Kayfabe Forever: My Wrestling Story – Pat Baer of UCB Theatre NY and League of Heels – 08/17/18

Join me for a trip deep into the heart of the Baer Caev, as this week I am joined by Pat Baer from Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre NY and League of Heels. We talk WCW, WWE, comedy wrestlers, League of Heels (duh!), Chikara pro wrestling and more! Also: can you recognize the intro/outro music?

THE LINKS!

Follow Pat on Twitter here!

Subscribe to Pat’s YouTube where you can find Pat’s Twitch panels, League of Heels stuff, Pat playing video games, and some really great builds!

Wanna give Pat some money so that he can continue to build things and deliver great content? Click here for Pat’s Patreon page.

Here is Pat’s profile page at Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre NY with some links to UCB videos featuring Pat and other talented UCB players.

League of Heels: West Coast Wishes is at PAX West on 9/1 from 830-10pm. You can watch it on Twitch live and catch up on past Pax shenanigans over at their website.

Follow League of Heels here!

Here is the League of Heels store over at Pro Wrestling Tees if you want some of that sweet LoH merch!

Lots of talk about Chikara pro wrestling in this episode. Here is a link to the promotion’s website and the roster can be found there as well.

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Kayfabe Thoughts: WWE’s Once and Future King

(I’ve written a few columns this year for some other online sources and now I’m making those available here, so you might have already read this or it’s subject might be dated. If you’ve already read it: THANKS! If you haven’t: here you go!)

As Wrestlemania neared, it appeared that Brock Lesnar would be leaving the WWE to return to the UFC. Lesnar, who had held the WWE Universal Championship since defeating Goldberg at the previous year’s Wrestlemania, found himself as the ire of many fans due to the attraction nature of his booking and the resulting sporadic defenses of his championship. While it seemed that the equally (if not more) reviled Roman Reigns would be the beneficiary of Lesnar’s departure, fans were at least happy that 1 of the 2 most high-profile championships in the company would begin to make regular appearances on TV and at PPVs again.

But of course, in the words of Uncle Dave, plans changed.

Lesnar and WWE came to terms on a new deal that would allow Lesnar to work UFC dates in addition to his WWE deal just hours before WM. Not only did Lesnar retain the title vs Reigns at WM, he also prevailed in the subsequent rematch at The Greatest Royal Rumble, much to the chagrin of the WWE Universe.

The Mayor of Suplex City hasn’t been seen on WWE TV since and unfortunately the legit contenders are few it seems.

In their last head to head encounter, Braun Strowman, the current monster of the WWE, ate the pin clean. I’m all for Braun getting a title run and I think that getting it by absolutely destroying Lesnar would make a statement in the process. However, it seems like if WWE creative wanted to protect the Monster Among Men mystique, he would have beaten Lesnar already.

Samoa Joe is in almost the same boat as Strowman. Despite building a program last summer between Lesnar and Samoa Joe around Joe’s persona of being a legit badass, the Samoan Submission Machine came up short against Lesnar at 2017’s oddly named Great Balls of Fire event in one on one competition and again in a Fatal Four Way match that included Strowman and Roman Reigns at Summerslam.

In my opinion, the challenger who made Lesnar look most vulnerable (and most like the Lesnar of old) last year was AJ Styles at Survivor Series 2017. However, unless the WWE wanted to do some sort of title unification bout with the Universal and WWE Championships, it’s unlikely to be revisited.

Is there a light at the end of the Brock Lesnar tunnel?

In a word: YES!

In 3 words: YES! YES! YES!

Daniel Bryan should be the guy.

I understand the WWE’s hesitance to re-insert Bryan into the main event picture. Bryan’s health issues derailed the last 2 high profile programs Bryan had before his retirement, when Bryan was WWE champ and again during his brief return as Intercontinental champ. The potential disaster for Bryan and WWE to have to deal with another head injury warrants all the caution that seems to be taken right now.

But man, what a story it could be.

When Bryan announced his return in March, the entire sports world, not just the WWE Universe or wrestling fans, stood up and took notice. The news of his un-retirement sparked a reaction that isn’t seen often within the IWC: universal happiness. Paying off the “Believe in your dreams and your dreams will believe in you” idea with a win over the reigning, defending, undisputed Universal Champion Brrrrock LLLLesnar would punctuate the story with a what might be a bigger moment than Bryan’s WMXXX win over the Authority.

And Bryan could no doubt have a great match with Lesnar. Think back to the Styles/Lesnar match I mentioned earlier. Styles in-ring approach is so diametrically opposite of Lesnar’s that it was believable that he could keep the Beast Incarnate on his heels and perhaps pull off the upset. Bryan would be positioned in a similar way and with a larger variety of submission holds at his disposal, the potential to weaken Lesnar’s base (Brock always seems to skip leg day) can easily be established.

Imagine the pop if the biggest underdog, a man who was told he was too small to compete with the heavyweights and one who had to give up his title due to injury and retire, emerges victorious in a match with one of the most unstoppable forces in wrestling and combat sports history.

Goosebumps (or goose pimples as the great Gorilla Monsoon said)…

With one moment, WWE could go a long way to stealing back some of the magic that the stale, lazy booking stole over the last few months. And with most of the recent positive wrestling headlines going in the direction of a show headlined and promoted by a man who asked to be released by the company (Cody), this is a great way to bring some of that positivity the WWE’s way.

Bryan as champ works right into a program with longtime nemesis The Miz. From there, all the dream Bryan battles could go down (Styles, Balor, Nakamura, Joe, Zayn, Owens among others), provided his health continues to hold. Ultimately, maybe the WWE revisits Bryan/Reigns and uses Bryan to legitimize Reigns as champ like they did with their matchup before WM 31. The possibilities are endless and with the stacked roster of talent WWE possesses right now between the main and NXT rosters.

Bryan is the man that can bring the magic back to WWE.

WWE just needs to take a real look at what is going on and act fast.

Thanks for listening!

Kayfabe Thoughts: WWE’s Vince Problem

(I’ve written a few columns this year for some other online sources and now I’m making those available here, so you might have already read this or it’s subject might be dated. If you’ve already read it: THANKS! If you haven’t: here you go!)

In 1982, Vincent K. McMahon purchased Capitol Wrestling Group and the WWWF from his father, Vincent J. McMahon. Between 1954 and 1982, the elder McMahon built his version of the WWWF around the old territory idea of how wrestling promotions were run. Business was good, as the WWWF had long been regarded as one of the crown jewel territories because it was among the first promotions to split gate dollars with talent and controlled the New York market, and Vincent J. McMahon was very happy to keep the status quo.

However, the younger McMahon had a larger vision for not just the WWWF, but for the wrestling business as a whole that his father could not or did not want to see. In fact, “Junior”, as his father’s friends called him, changed the business so drastically that even he admitted to Sports Illustrated in 1991 “Had my father known what I was going to do, he never would have sold his stock to me.”

As fans, we’ve been able to watch that vision turn into reality, as Vincent K. McMahon would turn the world upside down again and again, turning his father’s regional promotion into one of the largest entertainment companies in the world. Along the way, he has given us some of the most memorable characters, moments, and storylines in the history of the sport. He has also pushed the now WWE to the forefront of innovation, re-writing the book on how wrestling is marketed and produced.

Truly Vince McMahon is one of the most innovative, creative minds in the history of entertaiment and the father of modern wrestling (insert genetic jackhammer joke here).

Except he’s killing WWE and needs to go.

Now, I know someone is rolling their eyes at this, frantically getting ready to type something about “WWE revenue year over year”, “#LOLZWUTAMARK”, “You don’t understand wrestling” etc. but just take a minute and keep reading.

Vincent K McMahon is 72 years old, 3 years older than his father when he passed away as a result of pancreatic cancer and 5 years older than his father was when he was bought out. Some of the same things in regard to presentation and being overly reliant on old ways of doing things that the younger Vince held against the older are now somewhat afflicting the current WWE.

Brock Lesnar as an attraction-type champion is a bad and antiquated approach. Attractions worked when the WWE didn’t produce so many hours of content each week. That’s not to say wrestlers as attractions can’t draw. Attraction matchups still work, look at the interest in the Undertaker or HHH’s yearly Wrestlemania matchup, but it’s a really bad look to have all this content, but not be able to feature one of your top 2 champions.

The same can be said of the repetitive, dogmatic approach to Roman Reigns booking. I like Roman. I think he’s an excellent performer, good looking, popular with kids. He ticks all the “top guy” boxes. He is SUPER over without question. But Vince and creative have tried out every single approach to cementing him as champion without giving that character time to breathe with the fans. Think about it (or maybe, more appropriately, #UseYourHead): he’s tried the dominant Hogan booking, the bad-boy Austin booking, the screwed over by the Authority booking, and now the scrappy underdog booking with Roman all to NO AVAIL.

I could go further with this, but by now you are already thinking of other examples of the WWE’s repetitive approach to main roster booking and production.

Truthfully, the best parts of WWE right now are NXT and lately 205 Live, both Triple H’s pet projects. Triple H smartly seems to have built both to more closely resemble the style and tone of promotions like ROH, New Japan, and PWG which are currently popular among younger and international fans alike.

Perhaps most troubling is when NXT stars get to the main roster, many struggle because Vince’s approach is so very different. As de facto god of all things wrestling for the main roster, Vince has to be held responsible for the product’s inability to evolve.

It’s really simple business. Any business that can’t grow its talent to success will always have trouble on multiple fronts and eventually will endure long-term difficulty. Mid-level talent and below will continue to do just enough to stay around because they are just happy to get a paycheck. Good players who feel abandoned, mishandled, or ignored will leave, taking their talent elsewhere and succeeding when given a platform that is better suited to their strength (see also: Cody Rhodes).

When the growth problem becomes most debilitating is when the talent exodus eventually breeds a more competitive market. What’s worse is the eventual whisper campaign against your company which impacts the ability to attract new up and coming talent. Right now, WWE can still cover their imperfections with the promise of a bigger paycheck for young, starving performers eager to make it to the big stage.

But if what continually occurs is that they fail not because of their lack of skill or an inability to connect with the crowd but because of a failure to connect with a septuagenarian who rules with an iron fist, eventually the chorus of bad experiences gets loud enough to drown out the siren’s call of the money. The consequence becomes inevitable and your company goes from being stocked deep with young talent to having to hire the 3rd, 4th, and 5th best candidate in order to fill a roster (see also: The Island of Misfit Toys that was mid-90’s WWE or the later days of WCW).

Predictably the product suffers, market share shrinks, and one of two things happens: the company changes course radically and bounces back (late 90s WWE) or your former fans serenade you with a rousing rendition of Vince’s favorite song as the lights go dark for good.

A wiser man than I once said “Enough is enough. It’s time for a change.”

Vince has to go.

Just don’t blow him up in a limo this time.

Vince Blown Up