Friday Night Smackdown is live from the Black Lodge
The world is in the ravages of COVID-19 and WWE is recording 3 weekly TV shows as well as all their PPVs in empty arenas. They have not yet had the idea to put any of their two hundred contracted wrestlers or trainees in the crowd. Every single promo, entrance, and match occurs in silence. Yes, even Wrestlemana. Both nights.
The stock of the company plummets to absurd lows after COVID hits Are Beautiful Country. Vince McMahon responds by firing several wrestlers just to bump the stock price back up for the shareholders. The XFL folds and the commissioner sues Vince for wrongful termination. Monday Night Raw ratings are at an all time low, despite people literally having nowhere to go and no sports to watch. Wrestlers get sick but Vince refuses to mention the pandemic on television, referring to it only in generic terms like "The Current Situation." As the world shuts down, Vince 'convinces' Florida that the WWE is an essential business and therefore they should be able to record all of their shows in their Performance Center. WWE tells wrestlers if they don't feel safe or comfortable working, they don't have to. Roman Reigns, one of the company's biggest stars who recently returned from a year long battle with leukemia says "yeah no I'm not working, The Miz showed up sick and wrestled matches." They agree to give him time off. He's taken off of Wrestlemania (but still used in all promotion) and never mentioned on TV. He's gone for the time being because as we all know there are two things that get you erased from WWE history: murdering your wife and family and getting cancer. Vince fires more behind the scenes personnel. Stock prices go up, up, up baby, and soon they’ll be making more money from their TV and Saudi Arabia deals than they ever have in the history of the company. And here we are now.
You don't need to know much about the WWE or wrestling in general for what's coming. You don't need to know what a babyface or a heel are, you don't need to know what kayfabe is or even how to pronounce it. This isn't a retrospective on his career, but a celebration of...his celebration. While professional wrestling is a choreographed sequence of events used to tell the story of good against evil, what aired on this dreadful Friday evening is an unscripted nightmare and one of the most bizarrely Lynchian things I've ever seen.
|Coming to you live from someone's gym|
April 24, 2020.
Filmed in beautiful Florida in front of a live studio audience consisting of 2 announcers and some cameramen. We are here to celebrate 25 years of Triple H. The Game. The Cerebral Assassin. The King of Kings. The Asskicker. Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Terra Ryzing. Trips. Tri.
25 years of Triple H. Honestly, that could be this entire article. Love him or hate him, you could do a hell of a retrospective for the guy. Predetermined or not, you don't last this long in such a prominent role without some kind of talent. Anyone who has been on top since the heyday of Stone Cold and The Rock and stayed there until leaving on their own terms has plenty of careers highs....and lows. Enough lows to fill up a post longer than my offensively long movie posts from back in the day. But that's not why we're here today. That's another post for another time. Maybe we'll check back in on that for the 30th, because Lord knows he isn't going anywhere.
The Game makes his way to the ring. A lifetime of achievements race through his mind as he carefully makes his way down the ramp. He’s not in a hurry, he’s taking his sweet time and letting the crowd drink it in. All four of them. Motorhead reverberates off the empty seats as the sixth biggest star of the Attitude Era celebrates a milestone. Fourteen world titles. A Grand Slam champion. Blade Trinity. A celebration of this magnitude deserves the pomp and circumstance of a Wrestlemania entrance. We need props, extras, a giant throne, thousands of Hulkamaniacs on their feet chanting “Thank You Hunter.” Unfortunately, the world is in the ravages of a pandemic so it’s just an old dude hobbling down the ramp while Lemmy mutters something about it being all about The Game, and how you play it.
The story of Triple H can’t be told without his better half. No, not his wife. His soul mate. Before Trips can finish a sentence, the sweet sounds of “OHHH SHAAAAWWWWWN” echo through the arena as the 108 year old Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels, comes to the ring to congratulate his longtime friend. It is in this moment that, with a heavy heart, I realize this entire celebration is going to comprise of a couple of middle-aged men waxing poetic about how fucking cool Degeneration X was. “Remember that time we told our boss to suck it 20 years ago?" "Remember that time we tricked Vince into saying he loves cock?" "Hell yeah brother we rode that tank right up to WCW and that’s why we won the war.” They talk about that time they told their boss to suck it. That time they told that woman to suck it. That time they told someone else to suck it. Reminiscing about a bunch of absolute dogshit Wrestlemania main events. Oddly enough, they neglected to air the clip where he told Booker T that “people like him” don’t win titles and then proceeded to beat the shit out of him at Wrestlemania and retain the title. Must have lost that in the archives somewhere.
The two of them go on like this for about seven hours and I have to say, it's brave of them to not change their cadence at all to suit the empty arena. They stand their ground and deliver every single joke with an uncomfortable pause, each punchline lingering in the air for a laugh break that will never come. “All your friends are here. All your friends. Hey Hunter. All your friends are here. Your friends. All of them. They all came out. Here. To see you. All friends. Heeeeerre. Frrriiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee"
Two bonafide legends bantering with all the energy of an Eric Andre segment. I’d ask who exactly all this horrendous comedy is for, but anyone who follows WWE knows that’s a rhetorical question. Everything on this show is for exactly one person, and we’ll be getting to him soon enough.
After a bunch of hilarious banter, Trips is visited by the three Facetime ghosts of Christmas present, past, and even further past. Devil’s Advocate though, if I was a wrestler I wouldn’t want to look towards the future either. His wife, Stephanie McMahon, calls in and cracks a bunch of inside jokes that are airing on a globally syndicated show for some reason. Road Dogg - everyone's sixth favorite member of Degeneration X - calls up and talks about the same shit they always talk about. Who cares. Suck it, blah blah blah. You're all 50.
It's the third call that sets the tone for the rest of the evening. Ric Flair dials in, and he looks positively ghoulish. He gives a hearty WOOOOOOOOO, laughs, and then starts crying. Ric Flair will both WOOOOO and cry at the drop of a hat, but my man is barely able to sputter out a full sentence between heaving sobs. This was clearly not scripted and Triple H awkwardly hangs up. You know things are going great when you have to abruptly hang up on your long time friend and mentor on live television because they won't stop weeping. Flair then calls back, full on bawling, and the production team in the truck break the glass on the emergency "GO TO COMMERCIAL" button and get themselves the fuck out of dodge. Dear reader, I have a request for you. The latter part was completely edited out of the version of Smackdown that I have, so if you have it or know where it is for the love of God send it to me, I crave it.
Needless to say, things are going well. There's one special guest left, and they have saved the best for last.
NO CHAAAANCE THAT’S WHAT YOU GOT.
Vincent Kennedy McMahon. The chairman and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment and Triple H's father in law is the guest of honor in this ceremony. For some reason. The Geriatric Jackhammer walks onto the stage, plants his feet at the top of the ramp, and pulls out a microphone. A chill runs down my spine. This man IS the WWE. Every single decision runs through him. People say that a lot, but it’s one of the few Internet Wrestling Nerd phrases that isn't an exaggeration. He is the control freak to end all control freaks. Even at the ripe age of 118, he sits backstage for every single show, wearing a headset and barking orders from start to finish. Every career hangs on his whims. Every gimmick goes through him. Every storyline goes through him. Every name change goes through him. Every piece of food at catering goes through him. He’s the man who views being unable to hold back a sneeze as a sign of weakness and will hold it against you until the day you quit. He's the man who will tell you to grab the brass ring, and when you do will answer back "no, not like that god dammit" and shovel shit on you until you either break mentally or decide not to wrestle anymore. He is the one singular galaxy brain that every piece of minutiae in the biggest wrestling company on the globe goes through. He is the beginning and the end. And he opens his mouth...
He sounds like dogshit. Folks, there's sounding like shit, and there's sounding like you're one cough away from evaporating into dust. Every strained word leaves his lips sounding like they’re being run through a woodchipper. He sounds like a man with a mouth full of gravel who shouldn’t be talking on a live mic on television, much less running a (formerly) billion dollar company. If this was your grandfather, you would do the equivalent of handing a toddler a controller and telling them that's it's actually plugged in and that they're playing with you. Either that or, you know, just pull the plug.
This doddering old dickhead stands there dressed like a clown, swaying nervously as if he's never been on television before. We all get old, but it's what he says that matters, not necessarily how he says it. So the gerbil in his poo brain overclocks itself and he begins to drift. He attempts to playfully roast Triple H, but every sentence has the cadence and rhythm of a man who is about to ask why everything suddenly tastes like copper. I never pinned VKM as a philosopher, but it was Nietzsche who said "time is a flat circle" and folks this old man is going in circles. A verbal ouroboros; sentences that don't begin or end. They just always were.
The living fossil takes the scenic route and a couple of detours to arrive at the punchline that instead of chanting "Triple H! Triple H!" they would instead be chanting "Boooooooring. Boooooooring." What does he mean? Does he mean when he would make his entrance? During the match? After he won? During his promo? Doesn't matter. He stands there like Michael Scott, waiting patiently for the roaring laughter of a captivated audience that appreciates his zinger, but before anyone in the building can call for a wellness check he awkwardly forces his hand in his pocket and yells "OTHER THINGS IN WWE HAVE BEEN BORING. HOW ABOUT THE GOBBLEDY GOOKER?"
I understand many of you don’t have absolute dog shit for brains like Yours Truly. Your memory palace is too full of cherished memories of loved ones and feet pics and you simply don’t have room for this. Don’t worry baby bird, I’m here to feed you. 'Gobbledy Gooker' is not the last thing an old man says before his brain fires off one final burst of DMT as he drifts into that long goodnight. No, The Gooker isn’t just what Vince called Mr. Fuji in private company, he is real, he's strong, and he's my friend.
The long and short of it is: in the weeks leading up to Survivor Series 1990, there was an egg. Why is there an egg? Who's in the egg? What's in the egg? All will be revealed on Thanksgiving day, as long as you can convince your mom and dad to crack open their wallets. The day came, and this was what was waiting.
|Easily the worst thing to happen to the Guerrero family|
Imagine if you will, you spent your entire life on the road. 300 days a year, grinding your body and mind into a fine paste, missing countless birthdays, graduations, first steps. Hundreds of memories you can never get back because you were wrestling someone who was pretending to be mentally handicapped in Des Moines on a Thursday night instead of watching your daughter's first steps. Your reward for this suicidal task is to have a septuagenarian electric slide onto the stage and ramble about Hector Guerrero dressing like a turkey, bursting out of a giant egg and dancing with Mean Gene. All of this was just to circle back to the punchline of “…I’m not saying you were THAT bad,” pausing for laughter, realizing there’s no one in the crowd, and then shuffling his hand back into the pocket and talking to the floor. Thanks for 25 years in the biz, shitlord. All your friends are six feet under. Gobble Gobble.
And he keeeeeeps on talking. And talking. And talking. A wrinkled skin suit hootin' and hollerin' about a fucking turkey costume and something about fire walking with him. It seems pretty ominous and the production team keeps hilariously attempting damage control by cutting away, no doubt desperately trying to get Ric Flair back on the phone to sob some more until the top of the hour. The problem is, there are only 3 people in the arena if you discount announcers and cameramen, so the only alternative to watching a man's brain go thermonuclear is constant close ups of Triple H. He's staring down the ramp at his father-in-law with all of the intensity of a man who knows that this living fossil is one sneeze away from his brain hemorrhaging. The man up there gargling about how nobody cheered for the chicken is still alive and in complete control of the WWE through a combination of spite and whatever Philip K. Dick future drugs Jerry Jones has, but it looks like the scales are finally tipping in the favor of The Game. All these years of waiting for the reins to be handed to him. Taking over NXT, growing it into his own little mini promotion, proving his worth so when the time comes, he will be the one in charge o-wait what the fuck, is he about to mention Katie Vick?
Ladies and gentlemen. There is not enough room in this post to give the Katie Vick angle justice. Do you know how gross you have to be for millions of professional wrestling fans to say something was in bad taste? In a business filled to the brim with rotten, disgusting people, it takes a real uncut gem to stand out above everything else.
Let me summarize this as succinctly as possible: Triple H crawled into a casket and banged a fake corpse. It doesn't matter who the corpse was supposed to be, why Kane was so infatuated with her, why Triple H felt the need to put on a wig, or why he finished by saying he "screwed her brains out" while an actual funeral service was going on in the next room.
This isn’t a detour, this is falling asleep at the wheel and barreling into oncoming traffic. I’m not a religious person, but watching someone in their 70’s talk about their son in law butt-ass naked in a funeral home pretending to fuck a mannequin has me second guessing myself. If this is real then that means I am in Hell, so therefore there must be some sort of God, and he has a wicked sense of humor.
“Paul, my son in law, naked in a funeral home and a mannaequin thing..and…d’oh.”
|Holy shit I'm gonna cum (in this corpse)|
What he's saying is awful, but the fact that he’s struggling to get the words from his brain to his mouth makes it so much worse. So many levers and pulleys are working in that noggin of his to barf out a couple of dying gasps about necrophilia. I’d be laughing if I wasn’t anxiously waiting for Hornswaggle to show up and start talking backwards. Mr. McMahon has been a prominent character on television for decades. As great as Stone Cold Steve Austin was, a major key to his success was having The Boss as his foil. The rich, greedy piece of shit that steps all over the working man and gets his comeuppance. The man standing on the ramp right now looks like he just escaped decades of captivity and is trying to relearn human speech on the spot. He has the discomfort of someone who has the presence of mind to realize just how poorly this entire thing is going in real time but with no ability to fix it.
You know what? The show is running long anyways, let’s wrap it up. Pull the parachute and let's get the fuck out of here. Something concise, a little witty, but most importantly, heartfelt. Something that lets his son in law know that for all the jabs and japes, he has accomplished unparalleled things in his career and should be proud. Not only proud of himself as a wrestler, but as a husband and a father.
And I quote,
“I love you. I love you and uh…I think tonight…I love both of you, by the way…tonight…I just wanted to say that…your performance, and you in general…just truly God awful. What a horrible way to go out. God Awful. It…it…pardon the expression….sucked. It was ROTTEN. ABSOLUTELY ROTTEN. I’M ASHAMED OF YOU GUYS OH MY GOD. And if you haven’t put everyone to sleep by now…I’ll say goodnight…and…good night, padre.”
He struts off stage, yells “LET’S WRAP IT UP, PADRE” and the lights go out. The sounds of crickets chirping play through the PA system as Triple H and Shawn Michaels stand incredulously in the middle of the ring in total darkness. The show ends with a black screen, the sound of crickets, and Shawn Michaels rasping “story of your career.”
Here’s to 25 more, dick.