Friday, May 21, 2010

Why We Watch, Exhibit W

It's time for another installment of "Why We Watch...", Arabian Facebuster's tribute to the very best workers, matches, angles, and promotions professional wrestling has to offer. Next week, I promise we'll return to our regularly scheduled ripping of Hulk Hogan for his ongoing delusions of grandeur, floundering offspring, and cancerous skin; Rocky Mountain Thunder for his gunny sack and complete lack of wrestling acumen; David Crockett for losing his shit anytime he is in the presence of babyface beefacke grapplers like Magnum T.A. and The American Starship; Larry Nelson for ripping rail after fat rail of the finest powder prior to introducing plucky upstarts like "Jammin'" Mitch Snow, consummate professionals like Rocky Mountain Thunder and Brandi Mae, and sinister and imposing tag team combinations such as Teijo Khan and Soldat Ustinov to a Showboat Sports Pavilion audience lackluster in interest and dwindling in numbers; Total Nonstop Action! for resorting to hiring Hulk Hogan and his minions in an attempt to revitalize their brand and being incapable to putting together a logically sound, seriously presented, and consistently compelling wrestling product over the past 5+ years; Jimmy "The Boogie Woogie Man" Valiant's insatiable appetite for hookers and limos; and Buck Rock and/or Roll Zumhofe's futile attempt to relive his grappling glory days -- which weren't that glorious anyways -- in the Upper Midwest's finest backwoods dive bars, abandoned corn fields, and poorly attended county fairs.

Through this recurring bit, over the past three years, we've highlighted and recognized a number of greats, including the likes of Flair, Hansen, Murdoch, Abdullah, Blanchard, Hernandez, Bull Fernandez, DiBiase, Rose, Jim Cornette's Midnight Express, and The Fabulous Freebirds. Curiously, those grapplers that we have lauded have been disproportionately of the heel persuasion. It's not as if these folks never played babyface, but they made their mark as a bad guy more so than as a good guy. Looking back through da "Why We Watch..." archives, only Magnum T.A., Ricky Steamboat, and arguably Bruiser Brody are the honorees inducted as a result of their fan favorite credentials.

Time to rectify that discrepancy.

At a later date.

For today we're recognizing the fireball throwing, wife stealing and conglomerate forming, stuck pig bleeding, and criminal vehicular operating exploits the late, great chicken shit heel prototype "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert.

Growing up, I was fortunate to watch Gilbert flex his consummate rule breaking yapper in a number of promotions. Bill Watts' Universal Wrestling Federation, Jim Crockett's (and later Ted Turner's) National Wrestling Alliance, Memphis (in both its CWA and USWA/post-merger with World Class incarnations), Continental and Global come to mind immediately and fondly. Beyond that, Eddie spent time with Smoky Mountain, Eastern (later Extreme) Championship Wrestling, the World Wide Wrestling Federation back in his formative years, and no doubt had a cup of coffee with another half-dozen or so other territories throughout his near 20 year career.

In particular, Gilbert made his mark (a) provoking and incensing crowds with his outrageous promos; (b) booking that was raw, violent, and realistic (often blurring/crossing the lines between the wrestlers and the fans in the audience), an innovative, fan fervor and outrage inducing style rooted in "southern territory" traditions and conventions and a style that influenced and was very much emulated/borrowed from by Paul Heyman and ECW (I know Gilbert and Heyman worked closely together in Memphis and in Alabama/Continental early on in Paul's career); and (c) employing seemingly every heel tactic and shortcut at his disposal to pick up a win or gain the upper hand in a feud, whether it be sneak attacks, 3 or 4 on 1 gang attacks, fire balls, powder, and other assorted foreign objects.

I have uploaded two clips to further illustrate the greatness that was Eddie Gilbert. The first is a brief montage set to "Dirty Deeds" that chronicles his dastardly exploits. Think of as Eddie Gilbert 101 and a supposition to point C above.

The second You Too is of one of Gilbert's most famous angles as a booker and performer that occurred during his tenure in the Continental territory in the spring and summer of 1988. My apologies for the rather grainy and blurry nature but this is the only "copy" currently available on the interwebs.

For contextual purposes, I have pasted a blurb from a Gilbert bio/tribute (I would highly recommend reading the entire thing) and bolded the passage summarizing the action in question.
Gilbert was the lead heel for the group and much of the best stuff the CWF produced revolved around his own antics (Although to be fair Gilbert was unlike many bookers who pushed only themselves to the exclusion of other talented performers, Gilbert gave healthy pushes to many in the CWF. Seemingly everyone in the CWF had some sort of storyline while Gilbert was booker.). Some of Gilbert's exploits include his attack on Willie B. Hert's (aka Shaska Whatley!!! -Malibu) teenage son. Gilbert also attacked longtime area star Burrhead Jones, who was retired at the time, and mauled him. Gilbert and Dangerously attacked a photographer. Eddie also threw fire at Austin Idol. Gilbert even took a challenge from the audience to anyone who thought they could defeat him in the ring. (Eddie called this the $50,000 Golden Challenge. The angle was an oft-used tactic in the territories over the years and also an angle very reminiscent of the A.T. shows Eddie's grandfather worked.) After being insulted by Dangerously and Gilbert, Eddie destroyed the hapless victim (who in reality was Eddie's longtime friend, John Gilliam).
Enjoy the shrieking commentary stylings of Hot Stuff's wife Missy Hyatt and monotone drawl of some chumbolone called Charlie Platt with an interlude of Paul E. bombast. Oh, and that Chick Donovan for the non pint o' whiskey and pack o' Marlboro Red's a day set who shows up to confront Gilbert is southern territory mainstay "The Universal Heartthrob" Austin Idol.

Enjoy Eddie Gilbert and all of his pro wrestling finery.

No comments: