Saturday, March 5, 2011

Vampiro [Highspots Shoot Interview]

The Good
Billy Jack Haynes, Jamie Dundee, Iron Sheik - what do all these people have in common? Despite the fact they had pretty successful careers despite screwing things up several times over, they have become known as some of the most entertaining shoot interviews because they may, in fact, be insane. Vampiro could easily fit in with that group. I've heard him do some interviews where he seemed a little goofy, but this one with Highspots is over-the-top. He is a walking contradiction. He both rambles and hits the points he wanted to make, he comes across as both bitter and satisfied with his career, he is both self-deprecating and self-promoting, he both buries and puts people over again and again, he states his goal is to both "just have fun" and be deadly serious about his craft and then he hates on workers and fans who take it too seriously. This interview is so impossibly strange that it must be seen or heard to be believed. There is some good stuff about his days in Mexico that if you can decipher them are worth catching.

The Bad
Vampiro is insane and it's hard to overly enjoy listening to a crazy person. This is train-wreck like material as his endless contradictions seems to totally undermine his credibility and sanity. I know there is always the issue with shoot interviews being done when talent is tired and sometimes under the influence, but this is beyond that. Vampiro is all over the place and part of him seems to understand that fact as he repeatedly questions the quality of this shoot interview. People might have a variety of interests when listening to this, but I can assure you that none of your questions or curiosities will be answered.

The Rating: ***1/4

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I Was a Teenage Professional Wrestler

Author, Ghost Writer, Editor: Ted Lewin
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Released: 9/94

The Good
A lightning fast read that is mostly a series of anecdotes. What I really liked is that Ted Lewin did not write this assuming the reader is a smart fan, so he explains things to some extent. However, he does not let his explanations kill his tales and there is plenty of namedropping and insider lingo to make a smart fan feel good. This was marketed by Scholastic, so I picture a thirteen year old reading this today. I think he could get it and probably get through the book without putting it down because it never mentioned Jeff Hardy, barbed wire tables or some sexual escapade with a ringrat. Lewin writes a straightforward book that is positive and fun for anybody. Since this predates the pro-wrestling autobiography craze, it must be considered a little differently. I think it delivered what Lewin wanted it to, nothing more, nothing less.

The Bad
Who the heck is Ted Lewin, people probably ask. Mark Lewin was a big deal in several places, but he's not exactly a legend and this is his brother? That knock is obvious, but that does not really inhibit what this book wanted to be. I think the brief, sometimes random and often unnecessary stories are what one would knock this autobiography for. The selling point, he started wrestling as a teenager, is not really the central fact, you might say he downplays it. The major story is in fact him being an art student by day and a pro-wrestler by night, but I guess "The Wrestling Art Student" doesn't have the same ring to it.

The Rating: ***


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Raven [RF Video Shoot Interview - 2003]

The Good
Raven is always a very good interview and although he rambles and goes into seemingly unrelated rants. In this one, he looks at his career up to his ECW run (although he was in NWA-TNA at this point). If you've never heard him before, you will probably like this. He talks about growing up as a fan, breaking in with Larry Sharpe and working Memphis, Portland and Florida in his early days. Raven loves to get nostalgic about angles he was in and, I dare say, over-analyze them. In talking about his feud with Rex King that involved a few valets, you begin to think that this was probably turning the area around, when in fact that was not the case. He always makes his angles, companies and such come across as more innovative, more groundbreaking and more popular than it really was, which I think is a charming quality to his storytelling. The one thing I really liked about this was him getting into his drug issues and explaining how messed up he was during his original ECW run as Raven. It seemed to humanize this can-do-no-wrong character. I like listening to Raven, but you've got to recognize that he talks a great game and his delivery has never been as amazing as you'd think or expect.

The Bad
If you've heard Raven a dozen times (like I have), you probably know the score and may even find this redundant. He is a boaster, he is blabbermouth, he is a braggart, but it is plainly obvious. After hearing him in the "Secrets of the Ring" series, I think I prefer to hear Raven talk about pro-wrestling psychology than just reflect upon his career. I was happy that they didn't try to cram in everything in, but the flipside is they should've allowed for more time talking about Memphis, Florida and even Portland. He is such a hilariously entertaining storyteller that it is shame to just let his tales (true or not) go unsaid.

The Rating: ****

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Guest Booker with Greg Gagne [KayFabe Commentaries]

The Good
Overall, I'd say I'm a fan of Greg Gagne. I thought he was a very good worker, I thought he was a solid babyface and I believe he really knows the AWA-style of pro-wrestling. In shoot interviews, he is enjoyable to listen to for sure. He is extremely blunt, he has sharp insight and he can be funny at times. His series with Gary Cubeta has been excellent, so I figured in the guest booker seat, he'd make a strong showing. He did bring many of the aforementioned good qualities to this and really explained the AWA method of booking, which is perhaps the closest we'll ever get to understanding Verne's logic for things. I recently heard Bill Irwin give his take on Verne's approach that I thought had great merit, but it was not discussed here. Basically, he felt Verne kept around the stars of his generation because he was in denial about the generational shift that happened. The Crusher, Mad Dog Vachon, Baron Von Raschke and others still had some steam, but seeing them 10-20 years past their primes going toe-to-toe with the Road Warriors, Hulk Hogan and other `roided up comicbook-like stars just turned off their audiences. Greg Gagne approach here is so revealing in regards to why the AWA machine failed to compete with the the WWF juggernaut.

The Bad
While guests on Guest Booker vary in their preparedness, Greg Gagne seemed completely unprepared and embarrassingly so at times. This series works if a booker comes in with some thought out ideas that they can explain, so as to expose their booking mind. When Greg tries to get Sean Oliver to book things, you know things are going poorly. He lacks the conviction and passion that is needed to get himself over as a great mind. He seems to cop out by saying that AWA basically on shot four angles per year, which I have a hard time buying. Regardless, it shows why their old-fashion style lost out against the booking of the WWF. Instead of making a case that more current pro-wrestling is over-booked and over-planned, it seemed like his generation under-booked and under-planned and that's why that style died out. Greg Gagne is not a bad interview, just like he was not a bad wrestler, but this one was an underwhelming effort.

The Rating: ***1/2