Well, here we are. Another Rewriting The Book done and behind us, and now it’s on to the post-mortem. If you follow me on Twitter or in the forums, you know that this one was my Chinese Democracy. Maybe not as long in development as that (and hopefully not as disappointing), but definitely one I went back to a number of times over a very, very long time. Easily five years, and probably more, which makes this story older than my youngest child. Whenever I brought in new RTB writers and they asked if there were off-limit topics, I always said there were three stories I wanted to tackle myself. This was one of them, and the only one I’d ever really made measurable progress on … but every time I tried to get deep into it, something pushed back.
Until last year.
The end result of that dam breaking is what you finished reading last week. I got a few questions, and I’m pretty sure (I’m writing this intro in advance of the last part posting) that the overall story and the ending in particular inspired some feelings. So I’m going to confront some of these head-on, and answer some questions. One question, in particular, I’m pretty excited to answer, because it’s SUPER-geeky.
The Truth Commission as proto-Shield
Commenter MWeyer made the astute observation that Martial Law felt an awful lot like The Shield. I can’t deny that the similarities are pretty profound, but I can say that it wasn’t an intentional cribbing. The SWAT gear, the encircling of the ring, their near-bulletproof booking … it’s impossible to deny the parallels. I’ll get more into it in a later question, but I just wanted to acknowledge early on that, yes, I noticed it too as I was writing it. I fully expected you, the savvy Wrestlecrap readers, to point it out, and you did. Hopefully you thought it worked in the context. I did, which is why I ran with it, despite the similarities. I will say this for my proto-Shield over the real one: at least Martial Law had an obvious purpose and a leader. All the hints they dropped at a higher purpose for The Shield (and possibly a higher power) never panned out, which was kind of annoying; they ended up being paramilitary anarchists and hired guns for the sake of it.
Putting my foot in my mouth
Commenter System Error (who will be all over this column) pointed out the following quote of mine from the Goldberg aftershow column in regards to this tome:
“The Undertaker/Shawn feud may not happen, which means Hell In A Cell may not happen.”
Can’t really deny saying it when it’s in print, isn’t it? And before I address it, I just gotta say … DAMN, man! You remembered that? I can barely remember 3/4’s of my RTB’s, and you remembered that. I’m impressed.
Anyway, to give some context, for the longest time, I tried to write this story without an outline. I don’t live and die by the outline; I treat it more as a general map than turn-by-turn directions. I know my destination, but if the road to it changes, not a problem, as long as I get where I intend on going. But for some reason, for the longest time, I tried to push on with this one without so much as a hint of a roadmap, and it was not a choice that served me well. Of all the RTB’s I’ve done, maybe, maybe five didn’t have outlines, and I’d venture closer to three (Montreal, The Higher Power, and D-X invading Nitro are the only ones I can think of), and I think only one really worked (D-X/Nitro). All the other stories needed outlining to some degree. So why I was trying to push ahead on this one without it … I don’t know, man. I just don’t know. Hubris, writ large.
When I wrote and finished the Goldberg’s streak story, this RTB was still a dormant, dusty relic in the back of a drawer, with no real outline and only two story points in mind: the title change at One Night Only, and the tweaking of the Montreal Screwjob. I can’t remember the exact place I’d gotten to and abandoned this story at the time of writing that all-so-damning sentence, but I’d say somewhere around the second Raw after Summerslam. Not far at all, really. All this is to say that, at the time I wrote the Goldberg aftershow, I had no idea where this was going. I wasn’t confident I’d ever find the path to complete it, to be honest. So when I said that now historically inaccurate statement, I was honest in the sense that I had no idea what lay in the story’s future; it could’ve completely taken a different turn, with no Shawn/Taker feud and no Hell In A Cell. But as I began to put focus into finishing this thing once and for all, it seemed like there were certain immutable facts and moments that I couldn’t avoid; the circumstances that led to them were different, but the moments themselves refused to be voided. Shawn feuding with Undertaker building to the Hell In A Cell match was one of them.
The most controversial part of this story, I think, mostly because it seems to have come off ambiguous.
As I mentioned, when I set out to write this story even five-plus years ago, I knew it had to end in the Screwjob, albeit now a work. Or, more specifically, a worked solution to a shoot situation. There’s a part of me that, in regards to alternate universes and time travel stories, loves the idea of an immutable moment in history. That no matter what the road may be, time or fate or God or whatever – Quantum Leap shout-out! – says “all roads will lead to X, no matter what”. I don’t get to pull it off very often, because more often than not, that’s just not how the chips fall. But the idea of a champion in exile, unable or unwilling to defend the belt, holding the company hostage and terrorizing it either directly or through his family? Yeah, he’d built up way too much bad karma. The Screwjob felt like it fit as an ending. Bret had gotten too dangerous, too twisted, too much for the WWF; this got him out, ended the Hart Foundation, and showed that Vince could be diabolical, thus planting the seed for Mr. McMahon. Plus, I like to think that the way this one came about leaves open some interesting questions that, were the universe to continue on, would be fun to explore.
Was there a Vince/Shawn/Rude conspiracy at Survivor Series?
If so, would Shawn Michaels make Vince regret backing him against Bret?
How would Vince receive the ascendancy Steve Austin?
Would Rick Rude keep his position of authority in the wake of Survivor Series?
If Vince didn’t want Rude in power anymore, how would he get Rude out, with Rude having back-up in Martial Law?
What would the remains of the Hart Foundation do in the wake of Bret’s departure from WWF?
Were the actions at Survivor Series regarding the tag title match also part of a conspiracy?
How did Vader react to being caught in the crossfire of Jeff Jarrett being screwed?
The real Screwjob was pretty cut and dried. Turning it into a work and adding in all the x-factors gives it a lot more dimension, and a lot more avenues to explore that I think justify the story coming around to the same place as reality.
Oh, and for the record … in my mind, yes, Vince, Shawn and Rick were working together. And not just at Survivor Series, but for months. Survivor Series is where plans were able to finally coalesce. In essence, Bret was right all along; he was just going about fighting the good fight the wrong way. Yes, Shawn would run buckwild and make Vince regret ever partnering with him. I think Vince would view Austin’s rise as a tool to leverage an increasingly erratic and volatile Shawn out of the top spot, but then would find himself in an even BIGGER mess with a volatile Austin who was not erratic at all. The Hart Foundation would fall apart; Neidhart would disappear, but Bulldog and Owen would stay, still waging war on D-X and Vince, only now with the knowledge that Bret was right. And yes, the shenanigans in the tag title match were payback for Jeff Jarrett’s debut speech, which would steel him against Vince and Rude. And Vader? I see a path of vengeance … and possibly, when the machine turns against him, a heel turn. The only part I’m unsure on is Rick Rude’s tenure; I could see him trying a power play and Vince finding some way to oust him (at Wrestlemania makes sense), but I could also see that, since it was a conspiracy, Rude simply stepping aside and being his lieutenant. I don’t know which feels more right.
To that end, Hulk6785 asked what I envision the future held for Bret, WCW and WWF. I think Bret’s WCW career would be largely the same. They had no clue how to use him, so no reason to believe this universe would be any different. The only difference would be he wouldn’t have the shadow of Montreal hanging over him, so it may not cloud Starrcade ’97 … but that sword cuts both ways. Without Montreal, he can’t come in as the wounded warrior, refusing to let the nWo get a crooked win at Starrcade. He just comes in as the latest rat to jump ship. Either war, Bischoff likely would have screwed that pooch. There were too many political sharks in the water, and even without Montreal killing his passion for the business, he was still in a bad situation.
As for the WWF? They’d be fine. I left Austin in much the same position as he was in real life, so I don’t think his course upwards would be jeopardized. I like to think I may have made a new upper card face in Jarrett, sort of a southern rasslin’-style version of Bret Hart that could annoy and frustrate Vince with a righteous need to uphold integrity and loyalty in the face of a corrupt front office. Undertaker and Kane has a slightly different start, but I imagine it’d go much the same once it really got running. Vince would be the biggest change; I think the Mr. McMahon character would come about sooner. The seeds were now planted in kayfabe, and he’d made enemies out of the remaining members of the Hart Foundation, Jarrett and Vader, and Shawn was causing enough chaos to almost get Raw thrown off the air. I think that’s enough to spark the full turn.
Hope this also, in a roundabout way, answers your question, Jon Milne; yes, Vince/Austin would still happen. It might even get started a little sooner. The path there might be a little different at first, but it’d happen.
I’m surprised no one called me on this. I sort of dropped the whole Pillman-wears-a-dress-for-a-month angle post-Summerslam. I plum forgot about it until I was well past it, and once I realized it, I didn’t feel like going back and editing it in. Pretend he was wearing it. Or don’t. Not like the dress matters a hill of beans in the long run. As for why I didn’t do the XXX Files? I hated that angle. It was childish and lame. I knew Pillman was married, so it just rang phony in my ears. So I changed the direction a little bit. Marlena still came into play, but it wasn’t so tawdry and tabloidish. Plus … admission time here … knowing that I had to acknowledge Pillman’s death took the piss out of plotting anything intricate that I’d then have to abandon. I couldn’t tie up everything in a bow, since his death wasn’t forecast, so I took the middle road, which was to soft-pedal him. Give him stuff to do, but nothing major. If there’s any part of the story that I feel I could’ve done better, it’s that.
“The briny deep”
Commenter Saintstryfe pointed out in the second part that a river – especially North American rivers – is not salt water, and therefore couldn’t be briny. You’re right. Didn’t think of it in that regard. That being said, it makes for a poetic turn of phrase, doesn’t it? Gives the river the atmosphere of a dangerous ocean floor, with algae-covered ship wreckage, coral reefs and angler fish patrolling for lost top-dwellers to snack on. I like the sound of it. So yes, chemically speaking, it isn’t correct. But for the sake of painting a mental picture? I stand by it in that regard. Pobody’s nerfect.
How characters are picked
System Error had a second question, and Charles Welles asked it too. This one could be a lengthy one. This is also the one I’m really excited to answer. I’m using System Error‘s wording, FYI, but the song remains the same.
“Curious, what goes into deciding who – besides the expected players – play major roles in these? Like them here, or Rick Rude not as DX member, but as an enforcer/authority figure.”
This is a very long and complicated answer, and it just wouldn’t fit in the column comments without turning it into a column in and of itself. I really wanted the open space because I’m excited to talk about the creative process. I love writer’s notes in books that give backstory to the process. Even if the process for writers is largely mysterious, even to us holding the pen, there’s still something fascinating about it to me. So to be asked to give some insider backstory? Oh, man, I’m totally geeked. Like, going-on-a-date-with-Hayley-Atwell geeked. If you’re not interested, skip to the next bolded/underlined header. It’s a few pages down.
To explain how the character selection comes to pass, I need to go through the story’s formative process. Obviously, it starts with an idea, and not just the “what if” question at the center of it, but a true idea of what do with this timeline tangent. That’s what trips up a lot of RTB’s at the conceptual stage; it’s all well and good to say “What if Batista chose JBL instead of Triple H?”, but it’s another thing to have somewhere to go with it. When I seized upon the initial question of this story, my story idea hinged on two factors:
1) Bret Hart would somehow win the WWF Championship but be unable to defend it, thereby holding the company hostage in a trap of their own design. And,
2) It would end at Survivor Series with the Screwjob, now a work, to bring the championship back home from it’s unintentional exile.
Everything literally hinged on that first one, because that was what gave the story a twist. Without it … meh. Once I remembered One Night Only happened, I had a way to pull off the first part. There was nothing stopping me. Now it came time to plot out the story and decide on the dramatis personae. And this is where we get to the question.
The first characters cast are the obvious ones: those who are immediately affected by the change wrought by the central “what if” question. For this story to happen, Bret has to lose in the main event of Summerslam ’97. That means Bret, Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. And because I know the Screwjob comes into play at the end, Vince is part of that too (although his role grew as the story unfolded).
From there, we go to second-level, or proximal-effect players. Those not directly in the “blast radius” of the change in history, but whose trajectory will undoubtedly be affected by being associated with the main foursome. The Hart Foundation is just obvious; they have to serve as Bret’s physical proxy with him sidelined. Plus, you know, they were his family/stable at the time. Kind of hard to ignore. Since they’re in, I have to deal with their rivals at the time; that means Steve Austin, Goldust and Marlena, Vader and The Patriot. Since Austin was one half of the tag champs at the time of his injury, his partner, Mick Foley, has to be there too. Shawn Michaels couldn’t run alone, so since the formation of D-X is right there, it’s easy enough to include Trips and Chyna. That more or less concludes the major players.
From there, I start plotting my outline in earnest, going through the real-life events to confirm roster members, get dates and location, find and note injuries, debuts, returns, and departures. If I feel they’re important enough that they shouldn’t be muted, I work with them. In this case, Patriot’s injury played into the storyline well, as did the return of Jeff Jarrett and debut of Steve Blackman, and I’m not about to pretend Pillman dying didn’t happen. I try to decide on the matches I want for a PPV, then work backwards, developing the build to it, and I go month by month. In doing this, I’ll sometimes find that I’ve booked myself into a situation where I need more players than I thought, or perhaps omitted someone that fits a role I didn’t otherwise anticipate. These players may not be even tangentially related, but they fill a hole. Now, though, by pulling them in, I’ve pulled someone out of their original historical path, creating another hole. The Nation Of Domination are a great example; having heels stand against heels involved them in a way I didn’t plan on, and in doing so, altered their path just enough that I now had to acknowledge them in a larger way. So now I had to touch on everyone that stood opposed to the Nation, which meant bringing in Ahmed Johnson, the Legion Of Doom and Ken Shamrock. Steve Blackman, as I mentioned, debuted right before Survivor Series, so I couldn’t leave him out, especially since he gave the anti-Nation team a man advantage, which meant they needed a new member … so that’s how Flash Funk got brought in and turned to Scorpio. Jeff Jarrett could’ve been omitted, but his real-life return promo (which I mostly used verbatim, as it worked so well, with some re-wording for the fact that Vince wasn’t at ringside, and some added extra insults) laid the groundwork for taking a stand against Bret and Shawn. Now, finally, I have the outline.
From there, I start writing the story. Now, the following statement is solely my opinion, but I’ve read a number of writers – professional ones with novels and publishing contracts and everything – who say the same thing: any writer who follows the outline to the letter like a grocery list is a damned hack, and has done a disservice to their story. If you write fiction, you have to let it find its own way. Sometimes a story will take off in a direction you didn’t quite intend; that’s the direction the story should go. It’s literally leading you. It’s your job as the writer to follow it. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s cromulent here, so I’m doing so again. The “Who ran over Austin” story deviated so far from the outline, it was hardly the same story after the second chapter. Triple H originally had a minor role at best, the Right To Censor never came into play at all, Chris Benoit wasn’t Kurt Angle’s accomplice, and Angle never tried to pull that charade with the mask. As I wrote it, it started going off in strange tangents, to places I didn’t expect. At first, I tried to resist, but a good story is a living, breathing thing; it went where it wanted, and before I knew it, I was building to a massive conspiracy by Kurt Angle, involving Benoit and the RTC.
All this is to say that the best stories can and will deviate from their designs. This story did too. When you really get into the deep brush, and you think your blade is sharp as you’re cutting away, you’re gonna find some weird, dense foliage. That’s the moment that separates the truly good writers from the rest. How do they handle it when the path isn’t beaten? In the case of this story, they came in the form of three roles: Rick Rude, The Truth Commission and Scorpio.
Scorpio, as I said, happened because of numbers. I’d gotten to the point where I knew the endgame for the Nation, but I also knew that the teams for Survivor Series would be 5-4 in favor of the faces once Steve Blackman came in. The Nation needed a fifth. Because their gimmick was strictly a Black Panther-style group, the fifth had to be African-American. Mark Henry was out in injury, if memory serves. I couldn’t turn Ahmed again. Literally the only available African-American wrestler in the company I could find not involved in the feud was Flash Funk. So I turned him and I had him drop the Funk gimmick. Problem solved.
Rick Rude was a stroke of dumb luck borne of necessity. I knew that I needed someone to leverage against the rest of the company as an authority figure. I knew it needed to be someone who could seem imposing in a way Sgt. Slaughter and Vince could not. Slaughter was never an effectual authority figure for my taste, and my goal for Vince was to have him suffer indignity after indignity until he snapped at Badd Blood. Because of that, I needed someone more level-headed and ruthless. I also wanted said person to somehow be independent of the McMahons, but not of the WWF, so that Bret could still claim conspiracy, but there would be just enough of a shred of doubt. I toyed with Linda, but that meant I’d be indirectly responsible for launching a Battlin’ McMahons™ angle we all love so much. It seemed better that he come in as a heavy and gain power not on his own but by attrition, as authority figures fell by the wayside. Originally, I even toyed with the idea of a full-blown hostile takeover by the person, but that felt out of place, so I kept the scale smaller. As I moved through the story and looked over the outline, I realized I had little to no role for Rick Rude who, as mentioned, was originally DX’s heavy. Even in real life, though, his purpose in D-X was somewhat ornamental. I’d tossed the idea around of just leaving him out altogether, but I didn’t like that. He was there, so he should be there in my story somehow … and then it hit me. Instead of having him be silent muscle for two wrestlers who, frankly, didn’t need it (and already had it in Chyna), he could be the authority figure! Have him come in as a corporate-appointed troubleshooter, more hands-on than Slaughter could ever be … and then, as Slaughter came down with a case of the limber-tail (not in the original plan either), and Vince got himself taken out (also not in the original plan), Rude ascended to the ultimate position. Key to it all, though, was having him insist he was playing it down the middle … but maybe 51/49 instead of 50/50. Just out of balance enough so that Bret had a legit complaint, but not so much that anyone would believe him since Bret had degenerated from anti-American rabble-rouser to paranoid truther and borderline terrorist.
Speaking of the truth, The Truth Commission weren’t in my outline at all. I mean, why would they be? But I was really deep into the story when I stumbled onto the need for them. As the story developed and the actions of Rude and Vince drove the Hart Foundation to take extreme actions, I had to keep upping the chaos. As I did that, I saw that there would come a breaking point where those in power would be driven to do more than talk and dole out suspensions or screwjobs. I was building to a fight … a fight that couldn’t happen, namely Rude vs. Bret. Rude needed a proxy the same way Bret had in the Foundation, and more, he needed a way to put into action the promises he’d made about curbing violence and anarchy. So it couldn’t be just one guy. He needed a stable, a police force by which to enact law and order. I had such a large cast that it eliminated a broad portion of the absurdly small roster at the time. Those available were mostly tag guys and midcard singles wrestlers whom no one would take seriously. I couldn’t just turn the Boricuas into corporate thugs, or throw together the Godwinns and the Headbangers under the same umbrella; it was too radical a gimmick shift. I needed fresh faces I could drop in as Rude’s stormtroopers, and they had to fit the bill of what I envisioned as a SWAT-style PMC. As I went looking through Raw results for the general make-up of the roster at the time, I saw that the Truth Commission debuted late that summer and made very little noise until they swapped out the Commandant for The Jackyl. I decided it would be easy enough to tweak their appearance from camo and jackboots to black riot gear and change their name to Martial Law (credit to Neil Cathan for the name). The hitch of all this was, because they weren’t in my outline, I had to go back and reconfigure literally every Raw from their debut to the end to fit them in and make them effective stand-ins for Rude in physical situations. Several Raws had their cards completely shuffled.
So, to sum up, System Error, character selection starts with those immediately effected, moves on to those closely related to the primary cast, and then some guesses at tangential connections. Beyond that, new characters might pop up here and there as I write, if the story opens up a place that needs on. This is how it goes with most every story I’ve done. Really, the only exception is the D-X/Nitro story, which was a perfect storm I’ll never duplicate.
More questions from SystemError
The dude just lit up the boards with the Q’s. Let’s see what he’s got …
“This one was hyped up before in the Goldberg Aftershow edition, as an idea languishing in stasis. What inspired you to finally sit down and put this one to pen?”
Long time readers know that my favorite author is (and are probably tired of seeing me mention) Stephen King. I’ve been reading him since I was 12; the same book of his both inspired me to become a writer, and provided the name of my first son. So, yeah, he’s kind of important to me. Anyway, in his many, many notes on the topic of writing, he mentions how when he finishes the first draft, the first thing he does is put it away for a year and not look at it. Ever. Not even a glance. This is to let it “mellow”, so that when he comes back for second draft editing, the story feels fresh to him. I would do this periodically, but the longest period of stasis was the last one that ended shortly after Goldberg. It hadn’t just mellowed, it had gone comatose by then. Mentioning it in that aftershow column made me go check it out again, just to see if there were any embers lift in the firepit. In my mind, I remembered being close to Ground Zero. I was quite surprised to see how much I didn’t have done after all; maybe 10 pages, tops. When I saw that, I realized I had a much more blank canvas than I thought … and suddenly, pieces started falling into place. I sat down with the very, very preliminary outline I had from way, way back and started plotting things out to see if I could do it … and before I could blink, I’d charted the course through Ground Zero. And ONO was only two weeks after, so that wasn’t hard. Hell In A Cell two weeks after that, so hey, might as well go that far. Once I had that done, finishing it off seemed compulsory, and it came pretty easy to boot. By then, I had a finished outline. I had no excuse not to sit and write the damned thing.
“What would you say are your top 3 favorite RTBs written by others?”
Oh sure, make me pick between the kids. Now, this list by no means is to say I prefer X over Y 100% of the time. Every writer who has contributed to RTB has been outstanding, in my opinion. But since the question is here, I gotta answer it, so … in no particular order …
Neil Cathan’s Muhammad Hassan story. Neil knows my opinion, because I’ve said it often enough that he probably hears it in his sleep, but it’s all earned: the man took RTB to a much more high-minded, literary place than I could aspire to. He tried to use it as a vehicle to tell parables and explore themes, which, really, all art should do. I think the Muhammad Hassan story that epitomizes this best. His exploration of what happens when patriotism becomes a shield for hatred and fear is, to me, fascinating and gripping. It’s everything I believe WWE intended for the Hassan character, but could never pull off because they’re WWE.
Simon Rawls’ Red Rooster story. I love this one because, when he pitched it, I was incredibly skeptical. It sounded too gimmicky, too preposterous. Hell, it wasn’t even midcard! What he did was far beyond what I could’ve expected. He made that character work. He made Terry Taylor not just viable, but he made him matter. In short, he made me eat my words, and I liked that. Most every other RTB, it’s a tweak on something we know and love in its current incarnation. This took a Wrestlecrap induction and made it good. Better than good, really.
Last but not least, Neil’s Bruiser Brody story. And this one is because Neil took a very, very bold risk here with the new format. As I remember, he was even nervous to ask me if he could experiment with a new format, and I told him it was his ball and to run with it. When I read it and saw what he’d done, I was again blown away by his skills. The story itself is captivating and clever, but I think the format is what really makes it stick, and he deserves all the credit in the world for the bold choice. I’ve considered trying to use it, but I don’t think I could pull it off.
“Any word on the progress of other RTB writers’ projects?”
I’m glad you asked. This dovetails nicely into
THE FIRST MAJOR RTB ANNOUNCEMENT
So, next year is my tenth anniversary here at Wrestlecrap, if I have my math right (someone out there will correct me, and I’ll be depressed). And among other fun announcements I have in store for later in this column, outside contributors are a big part of it. I want to bring in some to celebrate this thing going a decade on the ‘Crap. I’m trying to convince the rest of the Wrestlecrap staff to contribute, although it’s been tough sledding. If they wanna do comedy editions, I’d be down for it. Anything, just to get anybody else on the site to put their pen to RTB paper. I don’t know why, but I love the idea of a crossover. So, here’s my entreaty to you, dear fans. If you like the idea of seeing an RTB by RD or Justin or whomever is your preferred Wrestlecrap writer … LOBBY THEM. Email them. Comment on their articles. Drop a Facebook post or a Tweet. Help me convince them how much fun this will be. Make this thing a family affair.
Now, while we’re on the subject, I do have one probable and one possible outside contributor. The latter shall remain nameless for now … he’s a former writer of RTB, and he’s teased a one-shot comeback, if a number of stars align. No promises … but I did put a bug in his ear that this would be perfect for #RTB10. As for the former, that I can spill the beans on. I’ve hinted at it for quite some time in editorials and whatnot, and he’s finally given me permission to out him. Mostly so it’ll hold him to a deadline of sorts.
If you’re a reader of 411Mania, or were one of the few listeners to my old podcast, then you may know the name Mathew Sforcina. He’s a good friend and an excellent writer, holding down the Ask 411Wrestling column over there. He’s batted around the idea of doing an RTB forever, chiseling away at his edition at a pace that would make George RR Martin look speedy. I’m not going to give away specifics of the story, except to say it’s late-80’s NWA, and the flashpoint is a five-star classic match. That should be enough to whet your appetites. So, there’s one contributor locked down.
And to wrap up this question, the third part of this announcement: I’m looking for outside submissions from you. It doesn’t have to be a full time commitment to do this on a month-in-month-out basis. One shot at glory if that’s all you want, and more if you’d like it. No auditions, no contests. Just an open casting call. Email me your ideas or hit me up on Twitter. And if you’d like to give it a go but are short on ideas, I’ve got the vaunted MASTER LIST you can pick through. It’s dated all to hell … doesn’t have an idea newer than maybe 2003 on it, but it’s a start. You’ve got plenty of lead-in time to do the research. So drop me a line by email or hook up with me on Twitter. Let’s make #RTB10 a huge celebration!
Now, back to the questions.
“If you could ask the readerbase any question, what would it be?”
Well, for the ones who actually liked my InVasion story, I’d ask … FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY?!? That thing is my Music From The Elder, my Chris Gaines, my 1985 cast of Saturday Night Live. All I see are good ideas wasted on scattershot booking, characters that drop in and out of the story at random, and an ending where I got my panties in a knot about the surprise being revealed, so I cheated everyone with a BS twist. As I did with Montreal, I’ve thought about going back and re-doing it, except that it’s SO big and SO broken, I don’t know if I could do it without tearing it down and starting over. And I just don’t want to do that.
I’d also ask if you have a preferred style: kayfabe or documentary. The latter is definitely easier, and I feel a little more linguistic freedom with it, but it’s not as in-the-moment as kayfabe. And certain stories just don’t lend themselves to the documentary style. That seems to work with more industry-wide topics, or at least topics where behind-the-scenes stuff is more important than what’s in the ring.
I’d also like to know … what else can I give you? RTB goes through some lengthy fallow periods. It just isn’t as easy to bust these things out any more. I’d like to be able to keep up the contact with you guys and give you something during the down time between stories. Maybe not on a weekly basis. Having a wife and three kids takes a fair amount of time out of the schedule, dontchaknow. I do have one idea, which I’ll get into in a little bit, but if you readers have any ideas of what I could do on a semi-regular basis between full columns, please, drop a line down in the comments or the other methods of communication previously mentioned.
On a personal and less amusing note, I’d like to ask the one jackwagon who emailed me a few years back and made some very insulting comments about the appearance of my oldest son exactly why he did so. I know, I know, “the internet”. But this was pre-social media. And he went after me in a very personal, very vile way. I’m not saying op-ed people deserve it by any means, but I can at least understand why the Phil Mushnicks and the Bill Simmons of the world get hate mail. I write a stupid little alt-universe fan-fic column. What could I possibly write that could possibly raise someone’s dander that much to send me hate mail by way of attacking my child? I just don’t get it. Sorry, bit of a debbie-downer detour there … but it did come to mind.
Most of all, though, I’d like to know what brought you to RTB, what hooks you about it, and why you keep coming back. Not that I’m looking for compliments, mind you … more that I’m just curious. I think I can safely say without sounding like a braggart that the column is a success. And I think all people who craft something popular wonder how it became a success. It’s a natural curiosity. What is it about what they do that brings people in? I wonder that. I don’t think of myself as some great writer. Just a guy who likes wrestling, tends to run on at the mouth (or fingertips, as the case may be), likes complex plots and complex characters, and tries to be a stickler for continuity. That can’t be that rare in this universe.
Okay, one more … I’d ask the guy who sent in the Trish/Horsemen idea what he was on that day.
Last question by SystemError.
“Favorite giant mecha?”
Couldn’t be “favorite 90’s alternative band” or “favorite pizza topping” or “favorite MTV animated show”.
Local H, bacon, Aeon Flux, if you’re curious.
Umm … do Transformers count? Seriously, I was never big on the whole mecha thing. For some reason, it just never connected with me as a kid. Robotech, Voltron, Gundam … I just didn’t get it. I know, I know, take away my geek card, I’m a traitor to the cause.
Now, if Transformers counts, Shockwave. Cause he was bad-ass in the comics. And Starscream. You can see I have a pathological distaste for Megatron’s clumsy, ineffectual leadership and wanted him deposed. Seriously, the guy made Dr. Claw look competent. And Shockwave had that awesome not-a-face; just a creepy, blinking yellow light. That was straight up weird.
If they don’t count? Uhh … umm … Metal Gear? Best I got.
What to do in the downtime
Coming back to something I mentioned a few paragraphs up, during the downtime between columns, I’d like to find a way to keep the home fires burning when RTB is either in development or an idle state. And one idea I had was to do some kind of Top 5/10 list on a periodic basis. I know, list articles are easy, almost lazy. People like lists, though. If they didn’t, Buzzfeed would be a beekeeping forum.
So – oh, wait, forgot to do this.
THE SECOND MAJOR RTB ANNOUNCEMENT
is that starting in August, I’m going to do monthly RTB Top 5’s/10’s (or, if you guys think of something better, maybe that instead … or too). And I’ll happily take suggestions from the audience on list ideas. Already have a few:
10 RTB’s I refuse to do.
10 missed opportunity main eventers.
10 RTB’s I’ve done and what I think really would have happened.
10 dream matches we’ll never get to see.
If you have ideas, you should know what to do with them by now.
And lastly …
Jon Milne has one more question, which will serve as a lead-in to something previously mentioned.
“I would quite like to see Rewriting The Book take on a promotion that isn’t the main roster WWE or WCW again. My all time favourite RTB is “What If CM Punk took the ROH World Title to WWE?”, and I certainly feel that what with Jim Cornette’s heavily criticised tenure as head of booking for ROH, there’s oodles of storylines that could be fixed there.”
So, a little set-up to answer the question and before I do the next announcement that this question leads in to. I grew up in Portland, Oregon, and without the benefit of cable TV until the mid-90’s. As such, my wrestling teeth were cut on a strict diet of WWF. Only in the mid-90’s did I find WCW, when Nitro had come on. I knew about the NWA from Apter mags, but Nitro was my first exposure to something that wasn’t Vince McMahon. Since then, thanks to DVD’s, I’ve been able to go back and see a lot of NWA and early WCW, and thanks to cable, I saw the last half of WCW’s life and ECW’s PPV era.
The reason RTB’s by me tend to revolve around those three companies is a product of that familiarity. I’m comfortable with those companies and the eras I saw. Yes, one can do research, but online recaps and Wiki entries only gets me so much of the picture. Without sitting down and watching weekly episodes of AWA or WCCW or USWA, I will never truly get the feel for the way the promotions were booked, or know the angles and the alignment of the performers in the way I really like so I can accurately imitate it and give RTB that so-close-to-real feeling. Russo, I can do in my sleep. Verne Gagne? Wouldn’t have a clue. And before someone says “use the Network”, I don’t have it. That keeps all my research stuck in what the internet can provide me. That’s why you don’t see me venture outside the walls of Stamford, Atlanta and Philly. Lack of comfort, and a need to get things dead to rights.
That being said, it’s time for
THE THIRD AND FINAL MAJOR RTB ANNOUNCEMENT
I have the next two RTB’s decided upon, and likely the third after that. After that, who knows. My intention is to deliver two next year. One early in the year, one later. Hey, I’m slow, and this first one is proving to be a BEAST as it relates to size. I’m going to go in reverse order, just to amp up the suspense.
The story farthest out … “What if Tommy Dreamer bought into Cactus Jack’s anti-hardcore campaign?”. This, like Bret and Summerslam ’97, is one that has been long in gestating. That’s why it’s on down the line. The oven is still getting up to temp on it. I’m not even sold on it being third in line. It’s just a “I hope I can do it” story for now.
Next year’s late entry … “What if Ric Flair jumped to the WWF in 1988?” This idea was given to me by Wrestlecrap’s own “Big Cheese” Paul Kraft. I told him I’d get to this one, because his suggestion gave me a great start … but I don’t have the finish yet. Another stupid attempt at going without an outline. I’ll be rectifying that, Paul. I’d do it sooner, had I not been hit by a sudden bolt of inspiration.
And that sudden bolt of inspiration brings us back to Jon Milne and his desire to get out of the WWE/WCW/ECW triangle. My next RTB will grant your wish and leave the comfortable confines of Titan Sports … we shall venture from Altanta (not a misspelling if you know about WCW’s business cards) … and we shall break with Uncle Paul’s madcap circus. In fact, the next RTB might even be feature the most current events to date in RTB history, if I’m not mistaken. In the next RTB, we shall endeavor to answer the question …
“What if Team CZW beat Team ROH at Death Before Dishonor IV?”
Bet you never thought you’d see CZW in an RTB. I didn’t either. And yet, here we are. The idea hit me in the shower one day. Wasn’t even expecting it; it just dropped in there, like a quarter into a pay phone. And even though I’m still in the outline phase, I can tell you this: it’s gonna be huge. Big enough that I may cut this thing into a large number of small chapters, just so the chapters don’t grow out of control. It winds through thirty-nine events and has what might be the largest cast of characters to date in an RTB, with around two dozen primary and secondary players. I’m not kidding when I say this thing is mammoth, but I think I can pull it off. And since I know that the fanbases of both are very prideful and territorial, and the feud was very polarizing, let me tell you up front that both promotions will be treated fairly. I’m not partial in either direction; I think both have strong points and weaknesses, so all I see is opportunity here.
Well, that’s it, folks. Another RTB in the books. I’ll check in on the comments and respond as best I can. Hit me up with those in-between column ideas, or if you’d like to be part of #RTB10. Thanks for reading, everybody!