This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the Masters champion. - Carl Spackler, Caddyshack
It's no joke, pal. People die in fairy tales all the time. - Max Baer, Cinderella Man
Professional Wrestling is an industry, and arguably an art form, that is based on a foundation of lies. Not that there is anything wrong with that; all art forms are built on lies, usually with the hope of revealing a greater truth.
When I am asked to justify the place of wrestling within the arts community in Montreal, I usually contrast wrestling to improvisational comedy. Improv takes theatre and attempts to transform it into a sport - creating theatre sports. Professional wrestling takes sport and attempts to transform it into theatre - creating sports theatre, or if you prefer the McMahon version, sports entertainment.
When other art forms tackle sports, when they try to create a sports mythology, no trope is as used (and abused) as the mythology of the underdog. Two films, both from 1976, share the blame for this setting the pattern for the underdog sports individual (Rocky) and the underdog sports team (The Bad News Bears).
While Rocky is considered the better movie, it is The Bad News Bears that is more influential, laying out the blueprint of the completely hopeless team filled with “a buncha Jews, Spics, Niggers, pansies, and a booger eatin' moron!” according to Tanner Boyle. Led by an alcoholic ne’er-do-well coach, the team rallies together and with the addition of the coach’s feisty daughter as their star pitcher and a juvenile delinquent as their star outfielder and slugger, goes from losing their first game 18-0 to the “second-worst team in the league” to making the league finals, before losing on the last play of the final championship game at home plate.
There is almost an industry of kid’s sport films based on this blueprint with The Mighty Ducks franchise being an especially good example of Grand Theft Script. Even a quality film like A League of Their Own swipes The Bad News Bears formula with its alcoholic coach and its dramatic ending at home plate. What sets A League of Their Own apart from other copiers of the formula is that it is using the underdog blueprint on a Meta level. The true underdog of the film is not the Rockford Peaches or the Racine Belles, but the entire All-American Pro Girls League. The winner of the AAPGL World Series is not half as important as the survival of the league itself, although true to The Bad News Bears formula, the survival of the league is a temporary victory as the league folds in 1954. Pluck or “Fighting Spirit” will only carry you so far.
Many copiers of the underdog formula forget the endings of Rocky and The Bad News Bears. Both Rocky Balboa and the Bears lose. Rocky cushions us from the disappointment of the loss by having Rocky define his goal not as a victory over Apollo Creed, but as “all I wanna do is go the distance.” Turning his loss into a kind of victory.
In a similar vein, films such as Rudy or We Are Marshall or the recent bookend to Rocky, Rocky Balboa, allow their characters to achieve victory by redefining victory. Rudy just wants to dress one game for Notre Dame and to run through the tunnel, the two plays that he gets to make far exceeds his expectations; the staff, students and athletes of Marshall University, and the citizens of the surrounding town of Huntington, West Virginia, shattered by the grief of a terrible plane crash that claimed the lives of virtually the entire football program and many of its boosters, just want to rebuild the football program and play competitively in the first home game following the plane crash; Rocky Balboa just wants to, once again, go the distance against the world champ, ending the series the way that it began.
All of these films share a wisdom in acknowledging that courage, that “fighting spirit” can only take you so far. At a certain point talent and athleticism is necessary to carry you to an ultimate victory. Films such as The Mighty Ducks or Hardball or The Big Green or their ilk are not just built on lies, they deny the greater truth that the underdog can win for a time, but they can’t win forever.
Wrestling may be built on a foundation of lies, but it acknowledges this greater truth. The industry is not shy to tell underdog stories, but no underdog ever wins forever, and the true underdogs are content with limited victories. The Brooklyn Brawler is not looking to become World Heavyweight Champion, he just wants one victory against Triple H for the insult of the Game calling him “the bottom of the WWF.”
Probably the most famous underdog victory in the history of wrestling is a limited victory: the story of the Mulkeys, Mulkey-Mania. In an age of ego and hubris, it seems hard to believe that there were once craftsmen who took pride in losing and losing well and losing all the time. In much the same way that Vincent Price took a craftsman pride at playing the consummate villain, Bill and Randy Mulkey took pride at being the ultimate fall guys, the perennial jobbers, boasting at one point a record of 0-180, almost the exact opposite of Bill Goldberg’s victory streak.
The WCW of the time had a prestigious event called the Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup, a two day tag team tournament featuring the top twenty-four teams in the world and that memorialized the late promoter. In early 1987, the Mulkeys were given a chance to qualify for the tournament against the Gladiators, “the West Coast tag team champions.” When the Mulkeys won, WCW commentator, David Crockett, called the reaction of the crowd “Mulkey-Mania”.
That victory has become a symbol for the underdog finally triumphing after years of losing. It was, of course, a limited victory. The Mulkeys were eliminated in the very first round of the tournament, but it almost does not matter. Most wrestling fans have heard of Mulkey-Mania even if they have only a hazy idea of who the Mulkeys were, few wrestling fans could tell you who won the tournament that their victory qualified them for (Dusty Rhodes and Nikita Koloff, featuring an emotional moment when Magnum TA made an appearance after his career-ending car accident to lend moral support to Rhodes and his old adversary Koloff); even fewer who beat them in the tournament (Denny Brown and Chris Champion); and even fewer still who the Gladiators were (George South and Gary Royal).
It is important to make a distinction between the story of the underdog and the story of revealed excellence. The difference between Cinderella and the Princess and the Pea. When Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio Jr won the World Heavyweight title, it was not the victory of the underdog so much as the recognition that for years they had been the best wrestlers on the planet, even if they did not fit the physical ideal for what a World Heavyweight Champion should look like. There story is less Rocky and more Glory Road, the story of athletes who finally overcame a physical prejudice (albeit in the case of Benoit, Guerrero and Mysterio a prejudice against their size and shape, and not their skin colour) and were given an opportunity to prove that they were champions.
In wrestling, true underdogs do not win titles. They are satisfied with moral victories. Like the Mulkeys for whom just qualifying for the Crockett Cup was a victory larger than they could ever have dreamed of.
In the International Wrestling Syndicate, our Mulkeys are called the Rock N’ Cock Express, Twiggy and Pornstar Juan.
Twiggy and Juan were both trained by Beef Wellington and polished by Fred la Merveille (with some help from Beef’s then roommate El Generico). In Fred’s MWF promotion, these two young men were most often adversaries, usually as part of the broader rivalry between Fred and Beef, with Twiggy taking Beef’s side and Juan taking Fred’s.
Twiggy made his initial debut in the IWS at Violent Valentine 2004 in a gauntlet match where he mainly served as a missile for the Green Phantom. Twiggy made his re-debut in Pornstar Juan’s first match in the IWS, when the two men faced off against one another in a “dark” match at Know Your Enemies 2005. The two young men were first combined as a tag team called “the Broomboys” the following month in a “dark” match against 2.0 during Scarred for Life 2005.
(In normal wrestling terms, a dark match is a match put on in front of a live audience before the filming of a pay-per-view show. It is called dark because the cameras are not filming. In the context of the IWS, dark matches were a match used to warm up the crowd before the start of the show, usually involving new wrestlers being given a low-pressure opportunity to perform in front of our sometimes-demanding crowd. The matches were filmed by Smart Mark Video, but no commentary was done for them.)
Almost immediately, the Rock N’ Cock Express connected with the fans, aided immeasurably by their music, Bon Jovi’s Living On a Prayer. But the best theme music in the world and all the fan support in the world, can not buy you a victory when your combined team weight is barely 280 pounds, with Twiggy’s listed weight of 130 pounds only being met when he carries a twenty pound brick in his back pocket.
The defining moment of the Rock N’ Cock Express’ career came when they were used as cannon fodder against the team of Beef Wellington and Damian, during Season’s Beatings 2005. The two bigger, more experienced stars were embroiled in a feud with Kevin Steen and El Generico. When those two chose to flee the harsh Quebec winter to wrestle in California’s Pro Wrestling Guerrilla promotion rather than face Beef and Damian, Twiggy and Pornstar Juan were drafted to replace the California duo. Frustrated, Beef and Damian gave Twiggy and Pornstar Juan several free shots, encouraging them to hit as hard as they dared. In the ensuing stiff-fest, Damian broke Juan’s jaw in two places, putting him on the injury list for nearly six months.
The secret to Twiggy is that he may be the smallest man in Quebec wrestling, but he is also arguably the smartest. As an example, part of Twiggy’s ring gear for more than a year after his debut was a huge battery operated clock worn as a necklace ala Flavor Flav of Public Enemy. When Twiggy challenged IWS Owner PCP Crazy F’N Manny to a match at Know Your Enemies 2006 to exact revenge for booking him and Juan against Beef and Damian, we all expected Manny to kick Twiggy’s ass right from the opening bell. After all, Manny is almost literally twice Twiggy’s size. When Twiggy cracked his clock over Manny’s head, we were all stunned that Twiggy had carried a weapon for that long for just such an emergency. A weapon concealed in plain sight. Twiggy went on to win the match, but only with a huge assist from Beef Wellington, Twiggy’s victory over Manny becoming part of the larger tapestry of Beef’s feud with Manny, in much the same way that the Brooklyn Brawler’s victory over Triple H was part of the larger feud between the Rock and Triple H.
When Pornstar Juan returned to active wrestling to team with Twiggy at Scarred for Life 2006, he and Twiggy had an opportunity to qualify for a match at Un F’N Sanctioned 2006, the biggest show of the Quebec wrestling year. In Quebec, it is the independent wrestling equivalent of earning a match at Wrestlemania. All they had to do was last ten minutes in the ring with the two heavyweights Tomassino and “Paranoid” Jake Matthews. Again Twiggy was helped by timely interference, first by Tomassino and Matthews cocky manager Joey Soprano and then by the run-in of The Missionaries of Violence, Sexxxy Eddy and Lufisto.
Fitting the concept of limited victories, at Un F’N Sanctioned 2006 during a four team scramble elimination match, The Rock N’ Cock Express were eliminated by Tomassino and Jake Matthews in 10:30, lasting only thirty seconds longer in the ring than they did in the match to get to Un F’N Sanctioned 2006.
The Rock N’ Cock Express recently finished a feud with Above Standards, Carl Choquette and Eric Lauze, a team of losers loathed as much as The Rock N’ Cock Express are beloved. Pitting those two teams together is a bit like colliding matter and anti-matter. Neither team has any business winning a match, any match, but someone has to win.
When the Rock N’ Cock Express finished their feud with Above Standards at Season’s Beatings 2006 with a win, it gave them momentum and a rare opportunity to qualify for an IWS tag team title shot. All they had to do was win a four team elimination match at Praise the Violence 2007 against the Super Smash Brothers, Player Uno and Stupefied; Team Checkmate, Lionel Knight and Chris Bishop; and the mobbed and dangerous team of Franky the Mobster and Kevin Steen.
Twiggy and Pornstar Juan played it smart, avoiding the fight for most of the match and allowing the other teams to eliminate each other. Franky and Kevin eliminated the Super Smash Brothers with relative ease, but had slightly more difficulty with the hit and run team tactics of Team Checkmate. When Steen and Franky realized that they only had Twiggy and Juan to beat, the two men relaxed and began acting like two large cats toying with two scrawny mice.
In a modernized remake of Mulkey-Mania, Juan kicked Franky in the balls, forcing the Mobster to his hands and knees behind Kevin Steen, just as Twiggy hit Kevin with a top rope cross body block. Kevin tripped over his partner and both Twiggy and Juan piled on for the pin and the miraculous victory.
On February 17th at Violent Valentine 2007, Twiggy and Pornstar Juan will get the title shot that they earned against the IWS Tag Team Champions, Mean and Green, Dru Onyx and the Green Phantom. By himself, the Green Phantom is a physical match for the Rock N’ Cock Express. Take away Twiggy’s twenty-pound brick as ballast and the Green Bully probably weighs as much as Twiggy and Juan combined. As for Dru Onyx, the man who prides himself on being the 21st century reincarnation of Abdullah the Butcher? His right leg probably weighs more than Twiggy and Juan combined.
Will the Cinderella story of Twiggy and Juan continue? Will they do the impossible and win the IWS tag team titles? Well, no. The Bad News Bears lost their league championship; the AAPGL folded in 1954; Rocky lost to Apollo Creed; Marshall University had the worst record in NCAA football for a decade following the plane crash; and Twiggy and Pornstar Juan will not win the IWS tag team titles.
Asking if they will win is not even the right question. The right question would be: Will they survive the attempt? Max Baer got it right in Cinderella Man, “People die in fairy tales all the time.”
I talked in more detail about the movies Rudy, We Are Marshall and Rocky Balboa and how their underdog stories are fuelled by grief in a film review column entitled: Grief in the American Sports Film. It can be found here: http://the-w.com/thread.php/id=31715