Archive for August 30th, 2006

30
Aug
06

Hold Your Head Up, Cena

cena-with-belt.jpg John Cena will probably be one of those WWE Champions whose legacy will be tarnished a bit. He’s champion at a time when the entire climate of our country tends toward the cynic. And while he’s not the greatest talent that I’ve ever seen, the belt has been put on wrestlers that are far worse than Cena. But more than his talent and the cynicism that has made it’s way into wrestling fan’s minds, I think it’s the lack of a great rival that will either make or break Cena’s legacy. Ali had his Frazier. Hogan had his Andre the Giant. Shawn Michaels had Bret Hart. HHH, Rock, Austin and Foley all had each other to feud against. But it seems like right now the best feud that we’re seeing out of Cena is Edge. The book isn’t closed on Cena, but his legacy is certainly in question.

I’ve never been a ‘John Cena’ fan. He started on Smackdown when I had stopped watching. I had heard about his “white rapper” gimmick and I thought it was all kinda silly. When he made his debut on Raw, I was kinda excited to see what he was made of. And he was o.k. A solid talent. Good mic skills. But to me he lacked that extra something special. I didn’t hate him — but I wasn’t about to run out and buy a ‘Thuganomics’ t-shirt either.

I guess I wasn’t alone. At some point early this year, fans started to punk Cena out. Much like the Rock years before, Cena became the target of merciless boos. It wasn’t quite as bad as what the Rock got, but it’s getting there. I’ve never been in the squared circle, but I’d have to say that one of the most difficult things for a wrestler is to be labeled a babyface or fan favorite when the fans are adamantly opposed to you. The entire flow of the match becomes weird. And clearly you can see that it affects the way that guys are able to concentrate. But amidst “Cena Sucks” chants, I’ve been impressed with the way that Cena has handled this difficult situation. Continue reading ‘Hold Your Head Up, Cena’

30
Aug
06

Perhaps Idlewild is a Sign That Going Solo Is A Good Idea for OutKast?

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I must admit that I’ve never been a huge OutKast fan. SouthernPlayalisticCadillacMusic came out at a time when I wasn’t really into the whole “country-drawl” rap music thing. (And now it’s pretty much taken over.) Subsequent releases didn’t get much attention from me either. It wasn’t until I bought a bootleg copy of Stankonia that I sat up in my chair on the bus ride home and took notice. Like most others, I liked So Fresh, So Clean and Ms. Jackson, but my favorite tracks on the album were the title track, Stankonia (which is just about the freakiest track I’ve heard — and I mean that in a good way) and Toilet Tisha. The latter track was a double entendre of sorts, playing upon the the southern pronunciation of the phrase “toilet tissue”, but more appropriately unveiling the haunting story of a 14-year old girl named “Tisha” who was pregnant and having thoughts of suicide while sitting on the commode. Pretty difficult topic, but handled very well by the two cats that I had slept on for years. (Well, maybe I didn’t sleep on them, but perhaps it took six years for their development to mature to the point where they were kicking out stuff that I was ready to receive.

I saw OutKast live with my sister in 2001 after they released a Greatest Hits album with a few new tracks. I remember hearing them shout onstage claiming to be coming out with their new album “in the fawll ya’ll!”. “The Fawll” turned out to be more like the summer — only two years later. But it was well worth the wait. Well, half of the effort was. (More on that later.)

Amidst rumors of creative differences and conflicts with regard to which direction the album should take, Andre 3000 and Big Boi seemingly took the smart route, as compared to groups that came before them. While artists like A Tribe Called Quest, EPMD, NWA and many others probably saw less revenue than they might have had they stayed together a bit longer, OutKast understood that they might stand to be more successful as a group than two solo acts. After all, the name “OutKast” alone garners a certain amount of “top billing”.

I remember standing in front of the new album, Speakerboxx/The Love Below wondering exactly what I was looking at. The album looked as if it was cut in half — literally. On one half was Andre 3000 holding a pink gun under the title The Love Below and Big Boi was sitting in a chair with a mink on under the title Speakerboxx. Two CDs for $11.98. It was certainly a bargain for my money. Regardless of the bragain, with a certain degree of hesitation, I picked up the CD case and checked it out at the Best Buy in Bridgewater, NJ. All it took was one long interstate ride home from New Jersey to New York and I was hooked — on The Love Below, that is. Continue reading ‘Perhaps Idlewild is a Sign That Going Solo Is A Good Idea for OutKast?’

30
Aug
06

A Plea to The Rock (and All Other Wrestlers): Please Stop Making Token Movies

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I have a tremendous amount of respect for the former wrestler known to the world as “The Rock”. People know about Dwayne Johnson’s success as a wrestler, but many don’t realize some of the tall challenges he had to face. His plans of being a football player out of college didn’t quite pan out. He played in the Canadian Football League for awhile. And upon making the decision to start wrestling, he trained for a few years and then after spending time in one of the WWE’s minor league equivalents under the name Flex Kavana, he made his debut in the WWE in 1996.

Entering the WWE would have seemed to be an easy road. After all, Dwayne’s father was WWF favorite Rocky Johnson, his grandfather was WWF hero High Chief Peter Maivia. And more importantly, Dwayne grew up around wrestlers — it was common for him to spend time in the locker room of Madison Square Garden or The Philadelphia Spectrum watching Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan and Pat Patterson suit up next to his dad. But unfortunately the road wasn’t quite so easy. When he was presented to WWF fans in 1996 as a babyface (or a “fan favorite”), his skills were still a bit raw and unfinished. And at that time, fans’ definition of what a “hero” was had been changing. People found more favor in rooting for the dark and mysterious Darth Vader than they did the once popular Luke Skywalker. And similarly, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Diesel and other WWE bad guys turned good were getting a lot of “shine”.

I was present for Survivor Series 1996 in Madison Square Garden when “Rocky Maivia” made his debut. Rocky’s first match had been hyped for a few weeks. He came out to a rousing reception and actually helped his team win the Survivor Series that year. But as time went on, people started growing tired of the “good guy” image. After a few weeks of tolerance, you could start to hear the boos intensify with each match. At one point it began to get really embarrassing — “Rocky Sucks” and “Die Rocky, Die” chants could be heard from the front row to the rafters. People just didn’t like the character.

Rocky’s saving grace came when the WWE wrote him out of the babyface role and had him become a heel (bad guy) and join the Black militant group, “The Nation of Domination”. It was at that time that his creativity was allowed to flow. Slowly fans began to find humor in Rocky’s interviews and charisma in his actions. Within a few years Rocky went to the top of the card and won the WWE Championship seven times. He became one of the biggest starts that the WWE ever saw. Quite a change from “Die Rocky, Die” and “Rocky Sucks” chants. Continue reading ‘A Plea to The Rock (and All Other Wrestlers): Please Stop Making Token Movies’