So I wrote this after I got done with work at two in the morning so be nice.
Years back when Vince first bought WCW, a simple question was asked: What happens when Vince is the holder of history? History has always been written by those in charge of it, whether they are nationalists, communists, republican or democrats (whether they were one or more of those); those in power will advocate a history that benefits them the most. Such are the stories of Andres Bonifacio, George Washington and the Black Sea Mutiny (in both Russian and Vietnamese literature). So how would Vince handle things?
Over the last few years, we’ve seen how Vince has handled things. We’ve seen how with limited leverage over history, he’s painted Bret Hart and Montreal and how he has reminisced about bringing wrestling out of the back alleys. We’ve seen with much more power how he’s authored a history of the Ultimate Warrior, and was planning a burial of Bret Hart. And then there’s the fact that he has bought up the libraries of many of his competitors and contemporaries. Vince wants to write not only his place in the history books, but he wants to write everyone else’s place as well. And Bret Hart just wants his little piece of the pie too.
So the big two questions that always gets asked when writing historiography is who is owns the history, and what is at stake. The two people fighting over the history are obviously Bret and Vince (and by proxy, Shawn, as his involvement and duplicity is a whole different issue). So then, what are they fighting over?
Bret’s obviously fighting over his own legacy, but the only way we can understand that is by looking at what Vince is fighting over. How does Vince’s battle with rewriting history affect Bret? The one situation that seems to always poke its head is Montreal. We know how Vince buried Bret after he left; how he buried his family; how he tried to spin things to make it look like Bret was going to hold the company hostage; that Bret wasn’t willing to do a time-honored tradition; and that at the end of the day, Vincent K. McMahon stood up to that bully, that he showed him who was boss, and that he showed him that no one was bigger than the business. And Vince does this because his pride is at stake, because he can’t afford to lose face, and because he can’t let it be known publicly that a shrewd negotiator within his legal rights could show up the genius himself. Like many of the themes in wrestling, Vince has to be in control. The rehashes all point toward the same direction; namely, that Vince needs to prove that he is in control (“Ring the bell”) as much as he has to prove that no one can do this too him, even a loyal veteran like Hart. And in doing so, Vince is linking Bret Hart’s career to a single moment.
On the other hand, Bret has different motivations. Bret had always felt that he was an artist, plain and simple. Maybe he’s a mark for thinking that (and maybe we’re all marks for thinking that there’s more to wrestling than two half-naked guys hitting each other to get a crowd to pop). But like any artist, Bret takes pride in his artwork. Fourteen years worth of that working under Vince McMahon. And when the situation presents itself where Vince is going to sing the same old song, only trotting out a different chorus, Bret doesn’t want his art to be smeared. He doesn’t want the lasting image of his career to be a deceitful stunt, but rather what he always intended to leave. That’s the reason he works on the project and leaves out the match; why he demands that Shawn not be present for his final moment. He doesn’t want it tainted by something that makes him sick. Maybe he has reached some sort of higher plain with Vince, but I doubt that’s true either; he probably sees Vince as a means to an end, and something he could justify. If Vince hadn’t put down the DVD project on the table, and filmed those interviews, Bret wouldn’t be here, because Vince isn’t trying to define his history. Bret has a chance to rewrite everything, end it on a different note, and change the perspective; given that leverage, no matter how many times Vince and Shawn play things out or act out their therapy (circle jerk) sessions live, Bret will have put down his stamp.
So then, we come back to the question of who owns this history. Bret hardly owns it, but Vince no longer has a firm grasp either. I’d like to think that it’s the fans, that at the end of the day they can absorb all the information and synthesize it and come to a decent conclusion. But yet this topic, like many of the nationalist debates in history, is far too polarizing to reach a suitable conclusion, and even level-headed conclusions are often lambasted by at least one of the sides. Maybe we don’t realize that there are histories of entire territories that have yet to be written or copied onto DVD, yet Vince is buying them and holding them hostage. Like Bret, Vince has a legacy to leave, only he sees his legacy and pro-wrestling’s legacy as one-and-the-same. So if Vince would go so far as to rewrite Bret’s legacy, how far will he go to write his own? And what will be left in the wake?
I think alot of people have totally overstated the way Eddie and his death has affected them. I'm not attempting to justify the way I feel, or what I'm personally feeling, but I'm also not going to mince words; Eddie Guerrero was my idol.
I've known, for many years, that I wanted to be a wrestler, and that Eddie Guerrero was the wrestler I wanted to be. I loved everything Eddie did in the ring; the subtle nuances in his work, the facials, the promos, when he stepped on the face of his opponents. His movements felt so natural in the ring, and the sly cheating. My friend Blake idolized Chris Benoit; and though I loved me my Benoit, there was something about Eddie that just made him so great. He just oozed personality and knew how to work a crowd so well. Everything I loved about wrestling was embodied in Eddie. In my mind, I could see myself with many of those same motions, maneurisms, and style. I wanted to have a match with him; stand in awe as we cut promos just like Jericho looked that night he debuted against the Rock. And I felt that it was taken away.
And yesterday, when I first arrived on the forum, I saw the latest post was in a thread that was titled "Eddy Guerrero passes away". Immediately, I thought ban, and that this was some kind of sick joke I was going to end up cleaning up. No one had any idea it was coming I imagine; though it seems at times everyone in the business has their number comes up early, Eddie seemed to have gotten past that. He had recovered, and I felt like he earned his second chance. He deserved to live longer and to have a full career and to see his kids grow up. He had fought his demons in a business that is filled with them; a business that is built on them. He deserved better.
It took me a long time to understand what had happened. I admit, I have a horrible track record coping with death. I've only cried twice in my life at a death, and both of those were grandparents. I didn't cry during 9/11 (the feeling was, and still is, completely surreal), didn't cry for Reagan, don't cry for celebs, and I didn't cry for Eddie. What I felt was total emptiness when it sunk in. I felt like something had been sucked out of me.
Yesterday sucked. I've been copying alot of tapes onto DVD lately, and you can't trip over an old WWF show without seeing someone who's dead. Owen, Crash, Bossman, Eddy are all gone. It's sad, but it also feels embarrasing. Like, for some reason, we are at fault; that we drove these guys to use steroids, to put enormous tolls on their body, and to sacrifice what they do. And we continue to support the business that drives the lifestyle, even though we condemn the lifestyle, we are still there to support the business.
I remember the day Eddie was in the car crash on New Year's Eve and I read those reports on the net. I remember the day he was arrested for drunk driving, and thinking that it was the end of him. I felt cheated that I was never going to get to see him wrestle again. I was angry that day, as I was angry yesterday. Today is different. Eddie got his second chance. He got to put on performances doing what he loved. He played the rudo and had fun as the face, he put forth MOTYC with Lesnar and Mysterio among others, and he got the world title. He and Benoit stood on the biggest stage of them all with the world titles, and though some of us felt that the WWE would eventually botch their push, that moment was pure and untainted. I marked out like crazy both at No Way Out and WrestleMania. I said earlier that I'm not very emotional, and I often feel disjointed from the crowd and the moments of pure markdom. But I was lost in it that day. And we all enjoyed him, and I'm sure he enjoyed himself.
Tomorrow is my birthday, and I'm somehow caught in between the death of a guy I idolized and the passing of another year. I'm 22 now, I'm almost done with MA, and I want to know where I am going with things. Right now, I love this sport. After watching Eddie die, I don't know if I want to be a part of it anymore. The emptiness, I guess, is that I don't know if wrestling is for me anymore.