“I’m like a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it. I’d just do.” -The Joker, "The Dark Knight"
These simple yet eloquent words were just a few of the profound statements Heath Ledger made as the Joker in "The Dark Knight." The most profound statement, in my opinion, is still the concept of chaos. That character integrates so much disarray and destruction that he practically takes an entire city down. Since I first saw that film, I haven’t been able to stop thinking, “Man, what a great idea for a wrestling character!” Imagine a motiveless heel who just wants to watch the company he works for burn. Now, before you say we’ve seen something of the sort before, allow me to correct your thoughts.
I am not talking about a monster heel who “just wants to hurt people and make them feel pain and suffering and carnage and abrasions” and all that crappy jazz. Not to sound like Dusty Rhodes, but that is The Warlord, if you will. I am also not talking about Mankind. Sure, he liked pain and liked inflicting it, but he never tried to boycott the establishment by destroying it…unless we are counting his stint as a leader of the Union of People You Oughta Respect, Shane…or UOPYORS. (Exhibit A as to why I think Mick Foley has the best ghostwriter in the history of literature: that acronym is just not acceptable. Even if I forgive the “of”, it’s still UPYORS.)
I am talking about a guy that doesn’t want a title shot. I am talking about a guy that thinks a good win-loss record is a luxury. I am talking about a guy who gets the upper hand in the most barbaric and cruel ways. I am talking about an agent of chaos.
I am not specifically saying The Joker.
If your name is Steve Borden, I sure hope you are reading this after you’ve made an investment in a time-travelling DeLorean. (Sadly enough, with the ridiculously high salary Dixie Carter pays you, you have an outside shot of actually having one. Maybe a time travelling LeBaron or something.)
In 1997, Sting was the hottest character in wrestling during the onset of its boom period. Go back and listen to the pops he was getting as he came down from the rafters and went Dante Bischette on some New World Order scum. It was, pun very intended, bat shit crazy.
It wasn’t the blonde-haired, bright tights, playing volleyball with Davey Boy Smith Sting. This was brooding...black and white...Crow Sting.
Sting didn’t create anything with his look in the late 90s. He simply took the look of the Crow, a popular comic book and movie character at the time. At one point, Sting had a fricking bird in the rafters next to him, for crying out loud!
And you know what? It worked. Here are the three reasons I think why:
1. Everyone knew about the movie because of the Brandon Lee accident, but it wasn’t a blockbuster; it was more akin to a cult favorite.
2. It looked cool. Even if it was a cheap knock-off, you couldn’t deny Sting looked like a badass in that get-up. It looked legit and it was treated as such.
3. This one is the most important: he wasn’t BEING the Crow. Sure, he wouldn’t talk and he was out for revenge, but that was it. He didn’t come back from the dead. He wasn’t avenging his girlfriend. The bird wasn’t his ACTUAL sidekick. You knew what they were trying to do.
Smash cut to 2011. The same man is in Total Nonstop Impact Wrestling Alliance Society X VaVoom (that’s what I might call that disaster from now on) and he is once again portraying a dark, brooding character…sort of.
Good old Steve Borden is the Joker.
And you know what? It sucks. Here are 493 reasons I think why:
Just kidding. I could do it, though.
This time around, Sting talks, walks, acts, breathes, yells, farts, moves and fights just like Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker. So, instead of taking a little-known cult character and adapting his look to fit your current story, Sting is blatantly emulating a villain from the third biggest-grossing movie of all-time. Right down to the bad paint job and speech problems.
This is the same Sting that was treated as the Hulk Hogan of the second biggest wrestling promotion of all-time. The same Sting who has been world champion 14 times (I’m stretching on the meaning of World Champion with TNA, but I have to, I guess.) Imagine if WWE decided to have the Undertaker portray Cobra Commander or Eric Bana in the Star Trek movie. That’s what this is like.
(Side note: the Swoggle Squad has jokingly been taking bets as to what Sting will be mimicking next. Some have said Optimus Prime. I stayed in 2008 and went with WALL-E. Maybe he is spacing the films out. 13 years in between "The Crow" and "The Dark Knight." In 2021, get ready for Sting to portray a movie character from 2019. Sting will be 62. Don’t worry, he will still be wrestling. It might be in a sweater at this point, but he will still be doing his thing.)
It begs the questions: why does professional wrestling think they have to tap into the movie business?
Before Sting’s Great Movie Ride, plenty of different promotions have tried to tap into the popular culture and create stars based on or completely ripping off movie/comic book/TV characters. There have been wrestling Tarzans, Batmans, Ninja Turtles, Beetlejuices, Leatherfaces, etc. WCW had Oz and originally planned for an entire WIZARD OF OZ THEMED FACTION just because they had the broadcasting rights to the movie. Imagine the Steiner Brothers trying to get a hot tag while The Scarecrow and Tin Man cut that half of the ring off.
If they aren’t trying to blatantly recreate a character for their benefit, they just bring the actual character in. Robo-Cop helped Sting fend off the Four Horsemen in 1990. Chucky (the killer doll, not Finster) cut a promo on Rick Steiner, who challenged him to a fight. (Chucky could’ve been the first Yoshihiko.) Chris Jericho shoved a pie in Stephanie McMahon’s face, thanks to an assist from an Ape from the Planet...of the Apes.
Let us not forget actual celebrities showing up to either shill their upcoming projects and make some stupid jokes or gets involved in some way. Ben Stiller was put in Jeff Jarrett’s figure four. Snoop Dogg stops by almost every year clotheslizzle somebody or hear Hornswoggle rap. The Jackass guys no-sold Umaga and then almost got murdered. Remember Joe C, the midget that backed up Kid Rock? He helped Too Cool win the WWF Tag Titles!
In Joe C’s defense, he was super over with the crowd that night and he played his part better than...well, pretty much anybody. The case against Joe C: he helped Too Cool win the WWF Tag Titles!
Then, sometimes, the unthinkable happens: they compete in an actual match. Ignore figures like Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman who had more of a right to be in the ring because they were actual athletes (and were still awful at wrestling). Let’s look at all of the Raw Guest Hosts that had matches on Raw. Some of the luminaries include Seth Green, Cedric the Entertainer and Maria Menounos. (This just in: I have killed the meaning of the word “luminaries.”) Jay Leno main-evented everyone’s least favorite WCW pay-per-view, Road Wild. Will Sasso wrestled Bret Hart and "MADtv" co-star Debra Wilson turned heel on Sasso.
David Arquette wrestled as well. My mind seems to be spacing out and I can’t seem to remember how that turned out. Oh, that’s right. He had a run-in during the Chris Kanyon/Buff Bagwell “Judy Bagwell on a Forklight” match at New Blood Rising 2000. Nothing else notable or historic at all.
The other unthinkable began in 1989. Wrestling companies started making their own movies. "No Holds Barred" saw Vince McMahon try his hand in the motion picture business. Naturally, when it didn’t fare that well, what did he do? He brought the villain of the movie, Zeus, in and had him feud with his co-star, Hulk “Rip” Hogan. Now, we have an fictional character from an actual movie…feuding with a co-star…playing a different character in a wrestling ring. What the Funk?
In this more modern day and age, WWE Studios have provided us with more gems that would be 30 mile per hour fastballs for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 guys. Thankfully, even though the movies were horrendous, we’ve been spared of any crossover. Of course, that’s beyond the whole “Kane/See No Evil/May 19/Fake Kane/Jacob Goodnight/giant hook/giant chain/actual weapon against Khali/entire crux of a WrestleMania 23 match used to emulate Andre and Hulk 20 years later” thing.
(Real quick: think about WWE still trying to either correlate their movies with storylines or bringing characters in. Randy Orton goes on a losing streak when he can’t sleep because his kid is currently not in school due to the bullying he suffers in "That’s What I Am." Triple H begins to feud with veteran character actor Kevin Corrigan portraying bank robber Phillip Larue from “The Chaperone.” Ted DiBiase undergoes a character overhaul and becomes The Marine 2! Okay, maybe Ted should pitch that last one and save himself a TNA Television Title run in 16 months.)
And, if the actors showing up or actors playing wrestlers or characters being wrestlers weren’t enough, why not have wrestlers start being actors? Sure, there have been some decent performances (Roddy Piper in "They Live", about 40 percent of the Rock’s career, Andre the Giant, Kevin Nash as the best part in "The Longest Yard"), but most of them have been schlock that rolls more eyes than anything. Stacy Keibler in "Bubble Boy". Edge in the Highlander reboot. Triple H in "Blade: Trinity." I feel like Vince from ShamWow because I could do this all day.
(It was around this time in this column that I realized I had completely ignored "The Wrestler." With the utmost respect for that movie, I’m sorry I just mentioned it because it has no right being amidst such crap.)
What does all of this mean? Why hasn’t the wrestling business smartened up and given up on being best friends with the talkies?
The answer is simple: the wrestling business is a dog chasing a car.
Wrestling has always been seen as the black sheep of the entertainment world. Media coverage is normally tongue-in-cheek or piss-poor. Vince McMahon, Eric Bischoff, Dixie Carter and every other promoter/owner has always wanted to have that complete acceptance as a brand of legitimate entertainment. What better way to achieve that than rubbing elbows with the actors, characters and concepts that drive Hollywood?
As this rabid Saint Bernard, the wrestling business endlessly chases this car driven by mainstream success trying to bite into it and discover the sweet taste. On the rare occasion the dog catches the car, as the quote suggests, it has no idea what do with it. The taste isn’t great, either. So, they just do. Well, more like they just doo-doo.
(Making Cena-like feces jokes. Time to take it home.)
Wrestling needs to just accept what it is as an art form: an alternative to many different entertainment and sports mediums and do that as best as it can. Don’t worry about being hip to the culture that has already passed. Try to be original. If you really, really, really want to take ideas, do what WCW and Sting did originally and just emulate a look/mood of a character. Do what Chris Jericho admitted to doing in his DVD and use Anton Chigurh, the villain from "No Country for Old Men" as an inspiration for his post-Y2J character. Let Rey Mysterio wear his silly outfits at WrestleMania every year. (Current Vegas odds for next year: Lightning McQueen is even, the alien from "Super 8" is 10 to 1, the monkey from "The Hangover Part 2" is 8 to 1 and one of Mr. Popper’s Penguins is 16 to 1.) Do something that is minor or actually creative, not a cheap tactic to get attention like Joker Sting or something that lightens up wrestling in a childish and stupid way.
Let’s put this dog to sleep so he can stop chasing these cars and buy a nice kitty who just likes to stay at home and do nothing.
That will put more smiles on these faces.