Saturday, June 25, 2011

Guest Booker with Kevin Sullivan [KayFabe Commentaries] 

The Good
The first "Guest Booker" is arguably the best. Kevin Sullivan is excellent at explaining psychology, capable of booking in this theoretical capacity and is able to really show off his genius. I think getting into the minds of these guys can be so difficult, yet some people make it so easy. Sully is one of them. He was so well traveled and understands so many aspects of the business and sees so many holes in logic that he is able to roughly book a year and makes you really want to see it. His main stars (the premise is that Hulk Hogan is not coming) are Paul Orndorff and "Superstar" Graham with people like Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham and the Freebirds in key supporting roles. He thinks very critically about keeping the title sacred, keeping the angles simple and building the heat for a worthwhile payoff. Like Cornette with the WCW Invasion, he recognizes the hypothetical nature of this session and does not get to caught up by that. Some talk too broadly, some don't really book much and some can really capture your attention and get their points across. Kevin Sullivan does that in what I would deem his best shoot interview performance!

The Bad
I really hate to nit-pick this because it is so excellent, but there are a few issues. One is the wide-open nature of this, which KFC reeled back on for future "Guest Booker" episodes. Sullivan cherry picks talent and there are guys he never even brings up again, so that seems unfortunate. He seems to be talking about guys as versions other than their 1984 version, specifically "Superstar" Graham, Rick Rude and even Curt Hennig to an extent. Graham had had his meltdown and was not the man of five years earlier. Rude and Hennig, while they became excellent four or five years later were not at the level that Sullivan seems to put them at in 1984. There are always little points like that in these "Guest Booker" shoots, so I shouldn't be too surprised.

The Rating: *****

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Straight Shootin' with Kamala

The Good
Kamala is one of those rare people whose shoots I would say everyone should check out once, but once might be enough. He has a particular charm that few people can get across in a shoot interview. He loves his family, he wanted to take care of his mother, he never wanted to cheat the people, he loved to perform and would go to great lengths to preserve the integrity of his character. Jim Harris is able to get himself over for that dedication and loyalty without coming across as negatively as others who had similar situations. I find him to be someone who understands that he was a gimmick wrestler and that's why he worked to protect the gimmick. While some of his approaches (i.e. "eating" a live chicken in a van for fans before the show) might not work in the post-kayfabe era, it makes you think how suspending the disbelief is helped by going to great lengths and when people do not commit - gimmicks, angles and even matches fail! Kamala also gets into a lot of perceived racism that he experienced, which is interesting. While he admits that most promoters will never be entirely fair with you, he felt many just took him as a dumb old countryboy who would be happy with whatever they paid him. He talks about his financial struggles quite a bit and even states that he wouldn't "do it all over again" because of all the hardships. While he is not broke and desperate for indy work like some others of his generation, Kamala is certainly not as well off as one might expect someone who worked for the WWF at their peak, WCW with their ridiculous contracts and was a maineventer in a number of territories. His story is fascinating and heartbreaking. As for the typical qualities that make for a "good shoot," Kamala is not one to hold back. He talks about confronting Andre the Giant with a concealed weapon, he buries Abdullah the Butcher and he has no regard for Eric Bischoff. Generally, Kamala was the type who tried to get along with everyone and did not get involved in all the drugs and carousing, yet he had nice things to say about almost everyone brought up, even people he probably could've buried!

The Bad
I've heard a few interviews with Kamala before, so this seemed to be largely the same stuff. He comes across as a really nice guy who had some ups and downs and the business that have made a him a little bitter, yet thankful for the opportunity he had to entertain people. I've stated this before, but Jim Harris can come across as a victim of the business, whether that is true or not. He was a fair worker who had great size, good athletic ability and kept himself out of trouble. However, he got started late and probably only "made it" because of the gimmick he landed. Kamala's money woes are more prominent in his interview than many others because others probably do not want to seem like failures after having made a fortune that they blew. He genuinely believes he was not paid what he was due (some places more so than others) and while he was able to take care of his family and buy his home, he really struggled after leaving Mid-South. He is very honest about numbers and while they might seem substantial to some, when you take into account all the travel expenses, you can understand why he ended up having to drive a broken down truck. Then again, maybe you can't.

The Rating: ****1/4