THE OBTUSE ANGLE The Knee of Billy Gunn (and Other Works) August 4, 2003
by Jeb Tennyson Lund OnlineOnslaught.com/CitizenScholar.net
If I had a Nixonian enemies list, Michael Cole would be on it. He ranks just above Rosie O'Donnell and just below John Ashcroft. In a previous column, I enumerated the reasons why I think Cole is a poor commentator. I saw the problem as one of "passive voice." Now I think the problem is prepositions and an excessive tendency to sound like John Keats on street crank.
A brief recap. Passive voice is when you describe something not as, "It happens," or, "It happened," but rather that it came to pass, sort of, in an oblique way. Cole does this all the time. Instead of saying, "Cena attacked Undertaker with a chair," Cole will say, "The Undertaker was attacked by Cena with a chair."
The distinction is small, but it's important. Who was really acting? Cena. What really happened? He kabonged the bejesus out of Undertaker. Hence, Cena instigates and finishes all the action. He commands and embodies the drama. But, when Cole says it, the focus is on the Undertaker and something that happened to him... because of this other thing. It's as if the Undertaker was innocently walking about a field of heather and was set upon by the vile Chair People, who are ruled by the High Potent Cena Gloxnurb.
This shouldn't be — not with something as simple as an in-ring fight.
Wrestling is all about action. Men act (damn it all!), and then others react. The verbal focus should be on the action. When something, uh, just so happens to occur to someone in a circumstance because the stars were aligned and something else — the action is minimized, set aside, unfocused, passive. But that's Cole's original sin. As I said earlier, I'm more worried about his abuse of prepositions now.
For instance: Normal Sentence: Noble kicked Billy Gunn's knee. Cole Sentence: Noble delivered a kick to the knee of Billy Gunn.
The man has knees. Those knees get kicked. Why not say that someone kicked Billy Gunn's knee? I mean, what is "The Knee of Billy Gunn"? The Knee of Billy Gunn might not even be a knee on his body. It could just be a knee that he owns. For all we know, Cole could be describing some monkey's knee that Billy Gunn found outside of a Stop and Shop in East Orange, then put in a jar of formaldehyde and subsequently put on his mantle.
"Beware The Knee of Billy Gunn," Cole might say, as lightning crashes outside the rain-blotted windowpane. "For it was on a night just like this that the selfsame knee left that very bottle you see now, bounced down the Moorston High Street, and strangled a tall-short fat-skinny Croat shepherd named Jean Genie Mendjarpasic — a man whose parents had an inexplicable love of David Bowie, in spite of their complete lack of understanding of English. The Knee was never seen again. But it is said that on nights just like this, you can hear the creak of cartilage as someone pulls and then extends a knee joint. And — hauntingly, above it all — an almost diaphanous voice repeatedly wails: He was the nazz, with God-Given ass he took it all too far but boy could he play guitar. Of course, I could merely be jiving all you fair companions that you are voodoo."
The gentle ladies at the dinner party swoon, and Tazz pulls a revolver from a holster near the side of his brocaded waistcoat, vowing that no woman shall come to harm from any d—d knee! "Unless," he continues, "this delightful Bordeaux beguiles my senses and compromises my vigilance." The Spanish Consul nods and admires the Bordeaux' color in the candlelight; and the women's shock at Tazz's producing such a large formidable weapon is excused because he is a brash American. Their initial gasps subside into polite tittering and knowing looks. Cole — frightened by his own story — merely wets himself.
This has been an excerpt from It Was a Dark and Stormy Slobberknocker, avaiable from WWE.ShopZone.com. ($21.95 US Hardcover, but discounted to $17.95 if purchased with a new Stone Cold Steve Austin "F@CK FEAR, GO VOTE" t-shirt priced at $12.95.)
Aside from the fact that "The Knee of Billy Gunn" might well be a Victorian horror story, it could also be a concept. There is something concrete about "Billy Gunn's knee" that resists all interpretation. What is Billy Gunn's knee? Well, it's his knee.
But the "Knee of Billy Gunn" could be many things. It could be the knee on his body, or it could be the knee that Billy see's in his mind's eye. Or it could be the knee you see in your mind's eye. It could be the sum of all perceptions of Billy Gunn's Knee — the Acme of Knee — the Movement of Knee — the name of the Act of Kneeing Someone — or it could be the Platonic Ideal Knee, The Knee that exists beyond our comprehension, that we can only understand as a shadow of Billy Gunn's knee projected on a cave wall.
The Knee of Billy Gunn may well be the Knee of All Mankind.
So, aside from verbal waste ("the knee of Billy Gunn" is two more words than "Billy Gunn's knee"), Cole sounds funny. But he does this in other ways, too. Cole also has a tendency toward noun-verb inversion — i.e. sounding like a German. The verbs go on the end of his sentences. "In the chest, with a huge chop, Benoit hit Eddie Guerrero." I won't harp on it further, since I did so in a previous column. But it is neverthless ornate, not very suited for commentary and, frankly, stupid-sounding.
But, when you combine the noun-verb inversion, the passive voice and the excessive pronouns, you almost get poetry. Yes, poetry — in the stilted metric sense of poetry. I honestly wouldn't be the least bit surprised if one day Cole told me that, "across the ring, Benoit was flung,/shortly after the bell was rung." Cole might be a very moronic descendant of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
With this in mind, I've embarked on a very silly and indulgent exercise. I've tried to get into the mind of Michael Cole. Not Michael Cole's mind, you understand: no, "the Mind of Michael Cole." The extra words make it sound more important. For some reason, there are lots of images of Tazz in there, an emotionally devastating and co-dependent yearning for his comments and approval. There is also a sonnet.
The Knee of Billy Gunn or, "An Ode to The Load" by Mitchell "Niblets" Cole (with additional commentary from T. Tazzforth Tazzmerson)
COLE: Ladies and Gentlemen, this young man has Squared off against Billy Gunn for the hand Of Torrie Wilson. Wow. Look at that, Tazz!— On Billy Gunn, Noble's kick did just land. He's attacking the knee of Billy Gunn. Another kick to the knee, and he's showed The way he wants this match-up to be won: Take out of the match the knee of The Load. He's also adding devastating chokes — After five, he will have to break that move — You've got to hand it to this young man, folks; Noble knows that he's got some things to prove. TAZZ: Hey, all you folks at home, you should trust us. I tell ya, this match is rocketbustas!
— Fin —
It's a sad, sad commentary on the WWE's business plan when they have four major wrestling shows, with two announcers each. And, of those eight total announcers, the second best one is a man who sounds like a verbal Rube Goldberg device. Lay on, ye boob. And Hail Load!
Originally posted by Jeb Tennyson LundFor it was on a night just like this that the selfsame knee left that very bottle you see now, bounced down the Moorston High Street, and strangled a tall-short fat-skinny Croat shepherd named Jean Genie Mendjarpasic — a man whose parents had an inexplicable love of David Bowie, in spite of their complete lack of understanding of English.
Thanks for a Tuesday morning laugh out loud moment. I'll be saving my pennies for "It was a Dark and Stormy Slobberknocker".
Good stuff as always Matt. I'd probably read (and send you encouraging little notes!) more often if wrestling didn't bore me to tears these days. Always good to know that you're hear to make it fun again. -Jag