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  1. #1
    Administrator Prime Time's Avatar
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    May 2018

    Castaway - with Samuel 'Plan (1/2)

    Picture the scene: you are shipwrecked or marooned on a small desert island, leaving behind all of the art and entertainment that you know and love. You are cast away with nothing but your memories for company.

    Now, imagine that you could prepare for such an event, carrying with you just a small number of things as keepsakes. These would be the only things youíd be able to have for the rest of your life. Under those conditions, and knowing that theyíd be the only things you could have for the rest of your life, what would you nominate to save?

    That is the premise of the British radio show, Desert Island Discs. First broadcast in the Second World War, the show asks people to choose the pieces of music that theyíd want to have with them in the unlikely event they were ever cut off from the rest of the world. The show has become something of a cult classic, with film stars, sports stars, writers, royals, politicians all featuring in the thousands of people dubbed Ďcastawaysí.

    But this got me thinking - what if that happened to one of us? When push comes to shove, what wrestling matches would some of the most prominent names in Lords of Pain writing history want to have with them on a desert island?

    With that in mind, weíll be following the lines of the classic BBC show, but pieces of music will be replaced with wrestling matches. The show also allowed for a book (in addition to an appropriate religious text and the Complete Works of Shakespeare), so weíll also be asking our castaways to nominate a wrestling-related book that they can take to the island. Finally, the castaway was allowed to take a Ďluxury itemí with them. Iím going to interpret that as our castaway being afforded the chance to take a piece of wrestling memorabilia. Weíll interpret that pretty broadly, so long as it doesnít come across as an attempt to take more matches, or books, than the allowance.

    Thatís enough of the rules of the thing, because frankly the whole purpose is conversation. Iíve spoken by myself for far too long. Joining me for this first outing, our initial castaway if you will, is one of the finest columnists of his generation and a genuine leader both on the LoP main page and here in the forum. Itís my very great pleasure to introduce Samuel ĎPlan: welcome!

    Itís a genuine pleasure to be here! Iím not lying when I say that I have long wished for a pro wrestling version of Desert Island Discs to come to LOP in some form, and have in the past thought of trying to host one myself. I just never got around to it. So Iím delighted to take part, and flattered Iím the first guy you asked.

    If I can blow my own horn, one of the reasons that I think asking you to be my castaway is so incredibly inspired is that with the Ď101 matchesí you showed a real ability to think outside of the box, and to try and find things in wrestling matches that people donít always see. With that in mind, I can see the eight matches you come up with being not only well thought out, but a potentially very interesting selection. So whatís the first match youíd take?

    Well thatís quite the compliment, thank you.

    I thought about leaving this first pick until very last, but itís so painfully obvious a choice to anybody who was paying attention before the board reset that I see no point in hanging onto it. You always knew that Seth Rollins vs. Triple H at WrestleMania 33 was going to be among my eight.

    Iíve seen it now several times over and it never fails to stun me whenever I revisit it. I know a lot of people are perhaps still underwhelmed by it, and I think thatís because Rollins - while one of, if not the best performer in the world today - isnít always the most Ďfashionableí in the ring. He loves a slow-burn as much as the greats of yesteryear, and that means a contingent of modern fans find his work going in one ear and out the other, so to speak. And thatís cool man, each to their own. The quality of it (which I personally maintain is massively high) isnít why Iíve picked it anyway.

    Thatís one thing I wanted to ask about. Youíve been associated with a few different wrestlers over the years but the personal connection with Seth Rollins seems to be at a whole other level, wouldnít you say?

    Totally, and itís taken me sort of by surprise in a way. I thought the Hitman was always going to be my guy. But Rollins came along and did exactly what he promised to do in his first FCW promo, as far as Iím concerned: changed everything I thought I knew about the business and about myself! And what started as admiration has become something much more powerful.

    To that end, anyone who was around before the reset and, specifically, during the CSI Final is likely to know why Iíve picked this first match. Rollinsí arc, and the story this match culminated in particular, is a genuine inspiration to me in the really real world, and I mean that; Iím not just using grandiose rhetoric. It inspired me to come out in public for the first time several months ago and, while my sexuality was no secret to those closest to me for some years, the feeling was still a massively liberating one. Itís funny, this column is supposed to be a bit of a fantasy right? But for longer than I can remember I lived what felt like a life of isolation on a desert island, surrounded by people that loved me but, through my own struggles, feeling like they were in a world I couldnít be a part of. I was alone. That this match, that Rollinsí story has helped me to begin the process of breaking down the final barrier that caused that isolation demonstrates its value to me.

    It continues to inspire me to fight every day to try and be the best version of myself I possibly can be. Rollins is my role model, and this match is not the only example of why but is certainly the most important in my life right now. It inspires me not to surrender hope and to, instead, remember that though misfortune isnít always self-made, it is the effort to overcome it that absolutely is. It strikes me that such a thing couldnít be more valuable when youíre stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life.

    It seems to me that if weíre talking about narrowing down the entirety of wrestling to just eight matches, then itís more likely than not that a personal connection is going to have something to do with the choices we make. I mean, generally speaking there are going to be more than eight matches every single year that we like. Sometimes there might even be eight matches a week. So when youíre talking about decades worth of matches, I donít see how you can go about cutting it down without those kinds of personal touches. Would you say that thereís something similar going on in your second choice, or is my theory immediately way off base?!

    Most definitely. People are probably going to roll their eyes when I reveal this one, and I promise this isnít just a list of eight Seth Rollins matches! This second pick is a part of the same story arc Iíve already written about and itís only a few months old, but itís a match that I can relate to a great deal. Itís not that it has the same emotive weight as the ĎMania 33 bout has in my life, but itís certainly a match that represents a heightened and vicariously fantastical version of my own.

    I only have a few people in my life I would consider to be proper friends. I can count them on one hand in fact. Among those, my closest friend is like a literal brother to me. Weíre in no way related, but thatís how close weíve become. And the basis for that friendship has been WWE, and the shared emotional experiences of having seen so many of its events in the last ten years together as they happened in one of our front rooms. In fact our friendship is a testament to how pro wrestling can bring people together - we knew each other for a long time through school, but only when we found out we were both big wrestling nerds did our worlds apart come together.

    So Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose vs. The Bar for the Monday Night Raw (MNR) Tag Team Championships at Summerslam 2017 has to be on my list. Their story - and that of The Shield - has been a major cornerstone in the friendship Iím talking about, which means that watching the fractious relationship between Rollins and Ambrose evolve and change over the years takes on another level for me; their latest chapter, of reunion and forgiveness and love trumping hate, I guess is the most pertinent. Itíd be a nice reminder of someone that means a lot in my life, and why it is Iíve got pro wrestling to get me through my exile on this desert island in the first place!

    Plus, it helps that itís an absolutely kick-ass match.

    What I love about that selection is that it shows how a personal resonance can raise something to a whole other level. I mean, letís be honest, this is not a generation in which tag wrestling is considered Ďgoldení, nor do tag matches and titles get the important treatment that they got in, say, the 1980s. And yet thereís something about it that means it has a whole other afterlife. Anyway, letís move on to your third match.

    Well, quite, and I donít think itís a coincidence that those rightly critically acclaimed matches between the Hounds and the Bar had, at least to me, a certain 1980s vibe to them.

    Match number three breaks from the Rollins trend, but sticks with what I was talking about with match two - being that friendship. Itís actually the main event of the first show I watched live in almost ten years, in fact, and the first my best mate and I watched together despite being apart at separate Universities (remember MSN Messenger?!). Itís also a favourite match of mine, from a pay-per-view that has played a more important and recurrent part in my life as a WWE fan than perhaps any other.

    The 2009 Royal Rumble Match is a piece of work I could watch an infinite number of times and never once get bored of. I have seriously fond memories of how fun it was watching it on the night it happened, but every time I have re-visited it since - which has been many - I have never once found myself loving it any less. More than any other match of its kind, it maximises its use of minutes and of ring space. There are countless set pieces in a sea of wrestlers, from the beginning right through to a wonderfully character-imbued final six that still has me gurning like a moron when I watch it. The number of iron man performances is remarkable, and all of them look totally effortless.

    I could gush at length. Itís my favourite ever Rumble. Itís a match I have a strong personal connection to again, but itís also just a hell of a riot to watch back. Itís an hour long, which means it passes the time nicely while Iím stranded, has amazing rewatch value and is just pure, solid, unfiltered entertainment; and as much as I believe in the transcendent capabilities of pro wrestling (which you can read all about in my book 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die, available to buy on Amazon!) sometimes pure entertainment is all you need.

    Yíknow, this probably wouldnít ever make my list of eight if I was doing it, but itís an important match for me too in many ways. Itís both the first match I saw from my time away from the WWE that made me think that Iíd missed something worth seeing. Perhaps more importantly, to me it represents the last hurrah of the Royal Rumble before it became essentially a parody of itself, a self-referential nightmare. So while Iíve got a lot of love for matches from the 1990s thatíd trump it in my book, I do really get the love for this one. And I understand taking a Rumble match, too, as a completely distinct affair. Does match four have a similar representative aspect to it?

    It absolutely does, depending on how you might periodise WWE. I would class this as the final pay-per-view main event of the New Generation Era, but some might think that Ďaccoladeí as having been dated a little too soon.

    I know weíve certainly had this conversation before!

    Indeed! But whether you do or donít, the point is that it demonstrates the best of the New Generation Era - pointed storytelling, tremendously developed character - with the best of the Attitude Era - high octane violence, explosive intonation. In that sense, itís representative of what I believe to be the strongest creative period ever in WWE.

    Itís the Final Four Match from In Your House: Final Four, which pitted Bret Hart, Undertaker, Vader and Steve Austin against each other for Shawn Michaelsí recently-vacated WWF Championship, a month before WrestleMania 13 in 1997. If there is any match in WWE history I believe is most deserving of more love than it ever gets, this would be the one. Itís unique, in that it plays off of its Royal Rumble Match prologue by allowing elimination not only through pin fall and submission but also by being thrown over the top rope - and thatís exactly how every elimination takes place! Maybe itís the shadow of the Rumble that makes it appeal to me.

    But itís more likely the fact that this was the first pay-per-view I ever owned a copy of, and as a kid I played that VHS to death! Thereís a reason why. The match itself is a riot, almost quite literally. Vader gets his eye torn open. Austin wrestles with palpable vitriol. By the time it comes down to the final two, the building literally shakes with the noise of the crowd response! Really, my words canít do it any justice. Itís a hell of an experience, and one I thoroughly recommend. Not only does it remind me of some of the fondest memories from my childhood (important, I think, on a desert island!) but itís another match with, I believe, infinite re-watch value.

    Bret Hart wins too. And if Iíve got no mates on this bloody island youíve marooned me on, you know full well Iím loading this list up with Seth and Bret both!

    Now youíre dealing with a period that you know Iíve got the same kind of love for! This is a tremendous match, and with a very small number of exceptions it is really one of the only multi-man title matches that Iíve really ever genuinely loved. And as weíve discussed previously, it has that interesting sensation of being on the cusp of two different eras, crossing a divide in the span of what happens between the ropes. But letís take a moment to move away from matches and move to your choice of book. Thereís obviously a far more limited selection out there as publishing about wrestling really didnít seem to be much of a thing between the end of kayfabe and the Attitude Era, but did you find that made it an easier decision?

    Iím going to be totally honest with you Prime; Iím not the most well-read wrestling fan in the world. I donít get much time to read anything, and the amount of wrestling literature Iíve digested over the years has been minimal. Some of that is because Iíd sooner read fiction than non-fiction, but some of it is because, as a WWE guy, pickings are slim if you donít want to read some WWE-sponsored half-truths. Given that they are indisputably a shameless peddler of self-aggrandising propaganda, I have no desire to read any book with WWEís stamp on it, honestly.

    This all means that there was only ever really going to be one, unfortunately quite obvious book for me to pick: Hitman, Bret Hartís autobiography.

    Even though itís a choice made out of necessity really, I donít think it is, by any means, a bad one. Hitman is a remarkable read, in both its scope and in its spiky, brutal honesty. There is a certain pinch of salt you have to take when it comes to Hartís claims, because they can begin to contradict both one another and, at worst, established fact, with uncomfortable frequency. But the intention in Hitman is unmistakable: itís intended to be as much a confessional as it is anything else.

    The thing I always tended to take away from it was that his memory wasnít always accurate, but there was at least an intention to talk straight with the reader in that one. Plus, you get a lot more to the pound by taking that book than some of the more slender autobiographies.

    The depth he goes into is breath-taking, and some of the stories he relays make it abundantly clear that his life has not been a particularly easy one. Thatís a reason why I get a little irate at those who decide to gripe about his disposition. Heís an easy target, but as one of my fictional heroes Atticus Finch once claimed, you have to walk in another manís skin before you can understand him; Hitman allows you to do just that and, by rights, should lead to a little self-reflection of your own.

    More than any of this, though, I think the book speaks to the very visceral truth of the human experience. It traces his life almost through Shakespeareís seven stages, and that sense of universality and of overcoming a mountain of personal adversities - all of it recorded warts and all - makes it, I reckon, a perfect read for a deserted scenario. Thereís something admirable about how Hitman was composed, and something relatable about it, even though itís filled with anecdotes of situations in life most of us will never come close to experiencing (in some instances, quite luckily, it should be said).

    Castaway with Samuel ĎPlan will continue in Part 2, coming soon to the CF!

    "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

  2. #2
    Member #25 SirSam's Avatar
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    May 2018
    Wow this was a really enjoyable read. It actually felt like I was reading the transcript to the very BBC radio show you are emulating, very conversational and I loved the back and forth.

    A few things in relation to the matches.

    The intertwining story of Dean and Seth has really been a constant presence in my fandom since I came back to wrestling at the climax of the Yes Movement. Their pending reunion was the reason I changed from writing about cycling to wrestling so that Summerslam match means a fair bit to me too. While I would say the No Mercy match was my favourite, emotionally it is hard to go past the joy at seeing them back together after so much bad blood.

    Funnily enough the 2009 Rumble card was the first that I ever watched in full, having sourced it by less than legal methods and that 09 Rumble is a really fun match. It is probably the peak of Orton's character before the less than great match at Mania 25 and endless summer of Cena matches. In that match though, barking orders at Legacy and exploding with ferocity when needed, he lived up to the hype the WWE have built around his prodigious talent.

    Also it is cool that you have a friend who you can watch wrestling with. For me it has always been a solo endeavour and when I watch it with others outside of a live crowd setting I find myself falling into defending it and making jokes at it instead of leaning into the experience. Even one of my best friends who actually wrestles feels kind of awkward because it feels like I can't really say anything without deferring to his real life in ring experience. It is possible it's all an expression of my own insecurities but watching it with a mate that gets it and you're on level pegging with must be pretty cool.

    Anyway really great read, looking forward to the future iterations of this.
    Last edited by SirSam; 05-28-2018 at 09:38 AM.


  3. #3
    People either love me, hate me, or they don't care CanadianCrippler's Avatar
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    May 2018
    Tavistock, Ontario
    SirSam perfectly summarized that it felt like reading a transcript, this was really great work you guys. I especially like the concept since the aspirations are foreign to me. Sorry but I'm too distracted to contribute in the discussion at the moment however I really do like the concept and I think for the amount of effort you guys probably put into this, it's worth doing a sequel of or just getting it off the ground and onto your podcasts Plan.

  4. #4
    The Brain
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    May 2018
    Love this idea, and think it'll be a rich series. Already enjoying it a lot! I don't connect with Rollins the way 'Plan does but it's awesome to hear him talk more about how the guy has affected not just his fandom, but his real life as well. I love the '09 Rumble and the '97 Four Way match too, so very well chosen so far in my book!

  5. #5
    Senior Member 205 Clive's Avatar
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    May 2018
    When I first started reading this, and also being a podcast junkie, I thought this kind if discussion would be better suited to LOP Radio (maybe it still could be), but I think reading this in transcript form is a great break from both norms; those being the podcast discussion and a monologue column. Mishmashing the 2 offers us a real uniqueness that sets it apart not just in these forums, but in so much wrestling based reading material our there. Hats off to you both for this one.

    Like 'Plan, I'd rather read fiction any day of the week. But my brother gifted me Bret Hart's book for my birthday. So funnily enough, itst the book I'll be reading next!!

  6. #6
    Administrator Prime Time's Avatar
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    May 2018
    Sam - Thanks, my friend. I won't touch too much on the matches because they're 'Plan's choices rather than my own, but I appreciate the kind words here am grateful to you for them.

    CC - Thank you kindly - but don't tell 'Plan to nick my idea for his podcasts, I've only just started!

    MF - I'm a big fan of those two matches as well (the 1997 one in particular you won't be surprised to hear) so maybe this is another example where we find we agree more than we think, eh? Glad you enjoyed the format, thanks for the kind feedback.

    Clive - perhaps it would be better on radio, given the format and the source material... but I'm a writer, through and through, so I'm going to do it this way. Thanks for the kind words here - and enjoy Bret's book, it's definitely one of the finer wrestling biographies out there for it's honesty.

    Now for the F2F on part 2....

    "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

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