The Min Report: Miami Reflections – Volume 1
This is the first of a few reflections on WrestleMania week in Miami. I’ve not yet watched Mania back fully and want to do that before I ‘report’ on this and Raw – likely over the weekend. This will be lighter as Phil has already largely covered the action in mine and Simon’s absence. After that I’ll be changing The Min Report to a weekly overview each weekend to cover both Raw and Smackdown.
I’ll start with my reflections on the overall experience, the fans and meeting some of the stars…
Miami itself is a quite beautiful setting – Amazing weather. A decent array of bars, restaurants and shops. Cool Art Deco style buildings (yes that “Art Deco shit” Si!) wherever you look. Fantastic beaches. And many a beautiful person on view also. I don’t need to dwell on this but when you combine all this with 5 days of wrestling it’s a pretty solid combination. Two of the three members of Total Wrestling were in attendance (myself and Simon Only – sorry to rub that in Phil!) and we met some great guys and girls along the way, who in all honesty we could have still been talking to now. There were however some not so great people also!
Now, wrestling truly has some of the most passionate of fans I know. Scarily so in some cases. In many ways this is actually what makes it so much fun to watch and be a part of, at least sometimes. In the nicest possible sense though, I have seen and met some of the biggest freaks in my life over the past week. For instance, I understand that getting a replica belt signed by a wrestler is pretty cool (nice bit of merch to have in the office), especially if said wrestler has actually held that title at some point, so I fully expected to see this going on. What I didn’t expect is to see fans WEARING anything up to 4 belts at a time, and/or walking round wearing a belt as if you are an actual champion and it’s the most natural thing in the world. Quite bizarre. I thought fancy dress was for fun at parties, not a way to try and impress someone? If someone turned up at my work dressed as me I’d protect myself from bum-rape, check for any weapons and get a restraining order in play as quicker than a WM28 opener. Just by putting up with some of these idiots, WWE (and non-WWE) stars more than earn their money it has to be said. I’d say 70% of the fans we saw were a sandwich short of a Boots meal deal in one way or another.
I guess we pay the stars’ wages with the merchandise and tickets we buy, but they also put their bodies on the line every night just to entertain us too. And for that they deserve our respect. I think it’s awesome what these guys do for the less able too and it’s admirable that the likes of Cena go the extra mile for Make A Wish visits etc, but I feel sorry for what they also have to put up with via the massive collection of tools that seem to demand their attention and think that by dressing up and telling them every detail about their life, that somehow that wrestler will want to be their best friend.
Wrestling is great escapism don’t get me wrong. It’s a soap opera with a live stunt show thrown in, hosting silly jokes, ridiculous costumes and gimmicks, and a collection of fit birds on the side – what’s not to like as a guy? However this escape is all too real for some – in fact we saw far too many “it’s still real to me” guys over the week. You can tell sometimes by looking at superstars’ faces during conversation that they fully appreciate the support, but are under no illusion that that guy still lives with his parents and wanks into a sock in his basement…while looking at their poster. On the flip side, there’s a genuine relief in the face of a star when you talk to them normally…like someone who has, you know, some GCSE’s for instance.
Sometimes you get to meet wrestlers out of ‘planned activity’. We met Christian, Dolph Ziggler and Zack Ryder in a bar one night. This should have been a quiet night for them, the day before the first Axxess and just before most fans started to arrive in Miami. They we’re quite deep in conversation (and keeping up to date on Twitter), so respectfully I waited until there was a natural break in conversation before going over saying hi and asking if it would be ok to get a photo. They seemed to appreciate that I was very respectful and were happy to oblige, almost being slightly taken off guard that I hadn’t jumped around and screamed like the fat blubbering mess most fans seem to be around these people. I think this is the best way – too many fans think wrestlers owe them something. Anyway, got the photo, had a quick chat, wished them all the best over the weekend. Pleasant chaps. Justin Gabriel, Skip Sheffield, Jinder Mahal, and a host of FCW talent were also on hand at various points on the same night, happy to give time to those who weren’t gonna be prats about it.
WWE Axxess itself was pretty incredible. Great fun for kids and adults alike. There was chance to see old memorabilia and costumes, meet the stars, perform a ring entrance, pose with the WWE title (for those who hadn’t arrived with their own collection of belts I guess!), even visit The Undertaker’s graveyard and watch some live matches. Take it all tongue in cheek and it’s a 4 hour giggle-fest. We went twice! Special mentions? Ted Dibiase was great to talk to and has to be said seems to ‘get’ the fan interaction thing better than most – I guess it’s in his genes. And I couldn’t mention Axxess without my personal mark-out moment of meeting Lita. All I can say is well done CM Punk (and Edge of course) – but then if you can’t pull a beautiful woman when you’re WWE Champ when can you eh? We also got a very early insight into just how over Daniel Bryan has become with plenty of “YES!” chants going on throughout the sessions, and mass hysteria of a crowd following him around the venue. This of course was music to our ears, although I have to admit there’s always an air of grumpus when someone you’ve followed for years finally makes it big mainstream – like when that show you’ve been watching for years as a cult follower goes primetime. It’s not that you don’t want the star to make it big and be appreciated on a bigger scale (that’s all we ever wanted!) but often it’s where thing start to get spoiled. Anyway, I know you’ll have all seen Mania and Raw by now so you’ll know where this went and clearly I’ll be mentioning this again in my following posts. Great to meet some legends such as Booker T, Jimmy Hart, Gerry Brisco, Jim Ross, and Howard Finkel too.
Then you get non-WWE conventions such as WrestleReunion which entertains more marks than mouth-breathers. Although don’t get me wrong, there are still some donuts about too. This setting is much more relaxed however. We got the chance to see some ‘questionable’ wrestling for the sake of nostalgia. Has to be said though, I never thought I’d get a chance to see the likes of Vader, Larry Zbyszko, and Lanny Poffo (AKA The Genius) in a ring again. We got to meet and pose for photos with The New Age Outlaws and DDP. The latter was very chatty, although most of this was to try and push his Yoga programme. On hand for a quick hi among others were Jake Roberts, Brutus Beefcake, and Harry Smith. We also got to chat briefly to Mickie James and Torrie Wilson – both stunningly beautiful. Thanks to John Canton for the introduction, who on which note was a pleasure to meet also having chatted back and forth of twitter over the past 6 months. Keep up the good work ‘Mr Report’! ( @johnreport )
Special mention here goes to Daffney, who is one of the nicest and most easiest to talk to of all the stars I met. Again a damn fine looking woman but solid with the banter toboot. We both (myself and Simon) wish her all the very best with her rehab and training, and hope to see her 100% and back in the industry fully fit again at some point in the future. WWE could do a lot worse than take her on as a manager initially to protect her, before unleashing her on the Divas division further down the line. Do it Vince – put your grapefruits out there for once! ( @screamqueendaff )
There’s something pretty awesome about just saying a quick hi to a wrestler as if it’s the most natural thing in the world – again this goes back to just being normal and respectful to these guys. However there’s something rather sad about a ‘fan’ pretending that they really care about a former star, only to then buy Jake Roberts another beer and be happy to see him slip off to a hotel room with what I can most delicately describe as a ‘senior woman’. Some of these guys are literally killing themselves with their lifestyle, and only serving to support the message that the likes of ‘Beyond The Mat’ has brought to light in recent years. Brutus Beefcake may have to change his ring name to Brutus Beetroot soon such was the overdose on sunbeds he was clearly suffering from. Equally the woman he was with was so leathery she could have quite easily passed for a handbag. Bottom line is, I grew up watching these guys as my heroes when I was a kid – as an adult I’m wise to the business and it’s actually quite painful to see how some of these guys are clearly struggling. In that respect I find it best therefore to say hi, thank them for the good times, and wish them all the best and hope they look after themselves.
In addition, I understand that wrestling is escapism but that shouldn’t be an escape to ignore the fact that many fans are not just fat, they are enormous! And no that burger is not going to help you Porkins. WWE could get more people in events and thus more profits if they limited the amount of obese fucktards that currently frequent these shows and gave entry to more regular-sized people. Two such people were on our flight home – and had to have two seats each. Not content with the fact they’d used an extra seat each, and exceeded their baggage allowance in their tits, they also proceeded to complain about the passengers in front putting their seats back! You’re fucking kidding me right?! WWE currently promotes the BA Star project to fight against bullying. This is admirable of course, but why are they not promoting a stronger healthy living perspective to help these people who are quite frankly, killing themselves…and of course only setting up the likelihood to be bullied themselves. I’m appalled by the vicious circle this is creating, where yes you’ve guessed it, they have also spawned fat kids who are lumbering around behind their parents totally oblivious of the, let’s face it, child cruelty they are being subjected to. If WWE really cared about the bullying, they’d try to help do something about the root of the problem too. I’d love to help – hell, WWE sign me up as a spokesperson and make as many visits as you need. It’s hard for one person to make a difference, but one company certainly can. Unfortunately a lot of the shows and events we attended only served to support the stereotype of overweight, slow and ill/uneducated Americans and American influence. I find this a slap in the face to those with real physical and mental conditions who deserve the extra attention – ironically it’s these that never ask. The FML era is truly here in full-effect and it’s a sorry sight to see.
I’m not trying to over-hate here – hell I work in the fitness industry and know first hand how hard it is for some people to get that initial push to better their lives, I just feel that a company such as WWE has some real power to help. But they don’t. They just ensure they have enough XXXL t-shirts in stock. The WWE doesn’t see fat people in need of help though. They see vulnerable, weak people with low self-esteem who are easy to flog merchandise to. In fact I’m not totally convinced wrestling is the safest lifestyle choice for these tubbies to be geek it up to. This is the flip side of WWE – you can’t escape that they are all about the money. And it’s not just continuing to push the likes of Cena because kids are stupid, over pushing a more entertaining and able in-ring star. $90 for a VIP handshake, quick photo, and autograph? Count me out, sorry. This isn’t the stars fault it has to be said – I understand that Randy Orton was told to limit his meet and greet times per person, to which he essentially told the organiser to ‘fuck off’ as the fans has paid their money. Good on him. After all, many fans queued for almost an hour only to be told ‘no photos’ for some stars – this after the star showed up late and ended up leaving the signing early. Come on WWE.
In closing I just want to mention Dragon Gate USA. We saw the first of two Dragon Gate shows in Miami and to state it was epic would just not do it justice. I’d seen clips before and had read a lot about some of the stars, but never seen a full or live show before. Wow! These guys really push the boundaries – real fast paced and hard hitting stuff. I can only imagine what WWE would be like with this quality of wrestling on show combined with a bigger budget and greater production values. Swann vs AR Fox was an insane spot fest of an opener, and matches like Low Ki vs Pac are wrestling gold. That said, and thinking of some of the casualties I spoke of earlier, this is not a pace you can go out for 4-5 nights a week over a period of 10-15 years. It will literally kill you. Personal special mention to Chuck Taylor, not only cause he loved my t-shirt but because he was genuinely one the most entertaining cocky heels I’ve watched in years. Follow them and get to a show if you ever get a chance – you won’t regret it. ( @BookItGabe )
Thanks for reading. My next installment will cover WWE Hall of Fame and WrestleMania itself, with the third and final chapter covering a monumental Monday Night Raw.
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