Catching Up on Work

Posted: August 9, 2017 in Entertainment, Gruesome Magazine, Needless Things, The Blog

I’ve been neglecting the blog of late. I haven’t been writing stuff for it, and I haven’t been linking my work from elsewhere here. I can’t fix the first one today, but I can play catch up on the second. So, without further ado…

RIP George Romero

There aren’t a lot of people who you can say created a new genre in film; certainly not in the more modern eras of filmmaking. You can say that about George Romero. He created- somewhat by deliberate design, somewhat by accident -the modern zombie in horror. If it had not been for this (at the time) overly ambitious young filmmaker and his friends, the zombie of film, television, books, and comic books as we all now think of it would never exist. It is a legacy left behind that will live on for more years than he or even most of us could probably ever truly comprehend.

Sadly, while ensuring him a place in history, it may have also been something of an albatross around his neck at times. Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead are probably three of the most well-known horror films in existence at this point. They have spawned hundreds of imitators in film, thousands in the print mediums, and more than just a few in audio productions as well. The zombies inspired by Romero’s creations have appeared in the most unexpected of places over the decades; even invading a galaxy far, far away via the Star Wars novel Death Troopers. Zombies spun off from the Romero mold have proven to be so adaptable that there seems to be no limit to where they might appear. They’ve proven they can be effectively used while still being properly used in comedies and romances. They even became event additions to reality-based military video games where the players might not have been as accepting of other fantastical creations. Romero himself even made an appearance in some of these games alongside his undead creations.

But George Romero as a filmmaker was far more than just zombies. While in recent years his 1982 collaboration with Stephen King, Creepshow, has been seemingly gaining more fans and more acclaim as time goes by, his filmography is filled with many things that are not zombie films and are far too often overlooked.

Some of his early films, such as Season of the Witch, are merely enjoyable little entries into the horror genre. One of his earlier films though, Martin, is a criminally overlooked film about a teen that may or may not be a vampire, and may or may not be deranged. Martin as a film was a noticeable visual and stylistic departure from Night of the Living Dead, Season of the Witch, and The Crazies, and it may well be his best film in many ways. It’s truly worth tracking down to both enjoy and to see another part of the legacy in film he left us.

Overshadowed by Dawn of the Dead and Creepshow was 1981’s Knightriders. Knightriders was an amazing if bizarre Arthurian legend fantasy without the magic set in the then present day and populated by a troupe of not quite renaissance performers who wear armor but ride motorcycles. The film is filled with the typical Romero observations on society, but it’s also filled with craziness and gore FX. It’s a movie that comes off as the type of film you’re either going to hate or love, but it seems like over the years it’s simply been one met with indifference; even by self-professed hardcore fans of Romero.

This is seemingly more true than not for many of his non-zombie works. Eventually, even the powers that be at the studios seemed to take this view of Romero’s films. If it wasn’t a zombie film, it seemed in later years like the studios weren’t interested in a Romero film either. I’d even seen a few interviews and convention panels over the years where Romero seemed to say much the same himself.

During the later years of his life, there were times I felt sorry for him because of that. It had to be the filmmaker’s equivalent of extreme typecasting. It had to be creatively frustrating at times to go to people and say that you had these creative endeavors you wanted to undertake only to have them nod, smile, and ask you if you had any zombie ideas instead.

But he also seemed to become more and more at peace with that in the later interviews I saw with him. He recognized the zombie as it became in his films as his legacy. Sometimes I thought he got maybe a little too proprietorial about it, but at the same time I don’t think I can ever fully comprehend what it is to create something like he did and see it go out into the greater popular culture to be used and sometimes misused by his point of view by so many. Once he fully accepted it as his legacy, I suppose I can understand him wanting to protect the legitimacy of that legacy.

And what an amazing legacy it is.

There have been times over the last decade-plus where I’ve had some issues with George. There are things he’d said or done where I wished he’d have relaxed a bit, enjoyed the ride, taken the offers to play in other people’s zombie sandboxes, and especially seen more of the rewards from his creation that he very much deserved. But that wasn’t George, and I suppose a George like that might not have been the type who could have given us the specific visions he left behind for us in his films.

There have been times over the last two to three decades where I wished his lesser known but just as deserving movies were embraced by horror fandom by even half the number of people that embrace his zombies. But that doesn’t seem like it will ever come to pass. But, despite those things, what he will be remembered for and how long he is remembered for it is probably more than any of us could ever hope for.

George Romero did something with the original trilogy of Dead films that few people can say they’ve done. As many people have said not only this week but for years now, Romero and his zombies largely ushered in a new age of horror. You can love them, like them, be indifferent to them, or hate them, but you cannot say that the age of the zombie in the wake of Night of the Living Dead did not help sustain and grow some of the horror community over the last few decades or that they have not had an influence in popular culture well beyond just the horror community.

The Romero styled zombie, the flesh-eating ghoul risen from the grave and stopped only by the destruction of the brain, is now a true horror icon. It sits prominently alongside Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Frankenstein Monster, the Mummy, and the Creature on the Mount Rushmore of major horror creations. The zombie is right now more popular than ever. It’s probably bigger right now than almost any other specific creation in horror. It will very likely continue to grow in popularity, maybe fading a bit in popularity after a while, and then just come back again some time down the road. But when it comes back, you can bet it will return with a back to basics approach to that return and it will be every bit what fans see as the Romero zombie.

RIP George, we owe you so much more than we can say.

At this time, we here at Chandler’s Bar & Grill cannot confirm the rumors that they destroyed the brain “just to be sure.”

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Monday musings on how wildly complicated yet amazingly simple the announced change in the Doctor Who status quo and the choice for fans was and is.

http://www.needlessthingspodcast.com/2017/07/introducing-jodie-whittaker-as-doctor.html

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We’ve heard the speculation for years. We’ve heard it from as far back as (even if it was purely a joke then) the ere of the last few original Doctors. We’ve even heard specific names attached to the talk more than once. But, somehow, the talk never panned out. Certainly, the talk intensified in recent years. Not just because of the changing times, but because of other changes of this nature being introduced into Doctor Who. Still, it seemed a longshot given the reported frontrunners for the role over the majority of the last year. But that all changed on July 16, 2017. 

It is now official. The next Doctor is a woman.

Jodie Whittaker (Wired, Attack the Block, Black Sea, Broadchurch) has been revealed as the Doctor who will usher in the new era of Chris Chibnall (also best known to many for Broadchurch) as the Doctor Who showrunner. The immediate reactions have been what one would expect; wildly mixed.

Certainly, we’ve seen the easy to anticipate flood of comments from the two extreme ends of the spectrum. The afternoon of the announcement saw any number of forums and threads filled with declarations of being done with Doctor Who after anywhere between ten to fifty years watching because of this “PC stunt” as well as the those declaring that it was great that this was finally being done simply because “it’s time” and characterizing any and all comments not supporting the change- even if the person commenting was a woman -as misogyny.

The reality around what the BBC is about to do with Doctor Who and the ramifications of that act are far more complex than either of those two groups of Who fandom make it out to be or are likely able to understand. The other reality of the situation is that it’s also amazingly simple.

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The Complex

There are simple truths when it comes to hesitancy or resistance to changes like this that have nothing to do with misogyny, racism, or any other “gyny” or “ism” one could think up for an online spitting contest over such matters. One such simple truth is the more ingrained, iconic, and popular an existing image, concept, or character is in pop culture consciousness, the more the existing image, concept, or character is comfortably seen as the “right one” that does not need to be and should not be changed from what it’s been.

I’ve said this before when it comes to switching the race or gender of characters that have achieved a high level of iconic pop culture status. As I’ve said in past Needless Things columns and on my own blog, I’d no more want to see James Bond black than see Shaft white if the only reason someone could bring to the table was that “it’s time” to make that change. I wouldn’t want to see Wonder Woman suddenly become Wonder Man either. Of course, Marvel did that and it was horrible. 

None of those have anything to do with any “ism” or “gyny” people can come up with. It simply has to do with all three of those characters are hugely iconic, and they’re deeply ingrained in my consciousness as well as others in the form and appearance they have now. Seeing them suddenly appear radically altered from what’s become the basic template of that iconic image in anything other than an Elseworlds style of story would be jarring and possibly more than a little off-putting. That’s true for even cosmetic changes. Look no further than the reactions by some fans to Superman’s casual jeans and t-shirt look in comics a short while back or the extreme reactions to Superman Red and Superman Blue years ago. Plus, well, you know… Marvel’s Wonder Man kind of sucked as a character anyhow.

That wall in people’s minds, that resistance to change, is very normal and natural in many ways. It doesn’t even apply to just those things we’ve lived our whole lives with. Many of the people I’ve seen advocating such changes because “it’s time” are also the first people I’ve seen flipping their lids when Facebook changes its appearance, MSN radically alters the look of Windows, a classic logo for something they like is changed, their favorite superhero changes their costume, or a movie translates their favorite book/comic book character to the big screen and changes the appearance of the character. People, no matter who they are or where they are, don’t always react well to change in the early going even if they eventually become used to the change and will eventually accept the new as the way things are supposed to be as they once did with the old.

If you want to intellectually get past the actually rather natural and normal objections to changing such characters, you need more than simply “it’s time” to do so; especially when, as can be argued with Doctor Who, a new character could easily be introduced and spun off. Preferably, that reason would be based on telling good stories first and foremost, not simply making a change for the sake of change and then hoping the stories don’t fall flat. Interestingly, one of the things Doctor Who does do is eliminate as an issue the need to create a completely new character based on any such changes.

One of the issues that would arise with a gender or race swap of other characters is that you would, in fact, have to start rewriting the past of the character as well as how the character acts and reacts in the here and the now. It’s one of the things that many who say that it’s time that we see a black James Bond or a black Bruce Wayne don’t seem to take into consideration.

A Bond or Wayne introduced into 2017 in their thirties or forties would have faced three to four decades of challenges and prejudices based on their skin color that the James Bond and Bruce Wayne we know never did. While you could keep the basics- the big things as it were -intact in the bios of a Bond or a Wayne, the reality is that they would have lived lives with a million little differences that would all add up. These things would have to be reflected in the characters as depicted on screen. They would see and react to some things differently than a white Bond or Wayne would; even if the difference is only one of intensity. They would also be treated differently in some scenarios simply because there are some places that Batman and 007 go where the color of your skin matters. You would in part be creating new characters. If you didn’t, you would run the risk of turning off the part of the audience you would be making such a change for since they would likely see the character as black on the outside only. Then you’ve lost them along with the chunk you lost who refused to go along with the change.

But, being an alien, the Doctor interestingly sidesteps that issue. An alien that grew up in a different society on another world entirely has no reason to have a history with the racial issues we have had and still have on this world. The Doctor suddenly changing the color of his skin requires nothing when it comes to changing the character in any way due to having to take into consideration the life he would have lived before and how that would change him from the Doctor we knew. Although, it absolutely would open up some interesting storytelling issues with a time traveler who on more than a few occasions has adventures on Earth in time periods where the color of one’s skin did impact how freely one could move about across all levels of society.

The absence of that issue combined with the hesitance to make what seemed an even more radical alteration is one of the reasons I also thought we would see a black or Asian Doctor before we saw a female Doctor. I still thought that up until the most recent years of Doctor Who, but something happened to start to change that a bit.

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Despite comments made by the Doctor in the new era of Doctor Who that indicated gender switching was a common thing with Time Lords (See the Matt Smith story The Doctor’s Wife for an example), we had never actually seen a Time Lord who was or was indicated to be gender-swapped. That almost but maybe didn’t really change with the revelation at the end of season eight. The introduction of Missy, formally the Master, was seen as a game changer by many who wanted to see a woman cast as the Doctor. Now, they said, we had a Time Lord who had gone from male to female. It was now canon that the Time Lords could gender swap. I stopped telling people that this wasn’t really the case early on, but, in truth, it just wasn’t the case.

Missy was an interesting matter when it came to this discussion. The thing a lot of people seemed to forget, or, in the case of fans of the new series only, not know was that the Master wasn’t exactly who he always was before. As a matter of fact, for a time I wasn’t even sure that he was truly a Time Lord any longer.

The story that saw Anthony Ainley take on the role of the Master followed the viewers seeing a Master at the end of his regeneration cycle and clinging to life using a method that had him looking like a cross between the incredible melting man and a mummy. He survived, and assumed the form of Anthony Ainley’s Master, by stealing the body of an alien; the father of a young woman, Nyssa, who would go on to become a companion for Peter Davison’s Doctor. In some stories, such as The Five Doctors, it was implied that he could no longer regenerate, but it was also implied that it was within the powers of the Time Lords to grant others a regeneration cycle or give Time Lords new regeneration cycles. 

It was never clear if the Master ever got that reward by the end of the original series, but it ultimately didn’t matter. The character was changed even more greatly in the 1996 Paul McGann television film. The Master was executed at the beginning of the story but survived when some sort of strange jelly snake managed to reform itself from his ashes and take over the body of an ambulance driver on Earth. However, it seemed that the human body couldn’t handle whatever that thing was and would not have been able to continue on for long. Indeed, a huge part of the Master’s motivation in that story was stealing the Doctor’s body and his remaining regenerations. It ended badly for him as he was sucked into the heart of the TARDIS and presumed to be about as dead as such villains ever are.

I think many assumed that the Master’s body was destroyed at that point. Even the official continuation of Doctor Who in 2003 (that then got turned into the unofficial and not canon continuation and canceled after the announcement of a new live series), the animated Scream of the Shalka, went with that idea to a degree. It gave us a Master, voiced by Derek Jacobi of all people, who had lost his physical form and was placed into an android body. But even discounting Scream of the Shalka, the Master was in a strange place insofar as being an example of a typical Time Lord by the time he reappeared as the older Professor Yana and regenerated into the John Simms Master trying to be Batman’s Joker.

Then he died. Then he came back through some strange way that had nothing to do with regeneration and was interfered with before he was properly reformed. This gave him some insane powers never seen in a Time Lord, but it was also destroying his body. Then he sort of died again as he forced the Time Lords back into facing the fate they were destined to face in the Time War. At the very least, he was deemed lost with the Time Lords while in a body that was falling apart and who the hell knew if it was even still Time Lord in nature or not.

Then, years later, we got Missy and the reveal that she was the Master we had known before. But who knew what qualified as normal for the Master at that point? I could certainly see how Missy could be used to normalize in the minds of many fans the idea of gender switching major characters in Doctor Who, but I could never see how people could say that this was an example of just your typical Time Lord. For all we knew, the Master had hit the end of the limited regeneration cycle he had and had stolen another body in order to survive. So, no, that was, for me at least, not the moment that changed things a bit when it came to thinking that the powers that be were really moving in that direction. That came when they actually showed us that the change could happen just like that at any time.

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Just like that, we saw a white male turn into a black female in no time at all. Of course, we also once again saw a Time Lord regenerate without the various issues that the Doctor always seems to face, but that’s a whole other discussion. So, now, no one could say that such a change was not canon. They even had her deliver a line indicating that this was a switch back to being a woman rather than being a man changed into a woman for the first time.

But, honestly, the idea of serious cosmetic changes during a regeneration go much farther back than that. We all saw on TV and in canon as Romana changed her body several times during regeneration, controlling the regeneration through some changes that had her looking completely alien. That last word there, the word “alien” in that sentence, is a really important one here.

The Amazingly Simple

Time Lords are aliens. You can point to fish on this planet that change their gender if the population imbalance between male and female demands it. Remember Nemo, everyone’s favorite clownfish? Nemo could do it.

Clownfish, wrasses, moray eels, gobies, and some other species of fish are known to have the ability to change their sex, and that does mean changing their reproductive functions. It’s actually common with clownfish. Their schools are built into a hierarchy with a female fish at the top. When she dies, it’s not uncommon for the most dominant male to change sex and take her place. This is something that happens on our planet with creatures we are all intimately familiar with. If this is a fact of life, a reality rather than fiction, on our world that we can accept, then it’s not much of a stretch to suggest that an alien species that changes its form with an explosive release of energy that rebuilds them radically on the cellular level in moments can exist in speculative fiction that gender swaps during that change.

But that still won’t get some over that wall I mentioned earlier. The truth, keeping it amazingly simple, is that nothing will get some people over that wall. So, here’s another amazingly simple truth.

Doctor Who with a woman in the lead is going to risk losing viewers. But the fact is that Doctor Who has lost viewers in large numbers with male leads in the classic era and again in recent years. The popularity of the male leads didn’t change that either. Sylvester McCoy was a popular Doctor. Peter Capaldi has fans of both old and new Who saying that he’s easily in their top favorite Doctors if not their favorite Doctor. But the ratings don’t reflect that. Doctor Who is losing ratings, losing viewers, now and with a male lead. Because at this point the gender of the lead isn’t the most important factor here.

The fact is that the writing has let the character down in the past and certainly recently. The stories in the show and the direction of the show have turned off more existing fans than turned on new fans. The amazingly simple truth is that, in the end, that’s what’s going to matter the most when it comes to gaining, losing, or keeping viewers and surviving as a show.

I am one of the people who has said that I would like a better reason than “it’s time” as the reason to make such a change. But, here’s the most important thing in this. I’m a fan of Doctor Who. I have been a fan of Doctor Who since sometime in the mid-eighties. I was a fan who was really getting ready to hang it up as a fan for a while after the last few years of the Moffat era and would have hung it up had the announcement of a new showrunner not come when it did. All I want out of Doctor Who is good stories that feel like good Doctor Who.

If this Doctor is served well by being given good stories, then this will be a good Doctor for Doctor Who fans. If this Doctor is served well by being given good companions and good adversaries to play off of, then this will be a good Doctor for Doctor Who fans. This is a character that has always been to some degree about change (and not a moment too soon) every few years. This is just another change. It’s a somewhat more radical change that offers some interesting possibilities as well as some dangerous pitfalls with the storytelling though. But if this Doctor’s new creative team can navigate those possibilities and avoid those dangers and deliver to us good Doctor Who stories, she is a Doctor that will be worth traveling on the TARDIS with as a fan.

But, ultimately, that’s a choice everyone will have to make for themselves.

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Jerry Chandler follows geek stuff. When not found writing here he can be found writing for Gruesome Magazine and his own blog. He has a Twitter. He can also occasionally be heard talking pro wrestling with the amazingly talented crew at of the ESO Pro: The Pro-Wrestling Roundtable podcast.

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Kevin Smith gets a lot of grief for his films lately. Here’s why I like that he’s still doing his thing his way.

http://www.needlessthingspodcast.com/2017/07/why-i-like-fact-that-kevin-smith-is.html

Why I like the Fact that Kevin Smith is Still Making Movies

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Kevin Smith has been making films “professionally” since 1994’s Clerks. A series of films following Clerks made him a huge, buzzworthy name in cinema in the 1990s. Odds were good that there was at least one huge fan of Kevin Smith in almost every group of friends, and more than a few people around you were quoting Jay’s lines from any number of Jay & Silent Bob scenes. A lot of people were getting behind Kevin Smith’s success as a filmmaker. It was a great story of the little guy making good in the profession he loved. After all, this was a guy who somehow made it big with on a film that he made on only (originally) $27,000 and was almost entirely 92 minutes of just people talking to each other.

Then the 2000s came along and some of the shine started coming off of Kevin Smith’s reputation as a filmmaker. For me personally, 1999’s Dogma was probably his last truly great film. You could see his maturation as a writer and a director, and the film’s surprisingly (despite its reputation) pro-faith message wasn’t delivered like a clumsy hammer over the heads of audiences despite it being such an integral part of the story. His first film of the 2000s, 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, felt like a step backward in more ways than one. After the reception of 2004’s Jersey Girl, he really did take a few steps backward by revisiting Clerks with 2006’s Clerks II. It continued the trend of his declining popularity at the box office.

Dogma

After a small string of projects that all still felt like what one would expect from Kevin Smith, he made what was his first real attempt to break out of the filmmaking box that many felt he had built for himself. This was his 2011’s Red State.

The early promotional materials for Red State made it come across as nothing like any Kevin Smith project before it. This was going to be the story of regular people becoming the prisoners of a fundamentalist religious cult with some crazy views of the scripture, and it was set smack in the middle of small-town America. Some early word even indicated the possibility of apocalyptic aspects to the story. Red State was easily Kevin Smith’s most ambitious attempt at filmmaking to that point. He left behind almost all of his standard comfort zones in storytelling and ventured into a much darker, much more serious fictional world.

Red State was interesting viewing. While the entire film didn’t quite gel for reasons that anyone can speculate on, there was still a good film there that just needed a little more polish. You could see where he was more confident with some parts of the film than with others, and you could see where even he likely saw some stylistic shortcomings with this type of material that could easily be worked on and improved with time. While I think most people had no issue with Smith returning to the well that made him famous for some future works, the feeling that maybe there was going to be some new, interesting, and unexpected films coming from Smith in the future seemed to be welcomed by many.

That may have gone away with Tusk.

Tusk

2014’s Tusk was a joke of a concept. No literally, it was a joke. It started its journey to film with Smith and friends joking around about out there horror concepts on a podcast, and joking about the idea of a human being turned into a walrus. Except, after the podcast ended, Smith couldn’t stop thinking about just how horrific this concept could be.

He was right. It could be a horrific experience. Sadly, as a film under his direction, it wasn’t.

One problem it had was likely caused by the fifteen-day shoot schedule the majority of the film had to be shot in. Everything you see on screen was shot in fifteen days except for the Johnny Depp scenes. His scenes were shot sometime later over a two-day shoot. The rushed shoot seems to have impacted the quality of the film’s overall look. The practical special effects used to make the transformation from man to not exactly walrus were actually not all that bad, but they absolutely needed to be shot in less well-lit scenes. A not too insignificant part of effective horror can, in fact, be in the mood created by the filmmaker, and letting us see everything of the final effect in bright light did not help. The rushed shoot may have also not been helpful to the film’s pacing; another thing needed for effective horror.

But what likely hurt the film the most was seemingly Smith’s inability to venture into new filmmaking territory without falling back on the crutch of his tried and true absurdist humor. Much of the first part of the film just felt like a bad attempt at doing a Kevin Smith film by someone who wasn’t actually Kevin Smith. Then there were the two days of filming done later with Johnny Depp…

Depp’s Guy Lapointe was a bumbling investigator with a bad accent that would have come across as too campy and foolish if he appeared in a Pink Panther film alongside Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Being what it was, the character and the character’s appearance was a jarring moment in the film that may have worked well in other Smith films, but merely served to badly tonally clash with the rest of this film. It seemed like it was downhill from there even as the film tried to get its horror legs back under it.

Then he did the second film in that loose trilogy, 2016’s Yoga Hosers. The less said about that film the better. Well, no. I will say that somehow, amazingly, Smith and Depp made Guy Lapointe a watchable character in Yoga Hosers. As a matter of fact, in stark contrast to Tusk, Guy Lapointe may have been the best part of the film.

Yoga Hosers

Even as fans bemoaned Smith’s recent film work, they praised his directorial efforts when in other people’s sandboxes. His work on TV’s The Goldbergs, The Flash, and Supergirl were all met with high marks by fans as well as the casts and crews of the various shows. Fans looking forward to more of Smith’s TV work in the future were less than thrilled with the announcements coming out of SModcast Pictures.

Announcements were made for a slate of upcoming films with names like Helena Handbag, Mallbrats, Killroy Was Here, Jay and Silent Bob Rebooted, and the final film in the trilogy started by Tusk and Yoga Hosers, Moose Jaws. The reaction by many in fandom was fairly unanimous. Some have asked that Smith just stop making films already.

And that is where, as bad as some of his recent films have been, I disagree with some in fandom.

The one unified declaration I hear from many of the same fans who want guys like Kevin Smith to just hang it up already is often made after the latest big budget blockbuster hits theaters. They decry the fact that there isn’t enough out there being made that’s “different” thanks to the big studio systems. They complain that the only films getting made are the cookie cutter studio efforts.

But that’s not true even if you take Kevin Smith out of the mix. Kevin Smith is certainly one of the people getting out there into ideas so strange that they may not seem appealing to most, but that might be a good thing. Sometimes you have to have people who are going that far into that type of filmmaking for unexpected concepts to come around that actually hit on all cylinders.

It may not seem as out there as some of the concepts Smith has recently played with and floated in filmmaking, but I want to go back to 1994’s Clerks for a moment. Twenty-four years ago, I was a bit of an odd man out when it came to people in my general age range, slightly older, and certainly younger when it came to my film and television viewing, and I don’t mean just how deep I was into the geek stuff and British programming. There were any number of times I’d be talking to someone in those age groups about a movie or TV show I saw and thought was fantastic but was met with someone getting an odd look on their face and saying, “But… It’s in black and white.”

Black and white was a viewing deal breaker for a lot of people I knew. Another huge deal breaker was a film with pretty much no action scenes and a lot of talking. Another big deal breaker was any film with zero recognizable stars. After all, if a film was any good, there would be name value stars in it. Therefore, no stars they knew meant the film was obviously just not any good.

Now, obviously, there were exceptions to these rules even with the people that said these types of things when talking about films. However, these typically fell into the realm of sentimental favorites they grew up on or other such “exceptions” they would make. But, then, twenty-three years ago, Clerks happened.

If you checked off the boxes on the checklists of reasons that many people I knew would pass on a film and certainly pass on owning the VHS in the own home video collection, Clerks checked off pretty much every box. Yet a lot of those some people watched Clerks, talked about liking Clerks, and even, in quite a few cases, bought the Clerks VHS tape for their collection. When you looked at all of the various checklists in the hands critics, film fans, and movie executives of what was needed in a film to make it a success (or even a cult success) and strongly launch someone as a major filmmaking name, you wouldn’t find a lot of boxes that got checked with Clerks. But that’s what happened.

Even now, even as Smith is flailing and floundering in his most recent efforts, there are films being made that on paper look completely ridiculous, make zero sense, and in no way look like they should acquire a following or launch new names as favorites in fandom. But, that’s what some of them are doing. In some cases though, they’re not first films and the other films made before them were so odd that they just fell flat with audiences.

Smith is an interesting filmmaker. He has some amazingly smart observations on how and why some things should work in film and why some things that should work haven’t. He also has an interesting take on the day to day mundane that can make such things far more entertaining than they should be. But then, he also has a really odd view of things as well as some unusual ideas that either really makes his films fire on all cylinders or absolutely makes them fall flat on their box office faces. The odds are good that he will eventually go so far out there that he will deliberately or accidentally hit something that will fire on all cylinders even for many who dislike his most recent efforts. It will be, like all his recent efforts and those of others, something that is not the same as the big studio blockbusters.

With Smith and others, just take a pass on their films if they don’t seem like your type of thing unless or until you start hearing otherwise. I know the one-two punch of Tusk and Yoga Hosers likely put me off giving his films an immediate benefit of the doubt when plunking money down for a while, but I want him to keep following his muse even if I may not find it to my liking right now because that muse is making him play with genres he wasn’t known for twenty years ago. All someone like a Kevin Smith has to do is hit that right balance between their signature style, the expectations found in some genres, and the absurd ideas in order to make a new favorite for both his existing fans and fans of that genre in general. Let Smith and others do it, don’t sweat it, and maybe you get an unexpected new favorite a few years from now.

Jerry Chandler follows geek stuff. When not found writing here he can be found writing for Gruesome Magazine and his own blog. He has a Twitter. He can also occasionally be heard talking pro wrestling with the amazingly talented crew at of the ESO Pro: The Pro-Wrestling Roundtable podcast.

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Just a look at how easy it once was to get some things over in wrestling and sometimes still is.

http://www.needlessthingspodcast.com/2017/07/some-tricks-in-wrestling-used-to-be.html

Some Tricks in Wrestling Used to be Much Simpler

One of the things that pro wrestling has always lived and died on is the simplicity of various concepts and how easily the audience would- no matter how absurd they truly were -go along with the concepts. For literally decades upon decades, wrestling fans simply accepted some things that happened in wrestling because they fully accepted that what they were watching was real. Well, that or they had a hunch that it wasn’t but simply went with it. One of the things that might blow the minds of some who are not fans of pro wrestling is the ease that promoters have traditionally had with getting fans to accept good guys becoming bad guys and bad guys becoming good guys. Frankly, if you’re unfamiliar with pro wrestling or simply an infrequent viewer, you might be shocked at how often good guys become bad guys and bad guys become good guys. You would also be amazed at how ridiculously simple it could be (and still can be) to make that switch.

Not knowing wrestling, two things might come to mind with regards to wondering about the relative ease or difficulty in doing such character flips. First, you would think that changing a good guy to a bad guy can be done with relative ease. You would be, in the vast majority of such flips, correct. All you have to do to change a face to a heel is have him betray his friends, the fellow wrestling faces, over such petty things like jealousy, envy, greed, ego, etc. Have a face turn his back on the fans, turn his back on the people that “made” him and you can easily make that flip to a heel. Within the span of two weeks, a wrestler who was getting standing ovations in the biggest arenas could have everyone in that same arena instead wanting to see him beaten and bloody with every fiber of their being.

Second, you would probably assume that flipping a heel to a face was amazingly difficult. In a heel, you have a character that lies, cheats, and steals his way to victory on a regular basis. In a heel, you have a character that brutalizes the fan favorite wrestlers in sneak attacks, two, three, and four on one assaults, and with the use of foreign objects. Foreign objects in wrestling speak being anything brought into the ring to be used as a weapon (brass knuckles, chairs, canes, tennis rackets, guitars, sledgehammers, urns, green mist, etc.) that aren’t allowed under the rules of the match. Heels insult the fans on a nightly basis, and they make it clear that they’re in it for themselves and no one else. So, yeah, I could see where you would think that switching a heel to a face could be a difficult task. You would be, in the vast majority of cases, wrong in that assumption.

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It is actually ridiculously easy to switch a heel to a face in wrestling and have the fans accept the change. It was even more ridiculously easy to do so back in the era of kayfabe. Strangely, all you sometimes had to do was portray another heel or group of heels as worse than the heel you intended to flip and then utilize the exact same techniques that you would use to flip a face into a heel.

You take a group of wrestlers who are all heels and you decide that you want to flip one to a face. All you really have to do is have the others betray him. You tease at the tensions in the stable for a few weeks of television, you have the odd eruption of personality conflicts causing the soon to be face and the other heels almost come to blows, and you’ve set the stage for the big moment. In a match against the faces, during an interview segment, or in a backstage skit, you have the big moment where everyone comes to blows. The heel stable turns on their fellow heel, beating him mercilessly for whatever transgressions against them they claim he’s made, and then, when he’s at his most vulnerable and about to suffer a crippling injury at the hands of the stable, the face or faces swoop in and save him. You have a quick brawl where the now evened odds allow the faces to chase off the stable of heels, and then you have “the moment” where it happens.

The heel looks around in confusion. The heel readies himself for a fight with the faces. The faces all beg off the fight, pointing out what just happened and extend the hand of friendship. The heel (if they’re out in the ring) will look around at the fans (who will chant louder with each look) before shaking the hand of the face. The faces will then raise the former heel’s arms, pointing to him and encouraging the audience to cheer. Traditionally, the audiences tended to eat it up.

Sometimes they would play on history to help accomplish the flip. An example of that would be Sting and Lex Luger. Sting, who ran as a face for most of his headlining career, and Lex, who flipped back and forth with the changing of the seasons, were friends in both wrestling storylines and in real life. Whenever Lex was a heel about to be brought back into the face fold, it was usually Sting who was there to bring his old friend back over from the Dark Side. There was Sting, the ring having just been cleared of the other heels, extending the hand of friendship and offering Lex another chance at redemption. The fans ate it up (even when it was chance #971) because who doesn’t like a good redemption moment?

Sometimes it didn’t even make the slightest lick of sense, yet it still worked. Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff was one of a long list of heels who faced off against WWF mega face Hulk Hogan in the 1980s. Orndorff, often accompanied to the match by an evil manager and/or a heel stable-mate would regularly, storyline-wise, beat the living hell out of Hogan (and others) via cheating and outside interference in his quest for championship gold. By “beat the living hell out of” I mean he and his stable-mates, usually at the urging of an evil manager, would inflict great bodily harm and injury to the top faces. Matches that he lost would sometimes end with Orndorff and his heel allies attempting to break arms, legs, ankles, ribs, or backs and occasionally going after eyes.

And then they decided to turn him face.

You have to understand something about Orndorff. One of his selling points as a monster heel was the fact that he was in phenomenally good shape. A lot of wrestlers in that era worked out in the gym to get big, but this was still an era in wrestling where working out to get big wasn’t quite in line with bodybuilding. Even Hogan, the face of the company in the 1980s and hyped as having 24-inch biceps, was big in ways other than just muscle mass. Paul Orndorff was one of the guys in that era that was big in the bodybuilder sense of the word. He was a huge guy, but he was built out of a lot of ripped, cut muscle, and that was a part of the ego of his character. He, or his manager mouthpiece, would tell anyone who would listen, whether they wanted to hear it or not, how he had the best body in pro wrestling.

At least until they needed him to turn face (again) in the WWF.

Orndorff was a part of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan’s stable of heel wrestlers at the time. The Brain brought in a new member, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, a wrestler who had also worked at obtaining more of a bodybuilder’s physique, who Heenan now promoted as having THE greatest body in wrestling. This led to an ego meltdown where Orndorff and Heenan/the Brain’s stable of wrestlers broke up over Orndorff’s fragile ego being bruised. He was then attacked by Rude and the others and they engaged in a feud with Mr. Wonderful as a face. He was completely accepted as a face by the fans over this. This led to one of Orndorff’s final big matches in the WWF before his retirement (one of several due to a real injury received in the ring) where he teamed with a group of faces, including longtime friend/foe/friend Hogan, to face off against Rude and a team of heels.

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If you put down on paper the various paths that have been used to change a heel into a face in wrestling, it would likely look insane to anyone that has never watched wrestling. But it almost always works, and it is almost always immediately accepted by the fans. In some cases, such as with Savage and Elizabeth or with Sgt. Slaughter wanting his country back, there’s a redemption factor at play. More often than not though, it boils down to the two concepts of the enemy of my enemy is my friend (or the enemy of the guy who’s feuding with the guy I’m rooting for is worth rooting for) and suddenly feeling that the tide has turned because now “we” have this major player on “our” team. Oh, and then there’s always the option of also playing it up as the heel is a bad guy, but those OTHER GUYS are so much worse. Again, as insane as it may look on paper sometimes, it almost always went off smoothly and generally got accepted by the fans.

The fans didn’t even have to be told by a promoter to cheer for the newly minted face either. They knew when the switch happened, they even, as noted above, actively encouraged it when allowed to get in on the act. It was something that longtime wrestling fans had been conditioned to accept when it happened, and new fans quickly got into the swing of it with ease.

Again, it looks insane when removed from the context of the event itself, but it’s a matter of this being the longtime, accepted storytelling found in pro wrestling. It’s part of what works for pro wrestling, and it’s a part of how the stories are told. In reality, it’s no more insane than 007 pulling an unrealistic rabbit out of his hat or the bad guys making it unrealistically easy for a story’s sleuth to neatly wrap up every aspect of their weekly murder mystery in 60 minutes. What makes it work, what makes all of it work, is the simple fact that it’s just the accepted thing in the storytelling for the genre. If you’re into fill-in-the-blank entertainment, it’s a part of the charm of the genre for fill-in-the-blank fans. It’s also what they’re used to and comfortable with.

There are times I miss it being that simple and easy.

Jerry Chandler follows geek stuff. When not found writing here he can be found writing for Gruesome Magazine and his own blog. He has a Twitter. He can also occasionally be heard talking pro wrestling with the amazingly talented crew at of the Earth Station One Network’s The Pro-Wrestling Roundtable podcast.

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He has the potential to be one of the biggest stars of his era, and the fans desperately want to embrace him. So why can’t the WWE figure out how to use him to his- and to their -full potential?

http://www.needlessthingspodcast.com/2017/06/saving-bray-wyatt.html

Saving Bray Wyatt

Windham Lawrence Rotunda, now known to the world as Bray Wyatt, was born with everything anyone would need to know to be successful in the professional wrestling business ingrained into his DNA. He is the son of one of the great (but often underrated) in-ring performers of his time, Mike Rotunda. His mother, Stephanie Rotunda, also brought something into the mix. She is the sister of Barry and Kendall Windham, Bray’s uncles, as well as being the daughter of the legendary Blackjack Mulligan. There are relatively few wrestlers in the industry today with a pedigree anywhere near as prestigious as the one he carries, and fewer still that so seemingly effortlessly prove that they are more than capable of living up to and exceeding the expectations of such a pedigree. This makes it all the more crushing to see the WWE apparently having no idea how to truly use Bray Wyatt.

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Bray Wyatt was originally brought into the WWE as rookie competitor Husky Harris during the original incarnation of NXT and then as a part of The Nexus. There was something about the Husky Harris character that was not quite yet ready for prime time, but there was absolutely something there that caused people to see something in him. He was ranked almost dead last among the NXT hopefuls in the first fan poll but started climbing higher in the rankings in each successive poll. Still, the character as a member of The Nexus was something of a dead end, and he was written off of WWE TV with a punt to the head by Randy Orton. From there he worked on his character in Florida Championship Wrestling, WWE’s then developmental territory. He tried a series of characters that never made it to FCW TV, including one that seemed to play on the Friday the 13th horror franchise, but was largely kept in the Husky Harris mold for the majority of the year following his departure from WWE TV.

Then, just as FCW was folding up its tent and Triple H was beginning to create the new NXT as the WWE developmental territory, Rotunda debuted the character of the maniacal cult leader Bray Wyatt. The character was a man who saw himself in some ways as more monster than man, but not in the purely physical way. This was a character that lived in the darkest recesses of the human mind, a character that could literally chill you to the bone with nothing more than a smile and the look in his eyes.

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A torn pectoral muscle could have derailed the character’s early NXT momentum, but it simply gave Bray Wyatt the opportunity to prove that he could do something better than almost anyone else in the business- talk. Rather than sitting out the time he couldn’t be a physical participant in the NXT ring, he continued to appear and preach the gospel of Bray Wyatt. To back that gospel up in a physical way, he acquired a following that would become known as The Wyatt Family.

In very short order, the deranged Wyatt Family became an NXT favorite. It was, therefore, no surprise at all to see the vignettes promoting the Family’s main roster arrival after such relatively little time as a stable in NXT. They were unique in the modern WWE landscape. They had the right type of members to be physically dominating, they could be disturbing as hell, and, more importantly, the character of Bray Wyatt now had everything needed to be one of the biggest superstars in the WWE.

The reaction by the WWE audiences to their debut was nothing short of phenomenal. NXT wasn’t as well known at that time as essentially a new WWE brand in and of itself, so many fans hadn’t seen them before and had no idea what to expect. However, their deranged appearance along with Bray’s electrifying promo skills quickly started building them a huge following. In no time at all, the Wyatt Family entrance became an A-ticket attraction by itself. Not only did it translate well to the television audiences, but the live crowds started becoming a part of the act. Bray Wyatt’s army of “fireflies” started filling every arena they appeared in as fan after fan held up whatever small light source they had, waving them rhythmically with the entrance music.

The show wasn’t over when they hit the ring, though. The members of the Wyatt Family could all wrestle. Bray especially showed a natural ability in the ring for not only the basics, but the tiniest details of ring psychology. If there was one thing you knew you were going to get out of a Bray Wyatt match, it was a great in-ring performance on his part. Of course, if he wasn’t actually wrestling that night, you could still count on Bray to deliver the best promo of the evening. It might even reach the level of being a highlight moment of the night, because, if you take everything else away from Bray Wyatt, he still has the ability to be the most magnetic, charismatic, and disturbing presence in the building on any given evening.

Eventually, Wyatt proved himself to the powers that be behind the scenes and he was moved into feuds with the top talent in the WWE. He certainly held his own and then some. As a heel, he played mind games, many of which Bray himself helped creative come up with, with the face wrestlers that were genuinely weird and creepy. One such example, with maybe a nod to the spirit of the original The Wicker Man, was played out on Monday Night Raw during his feud with John Cena.

The feud with Cena handed Bray his first pinfall loss on the WWE main roster, but he also scored wins over Cena. In the wake of the Cena feud, the WWE began to build Bray as a singles star. The other members of the Wyatt Family were “set free” by Bray, and Bray, after a few smaller feuds, set his sights on taking the top spot on a particular WWE pedestal from one of the company’s biggest names. He decided that his time was now, and he would dethrone the Undertaker to become the WWE’s New Face of Fear.

The New Face of Fear

The buildup to the match was a thing of beauty, and the lion’s share of the work in building it was placed on Bray’s shoulders. If there was a moment in the history of the Bray Wyatt character that proved that he could be one of the all-time greats in the WWE, that proof was delivered in this feud as a wrestler who was still in many eyes a relative newcomer more than held his own in building anticipation for a WrestleMania showdown with one of the greatest still active legends of the modern WWF/WWE era. It was also, sadly, one of the first true signs that the WWE didn’t know how to pull the trigger on making Bray what he should be.

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On March 29, 2015, Bray Wyatt performed in front of the largest audience of his career at WrestleMania 31 in Santa Clara, California. The wrestling world had watched in stunned silence when one year earlier the Undertaker’s fabled “Streak” had been ended by Brock Lesnar; a wrestler who many felt was already so over that he didn’t need the rub of ending Undertaker’s streak of 21 WrestleMania wins. Now the wrestling world was ready to see the Undertaker pass on something of his mantle to Bray Wyatt, to make the character of Bray Wyatt something of a successor to WWE’s darker side that Undertaker and, at times, Kane had ruled in for so long. What fans saw was Bray Wyatt getting pinned by the Undertaker in just over fifteen minutes. It was, unfortunately, a sign of things to come in the WWE booking of Bray Wyatt.

This led Wyatt to a lesser feud with Ryback before his entering into a feud with Roman Reigns that would see the reformation of the Wyatt Family. While the Family had success as a unit in tag matches during this feud, the feud was ended with Reigns defeating Bray at the Hell in a Cell PPV. At the same show, the Family attacked Undertaker and then attacked Kane the following night. This started the feud with the dead man anew, as well as dragging his brother into the mix.

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Some thought this was going to be the feud where the WWE corrected the mistake they had made earlier in the year at WrestleMania. Certainly, the buildup and the apparent booking in the early going seemed to indicate that the (obviously) soon departing the WWE Brothers of Destruction would pass the torch to the Wyatt’s as a group and to Bray as a wrestler. The Brothers of Destruction would defeat Bray and Family member Luke Harper at Survivor Series to end their feud.

What followed was a series of ups and downs for the Wyatt’s and for Bray himself. But, interestingly, no matter how poorly or inconsistently Bray Wyatt was being booked, his popularity with WWE fans continued to remain strong, even showing signs of growing in strength. Perhaps more so than with any other performer on the current WWE roster, the WWE had on its hands a character, a wrestler, that fans wanted to embrace almost no matter what the WWE did with him. Bray Wyatt was a superstar in the making, but, in large part due to the WWE seemingly cutting off his every push at the knees, it seemed like everyone knew that except the people ultimately calling the shots behind the scenes at the WWE.

Finally, the moment fans had been waiting for came in the early months of 2017. At February’s Elimination Chamber PPV, Bray Wyatt defeated John Cena, AJ Styles, The Miz, Dean Ambrose, and Baron Corbin in an Elimination Chamber match to win the WWE Championship. Bray would defend the title against some of the top stars of the WWE in the following months, and the fans seemingly could not be happier to see him as the company’s top star.

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Less than two full months later, Bray lost the title at WrestleMania, his third consecutive ‘Mania loss, to Randy Orton. As we discussed in The Pro Wrestling Roundtable recap of that WrestleMania, it was a moment at the PPV that was so utterly wrong on every level that it seemingly sucked the life out of the building in the moments after the match. The buildup in the weeks before WrestleMania felt like it was leading to Bray having to win the match for the storyline to be properly resolved. The psychology of the match that night felt like Bray had to win that match. Certainly, the events in the match felt like they had been put into play to have Bray come out victorious. Fans tuning in that night saw special effects integrated into the match in a way never before seen in a WWE ring, and they were all for the benefit of Bray Wyatt’s character. To have him suddenly catch an RKO out of nowhere and get pinned made many fans feel like the wind had been taken out of their sails at the end of the match.

Bray Wyatt would find himself traded off to Raw shortly after WrestleMania. Some fans chose to see this as the rationale for the ‘Mania loss. Raw has rightly or wrongly long been seen as the A-ticket attraction show in the WWE Universe. Dropping the Smackdown title, winning a nontitle rematch with Orton, and then moving on to bigger and better things on Raw seemed like a logical plan by the WWE. As it was, it seemed like the WWE had even less of an idea how to handle Bray Wyatt as a character. Since moving to the Raw brand in April, Wyatt has largely been spinning his wheels and losing important matches.

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The WWE has seemingly become very set in a troubling pattern when it comes to booking Bray Wyatt. Bray comes out and delivers promos that absolutely tear the house down in ways that few people can do with just words. He plays up the need to win, the importance of coming out of the next challenge victorious, and plays up the nature of his character as the true face of fear in the WWE, as the devourer of worlds. This is then followed with Bray getting laid out in the match and finding himself on the wrong end of the three count when the bell rings.

The WWE is handling Bray Wyatt in an extremely damaging way. So far, the fans’ desire to embrace Bray and support him has carried his popularity along through a lot of bad booking decisions. So far, his being booked to lose so many important matches and major feuds hasn’t hurt him in the way it may have hurt some other wrestlers at this point. But we may be getting to a point where that’s not going to keep being the case. A lot of people like to say that wins and losses don’t actually mean anything in the scripted entertainment world of professional wrestling, but that’s not exactly true.

Some wrestlers have the type of character where a long series of losses don’t really hurt them in the way it may hurt some others. Comedy acts like Santino Marella are almost expected to lose important feuds against major stars. But they’re comedy acts. They’re not there to be taken completely seriously, and they’re not there to be promoted as serious threats to the champions. Some character types, such as the smarmy, arrogant prick types like Miz, can afford to lose because they never acknowledge it. The Miz can as his type of heel character lose a major PPV match against a wrestler like John Cena and come out the next night talking like he really won. Within seconds he’ll have every bit of heat back on him with the fans that others may have lost, and fans are chomping at the bit to see him get his backside handed to him by someone else.

But Bray Wyatt isn’t a comedy act, and he isn’t a smarmy, arrogant prick heel. He talks a certain kind of talk that MUST be backed by a certain type of walk.

One possible walk he must be allowed to walk is that of the dominant monster. He has to be booked with the type of dominance that a character like Undertaker was perceived as having. He has to be made into a character that can back up his talk, and if he doesn’t, no matter how much fans want to stand behind him, he becomes something of a joke.

The sad part of this in the modern landscape of the WWE is that this approach may not be something they’re willing to give him. As The Pro Wrestling Roundtable’s John Neal pointed out after ‘Mania, the WWE way of booking in this era seems more often than not to be the way of 50/50 booking. The problem, as he so rightly pointed out, is that Bray Wyatt as the character he is now can’t be booked in a 50/50 booking way. The character as presented now has to be a dominant character; maybe even a special event character.

The problem is that the WWE can’t seem to grasp this fact. They don’t seem to understand that they need to book Bray a little differently with regards to wins and losses than they do the average wrestler. However, there may be another way to handle the problem of Bray’s booking. If you can’t change the booking, maybe you change the character just enough to once again ensure that the booking doesn’t matter.

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Bray Wyatt already comes across as a demented sadist. He already comes across as the type of character who wants to destroy the souls and the minds of the wrestlers he faces. His promos and his demented nature play into that every time he appears on WWE television. So why not simply make that his primary goal in life rather than wins and losses or the “mundane” pursuit of WWE gold?

Bray Wyatt already feels like a special event attraction. Make him such an attraction. Allow him to come and go from time to time rather than being a regular, week to week TV character, and put him in no more than three to four feuds a year. But don’t make his quest in the feuds about titles. If he wins a WWE title along the way, good for him, but make his character’s personal goal in each feud the destruction of his opponent in ways that only he can pull off.

Make Bray the ‘New Face of Fear’ in the WWE. Make him an event attraction that, when he shows up, wrestlers show the fear and bewilderment in their faces that Cena showed when facing the child chorus from the above video. How? Easy.

Bray Wyatt becomes the character who wants to see if he can break you. He wants to destroy you and see if you’re worthy in his eyes. He wants to tear you down, shatter your mind and destroy your will. He wants to crush your soul and leave you a hollow, broken shell. He doesn’t care if he actually wins the matches along the way. He might even go so far in the matches that he gets disqualified more often than not. Just so long as he can do what only he feels he can do- leave you forever damaged and changed in his wake.

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In the case of feuds where they won’t allow him the standard win, he can “win” simply by taking others to their limits and declaring them worthy for not breaking. In other cases, he gets to both win in the standard manner as well as breaking a wrestler. This actually has additional benefits beyond simply helping Bray.

By doing this, Bray Wyatt also becomes a means to change other wrestlers who have gimmicks that are no longer advancing their careers or who need to have the type of feud that changes the way people see them. I point you to the 2000 Royal Rumble and the Street Fight match between Triple H and Mick Foley.

Triple H was already a star on the rise, but he was still seen as something less than he could be by fans. His biggest gimmicks to that point in his WWF career had been that of an effete blueblood, being HBK’s sidekick, and being the leader of what was in some people’s eyes little more than a frat boy group of wrestlers. Despite having finally won the WWF Championship the prior year, there was still something missing in the view of many of the fans when it came to Triple HHH’s overall credibility. It was the physically and mentally devastating feud with Mick Foley and his demented personalities that changed the perception of Triple H for many.

Bray Wyatt, if handled properly, can do that for wrestlers now. Bray can be the catalyst for changing the gimmick or perception of other wrestlers. He can be used to break wrestlers, tear them completely down, and thus give them the ability to build back up in a new (likely darker and harder-edged) gimmick or simply change the way some wrestlers are perceived.

And it would protect Bray. If his goal is to break wrestlers, to take them to his own private hell and leave them forever changed, he wins no matter what. If he can torment and torture wrestlers, tailoring his attack to each new opponent, so that they don’t come out of a feud with him as the same person they were when the entered into it, he wins. Or he puts guys out who are leaving for a while for whatever reason. At that point, the traditional concept of a win is simply a bonus.

And then he leaves for a while.

Bray disappears for a month or so before returning to face a challenge or because he has chosen a new target for his games. Fans would be excited to see him again; especially if they knew they could look forward to a couple of months of intense matches, promos, and mind games.

Realistically, the best way to treat Bray Wyatt is, as John Neal stated, to make him a dominant monster in the WWE and then to make him a special event attraction in the way Undertaker was and Brock is. The best way to utilize a performer like Bray Wyatt is by making him a character who walks the talk he can delivery like no one else in the WWE right now can.

But the sad fact is that they don’t seem very inclined to do that right now. So barring that, the best way to utilize him is by tweaking his character so that his primary goal is no longer the typical goal of every other wrestler. Build him up that way until the WWE powers that be finally become the people who understand and get what Bray Wyatt truly is and what Bray Wyatt can truly be.

Bray Wyatt is an example of one of those once in a generation, lightning in a bottle type of marriages between a character, a gimmick, and a wrestler. As a performer, Windham Lawrence Rotunda has an amazing mind for the business and the physical skills and abilities to hold his own with anyone. As a character and a gimmick, Bray Wyatt is a spellbinding, unique, and amazingly powerful presence. The fact that the WWE is stumbling so badly with Bray Wyatt, is dropping the ball with this performer and this character in so many ways, is practically a crime.

It is legitimately infuriating to see them squander what they have here. They have on their hands one of the biggest stars of his era, a potential future legend of the industry, and they seem to be unable to figure out how to utilize him properly. Somehow, some way, someone in that company needs to push the issue and change this.

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Jerry Chandler is a lifelong geek, dabbling in just about every genre but finding science fiction and horror to be his primary comfort zones. He has also had a lifelong devotion to that form of entertainment known as professional wrestling. When not worrying that his coworkers are going to inflict bodily harm onto him over his sense of humor, he enjoys hitting the convention scene, making indie films with his friends, or writing for sites such as this one or Gruesome Magazine. He also finds talking about himself in third person to be very strange.

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Sunday’s Money in the Bank PPV underscored one likely sad fact about the WWE.

http://www.needlessthingssite.com/2017/06/there-will-be-no-wwe-womens-revolution.html

There Will Be No WWE Women’s Revolution until the Old Guard is Gone

I hated writing that headline, but I’m certainly starting to feel that it’s true. The WWE has been making a lot of noise about their women’s division of late, and, to a large degree, it’s deserved. On a purely technical level, the division has some of the best workers in it that it’s seen in a long time. On a purely entertainment level, you’ve got a larger number of workers who show a stronger and better foundation for being able to engage an audience than they’ve had on their roster in a long while. But, in the end, none of that may matter in the here and now because of who currently makes the ultimate creative decisions for WWE programming.

Leading up to the most recent WWE PPV, last Sunday’s Money in the Bank, the WWE ran a lot of promotional material hyping evolution and revolution in the WWE women’s division. It was feel-good material designed in part to help promote the first ever, “historic” women’s Money in the Bank ladder match. If you were watching the PPV last Sunday night, you sort of wondered why they bothered. I’ll get back to that.

I hate to be the wet blanket here, but I think a lot of us bought into the hype of the last couple of years- especially the hype generated by the use of the ladies in NXT both there and initially on the main roster –over the WWE’s rebuilding of the women’s division. It absolutely is better than it has been in a long time, but, in all reality, is that really saying a lot?

Right now, a lot of the hype about the evolution period that led to the revolution is being focused on the women of the Attitude Era and the Monday Night Wars. That’s understandable. The Attitude Era gave us a number of hugely popular women wrestlers as well as a few hall of famers. This is the period of time that gave us names like Ivory, Lita, Victoria, Trish, Jacqueline, Chyna, and Medusa as champions. This was the era that saw the women of wrestling marketed in the mainstream almost as heavily as the men were. Of course, this was also the era that proved that, no matter how popular the ladies were, in the worldview of Vince McMahon they were never even close to or equal to the male champions or, at times, even champions that were to be taken seriously.

See, this was also the era where Vince showed that treating the women’s championship as a serious title was sometimes an afterthought in his entertainment kingdom. During a time when you had to be able to do just about everything- work in the ring, talk on the mic, control an audience in any way needed, act as a public face for the company –to be chosen as the man to wear the WWF championship, all you sometimes had to do to be the women’s champion in the WWF was be popular for looking good in a bikini (or less) in the ring. Sable could barely wrestle and was horrible on the mic, but she was popular with the male audience members for looking hot. She was made the champion and put over solid wrestlers like Tori and extremely solid all-around performers like Luna. But if you looked good enough, like a Sable, a Kat, or a Debra did, you too could be the champion just for looking hot. Well, or you could be a gag women’s champion like Harvey Wippleman in drag as Hervina.

Then there were the matches. The men fought for titles in some seriously demanding matches. The women’s title changed hands in matches like evening gown matches, lumberjill snowbunny matches, and evening gown pool matches. Former champions who would again hold the title down the road were often found in all of the above plus mud matches, pudding matches, lingerie matches, etc. You can argue the value of any of these match types in the women’s division at the time as entertainment or about how needed some may have felt such things were in the “life or death” war between wrestling companies at the time, but you can’t argue that the women’s division was treated with far less respect than the men’s division by the WWF powers that be. The closest thing you’ll find to an evening gown match on the men’s side of the show is the tuxedo match, and that was absolutely seen as a joke match. It was for feuds between managers, referees, or ring announcers and played for laughs. It certainly wasn’t the match you put Stone Cold and The Rock in as the title match of the evening.

Slowly the landscape changed, some of the ladies who were still managing to earn the respect of the fans left, and the respect for the division in the WWE slid a little further. By the time the Women’s Championship was unified with the Diva’s Championship, the Divas Division was filled with largely cookie-cutter wrestlers there for seemingly more T&A value than anything else. Matches on TV might last a whopping three minutes, and some of the most talented women in the division were being given gimmicks such as being embarrassed by having constant, uncontrolled flatulence. In the meantime, women were proving that they could be draws and the best matches on the card as a part of the TNA Knockouts, but the WWE’s only seeming interest in that was hiring away Knockouts to never be used properly as Divas.

How bad was the state of women’s wrestling on the WWE main roster? Lots of wrestlers, both male and female, talk about wanting their “WrestleMania moment” as a career highlight. Talking on (if my memory serves) Jericho’s podcast a few years ago, Natalya talked about finally having what was her (at that time) “WrestleMania moment” in the company. It wasn’t on a major PPV. It wasn’t on Smackdown. It wasn’t on Raw. Hell, it wasn’t even on one of the various barely watched Sunday night shows the WWE has had on the air in the past. No, it was on the still little seen NXT in the early days of the network against Charlotte. The match that she at that time viewed as the best match she was allowed to have, the highlight match of her time in the WWE to that point, was off the main roster and in the developmental territory where the main roster powers that be were not calling the shots. That’s actually a somewhat sad statement about the treatment of the women on the main roster at that time.

But, that match was a sign of things to come. It was a sign of what many saw as hope for the future of seeing a quality women’s division in the WWE again. NXT wasn’t an official brand in the WWE. It wasn’t overseen by the same WWE creative team that oversaw the Raw and Smackdown shows, and it wasn’t really a show that was ultimately run in the same way as the rest of the company was by Vince. A lot of the wrestling and the wrestlers that were going through NXT were getting to show what they could do as wrestlers and personalities; including the ladies.

All of the NXT talent were gaining notice and getting raves from a large chunk of fans. The women may even have been getting more than the men at times because the difference between the NXT women and the main roster Divas in presentation and in the execution of the matches and feuds was night and day. There was no comparison between the two. The fact that there were women on the main roster with more experience and skill than the women in NXT made what was happening to the main roster women all the more frustrating.

Slowly, the women of NXT started getting called up to the main roster. The problem was that they weren’t really being allowed to make the type of impact there that they could actually make. The shift in how they were treated on the main roster wasn’t really happening yet. Then it happened.

Two women, Bayley and Sasha, headlined one of NXT’s special events, NXT: Respect, their version of a PPV on the WWE Network, in what was being hyped as a historic first. Women had never been the main event match in a WWE PPV or special event broadcast. The event was promoted heavily, the buildup was as perfect as you could ask for, and the match was given all the time it needed to blow the audience away. Then they were set up with the rematch, and Iron Man Match, at the next NXT Takeover.

Both matches were played up to be historic affairs. They were built up ahead of time as something special, something groundbreaking. They also had two performers who could work their backsides off and they let them do it. The respect the matches and the performers were given as well as the level they themselves upped their games to perform in those matches made a lot of people stand up and take notice. It was also the final run of matches for Sasha in NXT before heading up to the main roster.

The women of NXT were invading the main roster in some fairly sizable numbers (comparatively) for the division they were entering. There was a lot of talk about the “revolution” taking place, and the fans were looking forward to what was to come. The WWE even decided to get rid of the Diva’s Championship (long derided as “the butterfly belt” by fans) and reintroduced a proper women’s title. It was debuted for WrestleMania 32 and won by Charlotte in a triple threat match against Sasha and Becky Lynch.

But then things sort of started to get a little off course. The division started to feel like it was spinning its wheels. Some of that was being attributed to the bad booking on the main roster vs the booking in NXT. Fans were getting vocal about how more than a few NXT stars were coming up to the main roster and being used poorly if not outright having their talent wasted. A lot of things seemed to be happening in the women’s division that looked like less than great treatment though. I’ll skip a bit of it and bring us up to the here and now. Well, rather, the here and last weekend.

WWE had its Money in the Bank PPV last weekend. There was a lot of talk about this one leading up to the PPV. The PPV was going to be historic. Why? It was going to feature the first ever women’s Money in the Bank match. WWE history was going to be made that night, so it was promoted as something you didn’t want to miss. Watch it. Be a part of history.

The winner of the match, for those of you reading this who don’t know the rules, would be whoever could climb a ladder in the center of the ring and take the Money in the Bank briefcase off of the chain suspending it above the ring. The winner would then be able to cash in their briefcase at any time they wanted to in the next year for an instant, on the spot match against the champion.

The contenders for the match were announced as Carmella, Charlotte Flair, Natalya, Tamina, and Becky Lynch. Some solid talent, and more than capable of putting on a memorable match of this kind. Unfortunately, the match would end up being memorable for the wrong reasons.

In an interesting move and one that should have told us something was up, the match was made the first match of the PPV. That’s a position on the card that’s sometimes derisively called the curtain jerker match. You don’t make the first match of the night the one you expect people to be so blown away by that the next few matches have a hard time following them and being properly appreciated. It’s the warmup spot, or the spot you put something when you know you’re going to swerve the finish in a way that doesn’t make anyone happy.

The match itself was mostly good. Then they got to the end of the match. One wrestler climbed the ladder, unhooked the briefcase, and held it up high. That man was Carmella’s sidekick and longstanding joke/comedy wrestler in the WWE, James Ellsworth.

James

The “historic” first women’s Money in the Bank match was a curtain jerker, and the match was won when James Ellsworth climbed the ladder, grabbed the case, and dropped it into Carmella’s arms. The first-ever women’s Money in the Bank match was, essentially, won by a man. History wasn’t made by the WWE so much as the opportunity to make history squandered.

Word is that there will be an attempt to make this less bad than it seems on (at the time of this writing) tomorrow’s Smackdown. I hope they can pull it off. I hope they can figure out how to make chicken salad out of this particular chicken… well… you know the rest of it. But, unfortunately, no matter what they choose to do next they will never be able to get rid of the huge asterisk they just planted in the history books next to the listing for the first women’s Money in the Bank ladder match.

Well, unfortunately, I feel right now like they can keep on starting this revolution without me for a while. Because, frankly, there will be no real women’s revolution in the WWE until a lot of the powers that be who are there now are gone. Very likely, until an almost entirely across the board new generation is calling the shots, the main roster women’s division will continue to be treated as second rate on its best days, and a joke on its worst.

Jerry Chandler is a lifelong geek, dabbling in just about every genre but finding science fiction and horror to be his primary comfort zones. He has also had a lifelong devotion to that form of entertainment known as professional wrestling. When not worrying that his coworkers are going to inflict bodily harm onto him over his sense of humor, he enjoys hitting the convention scene or making indie films with his friends. He also finds talking about himself in the third person to be very strange.

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Quite possibly the worst movie I’ve ever seen.

And with my movie watching habits, that’s saying something.

http://gruesomemagazine.com/2017/06/19/asylum-darkness-2017-impenetrable-mess/

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Found footage in voodoo hell. Take a look!

http://gruesomemagazine.com/2017/06/16/voodoo-2017-provides-found-footage-hell/

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One would think it’s an easy concept to pull off. Universal seems to want to prove anyone thinking that wrong.

http://www.needlessthingspodcast.com/2017/06/building-dark-shared-monsterverse.html

or at

https://jjchandler.wordpress.com/2018/10/28/building-a-dark-shared-monsterverse/

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I got to join in the fun on Earth Station One’s The Pro Wrestling Roundtable to talk the “What Ifs” in pro wrestling history. Give it a listen.

The Pro Wrestling Roundtable Ep 52 – Wrestling What Ifs

http://esopodcast.com/pro-wrestling-roundtable-ep-52-wrestling-ifs/

 

 

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