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20.10.14 0631
The W - Pro Wrestling - “The Death—And Rebirth of Professional Wrestling”
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rv581
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Since: 2.12.02

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#1 Posted on
from www.laststory.com

“The Death—And Rebirth of Professional Wrestling”

If you owned a restaurant and within a few years business dropped 64%, chances are there’d soon be a foreclosure sign on your front window. Such a devastating drop in clientele means that nearly two-thirds of all the consumers who once enjoyed your product have, for whatever reason, decided to take their patronage elsewhere. Obviously, something is seriously wrong and a speedy remedy is essential for your restaurant’s economic survival.

This brings us to professional wrestling. Just a few years ago, the two competing wrestling companies—WCW and WWF—regularly drew combined Nielsen ratings of 11+ on Monday nights. Fast-forward to the end of 2002: WCW collapsed and exists no more; the WWE (which was forced to change from its more-recognizable WWF moniker after losing a lawsuit) is scarcely able to crack a 4 in the Monday night ratings. And what makes this condition so precarious is that, in many cases, the WWE’s salaries and financial expenditures were designed to function within a framework established by wrestling’s height several years back. Think about the shocking turn of events: Wrestling’s Monday night audience has dropped by about 64%, the WCW organization is out of business, and the WWE is hemorrhaging like a hemophiliac sprinting naked through a thorn patch. The wrestling industry is getting choke-slammed and needs to make a hot tag to someone capable of righting the ship. But before a solution can be found, the problem needs to be identified.

Not unlike the collapse of Rome, wrestling’s implosion was the product of multiple, contributing factors. First of all, the industry’s “golden halo” was shattered when Vince McMahon, the hands-on owner of the WWE, fell on his face with the ill-advised XFL. At the zenith of his company’s popularity, McMahon cashed in his reputation as a modern day promotional genius, forging a partnership with NBC to create a new “extreme” professional football league. But despite all Vince’s bluster and hyperbole, the XFL’s Nielsen ratings were an embarrassment and the product’s overall quality-level an abomination. The XFL became comedy fodder for late night talk show hosts and McMahon himself went from marketing guru to object of ridicule in record time. This negativity carried over to Vince’s flagship wrestling promotion, branding the lifeblood of his umbrella organization with a stigma of failure. The second nail in the coffin was the evaporation of star power. The major wrestling draws in the late 90s were Stone Cold Steve Austin, Bill Goldberg, the Rock, Mick Foley, Brett Hart, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, the Undertaker, Sting, and Ric Flair. Of these 12 names, none are currently active wrestlers on the WWE’s roster. Age, injury, or competing interests have successfully driven away a surprisingly high number of wrestling’s marquee attractions, and unlike the NFL which sells itself, wrestling depends on the emotional connection between the wrestlers and audience to survive; without this, the “sport” is nothing more than loosely-choreographed performance art. For whatever reason, wrestling lost its stars faster that it could build new ones. The third and final problem goes to the industry’s staleness. The strategy that helped the WWF to ultimately conquer WCW was a willingness to shock the audience with vulgarities and sexual innuendos, cultivating fan interest with characters neither good nor bad, but instead emblematic of young America’s visceral fantasies. People forget how groundbreaking this was at the time; before professional wrestling morphed into “sports entertainment,” wrestling read like a PG-rated cowboy movie, with the good guys wearing white hats and the bad guys clad in black. McMahon turned the “wrassling” industry on its ear by replacing these clichéd romanticisms, instead opting for a hybrid of live-action adult comic books and over-the-top soap operas. He played this card to the hilt… and now he’s out of cards. What was once “must see” television became akin to an old action-adventure VHS tape, with interchangeable plots and characters. Wrestling became a comfort food for a dwindling base of enthusiasts, eerily following the lifecycle of other temporal media sensations, such as Melrose Place or Beverly Hills 90210. What once was new is now redundant and the wrestlers become watered-down facsimiles of each other, a sad celebration of the unchained id.

Now that the problems are diagnosed, how does one remedy the patient? Before any solution can be seriously debated, a few assumptions need to be agreed upon: that in the WWE, there’s a sufficient pool of untapped talent capable of becoming marquee attractions, that the quality of the in-ring matches can sustain an audience’s attention, and the writers possess a level of talent sufficient to cultivate entertaining story lines. With these assumptions in place, let’s suture the seeping wound…

The first course of action is for the WWE to stop trying to shock an audience with vulgarities and instead attempt to shock with ideas. This is not to suggest that the entire product should be built around “shock” TV, but such a creature is useful in gaining attention and drawing mainstream interest. An event’s ability to “shock” is directly dependent upon its newness, just as a dirty joke’s power to induce laughter exponentially diminishes when the audience already knows the punchline. There’s a limit to the amount of times you can evoke a guttural reaction from a girl flashing her thong or someone trashing a rented Avis pickup truck with a jackhammer. But why not go another route? Take a wrestler with a charismatic upside—someone like budding star Rob Van Dam—and let him get “over” with the audience by espousing a controversial idea. In fact, with RVD, why not make him pro-marijuana (which may or may not be typecasting…)? The WWE would get much more mainstream coverage if one of its stars began voicing his approval for the legalization of marijuana than it would with a wrestler calling his fans “testicles” or a necrophilia subplot (both of which, incidentally, were tried over the past few months). In fact, RVD could do for pot what Stone Cold Steve Austin did for beer, but more importantly, it would be something different, something the audience hadn’t seen before. Politics, religion, social dynamics… depending on how the WWE frames these issues, they could provide humor, intrigue, and a sense of newness that its product lacks in its current incarnation. The hyperbolic violence and smarmy PG-13 nudity that was initially designed to “hook” a nomadic audience can instead be used to advance plots and stories.

The second course of action is reorganization and diversification. Hoping to increase product interest, the WWE split its roster into two separate factions, one exclusively appearing on TNN’s “Raw” program, the other on UPN’s “Smackdown.” The logic was simple—two separate shows could appeal to two separate audiences and yield a larger number of overall spectators. The problem is that the only true separation involved the wrestlers themselves; the philosophies and corporate imprint remained indistinguishable. And as such, wrestling’s base was weakened, not widened, since the roster split atrophied each show’s level of talent. With channel-surfers quickly cognitive of this reality, neither Smackdown nor Raw cultivated a new audience. The solution is to weave an urgent talent solidification into both network’s storylines and immediately forego this failed TV show apartheid. But diversification is still important, assuming it can attract greater viewership. The answer is on HBO or Showtime. You simply can’t have diversity with a singular identity—and premium cable is the answer. A two-hour weekly program, with more “adult” plots, true nudity instead of mere hints of cleavage, and a greater level of risk than either the UPN or TNN could ever tolerate on the airwaves would truly be a brand-extending sign of WWE diversification. Freed from the shackles of network censors, this program could generate tremendous waves of controversy that gets the public talking about a company that’s now being ignored. Besides, not too many male members of the 18-35 demographic of whom the WWE covets would stray from a TV show featuring nude catfights and R-themes subplots, designed to augment the in-ring action… and HBO or Showtime, no strangers to controversial programming themselves, craves any form of entertainment that increases its number of subscribers. Done right, wrestling on premium cable could be fun, titillating, and entertaining even for those who aren’t currently faithful followers of what the WWE offers.

Right now, the WWE finds itself mired in mediocrity because its execution is poor and its vision myopic. A good gameplan can’t overcome ineffectual execution… but it’s a starting point. And it would be a welcome departure from the epidemic-level ineptitude permeating the WWE right now, from top to bottom. Both critics and admirers describe Vince McMahon as an intense competitor and an intelligent entrepreneur. What he needs right now is humility—to admit past failures—and a heightened analysis of the media landscape. The problem isn’t with the wrestling itself, but the context in which the wrestling is framed. And Vince McMahon is the only person with the power to change the industry’s framework… as he’s done numerous times before. Professional wrestling serves as a quixotic expression of artistry and entertainment, and not unlike other such expressions, it needs to evolve to survive. As it stands now, wrestling seems perilously close to becoming yet another failed mutation in the ashbin of televised fad “sports,” destined to land somewhere alongside of roller derby, the XFL, or American Gladiators. When the present path leads to ruin, a smart navigator changes direction; wrestling enthusiasts must be wondering to themselves if Vince McMahon is too close to the problem to see the path clearly.



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Since: 24.7.02

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#2 Posted on
I always wondered why WCW didn't try to get time on HBO when Time Warner ran both. At this point, Showtime would be the better option, as Time Warner/AOL's opinion on wrestling is well known.




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Since: 22.1.02
From: Texas

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#3 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.95
An HBO wrestling show could be interesting, with the eased restrictions on language, sex, etc. But would they overdo it? You bet they would.



"My brother saw the Undertaker walking through an airport." - Rex
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redsoxnation
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Since: 24.7.02

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#4 Posted on

    Originally posted by asteroidboy
    An HBO wrestling show could be interesting, with the eased restrictions on language, sex, etc. But would they overdo it? You bet they would.








And of course, if RAW was ever on HBO, it would show how pathetic the quality of writing is when compared to other HBO shows.



I want you to know, I agree with everything I've just said.
asteroidboy
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Since: 22.1.02
From: Texas

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#5 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.95

    Originally posted by redsoxnation

      Originally posted by asteroidboy
      An HBO wrestling show could be interesting, with the eased restrictions on language, sex, etc. But would they overdo it? You bet they would.








    And of course, if RAW was ever on HBO, it would show how pathetic the quality of writing is when compared to other HBO shows.



How true. It would pale to any episode of the Sopranos (okay, I've only watched part of one, but it was still better than a RAW backstage skit).



"My brother saw the Undertaker walking through an airport." - Rex
"Was he no-selling?" - Me

Never been a Wiener of the Day

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Torchslasher
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Since: 17.1.02
From: New F'n Jersey

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#6 Posted on | Instant Rating: 6.44

    Originally posted by asteroidboy

      Originally posted by redsoxnation

        Originally posted by asteroidboy
        An HBO wrestling show could be interesting, with the eased restrictions on language, sex, etc. But would they overdo it? You bet they would.








      And of course, if RAW was ever on HBO, it would show how pathetic the quality of writing is when compared to other HBO shows.



    How true. It would pale to any episode of the Sopranos (okay, I've only watched part of one, but it was still better than a RAW backstage skit).




The wrestling would still be better than the overrated Six Feet Under and especially Curb Your Enthusiasm.



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Since: 16.1.02
From: The Off-Center of the Universe (aka Philadelphia)

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#7 Posted on
It's an interesting idea, and some of the suggestions make sense -- while the concept of RVD getting over by becoming openly pro-pot aside is just silly (what next, Sean Morley giving lectures on libertarianism?), the analysis of the weaknesses of the split is spot on.

And I like the idea of a R-rated wrestling show in theory. But do we really want to have to sit through Lawler calling a nude catfight? Will the show really be that much better if they don't bleep out the cusswords? Do you trust the writers to be able to handle "more adult plots" properly -- or the wrestlers to be able to provide the acting chops required? I mean, when I think of "more adult plots," the first thing that jumps to mind is that Droz the drug dealer/suicidal Hawk angle from the Russo era, and we know how well that played out.



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Since: 2.1.02
From: Lititz, PA

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#8 Posted on
If the WWE is really interested in diversification, they should find an entirely different product for them to promote, not just trying to create a second WWE style wrestling league on another network.

Why not get in bed with F/X and promote Toughman, or compete with Toughman? Why not some form of Mixed Martial Arts? The football was a good idea in theory, because it pulls to the same 17-to-34 violence seeking demographics.

And they don't need to make RVD a pot adovcate to get him over (although I certainly espouse those feelings myself), they just need to give him a win over an established guy.

Besides, an HBO wrestling show forces fans to pay 10 a month for the product, which will take away from those will to spend money on ppv (if they don't already have HBO already).

Another point of contention, Six Feet Under rules it. But Curb Your Enthusiam does suck the meat missle.



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Ana Ng
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Since: 6.8.02
From: Naples, FL, USA

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#9 Posted on
I still don't think wrestling is dying. But that's just me, I guess.

I agree that they need to elevate new stars.. but that's nothing new around these parts.. We've been crowing for that all year.

I think the fundamental need is for Vince to hire some decent writers. Some REAL writers. And they need to conceive their stories more ahead of time. Once upon of time, they'd write the storylines for an entire year, and they'd know months ahead of time what Wrestlemania would be. While that isn't so practical in the days of 6 hours of programming every week, they could at least plan ahead a *little*. And I still maintain that there has to be a plethora of freelance writers who would work for cheap and still have decent ideas.

I also agree that they need to stop falling back on the same old stuff-especially with the shock tv. But wrestling on HBO? The last thing we need to give Vince is carte-blanche to do any kind of depraved thing he wants. If he could just show tits week in and week out, I'm guessing he wouldn't even bother at all with storytelling.



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Net Hack Slasher
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Since: 6.1.02
From: Outer reaches of your mind

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#10 Posted on
I don't think I can disagree more with an entire article like this one. Doesn't his suggestion sound like the NWATNA meets XPW formula (Xtreme Pay per show). There's a lot of holes in doing this

HBO shows are marketed to a distinct crowd, the numbers might be low (compared to network & basic cable) but are willing to pay for the program, WWE has that as well they are called hardcore fans who pay for PPV, if they do this you will have a fan base of only hardcores... Another thing, HBO shows are not traveling to a different state every week trying to sell out arenas, having a program more difficult to general public to find sure isn't going to help the overall fan base and who would go to the arena and watch a wrestling show that they can't watch on TV. Speaking of arenas, I wonder how many will be cool about having Vinnie Mac's full frontal show coming to town. We are still going to have arenas and rings?

Also this article is putting way too much emphesis on the wrestling boom on Sable's breasts, Val's dick jokes and Godfathers ho's. When you do that you are undermining the true reasons (IMO) of the wrestling boom, the Austin/ McMahon feud which was a storyline that can grab almost everyones imagination, the introduction and the push of the charasmatic Rock, and guys like Mic Foley who was a unique character that hasn't been matched yet...Back then people were pushed for how well they did with the crowd, TV ratings etc, not now it seems that the WWE is telling us who we should be on top instead of listening to it's fans.

RVD doesn't need the be a full out stoner to get over, he needs a goddamn push, he needs a big win, he needs someone to put him over strong, he needs a 3 or 4 month run on top not a 3 or 4 weeks as a challenger and then go back to the midcards for 2 or 3 months. Austin could drink all the beers he wants, if every time he faced Hart or Michaels or Taker he got punked out and went down and wrestled Flash Funk and Sparky Plug for 3 months and then go back up to main event just to get punked out again, the Stone Cold buzz would be gone in a hurry. The beers didn't make Austin, it was Bret selling he was scared shit of Austin, it was Austin beating Michaels in the middle of the ring at WrestleMania, that is what made Austin into a legit money making superstar.

This is kind of a side note, but whenever I hear people talking about an 11+ total rating of Monday night wrestling (Raw + Nitro) and comparing to the number now, it's kind of a unfair statement. Because if you watched Raw and taped Nitro (or vise versa) your one household would count for both watching Nitro and Raw. So when Nitro went off the air, alot of those Nitro households were also watching Raw and being accounted in the Raw rating, so the Raw rating wouldn't have jumped up because that household was already crediting to watching Raw... Look I'm not saying that the WWF hasn't lost viewers, they certainly had and it's their own fault. But the 11+ total wrestling fanbase in the peak years is a little exaggerated because I think some of that number is individuals watching both shows


(edited by Net Hack Slasher on 31.12.02 0540)

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Since: 20.3.02
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#11 Posted on
The author did a good job describing the fall of wrestling and why it's in the position it is in today, but I was really confused with the author's overall message.

On one hand, he says WWE should stop trying to shock people with PG-13 things and, instead, shock people with "ideas." Then, he goes on to say that they should go on HBO, where they would be allowed full nudity and the ability to swear. What the hell kind of idea is that?

The author also really glossed over the whole "competent creative team" thing, and I think that's really one of the big things that caused the current downfall. It's hard to just assume that WWE, as it is today, can just suddenly get a competent creative staff. It's not the only thing, but it's an incredibly huge detail. WWE thrives and dies on its creative team, and that's the way it's been for a while.

Hey, I'd like to see a Steve Austin given free reign for a profanity-laced tirade (ala Bret) as much as the next guy, but that's not ultimately going to help. As asteroidboy said, WWE's shows as they are don't really hold up to HBO's current, more upscale, programming.

I'm one of those people that believes that wrestling actually CAN be capable more "mature"/serious storylines. Wrestling on HBO isn't necessarily a bad idea, of course. Hogan said he had negotiations with HBO in the past and wanted to start up a league with them, but that never happened. As a separate entity, I think HBO wrestling could work, but it would have a smaller audience like TNA. I don't think WWE can really handle the small audience thing, because so much of their business is based on attendance.

Diversification is what the "brand extension" has needed from the very beginning, but they don't need HBO to do that. In fact, they had diversification over the summer, remember? SMACKDOWN! was great, RAW sucked. Ah, those were the days.
asteroidboy
Andouille








Since: 22.1.02
From: Texas

Since last post: 1426 days
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#12 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.95

    Originally posted by Ana Ng
    I still don't think wrestling is dying. But that's just me, I guess.

    I agree that they need to elevate new stars.. but that's nothing new around these parts.. We've been crowing for that all year.

    I think the fundamental need is for Vince to hire some decent writers. Some REAL writers. And they need to conceive their stories more ahead of time. Once upon of time, they'd write the storylines for an entire year, and they'd know months ahead of time what Wrestlemania would be. While that isn't so practical in the days of 6 hours of programming every week, they could at least plan ahead a *little*. And I still maintain that there has to be a plethora of freelance writers who would work for cheap and still have decent ideas.




You don't think it's dying? Attendance is more than half off. Look at the venues they're booking - only one tier of seating and noticably smaller than stuff from two years ago. If it's not dying, it's at least in a coma.

But I think you're right on about the writers Ana. I've read articles where reporters are given backstage access and they describe the writing staff as all being in their 20s. That hardly sounds like an experienced bunch, and it's glaringly obvious. Some young writers are okay, but there needs to be some experience there. I'm sure the age thing is just so Steph will feel comfortable with bossing them around.

I've regularly heard booking ideas on this board that are far superior than what we've seen. The talent is out there.



"My brother saw the Undertaker walking through an airport." - Rex
"Was he no-selling?" - Me

Never been a Wiener of the Day

RFMC Vice President (I think)

redsoxnation
Scrapple








Since: 24.7.02

Since last post: 476 days
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#13 Posted on

    Originally posted by joecollins
    If the WWE is really interested in diversification, they should find an entirely different product for them to promote, not just trying to create a second WWE style wrestling league on another network.

    Why not get in bed with F/X and promote Toughman, or compete with Toughman? Why not some form of Mixed Martial Arts? The football was a good idea in theory, because it pulls to the same 17-to-34 violence seeking demographics.

    And they don't need to make RVD a pot adovcate to get him over (although I certainly espouse those feelings myself), they just need to give him a win over an established guy.

    Besides, an HBO wrestling show forces fans to pay 10 a month for the product, which will take away from those will to spend money on ppv (if they don't already have HBO already).

    Another point of contention, Six Feet Under rules it. But Curb Your Enthusiam does suck the meat missle.








Last time Vince played with Toughguy Competitions, we got the Brawl for All fiasco.
On the point of live audiences at HBO/Showtime events, they do have boxing on both networks, and it would be a supplement to the product, not a replacement for PPV. Remember, boxing is able to show good to classic fights on pay cable (cough Ward-Gatti cough) and still draw big numbers for PPV's.



I want you to know, I agree with everything I've just said.
rockdotcom_2.0
Frankfurter








Since: 9.1.02
From: Virginia Beach Va

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#14 Posted on
FIrst of iI agree with the theory that WWE and wrestling is dying. Im sure that Vince has put something away for a rainy day so to speak. Im sure the McMahon war chest can survive a few down years while they get their act together. I mean arent they still for the most part profitable?


Two, putting wrestling on HBO is bad because it would only magnify in a few years the problem I think plagues them now. They would pass a point of no return. Once you start showing people Nudity and vulgarity on a regular basis you cant stop. Like now they want the fans to get used to more traditional type matches with heavier psychology, slower pacing, and less high spots and shock value. But after years of "attitude" people really arent buying it. Its difficult to "re-train" the audience so to speak. Plus the family audience is something Vince really cant afford to drive away. Sure the WWE wants that 18-49 or whatever demo but they also need to hook the kids while they are young. 90% of us started watching wrestling as kids and we a re the die hard fans the WWE needs, he cant just cut off the next generation of fans totally, just so he can show their dads and big brothers a Trish Status- Stacy Keibler- Lita "naked in a bowl of jello" match.....









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Since: 17.11.02

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#15 Posted on
The OP is like Karl Marx: good insight on the problem, shackled with a bad set of solutions.

The biggest asset of the WWE are the wrestlers themselves. It is as if the higher ups don't trust them, yet they are the ones who are performing out there. They should take suggestions from the performers instead of punishing them for perceived slights.



The divas should not be about T&A, they should be about Kicking A.
Ana Ng
Blutwurst








Since: 6.8.02
From: Naples, FL, USA

Since last post: 3834 days
Last activity: 3408 days
#16 Posted on

    Originally posted by asteroidboy






    You don't think it's dying? Attendance is more than half off. Look at the venues they're booking - only one tier of seating and noticably smaller than stuff from two years ago. If it's not dying, it's at least in a coma.




I really don't think it's time to pull out the living will yet. Wrestling has always been a very cyclical business, and right now it's at the low end of the cycle. The poor US economy, while not being the cause, certainly can't be helping matters, either.

If business takes another 60% drop by this time next year, yeah, I'll say it's dying.



Think Happy Kurt Angle Thoughts.
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I realize this is not a CAW site but i am truly desperate. I am wondering if anyone has made a NO MERCY CAW of Art BARR (hopefully with a movelist) they could post for me.
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