THE OBTUSE EXPERIMENT, Part II The Doe Eyes of Freakzilla February 28, 2003
by Jeb Tennyson Lund OnlineOnslaught.com/CitizenScholar.net
I don't think anyone else will say it, so I will. Poor Scott Steiner.
As a counterpoint to my cynicism and general unwillingness to take anything at face value, I have a fairly high tendency toward empathy. Unwilling to accept many statements and concepts on a rational level, that which I oppose often seeps in and undermines my attitude on an emotional, subconscious level. Sometimes, this is not helpful. It can take away from pure unthinking happiness.
I remember skipping school, in 1989, to go to Candlestick park and watch the Giants in game 5 of the National League Championship Series. In the bottom of the ninth, Will Clark hit a single up the middle, to clinch the pennant for the Giants sending them to the World Series to face my second-favorite team, the Oakland A's. It was probably the second-most intense and wonderful moment of my life as a sports fan, ranking just behind the 49ers' last-minute win in the Super Bowl just eight months earlier.
Naturally, I leapt out my seat, as did about sixty thousand other people. I screamed and pumped my little fist in the air. This was, undoubtedly, the coolest thing I had ever witnessed. Candlestick was in absolute, deafening pandemonium. The aisles and seats shook from the stomping of so many feet. After maybe a minute of pure elation, I looked at the Chicago Cubs standing in their dugout. And I was immediately very sad.
I didn't hate the Cubs. (I don't think anyone, except maybe a dyed-in-the-wool White Sox fan, can really hate the Cubs. After all, that's just mean.) A lot of their players were all-stars that year. They had character. (This was still a year or two before many stars spent as much time playing as they did working on filling out a rap album or a rap sheet.) I remember playing ball at school and, when batting, saying in a corny announcer's voice, "Ryne Sandberg steps up to the plate...."
My dad wondered why I wasn't cheering. So I told him. "Look, these guys worked so hard all season, and they did so well. And it's all over in just a second. I feel really bad for them." My dad berated me for not having fun, and for being wimpy and not enjoying victory. And as much as I wanted, at the time, to chalk this up to my father being authoritarian and hating weakness, I think he just didn't want me to be a buzzkill. Because I think he felt the same thing, too.
But this empathy can soothe hurt feelings and ameliorate the shock or disappointment of things that go wrong. In the case of wrestling, it means that I do not and cannot hate Scott Steiner. When every bit of empirical data tells me to loathe him, when my brain's loudmouthed critic berates him, that sopping saccharine puddle of empathy oozes through the crack under the door of my subconscious. And I feel bad for Scott Steiner. Seeing the look on his face is all it takes.
Someone on the OnlineOnslaught Message Boards once said that he could look in the Hulkster's eyes and know exactly what he was thinking and what the "real deal" was. And while this is completely insane and something, frankly, that I expect from Ultimate Warrior fans I believe that Steiner's face expresses the same degree of confusion and dismay that every wrestling fan probably feels, at heart, when watching Steiner now.
In spite of the fact that he is supposed to be a hardcore threat, he often forgets to be fully in his persona: his eyebrows arch upward in bewilderment, and his mouth draws in, almost forming a little "o." (I suspect the reason why he frequently cuts promos with sunglasses on is to prevent his genuine feelings from sneaking out.) He's surprised, too. It's as if he himself doesn't know why all of this is happening.
And it really is hard to say why.
In college, Scott Steiner was a two-time all-American honoree. He competed in NCAA wrestling just like our current favorite, Brock Lesnar. After getting into professional wrestling, he worked in Japan, learning a fast and eye-catching style that set himself apart in the states. He even popularized the top-rope hurricanrana (naming it the Frankensteiner) which the people at RSPW named the Best Wrestling Move in two consecutive years.
Indeed, the denizens of RSPW (and wrestling fans in general) once adored Scott Steiner. He and his brother Rick were named Best Tag-Team on three different occasions. Their 1991 feud with Ron Simmons and Butch Reed was voted the best feud of 1991. And, in that year, the Steiners were given Match of the Year honors for their bout with Kensuke Sasaki and Hiroshi Hase. Also in that year, an injury to Scott Steiner was named the year's Most Disappointing News Item.
And it is from injury that the decline began. I cannot fault the man for wishing to stray from a high-impact and high-speed style that was obviously destroying his back and knees. Nor can I fault him for resorting to steroids in order to enhance a figure that he could no longer compensate for with flashy moves. Any wrestler who has to adapt his moves and essentially, his livelihood will find a compensatory means to justify his body still being there. With Steiner, since his body could no longer tolerate doing more, he simply had it be there more. He would have been a fool not to notice how often increased size increased paychecks, while decreasing the need for ring work.
Of course, it was all an act, one we are all too familiar with. Steiner knew he was no mat tactician, and he knew that he was not a thuggish brawler. But the latter was less of a lie, and the easier to not betray. It was also easier to try to become. Devolving his ring-style took less effort and looked less artificial than changing it entirely. Yet, despite the grotesque sinews and snaking veins, despite the freakish peaks, the betrayal is there, in the face.
Hating Scott Steiner is not an option for me because I see his brows arch and realize he is wondering with far more fear and sense of being lost than I how he got here. He knows, far dearer than I, the pain of being a little rocket of a kid, who could fly through a forty-five minute match who then became a turgid hulk that does not, all mental commands to the contrary, want to move to the right places in the right ways anymore.
Wrestling writers like to smirk and say he has beady little eyes. Strip away the extra one-hundred pounds of excess bulk, and the eyes fit the body and the face again small, dark, sad. No amount of derision or impatience is necessary from me. His eyes have, on their own, seen him go from greatness to merely grossness. Only they know and don't know how all this has come to pass. Their judgment and shame is direr than any we can imagine.