.

But what might surprise you is the name of the second party involved. Grab a hot chocolate and pop a bag of popcorn, and let Mr. Testa tell you a story involving "absolutely intense" anger.

-JLB


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Total Non-Stop, Absolutely Intense Anger
By Adam Testa 

Less than one year after declaring war against World Wrestling Entertainment, the professional wrestling industry's second-string quarterback, Total Non-stop Action Wrestling, now finds itself immersed in another battle.

This time, however, TNA is riding in the front seat representing the bigger soldier in the war. Or at least it seems that way.

Dixie Carter, it would seem, loves her some Absolute Intense Wrestling.  The feeling, on the end of AIW, is far from mutual.
Apparently TNA President Dixie Carter and her compatriots, possibly including nominees for "2010 Company Killers of the Year" Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, have finally started listening to the complaints and criticisms of fans, critics and even homegrown stars that the company needs to develop new stars rather than relying on WWE mid-card castaways.

While this may seem like good news for TNA fans - and those who so desperately want an alternative to WWE programming - this decision has begun wreaking havoc on the American independent scene.

One company, Ohio-based Absolute Intense Wrestling, isn't taking TNA's new approach lying down.

It seems several of AIW’s promotion's top stars have been offered TNA contracts in recent weeks. The promoter, or at least the person who manages the company's Facebook page, has been launching a string of written attacks against TNA for this raid, and even called the AIW performers who have accepted the deals "sell outs."

Some people have called out AIW on the fact it has heavily promoted that four of its alumni have gone on to appear in WWE to varying degrees of success. These men include NXT Season One contestant Michael Tarver, Daniel Bryan (who appeared at AIW shows during his "release" period from WWE), Kaval and NXT Season Four rookie Derrick Bateman.

But AIW officials had their response ready to share on Facebook. In a status comment, they posted the following (with grammar corrected):

"TNA is not advancing a career. Have you watched their product? MULTIPLE guys on our roster and staff have been offered deals in the last week, so you can understand our frustrations.

These guys believe TNA is a "wasteland of fedjects".  Legally, shouldn't we be calling them "E-jects"?
"If it was WWE, we would be in full support. That is a life-changing opportunity. TNA is just a move in a lateral direction, going from being part of a rapidly growing company to whatever TNA is - a wasteland of fedjects."

Some details remain to be seen, including who the now-TNA contracted wrestlers are and just how much of the AIW rantings and ravings are a work. But one thing is for certain, this small Ohio promotion has brought some additional attention to itself, just in time for its final show of the year, Nightmare Before X-Mas 4.

Testa's Take

AIW is a quality indy promotion. I haven't followed them very long and have really only seen one weekend's worth of shows (this year's Jack of All Trios tournament) and a specialty DVD (the best of Hailey Hatred), as well as their web video series, but I can speak to the credibility, quality and general professionalism of the promotion and its management.

While writing for another website and planning to start my own online radio show, I had several e-mail conversations with the company's promoter, who was always willing to accommodate any requests. Commitments outside of wrestling journalism have led to my departure from the daily writing routines, but I've continued to follow AIW news and updates.

This latest one comes as a bit of a shock to me.

Now, let me make it clear that it's not shocking in the least that AIW performers are being offered contracts by one of the perceived "big two" companies. They have plenty of talented stars who could shine in WWE, TNA or even ROH - under the right circumstances.

With a concept like NXT, many of these guys would have a chance to showcase their skills to a large audience and attempt to build a fan base. It didn't work so well for Tarver, and it's still too early to tell Bateman's fate, but anything's possible.

ROH is in the midst of a youth movement, pushing new stars like Kyle O'Reilly and Adam Cole and trying to get fans behind an up-and-comer like Andy Ridge. Success could easily be found for many AIW performers.

That brings us to TNA. Like AIW's Facebook comments suggest, moving from a promotion like AIW and heading to TNA may be little more than a lateral move, if not a complete downgrade.

Yes, TNA has a national television deal. Yes, TNA has a national touring schedule. Yes, TNA has high-quality wrestlers on its roster.

No, TNA does not have room or the motivation to push new talent that have never received a paycheck signed by a representative of the McMahon empire.

TNA's roster is so crowded right now that there's really no room for new talent to develop, grow and ultimately succeed. The only recent addition to the roster who didn't come from the WWE is the thus-far-televised reigning X Division Champion.

If this man, Johnny Gargano, were to sign with TNA, he would likely be saddled with a horrible gimmick.  Given Gargano's affinity for "cat's pajamas" and "bee's knees", one can only imagine the sort of fun Vince Russo might have with him.
You may be saying, "Well, that's not so bad, he's a champion." If this is the case, stop and remind yourself that he's also got a gimmick with no real heat (unless you count the go-away kind) and despite being a highly talented wrestler, he's already the bane of existence for many TNA fans due to the awful gimmick he's been saddled with.

How sad would it be to see someone with the talent of Johnny Gargano, Tommy Mercer, Shawn Schultz or Facade being saddled with one of these horrid gimmicks and shoved down the throats of the audience to the point they want nothing more than for these personas to disappear from their television sets?

AIW has said they can't reveal the performer who has been signed, but that person will have a chance to speak at the show Friday night. They've said it's not the obvious choice, which in my estimation would be their champion Gargano.

Fans should hope not because losing Gargano would screw more than AIW, as he's become a key player in several other indy federations as well. Gargano replaced Gran Akuma in FIST over in CHIKARA and has just formed the trio of Ronin with Rich Swann and Chuck Taylor in Dragon Gate USA. He has a bright wrestling future and doesn't need to wallow in a lost existence with TNA.

I'm not going to speculate who else may be leaving, as I don't have any insider information into the matter, but whoever it is, I just hope they don't regret the decision six months from now.

In just mere hours, the battle between AIW and TNA has reached a level of intensity that the WWE/TNA "war" from January failed to achieve.

Let's just hope that whatever happens works out best for everyone involved. AIW will surely recover from whatever loses they endure, and let's hope they do so while maintaining a strong sense of professionalism.

The Ohio fans are clearly on AIW's side, and that's right where pride belongs. When TNA can demonstrate an ability to use rising indy stars appropriately and make new superstars, these feelings will be vanquished.

Until then, I'm putting my support with the "underdog."

Monday, December 6, 2010

The March To A New Era

Time is ticking, ol' pro wrestling media guard, on your status quo.  The game is roughly one month from changing drastically, and all the cards are in the quite able hands of Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist.  Are we bluffing?  Only a fool would think that.  The PWZ Territorial Tour-nado 2011 has already generated excitement amongst the reading public, and that can only mean bad news for the "champions" of yesteryear's pro wresting journalism.

Viva la revolucion!

But how long until launch, you ask?  When will PWZ tear down the walls? When will we be able to sleep peacefully with the knowledge that the dawn of a new era will begin upon our awakening? When will the fearless voice that leads the Great Awakening speak its first words? When will the spirit galvanize the body of the revolution, enabling it to breathe its first breath?

The answer, for those of you looking to mark your calendars, is Monday, January 10, 2011.  Let the countdown begin.

How I happily spent my Monday, instead of finding out what happened on TNA PPV.

In the meantime, I'm continuing to prepare for my return to the game.  I recently managed to acquire the Essential Ric Flair Collection, the Essential Starrcade, and The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior for a mere $20 total.  I have spent my evening, thus far, watching Starrcade matches and will later spend some time reading up on World Class Championship Wrestling, my first stop on the Territorial Tour-nado. I also spent this morning catching up on Pro Wrestling NOAH's Winter Navigation tour.

Notice I haven't mentioned anything about TNA's pay-per-view last night?  There's a reason for that: I had no idea TNA even had a pay-per-view event last night.  It wasn't until I stumbled upon an article claiming that Jeff Hardy showed up to the show drunk that I even realized TNA had a show last night.  I will bite my tongue on TNA, and Jeff Hardy, for right now though, for two reasons:

1. I'm not in the mood to be angry/frustrated about some promotion's (and we could have a debate about whether TNA even legally qualifies to be called a promotion...I'd rather call them what they actually are, a third rate attraction at Universal) horrifying creative direction/philosophies:

I'm sure I'll get angry hate mail from TNAndroids on this, but frankly I'd rather head to Harry Potterland and hang out with the chose one...no, not Jeff Jarrett, but Harry Potter himself.  Hell, give me that tool Ron Weasley any day over TNA...besides, we all know J.K. Rowling is a much better booker than Russo.

I'd also rather ride both versions of the Dragon Challenge, laugh it up at Shrek 4-D, and check out what's new on the 3-D Spiderman ride before ever setting one foot in the Impact Zone to be a cast member on an alleged pro wrestling show run disastrously by the little girl of an alternative energy tycoon, who likely is causing global warming to get worse on account of the massive amounts of money he's burned/wasted by investing in the TNA product....and I haven't mentioned the Islands of Adventure yet.
J.K. Rowling is a much better booker than Vince Russo.


Why the hell would I go to TNA (where I will be told who to cheer and boo, like a member of a studio sitcom audience) to watch yet another meaningless great match between the Motor City Machine Guns and Generation Me when I can go chill at Seuss's Landing and get lost on the Lost Continent?  It's not a hard choice.  I can either watch Jeff Hardy sip from the cup of Hulkamania with his cheap imitation of the WWE Divas Championship belt, or go one on one with the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.  This is a no-brainer.  

2. I can't blow all my good material and rants on TNA before I even launch the site: 

Besides, saving the good stuff for the future will make the potential future debate with admitted TNA fan Mike Bessler that much better.

The future gimmick of Gregory Helms...in fact, it's pretty much real life.

Now then, if you will kindly excuse me from the table, I have some studying to do; studying that has nothing to do with the discussion of Gregory Shane Helms' latest desperate stab at remaining relevant.  Some have wondered whether or not what Helms had to say about Shawn Michaels today is true.  I don't personally care, nor do I think it matters, because Helms lost me the moment he decided to use a non-Christian rant to accuse an alleged Christian of allegedly not being a Christian at all.

I personally think Helms is likely angry that he has to resort to signing on to his computer and wasting valuable time on the Internet producing "shows" to get anyone to notice, or for that matter care, about him at his age.  This is diametrically contrary to the case of Shawn Michaels, who was main eventing Wrestlemanias well into his 40's.  It's not as if people are chomping at the bit to get Helms to wrestle on their shows, so he has to remind everyone that he's friends with the Hardy Boys and is so unhappy that he was held back in WWE...because if Vince had handed him that ball, man, he coulda won state.  He coulda thrown that ball a quarter mile over that there mountain.

But don't worry, Uncle Rico Helms; I tend not to care too much about people who put over Paul Birchall on Tuesday nights anyway...and neither should anyone else.  That, my friends, was a VERTEBREAKER!

-JLB
holtleblanc@yahoo.com

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Project: PWZ's Territorial Tour-nado 2011

With roughly one month to go until the launch of PWZ (very early January is the target, the exact day is something I'll know closer to launch), I'm spending a great deal of time not only catching up on what I missed during my break from wrestling, but I'm also studying up on the history of pro wrestling in general. There's one particular aspect of pro wrestling history that I've been focusing on, thanks in large part to my recent discovery of an old school DVD trader on the Internet.


The above map, if you aren't aware, is a map of the North American pro wrestling territories that existed during the 20th century prior to Vincent Kennedy McMahon taking what would become the World Wrestling Federation national.  As part of a historical project of sorts that I want to do for PWZ, I will, in essence, be traveling around the world- the world of the North American pro wrestling territories.

My goal is obtain video from every single territory, if that's possible, and read up as much as I can on every single territory on the above map and then write about my experiences here on PWZ.  With any luck, I might even try to land some interviews with some significant names along the way.  Not sure if any significant names would be remotely interesting in contributing to a project for a fledgling blog, but the worst thing they could ever do is say no, so I won't be shy about asking.

For those of you who are interested in what I'm going to call the "PWZ Territorial Tour-nado," allow me to reveal the "tour schedule".  It is my aim to do, at least, one territory per month:

PWZ TERRITORIAL TOUR-NADO 2011
January: Fritz Von Erich's World Class Championship Wrestling
February: Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling
March: Jim Crockett's Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling
April: Verne Gagne's AWA
May: Jerry Jarrett's Memphis wrestling and Angelo Poffo's ICW
June: Roy Shire's San Franciso and Don Owen's Pacific Northwest
July: Eddie Graham's Florida territory
August: Bill Watts's Mid-South wrestling
September: Frank Tunney's Toronto and Johnny Rougeau's IWA
October: Bob Geigel's Central States
November: Dick the Bruiser's WWA
December: Sam Muchnick's St. Louis territory

This is the tentative schedule at this point, and I likely will be adding more, since there are other territories on the map that I haven't named that need to be hit, and the goal is to get them all.  The key here will be to pace myself so I give each territory the energy and time it deserves, so this project may very well spill into 2012...if so, that's more than fine by me.  I'm fairly certain that my executive producer, Mike Bessler, will take a great deal of interest in the month of May.

If you would like to somehow be involved in this project or contribute, shoot me an e-mail.  Hell, if all goes well, I might even shell out the bucks and make a sweet t-shirt for this bad boy and sell it...something kick ass that you'd be an idiot NOT to want in your closet. I've always wanted to do some sort of project of this nature, since I've always been fascinated by the history of pretty much anything (I'm a big fan of History, in case you didn't know), and I think now is perhaps my best chance to do it.

I'll continue to update all of you on the progress of the project until the launch of the site and let you guys knows what I'm watching.  Presently, I'm watching a series of World Class Championship Wrestling DVD's that I purchased from my trader.  The DVD's are a collection of some of the most significant shows that occurred during the glory years of WCCW, which took place in the early to mid 80's.  During this time is when the beloved Von Erich family-Fabulous Freebird program took place.  Thus far, I'm having a blast watching the likes of Terry Gordy, Michael Hayes, and Kerry, Kevin and David Von Erich (amongst many others) entertain what could mildly be described as a rabid fan base in the state of Texas.



It's been incredible to watch these passionate fans fill the sweltering Texas Sportatorium, a leaky tin building (that somehow looked great on television) described by those who had the "pleasure" of working in it as a "shithole"with no air conditioning, to get a glimpse of the Von Erich "wrestling dynasty" and a world class set of supporting characters.  Wrestlers had a hard time even getting to the ring through the mobs of fans and the women trying to make out with them...yes, I said make out.  It was commonplace for wrestlers to sign autographs for fans at ringside while they were standing IN the ring..  Fans frantically crowded the ring apron and extended their autograph books/notepads/napkins/underwear through the ropes for wrestlers to sign- it's a scene that closely resembles a rock concert and makes today's wrestling crowds look like they've all been shot in the ass with tranquilizer darts before the start of the show.

I really must be going though. After all, I don't want to spoil all the fun before January- fun that includes the likes of Kamala, the Missing Link, and Skandor Akbar.  Give me a promotion with those three guys in it, and I'm totally there. As if the Freebirds weren't enough reason to watch.



-JLB

P.S.:  I figured it would be a simultaneously cool and lame way to get in a reference to the Freebirds, whom were lead by Michael "P.S." Hayes, if I included a post script with a link to the Freebirds theme.  Enjoy and rock out, because Badstreet U.S.A.was bad ass entrance theme before your favorite bad ass entrance theme was even created: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdT1clsLsYs

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Making It Official And Putting It In Writing

Several months ago, on this very blog, I posted a decidedly long winded entry, which ceremoniously featured three guys, present company included, announcing their intentions to come together for the launch of a new endeavor identified as Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist, or PWZ. We were also going to head over to Adam Testa's palatial bachelor pad to watch his collection of Chikara DVD's, tell scary stories in the dark with flashlights put to our faces, and eat TONS of candy and pizza as we thumbed through mine and Bessler's secret collection of forbidden comic books, but cooler heads prevailed just prior to our hasty ordering of the dancing girls, limitless booze and caterers that such fantastic events require. We decided, instead, to settle on merely announcing the launch of the PWZ blog during the first ever PWZ convention in our secret headquarters located in Phantom Beach Falls, which is sort of like Camp David, only way more expensive. Charles Foster Kane's Xanadou has nothing on Phantom Beach Falls.

As you might remember, or more than likely didn't know since it's not like we have a huge fan base or anything, we promised that PWZ would offer a unique voice in a rather saturated pro wrestling media market inundated with chronic copiers, imitators, duplicators, masturbators, unfounded rumor facilitators, and lifeless drones that seem to believe that pro wrestling merely exists as a vehicle to make themselves feel better about...well, themselves.

These jankety-jank laptop adulterators that are apart of what is disaffectionately known as the Internet Wrestling Community feel free to publish whatever they want, no matter how ridiculous, absurd, untrue, or just plain foolish, on the World Wide Web. Why? Because for them professional wrestling is their personal yo yo; a jungle gym to climb on, jump off of, and maybe even dangle upside down on. They delight in getting themselves over just like real pro wrestlers...but the sad state of affairs is that these people aren't even real journalists, and some of them can't even be bothered to properly check the sources of their information for accuracy before slinging it on the Web in much the same manner TNA slings fecal matter on walls to see what sticks.

The good news is that per the original plan, those sorts of schenanigans won't be happening here. There have been a few changes to the original plan, but the ideological blueprint remains the same. Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist will be an innovative and thought provoking catalyst for a Great Awakening in the "business" of pro wrestling journalism. This baby isn't called Zeitgeist because we liked the word and thought it sounded cool.

One thing that will change is the cast of characters involved.

Adam Testa is off doing his thing for The Southern Illinoisan, and more than likely won't be a regular contributor for this endeavor, but never say never. I, personally, am keeping the door open to my good friend and former colleague. That open door policy is going to rear its head again momentarily, but for now I'll digress.

Mike Bessler is the "executive producer" helping me maintain this bad boy. He also is responsible for the rather kick ass artwork on the header of this page. Before all is said and done, I have little doubt he'll be responsible for many other PWZ related dealings (maybe including articles), and that's how it should be. It was my introduction to Mike Bessler on a certain other website that encouraged me to come out of my shell a bit. Bessler is a big reason I became the sort of writer I ended up becoming nearly two years ago while both of us were toiling away on that other website, which shall remain nameless because they suck...and because I'm not remotely interested in giving them free publicity on my own time.

As for myself...well...PWZ will be the exclusive pro wrestling journalistic home of none other than yours truly, Jason Le Blanc, or as many of you know me, love me, hate me, or don't give a damn about me, JLB.

I more or less "retired" from this line of work earlier this year, sometime in the Spring if I remember correctly. At that time, The Wrestling Daily (the site myself, Testa, Bessler and Ray Bogusz once ran)had folded and I had published exactly one meaningless article for the boys at Hit the Ropes. By the time I got to HTR, I was so worn down and burnt out that my passion for professional wrestling was on life support. I was pretty much ready to pull the plug, but thankfully, I merely just needed a long mental break.

I remember having the thought that I might, eventually, end up coming back a couple of weeks after resigning from HTR, but ONLY under two conditions: I would do it only on my terms, and my come back would have to be for something completely different than anything offered by the largely homogeneous mixture of pro wrestling media outlets. Even The Wrestling Daily was growing stagnant and morphing into yet another pro wrestling website.

Sure, there were things being done on TWD that were refreshing to many, but I could sense a slow, ominous backslide into the abyss of the status quo. We were slowly becoming what we were competing against, and our limited resources and skills meant it was only a matter of time before the big boys ate us alive and flushed us to our rightful excremental grave. The story is much more complicated then that, and I'm even paraphrasing the paraphrasal, but this isn't about TWD; it's about PWZ.

Heading into the Summer, I was rather content just being a fan of pro wrestling when I received an e-mail from none other than Bessler, whom I hadn't spoken with since the TWD collapse. After chewing the fat, Bessler and I both agreed that there was unfinished business to attend to, particularly on my end. Bessler presently writes for Pro Wrestling Illustrated, so he still had the outlet and the platform. I, on the other hand, had nothing, not to mention a whole smorgasbord of unfinished projects and ideas that I left on the table, projects like my long lost and forgotten Montreal Screwjob series, which will now soon be completed.

E-mails were exchanged and ideas shared. Before long, the frame work of the Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist concept was birthed. After several weeks, a domain was purchased, art work was created, and a blog developed. In September, the intentions of PWZ were stated, but the concept has remained under wraps...until today.

So what is the Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist concept? I'm of the opinion that pro wrestling journalism needs a change...a breath of fresh air, if you will. Many moons ago, a man named Meltzer rocked the landscape of his genre of journalism in much the same way Orson Welles revolutionized film making and Nirvana revolutionized rock music. Meltzer created a concept and format that has carried him to a great deal of success...success that has arguably established him as the most influential figure in the world of pro wrestling journalism. The problem there is that no one has really tried to take what he did and take it to another level.

Many imitate the Meltzer way; every website, it seems, uses some version of the five star match model, offers their customers long winded recaps for shows, lands the occasional interview with a pro wrestler, or has a "cutting edge" radio show that breaks down the world of pro wrestling, though in the case of 411mania and LordsofPain, they don't even go that far, they just let everyone else do all the work and copy ESPN's horrible Around the Horn television show...though I do have to admit that Mr. Tito was pretty awesome back in the day, and I even understand he recently returned to the LOP, but I digress.

Frankly, most wrestling websites look pretty much the same to me, and many of them even recycle news bits and article topics from what they read at the Observer.

I get why many would want to imitate the Observer, because the way they do things quite frankly works. Hell, I would be lying if I said that I didn't research how they do things at the Observer (not to mention several other prominent outlets) while helping run TWD. The way they do things, however, takes a great deal of passion, time, energy and dedication. One reason I respect Meltzer so much is that the guy clearly loves his craft and professional wrestling. I may not agree with everything he, or Bryan Alvarez, say or believe, but they are what they are for a reason, just as the likes of Dave Scherer, Bill Apter, Kevin Eck, Stu Saks, and others are who they are.

Don't get me wrong; I respect the Observer, PWI, the Insider, the Torch and whoever else, and am, in no way, using this to declare some silly war on any of the aforementioned named, or for that matter the vaunted IWC. I am, however, using this web space to declare, in the words of the late Owen Hart, that enough is enough and it's time for a change.

I truly believe that the time is ripe for a revolutionary, an innovator, and a zeitgeist to come along change the landscape. My goal, though, is not tangible or quantitative success. In actuality, I have several goals:

-Be different
-Be thought provoking
-Be honest
-Have fun
-Celebrate professional wrestling's past, present, and future
-Create an environment that fosters intelligent pro wrestling discussion, debate and even study

If this modest little blog somehow becomes big (whatever that means), I can honestly say that it won't change my thinking or my lifestyle in the least bit. If I never grow an audience larger than four people, that's fine too. The most important thing to me is that I, and others, have a place where we can sit down and be a fan of professional wrestling with no strings attached, no static, and no bullshit. There will be no people going into business for themselves at the expense of the pro wrestling business. There will be no rumors, no spoilers, no five star rating systems, and no generic or half-assed show recaps. The art and story of professional wrestling WILL come first, second, third, ten billionth and so on to infinity. This will be an operation of integrity that does things the right way, and not for the sole purpose of popping (to use an insider term...I know, LAME!) the readers and maintaining solid daily traffic.

I believe that pro wrestling is one of the finest forms of theatre in existence, and when it's done right, nothing can generate the sort of energy, enthusiasm and emotion that professional wrestling can. As such, I believe that pro wrestling should be covered in the same way theatre and film are covered and discussed. Many lump professional wrestling in with mixed martial arts, and though I understand why, I don't believe wrestling should have to share the stage with something that it isn't anymore than the Los Angeles Lakers should have to share the 2009-10 NBA championship with the Boston Celtics, and that's coming from a Boston sports fan.

While many of us derive entertainment from sports, and sports is a business that benefits from a cast of entertaining, larger than life characters, sports is NOT the same thing as art.

Many might disagree with me on that point, and if you do I'd love to hear from you, but I find the whole "you're stupid for liking pro wrestling because it's fake" argument to be incredibly myopic. I suppose, then, that anyone who has ever enjoyed a fictional television show, a fictional book, a fictional film, or a fictional anything is also stupid? People have always felt the need to point out that pro wrestling is fake, and I imagine that has a lot to do with the origins of the business and its shady history at various, and perhaps all, stages. The cat is out of the bag now, though, and I feel it's time to get over it and move forward.

MMA is not pro wrestling and pro wrestling is not MMA. Both harbor elements and characteristics of the other, but they are not one in the same. Pro wrestling deserves better than to be the square peg many are forcing into a round hole in which it doesn't fit. Wrestlers, promoters, and all those who make a living working in the pro wrestling business deserve to be recognized and respected as performers (capable of both monumental successes and failures), artists, athletes (where applicable), and most of all, human beings.

It is my goal to see that PWZ studies, analyzes, and covers professional wrestling the way that I believe it should be...the way that I always believe it should have been covered. I haven't always known how exactly to execute my vision, but my experiences of the past few years have given me some valuable insight. I'm certain my future experiences will play a role in building what PWZ becomes as well.

All of that being said, I want to personally offer all those who wish to contribute and be a part of PWZ to do so. If you want to know how to make that a reality, send me an e-mail at holtleblanc@yahoo.com. This is an OPEN INVITATION (I told you that policy would rear its head again) to anyone and everyone, no matter who you are, I don't discriminate. Know that I will have no influence on what or when you decide to write...all I will ask is that you adhere to the PWZ vision and offer up a competent and respectful composition. If you're willing to go that far, the stage is yours.

So when is all this starting? Well, given that the Holidays are upon us, I feel that there is no better time to start than the onset of a new year. In Januray of 2011...there will be Zeitgeist!

-JLB

Monday, September 6, 2010

And he said: Let There Be Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist...And There Was.

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi

Six months ago, I was the Content Director of a pretty solid (many would disagree) pro wrestling website known as The Wrestling Daily. I made a decision to walk away from that operation (a decision I stand by to this day) after what could be described loosely as a falling out with the people I founded the website with. It was something stronger than a falling out; Chernobyl, Hurricane Katrina and the Valdez oil spill come to mind when I think of how TWD ended.

I left TWD a tired, frustrated and exhausted young man that had put damn near all of his creative energy into the endeavor for its duration. In the days following the collapse, I spent quite a lot of time examining what the hell happened and what lessons could be taken from the whole ordeal.

Dave Meltzer, the king of this particular genre of journalism, set a high standard with a level of passion that is frankly difficult for even the most obsessed professional wrestling fans to match, and a dedication to his craft that is quite honestly admirable. I may not agree with Meltzer on some of his viewpoints, but I can tell you that I respect the man; he’s made himself quite a nice living covering this pro wrestling thing, and his success has created a “community” of people that would love to make their own living talking about something as fun as professional wrestling.

Making a living covering pro wrestling isn’t exactly easy, which was something I found out six months ago. I never had any illusions about it being easy in the first place, but I had no idea that it would be that hard. I gained a real understanding of the sort of hours Meltzer had to put into his empire to make it not only viable, but wildly successful. The four of us invested as much of our energy and time into TWD as we possibly could, and even that wasn’t enough. Make no mistake about it; many of the pro wrestling websites that a number of you read are citing Meltzer and his Observer as a source for a reason. Meltzer had a vision and virtually made his vision his life; that made him the man and the Observer the standard.

This is not an article about Dave Meltzer, however, and there is a reason that I bring him up, and it certainly has nothing to do with publicity; he doesn’t need me for that. In the six months since the end of The Wrestling Daily, I’ve made a lot of changes in my life personally and professionally. I’ve lost over 75 lbs, I’ve taken on two jobs that pay me fairly well, I’ve moved with my wife to a place of our very own, and I have adopted what can basically be described as a “Straight Edge” lifestyle. I set aside time each and every single week to read the newspaper and a book of my choosing (presently I’m reading Americana by Don DeLillo, if anyone is interested), and maintain a blog.

I lead a pretty disciplined lifestyle these days, a drastic change over the sort of lifestyle I had roughly a year ago when TWD was founded by three guys with an awful lot of energy and passion, but not a terribly detailed blueprint and virtually zero experience. Despite the newfound discipline in my life, one thing hasn’t changed; I still love professional wrestling.

Go ahead; heckle me for me loving something "fake." While you are at it, heckle anyone that’s ever watched an episode of House, read Crime and Punishment, attended Cats, played Modern Warfare or farmed on Facebook. No, this reply doesn’t limit itself to the examples listed, it applies to any and all examples of any sort of fictional entertainment you could possibly think of, especially Jersey Shore (I expect an angry letter from Mike Cranwell).

Even with all of the changes in my life, I still find time for professional wrestling and still enjoy a great discussion about it. I miss having that outlet, a place where real, thoughtful discussion about professional wrestling can occur. The Internet is littered with websites that engage in ESPN-like small talk on professional wrestling…you know, the sort of websites that fill space with arbitrary lists in an attempt to generate cheap discussion (*cough* small talk *cough), book fantasy cards that demonstrate the way they would book things (a completely useless practice that people who don’t have the balls to pursue professional wrestling engage in), and fill their news pages with dozens of news blurbs that are derived from the news blurbs of other websites.

It frustrates me that there is no place on the Internet where someone can just log on and simply be a fan of professional wrestling. It burns me that so many websites do nothing but feed the stereotype of professional wrestling fans having IQ’s equivalent to ceramic tile. It angers me that so many websites use professional wrestling as a sideshow attraction and a method to earn a few extra hits. It infuriates me that everywhere you go to read up on professional wrestling, you’re bombarded with spoilers and unfounded rumors (some of which are nothing more than the workers working the marks).

Enter: Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist

I don’t remember exactly when this occurred, but I placed a phone call while driving home in the rain one evening to a man that I hadn’t spoken with for sometime. That phone call led to another individual I hadn't spoken with in a while sending me an e-mail. That individual then followed up with a phone call. That discussion led to a brainstorm….and that brainstorm was Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist.

But what is Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist? In the words of one of my PWZ colleagues, “Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist celebrates the spirit and essence of our favorite sport and spectacle. As lifelong enthusiasts and aficionados, we regard pro wrestling as a transcendent form of theatrical entertainment that reflects the dominant themes and attitudes of our time. PWZ blends analysis, opinion and humor to convey our appreciation for wrestling as both art and entertainment.”

PWZ is going to be a mostly (e-mail me at holtleblanc@yahoo.com for more details), open website that offers the passionate fans of professional wrestling an opportunity to exercise their freedom of speech on professional wrestling of any kind or sort. We’re giving you the opportunity to say what you’ve got to say in a thoughtful manner on professional wrestling. There are a few standards that need to be met (no unnecessary cursing and slurs of any sort, you must edit your own work or we won’t post it, and we’d like it to at least be about a page long), but otherwise you’ve got free reign to discuss anything under the professional wrestling sun, whether it’s history, the present, the future, Lucha libre, an indy promotion or Puro, It’s all fair game…all. You won’t get any interference from us.

There will, of course, also be our writing as well. But who, you’re probably asking, is the “our,” or rather who are the mystery guys that have joined me in making this project possible? A couple of old friends…

Enter: Mike Bessler and Adam Testa.

We’ve had our differences and arguments, some of them quite intense as you might know. To all those who worked with and frequented TWD, I apologize for the fact that we were not able to make that endeavor work and that our collective inexperience contributed to a disastrous meltdown. I recognize that those of you who worked with us busted your ass to make that place go, and frankly I believe your voice and intellectual contributions deserve the chance to be seen publicly.

I have no aims, and neither do Adam and Mike, to try and make a living out of this. If it so happens that this makes a lot of money, so be it. If it were to make a lot of money, I’d like to donate proceeds to a worthy cause (think the All Children’s Hospital in Tampa, The Moffitt Cancer center in Tampa, or St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital). Frankly, we just want a no strings attached outlet for professional wrestling fans on the Internet, one that is completely different from standard professional wrestling website. I don’t want to be the next Dave Meltzer, nor do any of us, but we do want to build a sort of pro wrestling coffee shop-esque think tank, or at least that’s the vision I have in my head.

There are some out there that are likely going to be shocked, even maybe angered, dismayed or disappointed, that I’ve chosen to form this “alliance” with Mike and Adam in another Internet endeavor. There are others who might be concerned that three of the people that ran TWD are running another website, and that doom is soon to follow. There will be some that feel that this is nothing more than an attempt at capturing or re-capturing whatever TWD may have been.

Some of you may have valid reasons for feeling that way, and I’ll be honest with you…we blew it. Bessler, Testa, Ray Bogusz and I…we all blew it. Between the four of us, we couldn’t make it work. Regardless of whatever philosophies or ideologies we have, we failed. Mistakes were made and in hindsight, after many hours of thought, I have a fairly strong grasp on how it all unraveled and why certain things happened the way that they did….and the lessons have been learned.

TWD is dead…it’s gone and buried and the final chapter on that has been written….it failed. What’s done is done and the past is what it is, but I see no reason that we cannot move on and merely be passionate fans of professional wrestling…no politics, no strings attached, no business motivated decisions or anything of the sort.

We’re not here to create a site in our own image…PWZ will be whatever all of US collectively make of it, and there are no ideological limitations. What better way to start than by rebuilding the burnt bridges of the past?

-Jason Le Blanc


With respect to the events of the past, there are any number of clich├ęs and euphemisms that we might easily apply: It’s water under the bridge; there’s no use crying over spilled milk; it’s better to have loved and lost…blah, blah, blah. The fact is, we had a good thing going for a while but there were a few things that just weren’t working. I think we all wish things would have turned out differently and I am sure each one of us would handle some things quite differently if we could do it over again. For my part, I sure wish I hadn’t disappointed the people who really enjoyed what we were doing. But learning from mistakes and moving forward is far more productive than wishing the days away. So that’s what PWZ is all about for us.

This probably sounds hokey but Jason and I have had a real “synergy” from the very first time we ever connected. I asked him to borrow one of his catch phrases for something I was working on and from there we were trading ideas and “riffing” at every available opportunity. Adam and I haven’t worked together as long but we have genuine respect and appreciation for each other and that goes a long way, for sure. We’ve learned a lot about what works for us, both as individuals and collectively. Moreover, we’re at a place where we can put it all together and offer some insight and creativity that’s unique, interesting and entertaining.

Some philosophers and logicians have famously struggled with the “zeitgeist,” viewing the very concept with contempt and distain. To some, it’s a threatening reality that the world around us evolves through time, in line with the lessons of history and the realities of the present. PWZ embraces the “spirit of the times” and applies this very spirit to our celebration of our favorite spectacle. Whether it’s “old school” territory shows, Japanese Puro, hardcore and extreme, or even the dreaded “sports entertainment,” it’s all pro wrestling and it’s all good to us.

-Mike Bessler

"The birth of Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist represents a true milestone in the history of the United States, ranked somewhere between the passing of the 19th Amendment and the impeachment of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich," Testa said.

"Wait, that's not true at all," he continued. "Don't quote me on that. Use that line instead: 'It is with great honor and privilege that I welcome everyone to this newfound home of the best mix of professional wrestling and sarcasm that you'll find on the Internet.' Yeah, that sounds much better."

Testa brings countless years of professional journalism experience (okay, fine, it's only been three) to PWZ. During the day, and often night, Testa works as a reporter at The Southern Illinoisan newspaper in Carbondale, Ill., where he writes about things like juggalos and politicians (as if there's a difference).

Testa also writes for The Wrestling Press, a digital professional wrestling magazine based of the United Kingdom, and previously served as the marketing director for some other website that's name escapes him at the moment.

True to his journalistic nature, Testa simply refuses to reveal the identity of the Zeitgeist. No amount of pressure can force him to reveal this information. (Hint: Trying offering him a Klondike bar.)

"In all seriousness, I'm excited to get the band back together," Testa said.

"Seriously, I owe a debt of gratitude to the Zeitgeist for reuniting Mike, Jason and I under one banner once again. This is almost as exciting as when Kevin Nash and Sean Waltman tried to reunite with Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff back in... oh wait, that was this year, wasn't it? Crap."

-Adam Testa


Stay tuned to this blog for further updates.