Top 5 Books About Running

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This past December, I ran my very first marathon. It was so fun and yet so painful at the same time! What I most liked about the race was the support and energy I felt from the other runners and spectators. It really felt like I was doing something meaningful, even though I’m sure a lot of people thought I was crazy for running 26.2 miles in the cold.

There’s definitely a sense of community among runners, and there are several books about running that accurately capture this feeling. Read the list below and click the links to find these books in the library!

 

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

My favorite book about running, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, is short and to the point. Murakami, a marathon runner and a famous novelist, writes with wisdom about his experiences. He compares running to writing and examines the discipline behind long distance running.

 

Running: A Global History by Thor Gotaas

How did we as humans become so fascinated with running? This book explains it all, tracing runners throughout world history.

 

Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel by Matt Fitzgerald

The best elite runners have learned that the key to faster running is to hear what your body is telling you. But are you listening?

 

A Heart In A Body In The World by Deb Caletti

This young adult fiction novel is about a girl on a cross-country run, trying to deal with a traumatic event from her past. Along the way, she becomes a reluctant activist and symbol.

 

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb

Read all about the true story of how three elite athletes trained to run a mile in under four minutes.

 

All of these books are available at the library- just click the links to find their locations!

Donny’s Deductions: The History of Professional Bowling

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Donny Turner was awarded the Division II Mr. Bowling Award (as presented by the TSSAA) in 2016. He has been an avid bowler since his childhood, and he continues to bowl competitively when he’s not in class as a Union University math major.

When you think of bowling, you probably think of hanging out with some friends on a Friday night eating pizza and drinking Coke. It is laid back, fun, and totally relaxed. If it ever does get competitive, it is only in good fun and never terribly serious. The majority nowadays don’t even consider bowling to be a real sport. But this was not always the case. Bowling has had one of the most vibrant histories of any sport in the world!

The Golden Age:

Professional bowling, as it is known today, began in 1958. Before this, the only type of bowling that had been aired officially on television was jackpot bowling, a game where each bowler would try to bowl up to nine strikes and the winner would get $1000. The desire to start a professional bowling league that would be aired on TV was headed by Eddie Elias, a sports agent. During a 1958 American Bowling Congress tournament with 60 of the best bowlers, Elias proposed the idea of a Professional Bowling league. He convinced 33 of these bowlers to donate $50 each to start the organization. The league was incorporated.

The Professional Bowling Association (PBA) began in 1959 with 3 tournaments. Lou Campi won the first event and Dick Weber, a future Hall of Famer and acclaimed ambassador for the sport, won the other two events. The PBA tour slowly began growing; in 1960 there were 7 tournaments and then 16 in 1961.  In 1962 the league expanded greatly to 30 tournaments, a number that rivals the amount of tournaments in the modern era. Dick Weber would become the primary face of bowling in the inaugural years of the PBA as he won 10 of the first 23 events. Bowling was quickly becoming extremely popular.

Two bowling-based TV shows grew in popularity in the 1960s: Jackpot Bowling and Make That Spare, a show where bowlers would attempt to make difficult spares and earn money for each spare made. Both of these shows propelled the popularity of bowling greatly, and it was a major factor in getting the PBA to begin being aired live on ABC in 1965. Bowlers were beginning to make a ton of money. Through sponsorships from Ford Motor Company, Coca-Cola, True Value Hardware, and Firestone Tire, the PBA was able to expand the both tour and funding.

In 1963, there was over $1,000,000 (over $7,000,000 today) in prize funds. The top bowler for that year, Harry Smith, made more money than the Major League Baseball MVP and the National Football League MVP combined. Then, in 1964, Don Carter, one of the greatest bowlers of all time, became the first athlete in any sport to receive a $1 million dollar endorsement deal. This was more than 200 times what professional golfer Arnold Palmer got with his endorsements and more than 100 times what football star Joe Namath earned. Carter also made well over $100,000 a year through bowling tournaments and other endorsements with Miller, Viceroys, and Wonder Bread. Being a professional bowler really was a good life.

The popularity in professional bowling also drastically increased the amount of recreational bowling across the United States. Throughout the 1960s, 12,000 new bowling centers were constructed and 4.6 million United States Bowling Congress members existed. Bowling was cool. Everyone, from kids to parents to grandparents, bowled, and everyone loved bowling.

A Quick Aside:

One interesting facet of bowling history is its ties with gangsters and the mafia. Professional bowlers would participate in “action bowling,” a high-stakes form of gambling in which bowlers faced off for thousands of dollars. The dark bowling alleys hidden in the boroughs of New York was where this was the most popular. Often times 50 lane bowling alleys would be bustling even at 1 am. Ernie Schlegel, a future PBA Hall of Famer, dominated this scene. He would go in purposefully smelling of alcohol to hustle other bowlers. They would bet incredible amounts of money, often times more than $10,000 per game. The stakes were incredibly high. Schlegel began doing action bowling when he was just 17. He left the bowling alley that first night with $2,000 knowing he could make a living doing this for the rest of his life; however, not everything about action bowling was so positive.

This world was lawless, and bowlers took advantage of this. People would rig the bowling balls to be weighted illegally to hook more and knock down more pins. This was not unlike gamblers using loaded dice; the gangsters betting on the games were not happy when they found out. They could become violent if the game did not go their way.

There was even an instance where a bowler faked a heart attack to get out of a game. Two bowlers facing off against each other had both bet on himself to lose the match. They were both intentionally trying to throw the match. There were also big guys with guns who had also bet on the game and backed the bowlers. Now, the bowler had a dilemma: he could either step up in the tenth frame to win the game and subsequently be shot by his backer for not throwing the game, or he could intentionally miss the spare and get shot by his opponent’s backer. He did the only logical thing at that point, he faked a heart attack to get out of having to decide. Despite everything, the bowlers look back on it fondly. Limongello, a prominent bowler at that time, said it really was “Good times. I wouldn’t give those days back for nothing.”

The Decline:

Throughout the 70s and early 80s, bowling continued to be extremely successful. Bowlers were treated like rock stars. Bowlers getting 1st place at tournaments still earned hundreds of thousands of dollars, and sponsorship deals were still extremely lucrative. The PBA Senior tour for bowlers over the age of 50 formed alongside the formation of the Professional Women’s Bowlers Association (PWBA). Bowling was thriving and it did not seem to be slowing down anytime soon; except, oddly, things began to slow down and slow down fast.

Professional Bowling began to lull in the late 80s and 90s. Bowling prize funds did not increase with inflation and the number of tournaments in the year began to decline from 30 a year to less than 20 a year. Sponsorships began to dry up, and the PBA began to regress greatly. In 2000, the entirety of bowling was purchased by former Microsoft executives Chris Peters, Rob Glaser, and Mike Slade for $5 million dollars, less than the price of a minor league baseball team. Peters aimed to revamp bowling and give the industry a new image. He created a new website for the PBA (pba.com), and he aimed to stream the qualify rounds for PBA tournaments on a website (xtrafram.tv.). This web-streaming service is one of the few bright spots in a dark time. This service is still offered today and quality and viewership has only steadily increased.

Despite growing efforts, and major publicity from a 2006 sports documentary, A League of Ordinary Gentlemen (a documentary on the 2002-2003 season that followed a few of the best bowlers in the word), bowling was not growing fast, and the downward spiraling economy was not helping. The PWBA folded in 2003; however, the women were subsequently allowed to enter PBA events, and in 2005, Liz Johnson, widely regarded as the best female bowler of all time, made a PBA television show. Regardless, things were not looking up, recreational bowling had declined by 40% in 10 years, and the brand of bowling had never been worse.

Bowling had begun to take on the image of being a “lazy man’s” game. The prestige of bowling had been lost. Bowling was the brunt of many jokes. Jim Gaffigan, a popular comedian, had an entire shtick that made fun of bowling. He commented on the laziness of bowlers saying, “If you’re out of shape and you’re bowling, you’re probably a professional bowler.” He also mentioned that bowling was low on this list of things people could do. He said: “Bowling is the activity you do after you’ve done everything else.” Granted, this is a comedy routine, but there is some truth to his words. The idea of going bowling did not have the prestige of going playing golf or the physical fortitude of playing tennis. Bowling was seen as a lazy activity that anyone could do, but no one really wanted to do.

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The Youth Movement:

The PBA saw its darkest time in the 2010-2012 season. There were only 12 events that year, and only 3 of the events were aired live on television. The only positive to this season was a $250,000 first place prize to the winner of the Tournament of Champions, arguably the most prestigious tournament of the year. For every other tournament, the first place prize fund was between $20,000 and $50,000. This isn’t terrible money strictly speaking, but if you were a professional bowler and not in the top 10, you could barely make a living. The 20th ranked player would barely be earning more than $20,000 per year, half of what the 20th ranked bowler made in the early 1980s. The average income for the remaining 250 best bowlers in the world was less than $10,000 per year. This is, of course, not including sponsorships and other endorsements, but gone were the days of $1 million deals and Coca-Cola endorsements. Thankfully, all hope is not lost. There has recently been a huge movement of youth bowling.

Something interesting happened in late 2008; Jason Belmonte, a professional Australian bowler, did something different. He bowled using both his hands instead of one.

*image courtesy of Jason Belmonte’s official website

This popularized a new form of bowling that had never been seen before. Many people were in favor of this new form of bowling while others were vehemently opposed, but the most important thing is that it put bowling in a spotlight again. It made bowling more interesting and it garnered attention from everyone across the world. Jason Belmonte has even been featured on Dude Perfect, a popular YouTube channel, twice, and both videos have tens of millions of views. He has been the best possible ambassador for bowling, and the youth are taking notice.

Bowling two-handed makes it easier to hook the ball, thus scoring higher games with less experience. This makes the sport more accessible and many more middle and high school bowlers are using this technique. Jason Belmonte has helped grow the sport more than just about any other professional bowler. Youth bowling has seen its first positive trend within the last 5 years for the first time in over 2 decades. This is not a coincidence, and major bowling organizations such as USBC (United States Bowling Congress) have grown as a result. USBC hosts a national youth bowling tournament every year called Junior Gold. This tournament has seen a 300% increase within the last 7 years, from ~1000 to over 3000 entrants. This has had a lasting and positive effect on Professional Bowling.

Through the youth movement, there has also been a huge influx of young bowlers (18-25) who have seen major success on the PBA tour recently. These youth bowlers have already gained the experience of fierce competition from tournaments such as Junior Gold and other grueling youth tournaments. They are capable and often more competitive than some of the veterans on tour, and they have the advantage of athleticism on their side. These bowlers have documented through different forms of social media how often they work out, and they work out a ton. This new wave of youth bowlers put a huge emphasis on staying in peak physical condition, often working out just as much as or more often than they bowl. This has given them an edge over the competition, and it has begun to chip away at the stereotype that all professional bowlers are out of shape. Bowling is on an upward trend.

Bowling still has a long way to go. Realistically, professional bowling will never be as big as football or basketball; however, bowing is growing steadily. Bowling is America’s favorite recreational activity, and youth bowlers are heavily involved and extremely passionate about the sport. That is what it will take to keep the sport of bowling alive. As long as there are people out there who genuinely care about the sport and are dedicated to its growth, bowling will never die.

 

If you enjoyed reading this blog post and want to learn more about bowling and how to get better at bowling, we have a couple great books on bowling in the Library!

Bowling Execution – A fantastic book on how to get started in the basics of bowling.

Historical Dictionary of Bowling – A book on different terms and people related to bowling. A great book if you want to learn more on the history and terminology of bowling.

*written by Donny Turner

Book Review: “Headlocks and Dropkicks” by Ted Kluck

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Library student worker Brennan Kress has loved professional wrestling since he was just a little kid. In a new blog series, Brennan will explore wrestling history and discuss a book by Union professor Ted Kluck.

Book Review:

As an avid wrestling fan, I was overjoyed to see that the library held a book on professional wrestling and that it was written by Union’s own Ted Kluck. My purpose in writing is both a book review and a criticism, not of Ted Kluck’s writing, but perhaps his stance on professional wrestling.

Headlocks and Dropkicks is both autobiographical and informative as it tells Kluck’s journey to become a professional wrestler with the sole purpose of wrestling one single match. Kluck recounts his time training in a wrestling gym and all of the fun and interesting characters he met there. He also describes the amount of work that it takes to become a professional wrestler as he details his training all the way from simple in-ring bumps, to body slams and suplexes.

Furthermore, Kluck litters his novel with wrestling lore along with several interviews with famous wrestlers as they recount their own adventures in wrestling. Packed in with this is some more basic wrestling history, and Kluck does an amazing job of running these stories together, giving the reader a better and deeper picture of what professional wrestling is beyond the ring. For anyone even remotely interested in professional wrestling, whether for training, history, or stories told from the mouths of those who experienced them, Headlocks and Dropkicks is a great source for all of this and more.

However, the book does present a more cynical view of wrestling by showing some of the inner turmoil that most, if not all, wrestlers experience (both through training and their careers). Professional wrestling is a highly competitive industry and one that requires immense determination in which to succeed. Kluck points out many wrestlers who wrestled through injury just because their career depended on it. This shows the harsh reality of indie wrestling. Wrestlers do spend years training and many never make it to major promotions such as the WWE. Wrestling requires a kind of perseverance unlike any other sport and everyone is expendable- meaning wrestlers will drive hours just to get on the card of a show. This also means wrestlers, especially indie wrestlers, make very little money, sometimes not enough money to pay for the gas to drive to the venue. Kluck many times expounds upon this darker side of wrestling.

With that view in mind, as Kluck recounts matches, he has a hard time separating the real from the fake in the sense that he seems to have trouble knowing how to feel. For example, as he watches Ric Flair’s last WWE match, he can’t decide whether to cry as many in the crowd are as they watch a childhood hero hang up the boots, or to feel unsympathetic since the result was scripted since the beginning. Here I disagree with Kluck, simply as a wrestling fan.

There is certainly a dark side to wrestling. Many wrestlers wrestle hurt and underpaid and many crowds are full of loud and unpleasant people. However, that is true for many sports. Wrestling is different, though, when it comes to storytelling. A wrestling match can tell a story unlike any sporting event can, and sometimes it can do this better than television shows. A good wrestling match, if done well, can be up to half an hour long. This is longer than many TV shows and in that time, with few words and technically one scene, two wrestlers can tell a story unlike any other. This kind of story-telling is impossible to explain, one has to watch it. For those interested here are some matches that tell magnificent stories inside them:

 

Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 13

 

Ric Flair vs Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 24

 

Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 25

 

John Cena vs CM Punk at Money in the Bank 2011

 

Eddie Guerrero vs Brock Lesnar at No Way Out 2004

 

Tommaso Ciampa vs Johnny Gargano at NXT Takeover Chicago (personal favorite)

 

Through all of these contests, professional wrestling proves to be more than just some big men throwing each other around in a ring. It requires skill, planning, and charisma on the part of the wrestlers to be able to carry a story through a wrestling match. Though wrestling is not a sport everyone will or can enjoy, it should be respected as one of the most unique and yet convincing forms of storytelling ever devised. Though many wrestling matches can be boring and uninspired, there are moments where stars shine and wrestling invokes deep emotion. And when the art form of wrestling isn’t on display, it is simply entertaining.

By the end of the book, Kluck recognizes that when wrestling is stripped to its most simple, it is fun. Like reliving childhood fantasies, wrestling transports fans to a child-like innocence as they watch superheros battle on screen- superheroes who are merely men making up characters and acting like kids themselves. For some, wrestling will always and only be just men fake fighting for the entertainment of others, but for others, wrestling will be seen as an interesting and inviting form of art and storytelling. But the only way to know is to watch it for yourself.

 

*written by Brennan Kress

**for other great books by Union author Ted Kluck, check here!

Brennan’s Brainstorms: The History of Professional Wrestling, Part 4.

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Library student worker Brennan Kress has loved professional wrestling since he was just a little kid. In a new blog series, Brennan will explore wrestling history and discuss a book by Union professor Ted Kluck.

The Winning Strategy

The WWF (turned WWE in the early 2000’s due to a legal dispute with the World Wildlife Foundation) by 2002 had won the Monday Night War. Vince McMahon actually bought the rights of WCW from Ted Turner. And he had won the war through several simple tactics. First, he was constantly bringing in new young talent, not old stars, and Vince could develop new talent into stars, something Eric and Russo could not do.

Vince kept a team mentality throughout his roster. The guys on the undercard and midcard knew that their role was just as important as the main eventers. Everyone on the roster, to both themselves and the fans, thought that they could be in the main event. There were no glass ceilings placed for most stars, unlike WCW where the main event was established and no one else could enter it.

Impressively, Vince McMahon did not panic at the supersonic rise of WCW. He held true to his roots, adapted his stories to fit the new generation, and came out on top. Thus the WWE had finally established itself as the single largest wrestling promotion in the world. Still to this day, though there are countless other wrestling promotions, WWE is the most, and many times only, recognized force in wrestling. They survived the war.

Aftermath and the Ruthless Aggression Era (2002-2008)

            In the wake of the Monday Night War, WWE made two huge moves as they started their “Ruthless Aggression Era” in 2002. WWE bought WCW and ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling was a smaller niche wrestling company based out of Philadelphia that was renowned for its over-the-top violent matches). With these purchases, WWE found themselves with a multitude of talent. There were so many superstars that one show (Raw) wasn’t enough to give the talent space to work. So WWE decided to make Smackdown (a weekly show used during the Monday Night War to add more TV time to WWE) a major show with an exclusive roster and championships. They also made pay per views Raw or Smackdown exclusive and the two shows only came together for “The Big 4” pay per views (which were Summerslam, Survivor Series, The Royal Rumble, and Wrestlemania). This era was made famous by new major stars that appeared on Smackdown:  most notably, Brock Lesnar.

Brock Lesnar was a huge collegiate wrestler but found greater success in the WWE. After only five months on the main roster, Brock Lesnar won the WWE Championship and became the youngest man to do so up until that point at the age of 25. After Wrestlemania 20 in 2004, Lesnar left the WWE and became a football player for the Minnesota Vikings, though he was cut before the beginning of the 2004 season. From there he went to Japan to wrestle and then became an MMA fighter. He would eventually become the first man in history to win both the WWE and the UFC Heavyweight Championship. He would return to the WWE in 2012. Most recently, Brock Lesnar has had the longest championship reign of the modern era of wrestling, as he held the Universal Championship for 504 days from April 2, 2017 to August 19, 2018.

Two other famous WWE superstars made their debuts in these years. John Cena and Randy Orton began to make a name for themselves throughout the Ruthless Aggression Era. These two also paved the way for the next era of professional wrestling.

The Ruthless Aggression Era marks a post-war time for WWE. They never again had the ratings success that they had captured during the Monday Night War, and have never had it since, but the WWE did establish itself as the most dominate wrestling promotion in history. Still, this era would lead to some much needed change in how WWE treated its wrestlers. New rules needed to be put in place.

Firstly, the practice of blading was stopped. Blading is a practice where a wrestler keeps a small, thin razor in their shorts or outfit during a match. At some point after taking a big hit, the wrestler, away from the camera and hiding from the crowd, would run the razor across their forehead. This would cause them to bleed without much pain and was used for effect in matches. However, after several horrible cases of wrestlers blading far too deep, Vince McMahon banned blading as a practice in WWE. In the PG Era, blood has almost been completely excluded from matches, except in the case of a real accident. Between that time, small blood packs were used instead of blading.

Tragedy also struck WWE during this time. The death of one of their best wrestlers, Eddie Guerrero, left people wondering about wrestling safety. Then in 2005 Chris Benoit committed a terrible murder-suicide. Though no cause for the incident was ever truly established, Chris Benoit’s brain showed signs of serious damage, probably due to the many concussions he had received in wrestling. So, to further protect his wrestlers, Vince McMahon banned many moves that were known to be high risk for causing concussions. These included all piledrivers (save Undertaker’s safer Tombstone Piledriver) and all chair hits to the head.

These tragedies that brought WWE into a new generation eventually lead to the USA Network asking WWE to change its content to a more stricter and family-friendly position. So in July of 2008, WWE switched to officially become a TV-PG show.

 

The PG Era (2008-2013)

            The PG Era was marked by a new group of WWE superstars. Wrestlers who had become legends began to retire, including Shawn Michaels, who lost his last match to the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 26. New stars began to make a name for themselves. The stars with the most recognition in this era were CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. In the summer of 2011, during a rivalry with John Cena, CM Punk would deliver his famed “pipebomb promo.” This was a shoot promo, which means it wasn’t scripted like all other on-mic talks. CM Punk began to rant about how he felt genuinely mistreated by the WWE. At this time in kayfabe (kayfabe describes the character or “fake” part of wrestling. It’s the story being told in the ring, and not the reflection of the real-life events) CM Punk’s contract was expiring and he was still the WWE Champion, a title he would later hold for over 400 days, making him the longest reigning WWE Champion in over 25 years. In story, he was going to face John Cena for the WWE Championship, and if he won, he would leave the WWE with their title still in his grasp. In his shoot promo, Punk railed on WWE stars of the past who he thought were famous only because they were friends with the boss. After several minutes of ranting, CM Punk’s microphone was finally turned off. This talk defined the PG Era and would eventually take WWE into the next Era of wrestling.

CM Punk would defeat John Cena for the WWE Championship at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. This match is the best wrestling match in the modern history of WWE, earning a 5 Star rating from the critically acclaimed Wrestling Observer magazine. Still to this day, less than ten WWE matches have been rated 5 stars. CM Punk’s real life feud with the WWE would come to a head in early 2014, after the Royal Rumble, when he finally cut ties with the WWE.

In the same way CM Punk tried to take hold of the spotlight, another young talent would use this era to gain traction in making himself a star. Daniel Bryan debuted along with a group of other young stars called The Nexus. After leaving The Nexus, Bryan tried to become a singles star. He won the World Heavyweight Championship but was booked to lose the belt in 18 seconds (which he did against Sheamus). Bryan, however, gained a huge following with fans. He beat John Cena for the WWE Championship in August of 2013, though his title reign was fairly short lived. WWE management thought that Bryan was not fit to be in the main event, but fan support soon forced their hand. At the 2014 Royal Rumble, Daniel Bryan was not even in the 30-man Royal Rumble match (the winner of the Royal Rumble gets a championship match at Wrestlemania). Fans were outraged and their push for Bryan soon forced WWE’s management’s hand.

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The Reality Era (2014-2016)

Daniel Bryan’s popularity would coin the name of this short era of wrestling. WWE management realized like never before how fan involvement, via the internet, had greatly changed wrestling. Daniel Bryan, because of his endlessly supportive fans, was booked into the main event of Wrestlemania 30, where he won the WWE Championship in New Orleans. A person that WWE would not have chosen to be in their main event, was, and this empowered fans. Fans felt like they truly had a say in wrestling that could change the course of WWE stories, though nothing like this has happened since.

In 2014 WWE released their own streaming service called the WWE Network, and they started a talent development center called WWE Performance Center in Orlando. Using young talent that trained at the Performance Center, WWE started a weekly show on the Network called NXT that showcased developing talent. NXT was, and still is, broadcasted from Full Sail University.

The Reality Era would be capped off at Wrestlemania 32, which would boast the largest attendance record in Wrestlemania history with over 100,000 spectators. Roman Reigns, in the main event, defeated Triple H for the WWE Championship at that event.

 

The Women’s Revolution and the “New” Era (2016-present)

            Wrestlemania 32 would mark the end of the Reality Era and the beginning of the New Era. The New Era’s primary difference was found in the Women’s Division of WWE. Up until this time, women’s wrestling in WWE was wrongly viewed as lesser than male competition, and the women were treated unprofessionally. This would change in 2016 as several new women wrestlers changed the face of the Women’s Division in WWE. At the head of this revolution was Charlotte Flair, who is the daughter of WWE Hall of Famer, The Nature Boy, Ric Flair. In 2016, Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks would be the first women to compete in a well-known match and would also be the first women to main event a WWE pay-per-view. The women’s revolution continues to this day as the first ever women’s only pay-per-view is set for October 28, 2018, called WWE Evolution.

Other major accomplishments of the New Era include another WWE brand split between Raw and Smackdown (which had been reunited in the PG Era), and the debut of the Universal Championship, which was won by Finn Balor. Brock Lesnar would return to win the Universal Championship and hold it for 504 days. The tag team, The New Day, would hold the WWE Tag Team Championships for the longest in history at 434 days.

Perhaps the New Era will start a second Golden Age of wrestling. As wrestling grows in popularity around the world, perhaps WWE will continue to conquer, or maybe some other promotion could come along to challenge the WWE. As a wrestling fan, I can only tune in to find out!

 

*written by Brennan Kress

**stay tuned for Brennan’s thoughts on Headlocks and Dropkicks by Ted Kluck

           

 

Brennan’s Brainstorms: The History of Professional Wrestling, Part 3.

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Library student worker Brennan Kress has loved professional wrestling since he was just a little kid. In a new blog series, Brennan will explore wrestling history and discuss a book by Union professor Ted Kluck.

The Attitude Era (1997-2002)

The success of the New World Order forced WWF to reevaluate its characters, who were still the same as many of the comic book style characters of the 1980’s. The New World Order had kept Nitro winning the ratings war for months and it was time for WWF to change. It was time to break some rules. And who better to break rules than two of the youngest and most talented stars on the roster: Shawn Michaels and Triple H. These two young pranksters began to run amok in WWF as Vince McMahon loosened the reins on creative development. The two jokesters soon became known as Degeneration X (many times, just DX). Their personas now mimicked the rebellious teens of the day in a way that was new and refreshing. They soon added Billy Gunn and Jesse James (The New Age Outlaws) to their team creating a stable (a team or squad of wrestlers used as a way of building younger stars) that rivaled the NWO. The more violent and raunchy matches that followed gave the WWF the boost it needed for the Monday Night War.

WWF had embraced the controversial, and along with that came more violent matches. The leader of this new style of hardcore matches was Mick Foley. Foley had wrestled under the name “Cactus Jack” in WCW but had made his way to the WWF in the early 90’s. His new character, “Mankind,” was a deranged psychopath gimmick that allowed Mick Foley to engage in tremendous stunts. Foley fell through cages, off cages, through tables, down flights of arena stairs, and took countless chair hits to the head, all in the name of sports entertainment. This hardcore stunt-man style appealed to many fans and by this the WWF began to even the odds.

But there was one man who soon took over and embraced this new “Attitude Era” of the WWF. His name was Stone Cold Steve Austin. At Wrestlemania 14, due to an injured neck, Shawn Michaels was forced to drop his WWF Championship to Stone Cold Steve Austin. Michaels was forced to take a long, extended break from wrestling to recover from neck surgery that left a gaping hole in DX. It was up to Vince to come up with a plan to continue this Attitude Era, and who better to pick up the slack than Stone Cold?

Nicknamed, “The Rattlesnake,” Austin represented the hard-working  blue-collar man who was just trying to get ahead. All he needed a good rival to play off of- a rich, upper-class boss, perhaps. Vince McMahon himself accepted the role. McMahon, due to the Montreal screwjob, was already seen as a heel and soon he embraced the character of an evil boss. McMahon hated Austin (on screen) and Austin hated McMahon and the two had an intense rivalry. Week after week people tuned in to see what McMahon was going to try to pull over on Austin, and what Austin would do in return.

Vince, since he wasn’t a wrestler, made The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) part of his vile team of corporate henchmen. Austin and The Rock had great matches and this Attitude Era built them as immortals of the business. And with this new embrace of attitude, WWF began to slowly gain on WCW.

Fatal Flaw

            The saying “all is fair in love and war” certainly pertains to the Monday Night War. Dirty political tactics were used on both sides in an effort to deface and defeat the other. Each side pursued wrestlers on the opposing show as they tried to build the best roster possible. Vince was certainly better at developing talent while Eric relied on the limitless funds provided by Turner.

But WCW had developed a sneaky and probably ethically immoral tactic. While Monday Nitro was always live and never taped, Monday Night Raw was occasionally taped or pre-recorded to be aired a week or two later. Even with the internet in its infancy, word spread quick and rumors and speculations of what happened on those shows ran rampant. Many believe that WCW had moles in the crowds for these taped shows so that they could record what happened. Regardless of how they got the information, WCW would intentionally spoil the WWF shows live on their programming. By telling fans what would happen, they hoped they would change the channel and watch something that was live and fresh. For weeks and weeks WCW would take time out of their show to spoil the show of the competition. This unarguably devious and reprehensible tactic would soon backfire for WCW.

In December of 1998 an episode of Raw was being taped that would feature the main event by Mankind and the Rock. The Rock was the current WWF Champion and the match was for the title, which Mankind had never held before. This was during the heated rivalry of Stone Cold versus the Corporation (including Vince McMahon, the Rock, etc.). Mankind was booked to win the WWF championship and the live crowd cheered tremendously when Mankind finally did it. Him holding up the WWF championship is a picture for wrestling history and marked the culmination of a long and painful journey of Mick Foley to superstar status. It was a big moment- a big pre-recorded moment.

The show was aired live the first week of January 1999 and WCW planned to spoil the big moment in the main event, hoping to draw away all attention from that match and to their show. So they told their audience that Mankind won the WWF championship from the Rock in the main event. But this time, their tricky tactic backfired. Instead of more people tuning in to Nitro they switched channels to Raw wanting to see how Mankind won the title. That night, WWF won in the ratings for the first week in years, this victory sent the WWF on a winning streak that would eventually win them the Monday Night War.

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The Fall of WCW

Years of ratings war began to draw to their end as WWF took an almost insurmountable ratings lead. There were many important factors that lead to the demise of WCW that are important in viewing the rest of wrestling history.

Firstly, many wrestlers have egos as large as their in-ring personalities. This is no truer with anyone than with Hulk Hogan. Eric had given Hogan (and Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and other big name stars) creative control in their contracts. This meant they had a say in what happened to their characters. This inhibited WCW’s head writer, Vince Russo, from being able to write cohesive stories. Nitro became a jumbled mess and the NWO remained on top far after their early momentum had died away. This soon led to more and more superstars joining the NWO until it seemed like half the roster was with the NWO. And for those who weren’t, Nitro seemed like a dry desert and WWF seemed like a beautiful land of opportunity. The NWO grew to be too big, split, and even the two groups grew to sizes of their own rosters.

Secondly, in a huge falling out, Hulk Hogan left WCW which left a large hole in the main event scene. Unfortunately, since WCW did not have talent waiting to fill the gap, the main event scene was lackluster and soon the crowd began to notice. With almost every top tier wrestler possessing creative control, the writers could not write out a show and many times wrestlers showed up to work having no idea what they were going to do.

Bad idea after bad idea crushed WCW until there was no hope of revival. With no continuity and many failed storylines, the WCW looked foolish in the wake of its competition. Turner eventually fired Eric Bischoff and hired Vince Russo to be executive producer, but Russo had a habit of not knowing a good idea from a bad one and further drove the company into the ground. Russo devalued his major championship by constantly referring to the “fakeness” of wrestling. Wrestling fans watch the show not because it is real but because it is entertaining. Russo failed to recognize this divide and he effectively killed WCW. WCW had become “every man for himself” in an entertainment business where unity should be priority. Everyone had a say and no one had authority and soon the WCW ship found itself run aground.

*written by Brennan Kress

**stay tuned for the historical conclusion in next week’s post!

Brennan’s Brainstorms: The History of Professional Wrestling, Part 2.

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Library student worker Brennan Kress has loved professional wrestling since he was just a little kid. In a new blog series, Brennan will explore wrestling history and discuss a book by Union professor Ted Kluck.

The Monday Night War (1995-2002)

At the beginning of the Monday Night War, WWF seemed to be in firm control. They were well established and had talents such as Razor Ramon (Scott Hall), Diesel (Kevin Nash), The Heartbreak Kid (Shawn Michaels), and the blue collar Hunter Hearst Helmsley a.k.a. Triple H. Other major stars included the Undertaker, Kane, Bret Hart, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. WCW, however, did not have the deep and talented roster of the WWF and relied heavily on Ric Flair, Sting, and a returning Hulk Hogan to carry their company. But this would all change with Eric Bischoff.

The WWF’s contracts were more like free agencies and money was never guaranteed, but for WCW this was not the case. Ted Turner had an almost limitless pocketbook and he used this to his advantage. Soon Eric Bischoff would use money and contracts to pull WWF wrestlers to his side in a war of rosters. This started with the acquisition of Lex Luger, a WWF star similar to Hulk Hogan in look and popularity. This turncoat was a huge blow to the WWF as Lex appeared on Nitro just weeks after leaving the WWF, when many of the wrestlers backstage still thought Luger worked for their company. Fans turned the channel from Raw to Nitro to see Luger on Nitro. This was a shot across the bow, but more was to come. By 1997 Eric Bischoff had taken two more of WWF’s top talents, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, who had been major champions in the WWF. Along with them soon came Bret Hart, and the Macho Man Randy Savage returned to wrestling to wrestle for WCW.

It is worth noting that the absence of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash was heavily felt by fans of the WWF, but many fans didn’t realize the backstage implications of these events. One night on Nitro (May 27, 1996) Scott Hall made an appearance on the show and would be followed two weeks later by Kevin Nash. Fans thought that this was some type of WWF invasion of WCW and Eric Bischoff knew it. The announcers said things like, “What are they doing here?” to further blur the lines between reality and fiction. Hall and Nash soon became known as The Outsiders. Their constant interference in WCW (scripted of course) soon led fans to flock to them as the idea of an anti-hero appealed to many.

What did not appeal to fans was the old school heroes of the previous generation. Hulk Hogan is a great example. His gimmick, now based solely on nostalgia, grew stale amongst fans. Hulk Hogan’s real life ego also made him ready for a change. The idea came to this: “what if the hero of many’s childhoods became a bad guy?” Hulk Hogan would need to turn heel (the wrestling term for “bad guy”).

Eric Bischoff saw an opening. Soon on Nitro the Outsiders began to talk of a third member of their team that was set to join them and on July 7, 1996, Hulk Hogan leg dropped Randy Savage in a show of support for the Outsiders. He joined the Outsiders to a rain of boos and trash that was thrown into the ring as fans were outraged, but it was good TV. The Outsiders, now with Hogan, renamed themselves the New World Order (NWO) and became the hottest thing in wrestling.

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The Survivor Series Match

The NWO’s rebellious personality and hate for authority allowed WCW to cruise to huge ratings victories and soon it looked as though WWF was on the ropes. The WWF had to make a response to the NWO and to do so they relied on their three top talents, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, and the Undertaker, with Bret Hart as the WWF Champion. Due to WWF’s reliance on old school, Saturday morning, comic book characters, the more edgy and real-life characters of the NWO were tough to match. So in the main event scene Vince McMahon relied on Shawn and Bret to carry shows with expert matches. One such match came at Wrestlemania 12 when Shawn faced Bret for the championship in a match that went well over an hour. Shawn would win the title for the first time that night. In 1997 however this would turn for the worst as it was made known to Vince McMahon that Bret Hart had decided to make a deal with WCW. The problem? Bret Hart was the current WWF Champion.

Vince McMahon began to panic. At the same time one of his female champions had jumped ship to WCW and had taken the WWF Women’s Title with her. On Nitro, she dumped it in the trash, completely devaluing it. So Vince had to make sure that Bret did not have the championship when he left the company the night after he was scheduled to face Shawn Michaels again at Survivor Series 1997. Now to the untrained eye it seems as though all McMahon had to do was book Bret to lose the title to Michaels and all would be well. But there were too many egos involved. Bret and Shawn, backstage, hated each other. Though on screen they were involved in a deep-seeded rivalry, not all was scripted. Their genuine rivalry made McMahon believe that Bret would refuse to drop the belt to Michaels and may even refuse to wrestle the match. So Vince had a plan.

During the Survivor Series match, a match Bret Hart thought was ending in a disqualification, Shawn locked in a submission maneuver called the Sharpshooter. Bret did not tap (remember these holds are meant to look painful but wrestlers are constantly communicating during matches and Bret Hart was under the assumption that this was not the finish of the match). But Vince McMahon walked down to the ring and motioned to the referee who then rang the bell claiming that Bret had tapped out.

Michaels quickly let go of the move and slid out of the ring and grabbed his new title. The fans saw through the scheme. Vince didn’t think he could strip Bret of the title backstage and the match seemed like a perfect time to make sure his title stayed with his company. Bret Hart was stunned as he sat in the ring screaming at McMahon who simply walked backstage with Michaels holding the championship. This would be known as the Montreal screwjob ( shortened of the term “shoot screwjob” which is when an outcome of a match is changed against a wrestler for backstage political reasons). Bret Hart would turn up on Monday Nitro later that year. Later in an interview Vince McMahon was famously quoted as saying, “Bret screwed Bret.” This line would later lead to Vince McMahon’s on-screen evil boss persona of Mr. McMahon.

*written by Brennan Kress

*check back for part 3 next Thursday!

Brennan’s Brainstorms: The History of Professional Wrestling, Part 1.

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Library student worker Brennan Kress has loved professional wrestling since he was just a little kid. In a new blog series, Brennan will explore wrestling history and discuss a book by Union professor Ted Kluck.


The Beginning of Wrestling

Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Macho Man Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, John Cena, and Randy Orton. These are household names from the great sports entertainment that is professional wrestling. Today professional wrestling may be viewed by some as just a bunch of big guys throwing each other around in a ring, which it is, basically. To others, wrestling may remind them of waking up early on Saturday mornings to watch the likes of Jerry the King Lawler. To some, who were teenagers during the famed Attitude Era, wrestling means violent and intense brawls with the likes of Degeneration X, Undertaker, Kane, and Mr. McMahon. Those in my generation (fans during the Ruthless Aggression/PG Era) have enjoyed seeing John Cena, CM Punk, Seth Rollins and Daniel Bryan rise to stardom. And of course you can’t forget the best non-WWF/WWE wrestlers like Pentagon Junior, Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, Jay Lethal, and countless others.

But to many, those names mean absolutely nothing at all. In reality, wrestling has become a niche form of entertainment with few new fans. However, for those interested, even casually, in learning more about this strange thing called professional wrestling, then the best place to start is the history of the sport.

Amateur or Collegic wrestling has been a part of sports for hundreds of years. Wrestling has been an Olympic sport since the Olympics began. But professional wrestling (wrestling in which the outcomes are scripted and the purpose is sports entertainment) is a relatively new creation. It began in the mid 1940’s and 1950’s as carnival style wrestling, where big men did tests of strength and would wrestle each other. Soon this idea of wrestling as entertainment evolved into a profession of its own. Wrestlers began to have a persona, or character, that they wrestled under and matches began to be choreographed for effect. Frank Gotch is credited with being the first ever “pro-wrestler” and in the early 20th century began the idea of a wrestling “superstar.”

 

The Promotion Era

During the 1950’s and 60’s wrestling was divided by region in a mix-match cross-cutting of the country. Each region in the country was owned and operated by a different wrestling organization, the largest of which was the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in the 1950’s. The NWA acted as a larger force that governed many of the smaller wrestling promotions that appeared across the country. The NWA established their popularity when they made Lou Thesz the “World Heavyweight Champion.”

In the 1960’s, several wrestling promotions, seeing the NWA as an evil tyrant, broke off from the organization. Two of these promotions was the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and the Capitol Wrestling Corporation which would later rename itself, World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWF).

The WWF saw much success through their champion Bruno Sammartino. When Sammartino left the company, the WWF, reluctantly, rejoined the NWA. Soon the WWF would strike gold when they hired Andre the Giant to their promotion. Andre was 7 foot 4 inches tall and billed as weighing over 500 pounds. His charisma and impressive size earned him attention from all wrestling promotions, including the AWA and the NWA who fought for the right to book Andre on their shows.

This lead to the wrestling boom of the 1980’s. During this decade wrestling was at its most popular. The WWF began to slowly pull away from the NWA as their CEO Vincent Kennedy McMahon coined the term “sports entertainment.” Wrestling went mainstream as Vince McMahon turned wrestling into entertainment instead of competition. Slowly the WWF began to gain speed through television deals that made the promotion-based wrestling of the NWA seem like a thing of the past. McMahon used popular culture personalities such as Cyndi Lauper to boost support for his company.

But WWF can truly owe much of its success to one man, the Immortal Hulk Hogan. Hulk Hogan became the leader of the WWF as Vince McMahon sought to solidify his dominance in the sports entertainment business. Hulk Hogan’s “real American” persona struck well with the fans, in a much less politically correct time in wrestling and in America. Hulk Hogan also appealed to children as he reminded them to say their prayers and eat their vitamins. Hulk Hogan was the epitome of a babyface (wrestling term for “good guy” character, many times simply called, face) as he fought the “bad guys” for America. His popularity, and the popularity of the WWF in general lead Vince McMahon to go one-on-one with the NWA.

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Wrestlemania and The Golden Era (1980’s)

Up until the mid 1980’s the NWA had put on a yearly show called Starcade that acted as the culmination of their wrestling year. Vince McMahon decided that we wanted to put on a similar show for his booming promotion. So, he invented Wrestlemania, that would act as the culmination of the year into one big wrestling show. McMahon went all out for Wrestlemania, booking plenty of superstar wrestlers and other popular entertainers. Wrestling on the show, which was live on March 31, 1985, were some of wrestling’s greats such as Ricky, the Dragon, Steamboat. Andre the Giant fought an equally big man appropriately named Big John Studd in a match that was all about slamming the competition. Famous personalities included: Billy Martin, Cyndi Lauper, and Liberace accompanied by the Rockettes. And this all lead to a massive tag team main event which pitted “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper against none other than Hulk Hogan and Mr. T with Muhammed Ali as the special guest referee. The show was a massive success that sent the WWF into stardom and, for a time, they seemed to be in total control of professional wrestling.

The aftermath of Wrestlemania 1 left the NWA with a struggle. Soon the promotion fizzled out but not after a few attempts to remain relevant. Soon however, with WWF putting two of their highly watched pay per views (Survivor Series 1987 and the Royal Rumble 1988) in direct competition with the NWA’s pay per views, the popularity of the NWA had fallen to dangerously low levels. Soon the NWA would sell out their biggest promotion to Ted Turner, founder of Cables News Network. Ted Turner would rename the promotion World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and would continue the real wrestling war with Vince McMahon and the WWF.

The war between WCW and the WWF cannot be understated as the single most important and influential event in the history of professional wrestling. This war for ratings supremacy waged throughout the late 90’s but truly began in 1993. In 1993 WWF launched the first ever weekly prime time wrestling television show that aired Mondays on the USA Network. The show was called Monday Night Raw and it featured wrestling talent and story lines that allowed the WWF to better build toward pay per views. With men like Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant no longer wrestling at this time, the WWF paved the road for newer and younger stars such as Kevin Nash “Diesel,” “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, and Bret “The Hitman” Hart. These stars ran at the forefront of the WWF as it took control of wrestling.

But Ted Turner did not want to be outdone by Vince McMahon in this battle of media moguls. So Ted Turner hired Eric Bischoff as Executive Producer of WCW. In 1995 Eric Bischoff launched WCW Monday Nitro in direct competition to WWF’s Monday Night Raw. So began the Monday Night War. The Monday Night War makes up the deepest and most important part of wrestling history, since its outcome determined the trajectory for wrestling into the next century.

 

*check back for parts 2, 3, and 4!

**written by Brennan Kress

Student Interview: Wesley Jones

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Tell us a little about yourself. What are you studying?

I’m a senior Business Management major from Jackson.

 

How did you decide to start recording your podcast? Where did the name “Pipedup Podcast” come from?

It was something I was interested in; I did lots of research on it beforehand. My uncle is the audio guy for TLC, and he suggested that I do a podcast. “Pipedup” came from a high school nickname- friends still use it today.

 

How did you decide to use Union’s Recording Studio?

I knew Union had good equipment and wanted to use it instead of buying my own.

 

What has been your favorite episode so far? Has it been difficult getting in contact with the people you interview?

The 3rd episode- the Vanderbilt one. I actually knew the guy he was interviewing; he’s a big fan of Vanderbilt. Trying to find the right people to interview is hard, and scheduling times to do a phone interview is hard.

 

Who is the audience for your podcast?

Just fans of college football overall, and fans of smaller schools who want a different view point of people not from that area.

 

What is the goal of the Pipedup Podcast (what do you want listeners to take away from it)?

It is to highlight college football- I want to make people more knowledgeable of smaller schools. I like players of smaller teams that have a chance of making a name for themselves.

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Are there any podcasts that you enjoy listening to, that you would recommend?

“Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody” and “The History of WWII Podcast,” both on iTunes.

 

What media are your podcasts on?

Soundcloud is the host site and it’s also on iTunes, I’m hoping for Spotify by the end of the month.

 

Finally, do you have any advice for other students interested in podcasts?

Just do it! Just have fun with it. Enjoy what you’re doing and don’t get burned out doing it. It’s not a livelihood; it’s just a hobby.

 

*You can listen to Wesley’s podcast here. Thanks for using our Recording Studio, Wesley!

**Interview conducted by Brandon Johnson.