Today’s topic is simple, and directly related to the parent column: ten RTB concepts I won’t do. Ever. Don’t ask, don’t suggest, don’t offer your first born, they ain’t happening. Why? A variety of reasons, from taste to knowledge to … well, you’ll see.
As always, top 10 lists are based on opinion, and these here are my opinions. There is no “wrong” answer. You may disagree, and I’ll be happy to debate in the comments in a civil manner. It’s just my opinion is all. Now, let’s not waste any more time.
THE TOP 10 RTB CONCEPTS I WILL NEVER, EVER CONSIDER.
10. Any idea based on urban legend.
One of the fundamental principles of RTB has always been historical turning points. Finding those moments in wrestling’s rich history where events – maybe the industry itself – hinged on the outcome of a certain moment, and then veering in the opposite direction from what we know. The Montreal Screwjob, Sting blowing out his knee, The Fingerpoke Of Doom … you know the deal. I stress this to every prospective RTB writer we’ve ever had; history is the field from which we harvest. This isn’t fantasy booking; it’s alternate reality fiction. So when you take something that never actually happened and turn it into the basis of a story, you’re not changing the course of history; you’re just going off into your own little dream world. The multiple Ultimate Warriors theory, Sid having the Hershey squirts at Wrestlemania 13, the Randy Savage and Stephanie McMahon, Sunny days … at best, we’re dealing with baseless rumors. At worst, borderline slander/libel. In either case, they don’t have a date attached to them, no specific event, and rarely relate to what goes on in the ring directly. Spinning a yarn from them that fits the RTB narrative would be exceedingly difficult, and considering most of the rumors, not worth the time and effort.
9. Anything involving the AWA, WCCW, USWA, Japan or Mexico.
A big element of RTB, for me, is revisiting moments I experienced first-hand and turning them on their ear. Ted DiBiase trying to buy the WWF Championship was a huge influence on the birth of RTB, so going back to it and making my childhood nightmare come true was fun. Yeah, I was a little Hulkamaniac. Sue me. But I run into problems when I have to step out of my familiarity zone. I know WWF/E like the back of my hand; been watching since 1985. While I didn’t grow up seeing NWA, I’ve seen enough of it in retrospect to mimic the booking style, and I know who the players are and how they lined up on the card. WCW and ECW I watched plenty of, and modern day feds are easy to research. But unless you experienced it first-hand, or sit down and watch it ad nauseum on the Network, doing stories for old promotions like the AWA and WCCW in kayfabe style can be borderline impossible. There just isn’t enough data to get the alignments and angles right, and mimicking the booking style and speech patterns is equally difficult. And don’t get me started on overseas promotions. At least I know who Nick Bockwinkel is, even if I’ve never seen him wrestle. I’m not a puro/lucha guy, no matter how hard the enthusiasts of those styles try to push it as the superior product. The number of puro guys I know on sight I could probably count on one hand. That’s a poor start for writing an RTB, and I’m not investing the time to change it.
8. Trying to make true Wrestlecrap into something good.
Okay, right off the bat, I know a few of you are rushing to the comments section to point out Simon Rawls doing Red Rooster, and my turn at recasting the Gooker-winning InVasion (was Muhammad Hassan inducted? I don’t recall). The InVasion should’ve been all the money ever forever, so I’m excusing that. And the Red Rooster … well, they at least tried to push him, so there was some bedrock on which Simon could build. But there’s some Wrestlecrap inductees that are just hopeless. You can fantasy book all you want; TL Hopper vs The Goon would never have main-evented Wrestlemania, even if the rest of the roster got King Ralph’ed somehow. Glacier was a bad idea before it was teased for 73 months, let alone once he debuted and started throwing kicks like he was moving underwater. The saga of Claire Lynch is totally, unbelievably, should-not-be-allowed-by-science-levels-of unsalvageable. Saving these abortions is just not worth it, to me as a writer or you as a reader. Better to take those missed forks in the road than explore dead ends.
7. The infamous Trish Stratus as a Horseman submission.
I considered it as an April Fool’s edition. Aside from the fact that I suck at comedy writing … no. This idea is too ludicrous to work, even as a joke. It makes Monty Python look like as straight-forward as a knock-knock joke. No. Just … just no.
6. The “hit” on Hulk Hogan before the first Wrestlemania.
If you’re not familiar with this rumor, allow me to explain. Legend has it that someone was offered a large sum of money to injure Hulk Hogan during the run-up to Wrestlemania (usually either a broken arm or broken leg). On the surface, yes, this would be an earth-shattering turning point. Wrestlemania without Hogan would send the event up in flames. It could spell the end of Titan Sports and the WWF. The NWA would not only survive, but the contraction into JCP might not happen. No 80’s mainstream boom. No Ted Turner buyout. No Monday Night Wars. No ECW, which indirectly lead to CZW and ROH. It would be landmark. So why won’t I consider it? I’ve heard too many variations of the story to consider it anything more than rumor. Some say the hitman was to be Iron Sheik. Some say Harley Race. Some say Paul Orndorff. I’m sure there are other variations I’ve yet to hear. The point is, when you have this many variations, it really makes one wonder how true it is. Could there have been multiple offers to multiple hitmen? Maybe. But there’s just way too many versions of this story for me to believe it’s anything more than myth.
5. The Black Scorpion.
Now, despite the fact that this is Wrestlecrap, that isn’t the objection here. This one is logistical. To really effectively do this one, you have to rewrite the angle from the very beginning. With all the hints they dropped in the build-up that were red herrings, starting at the reveal would likely lead to disappointment. So that means going all the way back. And, well, let’s face it, it was a dumb angle to begin with. Really, crucially dumb. There was no need for a stupid mystery angle to build up a challenger. The idea of rescuing an angle that was pointless and unnecessary to begin with just makes me shudder. Plus, I think I’d wind up breaking Blade Braxton’s heart, and he’s a cool guy. Had him over to my house once to watch Wrestlemania. I can’t do that to a bro.
4. The Mass Transit Incident.
This is a matter of logistics and taste. Logistically speaking, I don’t know if there’s much story in doing a “what if it didn’t happen”, because ECW really wasn’t hampered by it. Barely Legal got pushed back a few weeks, and one or two PPV carriers wouldn’t carry it. Big whoop, two weeks. The ripple effect is almost non-existent. Doing the story the other way around is where I run into taste concerns. I’m just not comfortable pushing the story on the back of a kid who nearly got bled out in the middle of the ring and using that as the leverage point. It feels mawkish and exploitative somehow.
3. Anything about the Hulk Hogan/Gawker situation.
Again, this is logistics and taste. As far as taste goes … um, eww? Do I need to elaborate? And logistically speaking, well, look at the situation. Hogan was no longer active in the ring, and he couldn’t get medical clearance to wrestle again. So the whole situation goes down and he gets fired from … special appearances? He doesn’t host Tough Enough? There’s no mileage down that path … there’s not even footage.
2. Anything with Chris Benoit as a major character.
*puts up flame shield*
Some of you may be able to separate the wrestler from the man and can still appreciate his matches. Some of you may think history shouldn’t shy away from his historical contributions in the ring. I am not one of those people. I don’t begrudge your opinion if you feel otherwise, but I simply do not see things from your point of view. I cannot think of him without thinking of that weekend and the acts he committed. I cannot separate wrestler and man. And as such, I can’t bring myself to put him as a primary character in a story. I realize this crosses out a number of potentially awesome stories, such as anything to do with the Radicalz, or the rumors of him substituting for Kurt Angle at Wrestlemania XIX (I still think that match would’ve been BOSS). I wish I could, guys, I really do. But I can’t do it. As much for those readers who share my opinion and could never read a story built around him, as it is for my comfort level in having to write about him.
And finally, the #1 RTB concept I will never do is …
1. What if [X] didn’t die?
Wrestling history is, sadly, full of premature deaths, and more than I’d care to acknowledge that affected the in-ring product; Pillman, Guerrero, Owen, Spicolli, Candido, Misawa, Eddie Gilbert, Art Barr, most of the Von Erichs … I could go on and on. Each of these deaths caused a fundamental shift in the on-screen stories, and there is ample reason to be curious where things would go if they hadn’t died. Would Owen have turned face and feuded with Jeff Jarrett? Would Art Barr not dying prevent Eddie Guerrero from going off on his own? Would David Von Erich surviving change Kerry Von Erich’s life and career, and would he become the lead face in NWA? All very good, very valid questions. But to do that, I have to invalidate a death. That’s not changing a script, that’s messing with real life in a fundamental way. It feels … creepy somehow. I just don’t feel comfortable crossing that particular boundary. I don’t hold it against those who’ve written or will write RTB’s – Neil Cathan did a fantastic job with the Bruiser Brody story – but it’s just not for me.
Okay, so, what’s next for RTB? Well, I’m looking to try out the fantasy warfare idea that was suggested to me. I’ve got to work on the style and presentation, but I think it could be fun, in a silly kind of way. A throwback to Apter mags, with a severe dose of geek factor flavored in. I even have a sufficiently Wrestlecrappy title for it: THE GREATEST NIGHT IN THE HISTORY OF OUR SPORT.
And beyond that, I already have two new RTB writers working on projects! If you’d like to contribute for #RTB10 (or even in the immediate future!), contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter.