WWE: What’s the next move for Sting?

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Sting

Ever since Survivor Series 2014, I have personally been geared up for whatever the WWE was going to do with the Icon.  During the Team Cena vs. the Authority match, the iconic figure walked out from the back, surprising everyone on the floor and preceded to give Cena and his team the upper hand in winning the match.   This had the benefit of getting rid of Paul “Triple H” Levesque and his wife, Stephanie McMahon, for around a month.   The only stipulation to that was that Cena could at any point reinstate their positions, should he find it necessary.   Of course, as you know these things to be, they found a way to bring back the Authority to power.   Go figure, one of the WWE’s most influential wrestlers, and his wife being the daughter of the man who owns the company.  Stephanie also being quite hands on in the business in so many other ways, yeah… I’m surprised they lasted that long away.

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80s Sting

Regardless, from the time of Survivor Series to Wrestlemania, whenever it looked like the Authority was going to get too much of an upper hand, Sting would appear like some dark avenger and put an end to it.   This usually end up with Triple H being put into the Scorpion Death Drop or at least being held at bay with Sting’s trusty bat. Scorpion Death Drop  The 12 year old me was screaming at the top of his lungs in excitement every time I saw it.   The kid that watched the WCW as often as he could, because in the 90s they got an influx of some of the icons from WWF mixed with their own collection of awesome wrestlers.   I remember watching Sting, with that blonde flattop and the painted face, giving some of the best matches I had seen since World Class Championship Wrestling ended.   Even when he changed his look into the Crow inspired face paint, I realized that his reinvention was going to keep him around for many more years to come.  Indeed, it has. It kept him wrestling against new things like the nWo (new World order) and even succumb to joining factions of it.  The reinvention succeeded into making an 80s icon a 90s and beyond icon.   To see him finally make it to the WWE, after years of him staying away, I saw all sorts of potential in store for this.  I got damned excited for where a match between him and Triple H would go.  This is where I got my biggest disappointment.   Me, and a lot of other fans.

In 2001, after many years of giving the WWE a bloody nose in the Monday Night Wars, and then making a series of bad decisions, WCW was bought out by Vince McMahon.  McMahon brought the wrestlers that wished to come into the WWE, albeit not as flawlessly as one might hope.  Sting saw that he wouldn’t get a fair shake, because he was the WCW franchise.  He held that banner up through the very last day.   So he found other places to wrestle, and stayed away from the WWE for as long as he could.  He never completely shut the door to  it, but it would only be when the company would offer him a chance not to be their punching bag for being on the other team.  It would take nearly 15 years for that to be the case.   When they did, Sting made sure in his first appearance on RAW, the Monday before Wrestlemania, that he wasn’t there to fight for WCW.  He said that all these years later, it would be futile fight for a long since dead company.   It made sense, because it’s not like this match hinged on them resurrecting a dead franchise.

This match was one of the 3 biggest reasons for me to want to watch Wrestlemania 31.   Sure, there were others, but between this, the Undertaker and Bray Wyatt, and Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (the other match that pissed me off severely) I was set for a night of great entertainment.   When Sting hit the runway, I was on the edge of my seat.   I know he’s 56 years old, and that he’s seen his best days as an athlete. sting 3 It didn’t matter to me, even in the face of wrestling the 45 year old Triple H.  Triple H doesn’t wrestle much these days, but he still is in good physical condition,  but they reserve him for special occasions.  Though I haven’t looked up his injuries in awhile, I’m fairly certain that his knees, along with several other older complaints have kept him out of a great deal of matches.   Still, even after Triple H hit the runway with an opening that I wish I could forget, I was ready.   It didn’t disappoint me either.  The two were tossing each other around like rag dolls for awhile, giving Sting the look of having the advantage.   However, that wouldn’t last long.   Weapons came out, then came D-Generation X (WWE’s biggest faction at one time), then out came Sting’s old rivals in the nWo to face off.  All of a sudden, the thing that Sting said wasn’t going to happen did.  The match didn’t mean wrestling to show the Authority that they were an abusive power, but it was the 90s match no one wanted to see a decade and a half later.  This culminated in Sting being hit in the face with Shawn Michaels’ Sweet Chin Music (a superkick to the face)

Shawn Michaels delivers Sweet Chin Music
Shawn Michaels delivers Sweet Chin Music

and then Triple H’s sledgehammer head next.  He would pin Sting to get the 3 count, ending with the two shaking hands in the middle of the ring.  Wait… what just happened there?   Oh, I see now.  It was WCW losing to the WWE one more time, and Sting having to accept the handshake lest he look like a sore loser.  It means that the build up from November’s Survivor Series to March’s Wrestlemania, sparse appearance from Sting, and a whole lot of excitement lead to a conclusion that means nothing.

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The Rock and Ronda Rousey

However, Triple H and his wife Stephanie would later get the same lesson about being abusive of power and what it means to give back to the public by Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson.  After Stephanie threw her two cents at the Rock and realizing he wouldn’t touch her, he found UFC Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey in the crowd and brought her in the ring to give Stephanie a bad day.  However, she also threw Triple H out of the ring too.  I have to admit, I liked that! There does lie a problem in this, though.  while I enjoyed it, it took another meaning to it.  You see, the Rock was popular at the time of WCW’s crash, he wasn’t as open and welcoming of some of that talent as others were.  To that, I’d say ask Booker T.    This is yet another twist of the knife, as now the WWE’s own star gets to make the point, with the help of a UFC champ and they could potentially use this to build a big feud for later.  It sounds good in theory, but who knows how it will play out?  March 2015 is a long cry from April 2016.

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The Undertaker
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My personal fan made poster. I’ve posted this everywhere I could to push for this match, but do I want it now?

The question is, where does this leave Sting?   One of the biggest things that we’ve heard on and off behind the scenes is that they plan on Sting vs. the Undertaker.  It’s the two iconic figures going head to head in a double retirement match.   I, personally, have been pushing for that since the idea has come down the pike.   These two legends getting into it one last time would be a dream come true for the wrestling fanboy in me.  However, there is a consequence to this match that cannot be overlooked.  One of the two favorites is going to have to lose this match.  The only way it doesn’t is if the two get double disqualified.   That’s not going to satisfy anyone, especially the WWE who have been going through a great deal of ratings problems.  Sure, the big event will likely draw the numbers, but how many will it turn away to see the biggest cheat?   So, I figure that’s out of the question.   If the Undertaker loses, it’s another load of problems.  The loss to Brock Lesnar shook fans badly enough.  Despite claims to the contrary, I’ve talked to many Wrestlemania XXX goers that said that the board read 22-0, referring to the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania.   Ending it with another loss would only be another hit to his loyal fans.  It would have to end with the most spectacular battle that either wrestler had seen in awhile.  If Sting lost, it’s the second time they brought him to the big event and he’s lost.  What good is that?  He can’t deliver at the main show?   I don’t think so.  The man has had a long and distinguished career.

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The Authority

Honestly, I’d love to get Sting back in sooner and give him a few shots at John Cena.  Why Cena?   John never once thanked, or even acknowledged, Sting’s intervention on his behalf in any way.  What’s worse than someone who abuses their power, someone who doesn’t acknowledge they wouldn’t have gotten where they were without help.  Gee, I wonder who’s recently been learning that lesson?  Hmm… couldn’t be Seth Rollins, could it?   Cena’s not much better than that right now, having treated a miracle as a given in his matches with the Authority.  This could lead into bigger things, especially if Sting comes out as still gunning for the Authority.   If this could deadhead into the match between him and Undertaker at Wrestlemania 32, so much the better.   If anything, it might play out better if the Authority try and steer Undertaker or Sting towards the each other, only to bring the two icons together in what looks to be an epic match and have them both turn on the entirety of the Authority.  They might have to bulk their numbers a bit, but this gives a few benefits to the match:

1. This makes sure that if rumors are true, and both men would be retiring that night, that they don’t go out of Wrestlemania having lost a match.  Undertaker got a hit in his undefeated streak at XXX, thanks to Brock Lesnar.  Despite what was said, it wasn’t supposed to go down like that, and the fans have never let the WWE forget it.  Sting losing twice at the show of shows would be a bad thing too.  It looks like he can’t deliver when the pressure’s on.  Come on, this is Sting we’re talking about.  He’s better than all that.

2. This can give Kane a much needed turn on the Authority.  Kane has been a whipping boy to the Authority for sometime, which has given many of the WWE roster plenty of fodder to comment on who Kane used to be.   Though he’s already been shown to side with the Authority, even after nearly being given the chance to break out on his own again, it’s time for that break to happen.  No one in the company could bring that about better than the Deadman.

3.  This could break the Authority as it’s currently known.  Stephanie McMahon, outside of her ring persona, is a very busy lady. She’s been doing a great deal of work in and out of the business trying to promote the company and do charity work.  While Triple H should always be a presence in the WWE ring, this would give him and Stephanie the chance to get away from things, place someone else in the role of being in charge who comes off a little less nefarious, and allow the faces and heels to not be outshined by their bosses.  Twitter could be buzzing for a couple of weeks with #destroytheauthority, what more could you ask than that?

There’s pluses and minuses to consider with Sting.  I certainly don’t want to see him fade off into the sunset, but let’s face it, there’s only so many years left.  So many appearances he’ll likely want to do before calling it quits.  The man has well earned his time, especially to invest in family and other endeavors outside of wrecking his body in the squared circle.  Whatever the future brings for him, I hope it’s as epic as his career demands he have.

Editorial – Halloween Returns & Leatherface, or How I Learned to Like the Original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hate Leatherface

LeatherfaceI’ve been trying to write an editorial on Leatherface for the past two days.

You wouldn’t think it would be all that difficult to talk about him, unless you have never seen the films, or just didn’t care enough to pay attention.  Truthfully, it wasn’t that I glossed over the details, it was simply a case that the more I talked about him, the more I was trying to make comparisons to other slashers.   Yes, it’s that hard for me to talk about the chainsaw wielding maniac.   Luckily (if you want to call it that) I have the ability to bring this article to life!  For you see, two new films are coming out in the next year or so in both the Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchises.   Both of them stemming from the original films, and not the remakes.  I hope this will help to bridge the subject that I’ve been wanting to talk about for awhile.  Maybe it won’t, but you’re here anyway, might as well see where this is going, right?   Hello?  You still out there?  *Tap* *Tap* *Tap*

Not much has been given on details about these new movies, but I’ll warn you now that I will be talking about what little they have given us to think about.  If you care, then I’d turn back now.  If you don’t, well, read on!

Halloween Returns takes place after the original Halloween II (yes, this is the 3rd time, not counting the reboot) that they’ve gone back to this particular well)  and have decided that Michael Myers has been on Death Row for quite some time.   On the day of his execution, some teens find a way into the box to witness Michael’s death.  One of these teens is the daughter of a deputy sheriff who is obsessed with Michael Myers.  Apparently, his sister was killed by Myers at some point, which made him focus on that case vs. his family.  Of course, Myers finds a way to escape the death chamber and the panic ensues as now the kids are trapped in a prison with the notorious killer.

Leatherface, other than being the working title to the original film, well that and Headcheese, this was also the name of the ill-fated Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.  The only part that most anybody might remember of it is Tex, played by Viggo Mortensen.  Yeah, Aragorn was one of the cannibal family!   This story, however, is a prequel to the original film which talks about him and a few other guys escaping a mental institution and how he learned to pick up the chainsaw and wear the mask for the first time.  So if the origin story you got when they did Texas Chainsaw: the Beginning wasn’t enough, you’ll be able to see how this version was lead to his dangerous reputation.

This leads me to the crux of what the original article I intended was about.  Leatherface has this rather larger-than-life reputation among many people I’ve met.  Way back during my time with SciFiFX, we did a podcast on Horror Movie Icons and of course both he and Michael Myers featured prominently on it.   The problem was I could go for miles on Michael, but Leatherface I hit the breaks on pretty quickly.   A few weeks later, at my paying job, I had one person who told me they listened to the podcast and gave me no end of grief.  I had not given his favorite slasher the time of day, and he couldn’t understand why that was.   So I explained that while I had seen the original movie and its sequels a few times, Leatherface never stood out to me as being the character that he should be.  He told me I really wasn’t giving it a chance, because I was being close minded.  I could have dismissed the comments, but instead I evaluated what he said to me.  I mean, I know my biases when it comes to slashers.   Luckily, one of the cable channels was showing the remake at the time, so I got to see it and then Amazon ran a special with the Collectors Edition of the original.  I paid $5 for a two disc set in a metal case.   So I watched it, given that this was the movie I actually remember best, and tried to give Leatherface his due.

I think we all know the movie’s plot fairly well.  In case I’m mistaken, here’s a simple summary of the film:

Two siblings, Sally and Franklin Hardesty, find out that the cemetery their grandfather is buried in has been desecrated.  Along with 3 other friends, they head down to the rural town to see if the grave is okay, and confirm nothing has happened.   Afterwards they meet a crazed hitchhiker who tells them about the local slaughterhouse that had shut down many years ago, and that his family was once a part of it.  Once the hitchhiker starts to become more erratic, and cuts Franklin with his own knife, the group kicks him out of their van.  They stop for gas and meet an old man who not only runs the store, but he cooks BBQ.  He informs them that the gas truck will not be coming right away, which gives Sally the idea that they should go and see the old Hardesty homestead.   Unfortunately for the group, living next to the old homestead is a cannibal family.  After two of them go to house to try and find out if they can get assistance with gas or any other help, death ensues.  It’s not long before Sally is the only one left alive, and even she manages to get captured twice by the family.  She is brought as a guest to a rather macabre dinner where the hitchhiker, the old man, and Leatherface continue a rather torturous experience to the young woman.  She manages to escape their clutches one last time, but not without pursuit.  Luckily, people help her and she manages to ride away in the back of a pickup.  She’s covered in blood, laughing hysterically, and the movie ends with Leatherface dancing in the street with his chainsaw.

In that summary, you’ll note that I didn’t mention Leatherface all that much.  He was in the movie a bit more than that, I admit that.  But I think I covered the most interesting bits about him.   When you first see him, is when one of the “teens” goes to see if he can get some gas.  Instead of just waiting for someone to answer the door, he goes inside the house and starts to explore a bit.  Once Leatherface makes his appearance, he hits the guy with a sledgehammer and then drags him to the back.   Even the girlfriend doesn’t get much more treatment than that.  Though, she was shoved in a freezer.

Why the disrespect here?  Why talk about loving Michael MyersMichael Myers while bagging on Leatherface?   It’s a matter of personality, which you have to convey when you’re wearing some sort of mask.  Both men wear them to hide away from something.  They become detached to the person underneath.  More often than not, the credits refer to Michael, with his mask on, as the Shape.   That’s because he’s considered to be the shape that evil takes form in this film.  Given John Carpenter’s wishes, it was something quite different once the Michael Myers story line was thought to have been ended.  Michael had a pent up rage that he allowed himself to deal with only when that mask was on his face.   If it were ever removed, it would do anything he could to get it back on his face before returning to the slaughter.   Once it’s on, the malevolence of the character shines through with clear intent.   He will stop at nothing to kill a specific target, even so much as to setting up elaborate surprises with those he’s already killed.  It’s to give that sense of hopelessness and weariness when the body could still give a little more.    Leatherface does not have this trait.

When you look at Leatherface, knowing the mask is made of human skin, and that he has that chainsaw, you can place malevolence there.   In still shots, it leaves such an iconic impression that you cannot forget what you’ve seen.  It’s terrifying to think that this man will come out of the backwoods of Texas and find you!   I live in Texas, and as a kid I lived in the country.  Those people could have lived just down the road from me!   For all this, Leatherface should creep me the hell out of me.   What’s on film tells a different story.  Instead of that sheer malevolence that Michael has,szalvafrjjkxhmoajwbh7yldobd or I would argue Jason Voorhees displays, what you get is a confused man who is defending his homestead from invaders.    He is a large and confused man, who obviously isn’t a mental giant.   He isn’t a man who hates these people, he is attacking invaders of his home, and at the same time providing a service to his family by making sure they have food a-plenty.    There’s no sense that he’s taking any more sadistic pleasure in this than butchering cattle.  Even his gruesome facial gear can’t make up for the personality he can’t convey.

He wears 3 masks throughout his time, one is the “Killing”mask that people know best.  Not much explanation needed there.  The others are more female roles, and meant in this film to be submissive.   The “Old Lady” mask  he wears is intended to show him trying to be a complete domestic in this farcical view of the nuclear family.  The “Pretty Woman” mask is used specifically to show his proper side.  He is dressed for dinner, and showing an old Southern charm to their guest and his family.  It’s meant to be a respectful thing, but it’s far more disturbing.  This man in dressing as a woman, because his family has basically lead him into this role, as far as we can tell.  The hitchhiker shows a far more dominant side, which he pushes on everyone at the dinner table.  1974-TEXAS-CHAINSAW-MASSACRE-Dinner-Scene-740x493 The old man doesn’t have nearly that fight in him, but certainly enough to put Leatherface in his place.     The masks are the only way he can express that he understands his place in the home and is trying his best to live up to that expectation.  He’s more of a frightened child than Jason was when drowning in Crystal Lake.  Even when Jason grew up and found his vaunted hockey mask, he didn’t allow the blank expression do the talking for him.   It told you that you weren’t going to get him to speak, sure.   His posture told you that he’s not interested in talking anyway, you’ve done something to offend him and you’re going to die.    Never once can Leatherface convey that, nor feel the emotion.

In all the sequels, they never give Leatherface much of a chance to expand past that.   It’s not until the remake that they ever try to make him that far more evil force, but even as he’s gained a level of the malevolence I spoke of earlier, it’s tempered by far more domineering family members who get to express themselves far more.    The opportunities to force the character into some sort of “growth”, if you want to call anything in a slasher film that, has been blatantly ignored.  They would rather try to put him back into the situation of the first film, where he’s surrounded by family, even if they weren’t in the original.   It leads into bad territory doing such things.   Ultimately, that’s what makes Michael far more successful to me.   Whenever they’ve shown a docile side to him, it’s more him waiting it out.  Dr. Loomis tells you directly that this man isn’t really a man, and his patience is beyond the pale.   Whereas the cannibal family makes you believe every moment that Leatherface is the whipped dog that will kill you with his chainsaw if they let him off the leash.

This brings me back to the newest prequel coming next year.  What are they hoping to accomplish in making this one?   Well, the obvious answer is cash cow to exploit the franchise.  The problem with that is it further waters down the drink, which doesn’t have much of a trace left from what it was.  Telling the story of how Leatherface got the mask and became a chainsaw wielding maniac might be interesting, but does it cover any real new territory here?    If he was ever that intelligent, or even willful, then they’re going to have to push really hard to show what he went through to become the submissive that he is now.  How did he become so terrified of his family  that it also made him afraid of a group of kids who obviously couldn’t defend themselves against him?     Can that story be told in what will likely be just over 90 minutes?   Okay, maybe it will run 2 hours or more, but can even the staunchest Chainsaw fan really be looking for this story?  I cannot see it, and I’m trying.   It’s going to be horrible seeing what should be the legendary slasher, the one that came after Norman Bates himself, get neutered to the point of dressing up as an old woman because the chores have to be done.    If you can tell me yes, then good on you.  You all are true troopers, and I say that knowing that I own a copy of Halloween III.

I know I’ve beaten this horse enough.  You can obviously tell that even after reviewing movies with Leatherface in it, I cannot find the love that so many have for him.   I give the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre all sorts of credit.  It had a visceral feel to it, because the budget demanded that they couldn’t do a great deal of Hollywood clean and polish.  It’s stark, it’s violent, and it’s unnerving.   It does one thing very right with me and gives me one victim to sympathize with.  You never feel like you want everyone to die.   My only problem is that I feel bad for the biggest bad ass of the film too.    The hitchhiker and the old man give me enough of that bad vibe that I don’t feel like giving up on the movie, but the nagging doubt is still there about Leatherface.    I have a cardinal rule for these films: I should never sympathize with the killer.  It’s wrong to do that.   This man is a cannibal, he’s wearing human skin over his face, he’s helping to torture a poor victim (albeit it, because he’s trying to please his family).  There is nothing redeeming about any of that.  Yet, there he is.   Hollywood needs to forget its last Chainsaw sequel, go back to the end of part one again, and then allow Leatherface to be on his own and become his own monster.   Even if they wanted to take a good chunk of the opening of Texas Chainsaw 3D and use it as their basis, more power to them!   It certainly is going to be better than anything they do for a prequel on a character who doesn’t have much of anything to give the audience.