Are you “that guy” when it comes to a certain subject? How long can you hold on to a “favorite band of all time”? What made you a fan to begin with? In the 389th edition of The Savage Animal Mike gets introspective with a two-part look at his fan boy connection with Nine Inch Nails.This, a rant on the “Pre-Mania Blues”, a review of ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ and a look at what would happen if WCW bought WWF!
"The Pre-Mania Blues": I am such a jaded WWE fan. I hate to say it, but I am. The problem is that I don’t want to be so negative and pessimistic about the thing that I watch more hours than anything else. I watch wrestling because I love it. I am connected to it for the rest of my life. As a child I loved it and was in awe, as a teenager I enjoyed the rebellion of the Attitude era and in my 20’s I was able to appreciate the entire process. Maybe my expectations are too high for today’s landscape, but I can’t unhinge my standards. WrestleMania is less than two weeks ago and I am sadly indifferent.
Am I alone?
The CM Punk "pipe bomb" thing from a few years ago was the best work in years. It was hyped up as a scene changer the way the original "Austin 3:16" promo was. It allowed CM Punk to rally a whole bunch of naive teenagers and dumb adults to think the WWE was going to change. That the standard fare nonsense we were all tired of was going to be a thing of the past. That greener pastures were ahead.
It was a work, folks. We were worked. It was a lie. It was fake.
It was a wrestling promo on a television show. That’s all it was. It was a well performed piece by a guy who said it with conviction because it was on the same wave of how it really felt. It wasn’t a "shoot". A "shoot" is when something is real. This wasn’t "real" so it’s not a "shoot". The term "worked shoot" is an oxymoron.
So where did this take us? Punk and Daniel Bryan would rise. Along these two at the front of the card others would start to get attention. For a short while the WWE was really pushing smaller guys. For some reason the idea of a "smaller guy" hits closer to home with the internet wrestling community. It’s attached to the stigma and forced glory of paying your dues on the independent scene. We see Punk or D-Bry and we see hard working dudes who are cool enough to hang out with and great enough to "make it". It’s a "dream come true" type of feeling for the fans to live through. It’s "big guy discrimination". We see a Luke Harper, a Roman Reigns, a Ryback or other big guy and we lose that connection. Despite the fact these dudes paid their dues and were fans for life. Meanwhile dudes like Dolph Ziggler, who never worked indies AT ALL or a Cody Rhodes, who had a bit of an advantage getting started in the business get a "internet wrestling" pass.
None of this matters. All that matter is the performance. We have a hard time seeing past that sometimes. As an internet fan you get caught up in cycles. If it’s not the whole "big man" complaints, it’s Vince or Triple H "burying" people, it’s TNA being crazy, it’s Hulk Hogan’s publicity stunts, or it’s so-and-so "drunk Tweeted" this or that.
We just look for reasons to complain. It’s the worst of normal sport fans coming together with the worst of reality TV fans coming together to butt-heads and gossip. We all love wrestling. Isn’t that enough?
Sadly, the WWE is doing NOTHING to change this. They continue to oversaturate their product with more and more content. There is so much going on in the WWE that it’s almost too much to really take in. I know for a fact that I’ve gone into "WWE shut down mode" once I miss a few days of news or programming.
There is nothing to engage in. Daniel Bryan’s "Yes!" chant is epic. He is going to go down as one of the greatest of all time. I really hope everyone is appreciating the times right now. We are seeing this guy get closer and closer to hitting his career peak that it’s pretty much history in the making. The problem is the storyline around it. The whole "Authority" storyline is crap. It’s a paint-by-numbers feud. They tried to play both sides of the fence and throw some lame subtle stuff out there, but once it actually kicked into "WrestleMania" season the whole thing has been a crap fest. So we keep watching Daniel Bryan get knocked down by the Authority and then we’re supposed to cheer louder every time he gets back up until the boiling point where he overcomes the odds and the place erupts. It’s not enjoyable. Triple H and Stephanie just aren’t hitting the right marks. It feels forced and the logic involved is bad even for wrestling logic. Vince McMahon was a much more entertaining foil to Steve Austin. I want to see Daniel Bryan have the biggest and best moments possible, but at this point I’m so worn out from the months of bad stories that it won’t nearly be as magical as it could have been.
Then there’s CM Punk. Remember that whole "Where’s Undertaker?" thing from the summer of 1994 where Leslie Neilson would go around looking for Taker in short and funny segments? Probably not, but they DID happen. That’s what I think about with this CM Punk "leaving" stuff. If he were really gone you’d see him show up at independent shows, posting shit online, starting new ventures and capitalizing on the attention he’s getting from the mystery to push a new agenda or plan. There’s no "yes, I’m leaving and now I’m going to…" conversations just as much as there are not a "no, I’m not gone. I’ll be back on…" talks. There is something MORE to this. Is he injured? Taking a vacation? Writing a book? Working on a movie on the DL? I even heard the very doubtful and stupid rumor that he failed a drug test and was taking his suspension. That last one is pretty laughable, but there’s something to the other possibilities. Wrestling’s Henry Rollins will be back before too long. It’s clearly part of a bigger picture plan. It might be circumstantial, but it’s all going to play out. Even if I’m wrong about this I’ve already exasperated myself by exploring the possibilities.
The Network is cool, but not as mind blowing as we’d want. Daniel Bryan is most likely going to be the Main Event of WrestleMania 30 but it’s the result of a tiresome storyline. The Wyatts and The Shield are throwing fresh air into the company, but are slowly and surely altered and watered down to meet the status quo of the normal WWE machine.
Basically, if you’re having a great time watching the WWE right now then good for you. Enjoy it before you become jaded like the rest of us.
*insert eye roll*
From One Fan To Another: Nine Inch Nails (Part 1 of 2)
And Unintentional Two-Parter…This is a strange column to write. It’s not strange because it’s a long ramble that’s basically an internal stream of consciousness. It’s not just strange because it’s really self-indulgent and may not be relatable by everyone out there. It’s strange because it’s the first time I’ve been lost for words when it comes to Nine Inch Nails. My favorite band has been Nine Inch Nails now for over fifteen years. I’ve invested time, passion, money, miles, friendships, and deep connection into this brand of musical art. Isn’t that what a band or artist is? A "brand of musical art". That’s not a bad thing. "Brand" does not have to be a "bad word". In this case it’s just a way to describe a group of work and presentation. Trent Reznor is the man behind the brand that is Nine Inch Nails. For over a decade in a half I’ve absorbed his brand through many life experiences. I’ve laughed, cried, raged, slept, awoke, and basically lived my life with the background music, plenty more times than not, has been Nine Inch Nails.
That’s why this is so weird. The idea of this ramble is to explore why I’m a fan of Nine Inch Nails and how I’ve evolved in correlation to the music releases. This all comes in a period in time where I just don’t feel connected. I feel like I’m a cross roads with my fandom and I’m not quite sure I feel as enthusiastic about NIN as I did before. In fact, this whole process makes me question if NIN is even for me anymore.
What happened? Did I mature in a different direction? Did Trent Reznor lose a step? Did Nine Inch Nails stop being what I needed it to be? At what point did my "connection" shift?
Everyone has a "favorite band". If you’re a huge ol’ music nerd like me then your "favorite band" is held in VERY high regards. It’s your air. It’s your pulse. It’s stride. It’s yours. If you’re a huge ol’ music nerd then you get into the fan boy area of "fandom". You go to concerts, you know random pointless facts, you had the "Imports", and you not only know every single word, but the inflections and vocal quirks. It becomes part of your identity. Your friends know you as "the Nine Inch Nails guy". They hold back mentioning ANYTHING related to NIN because they know you’ll ramble to them for ten minutes longer than the actual duration of the longer "Mr. Self Destruct" remix from the Japanese import of "Further Down The Spiral". You’re just "that guy".
We’re all "that guy". If you’re not a huge ol’ music nerd like me then maybe you’re the movie guy or the car guy or the video game guy. The point is that we’re all fanboys and obsessive over some kind of passion. There is nothing wrong with it. We all need art. We all need a connection. We all need a distraction. Folks, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years on this planet it’s that distractions are a must.
It’s just a point where being "that guy" starts to fade. Why? How? When?
This is my life through "my favorite band of all time", a personal story of a connection to Nine Inch Nails if you will; from one fan to another…
I had heard of Nine Inch Nails in the mid-90s. I didn’t know really anything about the band or Trent Reznor. It was just a band name the young junior high me had heard of. It would be around like 1997 when I first heard Nine Inch Nails and "got into them". Of course, being a young and dumb kid the song "Closer" is what I heard first. There is no shame in that as much as it makes my inner nerd want to cry. It wasn’t some import, some B-side, some cool older relative getting me to listen young… it was the big radio hit. It was the bait.
I quickly started getting my hands on NIN music. Mostly cassettes at first because I didn’t want to transition into the "crazy world" of CDs. I listened to "The Downward Spiral" about a million and a half times that first week. It’s mathematically impossible, but in the mental montage that was my NIN discovery all things are possible. I loved "Closer". As over-heard as it is now, it’s still an amazing song and hits all the right notes. It’s a powerful and raw song that’s going to be always be talked about and remembered. That said, the rest of the album is what really grabbed me. Being a misunderstood, awkward and, in all honestly, depressed teenager it was a perfect outlet for me to connect to.
It was the emotional outcry, it was the destructive rage, the discontent, the self-inflicted inflictions. It was exactly what I needed to latch onto at the moment. I’m still thankful that I didn’t latch onto a band like Everclear or Green Day.
Once 99 came around, "The Fragile" was released. It was my first "day of" release with Nine Inch Nails. I remember forcing a parent to take me to Best Buy after school to pick up the CD. I quickly got that double album beast home, laid in bed and put on headphones. In retrospect I was a stick of incense and a single candle away from being THAT cliché.
It was like unlocking a whole different part of me. It wasn’t as angry as the stuff I was listening to already. It was delicate, it was layered and it just felt right.
I pretty much lucked out here. I didn’t get stuck in the middle of a waiting period, which we’ll get to later. I came in right in the middle of two of the best albums ever made and arguably the biggest peak of the NIN fame and discography.
My VERY first concert came in 2000. It was the NIN "Fragility Tour". I had to cash in some savings bonds that my grandparents had given me, but dammit… I bought tickets and it was on. So my first concert, the first time seeing live music on stage… a brand spankin’ new A Perfect Circle followed by a corn-starched and pissed off Trent Reznor.
At that point there was no turning back. I had a "favorite band" for life.
The Waiting Game
One thing I didn’t have to deal with was the "waiting game". Trent developed a bit of a reputation for taking a LONG TIME to make albums. Granted he’d be putting out singles, LPs, scores, and randomness people in the NIN community and on the radio would always make side comments about it taking so long for albums to get made. It was every five years for a while, but that was LPs. If we discount the non-LPs it means we ignore stuff like "Broken" and songs like "The Perfect Drug" and "Deep". I’d rather keep those tunes in my collection if you ask me.
So "The Fragile" came out and went. Trent disappeared from the spotlight. At this point in his life it sounded like he went through a lot of changes and got himself on a better life course. It would still be five years.
Junior year of high school to early 20’s is a big time gap. During that time I didn’t have new NIN music to absorb. At this point in time, being a NIN fan was a fairly reasonable part of my identity. Don’t get me wrong, I had a life. I didn’t JUST focus on NIN. I was "into" a lot of things, but everyone knew that mentioning NIN or Trent would trigger me into fan-boy mode.
I had to have every NIN CD and import. I’d go to any and all stores and shops to find the rare stuff. I’d get as many posters as I could to cover my walls. I’d go after any shirt that’d fit. It was all NIN, all the time. For literally YEARS after the "Fragility" tour, I’d wear a nasty fitted hat everywhere.
"With Teeth" wouldn’t come out until 2005. After waiting over five years, putting in the time as "the NIN guy" and loving every dark and twisted second of it… THIS is what I was waiting for?
"With Teeth"?! What?!
This is where I’m going to cut today’s column off. I didn’t intend on going this deep into things so I figured I’d be done by this point. Next week I’ll finish this up where I’m leaving off now. I’ll look at my fandom from "With Teeth" forward. It ends up being the most engaging part of the story so bear with me.
How about some feedback though.
What is YOUR favorite band of all time?
How and when did you get into them?
This movie was great. It’s a biopic, but it’s not a well known story so it’s not a movie you know the beats of already. Matthew McConaughey plays a dude who gets AIDS in the 80s. At the time it was mainly associated with homosexuals. This stigma is one he has to confront from his redneck buddies and in himself when he meets and befriends a transgender woman played by Jared Leto. He ends up sticking to his stern ways, but refocusing it into taking care of people who are dying from AIDS. To explain anymore would be to giving away the ride of this experience. The performances are outstanding. Matthew McConaughey rocked it and made a great lead in this role. He put in the elbow grease and I think it’ll go down as one of his pinnacle performances. That said, Jared Leto steals the show. His "Rayon" is a beautiful character and is done to perfection. Leto goes the extra distance to bring the heart and genuine attitude out there for this person. You don’t feel sorry for them, but you feel. They bring the fight and you can’t help but cheer them on and stay strong. You share in their empowerment. That’s an emotion that’s really fucking hard to nail down. The hype for this movie is legit but I fear there is a trap that really serious dramas go through. People are quick to blow off movies like this once the award season passes. It becomes a flavor of the month and people love it for all it’s worth for a few months. Then it’s brushed to the side and only shown on IFC or other "artsy aimed" outlets. It’s not a "happy movie". It’s a sad movie that pulls at your emotions and paints a grim picture. The performances are outstanding, but the long term rewatchablity is in question. How often will someone say, "Hey! Let’s watch that movie where Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto get AIDs and lose all that weight!". That sucks, but it’s true. But at the same time, this is a movie that you’ll watch again in five years and then proceed to spend a week reminding friends how good of a movie it was. That’s the thing, it wasn’t a good movie. It IS a good movie. Such a good movie that I really hope it doesn’t fade into "serious drama obscurity". Don’t let it! Watch it, watch it now! We, as a viewing public, owe it to ourselves. A-
"Worst Case Scenario" is a new take on the concept of "fantasy booking". For years professional wrestling fans would spend endless hours of thinking up the coolest things that could happen. Why waste the energy? This only leads to high expectations. "Worst Case Scenario" flips that. Instead of looking through rose colored glasses, let’s take a bi-weekly look at the worst possible scenarios in professional wrestling. I’m not going to be malicious or anything too mean, but I will not refrain from letting my brain come up with the worst possible shit I can. Sadly, it seems the writers and producers of mainstream TV wrestling and the mainstream iPPV level indies are doing the same thing but charging us for it. And now…
"If WCW Bought WWE!"
Everyone knows the story of WCW. It was a big time promotion that spawned out of the NWA. It gave us some of the best wrestlers, matches, and moments in professional wrestling history. If anyone says anything about WCW, good or bad, they can never say they weren’t the biggest company in wrestling for a while. They built a great legacy and then had a huge boom once the nWo stable hit big. Eventually it faded and the owners of WCW lost interest in losing money and wasting time. Vince McMahon’s WWE would quickly scoop up their assets and carry on as normal. They would easily kill off the company’s momentum and ignore it in no time.
What if it were reverse?
Let’s say the WWE didn’t have a resurrection. The Austin 3:16 and Attitude Era fails. Vince McMahon would be forced to sell off his company to Ted Turner’s WCW with Eric Bischoff in charge. The McMahons would go on to put out a rival promotion to the UFC in its early stages and totally destroy it. The UFC would have flopped hard as the WWE would have taken it over with ease. This is an easy out on that part of this. Then there’s wrestling, a monopoly ran by WCW.
WCW would have Starrcade as the biggest event of the year, but would still use WrestleMania to feature legends and to continue with the Hall of Fame. The IC Title would be gone. A lot of the guys who "jumped ship" would go to Japan or work the independents. Without the WWE’s reach, the independents would rise to a larger level because WCW would force fans to seek an alternative. One would assume Paul Heyman could have gotten funding from an outside source (Shane McMahon?!) and rose to a prominent #2 alternative.
Eventually WCW would start a Network, cross promote with Duck Dynasty, and go PG as well.
Imagine a PG nWo…. Imagine it!
Veronica Mars is one of the most underrated shows of the past ten years. In a day and age when television is at its most celebrated, this show went under the radar. Yeah, it does have a cult following of some really cool diehard fans but the quality of this show is on par with the crazy HBO and AMC critical darlings. It was just a damn good show. The super fans all rallied together and kickstartered a movie. That kind of thing doesn’t just happen. The whole gang returns for the movie. Kristen Bell returns as the title character, a young detective who moved up the ranks of high school pest to college hero to whatever is going on now. Her detective and law enforcement father, her high school friends, her college friends, and the cast and characters of the small California town are all back. This movie picks up years after the final season of the show. Veronica has to go back to her home town to clear her exboyfriend of murder. If you’re a fan of the show then you’ll want to see this for sure. If you’re not a fan, then the sell is a bit harder. I’ll try though. It’s a well written, witty, smart, playfully engaging, and addicting world. Veronica Mars is the girl version of Fletch, but she doesn’t have day dreams about being a Los Angeles Laker. She’s too busy saving her school and town from dastardly evil-doers. I don’t know if I can recommend this movie to new people. For them I think going back to the first episode would be pleasure and a treat. Do that. THEN you’ll understand why this movie existing is so freaking amazing.
That was 339 for ya! I had originally intended on writing this column in one big installment, but as I got half way through I realized that I was in the middle of a long ass column. So instead of giving you one column to avoid, I’m giving you TWO! Muahahahahaha! I jest, I jest. I DO appreciate the feedback and awesome comments because I love rambling about music with you guys. It’s a passion of mine and I love digging deep into that passion on all levels. If it’s just listening and talking about it, the history, the rumors, the oddball stories, theories, and just random bullshit. When I get to look inside and figure out why I’m wiring the way I am through the music I love it’s 100% therapeutic. I hope you all get SOMETHING out of it though. Next week I wrap up the NIN stuff for a while. I said that before and this time I mean it. I think I got it all out of my system so we can move forward with some fresh and hopefully inspired stuff. I plan to dive into a "first impression" and check out a new band, a new "album art of" where I’ll judge more albums by their cover, and of course some more "videography" stuff where I’ll watch some videos and tell you why I like them or not. It’s a formula, sure… but it’s a formula that leaves me plenty of room to explore new music and talk about stuff I like. So, that’s a perk. There is a lot going on right now. Priorities are shifting and I only have so much time to devote to creative energy. I’d rather devote it to something that can provide a financial compensation on top of the creative aspect. 400 columns IS a nice round number, isn’t it? We’ll see. Until next time… Have a Great Week!