Friday, June 3, 2011

Straight Shootin' with Ken Patera

The Good
Over-the-top shoot interviews can be fun and they certainly gain the most notoriety. While not as wild as the Iron Sheik, Jamie Dundee or Billy Jack Haynes, Ken Patera certainly has some unique perspectives, candid comments and colorful language to say the least. He could be billed as angry, bitter and crazy based on this (and his drunken RF Video shoot), but he unquestionably had a stellar career and worked on or near the top in a variety of promotions for over a decade. However, he had some rough times in life and never quite reached the upper echelon. He was a top-notch Olympic lifter who is often seen as someone who blew it at the Olympics (he did get a bronze with a bad knee, so his "failure" was not quite like Mark Henry's). He was a great working heel with legit credentials, but is not mentioned in the same breath as many other "legends" he worked alongside. He is often remembered best for his low points - his pathetic babyface run in 87-88, his two years in prison, his wacky Shiek gimmick in the AWA. He is a man who really gave everything he had to a business that left him with numerous personal problems. I think he has some validity in his bitterness, but he goes about it in a much more entertaining way than many of his peers. In spite of some of the insanity here, Patera is able to really get into his greatness and if you can move past the bullshitting, mudslinging and name-calling, you can know that he is not obscenely overstating his legacy. All of that aside, he is a hilarious storyteller. He rambles, he stumbles over words, he swears incessantly and has incredible stories involving Ric Flair, Wahoo McDaniel, Curt Hennig and many others known for their decadence. While he does have a filter, he is more wide open than a great many legends. He talks frankly about his own personal, professional, physical and martial problems. Even with all this, I am still not sure if I would call him "bitter."

The Bad
I really think this was tremendous shoot interview and rate as the best of interviews of the bitter, angry and possibly crazy crowd. Ken Patera is probably the biggest star of all those guys (Ole Anderson could probably stake a serious claim to that as well), yet he has plenty of nasty things to say about half the people he worked with and some unflattering stuff about many of the other half. While I don't think he is really delusional or a bold-faced liar, he certainly has some screwy stories that I simply cannot buy. Some seem to have no merit past his convincing telling of them - Jesse Ventura was a heroine addict, Bruno Sammartino cussed out Vince McMahon back in the day for coming in the lockerroom and he was the person largely responsible for getting Ric Flair in and keeping him in the business early on. He is quite a character and curses and spits through many great anecdotes, but I'd question some of the details in this one.

The Rating: ****3/4

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Straight Shootin' with Ron Killings

The Good
I tend not to like shoot interviews with active wrestlers because they can be a little too politically cautious, too angry about a recent release, too positive about their current situation and simply not have not been able to step back and reflect on a full career. They can be very interesting, especially to listen to subsequent interviews. Al Snow's first RF Video was angry and perhaps bitter, his second RF Video shoot was amazingly thoughtful considering the short span of time between them. As of 2010, Ron Killings is working in the WWE near the top as R-Truth, during this interview he was a few years into his TNA run after a failing WWF run. Some of the things he mentions (his name changes, for example) were very interesting because of how his career changed after this shoot. He seems honest, without burying WWF personnel. I think this should stand out as an example why going nuts and blasting Triple H, the McMahons and John Laurenitis is not necessary to come across as being honest and straight. In the same breath, letting some steam off about how you were wronged (because few people are let go for justifiable reasons) is fine. I found this interesting, but more in a historical relic sense, rather than a genuine shoot interview sense.

The Bad
Shoots with younger guys can be really good if they're funny and/or have good stories, but usually they're nothing special. Ron Killings, at this point, was fresh off his second NWA title run in TNA, who had just started up on FOX Sports Net. Obviously, things have changed dramatically since that time. The basic story was him breaking in, working the indies, catching a break with the WWF, having stints in developmental and at the big show, then hooking up with NWA-TNA and reinventing himself and being very successful. He was very positive and seemed quite honest, which makes for a dull interview in this case. Not that he should have been burying everybody, but for someone who is a great promo, he was mediocre shoot interview candidate. Gabe Sapolsky is a solid interviewer and even he could not bring this into the interesting category for me.

The Rating: ***