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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Remember Why Entertainment is Involved
July 1, 2006 by Ian Gustafson


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First off, I want to make clear that I am writing this article purely from memory and not doing any fact checking. In this case I think it would take away from the sentimental aspects contained within. This article goes back quite a ways to the late 1980's when I was just a young boy absolutely in love with pro-wrestling.

I was not your ordinary kid who loved "Hulkamania." No, I was more the type that absolutely loved a good heel character. I can remember rooting for Piper and Orndorf during the first Wrestlemania and thought that Hulk and Mr. T were lame. I can even vividly remember the episode of "Piper's Pit" that occurred right before Wrestlemania I where Piper and Orndorf smashed food all over a poster of Hogan and Mr. T. I remember eggs, milk and bananas if my memory serves me right. Needless to say, I thought this was one of the funniest things I had ever seen at that time.

That having been said, I have to say that one of the things I despise most in the world of pro-wrestling is a bad face-turn. It makes me so upset when the WWF/E turns a good heel into a face only to have them be super cheesy. It just seems corny to me to have someone that cheats, lies and steal all the time all of the sudden have this major change of heart.

However, it was just this type of heel-to-face turn that caused me to become obsessed with one particular wrestler of the late 1980's: Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake. Now I enjoyed Beefcake when he was teamed up with Greg Valentine as half of The Dream Team. My friend Rick and I as kids used to call ourselves by this same name and once we found out there was a tag team named this, well they became one of our favorites. But once Brutus broke out on his own as "The Barber" I was completely entranced by him as a wrestler.

Brutus was by no means a great "technical" wrestler and his finishing move was simply a sleeper, but boy when you're 10 years old he sure was entertaining. Beefcake had some great feuds, the best of which was with "The Outlaw" Ron Bass. Bass fit everything I liked in a wrestler; he was cocky, arrogant, vicious and underhanded. However, when he took on Brutus, I couldn't stand him one bit. Then, finally, Brutus defeated Ron Bass and shaved his entire head for all to see. To me this is what added to the entertainment aspect of Beefcake, he actually shaved people's heads when he defeated them, to me this was simply awesome.

I also have to say that I feel that Brutus Beefcake was under-appreciated as a singles competitor. I feel that the WWF could have given him more of a push because as I remember he generated a great deal of fan response when he entered the ring. However, the WWF didn't see Brutus as a singles title holder and I even wonder if he would have gotten to beat The Honky Tonk Man for the IC title had he been healthy. But we all know how that went: Warrior crushed HTM in like 10 seconds and once again Beefcake was left dangling.

I think now as a 28 year old man with a job and bills that still tunes into wrestling when it's convenient, "I wonder if some little kid is sitting at home write now getting the same excitement I once did"" When we analyze move sets and decide how well a wrestler "puts over" shouldn't we consider the entertainment factor" As I mentioned before, Brutus Beefcake was by no means a great technical wrestler, but man was he ever entertaining. The next time you feel like ripping apart a WWE, TNA or whatever wrestler, remember that the entertainment has to be there because a great deal of the audience are kids. I have to take time to remember this and when I need to do so I think of Brutus "The Barber Beefcake."

by Ian Gustafson..


Velocifore wrote:
Brutus just had a long string of career killers. he was probably going to win the IC belt on 2 occasions. something happened on both those times and the Warrior and Kerry Von Erich took his spot cause he coudlnt close the deal. ive never heard of a good Brutus match, the Barbershop was a complete joke, WCW gave him 10 names in less than a year. and he besides winning against Curt Henning at WM6 and his feud with Savage, his singles career was a bust. he was a decent tag wrestler, i liked the Dream Team. but being a barber doesnt give me enough entertainment value to give the guy his just do on a singles career.
John wrote:
I really enjoyed your column. It gave me a lot to think about. I appreciate heels more these days, since it's becoming hard to actually get the fans to hate you, when that's your job. Like JBL, he's the greatest heel in wrestling today. Entertainment is starting to be lost in wrestling. Heel-to-face changes don't happen that frequently, but Triple H's latest one was really awesome. As for Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, I would agree with you. He gave the fans entertainment, and that's what wrestling is all about.
Marc Mattaliano wrote:
Ian, I couldn't agree with you more. I'm only 26 and I consider my wrestling fandom to have officially started around the time of the '93 Survivor Series (you know, featuring the four "Doinks," Shawn Michaels and his Knights vs. the Hart Family, and the All-Americans vs. the Foreign Fanatics) so I wasn't watching quite as far back to remember Barber Beefcake in his prime, but I know exactly where you're coming from here.

I appreciate watching wrestling for the ass kicking as much as any wrestling fan, but I came to enjoy the WWF, and still enjoy WWE, for how they've combined great ass kicking matches with some laughs and tears from time to time. Watching WWE is like a roller coaster, you can watch big guys beat each other down one minute and the next minute people are throwing pies at each other to interrupt a wedding, it's great television. Why do you think so many people are fans of Shawn Michaels" Because he can kick lots of ass, sure, but he's always been known for some kind of mischief, whether it's over the top silliness while with Degeneration-X, or more subtly toned mischief when he was in a suit working with the Corporation. He takes us in all sorts of directions with his performances, in addition to his great performance in the ring.

Wrestling competition is great, no doubt about it. But the moment when wrestling went from basic, straight, boring matches between one muscular guy in black tights and another muscular guy in black tights was when WWF superstars started showing some personality and doing some talking. People started apperciating specific wrestlers not just for how they fought, but also for how they jawed on the microphone, or danced/marched/stomped/strolled down the aisle to their entrance music, or strutted after a power move, or celebrated after a big win. It added some spice to what was normally just two guys trading holds.

Professional wrestling nowadays is one of the few badass physical competitions (albeit scripted sometimes) where competitors have some freedom to show who they are and give their motivations for fighting. Your average professional linebacker or outfielder or point guard doesn't have that freedom, and usually when they try and show their personality and showboat, a fight tends to break out and their game is halted. At least in wrestling, time is specifically set aside for fighting. Do I wish sometimes that there were more actual matches" Sure, occasionally. But let's not look at the glass half empty, the way Joey Styles did a month or so ago, when he flipped out and quit RAW.(obviously, it was just a plot ploy so he could go over and commentate ECW on SciFi, but the stuff he said rang true with a lot of people in the real world). The moniker of "Sports Entiertainment" isn't trying to remove wrestling from the wrestling business. It's trying to include more drama and personality and intriguing verbal confrontations outside the ring in with the real wrestling matches inside the ring.
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