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Shades of Gray

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Things were seeming bleak last week.. Kurt Angle might have to retire after Mania, I can’t beat Braska’s Final Aeon, I was at WrestleMania 13 in my tape rotation, my bowling scores were low, and a friend of mine was moving to Toronto. Well, that’s all changed! I mean, sure, Kurt still might retire, I still can’t beat Final Fantasy X, and the only person I knew who still actively watched wrestling left town before the biggest PPV of the year. But hey, I bowled 162 on Saturday, and that’s good enough for me (even if it isn’t near good enough to join a league). As soon as TATU’s “All the Things She Said” started playing, I was in the grove and was getting strikes and spares galore. Sunday came and went without anything important, Monday delivered a Raw that I enjoyed (in the sense that it was decent, which sadly is the pinnacle of Raw these days), Tuesday brought Scott Keith’s book, and Wednesday morning brought Torrie Wilson Playboy pictures to the internet. Things are looking up!


A word on Scott Keith for a moment, if I may. I’ve enjoyed his style of writing for many years now and was looking forward to reading his 2nd book, Tonight... In This Very Ring. I figured by next week I’d have the book finished and be able to throw a review into my column, but all it took was one sitting (while WrestleMania 13 and Revenge of the Taker played in the background, leaving me free to watch Canadian Stampede in my tape rotation) to finish the book and think of things to say about it.


Oh, one last thing before the review. Big ups (possibly the first time I’ve EVER said that.. but I like it) to Jay Bower for letting old Smarks readers know where I’ve moved to and for plugging TSM itself.


Reviewed.... In This Very Column


Reviewing books... or things in general.. is not really something I’m familiar with, but I’ll give it a go.


The Content: Several parts of this book are available online, for free, in past SKeith rants, so why should we pay for a book with them? Well, for starters, Scott adds more detail and expands on two of his best works ever, the King Lear and Lazarus rants. In honesty, many of the things in the book were not news to me and unless you started watching the WWE recently are not news to you either. This didn’t stop me from being glued to the book and reading the entire thing in one sitting, though. The familiarity with the subject may have enhanced the reading experience with the things I did not know (ex. Russo being a co-host of a wrestling radio show that was none to kind to the WWF leading Vince to buy Russo’s services for WWF Magazine) being a nice bonus. If you like Scott’s writing style, you’ll most likely enjoy reading the book, even if it’s old news to you. Generally, the best parts of the book are areas where Keith will sidetrack what he’s talking about with a word (if he may) about something he mentions. This is usually the precursor to an entertaining rant about a wrestling personality. Another highlight are these little grey boxes that are scattered throughout the book. Comparable to watching a DVD with pop up triviata as an extra, or the show Pop-Up Video, these little boxes added interesting facts or funny comments to the subject being discussed.


The Presentation: The book is organized very nicely with everything being discussed in a generally chronological order. The only time it’s not is when Scott tells a side story or when something is mentioned in a grey box. Speaking of those, I thought they were a great idea (as I mentioned above). I also thought the photos contributed by Darren Smith were really good, particularly the Stacy Keibler one. It wasn’t her dancing or anything like that, it was just a close up picture of her standing at ringside, but she looked really beautiful in the picture. The print (and book itself) is pretty big, so if you have problems reading small print from years of “internet use”, you should be ok with this book.


And The Rest: Wanting a favourable plug from Scott in his SmackDown rant or not, avoiding the flaws while reviewing something is not a review. If I was still on 411 I probably would have ended now and said “great book!”, but as it is I have some things I’d like to mention.


First off, Act Four: Scene 5 (’Over the Edge’) is probably one of the harshest things I’ve read in a wrestling book. While I can understand Scott’s frustration with the fact that, had the two Vince’s (Russo and McMahon) not given Owen his Blue Blazer gimmick, he would probably still be alive today, I think it might be a bit too much to say, “I hate both men for killing the greatest wrestler I had ever had the pleasure of watching... I hope there is an afterlife and I hope Vince McMahon burns in hell forever for stealing Owen Hart”. I guess the problem in our conflicting views I was brought into the wrestling thing with the circus era WWF of 1991 and up, so I have no ill will towards Vince for ruining wrestling and in fact have a strange loyalty towards him and the WWE which causes me to be quite optimistic about most things they do. That said, ever since May 23, 1999 (2 days after my 18th birthday), I have chosen to view what happened as a freak accident and don’t blame Vince McMahon for it. Am I being blinded by loyalty to the man and company that got me interested in wrestling? Possibly. But that’s my opinion, and I’m entitled to it, just as Scott Keith is intended to his opinion about McMahon and Russo.


A few other minor nitpickings....


At the start of the book, there is a “Cast of Characters”, describing the various people in the book. The first three, Vince, Hogan, and Bret, are characterized as existing in 1993, with Vince still not winning the steroid trial and Hogan being called a 4 time world champion, making it sound like he is characterizing the characters from where they stand at the beginning of the book. However, everyone else is given full career summaries, which kinda wrecked the continuity of it. Still, it was a good idea and nothing too major.


Speaking of something that’s not too major, Test is credited as a Triple H lackey when he was in fact a Corporate lackey for The Rock and Vince McMahon.


The SummerSlam 99 main event is referred to as “nothing special”, but the actual rant on the match (not in the book) and the accompanying star rating seem to disagree with that. However, Scott has said before that his opinion on that match has lowered each time he’s watched it, and 1999 wasn’t exactly a banner year for Keith’s star ratings (check out the “Quotes of the Day” later in this article), so he’s not really contradicting himself.


Despite the fact he’s a proud Canadian, the spelling of words like favour are American (No U!). As a proud Canadian myself, this reeks of selling out to the larger American audience, but it could also be the work of an editor, so once again I let Scott off the hook for this.


Lastly (on the bad side), although I did read the entire book in one sitting, this is no huge feat as the book is under 200 pages. But, once again, I’ll counter my own criticism by saying that even at the brisk length, everything (from 1993 up... even Keith says he wished he could do more with the years prior) is covered in about as much detial as needed.


Getting back to some good points to close the (much longer than anticipated... apologies in advance as I told Dames I would only gloss over the book as a segment of my column to let a full review be handled by other writers) review, the appendixes at the back containing show buy rates and TV ratings is a nice directory to look over whenever one would need such information. I was also glad to see that I was thanked at the beginning of the book (sorta... I am one of the various people who have written for a website of his over the years who so I was thanked). Finally, while the fact that some of the book is just a reprinting of what could be read for free in his rant archives, it is nice that the match rants are in full, without editing out things or predictions that didn’t happen in order to make himself look better. At one point I thought he did just that, but the line in question, “hopefully when Austin squashes him at the next PPV they'll give that particular experiment a rest for good”, was written in the Unforgiven 99 Bottom Line, not in the Six Pack Challenge match review that is in the book.


Overall, a good read. I enjoyed reliving the Lazarus years through print, causing a flood of high school memories of WWF being the most popular thing ever. Hell, I remember one time we took an entire Communications class to discuss the fact that Coca-Cola had pulled advertising from WWF programming. The teacher was not a wrestling fan - it was supposed to be a conversation about morality on television, but it went on a wrestling track until class ended.


But I digress.


The Bottom Line: Thumbs up, recommended.


Quotes of the Day


“Kane breaks up the pedigree attempt and chokeslams Hunter, putting Chyna on top for the pin. GREAT MATCH! ****, no shit. I'm seriously wanting to see a singles match between HHH and Chyna now” - Scott Keith, St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (see what I meant about 1999 not being a banner year for SKeith Rants and Ratings).


“Interesting rumour: WCW's Alexandra York, Terry Taylor's new manager and head of the York foundation, is actually Alexandra Ross, Jim Ross' daughter” - Herb Kunze, “Wrestling TidBits - February 21, 1991” (Alexandra York is now WWE’s Terri, someone I am pretty sure is not JR’s daughter).


No disrespect meant to either person of course. Herb’s Wrestling TidBits tend to contain a boatload of rumours that turned out to be false, but he was just going with the what other sources said.


Match of the Day


Not really sure when this is from... Hogan's entrance is shown and he's still the champion, and I imagine it's from Saturday Night's Main Event, so I'd say early 1990. Other participants (as I see them) - Earthquake, Bossman, The Rockers, Haku, Jake Roberts... Savage is doing commentary, so now I figure this is post WrestleMania VII... Mr. Perfect, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Warlord, looks like Tanaka from the Orient Express. Hogan holds Quake while Roberts punches him. Usual Battle Royale non-happenings that I seem to be a mark for are going on. Hey, there's Tugboat choking out Hercules. Kato is in there too... CLIPPED! Perfect comes off the 2nd turnbuckle with an axe handle on Bossman. Perfect is chopping Texas Tornado in the corner. Shawn Michaels is being teamed up on by 4 guys, but their not Marines in Syracuse so he's ok. Perfect avoids elimination by Hogan while The Warlord tosses Bulldog. Jake was doing nothing of note to Hercules, so Quake hit him from behind with enough force for Jake to jump over the tope rope.. and HERE COMES THE SNAKE. Everyone stands around terrified. Clipped again, and Hogan and Tugboat are going at it. Warlord breaks up their fight and goes after the Hulkster, but of course Hogan tosses him with ease. The Barbarian takes care of Texas Tornado. Duggan, in his intelligence, yells out HOOOOOOOOO while standing right next to the ropes, so Earthquake tosses him. Hogan, being the honest face he is, sneaks up n Earthquake to toss him out. Hogan tries to toss KATO of all people, but Tugboat TOSSES HIM OUT! Go Tugboat! Shawn Michaels tosses tugboat! Bossman tosses Hercules! Clipped tosses some of the match! Final Four: Mr Perfect, Shawn Michaels, Greg Valentine, and The Barbarian. With that star studded line up, I WONDER who wins.... Michaels goes to work on Perfect and tosses him, but Perfect hangs on and gets back in. Michaels hits a big dropkick on Perfect. Good spot sees Shawn Irish whip Perfect, reversed into Shawn hitting the turnbuckles and doing his over the ropes sell. Perfect tries to clothesline him off, but Shawn ducks. Repeat. Frustrated, Perfect just elbows Shawn in the head and sends him to the floor. With Shawn gone, the winner is really in no doubt now. Barbarian and Perfect double team Valentine, but Greg ducks a Perfect Dropkick and Barbarian gets hit, then tossed by The Hammer. Chops in the corner on Valentine by Perfect, reversed by Valentine. Hammer Irish Whips Perfect into the turnbuckles and chops him as he walks out, prompting Perfect to 360 Sell a chop. Awesome. More beating on Perfect. Valentine tries to bodyslam Perfect over the top, but Perfect holds on and they both go flying over... but Perfect never hits the floor and rolls back into the ring. Your winner, Mr. Perfect!.


After some research, I see the match was from the April 15, 1991 SNME. I didn’t even know there was one in 91, but I didn’t start watching until a bit after April. As for the match itself, well, it was a battle royal, so it wasn’t really much of anything. It was just a nice old school throwback.


Torrie Wilson and Playboy


So as I mentioned, the Torrie Playboy pictures are out and circulating. Talking to folks on IRC, it seems as they are a let down. I’ll also have to say that the pictures weren’t really anything special, and while I think Torrie is hotter, the Sable shoot was better. Most of Torrie’s pictures were her just standing there naked. On the upside, it was Torrie Wilson standing there naked, so in the end I’m happy with the pictures. This here is my favourite one...





Well that will do it for today.


Feedback welcomed at [email protected]



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