Oh dear. I spent last week pondering the presently dismal condition of the WWE main event roster and look what happens this week. On an otherwise irrelevant house show event featuring Jeff Hardy and Edge the latter suffered a serious Achilles tendon injury. This altogether excruciating ailment will likely rule Edge out of competition for a minimum of six months. Given the injuries to Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and Batista; plus the departures of Umaga, Kennedy and (most likely) Jeff Hardy, this is dreadful news for WWE.
The company has been stripped of several essential assets and as such cannot maintain any irrational misgivings towards certain performers. I speak most obviously of Christian, who needs to be immediately pulled from the purgatory of ECW and pushed to main event status on Smackdown. He is over, talented and possesses the requisite experience and skills to thrive in such an environment. This consistent refusal to elevate Christian is not just counter-productive, it’s tantamount to madness.
The return of The Undertaker, most likely around the time of Summerslam, will ensure additional interest and potential for new, money-drawing feuds in the short-term. The days of a full-time ‘Taker are dead and buried. In CM Punk, Chris Jericho and Christian the WWE has three men capable of carrying the can for as much time as is required and having some damn fine matches in the process.
The WWE is still trying to make something bankable out of the likes of MVP, Jack Swagger, John Morrison and The Miz. For my money, only Morrison is less than six months away from being ready. MVP has charisma and a unique look but is far too clumsy and uncoordinated in the ring. The Miz is a great talker with a contemporary vocabulary. His being jobbed out in rapid order (as predicted) to John Cena helped no one, least of all Mike Mizanin or WWE. Swagger is green as grass and sounds like a moron but he might get there; alas, not soon enough to be of any real assistance.
In John Morrison, the WWE has a potential star. I’m not totally convinced by his stick work but his good looks, charisma and emerging ring savvy stands him in fine stead. He’s already convinced in excellent feuds with CM Punk and Jeff Hardy and been team leader of two superior tag teams. He’s earned a shot at the big time. Whether he’s disciplined and focused enough to take such a chance remains to be seen. When you consider Jeff Hardy’s likely departure, the WWE are definitely a pretty boy shy. Morrison can fill that gap, but only if he truly wants to seize the day. Otherwise he will fall short.
Another option will present itself come September. Kurt Angle, the reigning TNA heavyweight champion, will be free to negotiate with all interested parties owing to the expiration of his TNA agreement. During his time in TNA Angle has seen (and felt) the merits a lighter, more focused schedule can have on his body. He will doubtless be interested should Vince McMahon present a similar scenario in WWE come September. Kurt was not keen to leave WWE in the first place and a man with the hubris of Angle knows he has unfinished business and given the desperation of WWE, bargaining leverage. Angle could quite comfortably negotiate a million dollar guarantee and a limited dates contract. The heat with the boys would be intense, but after a three year break a fresh, motivated Angle would have dozens of avenues to pursue in scores of money-making matches. Like it or not, the return to WWE of Kurt Angle makes sense for both the league and the man. Truth be told, I think it will most likely happen.
In the words of General Gogol: ?Problems, problems, nothing but problems?. The WWE finds itself in an injury induced pickle and the likes of Mark Henry will not extricate them from the mire. The courage and conviction to elevate the right men will have the desired effect. I have not mentioned Shawn Michaels in all this because there’s no concrete word on when he?ll be back and in what condition. If Shawn presses ahead with his plan to retire next year his contributions will be inextricably tied up in the build-up to Wrestlemania 26. Knowing the fondness within WWE for the moment in time, none of the new boys will be picked to achieve the stellar boon of ending the career of ?Mr. Wrestlemania?. If America has any concept of the phrase ?Old Etonian? no elaboration is necessary?
I?d like to change tact now and draw you collective attention to an outstanding programme I was fortunate to enough to witness earlier in the week. Gentleman’s Choice, the true story of British wrestler and former World Class star ?Gentleman? Chris Adams, is a quite marvelous addition to the small but essential pantheon of insider wrestling media and literature. The film is directed by independent filmmaker Mickey Grant, better known to wrestling fans as the man behind the World Class moniker and television production.
Grant’s understanding of both his story and the business in which it took place creates an intricately woven experience built around the emotions of those interviewed. The narrative of Adams? life is delivered without overall prejudice, as the bitterness and resentment of some is countered by the fondness and sadness of others. In the end you get the sense that to have known Chris Adams was to live with an emotional time-bomb that ultimately exploded too many times to avoid tragedy. However, his charm and warmth as a human being radiated out and people gravitated towards him with the very best and the very worst of intentions.
The film includes interviews with numerous, first-hand personalities including Gary Hart (in his last ever interview before his passing), Kevin Von Erich, the family of Chris Adams and a man by the name of Brent ?Booray? Parnell, one of Chris Adams? best friends and the man who, in self-defence, killed ?Gentleman? Chris in 2001. The sheer breadth of insights and the people sharing them lends the experience of watching this film a shocking weight that never subsides. As a wrestling fan, one of the most striking images is of archive footage of a tag match featuring ?Gentleman? Chris, Gino Hernandez, Kevin and Kerry Von Erich. Three of the four men died as a result of drugs or drug induced behaviour. It’s a searing indictment of the ?rock star? culture most prominent in the 1980’s but still alive and lethal today. Watching the decline of ?Gentleman? Chris, it’s a frightening notion to consider.
Gentleman’s Choice is an outstanding documentary that highlights the life and times of a forgotten man. ?Gentleman? Chris Adams trained ?Stone Cold? Steve Austin and was a contemporary of Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid, yet his name carries so little memory or weight with Englishmen or Americans alike. This film, through the highest highs and calamitous lows of the life and times of ?Gentleman? Chris Adams, very successfully addresses that injustice. If you have any interest in what happens after the lights have faded, do yourself a favour and watch this film.
Daniel R. Browne.