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The Katz Files – Arnie Katz

The Price of (Small) Fame: Celebrity Championship Wrestling

The Kingfish Arnie Katz has some unorthodox comments about Hulk Hogan’s new wrestling reality show on CMT.

Celebrity Championship Wrestling premiered on Country Music Telephone on Saturday, October 17. Ever since it hit the screen, Internet wrestling commentators have competed to see who can find the most extreme insults for the first episode.

It’s a tempting target, that’s for sure. It starts with the tremendous hard-on a lot of wrestling writers have for Hulk Hogan. They still can’t forgive him for being more popular than Ric Flair, so they’ve automatically got the knives out for any new Hogan project.

The Hulkster and his entourage have certainly given would-be critics some powerful ammunition.

* The production values are appalling, from the cheesy crowd noise to the homemade graphic screens. It looks cheap, probably because it is cheap.

* The “celebrities” are not exactly a who’s who of the entertainment world. Dennis Rodman, Danny Bomnaducci and Dustin Diamond are probably the biggest names of the 10 D-listers involved. The others included Butterbean, Tiffany and a Playboy Playmate.

* The sucking up to Hulk is way out of proportion. He is enough of a personality that they really didn’t need to sell that fact so hard or so often during the program.

* The trainers are a mixed bag. Brian Knobbs comes across well as one of the trainers, but Brutus Beefcake got off to a pretty terrible start. I respect Hulk Hogan’s desire to take care of his friends, but the friends need to do their part, too. Beefcake didn’t seem very interested or involved in the show and often just acted like a goof.

* Hulk Hogan’s comments are ridiculously over-enthusiastic. I know the Hulkster has always been “super positive,” but that doesn’t work very well on this type of show. When the fans watch the formerly semi-famous flounder around the ring in awkward and unconvincing fashion, his over-the-top praise for their performance just makes him look foolish.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff!

And the catalogue wouldn’t be complete with discussion of what most of its critics view as its cardinal sin: It exposes the business.

Celebrity Championship Wrestling focuses on the training and indoctrination of the 10 contestants. Scenes show them learning basic moves and then displaying their knowledge in actual bouts.

Someone who doesn’t know the mechanics of pro wrestling will find the show very informative. It reveals how wrestling matches are put together and announcer Bubba the Love Sponge’s commentary emphasizes the nuts and bolts of putting on a show. Bubba points out the students’ attempts to master various elements.

This strikes me as fairly wrongheaded. Everyone knows that wrestling is choreographed and scripted like a movie or stage play. Programs about acting technique, writing for the theater and such share inside stuff with the audience; there’s no reason that wrestling should be any different.

Wrestling, like all drama, depends on what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called “The Willing Suspension of Disbelief.” What makes the show work is not the ignorance of the audience but their willingness to leave the world of hard reality for a little while and plunge into the world of the wrestling show. Just because the audience knows about Method Acting doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate James Dean and Marlon Brando.

So let’s forget about “expose the business,” especially on a show that is aimed at the mainstream viewing public. For them, it’s a little like “Secrets of Magic – Revealed, but with more variety, personality and connection to the audience.

What few, if any, critics have mentioned is that Celebrity Championship Wrestling is actually better than Tough Enough in several ways. The WWE show may have looked glossier, but CCW focuses on wrestling, not wind sprints and obstacle courses. For someone who wants a peek at the inside world of wrestling, CCW is much more on-target.

Sophisticated, experienced wrestling fans will never love this show –nor should they. It is cheap, exploitative and kinda dimwitted. As a wrestling show, it is the proverbial train wreck – and I wouldn’t look for any improvements from this self-satisfied crew.

Yet as an offbeat entertainment show on a network with many viewers who are probably not overly familiar with the details of pro wrestling, it has a certain rough appeal. The low production values are almost an advantage, because it gives the show an underground feel that may play well with those for whom this is all brand new.

Real wrestling fans may want to approach Celebrity Championship Wrestling with extreme caution. It could be bad for the blood pressure.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with another installment of the Internet’s fastest-rising daily wrestling column. I hope you’ll come back to join me – and bring your friends.

— Arnie Katz
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