Friday, April 27, 2007

On jacks, freeball and the WWO

Until I discovered rock music, all of my childhood imaginations involved sports. I would hit a ball against the wall and play out matches in the World Tennis League, a professional tennis competition divided along international lines. In the WTL, John McEnroe had defected to Canada and led the league in “jacks” – unreturnable serves that weren’t quite aces.

Other times, I’d pull out a piece of paper and write out the tournament bracket for the World Cup of Freeball. (I was, and still am, fascinated by tournament brackets.) Freeball began as a once-a-year competition between the United States and Japan, but it soon caught on in other places and eventually, the Irish, Italians, and yes, Canadians, were amongst the world’s top nations. Wales always posed a threat because of their terrific keeper, who stole more games than Dominik Hasek. I never quite knew how Freeball was played – I imagined it as a sort of cross between football, soccer, and rugby (yet it wasn’t Aussie Rules Football). Still, flipping through my dad’s atlas to pick out World Cup nations taught me a lot about geography.

Then there was my fixation on playing professional hockey – in Finland. Or pulling a hockey card out my collection to predict which NHL team I would be drafted by. (If I drew a team like the Hartford Whalers or the Buffalo Sabres, I’d usually have another go.) For a while, I used my hockey cards to develop an expansion NHL team – I’d lay the cards out on the floor, arranged by forward lines and defensive pairings. Then I would make trades with other, strangely generous general managers, to bring in better players.

This sporty imagination of mine reached its apex with the WWO, or the World Wrestling Organization. Unlike the WTL and Freeball, the WWO went beyond my mind. The WWO was, in fact, my first major writing project. And unlike my second major writing project, it no longer exists.

I began it in the sixth or seventh grade. To begin, I used all the boys in my class at St. Norbert’s elementary school as the basis for wrestlers. Stefano was Tank. Jonathan was John Rocker. Jimmy was Viper. Matthew was The Man in Black. Fernando was The Olive King (his own idea, actually.) I was Marco Marciano. Some of the girls acted as managers and often figured prominently in storylines.

Like the WWF and WCW, the WWO was built around a weekly television show (Wild Wednesday) that built up to a monthly pay-per-view. I also kept track of house shows (non-televised live events where nothing of importance to the story happens).

For every Wild Wednesday, I would write a match-by-match, interview-by-interview recap. I didn’t describe every move or write out the interview line-by-line, but dealt more in generalities. (“The Olive King came out for an interview and proceeded to insult Marco Marciano’s girl, Melinda, in his typically bizarre way. Marciano appeared with a steel chair and a brawl ensued.”)

The feud between Marco Marciano and The Olive King was one of the best and most brutal confrontations in WWO history. Olive King was based in large part on the WWF’s Mankind character, a sort of deranged madman with a propensity for extreme violence and unpredictable attacks. Marciano was a classic technical wrestler who was strong, tough, and very difficult to beat. (Marciano remained undefeated but I never gave him the title, or even a title shot.) Their long-running battle culminated at the World War III pay-per-view, in a bloody submission match, where Marciano managed to squeak out a victory.

My favourite storyline involved John Rocker, Viper and The Man in Black. Rocker and Viper were a successful face (good guys) tag team known as Hit ‘Em High. The Man in Black was a heel (bad guy) martial arts master who was rarely seen without his black baseball bat. The MIB somehow brainwashed Viper, who turned on his partner and became the almost unstoppable Punisher. This led to the formation of The Men in Black stable, which terrorized its opponents with n.W.o.-style, gang-like attacks. The Punisher destroyed Rocker in their brief follow-up feud, eventually took the World Heavyweight title from Tank and reigned as champion until the organization’s untimely demise. (Jimmy and Stefano, ie. Punisher and Tank, were the two biggest guys in my class. Like WWF/E promoter/owner/dictator Vince McMahon, I liked to push the monsters.)

The World War III pay-per-view was the WWO’s last. It involved a series of specialty matches, including the hockey arena battle between Ice Man (Matthew C.) and Beefy (Alan) and a subway match, perhaps my best wrestling idea ever. The subway match was an elimination contest involving fifteen competitors. It began inside the subway station, where the combatants would fight it out with various “foreign objects.” After ten minutes of this, the subway would arrive and the wrestlers had two minutes to get onto the train. The rest of the match would take place in the subway cars. Eliminations took place at each stop, where the wrestlers had one minute to throw their opponents onto the platform. I don’t remember who won.

The WWO came to an end one day, when I popped the disk I had it saved on into the drive, only to hear a strange, skipping noise. Nothing appeared on the screen. Having been trained on the original 8-bit Nintendo, I tried blowing on the disk, but to no avail. The WWO was lost forever.

Soon after, I began obsessively listening to a CD called Who’s Missing that my father had recently brought home. A whole new fantasy world opened up. The tennis racket became a guitar. The tournament brackets became album covers. And the WWO became Rock Is Dead – Long Live Rock. It was probably for the best.


Blogger clifford d said...

this post, actually, just blew my mind.

9:41 AM  
Blogger M-C said...

good to know I'm not the only one who creates comprehensive imaginary characters and alternative lives.

For me the story's came to life with the help of G.I Joe action figures. I also completed four years of University at the Ohio State where I was a star corner back, then played in the NFL while sitting through church sermons.

5:36 PM  
Blogger Leaf said...

I agree on the imaginary lives thing, I'm glad. Can you do sex drugs rock n roll week next?

8:43 PM  
Blogger Marco Ursi said...

That is indeed the plan...but I'm not sure how Carley would feel about the sex part, or how my parents would feel about the drugs part, but rock and roll, no problem.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Hello, my name is Jonathan, and apparently, I was the inspiration for John Rocker. This article definately caused me to recollect some of the "glory" days in the tiny playground of St. Norberts. These character's all personified the actual students and our over stimulated imagination. The "Olive King" (Fernando) used to openly invision an army of green, pitted olives, and was very possesive of the olives he brought to class. The best part of our series of stories, which were many, was that we would reinact them on the playground. I think the Subway series sort of took place in the snow, with large snowbanks created to resemble a ring. All the classic WWF moves were carelessly reinacted and our hard Italian-Canadian heads always smashed into something hard by the end of recess. The winner, was usually "Tank," Stefano, who is now a large customs officer at Pearson International (say hello if you run into him), would easily toss the smaller guys like Marco and I, over the bank with ease. He aspires to put his size to good use as an RCMP officer someday. Good times for sure, thanks for the reminding me Marco.

8:01 AM  

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