Thursday, March 15, 2007

dude love- stone cold match

I thought the match we watched today with Stone Cold against Dude Love with Vince Jr. as ref was absolutely hilarious. It was completely unabashed in its over-the-top soap opera elements, plot twists and turns, and commentary full of double-entendres. The addition of the extra personalities all around the ring, the set modifications, including the ridiculous slew of cars, added to the sense that this match was loud and proud about its dramatics-- the concept of 'real' was not noticably present in the arena for this one.

That said, as I was thinking about the match tonight, it was masterfully complex in its dynamics, and the physicality was comparably complex. The action seemed very much to be staged in acts, with the set change from the ring to the sudience area to the cars, as well as the introduction of Vince's impromptu 'reminders' about the rules both signaling shifts from one phase or act to the next. The plot is amazingly layered; with the alliance of referee Vince and Dude Love composing a seeming Goliath for Stone Cold to topple. Predictably, Vince sways the rules and paces counts to favor Dude Love. But not so much to completely ruin the match. The mysterious introduction of the Undertaker ringside add another check to the situation, so that the match isn't ruined by cutting its last thread to the rules and order of the sport.

The match is made even better in its choreographic restraint. Stone Cold has a finely tuned performance of beatdowns and resurrections. The match is hard and goes on for a long time through so many turns in advantage; the formulatic tone that sometimes overrides matches dissapates. This is the match that the fans earn when they watch heels win over and over; here is the match where the good guys wins through persistence, physical endurance, and breaking the rules only when they were already broken by the bad guy. In all the craziness and hyperbole in the match, it stands out as a moment when good wins out, and the massive evils of Vince Jr. and his cadre are momentarily suppressed.


Sam Ford said...

I agree that all of the plot elements transform wrestling in this era into a soap opera of sorts. There's a different kind of realism here, as the backstage politics become part of the show, but in a different way than WCW. In WWE, they play with Vince being owner, Vince having "screwed" Bret Hart, and Steve Austin being the first major "anti-hero" face in the WWE by having Vince and his long-time backstage employees like Pat Patterson, Gerald Brisco, Sgt. Slaughter, and others explain that they don't like Steve Austin as champion.

McMahon had only really turned into "Mr. McMahon" a couple of months before the match we watched. Before Austin won the world title, McMahon explained why he did not thin Austin would make a good champion. He offers Austin the chance to do things "the easy way or the hard way," and even gets Austin to show up in a suit and tie, only to have Austin rip the suit off and attack him. Vince has had enough, and we saw clips from the night that he personally enters the ring to fight Steve Austin.

As you mention, more soap opera, but on the other hand, it was a different kind of realism, as we see the backstage area and Vince talking to his associates, who are begging him not to wrestle. jim Ross goes backstage to try and talk his boss out of it, and Vince's son Shane makes an appearance to try and convince his dad not to do it. Then it all ends up being a setup with Dude Love...a few weeks later, they have Dude wrestling Steve Blackman. Dude gets Blackman in a regular wrestling hold, not one that ever ends a match, called the abdominal stretch, and Vince orders the timekeeper to ring the bell, proving that he could screw Steve Austin like he did Bret Hart. And Vince is commentating the match like he used to, except he's acting like Dude is the face, playing on the fact that he used to be the "good guy commentator" and ironically rooting for the bad guy now in the same voice.

That's one of the reasons Undertaker is brought in to ringside for the match. The main reason RAW beat Nitro in the ratings? The story progressed every week, and you had to tune in to see what would happen next, not just to be shocked but to see the story move forward.

As for this match, it's neither Steve nor Foley's most famous match, but I thought it showed the strengths of the writing during this time period quite well.

Anonymous said...

This is definitely the most underrated Steve Austin match and, aside from Austin-Hart the year before, is the best realization of the ECW style that the WWE ever had. What I enjoy about this match is that it was great intentional parody, unlike years and years later when the "corrupt president tries to rig the match" storyline got old and tiresome. It was SO over-the-top the way the stips got added one-by-one at the last minute ("I would like to remind you that this is a 'fall count anywhere' match..." "Huh, since when!").

Sam makes a great point that Nitro's lack of storyline progression eventually came back to bite them. Every Nitro ended the same and in the end, for the casual fan who appreciated the story more than the in-ring athletics, there was zero reason to tune in because nothing would change.

Jon Waldman - Editor, SLAM! Wrestling said...

Hi everyone, Sam has invited me to look at the blog and I'm very impressed by the analysis. It's definitely different than the standards Internet sites use, which primarily is based on workrate (ie. the abilities of the two athletes in the ring).

The Austin/Foley series of matches has, in my opinion, been underrated. Alot of this is due to the popularity of Steve's battles with the likes of Rocky Maivia, while Mick's long-remembered WWE feuds are primarily with Undertaker and Triple H. Because Austin and Foley were such good friends, they were able to work together so flawlessly. By comparison, if you examine any of Chris Benoit and Eddy Guererro's work together, you see a similar level of storytelling and natural flow.

Sam Ford said...

Good points, John. I think one of the best elements of the Foley/Austin storylines is how their relationship developed. Foley starts off as Mankind wanting to be Steve's partner, wearing that cardboard sign around his neck, and then he forces himself in as Steve's partner and helps him win the tag titles as Dude Love.

Then it's later, as Cactus Jack, that he gets jealous because no matter what he does, the fans still chant for Steve Austin during his matches instead, which leads to this heel turn. Almost as important is the relationship between Vince and Foley's characters, which I write about some in the paper everyone will be reading for the class coming up.

katejames said...

It does seem like the RAW matches really won out because of that continuity of storyline, as Sam points out. I also wanted to touch on the way that this match was So-over -the-top that it was existing in the realm of pure dramatics, whereas over at Nitro it seemed that more and more they were enacting the drama that was actually happening back stage and amoung personalities in the ring.
The self-consiousness of the Nitro storyline seemed really bizarre to me. Though it has always seemed strange that there is a totally blurring between administration/ ownership and athletic/ performer. You really don't find a lot of this strange overlap in any other medium- where the president of a company gets into bouts with his main star as part of the action. It would make sense in either other direction- if we never saw or heard about the organizational structures or met the powers-that-be, or if there was an actor/ wrestler playing the role of the guy in charge. But with Vince, and even much more with Eric Bischoff's role in Nitro, there is such a blurring of constructed plot and actual dealings, that the whole thing find a tone of truth in the clearly staged dramatics.
At least with Vince, the performative tone is so strong, that while we buy the dynamic between he and Stone Cold on many levels, we don't feel that a defeat for Vince in this situation will actually hurt the organization. Over at Nitro, what we saw was the proud display of actual hagglings, and somehow it did reflect back on the organization itself, making it seem to the fans as though it was crumbling, which it was. (of course, we were watching the WWE documentary of all this, so maybe the degeneration was played up...)

Sam Ford said...

When Eric Bischoff first joined the New World Order, it felt edgy. By the time guys were coming out and blatantly ripping on the company on the microphone, only they were SCRIPTED to do that, it was likely because they writers overestimated how many people were "in-the-know" about backstage politics and started playing to them. Perhaps, if you knew what was going on backstage, it would seem awfully edgy to have Eddie Guerrero come out, throw water in his own face, and chew out Bischoff. If you are just a casual fan watching, though, with no background or context, it just seemed bizarre. And those type of things started happening more and more often. The strange "swerve the boys" routines were mentioned some in the chapter of The Death of WCW I had you all read, but we really start getting into these strange situations in 1999, the chapter after the one you all read.