‘Sup, Lords of Pain? Well here I am for the first time this year taking a little break from my series looking at the Attitude era (keep an eye out for that every Thursday). Smarks Court is way too fun to put on the backburner for too long and Uncle Joe gets jealous if we don’t break them out every now and then so, for the first time in 2014, it is time for...
Smarks Court - Full Time Wrestlers or Novelty Entrants in the Rumble (CPR Productions)
By Maz & Joe
Jan 19, 2014 - 2:31:45 PM
Maz: So, Unc. I told you I wasn’t going to dump you just because I have a year long project with Maverick. The Court cannot be kept down.
Joe: You ****ing ****; you think that I’m just going to ****ing CRAWL back, just because you came knocking...well Facebooking?? Well **** you, I’m not doing this, get Mavs to be your new co host and then maybe you guys can go pick mangoes together and eat at that curry spot you like so much down on Essex. Then perhaps…
I hate you, Mazza.
Maz: How about this then, just to prove you are still super important to me or whatever, we do a Smarks Court first. We work as a team to take out Maverick and Plan. They’re always coming up with crazy insane opinions on Twitter, I bet we find one we can pick on by the time your write your next line. Oh, and if that isn’t enough, I’ll pay for anything you want on the menu at The G Spot later on.
Joe: ...fine, **** it.
Maz & Joe VS Plan & Mav: Does the Royal Rumble benefit more from utilising full time wrestlers or novelty entrants?
Plan: Over on the WWE’s Youtube channel, you can currently find a top ten video of surprise entrants into the Royal Rumble. If you watch said video, you will find that practically all of those shown happened in very recent years. That is because, in truth, it is a modern development that appears few and far between in the Rumble’s earliest iterations.
Unfortunately, because it has happened so frequently in recent years, it is now seen as a “traditional” aspect of the match. There’s now a sense of obligation from all involved that the WWE has to roll out some aging pensioner of a retiree, hiding behind the euphemism of Legend, to help bolster the entertainment factor. This irks me. It irks me greatly.
The Royal Rumble is a strange beast. By rights, the way they’re wrestled makes very little sense. The rules are so full of loopholes it requires a far stronger suspension of disbelief than any other match in the WWE calendar, and the rules that are there get retconned whenever convenient. As a result, a word like continuity may seem to mean little. For this wrestling fan though, continuity is never a little thing.
There was a debate among certain quarters just days ago at the time of writing that asked whether these surprise entrants, be they Legends, Divas, commentators or some other bizarre notion, were better for the Rumble than simply utilising the endless stream of mid card talent at the company’s fingertips. Some said that because ultimately the field of potential winners is so thin, there’s no harm in it, that it makes little difference.
But if you’re going to be brutally honest about it, nine times out of ten the winner of the Rumble is pretty obvious and the fun factor, for me, doesn’t come from an inability to call the result; it comes from seeing how we get there through the frenetic joy of a Rumble’s chaos. I would much rather see talent I know wrestles all year round, talent who would feasibly and realistically want to enter a match like the Rumble, make up the numbers than some washed up has-been or comic performer that defies all sense. Sure, you know mid carders have no hope of winning, but they’re a far more realistic fit than a novelty entrant like Jimmy Snuka or Ricardo Rodriguez. Their use as entrants doesn’t bother me because it’s obvious they won’t win. They bother me because it defies the kayfabe purpose of what is essentially a number one contender’s match.
Why would a promotion allow someone who isn’t an active talent like a Legend enter a number one contender’s match over a mid card talent who, sure, may have no hope of getting near the title but in the internal continuity of WWE’s kayfabe will have a record of wins and losses. Even if it’s entirely lopsided on the side of losses, they still have a record, which should surely trump someone who doesn’t? You may know someone like Brodus Clay won’t come anywhere near winning the Rumble, but it sure as hell makes more sense he’d be given a chance to enter a match involving the closest thirty competitors to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship than Jake “The Snake” Roberts would. And he has more to offer physically as well.
Joe: Hey Plan, first off I’d like to thank you and Mavsy for taking time out of your busy schedules to make it here; what with your insanely rigorous mastubatory training regimen and all; and Mavs, I know how difficult it is to set aside time away from your animals, but again thank you gentlemen.
Now as far as gump #1 here has stated, there is practically no use in any of the Legends being out there because let’s face it; ain’t no way in hell Jimmy Snuka walking out there, killing his wife mysteriously beforehand and winning the Rumble: no way. And you know what; he’s right in a way. Know who else was right in his time? Hitler. But we won’t get into that; for now, let’s go back to what my friend Plan said , and I quote “You may know someone like Brodus Clay won’t come anywhere near winning the Rumble, but it sure as hell makes more sense he’d be given a chance to enter a match involving the closest thirty competitors to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship than Jake “The Snake” Roberts would. “
I know where you’re coming from but really there is no reason why the Big Show shouldn’t win the Rumble every ****ing year, if we’re being completely honest, so let’s stop right there sir. Wrestling requires a good suspension of disbelief as we all know, (sometimes a little, sometimes...ok mostly a lot) but if we were going to make everything uber realistic, then a ton of the mystique is gone. Yeah it would be nice to have midcarders and main eventers in a free for all in the Rumble, but let’s be honest; any midcarder worth a shit is going to be in the Rumble: they aren’t going to give up Cody’s spot in the Rumble to give it to Kamala just so he can take his insulin shot in ring then get eliminated right there after. If you aren’t in the Rumble but somehow Koko B. Ware made it then hey you might just have to work harder, and hey if creative deems fit to leave you off a match where there are THIRTY **** entrants but found a purpose for Honky Tonk then hey you might just be the drizzling shits.
Oh and you forgot one thing Plan...it’s fun. Yes things are allowed to be fun in wrestling, it’s part of it’s moribund charm. Look, I know that when I saw Booker T make his long awaited return to the ring, or when I first heard the infamous honk of Diesels theme rev up, that these two weren’t going to win the Rumble, but hey at least what’s his face beforehand was able to last a good bit in the Rumble. What’s that you say? You don’t know who was there before Booker or any of the surprise entrants? Well hey, I guess that’s just that midcard charm.
Listen, I’m not anti midcard- shit they often give you the best matches in and out every week, but let’s stop being grinches for a sec and understand that Legends and other rarely used wrasslers from the past serve their purposes too, and why not the Rumble? Traditions are made at some point and it’s WWE tradition to bring out some of the old guys, for 1- a nice payday 2- nice pops. You always try to get a pop whenever you can and most of the time the crowd cheers when it’s a one timer that comes struttin thru that curtain.
Maverick: You see, fun is something in wrestling that I inherently understand; I started watching WWF television at pretty much the time when The Ultimate Warrior gave lunatic promos about crashing planes into the ring, before proceeding to sprint down to the ring, tassels flying, face painted with some arcane symbol to squash whichever poor soul had drawn the short “job to the Warrior” straw that week. If I want to relive my youth, to get a shot of nostalgia, I can YouTube that stuff any time I want. Hell, by early 2015, I should be able to watch it on the WWE Network (hurry up and set it up in the UK you bastards). What I wonder is whether nostalgia is better in a “live” capacity? I mean, does it really have to be a surprise as a number counts down?
Old School Raw showed recently that Legends returning can be positive to the enhancement of the product. Seeing Jake drape a snake all over Dean Ambrose was a wonderful moment. Piper debating with The Shield in Piper’s Pit made use of the man’s incredible mic skills. Likewise Flair in the confrontation with Orton. I even enjoyed seeing Rikishi sit on Jinder Mahal. If you didn’t enjoy that, you’re either too young to remember who Rikishi is, or you’re dead.
But here’s the thing. The Royal Rumble is not Monday Night Raw. We get 365 episodes of three hours each every single year. There’s plenty of time for some appearances by former stars and it won’t take a moment of shine from any of the full time performers. It may even enhance them, as it no doubt did with The Shield. But for me, the Rumble is different. It is a special event for me, as it was the first WWF match I ever saw, the one that hooked me into a lifetime of fandom. ‘Plan spoke of the suspension of disbelief, and that is undoubtedly an important facet of any self-respecting in-ring product, but for me, it is not the most important concern. For me, the key thing is that the Rumble is treated seriously, as an event which is vital to the careers of each and every man entering it. A good showing in the January classic can make a midcarder in the eyes of management. It is certainly true that there are not that many places at the top table in WWE, but that’s even more reason to give the up and comers and the perceived perennial midcarders a shop window in which to hawk their wares. Look at CM Punk; the guy looked great in each of the Rumbles he entered in 2007, 2008 and 2009 before he became a legitimate headliner. What if he had been bumped from those early career reverse battle royals in favour of Scotty Too Hotty? Would he be where he is today? Maybe, maybe not. But I’d rather watch a young CM Punk do his thing than see Scotty Too Hotty do the worm in a Rumble match any day.
Over the past five years or so, the Rumble lost its lustre. I’ve written on this numerous times, so won’t repeat myself unduly, but part of that was the amount of novelty entrants, reducing the tension and integrity of the match as an important, career-making event. Occasionally, a return of a guy who can still perform effectively- Rob Van Dam and Goldust spring to mind- has an excellent impact on the competitiveness of the match, but all too often, as ‘Plan says, it’s somebody like Jimmy Snuka, who has no business being in a wrestling ring anywhere. Everyone in the IWC is likely to descend on Titan Towers with pitchforks if Hogan is actually booked in a wrestling match rather than a segment at Wrestlemania...so why does the Rumble get a pass as a place where it’s ok for over the hill pensioners to waddle about for a bit before getting clotheslined to the floor?
Maz: Who remembers back in the day when WWE video games were pretty basic? The most fun thing to do (outside of bra and panties matches) was to make a Rumble match with the best superstars, legends and CAWs possible. What you’d notice however as you played through is guys getting tossed out left right and centre. The reason for this is because the rumble is a very specific beast in the world of pro wrestling. When you have 60-odd minutes to be shared between 30-odd people, you are going to have to use all sorts of different tactics to make the match entertaining. At most you are going to have a handful of potential winners and another handful of people who are going to get a decent amount of time to shine in any given rumble. At best you are going to have half the field who are charged with doing anything important in a rumble which leaves the rest taking on the role of ditch diggers.
These ditch diggers aren’t going to get a whole great deal of time, or have a chance to show off a new move they’ve been working on. Nope, their job is basically to be a statistic. As a fan I want those Rumble cameos to be as interesting as possible and I would take a nostalgic return over a jobber every single time. I could understand if these novelty entrants were taking spots of the more qualified, but that really isn’t the case. The Rumble is the one event a year where the guys right at the bottom of the card will get any kind of sniff of a PPV appearance fee. 34 people competed at the event in 2013, which was far and away above the amount at any other show (aside from Survivor Series but 14 of those were divas). Anyone worth their salt is going to be on the card. Anyone who finds themselves ready to be used by the company in an important or even semi-important role are not going to be affected by any returns.
Let’s have a quick look back to a year ago. Santino Marella, Drew McIntrye, David Otunga, The Great Khali, Brodus Clay, Zack Ryder, Jinder Mahal, Sin Cara. What do these 8 men (who represent over a quarter of the field) have in common? They all lasted less than five minutes in the match. Between them they made a total of BIG FAT ZERO eliminations. Between them they went onto make four more PPV appearances in 2013, the first coming in October. Most importantly however, I can remember anything any one of them did in that rumble. There was one more person who lasted less than five minutes without making an elimination. The Godfather. I sure as hell remember that. Why? Because I marked the **** out. If you don’t think that in the 10 or so “also ran” rumble places there isn’t room for 2 or 3 novelty entrants, then your idea of entertainment baffles me slightly.
Plan: Listen, if you want to be narrow-minded then by all means get bogged down in telling me the Rumble isn’t fun unless you have these pointless cameos or that the mid card talent is too forgettable to warrant being given these spots themselves – how they’re ever meant to go beyond that without being given the chance to though is beyond me; circular logic if ever there’s been any. But I’ll try and express my point as succinctly as I can.
In 2013, Godfather made a cameo so quick his music didn’t even stop. In 12 years, nobody will be able to recall this immediately off the cuff and will probably consider it a “nice surprise” when they sit down to re-watch it. If they do remember his appearance, they certainly won’t remember what it entailed. In 2002, Maven, a mid card talent you’d think was forgettable, eliminated Undertaker which led to him suffering a memorable beat down, winning the Hardcore title from Undertaker, rubbing shoulders with The Rock in doing so and eventually being given an opportunity to relive the spot one year later. I sit here, 12 years on, recalling it all clearly without having to look anything up.
I am positive our audience is intelligent and informed enough to figure out my point for themselves.
Joe: Ironic Plan is the one to throw out the narrow minded accusation but such is life.
The way you speak of the Rumble, I take it you must have LOVED Man of Steel. How do I know? Because it was devoid of plenty of things that makes Superman fun; charisma, a sense of humor, likeability; I mean it was Bret Hart in movie form for Christ’s sake. And that is what you want to take away from the Rumble; a dash of silliness (not a lot), a pinch of nostalgia (just enough) and most of all; variety (it’s the spice of life). Like you said, on any given Rumble, we know that the match will be won by 1-4 guys on the roster, IF that much. Since it’s a forgone conclusion of who WINS, might as well make who’s IN it a surprise, and who doesn’t like surprises? Did you know what happened when Godfather came back? My cousin marked the **** out, had his interest in rasslin renewed thanks to WWE’s forced trip down memory lane, and now likes the current product and tunes in every Monday. Godfather’s 12 seconds
in the Rumble brought back a fan. And you know what?
It’s what’s best for business.
Maverick: Wow, you just know Joe has been spending too much time around Maz when he chucks a Triple H line in there. Here’s the thing about the winner being obvious: it shouldn’t be. That’s WWE’s fault for not giving enough of a **** about the concept or their roster for the past seven years or so. You know why WWE haven’t given enough of a **** about their roster for the past seven years or so? They are always looking to the past. As I said previously, I’ve thought long and hard about part timers lately and my position is nowhere near as absolutist as it used to be, but sooner or later there needs to be a youth movement of sorts or the company is going to run out of guys that can draw once Trips has no quads left or Lesnar’s stomach has imploded. The Rumble is undoubtedly an event that the casual wrestling public will tune into regardless of whether there are surprise entrants or not. So why not leave them out and give the full-time likes of Fandango (who is silly enough), Goldust (who is nostalgic enough) and the rest of the midcard (who are more than varied enough) a platform to draw those guys in for good? WWE will never know if it’s possible if they don’t try it.
Maz: What it goes back to however is that the novelty acts aren’t taking away from anybody who is given anything to do. If you look at Maven in 2002, he was given a moment of importance. Whilst nowhere near as awesome, Bo Dallas was given an equivalent shot this year. Even though it seems nobody likes poor old Bo, if that was left off for the Godfather, then I’d agree with my esteemed colleagues. But it is isn’t the case. As I pointed out earlier, there were another 8 guys who did absolutely nothing (and went on to do absolutely nothing throughout the year). I’m all for Fandango getting a rumble spot. I’m all for anyone getting a rumble spot if they have something interesting to do in it. But every year there will be approximately a third of the field who won’t so why not entertain us by bringing back The Godfather, Goldust, Road Dogg, Foley, or even Jim Moobs Duggan.
Plan: Ok, let me state this explicitly: I understand what you’re saying; some guys are getting the chance and doing nothing with it. I get it. But it’s not as black and white as, “So there’s no harm in novelty entrants”. Understand the deeper, more complex mindset: why should a mid card talent put in the effort when the WWE show more priority in bringing back old timers than they do encouraging young talent to seize the day? By eliminating the trend of the novelty entrant, the WWE instead encourages “those other eight guys” to do something more by proving their priorities lie with the future, not the past. The mere absence of parody, what our argument is ultimately in favour for, encourages opportunism through a feeling of things being taken more seriously.
If you’re Fandango today, of course you won’t bother because you know the machine is going to overshadow your best efforts with the ****ing Godfather anyway. But if he wasn’t around, suddenly the attentions of fans and company officials fixate, naturally and automatically, on someone else instead...which could be Fandango.
It’s a little more complex than 2+2 is 4.
Joe: I actually agree, since the answer is 5 anyway. But to answer your question, a mid carder can use the time to reflect and ask "Jesus they left me off the rumble for Val Venis?" And figure out what in the world they are doing wrong to be left off the Rumble. It should serve as a reminder that nothing is certain and that you should work as hard as you could and hey, the cream always rises to the top. Everyone should work hard but they should also understand everyone can't be world champions or be in the main event. Let that be a chip on their shoulder, and if it isn't then hey, maybe they're in the wrong line of work.
Maverick: I’m all for a sense of competitiveness in WWE, and I definitely agree that every single talent should be using every minute they get to show what they can do. However, there does come a point where even pretty decent talents are getting bumped from PPV duty, and I think that’s where the issue is. Are there guys who don’t deserve a Rumble spot? Absolutely. Does this mean there are so many bums knocking about backstage that WWE couldn’t fill the Rumble unless they put out the call to any former guy with a recognisable gimmick? Not at all. It’s pretty difficult to maximise your minutes if you, um, don’t get any.
Maz: Well, I think it is almost time to go but before we do that I would reiterate the fact once more that Santino Marella, Drew McIntrye, David Otunga, The Great Khali, Brodus Clay, Zack Ryder, Jinder Mahal and Sin Cara all had nothing appearances in last years rumble. There will be a similar amount this year. I can understand you’d want a couple of these guys to have something at least semi-memorable to do in the match. If they aren’t given that opportunity then it is down to them or the people booking them. The old-timers and novelty acts usually have a very brief window to get in and out of the match. When it comes to the rumble, variety is definitely the spice of life and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that bringing back loved veterans is a positive to the match and does absolutely nothing to hurt any full time superstar with even the slimmest of chances of having something relevant to do.
So, vote, you know the deal… we shall be back in a week or so…
Joe: Well, that was rather fun wasn’t it? I mean, Plan is a stick in the mud but I’m surprised Mavs took the same route as he’s usually chipper and *sips* mmm Maz this is good stuff, is this Earl Grey?
Maz: Why of course, Joe. We are not savages. Would you care for a crumpet?
Joe: Well, why yes actually. Well now, compliments to your wife, these are splendid good sir.
Maz: Likewise, old chap. I shall now retire to the lounge until the votes have been tallied. Toodle-pip.
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