Welcome to the High Spot, Place to Be Nation’s weekly pro wrestling update. Steve Wille (@SteveWille34) will take you through the biggest story of the week in the world of wrestling, adding in a unique view to help put the story in perspective. Glenn Butler (@Glenniebun) then takes a quick look at other important stories of the week. If you have any tips or story ideas, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Mullet Memories: As previously documented in the High Spot, this Sunday sees Ring of Honor’s first attempt at live cable/satellite pay-per-view as “Best in the World 2014” broadcasts from Nashville, Tennessee. In the main event, World Champion Adam Cole takes on challenger Michael Elgin in a rematch from the 2013 title tournament finals. In the run-up to the bout, during an event in Collinsville, Illinois, Adam Cole, along with his cohorts Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis, restrained Elgin’s wrists and cut off his mullet. This adds a little extra heat to the match, and a tear to the eyes of many at PTBN, who love and cherish the wrestling mullet. To honor the memory of Elgin’s sweet Canadian locks and tie-in with our 1993 Raw recaps on the Place to Be Podcast, the High Spot reached out to members of the PTBN staff to recall their favorite wrestling mullets:
- Chad Campbell: Hollywood John Tatum looked like the type of “Hollywood” star you would have to go in the back of the video store to find. That mane of hair, though, is a glorious site to behold and captivated me throughout his great “changed man” angle of 1990 in USWA. A shame that drugs and other problems prevented Tatum’s mullet from reaching the masses as a big two star of the 1990s.
- Roger Morrissette: Beautiful Bobby Eaton at Clash of Champions I and Rick Rude’s perm mullet are the two best I’ve seen.
- Justin “Poet Laureate” Rozzero: Crush in 92/93
- Jason Greenhouse: Pat Tanaka, best mullet of the Orient
- Jordan Duncan: Here’s a haiku: Brian Knobbs’ Mullet. The source of his strength and pride. It sure was nasty.
- Steve Wille: I’m more of a classic wrestling mullet fan, and the man who set the standard was former ECW champion Mike Awesome. But, as we’ve revisited the first episodes of Raw, I’ve fallen in love with Crush’s two-toned wavy mullet. Was it dyed to give it that effect, or the product of incredible genes? Crush will never get the credit for creating the ombre hairstyle that was so popular in 2013, but he should.
- Breaking the Hex: If you’re a closeted masochist like Steve, and you occasionally peruse the comments sections of wrestling companies’ Facebook pages, you’d know that every post by Impact Wrestling comes with the obligatory “bring back the six-sided ring” requests. When a company’s desperate to stay relevant, it takes chances, and Impact has a poll on its website asking viewers whether it wants to do just that. No one’s sure how this would translate to additional ticket sales, but it would probably generate buzz amongst fans, and that’s definitely needed for the struggling organization. At least one talent, Austin Aries, has taken to the democratic wasteland of the Tweetie box, respectfully pointing out his beliefs about the drawbacks of the hexagonal ring. He feels that that the six-sided surface is less forgiving and more difficult to fly off the top rope. Still, the six-sided ring does set the company apart, and, judging by those Facebook comments, it’s hard to see the poll going Aries’ way.
- Climb the Steps of the Corporate Ladder: WWE has officially announced a Money in the Bank ladder match for the upcoming Money in the Bank pay-per-view special extravaganza, so at least there’s still a reason for the show to carry its name. Seth Rollins is currently attached to the match, instantly making him a prospective favorite to win it. Check back for next week’s edition of the Main Event for more discussion and speculation as to how the match and the show will play out.
- Brand Me, Baby, One More Time: Also in WWE technical news, the company will reportedly be switching all of their branding from the logo adopted in 2002 (the post-get-the-F-out version of the Attitude Era logo) to the more clear-cut, stylized version they’ve been using for the Network. The change is currently slated to take effect following SummerSlam this August. When reached for comment, both writers of PTBN’s High Spot expressed ambivalence over the change, though one (*coughGlenncough*) does have a certain affinity for more aesthetic echoes of the Attitude Era being washed away.
- Budgetary Bungling, or, A Dangerous Venture Into Economics: Scuttlebutt says that the Network isn’t making nearly as much as it should, and that WWE is trimming various corners of its operating budget as a result. (An aside on the Network income issue: the first part of 2014 took a massive hit because the startup costs for the Network; it stands to reason that operating costs going forward will be far lower than startup costs, and if WWE needs more subscribers to pay in to make it more successful they might find those subscribers by expanding their reach outside the United States. (And any shareholders and/or fans running around like chickens with their heads cut off are seriously overreacting: even if Network subscriptions run soft, WWE is still a billion-dollar international corporation. Admittedly, I am no economist, so perhaps this is a simplistic understanding of the issue; it’s probably an outgrowth of my not really being cut out for capitalism.) However, as Steve has aptly noted in the past, these technical/financial issues have a way of becoming tedious and distracting us from the reasons we watch the show, and more entertaining discussions we could be having about it. Onward, then.) So far, many of the budget cuts seem to be in the background: a production truck here, a bus there, more backstage personnel having to transport themselves from show to show. The biggest on-screen changes related to these trims have been some of the recent firings, which we covered last week, and Wade Barrett’s perilous lectern, which tied neatly into Barrett’s transition back into being an active wrestler rather than a mocking ghoul haunting the babyfaces of the world. As long as future cuts are similarly subtle, they can do a good job nipping in places that might as well be nipped.
And now, a special comment from Glenn.
In last week’s Legends House finale, Pat Patterson came out as gay after passionately declaring that he was sick of fifty years of hiding. He’d had a forty-year relationship before losing his partner, and still couldn’t be open about who he is. It was handled incredibly well in terms of the show’s production, and the whole sequence of the assembled legends sharing the various traumas in their lives shines brightly as a moment of genuine substance among the reality show trappings much of the series embodies.
While picking out internet comments one finds objectionable is often a fool’s errand — anyone with an opinion will find themselves awash in a sea of such things — there’s been a disappointing tendency for some people’s reaction to be: so what? We already know he’s gay! We’ve known for years, at least since JR was joking around about it on commentary. Next you’ll tell me Ric Flair partied hard on the road, and so on and so forth. By all means, joke around about basically anything presented in WWE programming (if you read this column and think I’m coming down against humor…wow), but these particular jokes dismiss the experience of the closet and the tension that comes in shedding it.
Being in the closet isn’t necessarily about ignoring your orientation: it can seem that way from the outside, but it has a way of making every moment and every interaction about your orientation, because you’re never quite sure what might lead to people finding out and how they would react if they did. In our era of creeping equality and Getting Better, we’re getting more and more accustomed to not only the public coming out, but the publicly-accepted coming out; while that’s certainly a good thing, it’s not something that happens as a matter of course — it’s an ongoing process driven by the work of countless people over the course of the last several decades, and it’s not finished. Having friends whom you can tell and with whom you can be entirely yourself is of course a great thing, yet at the same time it creates tiers where some people know, some don’t, some know a little but not everything, on and on and on. It can be a huge stressor, with all the attendant mental and physical health effects that brings, including sheer exhaustion. And just to be clear, the onus for this does not fall on the people who experience it; it falls on the society that makes them, and on people who actively or passively perpetuate it. While perhaps the wrestling business and wrestling fandom don’t conform to every aspect of their stereotypes, they are still a business and a fandom driven by macho impulses and an aggressive idealization of a particular conception of masculinity, and for many people, being gay simply isn’t within the spectrum that allows.
Granted, these particular things may not have happened to Pat Patterson, and he may well think very differently about what he’s gone through. Individuals with the same general experience can have very different experiences in particular, and people who are subject to bigotry deserve a wide latitude in how they deal with that fact. Likewise, while hopefully Pat Patterson’s privileged position in the WWE means that he can change some minds among the more “old school” people in the business, and ensure that younger wrestlers can be as comfortable coming out as Darren Young was, part of deciding how you deal with the realities of your life is having the choice to be an activist or not. Pat Patterson also had the option to not come out publicly, to conduct his business away from our prying eyes as he presumably had done for a long time (Gene Okerlund talked about knowing Patterson’s late partner, and I imagine many others probably did as well in the old WWF days), but sometimes the grand gesture can be incredibly valuable. Roddy Piper said in the reunion show that he and the rest of the guys wanted to make an atmosphere where Patterson could come out, and Pat spoke movingly about being in that atmosphere: “I was tired of lying…It feels good to be free.”
Ultimately, it comes down to this: if his coming out was meaningless because his orientation was the worst kept secret in wrestling, it wouldn’t have meant so much to him to do it.