That for which we find words is something already dead in our hearts. There is always a kind of contempt in the act of speaking. Nietzsche
All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players. Shakspere
IT SHOULD BE:
1 All the world's a work, and the men and women merely marks.
WORK: carny term wrestlers use for the scripted angles, results, of their matches.
But Work is a strange thing. It can also be used when one wrestler tries to WORK an angle on another wrestler, or the company. A con.
SHOOT. A Shooter, (or Hooker), is a legit fighter. A SHOOT is also when the WORKED angle gets REAL.
2 Last week the former youngest WWE Champion in their storied history, one Brock Lesnar, returned to Pro Wrestling, eight years after leaving. That in the interregnum Lesnar was the legit heavyweight shooter of the world, (in the Ultimate Fighting Championship he won the WORLD TITLE BELT, Brother!), added to the spectacle, and speculation. This would be like The Rock going into boxing, and beating Larry Holmes.
I haven't watched wrestling in ten years. I did in the last week because Lesnar, a shooter even when he was a worker, made seeing HOW the company would WORK the SHOOT of his return, something to see.
3 A classic WORK would have been to have Brock Lesnar come in and say he missed wrestling and the wrestling fans that followed him and made him a rich man the first time.
4 The SHOOT is that Brock Lesnar is a man so athletically gifted, he seems incapable of appreciating his own accomplishments. Thus he's a merc. Wrestling was for money. MMA was for money. Getting on the practice squad with the Minnesota Vikings between work-fighting and shoot-fighting was for money; had he stuck with it he probably would have made the team as a defensive tackle in a year or two, but pro football practice squad money wasn't good enough.
5 When Lesnar saw the money involved in MMA, he tried it. But he didn't want to work that hard. He's the only bandit to ever force his way into the UFC before working his way up the ladder. The only reason this happened is the UFC threw him in against world class competition figuring they would job him out to one of their best fighters, cash in on his name in a one-off, then laugh at him, and their PPV competition, Pro Wrestling, as Lesnar walked away embarrassed. This is REAL fighting buddy, they likely imagined they'd be saying to him.
What happened was more like a wrestling WORK: Lesnar became the champ and the biggest draw in the history of MMA, a bigger draw than Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, or GSP. The only PPV of all-time that sold better than the Lesnar title fight in UFC, Was Tyson-Holyfield. With less than a year of experience at his newfound calling, Lesnar was bigger than UFC, and made the UFC bigger than it had been without him. Only a few fighters in history did business at this level. This was 1986 cover of the video game Mike Tyson level. Brock was the Franchise for the second time.
And then he was done. He missed a year with a life-threatening illness. Coming back to world class fighting competition after missing a year, after having only been in it a year, and now in his mid-thirties, proved too much. Lesnar lost his last two matches in the first round. He retired from the UFC, leaving a big hole in their plans.
6 In comes Vince McMahon, (who had sued Lesnar when he left wrestling the first time), with a big check, and an agreement that Lesnar didn't have to work full time. He didn't have to hump it from town to town with the rest of the wrestlers if he came back. He was Brock Lesnar. And he would be treated as Brock Lesnar.
7 Imagine working on the road 300 days a year, and some guy who quit your company has come back, only now he's making ten times more money than you, and only has to work thirty days a year. The SHOOT is that the contracted wrestlers, (really sub-contracted, wrestlers have no union), were not happy with Brock Lesnar, and Brock Lesnar's deal: millions for only thirty appearances over the course of the year. This must be considered when planning the WORK of how and why Lesnar the TV character would return. Because mutinies can happen in pro wrestling as easily backstage as they can be scripted at front-of-house.
How would they book Lesnar? As the conquering Caesar/prodigal son who had gone out and legitimized pro wrestling in the MMA world, or as the greedy merc who was back for the money?
They booked both, and him, in a SHOOT/WORK. Lesnar went on WWE televison, and said, "I'm not a Superstar, (Vince's term for wrestler), I'm not here for the fans." But this Brock, the spoiled mercenary, in it for the money, was here to beat up the FAKE fighters.
The fans loved it. All the world's a stage. And wrestling fans, more sophisticated then, say, fans of HBO television dramas, or readers of the New Yorker, delight in WORKED ANGLES with a nice dollop of the offstage machinations thrown in. It's something of, "DO, PLEASE, PAY ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!"
8 I respect Pro Wrestling. Wrestling is American theater tradition. It is the last troupe of minstrels who book asses in seats night after night without losing touch with the common man, as Barton Fink would say. A form of storytelling often silly, but without pretension -- akin to movies a hundred years ago. And the only athletic product clever enough to laugh at legitimacy. Have you ever had to talk to a baseball fan? What a fucking bore; not the game, the Ken Burnsian pomposity, as if baseball, (basketball/football/boxing), has ever been legitimate. Hasn't been a WORK half the time.
Wrestling has it's own grimy road-worn legitimacy; wrestling is Toshiro Mifune; wrestling matches don't have betting lines up at the big Vegas sports books, because wrestling is its own BOOK. Wrestling knows the world is corrupt, and wallows in it with their crowd. Pro Athletes in LEGIT sports run WORKS on fans for money, then piss and moan when they get booed; to wrestlers the booing is sweet music. Asses in seats, baby.
Ric Flair is almost without argument considered the greatest wrestler of all time. But ask anyone older than me about Ric Flair, and they will say he is:
1 A coward.
2 An arrogant jerk.
3 A cheater.
4 A rich guy who rubbed the common fan's nose in his success.
To which I say: Exactly. Here is what Ric Flair was: The best ring general of all time, who went from town to town, and drew crowds of people wanting to see him GET HIS. Ric Flair wrestled hour-long matches with great storytelling while Hulk Hogan wrestled for five minutes, and put his hand to his ear. Ric Flair, in the nomenclature, PUT GUYS OVER. For twenty years Flair made stars out of every babyface/good guy wrestler in every backwoods territory, all over the world. Ric Flair is a legend in the locker room; the villain for every blue collar fan on an eight dollar ticket to see GET HIS, forever. No matter how big he gets, at the end of the string Ric Flair is Richard the III, looking for a horse.
A ROGUE AND PEASANT SLAVE
1 Shakspere is the greatest wrestling booker of all time. In Elizabethan England, the theater was wrestling. The playhouses were on the wrong side of the river. They booked bear and dog fights in between plays. They were frequented by whores and (worse), commoners. None of the University writers could WORK these crowds with his success. Shakspere was down in the ditch with them. He booked lots of murder, lots of lust.
2 Shakspere saw Marlowe book some great HEELS, your Tamburlaine, your Barabas. He saw how much the fans got off on the bad guy characters --
3 Here, from The Jew of Malta, Marlowe all but congratulates himself on his own booking:
ITHAMORE: Why, was there ever seen such villainy, So neatly plotted, and so well performed?
4 This too Marlowe's Jew of Malta, and if this isn't a great Bad Guy Wrestler Promo, I don't know what is:
BARABBAS: As for myself, I walk abroad a-nights And kill sick people groaning under walls; Sometimes I go about and poison wells.
5 The Evil Jew angle did such good business, Shakspere had a turn booking it years later with Shylock, but Shaks being Shaks, it gets muddy:
SHYLOCK: 'My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter! Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats! Justice! the law! my ducats, and my daughter!
Christ, that Jew can't figure which he's more upset about losing, his child or his money.
Scholars have debated Shylock for four hundred years, with books dedicated to whether Shakspere the anti-Semite, or on the other side, inventing fanciful defenses for him. To them Shakspere is a poet, a man who writes the truth, so they struggle with what he was trying to SAY with Shylock. But Shakspere's genius was: there is no truth, there's just asses in seats; he booked an evil Jew the way Vince McMahon booked the Iron Sheik as an evil Arab, ticket sales. He knew no matter how beautifully he wrote it was something dead in his heart, and what dies inside is grist for the mill, asses in seats. People looking for truth are MARKS, and the only morality is what plays.
6 When Hamlet gets moved by the Player King's Hecuba speech, he's pissed that, as smart as he is, he's moved more by a WORK than by the SHOOT going on in Elsinore with his uncle, the king:
O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all his visage wann’d,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in’s aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? and all for nothing! ..
Until the end when Hamlet realizes a WORK is just what he needs to out the King. Hamlet books the greatest SHOOT/WORK in history, The Mousetrap. It's akin to watching What's Love Got To Do With It next to a wife-beater. It's like watching Blade Runner next to a robot. Awkward.
Shakspere the Booker let's Hamlet book his own play within the play within the riddle within the enigma within the smoke monster.
Shakspere knows The World's A Work. If you don't see the mark, you're the mark.
WHEN GOOD GUYS AREN'T GOOD
1 John Cena is arguably the most popular wrestler in the world. The modern day equivalent of Hulk Hogan, selling t-shirts to kids, making visits to hospitals, and winning against all odds.
Because of this, every wrestling fan north of ten years old hates him. No, not hate, ennui. This is obvious even to a perfunctory resynching with current wrestling via internet and crowd reactions on TV.
Cena just lost the biggest PPV wrestling match of ALL-TIME to The Rock. The classic booking in a match like that is the former star who returns loses to the current star, thus putting the kid over; makes business sense, being that Rock will never be a full-time wrestler again, and won't be in your town next week wrestling. What happened was the fans, knowing full well that the product is a WORK, boo'ed Cena out of the building at every stop over the winter, basically telling the WWE: If you want our money after Wrestlemania, you will not let John Cena beat The Rock. Vince listened. Rock went over against all logic but for the beautifully democratic logic of keeping the customer happy.
2 One night later Brock Lesnar showed up, and punked Cena out on TV. Tough week for the Cenamaniacs. After a few weeks of hype, John Cena and Brock Lesnar wrestled last Sunday night in what was one of the most fascinating wrestling matches in history.
3 It started out as a SHOOT. Lesnar jumped on Cena, and LEGITIMATELY elbowed Cena in the head until he cut his face open. He then proceeded to beat Cena with the stiffest style of wrestling moves you could use and still consider the match not a real fight. And Cena took it. This was not like your stereotypical TV match, with all the well-worn spots; people knew they were watching a beating that was WORKED, but not FAKE. Real elbows. Real SHOOT holds. Real blood. A bear baiting, indeed.
Cena somehow won the match. He usually wins matches. He usually makes heroic comebacks to win matches just like every Babyface in wrestling history, (I.E. Hogan), but this was different. This was Lesnar working a SHOOT on him. Hurting him. And in the end, laying down for HIM.
4 Here it gets strange: A spot came in the match where Cena was outside the ropes, but on the apron. Lesnar came off the opposite ropes, running to Cena, and catapulting off of ring steps that had been brought in the ring earlier, came to Cena to hit him, but instead went right over the ropes, and landed awkwardly, violently, outside the ring. He came up limping. On replay it looks like Cena lowered the rope so Lesnar would fall. On replay it looks like Lesnar didn't expect it.
It has been reported Lesnar blew up backstage. He thought he had been double-crossed. He thought the bookers had set out to injure him for real. A SHOOT was in progress out back, and Lesnar was looking for a real fight after the fake fight. This is the Machiavellian scheming of an earlier era of pro wrestling, when justice was determined by the boys in the back. Did the workers want Lesnar hurt because of the power and money he had been given to return to wrestling? Was the WORK angle of Lesnar the MERC too close to the SHOOT truth, and did the Boys in the back want to teach him a lesson by injuring him for how high he had climbed? Sometimes FAKE fighting is more dangerous than REAL.
Or maybe, just maybe, this is a SHOOT inside a WORK inside a SHOOT inside a WORK, and we'll never get off the island.
5 Lesnar "QUIT" Monday after getting a speech from the head wrestler in charge about how he isn't bigger than the business, on live TV. Which is exactly what the other wrestlers wanted Lesnar to hear. A SHOOT/WORK in progress, airing dirty laundry, putting asses in seats.
Bizarre stuff. The winner of the whole mess is John Cena, who for the first time in a year has been cheered for a win. Lesnar went Flair, (even if he didn't intend to), and got the crowd back behind Cena, a good guy they had grown sick of.
And what about Lesnar? For five million dollars, he's lost his first fake fight against a fake fighter who couldn't beat him in a real fight, after having to retire from losing real fights to real fighters. Does it hurt his pride to lay down to Cena? For five million, he'll play the part whoever's set the mouse trap. Five million can unpack any whore's heart of words.
UPDATE: FROM The Wrestling Observer --Here is a weird Brock Lesnar column from someone who clearly doesn't get a lot of things, such as claiming when Lesnar went to UFC, he didn't want to work that hard (please, nobody has ever questioned that man's work rate in the gym in history) and "UFC threw him in against world class competition figuring they would job him out to one of their best fighters, cash in on his name in a one-off, then laugh at him, and their PPV competition, pro wrestling, as Lesnar walked away embarrassed." Well, that's roughly 180 degrees different than UFC's mind set was in 2008.
(Being corrected by David Meltzer is an honor. As a journal entry, there was little revision, and some fanciful theorizing. It's a work out.)