Cheap Pop: The Celebrity Effect

In Cheap Pop, Three Man Booth Discuss Random Topics 
with a Slight Historical Bend

The WWE Legends of the Roundtable series (available On WWE On Demand, DVD or elsewhere *Achoo-Tube*) has been talked about as one of the must watch programs the WWE produces. After seeing “The Celebrity Effect” episode, I can only wholeheartedly endorse this series.

The roundtable in this episode consists of Mean Gene Okerlund, Michael P.S. Hayes, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Diamond Dallas Page and Jim Ross. The roundtable really belongs to the last two participants: JR does not hide his disdain for WCW’s use of celebrities during the 1990’s: Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, Jay Leno and especially David Arquette, who won the the WCW championship on an episode of WCW Thunder. All these moments have one thing in common: DDP, who is immediately put on the defensive.

The theme of this episode that comes across the strongest is when Actors, Athletes, Musicians, or Personalities get involved with pro wrestling, coverage goes from No pages to the Entertainment pages: it’s a benefit to both parties to get that kind of coverage, which explains why celebrities still sign up to take on the squared circle.

During the glut of celebrity RAW GMs, I realized that even my wrestling fandom came with a celebrity endorsement. Without Al Bundy, I may not be a wrestling fan.

Image Courtesy of thefertileinfertile

Before Wrestlemania 8, they aired a Saturday Night’s Main Event on FOX, hosted by Al Bundy. My Saturday nights then consisted of watching sitcoms, so the choice was between watching Wrestling (which was on in place of Married with Children) or watching Perfect Strangers. Prior to this Saturday night, my Wrestling knowledge was limited to things gleaned from watching with my Grandmother: Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, The Macho Man Randy Savage, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Miss Elizabeth, Jake the Snake Roberts and a couple other characters from that Hulk Hogan cartoon.

Aside: Whoever’s Responsible for Airing Wrestling After Saturday Cartoons? Genius!

The only other thing I knew about Wrestling was that Al Bundy liked Wrestling. And since I liked Al Bundy, I wanted to see what Wrestling was. Admittedly, I also used to search the TV Guide for episodes of Psycho Dad, but I digress (Bring Back Psycho Dad!). And while Al Bundy got me to tune in, the WWF (yeah, I said it!) kept me watching. Just look at the results from that card, through my 1992 eyes:

3MB_SNME_HoganJustice

Image Courtesy of WWE.com

  • Roddy Piper (Guy I Knew) retains the Intercontinental Championship over The Mountie (Evil Dudley Do-Right) after revealing he’s invincible to electrocution (like Superman) only to further reveal that he was smart enough to wear a Shock-Proof Vest (like Batman).
  • Hulk Hogan (Guy I Knew) is betrayed by Sid Justice (Hogan Vouched for you, Man!) only to be saved by Brutus Beefcake (Broke-face Barber) from The Undertaker (Dead AND Wrestling?!? How is This Possible?!?) and WWF Champion Ric Flair (He Must Be Good: He’s the Champ)*

*Despite all these wrestlers, the real star of this match is Bobby “The Brain” Heenan on Commentary.

  • Sgt. Slaughter (Guy I Knew from G.I. Joe) & Hacksaw Jim Duggan (Guy I Don’t Know but Clearly LOVES America) defeat The Beverly Brothers (Guys I Don’t Know and Won’t Remember but had Cool Theme Music)
  • Macho Man Randy Savage (Guy I Know & Like) defeats Jake the Snake Roberts (Guy I Know & Don’t Like) and then goes crazy, leaping over referees to deliver top rope elbow drops to Roberts, protecting his wife, Miss Elizabeth (Girl I Know & Like). Then, Roberts (Guy I DEFINITELY Don’t Like Now) tries to sneak attack Randy and Liz (Couple I Like) only to be stopped by The Undertaker (a Demon with a Heart? I LOVE This Guy Now!)

And with this introduction, I begged my Dad to let us watch Wrestlemania 8, continuing my family’s history of wrestling fandom. Without Al Bundy, I may have never seen this Saturday Night’s Main Event. Keep in mind, I’m referring to Al Bundy of Married with Children, not Ed O’Neill, the actor who played Al Bundy. The distinction between Actor and Character is touched on a little in that Legends of the Roundtable episode. Al – an already outlandish character – watched wrestling, a program with personalities even more absurd than the Bundys. So the character, who appeared via taped segments from the Bundy-verse, interacted with fellow characters, protecting both businesses. That makes more sense than having actors appear on the middle of the ring in character, right? You’d have be like a Stooge to pull that off, right? Damn.

It’s probably why the celebrity endorsement for the 1000th RAW was so jarring. Charlie Sheen, the person, has become a larger character than any Charlie he’s played on TV: Charlie Crawford on Spin City, Charlie Harper on Two and a Half Men or Charlie Goodson Anger Management. And while we’ve grown accustomed to seeing celebrities appear on RAW in person, in person or in character, Sheen was designated the Official Celebrity Twitter Ambassador, which is not a thing. Sheen, in predictably unpredictable fashion, quit Twitter shortly after the announcement was made. He fulfilled his obligations regardless, appearing via Skype instead of via the heavily promoted Tout or even via satellite. Even The Rock, the wrestler turned celebrity, brings it his via satellite. They made a t-shirt and everything!

Image Courtesy of Blippit

So how is Daniel Bryan, the wrestler who “interacted” the most with Sheen, supposed to bond with the hopefully new viewers Sheen might bring in? Maybe it’s a case of opposites attracting. Bryan can be summed up succinctly, with just 4 words:

  1. Wrestler
  2. Vegan
  3. YES!YES!YES! (One Word)
  4. NO!NO!NO! (also One Word)

a stark contrast compared to Sheen, whose multi-hour webcam rants were the partial catalyst for his Twitter following. A Sheen / Bryan scenario is a gamble with has both short term and long term ramifications. People will tune in to see whether or not Charlie Sheen’s gonna get his head kicked in. If they stay around after that, however, is the true test. It all comes down to what the Legends of the Roundtable refer to as “The Business.” Charlie Sheen, especially in recent years, has shown his natural aptitude for the business, his TV roles share the trait of a checkered past as a subtle nod to Sheen’s actual life. The sports entertainment mentality of the WWE, is in a constantly blurring the line of what is real and what is fiction. Sheen should fit in, provided he doesn’t pull a classic Sheen audible.

If this Celebrity Effect doesn’t work with Sheen, the WWE could always bring Ed O’Neill back out. If Al Bundy can score 4 touchdowns in a single game, imagine what the entire cast of Modern Family will do in the RAW spotlight. Gloria Pritchett = Ratings.

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One Response to Cheap Pop: The Celebrity Effect

  1. Pingback: Boo This Man: Hulk Hogan – Royal Rumble 1992 Edition | Three Man Booth

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