You Still Got it?
– Chris O’Mealy 10/5/17 – 9:35Pm
When is it time to hang up the boots?
Despite their historic rejection of everything WCW, even though they own all of the intellectual property and can do what they want with it, WWE has rarely acknowledged WCW in a positive light since buying them out in 2001. Sure, they acknowledge history with accuracy, pointing out all the things WCW did right in their rise to the top of the pro wrestling world, but when it comes time to add in their own personal commentary, they make certain that the audience knows who the superior brand is. Still, while their showing off can lead to lackluster feuds with WCW legends like Sting getting crushed by Triple H, or the creation of the Elimination Chamber over the return of the War Games match, WCW has recently been received in a more positive and understanding light as the gap between today and the company’s demise widens. On Thanksgiving this year, Starrcade is returning for a possible one off show, and the card is already stacking up with great matches. Among them, the Rock & Roll Express will be lacing up their boots to challenge the Good Brothers, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, for tag team superiority.
As exciting as the concept of Starrcade’s return is (and make no mistake about it, this is huge considering WWE’s portrayal of the fallen wrestling empire under Ted Turner) the discussion I started to see around this event wasn’t about the show at all. Most wrestling fans seemed to be focusing on the 2017 WWE Hall of Fame inductees, Robert Gibson and Ricky Morton, stepping into the squared circle again to take on a current and much younger tag team in Gallows and Anderson. Most of the chatter is about whether these two legends can even still go, or should they even be bothering. Many fans are also claiming that they should hang it up and enjoy retirement. So that got me thinking: when SHOULD a wrestler call it quits and end their in-ring career?
The answer I think is fairly obvious, but first let’s examine the Rock & Roll Express working this show. For one thing, if you’re familiar with the United States independent wrestling scene, you already know Ricky and Robert are far from being washed up. Sure, they aren’t as spry as they used to be, but they still regularly work any show that will have them and treat them well, often putting over that territory’s tag team or having a local team feel honored to put the legends over instead. Ricky Morton is still a master of his craft, selling like crazy while the fans scream for him, until his partner Robert can make that hot tag and save the day. It’s classic formulaic tag team wrestling, and it works because it’s what the fans want to see.
There’s no question that these two legendary tag team wrestlers will give the fans who attend Starrcade their money’s worth, especially if the fans are younger and never had a chance to see Ricky and Robert tear up the tag team ranks in person. They also have a consummate professional tag team to work with, as Gallows and Anderson have a solid reputation of being fantastic and skilled workers. There is no doubt that these two will make the Rock & Roll Express look like a million bucks, no matter which team goes over. No disrespect to any indy tag team out there working their butts off, but the odds are that Gallows and Anderson have a bit more skill than you do, so they should have no problem carrying the workload and giving the fans a great show. I’ve also seen fans question whether Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson would even put the Rock & Roll Express over. Those fans don’t seem to understand how professionalism works in pro wrestling. The Good Brothers will do the job they’re asked to do, even if that means doing the job. What difference would it make anyway? If they lose, they lose to a legendary tag team who still has it. If they win, they beat up a legendary tag team who can’t hang with them. Since Gallows and Anderson are the heels, it makes no difference. It would if they were babyface, because then they’d have to go over, but as heels, they can lay down and have fun with it.
That brings us back to the big question of when should a wrestler call it quits. My personal answer here, which I think is the correct one, is that a wrestler should hang up their boots when they decide to.
Professional wrestling has a dark history of wrestlers going out against their terms. Many careers have been cut short due to tragic accidents that have left them unable to compete, unable to move, or worse. Injuries have played a major role in sidelining young stars like Edge, Lita, Corey Graves, Daniel Bryan, Nigel McGuinness, Christopher Nowinski, Darren Drozdov, and others. Who knows what the future could’ve held for any of them had these circumstances not come to pass. Many legends have been fortunate enough to walk away on their own terms, choosing exactly when they were done and how they’d finish up. Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair both had retirement matches and emotional sendoffs. The Undertaker, whose retirement is still in question, symbolically left his entrance gear inside the ring before walking off following WrestleMania 33’s main event. Some talents, like the Rock, have been fortunate enough that their stardom lets them wrestle when they want to. Such is the case with the Rock & Roll Express. If they feel like they can still go, and they want to, who are we to tell them no?
Granted it does become difficult as a fan to watch someone who used to be so lively and energetic in the ring suddenly slow to a snail’s pace and struggle to execute even a basic match. Roddy Piper’s career in WCW felt that way, as did the later matches of Jimmy Snuka. Hulk Hogan eventually became painful to watch wrestle, as his body wasn’t allowing him to do what he used to be able to. I wasn’t keen on watching Hulk Hogan compete, because it was hard to watch and generally not exciting either. It was definitely Hogan’s choice to keep going, but losing the interest of the folks buying tickets and paying to see shows can also work against you. Trying to hold onto that last moment of fame can be fleeting. Even the brightest stars eventually dim, and when they do, the performer can ride off into the sunset with their head held high, or work until they physically can’t do it anymore. Either way, it’s their decision, but they should take that final bow before the fans who once adored them turn their backs on them.
Ricky and Robert can still go for their age, still sell tickets, and still have a base of fans excited to see them perform, so their time isn’t over yet. When it is, it will be because the two of them called it quits, and hopefully not because of an injury or a legion of fans saying no more. Wrestling fans are a unique breed, and if you can break into that rarified zone of being immortal in the sport, you’ll have fans for life no matter what you do. While some fans may roll their eyes at “old timers trying to stay relevant,” just remember that if you loved something this much and a bunch of people who had never done it were suddenly telling you to stop when you weren’t ready, would you listen? Doubtful. I say let them go, and let the choice be theirs, because some won’t be so lucky.
I close with this story: one of my best friends, Joey Image, was forced to end his career due to nagging injuries, and can never wrestle again, no matter how much his heart desires. He didn’t get to choose to quit, but still managed to force himself to so a final five sequence of matches so he could go out on the terms he wanted given the circumstances. Not everyone gets to pick their final opponent, so I’m eternally happy that he got to at least have the last match he wanted. Just remember that next time you’re thinking “ugh I wish this old guy would retire.” Remember how many young wrestlers who didn’t get to the WWE were forced to call it quits. And think about how you’d feel if you were yanked away from your passion before you were ready. It isn’t your call to make. It’s theirs.
You can’t kill rock & roll and you can’t kill Ricky and Robert either!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Emvb7jLne2o – Click here to see Brute VanSlyke talking about Image’s Final Five.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBLqb5kKVpo – Joey Image prepares for war. (Hey, that ring announcer sounds familiar!)
Contact Joey Image on Twitter @JoeyImage if you’d like a copy of the DVD!
Question and Answer
It’s mailbag time! Remember, all future mailbag questions will be answered via the links below in the signature. I now accept them 24/7 so shoot me a message and I’ll try to answer as fast as I can!
Q: Given the latest gaffes/racial slurs by Jinder and the Lonzo Ball segment on Raw, do you potentially see the WWE finally forgiving Hulk Hogan and bringing him back, even for a one-off? (@Destroyer_Moyer via Twitter)
A: From what I understand, Hogan and WWE have made significant headway into working together again in the future. Like many hiccups of star’s pasts, I think this one will eventually be forgiven and forgotten. What people should be talking about is how horrible these Jinder segments have been. Not for being racially insensitive, but for being flat out uninteresting. I guess Vince and his bucky beaver toothed yes man really like that ‘roided freak. As for that Lonzo Bell segment, it’s just going to be a forgotten piece of history labeled with 50 other segments called “the worst in Raw history.” The less said about it, the better. I think Hulk will be back sooner than later, and I think a few months after that, his scandals will just be a footnote.
Q: What is your take on the recent pics showing dramatically low attendance at Smackdown? (@IronNurse via Twitter)
A: Unfortunate, since Smackdown consistently puts on a better show than Raw, but I think their drawing power is failing under Jinder as champion. While Brock Lesnar isn’t on every show, he’s still a proven draw, as are Roman Reigns and John Cena. Smackdown needs to liven things up, and fast. Step one should be removing Jinder’s title and letting Shinsuke Nakamura get the run people want. I truly feel like the Jinder experiment is failing. I mean, it’s not even the top feud on Smackdown now – Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon, and even AJ Styles and Baron Corbin (Boring Borebon) are getting more exposure! I think that will start the attendance upswing again.
Q: Talking about old timers taking bookings, what is your take on the staying power of Jimmy Valiant who was an active competitor until his seventies? (Tom via Facebook)
A: Amazing. Also very rare. Jimmy Valiant was truly one of a kind, and I’m not sure if we’ll ever see that kind of staying power that late into a man’s life again anytime soon.
Q: Is there a move that you would not take? Let’s say, for example, you could get in the ring and take an F5 from Brock, would you do it? (@Trel67 via Twitter)
A: Any move that is unnecessarily unsafe, I would probably say no to. I remember my good friend Johnny Toxic flat out telling a worker he would not be on the business end of a Canadian Destroyer. If the worker is proven safe, and can flawlessly execute the move over and over without injuring someone, then I’d be up for it. But if the move makes no sense and could potentially hurt me, I’d say no and come up with a different plan. I’m a huge stickler for psychology and storytelling, so forgive me if your top rope flipping DDT doesn’t fit into that picture. I’d take an F-5 from Brock, but the way he’s been working lately, I’m not sure I’d even want to work him. Which brings me to…
Q: What’s your opinion on Brock Lesnar being a bad wrestler these days? (Adrian via Facebook)
A: I wouldn’t say he’s a bad wrestler now, but I’d say he’s definitely sloppy. I’m not sure if it’s because of the shoot style he’s trying to work, or because he gets gassed way too fast now, but I haven’t seen a Brock Lesnar match I’ve thoroughly enjoyed since the triple threat he had with John Cena and Seth Rollins at the 2015 Royal Rumble, which I was ringside for. I really don’t care for his matches anymore, which means I don’t want to see him as champion, which means I don’t want to pay a ticket to see him at all. While I said earlier he’s still a proven draw, he is losing a lot of his fan-base pretty rapidly, as I know many people feel the same way you and I do. I may not be a fan of Roman Reigns, but I’d rather see him as champion now because he’s at least a safe worker who works his ass off (and comes to work every week). WWE definitely dropped the ball on Braun Strowman at No Mercy, but that’s an argument for another time.
Chris O’Mealy is an indy wrestling promoter, ring announcer, manager and referee. Clearly, he is a big pro wrestling fan. He is the founder and moderator of the Club Kayfabe Creative Community, which you can like on Facebook and follow on Twitter. He hosts three podcasts (Club Kayfabe WrestleTalk, Talkin’ Talkies, and The Jersey Rain Hour) which can all be found on Facebook and Podomatic. He also writes for his own blog which you can read at http://comealy17.wordpress.com. He can be reached on Twitter @chrisomealy or contacted directly at his official fan page, http://www.facebook.com/ChrisOMealyOfficial. All future mailbag questions can be sent via this page.