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What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What? What?
by Sam Halsall on 2002-02-18

"TV wrestling is phallocentric soap opera for retards and intellectually lazy intelligent people who get off by cultural slumming! Get lives or get the hell off the stage, scum!"
- Warren Ellis, Transmetropolitan: Gouge Away (2002 DC Comics)

Until recently, it was possible to defend wrestling fandom against the slings and arrows of the ignorant. The sort of person who would say, "You do realize this is fake, right?" was easily shot down and exposed for the elitist they were. You could wear a WWF t-shirt in public and not have people treat you like a mental defective.

Those days are now over. And we have "Stone Cold" Steve Austin to blame. What? I said, we have Austin to blame.

Recently, there's been some disquiet about the "What?" phenomenon. Some wrestling journalists have suggested that maybe it's time for the WWF to try and scale it back. Wrestlers such as Lance Storm have wondered aloud if perhaps "What?" isn't too over.

Fine. If no one else is willing to come right out and say it, I will. The "What?" thing is retarded, and so is anyone who marks out for it.

There. It's said.

Call The Rock a one-trick-pony all you like -- and Christ knows I do -- but at least he has several catch-phrases, the creativity to come up with more, and the ability to string them together into more-or-less coherent sentences. Austin has one, and it doesn't even make sense.

The real trouble reared its head when Austin started structuring his promos with the express purpose of giving the fans no less than 50 opportunities to shout "What?" at him. Then Kurt Angle started doing it, since he was booked in a program with Austin. Then the fans just started yelling it during every promo, no matter whose it was.

An entire arena full of people shouting "What?" after even the most basic sentence, often repeatedly within a sentence. Take a step back for a moment, and try to imagine how this looks to an outside observer.

It's gotten to the point where I hit the Mute button on my remote control when Austin picks up a microphone. And when, on one occasion, he started retelling the story of the Beverly Hillbillies (with requisite pauses), I found myself changing the channel until I was sure it was over. To put this in perspective for you, I'd been a fan for over a dozen years at this point, and had never once changed channels during a wrestling show.

But the worst -- the absolute lowest point of the "What?" gimmick and wrestling fandom in general -- came a few weeks ago when Lillian Garcia was singing The Star Spangled Banner. In New York City. Which, in case you've been living on the planet Pornos for the past seven months, was the target of an anti-American terrorist attack back around mid-September.

The mass of wrestling fans in the crowd yelled "What?" after every line.

Now anyone who knows me can tell you I don't care much about my own national anthem, let alone And-the-rockets'-red-glare/The-bombs-bursting-in-air/Killed-scores-of-non-whites/Just-because-they-were-there. But people, you simply do not heckle an artist when they are performing something that clearly means a great deal to them personally. It doesn't make you a rebel or a badass non-conformist. It makes you a dimwit.

Can I please ask a favor of my fellow fans? Just let this thing die. Put it to sleep. Because it's getting embarassing. John Q. Public already thinks wrestling fans are imbeciles. Let's not give him more ammunition.


Good news for fans of all the old wrestling arcade games. Most of them are now available as free downloads for your home computer. Swing by for the games and the program to run them. That WWF Superstars game is a nostalgia trip, no lie.


Sad to hear of the demise of FMW. The good news is, four DVDs just shipped. Two of them basically chronicle the Hayabusa/Tanaka feud. The third is a look at Tanaka's best matches. The last is a history of the dual titles, and shows all the matches where they changed hands. Buy these, and remember a time before sports-entertainment infected the Land of the Rising Sun.


As mean-spirited as it sounds, I'm actually looking forward to watching the nWo angle flop yet again. "Traffic accident" is a term that's thrown around far too casually, but it's wholly appropriate here. Gee, maybe we'll get really lucky and Warrior will come back to reform the oWn...

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