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Cook’s Top 5: Nerds In Wrestling

With an entire newer company built off the premise of nerd culture; nerds are a big part of pro wrestling. Steve Cook gives you his Top 5!

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Like 99.546903523% of the people that will read this column, Dustin Diamond was a fan of professional wrestling. He made some appearances on shows throughout the years, including an early episode of NWA: TNA & as one of the contestants on Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling.

Of course, he will always remembered for his role in the Saved By The Bell universe as Samuel “Screech” Powers, a well-meaning nerd that was always there for his best friend Zack Morris & was always in love with Lisa Turtle. Diamond’s life post-SBTB definitely had its ups & downs. More than anyone else on the show, he struggled to get out of the large shadow his character cast. His career would never reach the heights it did in the early 1990s, which led to a good amount of bitterness & resentment. This bitterness led to Diamond alienating himself from the rest of the SBTB cast, largely due to a book ghostwritten for him that cast the others in a bad light. Diamond was conspicuous by his absence for later cast reunions. Unfortunately, he won’t be able to be present for future ones, dying of lung cancer at the age of 44.

He made mistakes. We all do. Hopefully he was able to find some peace in the time he had on Earth, and if he wasn’t, hopefully he can find some now.

I can think of no better tribute to the man that brought life to one of the most popular & memorable nerds in television history than by listing the five best nerds in pro wrestling history.

5. Barry Horowitz

We didn’t really know much about Barry’s personality the first several years he was on WWE television. Mostly because he always lost. Dude got beat up by the best of the best until he finally scored a victory over Bodydonna Skip. Once that happened, and Horowitz found a little more success, we got to learn more about him.

Including the fact that he was a gigantic nerd. Big glasses. Buttoned up shirts. He even wore pocket protectors from time to time! While this character turn didn’t exactly send Horowitz to the top of the WWF, it made him stand out from other wrestlers at the time, who weren’t as keen to learn into their dorkiness. I mean, take a look at that mid-90s WWF roster and you’ll see a lot of dweebs & geeks that didn’t know they were dweebs & geeks. Horowitz owned his.

4. Jamison

1989 saw Bobby Heenan leave his spot as co-host of Prime Time Wrestling to host his own show, the Bobby Heenan Show. While Bobby’s show was short-lived, it certainly had a number of memorable moments. Some of them involved Bobby’s sidekick, a man by the name of Jamison that really didn’t have much to bring to the table. Which is pretty much why he was there, as Bobby was surrounded by people that didn’t have much to bring to the table.

Bobby’s show only lasted four weeks, but Jamison would still appear from time to time, most notably in the corner of the Bushwhackers. I heard they reunited not too long ago, maybe they’ll bring Jamison back for a show or two!

3. Kenny Omega

Kenny is a different style of nerd than the others on this list, but he rightly belongs with the rest of the pack. Omega is a well-known video game nerd off-screen, and the gaming world is one of his biggest influences on-screen. Always has been. Back in the day he was using game-inspired moves. These days they have more of an influence on his entrance music selection & ring attire.

Even now that Kenny’s the AEW World Champion and trying to act like he’s above it all, the nerdiness still shines through. The type of clothing he wears outside the ring these days is the type of clothing that nerds would buy & wear if they had a little more self-confidence. Kenny thinks that stuff looks good.

2. Bob Backlund

It does not get much nerdier than Mr. Backlund. We’re talking about a man that even when he was young and obviously a talented wrestler, people called him “Howdy Doody” because he acted like a human version of the kids show puppet. As great as he was as an athlete, he was so awkward in his mannerisms. In later years, Backlund would rarely be seen without a bowtie & suspenders on, and he was always using big words & stressing the importance of education.

Bob Backlund was a nerd, but he wasn’t the kind of nerd you could pick on. We’ve seen that type in school too. Bullies keep messing with them & messing with them, and one day the kid just snaps and bullies the bully. Backlund snapped in 1994, and it’s tough to say he ever looked back.

1. Mankind

Think of WWF’s Attitude Era as Saved By The Bell for a minute. Of course, you have the most popular boy in school that’s always giving the principal problems, Zack Morris. For WWF purposes, Zack Morris is played by Stone Cold Steve Austin. Then there’s the cool, most talented athlete in school that doesn’t take any guff from anybody, A.C. Slater. The Rock is our Slater. So who does that leave as Screech? Obviously, that would be Mankind. While we wanted to be Rock or Austin, most of us were actually Mankind. Not as attractive, often underappreciated, but with plenty of good qualities that get noticed every once in awhile.

Mankind’s Lisa Turtle? Mr. McMahon. Mankind did everything he could to get Vince to like him, even dressing up in a corporate-style shirt & tie for several months at a time. Vince just wouldn’t go for it, though sometimes he would use Mankind’s love for him to his advantage. Now, Lisa never went to the extremes that Vince went, but I do recall a time or two where she used Screech’s love to her advantage.

Remember that episode where Zack & Lisa became an item? Regardless of any chemistry they might have had off-screen, people just didn’t buy it on-screen. It felt weird given all the history with Zack & Kelly and Screech & Lisa. Zack & Lisa as a couple was like Austin & McMahon joining forces. The only difference? SBTB gave up on Zack & Lisa after one episode, the WWF drug out Austin & McMahon for months.


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Opinion

Steve Cook’s Fave Five: April 2021

It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means…

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It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means.

It’s time to talk about my current five favorite wrestlers like I’m Booker T. Let’s break down the Fave Five!

5. Samoa Joe

I figure what happened between Samoa Joe & WWE was the following: WWE offered Joe an announcing contract since either they didn’t want to use him in the ring or their doctors wouldn’t clear him to wrestle. Joe looked at the contract, noticed the financial discrepancy, realized he could probably get NJPW to let him train young boys in California for that kind of money and said “thanks but no thanks”. Nothing else really makes sense to me.

Unfortunately, those who thought that WWE wouldn’t utilize Joe to their fullest potential were right. It wasn’t all WWE’s fault though. Joe had a lot of miles on his tires when he got there. Injuries are always more of a concern with larger wrestlers the older they get. And when Joe was healthy, he did get to do some good stuff and show people a glimpse of the Samoa Joe that people like me raved about back in the mid to late 2000s.

In any event, Joe got his WWE run. It was a thing that happened. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t wind up in AEW because he seems like the kind of guy Tony Khan would throw all the money at. Should be fun!

4. Kris Statlander

AEW does have a pretty insane number of factions right now. It risks the possibility of all of the groups blending together, with none of them really capturing the attention of fans. However, there are positive things about AEW’s faction warfare that shouldn’t be overlooked. It makes booking fresh matches to fill cards pretty easy. You can have groups facing off each week, but in different combinations that keep it fresh.

Another good thing: It can help us decide how we feel about characters that we might be on the fence about. Kris Statlander’s character was a topic of discussion from the moment she entered AEW. A lot of people weren’t sure how to take her. Wrestling aliens, or wrestlers who think they’re aliens, aren’t exactly common. Its the kind of thing that gets over in the indies, because those feds attract fans that are more willing to buy into unique concepts. Mainstream is a tougher sell.

Aligning Kris with the Best Friends makes sense to those in the know, since she came up working shows with them. It also helps people that don’t know about her figure out more. The Best Friends are a happy go lucky group that are the whitest of white meat babyfaces you’ll find in AEW, and that’s a good thing. They’re welcoming to people with unique personalities, as Orange Cassidy’s presence establishes. A friendly alien couldn’t ask for a better group to surround herself with, and from their appearances so far she seems like a perfect fit.

Add in the fact that the time on the shelf helped her get into better shape and refine her look & presence, and the sky’s the limit for Statlander. As long as she can stay in the ring, I’m expecting big things from her in 2021.

3. Tay Conti

Sometimes, all one needs is a change of scenery to approach their true potential. Tay spent a few years at the WWE Performance Center learning how to be a professional wrestler. During her time there, Tay never showed much in the way of potential. Even though she had a combat sports background and had the type of physical appearance that gets attention, Conti’s TV time was very limited and uneventful. She seemed like one of those wrestlers that was bound to stay in developmental until WWE gave up on them, then drop off the face of the earth without most wrestling fans noticing.

Tay’s story took a different route. She ended up being one of the cuts that AEW took an interest in, and was brought in for the Deadly Draw Women’s Tag Team Tournament. Her teaming with Anna Jay worked well on & off-camera, and she pretty much fit right in with the group immediately. She started training with Dustin Rhodes, and pretty much immediately started looking better in the ring & figuring out what worked for her. Now, she’s one of the people helping AEW’s women’s division go to a higher level.

This isn’t meant to denigrate WWE’s Performance Center or its methods. There just isn’t a wrestling training center out there that’s going to work for everybody. Tay had to find what worked for her. The people that recently got cut will have to do the same. Hopefully, the people that recently got signed by WWE will thrive in that environment.

2. Bianca Belair

We’ve recently seen three new Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella, all of whom are great in their own way. I’ve talked about Rhea Ripley before, she’s got unlimited potential and so far she’s done very well on the main roster. Raquel Gonzalez is doing very well on NXT and her push to the championship made perfect sense & got over. I do think the best of the title changes was Bianca’s defeat of Sasha Banks in the main event of WrestleMania Saturday. It was a special moment for Bianca, a very fun match to watch, and a great performance from both Bianca & Sasha Banks, who did everything she could to make Bianca in that match.

You see the video of the NXT segment up above, with the three current Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella celebrating together. Apparently there was a picture taken in 2019, and there were pictures taken after this week’s NXT, with Triple H making sure to get in there as he likes to do with all new champions. I’ve never really been a fan of that sort of thing, even the “Horsewomen” celebrations on previous NXT shows didn’t do much for me.

Besides the usual complaints people have about things like that, the thing that I didn’t like was how Rhea & Raquel came off. They were all smiling & happy like they were Big Daddy Cool Diesel after beating Mr. Bob Backlund in 1994. Completely against what Raquel has been up to this point, and what Rhea has been when she’s been at her best. Hopefully this is just a one-time thing for Rhea for the portion of the NXT audience that likes their lady wrestlers crying & happy after their performances, and hopefully it’s leading to Raquel getting dismembered by Dakota Kai, who can’t be happy about her heater winning the championship and then turning into Smilin’ Diesel.

Fortunately for Bianca, it does nothing to affect her character or our opinion of her. That’s why I think her title run will go best. I’m also putting her here because I’m pretty well convinced there isn’t a wrestling move or spot she can’t do well. Insanely talented, and the more experience she gets the better she’ll be.

1. Darby Allin

Sometimes you just want to watch something that’s stupid fun. Something that doesn’t need too much thought in order to enjoy it. Just people doing crazy things to entertain an audience. Darby Allin matches are just what you need when you’re looking for something like this. There isn’t anybody crazier in pro wrestling today than Darby, which is probably for the best. I’m convinced this kid has a death wish.

The one thing that kinda gets me about Darby sometimes is how he kicks out of everything. Poor Matt Hardy wasn’t going to beat that kid unless he shot him with a gun, and apparently there’s a metal detector at Daily’s Place. (Shoutout to Matt by the way, hell of an effort in that match.) But then I remember that Darby Allin is a daredevil and constantly posting videos online where he’s jumping off high places and doing crazy things. Obviously, it’s going to take a little more to beat a daredevil than your average pro wrestler.

What’s it going to take to beat Darby Allin? That’s a good reason to keep watching.


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Opinion

NXT Minus 6: About that Cole-O’Reilly match…

It was the Takeover match that held the most promise. Where did it go wrong? 

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It was the Takeover match that held the most promise. Where did it go wrong? 

Exclusive: Kyle O'Reilly is ready to renew his career-long rivalry with Adam Cole at NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver

6. I was jacked to 11 for Adam Cole versus Kyle O’Reilly. I was ready to give it a Tokyo Dome 6 stars. MOTY before the bell rang. A masterwork of storytelling. I correctly predicted it would be an unsanctioned match. Then the action started, and it quickly became “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.”

NXT TakeOver: New Orleans | WWE

5. After the first few acts of violence, it was apparent that the problem with the match would be the stipulation. The last NXT unsanctioned match was Johnny Gargano versus Tommaso Ciampa in 2018. That was 3 short years ago, but things move quickly in today’s world. There is very little chance an unsanctioned match can deliver the level of violence it promises as long as NXT is on the PG-13 Peacock.

The Most Brutal Spots from Adam Cole and Kyle O'Reilly's Insane Unsanctioned Match at NXT Takeover - EssentiallySports

4. Fans are losing their minds over all the content Peacock is leaving on the cutting floor. A lot of it was offensive and would never work today, but that’s not the point. The fact is there’s only so much violence Peacock’s parent company NBC will tolerate from wrestling. Take the chain, for example. Other than the clothesline, it was practically useless. O’Reilly tried to make it work, but it fell flat. In an unsanctioned match, 20 feet of heavy duty chain should be all you need to decimate another human being.

The B Word: Did Pro Wrestling's Blood Dry Up? | Ring the Damn Bell

3. Maybe I’m a victim of my own wrestling memory. An unsanctioned match in Memphis in the 80’s would have been a bloodbath. Someone would have been hung over the top rope with the chain around his neck. Whipped across the back. Hog tied. Someone would have wrapped it around their fist for a few stiff shots to their opponent’s forehead. But that goes back to my original point. None of that would fly today even if NXT was only on the WWE network.

5 Hilarious moments from this week's WWE programming

2. I’ll go so far as to say the only violent-promising stipulation that interests me is Falls Count Anywhere. There is zero drama in wrestlers pulling chairs from under the ring. The chance to use the naturally occurring environment as a weapon still holds a world of suspense. Someone is going through windows, walls, off the stage, over the guardrail, stuffed in a locker. Honestly, I’m tired of people getting hit in the stomach with folding chairs. Of all the ways to hit someone with a folding chair, that’s the least practical. 

WWE Announces Multiple Injuries At NXT New Year's Evil - WrestlingRumors.net

1. I’m sorry to say Kyle O’Reilly versus Adam Cole didn’t deliver what I expected. Maybe I’m in the minority. Maybe I don’t need over-the-top violence to entertain me. Maybe I don’t need wrestling to keep pushing the envelope. Five of my top 6 matches of 2021 are straight up wrestling matches. Maybe all I need is two (or three or four) strong characters and a good story. Damn, I sound old. 


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