Real Heat

by Bruce Mitchell

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Anderson Brothers Website

Originally published as:

VIP - Mitchell's Memo: Lesnar Brings Back Real Heat (#1097) By Bruce Mitchell, PWTorch senior columnist Jul 16, 2009


Published on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway with the expressed consent of the author.


This big cement-headed Swede comes out of the snow-blown wilds of Minnesota. He's bigger, badder, and thicker than all the rest, (it doesn't seem quite fair) and he clearly knows it. He refuses to work his way up from the bottom - mostly because he doesn't have to. He's sporting championship gold way too early for either the fans or the other fighters.

Worst than that, he's got a big mouth. He's good, he knows it, and he loves telling you all about it. I mean, it's bad enough he'll grind you into the mat and black your eye, but this guy is a jerk about it besides.

This big bully will look directly in the camera and intensely tell you he's tougher than you are and dare you to do something about it. You're furious at his nerve and a little scared of him at the same time.

Don't quite believe him? Think he's a fake? He'll prove himself to you personally. He brazenly invites any tough guy - truck driver, barroom brawler, whatever, just as long as you think you're tough - to come down and try him on for size.

It's not just talk either. Go down to the coliseum on a Monday night, give the man a couple of hundred bucks to train you to be a fighter, and he'll slap a sugar hold on you and put you out, then laugh at you when you come to and run away (without your money.)

When it comes time for the big show you buy a ticket, because you want to be there to see it when he gets his, because there's a good chance that big mouth is finally going to get shut once and for all. Hell, he's got to be a fake, nobody can be as good as he keeps saying he is.

Damnit, he grinds up his opponent again, week after week, month after month, and year after year.

Finally, one spring night 33 years ago (on May 24th, 1976) this old man at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium has had enough of Ole Anderson and his infuriatingly big mouth. He takes a hawkbill knife and slices Anderson deep across his arm and chest, almost killing him.

See, here's the thing. As good as today's top WWE bad guys (Edge, Randy Orton, and Chris Jericho) are at the modern art of heeling, fans react to them in a very different way as the fans did to the top villains decades back. The great majority of fans today first acknowledge an act like Jericho is performing, then make a conscious decision whether to buy into rooting against him. As soon as the heel is off the screen, they're anticipating the next entertaining segment.

Decades ago, the vast majority of wrestling fans listened and looked at Ole Anderson, and "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers, and "Cowboy" Bill Watts, and "Professor" Boris Malenko, and John Tolos, and reacted with visceral, immediate rage. They believed they were loud mouth jerks who deserved the beating that clearly was coming. Fans didn't think about performances, they just reacted to the arrogance, cheating, and cruelty of Anderson and his ilk.

The world moves on, for better and worse. In many ways, the likes of Jericho and Edge have a bigger mountain to climb to get a money-making reaction from fans. In other ways, they have many more tools at their disposal to do so. That's life.

Saturday night (July 11, 2009), at the biggest pro wrestling show of this and many other years, Brock Lesnar brought back that Ole Anderson-style old-time heat. The majority of fans at UFC 100 weren't waiting for their "entertainment," they simply wanted the fake wrestler to get his clock cleaned. They chanted "Stand them up!" at the referee in the first round because Lesnar had Frank Mir smashed up against the mat and was punching his face in - they didn't get care doing so would be against the intent of the rule, which is meant to be invoked in order to keep the action going.

They hated it even more when Lesnar won, and Lesnar played that hatred like an Iowa fiddle in his now-infamous post match promo. (It's a good thing Lesnar didn't smash an unconscious Mir with a crushing punch to the head, the way the respected Dan Henderson did to another loudmouth, Michael Bisping, earlier in the night. There might have been a riot.)

Lesnar played against the fans' rage with glee after the fight, just like Ole Anderson did back in the old days. It worked today like it worked back then, because fans know it's a real fight and god, he's such a prick. The sports media, the talk show babblers, all fell over themselves Monday trying to figure out what it all means. (It means UFC has a real money-drawing heel.)

Some reacted with the same visceral fury as the fans. Kevin Blackstone on ESPN's "Pardon The Interruption" blew up at the comparison between what Lesnar did and what Muhammad Ali did in his hey-day, forgetting Ali changed American culture forever with his heels promos. (Don't believe that beloved icon stuff, most of mainstream America hated Ali in the '60s and early-'70s.)

Lesnar (and UFC) benefits from his contrast with respected heroes like George St. Pierre, Randy Couture, and Dan Henderson, just like Ole Anderson benefited from his attitude being compared to those of Paul Jones, Wahoo McDaniels, Rufus R. Jones, and Dusty Rhodes. (The act doesn't work if too many, as happens in WWE, play heel.)

Don't get me wrong. Ole Anderson really was a loud mouth jerk. So is Brock Lesnar. Both learned how to amp up that side of their personality to draw money from fans who want to pick sides when they see a fight.

When Paul Jones & Wahoo McDaniel finally beat Ole & Gene Anderson after facing them again and again in all those towns week after week, their team was made. The next big star in UFC might well be the guy who shuts Brock Lesnar's big mouth and takes his UFC Heavyweight Championship. The place will come unglued at that.

The funny thing is, not too long after that (and as long as he wins again - this is America after all) Brock Lesnar will be the biggest hero in UFC, instead of the biggest villain, because there's nothing better than when the big mouth bully is finally on your side.

That's pro wrestling, too.

Oh, and Ole Anderson?

Less than 48 hours after that near-fatal attack, barely held together by dozens and dozens of stitches, Ole Anderson returned to the WRAL TV studio ring. He may have lost his share of matches, and pissed-off fans paid good money for years just for the opportunity to have the chance to see him do so, but no one ever shut his mouth.


Copyright 2009 Bruce Mitchell. All rights reserved.

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