Saturday, May 28, 2011

My Clothes > Your Clothes

"We're a little too into sports in this country, I think we've got to throttle back, you know what I mean? People come home from these games, 'We won! We won!' No, they won - you watched."

(Seinfeld, 6:1, 'The Chaperone')

"Loyalty to any one sports team is pretty hard to justify. Because the players are always changing, the team can move to another city - you're actually rooting for the clothes when you get right down to it, you know what I mean?

You're standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city. Fans will be so in love with a player but if he goes to another team, they boo him. This is the same human being in a different shirt - they hate him now. Boo! Different shirt! Boo!"

(Seinfeld, 6:11, 'The Label Maker')

Monday, May 23, 2011

Boing , Boing

Observations from the last round of English Premier League fixtures for the 2010-11 season:

1. Wolves should erect a Stephen Hunt statue to go with the Billy Wright and Stan Cullis statues outside Molineux. Probably the most important consolation goal in Premier League history. #legendinhisownlunchtime

2. My faith in the class of 2001 all staying up for a tenth straight season has been justified - Fulham finish second in the Teams That Don't Have Money League (8th overall), Bolton are much, much better value than 14th place and/or 46 points and, sigh of relief, Blackburn retain a reasonably flattering 15th with an excellent first half at Molineux. #amiclairvoyantorwhat

3. Only the earth-shatteringly woeful West Ham United were worse than Blackpool in the Premier League this season. So sod you, Blackpool. #thetabledoesntlie

4. Aston Villa have enough members of the England squad for them to seriously contemplate fielding a rebel English national team. Their results would probably be comparable. #midtablemediocrity

5. There cannot be too many players in the history of the Premier League whose last names roll as sexily off commentators' tongues as Hugo Rodallega. #sayitoutloud

6. Newcastle United demonstrated that their wide ranging skills of headline grabbing antics include the ability to throw away a three-goal lead at home. #arsenalmustfeellikeshit

7. Speaking of Arsenal, it really does look like it's going to be at least one more season of transition before a legitimate tilt at the title. #stillwaitingforatrophy

8. The 2-1 scoreline at White Hart Lane masks how badly Spurs hammered Birmingham into relegation. Looking at their squad, coaching staff and fan base, I don't really see why they're not in the top four, which leads me to challenge some very questionable decisions, tactically and otherwise, by one man. #'arryforengland

9. Despite the tag of 'not being good enough for the Premier League', fact is, J-Beck banged in another vital, vital goal to beat Chelsea today. #leedsstillproducestalent

10. Another classy performance by Manchester City away from home. Edin Dzeko's not so shit now, is he? #citehforthetreble2012   

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Goodbye, Macho Man

I’ve been trying to get to grips with the passing of Randy Savage for many hours now and my immediate thought when I first heard about it is still uppermost in my mind almost exactly twenty-four hours later. The thought is of an unbelievable sense of loss that feels like being hit by a ton of bricks. 

Given that his relations with Vince McMahon were never likely to thaw and his relations with Hulk Hogan had barely started to, it was always unlikely that The Macho Man would ever grace the wrestling business again in any capacity. Yet, now we know that he certainly never will and that, for some reason, has left me inconsolable.

Never again will we see the colourful bandannas, cowboy hat and glasses that jumped out of the TV screen and grabbed your attention, never again will we see something as simple yet magnificent as a Randy Savage right-handed punch and, perhaps most regrettably, never again will we hear undoubtedly the most distinctive voice in all of wrestling go “Oooh Yeeahhh-uh!”

In many ways, “Oooh Yeeahhh-uh!” was responsible for beginning my love affair with professional wrestling. Alongside Gorilla Monsoon’s “this place is going bananas” and VKM’s “oh, look at that”, The Macho Man’s catchphrase on colour commentary did for me what all great catchphrases have done—it made me anticipate when he would say it next.

I’m not old enough to be able to claim that I saw The Macho Man’s wrestling peak, but even at the attenuated stage of his career when I first started following him, there was something of the extraordinary showman that was still very much a part of him. I remember hearing him on commentary without actually seeing what he looked like for the longest time (close-ups of the commentary table were uncommon in those days) and that made me even more eager to see what he looked like and, if he would be so kind, see what he could do in the ring. My eagerness was fed by how utterly unpredictable he was on commentary—I recall an instance where The Undertaker was slowly and methodically pounding some unfortunate jobber with body shots in the corner and Big Gorilla, in his typically laconic style observed, 'boy, that’s gonna hurt in the morning.' And Randy replied, 'I tell you, Gorilla, that’s gonna hurt right now!'

My first ‘sighting’ of Randy Savage was remarkable, in that he was exactly as weird and as colourful as I had imagined him to be, and then some. It stood to reason that a man with a voice as raspy as his would have a beard and long hair, but the little child in me (which would be all of me, since I was still a little child) was absolutely enthralled by the number and intensity of colours he had draped around him, by all the energy he seemed to have trapped inside him and by his awe-inspiring rainbow sunglasses. And yes, like every other kid in the world, I, too, wondered how The Macho Man could see through those things. If Hulk Hogan was Captain America, Randy Savage was Alien Spaceship Warrior Dude. I was floored.

Walking down to the ring in those very glasses, I saw him engage (as every other wrestler did) in a valiant but ultimately fruitless endeavour to toss Yokozuna over the top rope at the 1993 Royal Rumble and was mighty impressed with him proving to be the first among equals on that occasion. I also recall a match at Wrestlemania X against Crush, which he won by tying Crush’s legs to a pulley so he couldn’t make it back to the ring within 60 seconds. (This was also my first introduction to the concept of ‘falls count anywhere’, though it was, now that I think about it, a heavily modified version of the same. For years afterwards, however, I would refuse to accept that a falls count anywhere match could end via single pinfall, reasoning and arguing in vain with anyone who was willing to listen that 60 seconds tak usko ring mein pahaunchna hoga, tabhi haarega.) Yet, as my lifelong fanhood for Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart and The Undertaker began to take shape, The Macho Man quietly slipped off the radar and into the welcoming arms of WCW.

It is here, after defying numerous curfews by my parents in order to watch WCW Monday Nitro on TNT (i.e. Cartoon Network post-9 p.m.)  that I was truly acquainted with Randy Savage. His promos seemed to ramble on and he would hark back to Wrestlemania this and Wrestlemania that, usually in an attempt to undermine (now Hollywood) Hulk Hogan. What struck me about this love/hate courtship of The Hulkster was that, if you went along with what Savage said (which was, admittedly, difficult to do because Hogan had made being bad look cool), he seemed like a better man than Hogan—he could talk better, he looked just as tough inside the ring and out and he carried off street clothes with the same panache.  

Thus, it was hugely disappointing to see him get lost in the shuffle in the nWo era, though, I gather now that that wasn’t entirely his call creatively. At a time where the world and its mother, at one point or another, was part of either the Originals or the Wőlfpac, it did let me down that one of the few self-made wrestling characters on that roster was going down the same blind alley (little did I know then of what Bischoff and WCW Creative would do with Sting and Bret Hart, among several others). Nevertheless, the nWo reunited Randy Savage with his ex-wife Elizabeth and the feud those two had with Diamond Dallas Page and his wife Kimberly was some of the most dramatic stuff they were doing at the time and those four had a top-of-the-card match at the 1997 Great American Bash which was intense beyond belief.

Sadly, what should’ve been a long-ish third World Heavyweight Championship reign when he beat Sting in early 1998 coincided with long-term knee damage in that very match (his guts in going ahead with the ending as planned, including the interference by Kevin Nash, after he tore his ACL during the match has to be one of the most overlooked instances of a wrestler maintaining kayfabe). His return at the end of 1998 stretching till his departure in the summer of 1999 stands out in my mind as possibly the most simultaneously rewarding and frustrating period of following Randy Savage—he constituted Team Madness, developed a slicker, darker heel persona which, for my money, was just as good as Hollywood Hogan was then and his work in the ring (especially his ability to continue to drop that top-rope elbow well into his forties) was truly astonishing. Still, they wouldn’t book him in the main event—everyone from Dallas Page to David Arquette got a shot, but The Macho Man didn’t, though his twisted efforts to keep Dallas Page champion so that he could personally pulverize him several months down the road was fascinating stuff.

And with that, he departed and it wasn’t until I heard of his marriage to his second (now surviving) wife, Lynn, that I even knew of his brief run in TNA in late 2004. That would’ve been that, but for the advent of YouTube in my second year of college, which soon offered boundless scope to explore my newly formulated 'Hogan was always crap' theory. My time period of choice to test this theory, of course, was the late 1980s. I was expecting a lot from watching people like André the Giant and Big John Studd (and, further, down the line, completely unconnected with the anti-Hogan project, Mitsuharu Misawa, ‘Hot Stuff’ Eddie Gilbert, Jushin Liger and Terry Funk).

What I discovered, instead, was an absolute revelation. I do believe (and I say this without the slightest amount of current emotion regarding The Macho Man colouring my judgement) that there was no better wrestler in the world in a big match situation over that period of time than Randy Savage. Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat comes very close, of course, but you do have to ask yourself, why was Ricky Steamboat (and I use the word with the greatest of respect) only NWA World Heavyweight Champion and not WWF Champion? The answer, I think, has to acknowledge that The Macho Man was the better character and had the ability to manoeuver crowd psychology in a way that very few others in this business could. I’m sure Dusty Rhodes could, but even The American Dream would’ve struggled to match the emotional connection Randy Savage made with the crowd if he had been saddled with a gimmick that—let’s be honest—was nothing less than sheer fantasy.        

Gimmick or no gimmick, Randy Savage could get it done in the ring. Right from the days of selling out the 20,000 capacity Rupp Arena in Kentucky (bigger, at the time, than Madison Square Garden, as Jim Ross noted in a moving obituary earlier today) to his last unequivocally great feud with Hulk Hogan, culminating at Wrestlemania V, The Macho Man was the heart and soul of the Trump Plaza Wrestlemanias and practically every big wrestling show in between.

Ricky Steamboat and he put on a match for the ages at Wrestlemania III, on the same card where Hulk Hogan so famously bodyslammed and beat André the Giant. Lots of wrestling enthusiasts will tell you that the only reason the live crowd was hotter than a firecracker for the main event was because Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat got them going. It was truly an extraordinary match, with near fall after near fall, that does not fail to quicken the pulse even at a distance of three years since I last saw it. 

But even more important to me was the fact that it put the WWF Intercontinental Championship on the map. In fact, in the early years, it really was an alternative power centre to the WWF Championship. It was worth more than the Intercontinental Champion, The Ultimate Warrior beating the WWF Champion, Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VI. It was worth more than the two best technicians in the WWF at the time (Bret Hart and ‘Mr. Perfect’ Curt Hennig) competing for the Intercontinental Championship at the 1991 Summerslam. And that’s because without Randy Savage (who very obviously dictated the pace of the match) putting on the performance of his life, there would have been no prestige to the Intercontinental Championship.

Incredibly, The Macho Man matched this performance blow for blow at Wrestlemania IV. He wrestled (in order) Butch Reed, Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine, One Man Gang and ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase all in one night to win the WWF Championship. When you watch wrestling as much as I do, you get sick of hearing people, even if they are respected veterans, talk about how the greatest challenge for a wrestler beyond a point is to continually ‘get up’ for big matches. 

But, to this day, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more astounding example of a wrestler meeting this challenge on a single show better than Randy Savage did at Wrestlemania IV. To have four matches in one night on a championship-winning run is staggering enough but to have four different types of matches, while looking genuinely vulnerable and genuinely threatening in every single one of them beggars belief. To the best of my knowledge, something equivalent in such a high-stakes environment has only been attempted once since, when Bret Hart beat Razor Ramon, Curt Hennig and Bam Bam Bigelow in the same night at the 1993 King of the Ring. I think it’s safe to say that unless either of those two is reborn, we will never see such a performance in a wrestling ring again.

Yet, in so many ways, Randy Savage’s career was (often unfairly) defined by the one person who was unquestionably a bigger star than he was at the time—Hulk Hogan. Their year-long feud which followed the constitution and the separation of The Mega Powers was truly unique because of the willingness of Miss Elizabeth to get genuinely involved. The ‘forced heel’ Randy Savage was a fantastic creation at a time when wrestling still clearly respected the line between black and white. 

But behind the scenes, under the relentless pressure of having carried the company between the last Wrestlemania and this, Randy Savage was physically falling apart [Hulk Hogan tells a wonderful story about how, while he was out of wrestling, there’s only one person in the world who could have, and did (Randy Savage had an uninterrupted reign as WWF Champion between Wrestlemania IV and V), carry ‘the load of being Hulk Hogan’].

And so it came to pass that Randy Savage called Hulk Hogan a few nights before Wrestlemania V and told him that he had a previously undetected burst bursa sac in his famous elbow, that the temperature in his arm had shot up well above 100⁰F and the infection had spread so far that he was risking permanent damage to his arm should something go even slightly astray in their match. Hulk Hogan, immensely worried, asked him to get to a doctor immediately and drain the fluid out of his arm but when they realised that there wasn’t enough time to do that, Randy Savage simply said, 'don’t worry, The Macho Man will be there.' I read this story, watched that match back and was amazed to see how one arm is nearly twice the size of the other. But when his world-famous theme song ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ filled out around Atlantic City, true to his word, The Macho Man was there.     

The Macho Man was wrestling’s first truly ‘on the edge’ character. He was a man who lived his gimmick and that’s rare. And while Hulk Hogan transcended wrestling, everywhere you scratch beneath the surface, from Baywatch to Spider-Man to Dexter’s Laboratory, Randy Savage—without the multi-millions backing his publicity, without the stock options, without owning his own image rights—was always bubbling underneath.

So I think it’s wrong to grieve, as I have done for all of today, about a life lived so fully. What I implore you to do is to take a closer look at the wrestling we watch. And I can guarantee you that, from the colourful getups to the diving axe-handles and elbows, there are little traces of Randy Savage’s legacy littered everywhere.

Wrestling’s grim reaper has cruelly claimed many lives before this and, sadly, will doubtless do so again. This particular life, however, I’m going to celebrate rather than grieve. 

Because, every once in a while, I’ll hear Booker T on colour commentary on Smackdown! make his voice extra gravelly and take a second’s pause between every word he fires out to describe a major play—and I’ll smile to myself and think, ‘he’s trying to be The Macho Man.’

Friday, May 20, 2011

I can't be your friend unless I pretend

More from Neil McCormick's spellbinding Killing Bono:

"And still we didn't sit down and say, 'That's it.' Wave the white flag. Surrender. We didn't look each other in the eye, shake hands and say: 'We gave it our best shot. It was not to be.' Rather, we skulked around, avoiding each other, seeking refuge in the arms of women.

I was in love. For the first time, I felt I could actually say that without fear, without equivocation or concern about commitment. And it may be that failure released me from the prison of ego and ambition, so that I no longer contemplated the future with the greedy eyes of a child in a candy store. Or it may be that love was a safe haven for my wounded ego, because love makes everybody special. Our loved ones loved our songs. They'd ask us to play for them, even when no one else wanted to listen anymore.

[...] The object of my ardor was Gloria. And when she finally reciprocated, after a long siege on the stronghold of her heart, [...] I was temporarily elevated to seventh heaven, king of all I surveyed. In the warmth of her embrace, I could overlook my failures. I could even thanks for the crooked path my life had taken, telling myself that it had led to this wonderful woman."

And this, from a newly-rediscovered 'Sewn' by The Feeling:

" 'Cos you got my heart in a headlock
You stopped the blood and made my head soft
And God knows
You've got me sewn."

One big reason I like this song is because Dan Gillespie Sells pronounces "can't" like it's meant to be, not the way the Americans do.

A line from this song was the subject of my first-ever Facebook status message, about a month short of four years ago.

My, how things've changed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Thought for the day

Argumentiere niemals mit einem Idioten. Erst zieht er dich auf sein Niveau herunter, dann besiegt er dich mit Erfahrung.

You learn something new at Oxford everyday. 

Friday, May 06, 2011

True Friends

A true friend is someone who will break up with his girlfriend for the same reasons that you broke up with yours just to show you solidarity.

Ha. Haha.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

NTP, Inc. v. Research in Motion, Inc. 418 F.3d. 1282 (Fed. Cir. 2005)

I hate everyone who has a Blackberry. And I'm not jealous, believe me.

In fact, as far as I'm concerned, The Rock's gonna take your little Blackberry, turn that sumbitch sideways and stick it straight up your candy ass.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Letting Go - II

Right now, I feel like that second panda in my Gtalk display pic.

I'm also back in Oxford for what looks set to be a beautiful summer, but somehow that seems rather incidental to the plot at the present time. 

I'm not sure if there's a point to this story but I'm going to tell it again.

My photo
I've been wilfully caught up in the self-defeating quest to get to know myself for years. I've never expected anything beneficial to result from such a quest. I tend to evoke extremely polarised reactions from people I get to know in passing. Consequently, only those people who know me inside-out would honestly claim that I'm a person who's just "alright." It's not a coincidence that the description I've laid out above has no fewer than, title included, eleven references to me (make that twelve). I'm affectionately referred to as "Ego." I think that last statement might have given away a tad too much. Welcome Aboard.

IHTRTRS ke pichle episode mein aapne dekha...


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