#I am CHIKARA

If you read Twitter through Discover or #RAW while watching WWE RAW on the night of September 30th, 2013 you may have noticed that there were many posts that included #IamCHIKARA or if you tend to follow many wrestlers or people who write about wrestling you might have noticed it as trending if you have trends marked for tailored (which I’d say 98% of people do).

If you aren’t a member of the CHIKARA 101 message board or a fan of CHIKARA who didn’t jump ship when you thought it sank at the end of  iPPV Anniversario: Never Compromise earlier this year you were probably scratching your head. If you don’t know what CHIKARA is (other possibly being a Japanese word) then you REALLY were scratching your head.

To explain CHIKARA is not the simplest thing in the world. While clips of slow motion action, amazing comedy bits, impressive action, and some of the most ridiculous costumes ever will let you get the visual and aural treat, I’m not sure if you aren’t already indoctrinated to appreciate wrestling or the concept of wrestling as a quality style of entertainment equivalent to watching your favorite sci-fiction or fantasy Television show then these videos will be just be mind numbing drivel to you.

Showing you a clip even of some hilarity inducing chuckles even one where a man dressed as a marching band leader hiding in a closet discusses his age with a lawyer who mysteriously looks a lot like him but is NOT him yet shares the same birthdate to the year, day and time will be lost on you. [1]  Even if you catch and appreciate that the marching band’s leader last name is Peck and when speaking of his father he seems to be speaking of Walter Peck, the lead human “bad guy” from Ghostbusters who went onto to work for mysterious government organizations (as seen in both the 80′s cartoon and the 2009 video game) it just is also a bit confusing, especially as this nugget of information or the true explanation of this character, who is known as Archibald Peck has claims of time travel and apparently he has doppelgangers created by time paradox. Although it is things of this nature that have kept the fans on their feet.

It is not the first weird thing to have ever been done though. This same company has been basically a bastion where every weird, silly, strange, and now looked upon poorly but with reverence silliness that happened in 1980′s WWF and early 90′s WCW is considered something to be treated with respect and a better understanding of where it comes from. These aren’t just talented performers playing out roles, but people who LOVE and admire what influences their roles. These are Power Ranger, Pokemon, Voltron, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Marvel Comics, Airwolf, Back to the Future loving geeks who also happen to love working out, being acrobats, acting and of course wrestling. If they weren’t working there, they’d be fans. Hell, there are MANY talents who are seriously respected (as much as one is respected in the world of sports entertainment) whom would would say their greatest times in wrestling and enjoyment came from watching or being part of CHIKARA.

What CHIKARA gives to me a self proclaimed wrestling geek going all the way back to 1986 isn’t even an alternative to the product produced by the current WWE (which features many former CHIKARA talent at this time) or TNA mainstream product or even the awesomeness of Ring of Honor or Dragon Gate USA (both whom has used current or as the case may be in the current storyline former CHIKARA talent). It’s so much more, because there’s a sense of community and family that exists in the fans of this company that I have never thought I’d experience in this particular hobby. I always felt wrestling would be the ONE place where I’d never really gain not more than 1 or two friends who I felt could look at wrestling with the same eyes as I do or at least eyes and responses that I respect and appreciate. It is through CHIKARA I am reminded of what brought me to wrestling in the first place.

The current storyline has truly made that family aspect come alive. In mid 2013 after months of crazy story-lines involving time travel, grand plans, magical items, corporate stooges and more, the company was shut down by its “director of fun!” in the middle of the main event. The PPV was yanked off the air as a security force kicked fans out of the building. For a couple months fans didn’t even know what to think, they were left to assume that CHIKARA was done and this was their closing story, but it was ONLY just beginning. I honestly can’t recall the order of events but there were multiple happenings.

On what was/is the official forum community board for the fans known as The 101, where the company had conducted contests, reported information and actually developed storylines previously, in the midst of most of the roster lamenting the death of CHIKARA and unexpected voice, that of pro wrestler Icarus (at one time one of the most hated men in the company, but in the last few shows before closing seeming to possibly change, AND a competitor in that last unfinished match) saying CHIKARA would only die if we let it die. He rallied the fans. He even stated that he would be at one of the canceled shows and if you could be to be there to. A nice amount of fans showed up to that Easton, PA rally. I think shortly after is when the Youtube channel for Wrestling Is… a group of companies called COOL, HEART, INTENSE, FUN, AWESOME, RESPECT and ART (which spell out CHIKARA, the F stands for K because the championship belt in FUN is a banana and bannas have Potassium and the element sign for that is K… it makes sense, trust me) premiered what was called ASHES – “Prelude” which showed the founder of CHIKARA, Mike Quackenbush seeking a place to open a wrestling school with a very apparent CHIKARA logo at the end. Since that video there have been two other episodes, one which had elements only longtime CHIKARA fans would really get and which the happenings of have not seen any actual repercussions as of yet. The third though definitely let us know that the efforts of Icarus were not just fun and silliness but tied deeply into the larger storyline being told of the death and rebirth of CHIKARA.

Before this third episode aired, there was a second rally conducted on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. At the time this happened a few weeks ago I was completely already pulled into the drama and excitement of all this hullabaloo and used it as an excuse to finally visit Philly in three years. I had an amazing trip there, in which I visited the offices of Quirk Books, ate amazing meals, met comedian and America’s Got Talent contestant Doogie Horner at his book signing and coincidentally at the same event the performer of the aforementioned “director of fun” who had ‘shut down’ CHIKARA, shot lots of photos streetart, visited historical places and eve by chance after the rally on the steps hung out with one of the new family members I had made I this fan community in which we had lunch and even went to a local wrestling show (which happened to one of the better wrestling shows I’d ever actually seen live or otherwise). Of course in between all that was the rally and I filmed and edited it and shared it on Youtube.[3]

That brings us to Monday night with the #IamCHIKARA call on Twitter and now the next step on the plans. Icarus has asked us to reach out to our brethren, those who may not realize they could LOVE Chikara as much as we do, but if they open their hearts and minds they will discover it is truly a place for everyone and it has something for all. Ants, Clowns, Monkeys, Pirates, Knights, Apes, Gentleman, Living Nightmares, Cult Figures, Monsters, Living Icecream, Toilet Demons, Sexy Women, even Sexier Men, Old Time Baseball players, Action Movie Fights in Furniture Stores, Video Game Parodies, Duck, Duck, Goose, Leather Jackets on Emo Bad Boys, Cocky Jerks, Girls from Space, Gods of the Cosmos, and even… yes, even the kitchen sink.

I am CHIKARA… and so are you.

[1] http://youtu.be/ATkfGtqiKRg?t=59s
[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djqqgSEoW9U
[3] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCDF3y4svXo
[4] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glF-HpJKfAw

BRAYFABE: The Dental Association

Since BrayFabe hit my brain as a concept I’ve done many many drawings.   They’ve been shown love by the wrestlers they featured even, as I posted them to Twitter and such.  Folks like Kassius Ohno, Ultramantis Black, Dasher Hatfield, Tim Donst, The Young Bucks, Kobald…. so yeah, basically the guys who really acknowledge and appreciate their fans (not that big wrestlers don’t).  Although I’ve haven’t done much WWE stuff.

One of the earliest ideas I got but not really formulated was what if Isaac Yankem, DDS stuck around despite a bad win/loss record found his footing, became a machine and then after many years of destruction realized he has to dominate and one way to do that was to build a stable. The first person he turned to was the man who brought him into the WWF, “The King” Jerry Lawler, someone who could help guide him and advise him on this new step. Through the power of certain things that just happen no matter what universe you’re in he first found himself aligned with the former Sixx-Pac… now working as X-Tract after going to dentistry school and learning everything Isaac knew. Although shortly after this Glenn found a kinship with a force so powerful he could not ignore it. A man who could rival his own strength and fortitude, a beast, a Latino beast, David Batista, the dentist from the South (of the border)… DENTISTA. Insulted and slightly angered that Isaac was “rejecting” him as a second in command, X-Tract demanded he got to add an x-ray technician who would also be X-Tract’s own right hand man. The entire wrestling world was shocked (or maybe dismayed) when brought in an unhinged man who Isaac knew back in his college years, a man who had also followed the wrestling path, but as the years got worse he lost his mind, and his name. Once known as Al Snow, he was now operating as an underground dentist himself, trying to prove himself, called Oren Kornpett (for those unfamiliar with cinematic dentists, combining the names of the sicko from “Little Shop of Horrors” and the dragged into adventure from “The In-Laws”) and X-Tract gave him just that chance.  At first Isaac was really angry, but he soon warmed to the idea and the five men now rule their own universe as….

THE DENTAL ASSOCIATION

Art by The Wrestling Cartoonist (with a logo designed by Reid Harris Cooper)

Faking BrayFabe #1: The Concept

Throughout the history of professional wrestling there have been monumental events, angles, stories, character and gimmicks that could’ve easily gone another direction and either drastically the change the course of the future or having very little change but that one change still being constant.

Within the confines of DC Comics and Marvel this idea has been constantly explored.  In DC they call it Elseworlds.  In Marvel it was known as “What If?’.  Some of my favorite comics stories of all time have come from these particular annuals, graphic novels and series.  It is something could easily be applied to wrestling in many major ways.

Here’s a small list of some of the ideas I’m playing with:

What if the Issac Yankem gimmick was successful and got expanded to a stable with a X-ray tech and an anesthesiologist?

“What if James Storm joined Chris Harris in ECWWE?”

“Fallen Angel doesn’t get injured in Nitro debut”

“CM Punk never went straight edge”

“Kevin Nash and Scott Hall never left WCW/never left the WWF to go back to WCW”

I have a short dream list of artists based purely on their previous wrestling illustrations, none that have agreed to be part of the project as of yet, but it is a dream.

(special thanks to Sam “Eddie Phoenix” Fines for helping come up with the concept and cementing it in stone with a name.)

(My first follow up will be me fleshing out one of the actual what if’s further and drawing one of my own to get the ball rolling… also research into other artists who not only draw wrestlers but understand and LOVE wrestling…I don’t want just cool illustrations, I want the passion of folks who get what they’re doing, not just photo referencing stuff)

Wrestlemania 29 Non-Live Commentary

I missed Wrestlemania 29 completely as I went to a Green Day concert after my long day at MoCCaFest which will be covered on this website in full very soon.

On my way to Green Day and while there I wrote a few fake Facebook statuses and Twitter tweets. They were as follows
Omg I can’t believe @HulkHogan joined @TheShieldWWE #WrestleMania utterly insane!
Oh no word from the back @WWEFandango and @BradMaddoxIsWWE were with the Bella twins so there’s a new main. Them vs Cena & Bryan
George Steel head butted The Undertaker and then Ultimate Warrior ran in and pedigreed HHH! Wrestlemania is insane!
Holy shit! Ken Shamrock stole money in the bank from Dolph Ziggler and cashed in on the rock!

I decided to watch Wrestlemania and instead of actually live tweeting or facebooking to just write all my thoughts down on paper. I also threw some other thoughts towards friends and recorded some commentary starting after The Shield match which I’ve edited down to a short random podcast live reaction type thing, but without time codes or Rifftrax so it’ll only make sense to those who watch WM, but that’s who this is for.

Here we go with the literally commentary:

The Wrestlemania set is both beautiful and stupid. Vince McMahon sounding like his old school commentator bit was just weird… “How about them apples?” I don’t know sir, I don’t know.. are they Mackintosh? Are they Granny Smith?

Matt Striker and Josh Matthews would be the guys who would do the entire Wrestlemania broadcast in a perfect world. Even on a Swansung! I want a swansung!

I’m okay with tweet and Tout stuff on Active, but if that stuff is on the PPV, well, If I spent $60 I’d demand a refund just because I don’t purchase commercials.

Kofi Kingston doesn’t win matches but he gets to share commentary with Jim Ross and Dusty Rhoades? I have no idea what they want with this guy anymore.

Wait, We The People used a clip of young George Bush and Barbara? That’s actually really awesome and hilarious… he should be the champion damn it… because, well, Alberto Del Rio sucks. He’s talking about the Statue of Liberty? He’s from Mexico, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, a man who thinks he was born to be the world champion. It’s still one of the most unrealistic face turns ever, it’s just insincere and makes no sense.

The “Coming Home” fan collection video made for Wrestlemania featured my friend Sam Fines and his son doing the “Millions and Millions of Dollars” dance and that is awesome.

When Matt Striker said the crowd was electric they looked like they were dead and then they piped in fake yelling. That’s kind of a bad sign.

I need to skip these packages, I’ve been watching WWE for weeks and they’ve been showing these things non stop. This isn’t really a one hour pre-show if it’s all filler like this.

Pretty damn loud “We Want Ryder” Chant! Well loud enough that it came through loud and clear. I mean sure they’re in his hometown, but the fact that existed should count for something.

Heymanstein??!?!? That was horrible.

WWE fans are scary or at least that’s what WWE wants us to think.

Snooki wants to be fucked by The Miz. I wonder if she ACTUALLY Really, REALLY sent that Tweet.
The Miz’ jacket is freaking awesome, I want that jacket. I want that jacket NOW! Buy me that Jacket!

I actually really liked that segment. Barrett and Miz at least in a backstage segment didn’t seem bothered by the fact that they’re on Active.

I always forget that new blonde’s name they have for event centers and backstage interviews, but she seriously is adorable. I like how Un-Diva she is. She’s just an attractive woman who can add class to the show.

Really, Kofi thinks Henry vs. Ryback matters? It doesn’t… does it? I don’t think it does…does it?

And even ACTIVE, a APP only show has commercials.

JUDAH!!!!!! I like Judah actually. He’s good people.

This show still has no reason to be an hour. Just so we can hear Dusty, Kofi and JR ramble about a show that people had at that point decided they would shell $60/70 for the PPV?

FINALLY! Miz vs. Barrett for the INTERCONTINENTAL championship.

Why did Justin Roberts say The Miz like he was George Wednt on SNL? Ya know… The Bears.

I still want Miz’ coat.

I’m very happy they didn’t have Barrett tap out to the figure four without Miz even working the legs first. Barrett then did a really weak slam. Then the drop toe hold into a second figure four in the middle of the ring… that was a well constructed match.

I hope with The MIZ as IC champ he’ll maybe get proper TV time and bring some fun to RAW, since it doesn’t have enough fun. In just seven minutes (backstage, ring entrance, match, exit) he and Barrett showed what you can do with just a short amount of time and still prove you deserve a spot and TV time on a regular basis.

Oh jeez… really? We open with a speech from Chris Christie on Sandy? Really? This is not what I want from Wrestlemania. WWE is escape from reality. Not a reflection of it. This is not a good way to open a show. This is actually the worst opening I’ve ever seen. Then the freaking National Guard??! I WANT ESCAPE! ESCAPE!

The show isn’t starting? We need a freaking video package about Wrestlemania itself on top of that NJ opening? This was so uneeded… why is this on my show? GIVE ME WRESTLING! I guess Fast Forward is my friend!

Last year Sheamus won the world title in 18 seconds, this year he’s the third person to come out to the stage with two former champions.
The Big Show shouldn’t fist bump, what if the WOMD breaks their hands??!

Seth Rollins rolling flip over the guardrail was freaking awesome. Seriously the awesome reeking off The Shield is just well… a lot. They stink of awesome. Sure it helps that thy’re being booked as seriously tough as well, able to come back from beatdowns from the three biggest forces in WWE and then do a beatdown, but they’re “realistic” in it. I believe in The Shield.

Show’s face of sadness when Orton decided to be selfish Orton and then not helping when Reigns does the spear was good booking actually. Probably I bet the only good booking on this entire show! We’ll see… we shall see.

I would still have sex with Snooki. Well if I was the kind of guy who just had sex with women or ever had sex with anyone ever that I wasn’t in love with. I am not in love with her and never will be.

Two big men are hitting each other. Something is just missing here. It just doesn’t feel like Wrestlemania. Even the opening match while fun didn’t feel like Wrestlemania.

This is some seriously weird ass booking. Big Show goes heel again out of jealousy and anger over Randy Orton. Rybak loses and still destroys Mark Henry. It just doesn’t do anything. What does It establish? I assume Ryback wants another match because he’ll want the official win? I don’t know man… I don’t know.

Dolph Ziggler needs to stop doing that perfect dropkick as a favor to Michael McGillicutty. He’ll never become the new Curt Hennig as long as Nic is playing the role.

This is poor poor poor booking. It’s just not being well done. It’s doesn’t feel big.

Then We get FANDANGO and it feels like Wrestlemania. The grandeur, the display, the excitement. Johnny Curtis is ready to shut everyone up. The flamenco music sucks though.

That match was exciting, energetic and showed how good both men, but the way it was booked and choereographed was horrendous. The ending was a joke and not a good way for something on Wrestlemania to end. This is Wrestlemania right?

I’m skipping Diddy,

Why did they torture the fans with Swagger/Del Rio going as long as it did? I had to skip ahead… It was just boring. I can’t accept this Super Del Rio. The lock to arm breaker to lock was cool, but that Del Rio survived it is ridiculous.

It is Wrestlemania again finally after a match that must’ve completely drained the audience. It drained me and I watched it in fastforward.

The entrances by Punk and UT were awesome. Although UT’s was a little too long. Just my feeling.

UT and Punk definitely knew they were at WM in delivering a match.

That elbow drop spot on the announcer table was absolutely insane.

I must admit… that match was awesome. Punk and UT delivered.

Slim Jim advertisement??!?!?!

What happened to Brock Lesnar before Wrestlemania? His eye was jacked (looked like a broken orbital bone) and his back was red and welted. Michael Cole brings up the welts and mouse, but they were there BEFORE the match started!

Before Wrestlemania I thought only Fandango, Jericho, Undertaker and CM Punk would do anything Wrestlemania worthy. I was completely right.

I don’t have the patience to watch this horrible match all the way through.

Wrestlemania = Slim Jims, National Guard and Movie Trailers.

I honestly think I’m not even bothering watching The Rock vs. John Cena. I just don’t care… I just don’t. So thus ends my Wrestlemania commentary!

Hope you enjoy. Think of it as if I was tweeting the whole time!

A look at Da New Guys-Day of the Jackass: A Super Fun Indie Action Title

In the world of pop-culture there are many things I enjoy, but two certain interests developed around the same time. My love point n’ click adventure games and my almost addictive enjoyment of sports entertainment/professional wrestling. Both these interests have evolved over the years even if the actual subjects haven’t. The best of point n click games are still interesting, but not heavy intensive art work with quirky dialogue, cool characters, a wacky plot and interesting puzzles. Wrestling has generally been the same since my childhood, quick paced action with some slow down, colorful larger than life characters, story lines that are a mix of reality and the completely unrealistic.

In the recently released game “Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass”, programmer, artist and designer Chris Burton has found a way to merge the two. Although one would say it’s much more Hulk Hogan’s Rock n Wrestling cartoon as classic adventure game, it still makes for a funny, ridiculous and crazy game.

That isn’t to say it’s without flaws. The art isn’t completely polished (but definitely has charm and is a big advance from the 8bit graphics of the first non-commercial gae), some of the later puzzles fall into the trap of being mini-games, but all together it is worth your time along with the original game which is available for free.

I had the pleasure/privilige to shoot Chris Burton a few questions via e-mail before the game officially came out and I’ve been sitting on his excellent answers for awhile. I can only hope that if my short review didn’t make you have interest, the following with links and various screenshots will.

1.) What was the deal with the bear head in the arena in Da New Guys?

That goofy-looking bear is based on my baby brother’s old teddy, who we used to make all kinds of dumb stories about when we were kids. It’s kind of an in-joke that nobody but us would get, which is why it’s not very prominent, but good old Bear’s present and correct in Day of the Jackass too!

2.) What was the original inspiration for Da New Guys? Was it always wrestling based or did the characters come first?

The characters always come first. Wrestling obviously plays a big part, but I think the heart of any Da New Guys story always has to be about the characters – I don’t think it would work if the story was ever just “they have to win the match so they can become champions”.

That said, the trio came about through playing a “true” wrestling game – Smackdown 2 on the good old PSOne. It had a really great create-a-wrestler mode, and then play with them through auto-generated storylines. I made the three heroes, then the game would make up rivalries for them to get involved in. Brain had a stick-on goofy smile, Simon was always grumpy, and so the characters just grew from there.

3.) Defender looks a lot like Cobra Commander, what’s the story there?

Google tells me that’s from G.I. Joe, so it isn’t intentional – though the comic-book influence definitely is. He’s a bit of a comic-book geek, and has a bit of a “hero complex”, so his costume tries to reflect that. His first appearance had more of a “samurai warrior” vibe, but it got refined and smoothed out over time to make it more original. Also, for as-yet unexplained reasons he wears a helmet to stay anonymous!

4.)I believe I noticed Kurt Angle in the first game in the Gym, is that correct?

It is! All thanks to a lack of texturing ability and easy-access to online images. I loved that Kurt was so over-the-top and in love with himself, but unlike Brain he’s actually a decent wrestler.

5.)Who are some of your favorite wrestlers? Also what are some of your favorite wrestling stories/angles?

I’ve been out of tune with wrestling lately – most of my memories are from the late 90s. Macho Man’s up there at the top – who can’t laugh every time he shouts? I loved any moment William Regal would try to “educate” the fans by showing them proper table manners – wrestling’s known for its stereotyping but I think that’s all part of the fun. The family issues between Vince and Shane McMahon were also great – I think that was the main dramatic angle I was genuinely swept up in. Also: Doink the Clown!

6.)Who/What inspires your brand of comedy? Films/TV/Comedians

I like humour that’s got the right mix of being wacky but also based in reality. In the same way that the game’s art style has caricatured people in a perspective-correct world, I try to push things over-the-top but still have clear “rules” that ground it all (the characters can get hurt, for example). I used to watch a lot of British sitcoms like Only Fools and Horses, which was very character-based and had a simple but charming humour to it. Unfortunately though, my cynicism’s growing and these days I’m more into comedians like Doug Stanhope.

Wallace & Gromit‘s more of a direct influence, I’d say, because of how well they manage to blend action and comedy together. The chase scene in A Close Shave is a perfect example of that: it’s wholly entertaining, and it’s got a very good mix of genuine jokes with geniune thrills.

7.)What are your full aspirations for Da New Guys? You’ve developed an animation and now finally have the second game, is there a next step or did the process of over 9 years betwen games drain that dream?

My ambitions grow with each project, and each one takes more and more effort, so I think any potential “next step” for Da New Guys would really be huge. I’ll never say no to anything else DNG-related, but I think another game would be so ambitious I’d have to really think hard about how to go about it properly. If people respond well to their first sequel, I’d certainly be very enthused to do another one!

8.)In terms of construction, how much of the game is all you(not counting the music) and what did Wadjeteye bring to the table?

Wadjet Eye got involved very late in development, so up until the middle of last year it was all me. That said, I think having Wadjet Eye on board massively improved the game. The story and pacing was final, but in an adventure game it’s the small moments and details that matter, and I got a ton of feedback. Not just from the excellent testers, but Dave and Emily were both very open about what they liked and didn’t like, which really helped me bash the game into shape. There were a couple of moments in the game where, looking back, the puzzles really weren’t so intuitive, and they were great to bounce new ides off of.

Wadjet Eye also gave me a whole bunch of voice actors! The first Da New Guys game was all voiced by myself, and it’s pretty obvious. While there are a lot of new characters in the sequel, there are some returning as well, but Dave was able to get some great replacements who I really wish I was able to get at the time I made the first one.

9.)I noticed in the art gallery that the characters started out as 3D models which you then drew over for Day of The Jackass, what was the thinking process for this decision?

The main reason the game took so long to make was because for a long time it really lacked the polish I wanted it to have, and the low-budget was painfully obvious when it came to animation. I can’t animate 2D at all, so when – after having learnt 3D animation – I discovered a way to animate in 3D space and rotoscope the frames into the game, the answer was obvious. It was a very elaborate and time-consuming job to convert the 3D to 2D, but I think it paid off really well, and let me come up with new puzzles that took advantage of it. Whereas before it was difficult enough to make a character hold their hand out, now I could make them kick, climb ladders, and do whatever I wanted. That freedom really meant I didn’t have to cut a puzzle or be less ambitious in a cutscene, just because I wouldn’t be able to portray it.

I’m really glad you’re enjoying it so far, and thanks for the interest!

I finally finished the game various times since that interview and slowly but surely getting this article up for print since the game became officially available at the end of February/almost beginning of March.  It is currently on sale from Wadgeteye Games and for $10 is worth it for anyone who enjoys funny point n click adventures with full stories and enjoyable characters.  There are arguments that can be made that NO ONE would want to help The Brain and that’s true, but I can think of many popular comedies full of annoying, stupid characters that we enjoy following… Mr. Bean, Peter Griffin, etc. and luckily for most of the game one plays the more enjoyable courageous, interesting guy that you wonder why he even hangs with these guys and the tough, grumpy, gruff guy that makes you wonder why he hangs with these guys.  It’s that awesome triumverite we’ve seen before and done well in an animated indie cartoon adventure.

Tribute to those fallen in 2011 Part 2

Here is the second of my tributes to notable personalities who died in 2011, this time focusing on the art of warfare.  In the cases of Randy Savage and Larry Sweeney choosing just a few matches seemed unfair to their career and in terms of others I chose based on what I knew and could find online that I felt was quality enough to display.

PROFESSIONAL WRESTLERS/BOXERS/MMA

(It can be argued that fighting and wrestlers don’t belong each other, but they do call it sports entertainment if its not wrestling, so they fit together)

“Smokin” Joe Frazier (67- cancer): The brazen and boisterous boxer and co star of the three boat Fight of the Century, Part 2 and Thrilla in Manilla turned into a bitter, crazy man whose answering machine recording had him razzing on Mohammed Ali, brought that Ali is now fallen with Parkinson’s Syndrome and feeling as he was the cause of it. The documentary “Thrilla in Manilla” showed the world a very broken, torn, damanged, interesting individual who believed in himself, his skill and his convictions and a man who proved himself in the ring day in and day out. It’s almost shameful that he was the one who passed before Ali. I doubt Ali thinks of it that way. Ali made heavy gestures to seek a kinship and forgiveness from Joe for a long time, and Joe seemed to just ignore it up until 2009 where he finally forgave him and they mended things before the end. His boxing matches will always be something worthy to re-watch and he left a powerful legacy.

“Macho Man” Randy Savage (58- massive heart attack): Following this sentence is the wild obituary tribute I wrote for Savage on his passing at the time and it still stands. Savage was easily one of my favorite of all time. He brought everything I liked about wrestling into a secure package. Flamboyancy, technical athletics, insane rumblings, maniacal interviews and a never say die attitude. When everyone went right, he went left. I’d say his promos and raps tell his tale better than anything ever could. Sugar was sweet and so was honey. Macho Man went to the top, fell down, got back up and went to the top again. The mountain was there standing like a pillar of salt and he just tossed it behind his back like a rock, paper, scissors. You don’t see the steamroller coming till it’s ahead of you and you’ve been flattened out. An elbowdrop from the top is what it was all about. Yellow and Pink, Purple and green, red and black, colors bleed and so does blood. Hardcore before there was hardcore, he piledrove Ricky Morton on a table and it didn’t crack in half, it shattered. It wasn’t breakaway, but real furniture. Did he become a joke with his rap album or just cement his legend of insanity and unpredictability? I say the second, you can disagree. It doesn’t matter, because here’s to the Macho Man. Hoping he’s off in some afterlife back together with Miss Elizabeth after their break up almost 20 years ago. Or maybe he’s with Sherri. He has his pick, he’s the Macho Man!

Bison Smith (38-heart complications): A huge wrestler who never really got his chance to prove himself stateside. In both Cuba and Japan, he worked for major markets, including the Colon’s IWC and Misawa’s NOAH. He was as brutal, determined and talented as any hoss currently in WWE or TNA, even better. In this one notable American organization he worked, Ring Of Honor he was brought in as a beast, but quickly became just another dude via bad booking, storylines and wasted potential. He sadly had heart issues and passed away not long after a match with current WWE superstar Primo Colon in Cuba. Sadly and unfortunately he was involvd in the match that took Misawa’s life, although nothing he had done was the cause of it… that was all on Saito and Misawa being too rough. Bison wasn’t too rough, he just made it look that good.  This particular playlist of matches off of Youtube really shows off Bison really well.

Larry Sweeney (30- suicide by hanging): This indie wrestler and manager was a modern day Bobby Heenan, Jimmy Hart and Paul Dangerously all rolled into one. He was manic, frenetic and truly could raise a crowd. I had the pleasure of experiencing him at Ring of Honor in 2008 in Florida during a Wrestlemania weekend where my highlight was totally the two ROH shows, and also experiencing Universal Studios Florida for the first time in years. Sadly, Larry had many demons, demons he just could not defeat, demons so powerful they caused him to take his own life. The signs and warnings were always there and while he continually would seek help and friends offered a hand, I believe not breaking the bubble of getting further in his career weighed heavily on him. Heavier than it has on others in similar situations as his. He was a pretty formidable talent in the ring as he was in the mic, although only super indie and Chikara fans really got to see that side of him.  Please do yourself a favor and do a Youtube search on Sweeney, choosing just a few moments of his short but awesome career is impossible for me.

Little Tokyo (70- heart attack): Considered by many to be one of the greatest if not THE greatest midget wrestler of all time, Little Tokyo worked in the business for over 25 years and even reached the “pinnacle” of sports entertainment working at Wrestlemania where he teamed with his long time friend Lord Littlebrook and King Kong Bundy against Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver and The Haiti Kid.  I recommend this tribute article by Slam! producer Greg Oliver.  The match I am choosing to link to is from Mid-South Wrestling in 1985, it features Little Tokyo teaming with Littlebrook and Jack Victory against “Iceman” King Parsons, “Cowboy” Lang and “Little Coco”, I chose it because Parsons is awesome.

Shawn Tompkins (37- heart attack): A highly influential and important fight trainer, while unsuccessful in MMA himself, he was a very successful kick boxer and helped coach future up & comers like Sam Stout and Mark Homnicheck, as well as some of greatest fighters ever including Victor Belfort and Wanderlai Silva.

Umanosuke Ueda (71- respiratory failure): Not familiar with his wrestling career as he worked Japan in the 70′s and 80′s a bit before my time with the countries wrestling, but he was in cult Japanese film, Burst City, which I loaned to my best friend and which he never watched and which he still has… “somewhere” as he says. I was able to find Ueda matches on Youtube though. I knew which one he was immediately when I saw the long blond hair. It was kind of his trademark to be a platinum blonde in Japan during a time when that wasn’t normal. Here he is a match against The Funks and another match featuring Stan Hansen, Dick Slater and his main opponent Genichiro Tenryu.

Doctor X (43, gunshot to the head): Never a big fan of CMLL, but this Mexican wrestlers death is even more messed up than one of my favorite Mexican wrestler’s Abismo Negro’s. Dude was a religious party and a fight somehow breaks out. He tries to calm the situation down and gets shot point blank in the head. I know so little of Dr. X as a wrestler/lucha rudo that I don’t even know what match to show you. I know he was working reguarly up until his murder, so if you look up Dr. X and CMLL or Perros Del Mal you’ll find something. Here’s one from August of 2011, where he was now Dr. Xtreme teaming with Peligro and Jigga Ek Boam against Tony Rivera, Zumbi and Black Fire in Perros Del Mal Rebellion.

New York Comic Con 2011 Overview Part 1

To get a clearer idea of where my head was in a jumbled state and the factor of this being possibly a serious mishmosh, let’s set some background.

I’m working from memory mostly, with the notes of my schedule for reference. Twitter and Facebook were impossible to get onto while in Javits. I tried, and was successful sometimes, but mostly nope, so my notes are photos, videos, what I bought, sketches and my good ol noggin. Another thing to note is that on Wednesday my mom admitted herself back into the hospital. She was there throughout the weekend and is still there as I write this on Monday night. It is nothing serious and they are getting down to the bottom to various problems she has had lately, but it added a stress factor to what usually is my most exciting weekend I New York for the last six years.

DAY ONE- Thursday

I got to the convention center and down into the press room, registered and ready to hit the floor just around opening at 4. The first person I saw before even getting on the show floor was Steve Talkowski. He introduced me to Tim Jester and I got to see his GibbyGop figure while admiring the Tokidoki car as well.

For this first official preview night where I had no panels or scheduled press interviews or autograph sessions I wanted to hit up so it was all about hitting the floor, getting whatever goodies I could and seeing as much as I could before 7 PM hit and it was time for the Tom Morello concert.

I gave my hand at Dead Rising 2: Off The Record and I’m thinking I’ll want it eventually, although I’ve yet to beat Dead Rising 2. A lot of the game booths pertained to genres I didn’t care about or had no interest in, but at least Ubisoft was there with some Assassin’s Creed and their game for the TinTin film. I played that and found it really fun.

Over at the Rockstar booth they were showing off the 10th anniversary edition of GTA3 which is a port for mobile devices and tablets. I got the feel for it and with some final tweaking it’ll definitely find new life on iPhones/pad/droids/whatever.

They were also showing Max Payne 3 in an early build in a closed off room. I’m thinking I’m probably not even supposed to TALK about the game, but damn it, it’s not video or photos, it’s just some dteails on awesomeness. They showed us a sequence flashback with Max Payne looking like his old self in New York City. In this wild sequence we find out why and how he ended up in the games main part of Brazil. They showed us the awesome mechanics and amazing graphics that are still in process, which means they’ll get even better. They then showed us a section of the Brazil part where Max is running around protecting his girl. The bullet time and final kill shots are just mesmerizing and there’s even SPECIAL bullet time sequences to allow for balls out ballistic kick ass action and Max is way more brutal now. After a dive he can be on the ground and turn around while still shooting. While Batman: Arkham City, Uncharted 3, and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations are going to keep me busy, I look super forward to Payne right now after that preview they gave us.

Walking the floor exploring awarded me seeing various other industry friends and acquaintances such as Dean Haspiel, Chris Miskiewicz, Joe Infurnari, Michel Fiffe and Kat Roberts (aka The ACT-I-VATE Crew) and in the Cultyard, Jared Deal. I also got to see the FIRST comics booth and had a good conversation with the owner of the returning publishing venture. I was also happy to see Jarret Williams, writer/artist of Super Pro K.O. from ONI Press. He was the first of the very few sketches I was able to pull off at the convention this year.

Other things of note were the awesome Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City action figures on display the DC Booth, the Hasbro Announcement of bringing back Jem and The Holograms and while I found the new Rayman game way challenging it looks freaking awesome and that visual standpoint should help it overcome it’s pretty high difficulty in 2-D platforming.

I also really enjoyed meeting street artist/cartoonist Tito Na Roa. When he hit New York City as part of visiting for NYCC he hit up the legends rooftop in Manhattan. I am hoping he somehow finds/found time to hit up more walls before going home, but even if he didn’t at least he solds his books at NYCC and his project is so mesmerizing.

Before the show floor closed on Sunday I was staring at Mattel’s collection of WWE figures, because no matter what I can’t seem to quit this shit. No matter how bad it gets. I’m still not the kind of fan they want though and never will be. My TV’s aren’t counted in market share, I don;t buy PPVs, I don’t go to live events, I don’t buy the toys and I criticize them left and right whenever I can. So I’m an addict, but at least I take my methodrone.

I almost decided to not go to the Tom Morello concert, but I am very glad I did. It was a super enjoyable and fun concert to listen and watch. He did a full amazing set of Night

I fell like I’m leaving out essential information in that the evening before I was off buying an iPhone and while I was about to go home is when my mother called me to tell me she was going into the hospital. She didn’t even know if she was being admitted till much later, which is why I wasn’t worried on Thursday. She wasn’t put into a room into late Thursday.

After the concert I went home knowing that the next few days were going to be intense and brutal.

Trevor Murdoch interview on Pitch.com

I’ve been a fan of Trevor Murdoch since I first saw him in his earliest role of Trevor Rhodes through the internet.  His WWE tag run with Lance Cade was fantastic and while this interview has him state he felt he ignored the entertainment side during his last WWE run, I disagree, his singing gimmick was great and WWE creative dropped the ball, not him.  He had a very short run in TNA as Jethro Holliday, where they didn’t used him as just another body more than anything.

I’m quite happy to see what he can do on a second WWE run, be it in singles or as the tag partner of someone again.

This interview he just did with Pitch.com is really good.

A Bad Company, A Fun Book

The Hart Family is one of the most celebrated and possibly the first (there are timeline arguments to be made)  first families of professional wrestling/sports entertainment.  There have been quite a few books written about and by the Hart family, most notably Bret Hart’s biting, brutal, hate laced, but honest Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling.  I was a huge fan of this almost 10 year in the making tome which was more transcription of audio diary than Bret’s actual writing.  Bret happens to be a great writer and has/had a regular column in the Calgary Sun.  That column was once in awhile written by his older brother Bruce, the brother that without, Bret may’ve have never decided to have his father Fritz turn him into “the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be”.

Bruce Hart, the second oldest brother,  has chosen that the time was right for him to tell his very slanted side of the story in ECW Press’ Straight From The Heart.

I was very gratified to get the opportunity to read and review this book from the Publicity department at ECW Press at Book Expo America.  As a story/skewed memoir it is as enetertaining as any wrestling autobiogrphies of recent memory.  There’s fervor, details, psychology, analysis and a great story.

It’s a shame that much of Bruce’s memories or at least how he chose to put them on the page are false, incorrect, missing details or just outright lies.  This doesn’t change their quality of storytelling, but if one wants to really learn about the history of Stampede wrestling or even Bruce’s own wrestling career, this isn’t the place to look.

As the book continues down its path Bruce is also much more bitter than Bret ever came across in his book.  Of course in respect, he has every reason to be bitter.  Even through the lies and machinations, the hardships that Bruce experienced do shine and they set him apart as a person way different than his more famous family members.  He seems to have a lot of vitriol for his former brother-in-laws David Smith and Dynamite Kid and he holds no punches with them, but he equally seems to have a detest for Bret.  He also seems to feel he deserves credit for Bret’s success, stating he ghost wrote every single column in the Calgary Sun and that every decision and gimmick concept that Bret used to become “The Hitman” came from him.  I find this a little hard to believe.  As hard it is to believe that every single time Bruce had the chance to make it big, some crisis happened or someone else messed it up and his family screwed it all up for him.

Even for as much respect and love he shows his father Stu and the great history, which seems more accurate than anything in the book, of Stampede’s beginnings, the latter passages show that he equally feels like his father was to blame for failure and he was the reason they had success, but since he was “in charge”, he had to take credit for everything, be it failure or success.

Later on, he seems to pull back on his anger of Stu, but the feelings on Bret do not stop and sound tantamount to slander, but its such interesting and intriguing slander that it comes across as awesome fiction instead of a statement.  Which as I stated much of the book comes across as, as have many other wrestling books.  Unlike the very personal and open statements of Mick Foley or Chris Jericho’s books, Bruce’s book have much more in common with the books he personally quotes from, such as Ric Flair and Vince Russo.  This isn’t history, it’s HIS history and he backs it up with other people’s skewed histories instead of the video truth.

There’s also a ton of hypocrisy in his world view, but that also makes for fascinating and compelling reading.  In the end though he thanks us the most and hopes we enjoyed the read, as much as he’s enjoyed the ride.  I did indeed.

I would’ve like some further clarity on the current situation of his life, where he once again got married to a woman 20 years younger than him and had a child at 56.  He skipped ahead from his father’s passing in 2003 to Bret’s return to the fold of Vince McMahon’s corporation (in which Bret continues to appear in 2011 and probably beyond).  Much happened in those intervening years though.  I guess Bruce couldn’t think of a sufficient lie to tell to make that interesting.

It may seem crazy, but I still highly recommend Straight From The Heart, just go in there with an open mind.  You can choose to also take it at face value and if you’re not a real wrestling fan who actually gives a damn, do that and enjoy it, cause well, you will.

Addendum:  The book has some awesome photos.  Here’s an example:

The book also provides you names and time periods that while his memories of how things went down is inaccurate, they give you a great guide to the resource that is the internet and you can find lots of classic Stampede wrestling on Youtube:

Bruce Hart vs. Dynamite Kid

Owen Hart vs. “Bad News” Allen