If sport and life possess one common thread it is the tendency to produce pariahs; men and women who incur negativity and unpopularity as if by reflex. This is usually based on comments or previous, unpalatable behaviour that has left a sour taste in the mouth. These people are different to classic ?bad boys?. Consider the sight of Jack Nicholson on a yacht (in a jacuzzi) sporting hairy breasts and holding court with a harem of scantily clad women. Any normal bloke caught guzzling Viagra and twanging the knicker elastic of a girl barely old enough to recall Jack’s last Oscar would have questions asked of them. Not Jack. The quintessential Hollywood rogue, men smile and women swoon. It’s good because it’s bad and it’s bad because it’s good. A large number of people hate him and his behaviour but an even larger number yearn to be him. That’s the fundamental difference between Jack Nicholson and people who we simply love to hate. Men such as the subjects of today’s whimsy, Ed ?Oklahoma? Ferrara, who has apparently been hired to ?enhance? the TNA writing team.
If Vince Russo was the demonic lead guitarist, then Ed Ferrara was the mephistophelean bass player. Like Russo, Ferrara shared in the notion that wrestling should be the tertiary presentation on a wrestling show. Rising to prominence during the Attitude Era as Vince Russo’s fat, giggling sidekick, together they found their niche in the then ?parental advisory? World Wrestling Federation. They advocated lewd gestures, wet t-shirts and overt sexual innuendo. It was crass and at times blasphemously offensive. It was however contemporaneous to what was occurring in mainstream culture and, for a while, it succeeded. With an editor of Vince McMahon’s calibre behind them, the crude excesses of their imaginations were curtailed and thus failed to see the light of day. Most of the time anyway. If you want to know who to thank for the dire Beaver Cleavage character, drop Ed Ferrara a line. Thanks to him, the WWF attempted to peddle incest long before necrophilia. I’m no prude but there are lines not to be crossed in the business and even the truly shameless Vince McMahon lost his nerve with this idea.
After growing tired of the punishing work schedule and succumbing to the absurd notion that they were chiefly responsible for the riches of the Attitude Era, Russo and Ferrara jumped ship. It was October 1999 and the once prosperous WCW was beginning to fail in the wake of the Austin/McMahon saga and sown seeds of its own making. Desperate, the money men bought into the messianic plaudits of many a mark and asked the two men to save the good ship Atlanta, lest she sink into oblivion. Looking back on it exactly ten years later, the signing of that deal sealed the fate of the once mighty World Championship Wrestling.
It was arrogance, vanity, insular thinking and petulant self-aggrandising. It was all those naked failings and more. From October 1999 to January 2000 that which started as a clean slate degenerated into a maelstrom of dumb insider references, mark appeasement and the steady, unstoppable decline in fan interest. What Laurel and Hardy failed to grasp was the very reason competition, not just WCW, existed. If John and Jane wrestling fan had simply desired the WWF product they would have chosen to watch that. They were instead searching for something different. WCW was a company founded on strong, southern traditions that coveted the mainstream presence of the WWF. Jim Herd mounted a catastrophic attempt to mimic the WWF in the early 1990’s. In 1994 Eric Bischoff essentially sold WCW to Hulk Hogan and tried to re-create Hogan’s WWF glory years. This failed, so Bischoff pinched an idea from Japan and re-branded it as a pseudo-WWF invasion of WCW. He harnessed the antipathy that existed towards Hogan and all he represented as a means to drum up heat and interest in the preservation of the so-called values of WCW. This resulted in the New World Order and the glory years of WCW. This formula was simple yet devastatingly brilliant. It was grounded in the competitive principles of wrestling as a credible product. Russo and Ferrara believed (and believe) wrestling is noting more than a cypher for shock and awe and so-called comedy. Pointless and expensive theatrics, hour long skits and five minute matches typified their WCW. It was to those who witnessed it a dismal spectacle diplomatically referred to as a complete joke. A two-bit WWF clone that looked and sounded cheap yet cost a fortune.
The self-editorial nature of Wikipedia makes it a dangerous and unreliable tool at the best of times. Ed Ferrara’s page is a splendid case in point. Whilst not necessarily a whitewash attempt to re-write history, it does contain several laughably subjective conclusions. According to the source, the ‘successes? of the Russo/Ferrara axis include: 3 Count, who had some decent matches when they weren’t drawing flies with their silly gimmick and atrocious singing. The Mamalukes are mentioned, as if an olive oil-soaked Italian stereotype (that didn’t even draw flies) is something to be proud of. What connection the word ‘success? has in relation to David Flair is a mystery Dan Brown couldn’t (and probably wouldn’t) write. If these are examples of successful contributions then who knows what apparently didn’t work in Ferrara’s eyes. As a consequence I’m entirely convinced Mr. Ferrara had a detailed hand in the construction of this page.
No appraisal of Ed Ferrara would be definitive without mentioning Oklahoma. What started as a gentle nudge in the direction of Jim Ross (as a joke in the WWF) grew into a monster in WCW. As a one-off, some of the insider jokes and caustic replication worked a treat. The phrasing in triplicate and made-up NFL facts (such as Juventud Guerrera hailing from ?The University of Tijuana?) were actually quite clever and satirically scathing. It was the personal nature, in particular the visible Bell’s Palsy reference, that wound people up. That, and the utter destruction of the once prestigious WCW crusierweight title in a useless attempt to get the character over. Jim Ross, who has one of the thickest skins in the business, seldom rose to the bait. He was rightfully indignant and hurt however. Ed Ferrara eventually lost his nerve and begged Ross for his forgiveness via an open letter, which to Ross’ considerable credit was accepted. Not so magnanimous was Jim Cornette, who upon seeing Ferrara spat in his face and asked him to step outside For a gentleman’s conference. To those who respected Jim Ross it was a brutal and unnecessary attack for the sake of being controversial. Sadly, that is Russo and Ferrara in a nutshell.
Oklahoma was an incendiary, occasionally clever creation that courted controversy and had people talking for a brief moment. The problem, as was the case with every Russo/Ferrara concoction, was it served no larger purpose. The people who huddled like naughty children as Ferrara swung his barbecue sauce were the dimwitted no-accounts who hung on Russo’s every word because he was desperate enough to acknowledge their existence. It didn’t attract any credible interest or make headlines and it certainly didn’t draw any money or enhance WCW in any way. It was about Russo and Ferrara getting their kicks. It was dangerous, self-indulgent and utterly disregarded the simplest aspects of wrestling. It seemed immense damage was wrought upon WCW every time one or both of these idiots watched an episode of South Park. Ed Ferrara didn’t contribute anything that wasn’t an old idea in tacky packaging (such as The Filthy Animals) or was just plain useless. Even the pushes of Chris Benoit and Bret Hart came as a reactionary step, not because the fate of WCW was the primary issue. The almighty internet said so, so it came to pass. The right thing for the wrong reasons, if you will.
Ed Ferrara has no credibility to speak of and accomplished only chaos when awarded power in WCW. That a company as delicately poised as TNA would choose to bring him into the fold only indicates the top-level ignorance at work here. TNA needs a solid foundation and creative stability. It does not require another moronic, petulant and arguably racist hack who couldn’t care less about wrestling; especially in tandem with the carcinogenic Russo. Think I’m being melodramatic? Anyone who remembers WCW knows such a conclusion is an indulgence I’m not sure Dixie Carter-Salinas can afford. Wrestling needs to get over its fascination with watching car crashes and decapitations pronto. The idea was peddled and discarded nearly a decade ago. It failed, and two men as close to war criminals as wrestling can provide need to be tossed into obscurity. They are what happens when you let people who think they’re funny write television. The joke is on the people stupid enough to grant them licence. Them, and the fans of wrestling who have suffered Ed Ferrara (and Vince Russo) for over a decade. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson, perhaps certain of the wrestling fraternity simply can’t handle the truth.