So Long, Mr. Spock

“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP (Live long and prosper).” – Leonard Nimoy

I am a casual Star Trek fan. That is to say I enjoyed the original series, loved TNG and only dipped my toes into DS9, Voyageur and Enterprise. The movies for me are hit and miss (more misses than hits). I’m currently rewatching TNG on Netflix and by and large it still holds up as a solid sci-fi series. Sure, it’s got its problems (Deanna Troi most notably), but circa 1987 it was more progressive than most other television series at the time.

Leonard Nimoy’s death was like the death of a favourite old uncle, one I haven’t seen in ages (I’ve never watched Fringe). Of course, when I say Nimoy, I guess I really mean Mr. Spock. Spock is one of those few transcendent characters in popular culture. When I say Spock, you know who and what I’m talking about instantly. Beloved by nearly all who loved the series, it’s most iconic character, surpassing James T. Kirk himself. Nimoy’s non-Spock career was also rather impressive (I unironically love some of the songs he recorded, such as Highly Illogical and The Legend of Bilbo Baggins) but as he eventually concluded, it was impossible to separate him professionally from the character he portrayed.

There is lots to be said about the character. Shatner was sold as the series hunk, but nearly every woman I know who watched the original series harboured their most secret fantasies for the emotionally inscrutable Spock. He’s a challenge! I can make him love! Spock tapped into a woman’s fantasy in a way that I don’t think Roddenberry et. al. fully realized.

For me, Spock was the first pop culture character I remember that made being cerebral cool. Spock rigorously pursued science and math, played chess for fun and could jam with space hippies. He approached his life and work with determination and confidence, unenamoured by how ‘cool’ he was or what others thought of him. He was a square peg on a ship with round holes and he won their admiration and respect without compromising himself. That was inspiring to me. And although I didn’t know Leonard Nimoy, he always came across as chill as the beloved character he played.

Rest in peace Leonard. And Spock.

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Why ‘I Bathe in Male Tears’ Sucks

I was reading this article in the Washington Post today and there was a particular passage of it that caught my eye.

Jessica Valenti is one of the most successful and visible feminists of her generation. As a columnist for the Guardian, her face regularly appears on the site’s front page… and she tells me that, because of the nonstop harassment that feminist writers face online, if she could start over, she might prefer to be completely anonymous. “I don’t know that I would do it under my real name,” she says she tells young women who are interested in writing about feminism. It’s “not just the physical safety concerns but the emotional ramifications” of constant, round-the-clock abuse. “

To which I made the following reply in the comments section:

…if (Valenti) could start over, she might prefer to be completely anonymous.”

Hmm, says Valenti who is perfectly happy parading around on the beach in an oh so snarky ‘I Bathe in Male Tears’ t-shirt.

Forgive my skepticism regarding that statement.”

Don’t bother looking for that comment. It was removed. I’m not sure why as it didn’t violate any commenting policy that I’m aware of, although other commenters calling each other names are allowed to carry on unabated. Whatever. I digress.

My point is two-fold and I must preface this with the obvious caveat that death and rape threats against writers (or anyone else) on the internet are terrible and are never condoned. That means anyone. Feminist, antifeminist, man, woman and anything inbetween.

My first point is that ‘I Bathe in Male Tears’ encapsulates what exactly I find wrong with large swathes of internet feminism. On one hand, the message they espouse that they want to break down traditional gender roles and make it okay for men to cry and show emotion and then openly mock their tears on the other hand.

Oh, but it’s satire! It’s a joke! You can’t possibly think we’re serious! We’re just talking about misogynists and MRAs, not about all men. We love lots of men!

Yeah… except that it’s not I Bathe in Misogynists and MRA Tears, is it? How exactly are you supposed to infer the joke in a five word statement? Let’s break it down:

Men of colour are males

Gay/Bi/Trans men are males

Disabled men are males

Mentally ill men are males

Suicidal men are males

Boys are males

And your oh so snarky ironic little quote to stick it to the patriarchy mocks all of these men’s (as well as cis, straight white men) pain. Whether you intended to do it or not you’ve included all of these boys and men in your cheeky t-shirts and mugs.

And newsflash, it’s not their responsibility to get the joke.

David Letterman once said regarding his failed joke about Bristol Palin that if you have to explain a joke, it wasn’t funny. Clementine Ford tries to explain it away in this article, but Letterman’s observation stands. If you need to explain it, it wasn’t funny and I’m not sure that everyone sharing in the joke was being completely ironic either.

But this ties onto the second point I want to make, and since this one is more controversial, I want to preface it by again saying that death and rape threats against EVERYONE sucks.

Okay, now that I’ve got that out of the way I think ‘ironic misandry’ is specifically designed to rile and mobilize the trolls.

Why would Valenti et al. do this? There are two reasons I can think of. First off, reasonable criticism of internet feminist theory gets lost in a wash of idiotic trolling comments. There’s no further need to address them when you can just point at the trolls and paint that as your dissent.  Reasonable discourse gets drowned out by the hooting morons.

Second is that trolls, love them or hate them, generate page clicks that otherwise wouldn’t be generated. A generic bland column? That’s fine. #killallmen is trending? Now everyone on both sides of the fight is flinging their shit in the comments section of your column. Everyone wins. Except feminism.  Or anyone else, except the website owners and advertisers.

Ironically.

Anyway, back to the Washington Post article. I feel bad for anyone who contemplates retiring because the internet is full of asshats who can’t behave. But this isn’t a woman-only problem. In fact, according to this study, a majority of twitter hate is directed at men .

This isn’t a numbers game. Everyone who is prominent and who holds strong, polarizing opinions are going to get heat for it, whether man or woman, left-wing or right-wing. Painting this as strictly something women face, or women predominantly face is myopic and doesn’t serve anyone well.

It seems like everyone on the internet needs a resfresher course in public decorum. I also think clickbait trolling like ‘I Bathe in Male Tears’ needs to go away.

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Why I’m Not That Bothered By 50 Shades of Grey

So the first big movie event of the year is coming tomorrow, coincidentally in time for Valentine’s Day. For those 2 or 3 of you who have been living under a rock for the last few years, but inexplicably found your way to my blog, Fifty Shades of Grey is the first book of a trilogy written by E.L James, which was originally written as Twilight fanfiction.

Yes, that’s right. This erotic tour de force was moulded on what might be the worst written series of all time. Yikes. Its lineage is definitely not good. But I’m not going to talk about how good or bad the books are from a literary standpoint, because I haven’t read them. And even if I have, I’m sure I wouldn’t like them because I’m obviously not the target audience. (For what it’s worth, the passages I have read are cringeworthy bad). That’s not important.

What I’m referring to specifically is the chorus of people who are horrified by the prospect that women are getting off on this stuff, shocking in this day and age of the enlightened woman. Christian Grey is abusive! He’s a stalker! He’s controlling! And women are attracted to him?

Apparently, according to book sales, many of them are.

Now, Carey Purcell is absolutely correct in her takedown of Christian Grey as a person. He is an utterly indefensible scary asshole. What Purcell fails to realize however is

  • Fifty Shades of Grey is pure fantasy
  • What women (or anyone else for that matter) fantasize about may not necessarily be what they want in their real life.

And I think this is important to reiterate, because it’s our often confused understanding of what turns us on in our imaginations that is a source of a lot of our guilt and shame toward sex and fantasy and pleasure.

Let’s flip the script. Look at any porn movie made for men. (My experience is with straight porn, but from the few gay porn movies I’ve seen, it’s probably the same). Apart from how the starlet looks, what is the allure? The answer varies from person to person, but I suspect a lot of porn’s appeal comes from the fact that the woman’s libido is so torrential, that merely being in her presence makes her want to suck your dick. Normal courtship rules, getting you know you chit-chat, wooing, wining and dining are thrown out the window. She needs you. NOW. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never laid eyes on her before. And when you penetrate her, she is so hot for you she instantly orgasms and then begs you to come on her face.

This is obvious fantasy and it’s easy to see why it may be popular. But let’s be realistic. If a woman were that sexually aggressive in real life, many guys, despite what they would tell you in the locker room would probably be intimidated and back off. What we want in our porn starlet isn’t really what we want in our wife (especially if the next scene involved her banging the mailman and milkman in a threesome). And for the millions of bored middle-aged wives who lapped up 50 Shades, I suspect it’s the same.

We want the porn starlet to be so into us that she would simply drop to her knees at the sight of us. The women who read 50 Shades want their fantasy of Christian Grey to be so into them he would fly across the country or buy a whole company because he’s obsessed with the very idea of having them. The creepiness or outright absurdity of either scenario doesn’t enter into it, because the whole point is we’re trying to get off. In our sexual fantasy universe, the laws of physics don’t apply. They aren’t supposed to. That’s why it’s fantasy.

While I don’t think 50 Shades of Grey is good by any metric you measure it by, I think it’s more than a little condescending to tell women what turns them on erotically is dangerous and bad. It’s another round of ‘porn is bad because of unrealistic expectations’ argument peppered liberally with ‘women can’t make responsible use of their fantasies’. Please.

Judging by the very public infighting between author E.L James and 50 Shades movie director Sam Taylor-Johnson, I’m guessing the movie won’t be what the fans want it to be. For my money, on Valentine’s Day, I’ll probably be watching Godzilla or Killer Klowns from Outer Space and wishing there was a woman out there that would think cuddling under the blankets and watching either movie with a bowl of popcorn between us would be the height of romantic fantasy.

Hey, a nerd can dream.

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McDonald’s, We Need to Have a Talk

I don’t understand what is wrong with you McDonald’s.

I mean, I understand what’s wrong with your food, of course.  But as I publicly tilt my nose up at it and declare myself above such plebeian grub, secretly it hits all my oh so wrong pleasure centres at midnight when I’ve had one too many to drink.  I suspect I’m not alone.  That’s not what I mean.

You’ve been desperate to regain your waning market share for what seems like decades now.  You keep reinventing yourself like an unstable ex, hoping that we will notice you again.  Do you remember McDonald’s pizza?  The Arch Deluxe?  Those awful deli sandwiches you had a few years ago?

What you patently failed to appreciate was that if I wanted pizza, I’d go to a pizza joint.  If I wanted a deli sandwich, I’d go to a deli.  If I wanted a good hamburger, I’d go somewhere else.  I want your fat and grease and salty goodness until I’m on the can 4 hours later regretting the whole damn thing.

And what your current executives fail to appreciate is that your restaurant is the culinary equivalent of a drunken 2 a.m. booty call.  It’s fun and sinful and probably regrettable in the morning… but I sure as hell don’t want anyone else to know about it.  Which is why your Pay With Lovin’  campaign is destined to be a failure of internet top ten list proportions.

I don’t want to dance for my food like some sort of circus bear.  Nor call people and tell them I love them under the pretense of saving five dollars.  Nor do I want some underpaid high school cashier pretend she’s enjoying busting a move with me.  And I especially don’t want to hug an awkward and unwilling stranger.

Get it?  I don’t want to draw attention to myself, because I don’t want anyone to know I’m here.  I’m sorry, McDonald’s.  I know that sounds harsh, but I have to tell you the truth.

My advice?  Embrace your trashiness, drop the crappy facade that you’re a healthy place to eat and drop the price of your combos while you’re at it.  Are we still friends?  Good.

See you at midnight.

 

 

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My Thoughts On ‘I Don’t Know What To Do’

I just read Fredrik de Boer’s piece, responding to Jonathon Chait’s New York Magazine article earlier this week in the New York Times and while I find it kind of odd he calls Chait an asshole and then subsequently agrees with much of what he says, I do think de Boer is mostly on point here.

No, this isn’t a screed against ‘political correctness’. It would serve us all to think for a minute when we pontificate on anything we might not personally be experts on.

For example, my last job entailed dealing with people who were much wealthier than I am, and in most cases grew up in much more affluent circumstances that I did. And sometimes, without them realizing that I lived under what’s classified as the poverty line, would wax philosophical about what poor people need to do to stop being poor.

It was silly and ignorant most of the time. ‘They need to save money’. ‘They need to stop spending all their money on booze and fast food’. ‘They need to find better jobs.’ ‘They need to manage their money better’

Most of the time, if I didn’t know them well enough, would say ‘hmm’ without commitment and carry on with the task at hand. If I got to know them well enough where we could talk as friends, I tried to educate them on what it was like to be poor. Save money? What money? If I’m lucky, I break even at the end of the month. Spending money on booze and fast food? Only a small percentage of poor people I know actually did this. The vast majority of us need to keep a roof over our heads. Better jobs? Pretty tough when a better job meant having to buy a car that you can’t afford or get a post-secondary education that will cripple you financially for decades for your better job. Managing money is easier when you grew up having money to learn how to manage. For the most part, these people were trying to be helpful, but I could tell they didn’t really understand what a vicious cycle poverty really is. It wasn’t their fault, and they weren’t bad people. They just didn’t know.

Now, people who just don’t know should probably keep quiet about experiences they know nothing about, even if they think they are helping. That’s what, in essence, being p.c. is. You don’t know person x’s experiences, so maybe you shouldn’t use language that trivializes that person’s experience. I can get behind that.

But by the same token, most of us are intelligent enough to understand context and when something untoward is said in good faith or in bad faith. And I think a sizable portion of the left like to push the general alarm button any time someone says something wrong, regardless of context, regardless if the comment was said out of genuine ignorance or purposed hate. And they push the alarm button so they can show off their social justice street cred to their peers, where every successful call-out is like shouting BINGO!. ‘I found something gross and awful this person said! Aren’t I a good progressive?’

Political correctness can be a good admission that our words and speech matter and addressing people and issues in a genuine, respectful way raises us all up. But political correctness can also become a perverse Easter egg hunt, where liberal social climbers compete to see who can be the most progressive, who can find the most carefully hidden slight and proclaim it out for all to hear and to be the first on the inevitable dogpile. The issues become of limited importance… it’s with how much zeal you browbeat people over said issue that matters. This is why many people can’t take The Left seriously, throw up their hands and say ‘I’m out of here.’ Not because they want to be guilt-free racists and sexists, but having to constantly parse your words for any perceived slight is exhausting and counter-productive.

Most marginalized people I know outside of academia (and a few within it) don’t care how many p.c. points you’ve scored, nor do they care how many call-outs of privileged straight white men you’ve issued. If you asked them, what they want is fair treatment, good jobs, safe neighbourhoods and affordable housing.  A clumsy, unintended slight is far down the list.

Posted in culture, The Left, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Here’s My Totally Real Girlfriend That You’ll Never Meet

From the Daily Beast:

Finally. A girlfriend your friends can believe in.”

So says the tagline of Invisible Girlfriend, a beta online service that creates the illusion of a partner. For $24.99, you get texts, voicemails, even a hand-written note from your imaginary partner as ‘proof’ you are in a real relationship.

I visited the website’s FAQ looking for more information, but I left with more questions than I did answers. They say that their service offers virtual and physical proof you have a real partner, but the service itself only offers text messages, photos and voicemails. There’s no mention of any kind of social media profile (e.g. Facebook) except vague plans to introduce such things in the future.

Invisible Girlfriend (and Invisible Boyfriend) claims to supply credible proof that you are in a relationship, except that proof seems to involve you waving your phone at people and saying: ‘See? Here’s my girlfriend! A stock photo and some texts!” I suspect they are running into what a lot of fake relationship services have run into in the past: creating fake Facebook profiles is against Facebook’s ToS and if you’re doing it for profit, I’d suspect you’d run the risk of legal troubles.

Somewhat like the Cuddlr app, I can’t tell how serious of a venture this is or what kind of demand there would be for it. They claim their service has uses such as gay users remaining closeted from their conservative relatives or repelling the advances of unwanted coworkers or (more odiously) to make significant others jealous and pressuring them to commit to a more serious relationship. What it skirts around entirely is a sizable number of users who would be inclined to use it solely because they feel like pathetic single losers and they want to impress their real-life friends or (especially, I reckon) to make exes jealous.

I suppose it’s a testament to how ubiquitous our online selves have become that we’d pay a company money to create a fictitious story for ourselves that our friends and family will follow in cyberspace. I’m curious as to what these people do when they are pressed to produce their actual partner for a real-life gathering.

As written on the blog portion of their site:

“Around Thanksgiving, my mom called me and asked if she should set an extra place for someone I’m bringing,” (co-founder) Matt (Homann) recalls. “In that moment I realized how great it would be to have an answer for her that didn’t require me to actually be dating someone.”

To be honest, I’m not sure I’m following this… So your mom wants to know if you’re bringing your girlfriend for Thanksgiving. You pay Invisible Girlfriend $24.99/month to send you texts pretending to be your girlfriend… but you don’t actually have a girlfriend to bring to mom’s… so you tell your mom you totally have a girlfriend, but she can’t come over because of whatever reason… and just so mom is reassured, you are going to show her stock photos and texts from your phone to show her she’s totally real.

Riiiiiight. I suppose you can hire an escort for that part of things… which would leave paying for the texts and (the now useless) photos redundant.

That’s it. I’m confused.

This ultimately does nobody any good. There is not a single, solitary problem with being single. I’ve been single for almost two years now, with the occasional short-term casual sex partner every so often. What my relationship status is is no one’s business but my own. Sure, my mom frets about it. But that’s her problem, not mine and she knows it.

I understand the pain and loneliness that comes with being involuntarily single. But creating a fictitious backstory is not doing you any favours. Lying about your status will only make things infinitely more complicated, not less.

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Quigley Reviews: Wrestlemania I

I’ll admit upfront I’ve been an on-again, off-again wrestling fan most of my life. I go through periods where the talent, storylines and general feel all come together into something absolutely fun and entertaining. And then the talent gets old, moves on or what have you, and I lose interest for a time. But I keep coming back. If you want to dismiss me as a fairweather fan, fair enough.

I grew up in the early 80s watching the AWA and migrated to the WWF when Hulk Hogan did sometime around 1984. Not by choice, just by virtue of one Saturday evening at 6 pm instead of AWA wrestling being on, WWF wrestling was on instead. I shrugged and watched. Wrestling was wrestling after all. I had little clue or inclination as an 8 year old the political and financial wranglings of various wrestling promotions. I just thought wrestling was wrestling, and whatever it called itself, be it the AWA or the WWF, I was going to watch.

I didn’t actually see Wrestlemania 1 until a few years after it happened. I couldn’t even tell you if it was available on CCTV where I lived, not that it would have mattered, since there’s no way my father would have taken me. By the time I did see it (sometime in 1988) wrestling had fundamentally changed into a nearly completely different animal and I thought Wrestlemania 1 was a curious antiquity. Cindy Lauper? She was sooo yesterday’s news! Who the hell was Matt Borne? (Answer in my Wrestlemania 9 review) Hell, the A-Team had been cancelled, and Mr. T was all but washed up by that point. So I think a fresh viewing, with new eyes and 30 years of Wrestlemanias to go upon is in order here.

The Cast and Crew:

Announcers: Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura.
Ring Announcer: Howard Finkel
Interviews: “Mean” Gene Okerlund
Host: Lord Alfred Hayes

The Opening

It’s good to hear Gorilla Monsoon’s voice again, even though I wouldn’t say he was the best the WWF/E ever had. And of course, Jesse Ventura is one of the all time greats on the mic, so I’m pumped to hear his commentary. What the hell is Ventura wearing? A pink tuxedo? Gorilla throws to Finkel (who is, without a doubt, the greatest ring announcer of all time) who introduces ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund who sings a barely passable version of the Star Spangled Banner. As an aside, the rumour was that a prominent singer no-showed the event so Okerlund took their place. Perhaps Lauper wasn’t comfortable singing the anthem or they simply didn’t want her to, so Okerlund did it. It was okay.

Match 1: The Executioner vs. Tito Santana

A very nervous and stiff Lord Alfred Hayes introduces the first match while standing in the aisle on the way to the ring. Lord Al was always a b-team announcer in my opinion, but here he is particularly bad. This feels like this is his first time behind a microphone, even though it isn’t. He throws to Gene for pre-recorded interviews.

Tito Santana cuts a very face promo against a very generic, bland Executioner (a slimmer ‘Playboy’ Buddy Rose) who, in turn cuts a very generic, bland promo (‘I’m going after your LEG!’).

The crowd pops huge for the former Intercontinental champion. He was quite popular in 1985 and even managed another IC and tag team title reign later on, but one gets the sense that this was the beginning of his long decline in the Fed.

Not much to say in this match. An inexplicable criss-cross starts things off, but otherwise it’s a very basic formula. Santana goes on offense, then Executioner responds. Santana, then Executioner. Executioner does go after the leg, but doesn’t really play into the story of the match. Santana is a very solid worker and can put in a decent, crowd-pleasing match, but his style is very much early 80s and he would have trouble adjusting to Vince McMahon Jr’s vision of ‘sports entertainment’. This was the Executioner’s only Wrestlemania appearance, but Buddy Rose would return to the Fed sans mask as a much heavier jobber whose gimmick was he’d try to convince fans that he was 217 lbs when in fact he was 317 lbs. That and the ‘Blow-Away’ diet spots where Rose sell this miracle weight loss program where Rose would dump flour on his belly and sit in front of a fan and supposedly ‘blow away’ the fat. Yeah. I don’t get it either.

Match 2: SD Jones vs. King Kong Bundy

Monsoon throws to Lord Al who is still stiff and nervous as all hell, who then throws to Gene for the interviews. You are now getting the sense that this format of throwing to Lord Al and then throwing to Gene is very awkward. Clearly, Lord Al didn’t need to be there. You can forgive the first Wrestlemania a lot though as they were still finding their feet.

Gene interviews SD Jones, who I have fond memories of. He cuts a very personable babyface promo and leaves the interview area just as Bundy and Jimmy Hart are coming in camera left. Bundy cuts a decent heel promo, but Bundy simply doesn’t look menacing. He looks like a giant, blubbery baby.

This is the famous 9 second squash match (although bell to bell clocks in at 23 seconds). The beginning shows the ref checking wrestlers for foreign objects, which you almost never see anymore. This was clearly a match to put Bundy over as a killer, but this didn’t need to be a Wrestlemania match. A waste of time.

Match 3: Matt Borne vs. Ricky Steamboat

This time, the action cuts right to Gene… either Lord Al wasn’t ready or they realized this format isn’t working. Borne cuts a bizarre heel promo, putting over Steamboat big time, but claims he is ‘too nice’. Steamboat’s promos were never his strong suit either, just something about proving that he has a mean streak too. Riveting stuff.

Nothing says jobber like wearing a standard issue ‘Wrestlemania’ t-shirt in the ring, like Borne does. Pre ‘Dragon’ Steamboat looks like a million dollars, but gets a rather tepid reaction from the crowd. This match is obviously to put Steamboat over on a big stage.

This is a decent enough match. Borne is a good worker with nice, fluid moves. Obviously, Steamboat is one of the all-time greats in the ring. The top rope cross body block that finished the match popped the crowd huge. Getting Steamboat over is mission accomplished, as in the first two matches, it lacked any real drama.

Three matches into the inaugural Wrestlemania, and they were essentially, three enhancement matches. Mind you, early Wrestlemanias were traditionally main event-heavy, but these seem like little more than dark matches. We shall see.

Match 4: David Sammartino vs Brutus Beefcake

Nope, I guess Lord Al wasn’t ready the last time around since they throw back to him again, and he still awkwardly stutters through his lines. Monsoon says he is in the ‘locker room area’ when he is very clearly standing around the entranceway. In fact, wrestlers are walking around him on their way to/from the ring. He sticks out like a sore thumb. Take it away ‘Mean’ Gene…

Gene interviews David Sammartino, who I’m sure is a very nice fellow, but clearly lacks his father’s presence. David is in a very unenviable position. Show up with daddy and people pay attention, but they pay attention to daddy, not to you. Show up alone and people really could care less. And it’s easy to see why. He was dull as dishwater. His father was beloved, but it was also a different era. A tough Italian immigrant rags-to-riches success story in New York sold like gangbusters in the 60s, but was unlikely to wash in the glitz and glamour of the Rock n’ Wrestling mid 80s.

But somehow in the interviews, Beefcake manages to come off worse. Wrestlemania 1, big event, extravaganza and all that, and Beefcake’s manager Luscious Johnny Valiant is doing his thing (very competently), throws to Beefcake who freezes. For like 5 seconds. And then blows a raspberry while Valiant takes the mic away. Quite hilarious.

I should also point out that the outfits they are being interviewed in are not the outfits they are wrestling in. Okay, they say the interviews are pre-recorded so it’s not that big of a deal. But Beefcake is obviously wearing wrestling gear, not training gear or street clothes. Sorry, just had to point that out.

David gets a lukewarm pop, but Bruno arguably gets the biggest non-Hogan pop of the night. No surprises there. MSG was Bruno’s home turf for 20 years. You can almost see David’s career going down the tubes with that pop.

And the match? Oh dear God…

Stalling. Rest holds. Rest holds. Did I mention rest holds? Eventual interference from the far superior Luscious Johnny and Bruno. There was one point in the match where Monsoon and Ventura were discussing at length whether or not Sammartino was covered in baby oil and the pros and cons of applying baby oil.

Seriously.

This should have been a tag team match with the talented legends setting the pace and drama. It also wouldn’t have been so bad if they cut the length. This monstrosity lasted almost 12 minutes and the crowd were absolutely dead. Beefcake is limited in the ring, but has always looked good and had strong gimmicks. Sammartino is a decent mat worker and solidly built, but his style is about 20 years out of date in 1985. This match should have been left off the card.

About the only thing that this match highlighted is how utterly good Monsoon and Ventura are as a commentary team, especially Ventura. He made a dull match like this sound riveting at times, the discussion about baby oil aside.

MATCH 5: JUNKYARD DOG vs. GREG ‘THE HAMMER’ VALENTINE – INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH

After some apparent mistiming and/or a pause for intermission, Monsoon awkwardly throws to Lord Al whose night is not getting any better. He is holding a mic and a Wrestlemania program and you can see both shake in his hands, he appears that nervous. As he is talking, Valentine and Jimmy Hart cut in front of the camera on the way to the ring. He throws to Mean Gene for the interviews.

Greg Valentine cuts the best promo of the night so far. Yes, you read that correctly. Gravelly heel promo, pretty standard fare, but the bar has been abysmally low tonight. It’s hard to believe, but Valentine was a big time heel in those days, who 18 months prior had one of the most talked about matches of the 1980s – the dog collar match with Roddy Piper at Starrcade ’83.

JYD enters camera right and he’s always got a big smile, even when he’s trying to be tough. Not hard to see why he was so popular. When even the face wrestlers were by and large tough guys, a happy-go-lucky guy who dances to a catchy tune is impossible not to like.

Fink introduces Valentine first. Now, this is a pet peeve of mine. Valentine is the champion. Title holders should always be introduced second, no matter how popular the challenger is. Then JYD is announced and the crowd pops huge – maybe even bigger than Bruno. JYD was insanely over in the mid-80s, and it certainly wasn’t for his work rate. He was a lot of fun though. I notice for the first time tonight that JYD is the first person to come out to music (Another One Bites the Dust at the live event, Grab Them Cakes in subsequent releases) and it really adds to the atmosphere.

Ah, the 80s, when wrestlers had their initials on their boots, like ‘GV’ Greg Valentine does.

Standard lock up after a little grandstanding and the action goes back and forth for a minute until JYD does his headbutts when he is on his hands and knees. I always felt these looked terrible. Test of strength, which Valentine wins. Rest hold. Valentine takes control and works on JYD’s leg to set him up for the figure four leglock. This kind of storytelling has been sorely lacking so far in the card. JYD reverses an attempted figure four with a boot in the ass. Punching and kicking back and forth until JYD hits a couple of big headbutts and Valentine is reeling. Hart interferes and takes an accidental bump on the floor. JYD punches and headbutts Valentine who retaliates by raking the eyes, double leg takedown and a pin with his legs on the ropes. Valentine wins with a dirty pin.

Then something truly bizarre happens. Tito Santana hits the ring, and convinces referee Dick Kroll that Valentine cheated and Kroll restarts the match.
What?

By this time, Valentine is out of the ring on his way to the back and gets counted out. Ventura is angry, showing what would become his heel colour commentary personae, saying if the ref didn’t see it, Valentine got away with it. I’m so looking forward to his commentaries in future Wrestlemanias.

Why on earth would a ref just take Santana’s word about this? It makes no sense. If a ref’s decision isn’t final, why wouldn’t any old official standing around ringside tell the ref when he missed something? I hate sloppy booking like this. In fact, this match makes no sense. If you wanted a crowd-pleasing finish, book Santana to win the title at Wrestlemania, the match could have been longer than 5 minutes and JYD could have jerked the curtain with The Executioner in the opening match and gotten just as big a pop as he did here. Hell, Santana won the title a few months after this event at a house show in Baltimore. Why not have that match at Wrestlemania with a million plus people watching?

But the crowd was happy, so I guess that is what matters in the end.

Grumble grumble grumble…

MATCH 6: BARRY WINDHAM AND MIKE ROTUNDO VS. NIKOLAI VOLKOFF AND THE IRON SHEIK – TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH

I’m done picking on Lord Al, so let’s go to Mean Gene..

I love the Iron Sheik. He is supposed to be a brutal, America and freedom-hating heel, but when he starts talking you can’t help but love the guy. ‘You know, Gene Mean…’ classic. It’s good to see Blassie again and Volkoff was another classic 80s heel. Some beautiful Cold War heat. Younger fans probably wouldn’t understand how much these guys were hated. It was great.

Then Rotundo and Windham show up with Capt. Lou Albano (in the waning days when faces had managers). Capt. Lou says they’re going to try really hard and Rotundo says they are through talking and they are on their way to the ring. Windham says the exact same thing. Well, thanks for showing up. I also might mention that they say they are on the way to the ring while wearing polo shirts and jeans. Capt. Lou is sipping a soda. You might want to give it an effort guys. You know. Wrestlemania. Iran. Soviet Union. Fight for our freedoms. America, fuck yeah and all that? No? Okay, sorry to bother you guys. They look annoyed they have to talk.

Fink introduces the heels, and it’s all gold. Three hall of famers in Blassie, Sheik and Volkoff. Aaah, they don’t make them like this any more. Waving the Iranian and Soviet flags to massive boos and being pelted with garbage.

Fink: “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Volkoff requests that you all rise and respect his singing of the Soviet National Anthem!”

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! One angry fan on camera makes an exaggerated jerk off motion to the heels. Absolute gold.

I love this spot. I always have. The ring fills with garbage when Sheik grabs the mic: “Iran number 1! Russia number 1! USA? Hah! Ptooey!”

Sorry, reminiscing here a little.

Rotundo and Windham hit the ring to music (Generic rock guitar music on the video version). Big pops for them and fair enough. They are excellent wrestlers.

Rotundo and Windham get the early offense and sustain it for the first few minutes of the match until Volkoff manages to pull Rotundo’s hair and get the tag where the heels take control. Rotundo has brief flashes of offence, but cannot make the tag. An obligatory USA! chant starts, but ends quickly. Rotundo reverses a Sheik abdominal stretch and makes the hot tag to Windham. After a flurry of offence and all four men brawling in the ring, Sheik hits Windham with Blassie’s cane, and Volkoff pins Windham to win the Tag Team titles.

Fairly entertaining match, but it felt very rushed. I’m wondering if they were under some sort of time constraint, because this should have been about 5 minutes longer. Sheik tells off the fans on the mic after putting on the belt. Love it!

Gene interviews the heels post-match where Gene asks Blassie where his cane is. “What cane?” barks Blassie. Iron Sheik calls him Gene Mean again (always makes me laugh) and puts over Iran and the USSR. Good stuff.

MATCH 7: ANDRE THE GIANT VS. BIG JOHN STUDD – $15,000 BODY SLAM MATCH

Lord Al rambles and rambles and throws to Mean Gene who is with Studd and Bobby ‘the Brain’ Heenan. They have a WWF logo gym bag full of cash, money they have put up as a wager. Andre gets $15,000 if he can slam Big John Studd. If not, he has to retire.

$15,000? Is that all? $15,000 is not a lot of money to bet your career against. This is Wrestlemania, boys… think big! I could imagine kayfabe Bobby Heenan could put together $50,000 or $100,000 easily. so make the number big.

Andre gets a surprisingly tepid pop from the crowd. Odd. I remember Andre being much beloved, but this is also the beginning of Andre’s physical decline. He is amazing to look at as a person, but even by 1985 Andre’s best days were well behind him. He had trouble walking by this point, there is a pronounced stoop in his posture and there is a lot of choke spots and other rest holds in the corner. After 2 minutes, Andre looks winded. A ‘Slam! Slam! Slam!’ chant starts and ends almost as quickly. Andre has Studd in a long bearhug spot, which is good for Andre’s limited cardio. And then a headlock. More awkward punches and ax handles and utterly abysmal kicks. He can’t get his leg up past Studd’s knees. Andre decides that’s enough and slams Studd, winning the match to a big pop. He grabs the bag of money and starts throwing some into the crowd until Heenan grabs the bag and runs off.

Frankly, a poor match. There was apparently a real beef between Andre and Studd, which may partially explain why Studd mounted absolutely no offence in this match. There was zero drama, nobody expected Andre to lose, rendering his possible retirement a non-factor. Next.

MATCH 8: WENDI RICHTER VS. LEILANI KAI – WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH

The first of the two ‘Rock n’ Wrestling’ matches, with Cyndi Lauper in Richter’s corner and The Fabulous Moolah in Kai’s corner.

Lord Al gets a kiss from the heels on their way to the ring as he tries to make it to the end of his gig with a big lipstick stain on his lip, and trying not to laugh. He throws to Gene for the interviews.

Gene interviews Lauper and Richter, and Lauper is actually pretty good. Much better than, like 75% of the roster thus far tonight. You can tell she’s having a ball and yet taking it seriously at the same time. Richter’s promo wasn’t actively terrible, but nothing to write home about. Lauper’s enthusiasm is absolutely infectious.

Moolah trips over her words and Kai once again, is neither terrible or inspired.

But it’s Shakespeare compared to the actual wrestling. This was, hands down, the worst match of the night.

Richter and Kai engaged in a 6 minute botchfest filled with miscues and sloppy moves. It was painful to sit through. Frankly, the best spots involved Lauper and that’s no joke. Richter won by ‘reversing’ a cross body block, and by ‘reversing’, I mean, ‘I was supposed to roll that cross body into a pin, but I couldn’t get the roll on our first try, so Leilani, can you just please awkwardly roll on your back while I haphazardly flop on you?’ Seamless.

It was fun watching Lauper and Richter dance wildly in the ring though. Lauper was the MVP in this match. Again, I’m not kidding. Her enthusiasm was very entertaining and you could tell she was really enjoying herself.

MAIN EVENT: RODDY PIPER AND PAUL ORNDORFF VS. HULK HOGAN AND MR. T

After the celebratory interview from Lauper and Richter, we throw to Fink who introduces Yankees manager Billy Martin as the guest ring announcer, who introduces Liberace and the Rockettes who spend almost an eternity in the ring doing the famous Rockettes synchonized kick routine. Fair play to Liberace who was in his mid 60s at the time and could keep up with them. It’s an iconic Wrestlemania moment, and Liberace looks like he was having a great time.

Then Martin introduces Muhammed Ali, who gets a huge pop and chants of ‘Ali’ from the crowd. Ali is the outside referee. Pat Patterson claimed that Ali’s Parkinson’s prevented him from inside referee duties, but Patterson is renowned for finding his way on the card for Wrestlemania paydays, so who knows.

Then Piper and Orndorff are introduced, led in by a pipe band. This is one of my favourite entrances of any Wrestlemania I’ve ever watched, although the band looked really cramped in the aisle leading to the ring. Piper has always been one of my favourite wrestlers, with his swagger and his smirk. Orndorff looks like a million bucks as usual. They are seconded by Cowboy Bob Orton.

Then Hogan and T (seconded by Jimmy Snuka) are introduced (Eye of the Tiger live, Real American on video) and the crowd goes nuts. There is an elevated shot of the ring during Hogan’s entrance and you can see the beginning of the merchandising juggernaut Hogan would become as there are a sea of yellow foam Hulk #1 fingers in the crowd. The place looks absolutely jam-packed and feels claustrophobic. In a good way, though. Today’s configurations separate the fans from the ring so there can be a lot of outside action, but here you can’t see that. It looks as if the fans are actually standing around the outside of the ring. Really cool.

Wait a minute, something just struck me… this is the main event. No pre-recorded promos for your Fed’s best talkers? We got nothing promos from all the undercard wrestlers, but nothing from your main event stars? Wow, this first Wrestlemania is really rough around the edges.

During the pre-match rigamarole, Orndorff broke the janitor’s broom over his knee. What a jerk! The poor guy was just trying to sweep the debris from the ring. He looked like he was about 75 and I just imagine him having to beg Vince for funds for a new broom and Vince just shouting ‘You’re fiiiirred!!’ at him.

With Liberace’s fancy little bell ding-a-linging, we are on our way.

Orndorff and Hogan start, but Piper begs to begin and Orndorff obliges. Then T begs Hulk to be let in and Hulk obliges him. The story of this match is basically seeing if T has what it takes to make it in a wrestling ring. After trading face slaps, Piper rides him amateur wrestling-style and T gets out. Monsoon mentions that T has an extensive amateur wrestling background (which he does) so that kind of killed that story.

T gives Piper a decent fireman’s carry throw that leads to all four men brawling, with Orton and Ali jumping in the ring. In an awkward spot, Snuka climbs the top rope and poses for his trademark splash, but realizes there’s nobody there to splash, so he just kind of jumps down. I don’t know if someone missed a cue or not, but it’s funny.

Ali is restoring order, and it looked like he gave Piper a pretty fair shot. He chases Orton out and swings at him to the delight of the crowd. Then the heels do the ‘we’re leaving’ routine, and after Hogan breaks up Patterson’s count they return. Order is restored and Hogan beats on Piper. I’m starting to remember how utterly limited his moveset is, but it doesn’t seem to matter to this crowd. Hogan tags in T, and they double clothesline Piper. T then bodyslams Piper and hiptosses an interfering Orndorff that looks pretty decent. T’s timing is pretty good. Mind you, he’s working with a fantastic worker in Orndorff. T slams Piper again as Orndorff gets nailed by Hogan. T tags Hogan who trades punches wildly with Piper. A whip off the ropes, a big boot from Hogan that sends Piper over the top rope to the floor. Damn, that arena floor looks absolutely filthy. It looks sticky and littered with garbage. Orndorff nails Hogan, who also spills onto the floor. Piper nails Hogan on the back with a chair, which is heavily padded, so it lessens the effect somewhat. Orndorff beats on Hogan as well before getting chased off by Ali.

The action returns to the ring, and the heels take turns beating up on Hogan, including a double atomic drop, which I haven’t seen in ages. Ali jumps back in the ring to restore order, and I’m not so sure he’s supposed to be doing that, but he seems to be getting wrapped up in his role. Patterson is trying to desperately get Ali out so not to upset the storyline too much.

Now Orndorff is on offence against Hulk. Orndorff is such a good in-ring worker, his moves are smooth as silk. He gives Hulk an absolutely gorgeous looking suplex. Orndorff tags Piper, who gives Hulk his wild punches and a knee lift and a two count. Orndorff tags in with a top rope ax handle, again smooth as silk. Another two count. A backbreaker and an awkward climb to the top rope and misses the elbow. Hulk crawls over to T for the hot tag…

And makes it! A couple of eye gouges from T on the heels. T unleashes a flurry of punches on Orndorff but Piper interferes and cuts the offence short. Some double-teaming by the heels. Ali once again tries climbing into the ring, only to be chased off by Patterson. Hilarious. At least Ali is taking his role seriously.

Orndorff rides T’s shoulders, which he can’t get out of this time. Orndorff tags Piper who puts T in a front facelock, but slips out and tags to Hulk. Hulk and Piper brawl and Orndorff comes in, but gets caught by Hulk and he gives the heels a ‘double noggin’ knocker’ to the delight of the crowd.

Hogan gives Orndorff a couple of headlock punches but Orndorff reverses into a nice belly-to-back suplex. Both men are down. Piper tries to interfere, but Patterson holds him back. Orton jumps in, Snuka intercepts and headbutts him. Patterson throws Snuka out and Orton climbs the top rope while Orndorff has Hogan in a full nelson. Piper tries to nail Hogan but gets tangled up with T. While Patterson is attending to that, Orton tries to hit Hogan off the top rope with his casted arm, but misses and hits Orndorff instead. 1-2-3 and it’s done. The heroes win and MSG goes nuts in a sea of floppy yellow foam fingers. Piper and Orton exit while Orndorff is being attended by the faces. He flips out, and exits reluctantly. Hogan does his celebratory posedown with the celebrities in the ring.

All in all, as a wrestling match, it’s not great. There was too much going on and had trouble establishing a real story. T wasn’t bad, all things considered, but he was obviously very limited in what he could do. Hogan took on the lion’s share of the work and he did it well. Orndorff and Piper are two of the all time greats, but were kind of buried in this match, and that’s a shame.

As a spectacle though, it did it’s job. The purpose of this match was to put over the WWF as a mainstream and viable form of entertainment, which it did well. Hulk Hogan was now the biggest mainstream wrestling star. Him and T’s media appearances, their roles in Rocky III, Hulk appearing in the A-Team, their shows on MTV and Vince McMahon’s shrewd business sense all culminated to catapult the WWF far ahead of it’s rivals. It was no longer embarrassing to be a wrestling fan. If Cyndi Lauper could enjoy wrestling then so could a lot of people.

In a post-match interview, T puts over the WWF and Hogan is, well… Hogan. Curiously, he puts over Snuka more than he does T, even though Snuka didn’t really do anything. I know T generated some backstage animosity, especially with Piper, so maybe a subtle snub by Hogan? Who knows. This is the first promo I recall hearing Snuka do, and it’s not great. Shot of the arena emptying as Monsoon and Ventura sees us out to stills of the event. And once again may I say… what a great pink tux Ventura is wearing!

POST-MORTEM

So, how good was Wrestlemania I?

It depends on what you define as good. The card itself felt like an average mid 80s house show. Most of the matches were pointless (Santana vs. Executioner, Borne vs. Steamboat) but mercifully most of them were also short. The abysmal Sammartino vs. Beefcake was an astonishing 12 minutes long. It felt like 30. I felt like other wrestlers could have wrestled on this card, like Don Muraco, Pedro Morales, Jimmy Snuka and Bob Orton.

There were decent matches and poor matches, but no standout classics.

The promos ranged from good to atrocious. JYD, Blassie, Sheik, Volkoff, Hogan and Lauper(!) were good, while Borne, Moolah and the US Express were dismal. Why on earth wasn’t the main eventers given pre-match promos? Piper, one of wrestling history’s biggest talkers had no promo at all either before or after. Someone dropped the ball there.

The technical issues clearly needed work. Monsoon and Ventura were good on commentary but had not yet quite developed that chemistry they would have in future cards. I miss commentators talking about the match like it’s an actual contest. Ventura is especially brilliant at this, the best of all time in my opinion. He gives us little details about how a certain hold should be applied or how painful a particular hold is and why. And while he is a heel commentator, he always puts over both heels and faces, which puts over the match. Lord Alfred Hayes was terrible. He looked utterly terrified to be there and kept stuttering on his words. ‘Mean’ Gene is the best wrestling interviewer in the history of the business, bar none. Great voice, great chemistry with the wrestlers, but unfortunately wasn’t given a lot to work with here. Obviously, it goes without saying there will never be another Howard Finkel. The format of Monsoon throwing to Hayes throwing to Okerlund was sloppy and disjointed. It might have been better if Hayes were a little more relaxed, but it stuck out like a sore thumb.

MSG looked like Vince Sr. was still running things. It would take a little time before the WWF had crisp lighting, clean looking aisles, mats on the floor. The outside of the ring looks crowded. Darkening the house lights for the matches gives this a very house show feel. It’s not a drawback per se. I actually like some aspects of it. The crowd looks like they are packed in tight, which gives things a manic, claustrophobic atmosphere. But it looks bush league by today’s standards. It reminds me a lot of AWA house shows circa 1982.

If Wrestlemania as it stood didn’t have Cyndi Lauper and Mr. T involved to give it some mainstream credibility, I have no doubt it would have been a financial failure. For wrestling fans, this was a slightly below average card at best. But the constant media appearances and hype as well as the genuine charisma of Hulk Hogan generated enough buzz to make this a success and convert enough new fans to carry over to future Wrestlemanias. It was a hell of a gamble. And it paid off.

THE VERDICT

Card MVP: There’s no standout here. Although I said that if Wrestlemania didn’t have the celebrity buzz of Cyndi Lauper or Mr. T it probably wouldn’t have been successful. By the same token, it’s hard to give either one of them the MVP because they didn’t do that much. All in all, I have to give it to Hulk Hogan. I know a lot of you are groaning, but I’m really having trouble. I’d say Piper if he weren’t in a tag team, but as it stood his character was buried amongst all the other bodies. Hogan was over with the crowd big-time, so he really does deserve it.

Dud of the Night: Lord Al Hayes. If you’ve seen the card, it’s obvious. He was terrible and his position as the ‘host’ was redundant.

Watch this show for its historical significance in wrestling’s history, but that’s about it. Not much else to see here. 4 out of 10.

 

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