June 29, 2009
Bushwacker Luke Guest Booker DVD missing big names
By MATT JOHNSON - SLAM! Wrestling
When wrestling fans think of WWE in 1993, they probably think of ice cream bars, stuffed teddy bears, and wrestlers with neon attire. Substitute in barbed wire, fire, and weapons, and the result is Kayfabe Commentaries latest glimpse of alternate wresting history, Guest Booker with Luke Williams.
Hardcore wrestling became popular in North America with Extreme Championship Wrestling in the '90s. In an era when WWE and WCW presented child-friendly entertainment, ECW aimed for a neglected adult fan base. Beer drinking, lesbian kissing, and bloody wrestling wars set the Philadelphia-based promotion apart from the competition.
By 1997, WWE fell behind WCW, thanks in large part to WCW seeming more cutting edge and adult friendly, with its reality based New World Order invasion angle. WWE responded by adopting some of the elements that made ECW popular into its programming. What resulted was the most successful period for any wrestling promotion in history.
But suppose Vince McMahon did not need a two-year beating from WCW in order to revolutionize the way his company did business. Suppose he saw into the future and built WWE into a hardcore, blood and guts promotion in 1993. If he indeed went that route, he would have had a potential booker already on payroll.
Long before he became one half the kiddy act the Bushwackers, Luke Williams was one half of the violent and bloody duo known as the Sheepherders. He also served as a booker, specializing in what is now known as hardcore wrestling. Guest Booker with Luke Williams gives Luke Williams WWE’s head booking position in 1993, with the goal of turning it into a hardcore promotion.
The DVD starts with Williams sharing his background in wrestling. Williams worked for Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling promotion in the '70s and served as a booker for Joe Blanchard’s Southwest Championship Wrestling and Carlos Colon’s World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico. Bill Watts offered Williams the booking position with Mid-South wrestling, but Williams declined because former booker Dick Slater remained on payroll.
As is the case with most of the other Guest Booker DVDs, Williams shares his basic booking philosophies and explains how he would generate heat and build up a feud. One of the noteworthy moments in the DVD is Williams explaining how they used to construct what is now known as an Inferno Match.
One of my major complaints about the DVD is the handling of the roster. The cover claims that Williams is rebooking the 1993 WWE roster, yet names like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Yokozuna, and Lex Luger are not mentioned. For some reason, only lower and mid-card acts are discussed. Also, some of the wrestlers discussed were not on the 1993 WWE roster. Goldust signed in 1995, Ron Simmons in 1996, and the Godwinns were signed in 1994. Perhaps I am being too picky, but I think it is important to have a solid foundation to build stories from.
The DVD focuses on the three angles. The first angle is a feud between Goldust and Ron Simmons. The feud is centered on the idea of femininity vs. masculinity. Williams has Goldust humiliate opponents by kissing them or putting on feminine clothing. An irate Simmons would lose patience and jump to the defense of the other wrestlers.
One of the would be memorable visuals from angle would have Goldust put feminine clothing on a knocked out Simmons and also kiss him and leave a lipstick mark on his face. The blowoff for this feud is a Ball Gown Match where the first man stripped down would lose and be forced to wear an evening gown. Goldust would lose the match and be forced to wear the evening gown. The twist would be that Goldust would enjoy wearing the evening gown. Through this twist, Goldust gets his heat back by disgusting fans even more.
I give Williams credit for this proposed angle. Ron Simmons had a very successful college football career and would serve as a great character for Goldust to play off of. Adult themes such as homosexuality, forced sex acts, and cross dressing are major components of the feud. It is precisely the Jerry Springer type of entertainment that would define this hardcore version of WWE.
The second angle features the Godwinns and the Headshrinkers. In this scenario, the Godwinns believe that the Headshrinkers stole their pig. During interviews, the Headshrinkers would be eating pig meat. The Headshrinkers would defeat the Godwinns in a match by hitting them with a ham. The next match would be a weapons match and the Headshrinkers would win after using a pig’s skull as a weapon. Williams plans to blow off the feud by having the Godwinns win a Slop Match by throwing the Headshrinkers in pig slop.
There are many different ways to successfully promote wrestling. While I personally do not enjoy shows filled with profanity and offensive storylines, I recognize that a promotion could make money with that approach. The proposed Goldust-Simmons feud is an example. However, I really do not see the proposed Godwinns-Headshrinkers feud drawing money. Fighting over a pig is more reminiscent of 1980s WWE, such as when the Islanders stole Matilda from the British Bulldogs, than hardcore ECW wrestling. Additionally, the thought of seeing these teams compete in several matches could drain the life out of the WWE Universe.
The final angle presented pits the Smoking Gunns against the Sheepherders. In order for this to work, the Bushwackers need to transition to the Sheepherders. Williams suggests having someone insult the New Zealand team in the America's Cup yacht race. What is ironic about this is that McMahon would never have allowed anyone to mention the America's Cup. As people who have read Ted Turner’s biography can attest, the America's Cup was one of Turner’s great passions in life. In fact, he broadcast the event on TBS. It is unlikely that Vince McMahon would allow anyone to promote something that would even indirectly benefit Ted Turner.
As part Sheepherders’ heel turn, they would run down American football and Walter Payton. WWE President Gorilla Monsoon would step in, only to be attacked by the Sheepherders. WWE would suspend the Sheepherders, but the pair would still show up in arenas and cause havoc, including costing the Smoking Gunns the tag team titles. The Smoking Gunns would request that WWE allow the Sheepherders to face them. After competing in several gimmick matches, the feud would eventually end with the Gunns winning a barbed wire match.
The DVD concludes with Williams discussing his involvement in today’s wrestling scene. He also discusses the meaning of extreme wrestling and Ring of Honor. Williams also shares a story about how the Sheepherders were offered a job with ECW, but explains how Paul Heyman’s unethical behavior prevented them from working for the company.
My biggest problem with the plan Williams presents is that he falls into the old booker trap of making his own angle the most important. If given all of the financial resources of WWE and the ability to get any wrestler in the world, it would be unwise to feature the Sheepherders and Smoking Gunns in the major angle of the company. But, bookers have often shunned what was best for business in favor of their own personal ambitions.
Wrestling bookers should watch this DVD as a lesson in setting up stipulation matches. Williams does an excellent job giving a back story and a reason for each stipulation. Some modern bookers just throw stipulation matches on television to increase ratings. Yet, when they are presented properly, they can tell much more meaningful and satisfying stories.
Williams falls short when it comes to considering the larger picture. He shoots so many angles with six acts that it would take up all of the oxygen in the room. WWE still would have to fill several hours of programming with other wrestlers. I am still not sure if acts like Bret Hart and the Undertaker are on the roster, but not discussed because of time limitations. If they are still on the roster in this scenario, life would be difficult for them because three other feuds would be going on that would be using up every stipulation match in the book.
Students of the wrestling business would be well served to watch this DVD. Each booker on the Guest Booker series has presented a different approach and brought something new to the table. I would not rate this in the top three of the Guest Booker series because of the inaccuracies with the roster and unanswered questions about why certain wrestlers are selected. However, I do give the DVD a thumbs up as it does a terrific job showing how to build up angles and meaningful matches.
Matt Johnson is a researcher and historian of World Championship Wrestling. He graduated from Northern Michigan University with a double major in English and Social Studies and can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.