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Free WWE Pitch #3: Ronda Rousey


Free WWE Pitch #3: Ronda Rousey

BOOM! That's right. Ronda Rousey.

Rousey has already become the most recognizable MMA fighter in the world. Her professional record at the time of this writing is 12-1. She has never won without submitting or knocking out her opponent. And of her 12 wins, only one of them took her more than one round to achieve. She is a powerful fighter. She makes her living trying to hurt people until they beg her to stop. If that's not a listed definition for the word "badass" on Urban Dictionary, it should be.

The WWE has a successful history of employing people from "real" sports. Ken Shamrock was an accomplished MMA fighter. He was one of the earliest UFC fighters who helped put the sport on fight fans' radars. UFC Hall-of-Famer Dan Severn, another early adopter of the sport who actually beat Shamrock at one point, made the jump to pro wrestling in the late 90s. And then of course there's WWE's current "Beast Incarnate," Brock Lesnar, who just happens to be one of the most frightening people ever constructed by nature.

These guys made the leap from taking severe and more importantly intended punishment in their MMA bouts to taking bumps and doing flips in the ring with people who were specifically working with them and trying their damndest not to hurt them. To say that wrestling is safer isn't necessarily true (just ask Daniel Bryan). But at least the objective in each WWE "fight" isn't actually to fight. The objective is to put on a good show. No one is expected to win because of their talents as fighters. The true job of a pro wrestler is to pretend that it hurts. Actual injuries are due to error and accident only.

Rousey is young. The career of an MMA fighter can only be so long before losses outnumber wins and wins become physically too difficult to achieve. And concussions are becoming an increasing concern for fighters. Controversy aside, it just makes sense for a fighter to work on ensuring a future free from the debilitations of repeated head trauma. Rousey's so damn marketable, she can spend her days post-UFC still in the limelight using her various other talents. But doing commentary, writing books, giving speeches, etc. becomes less of a possibility if her eggs are scrambled.

Again, I'm not implying that concussions and injuries aren't possible in the WWE; but I can guarantee that they are far less likely for one particular wrestler: Brock Lesnar. We're talking about a guy who doesn't get out of bed for a Monday Night RAW unless it's right before, or right after, a Pay-Per-View event. Brock can get away with only doing a few months of actual work per year because he was in a position to negotiate for such a sweet deal. And what put him in that position? The large audience of UFC fans who couldn't get enough of this behemoth of a bruiser. I think Rousey could negotiate an even better deal. 

I mean, have you seen her lately? Sports Illustrated front cover. Maxim, ESPN Magazine, Rolling Stone, Esquire. The list goes on, and the fans eat it up. The camera loves her, and she is not afraid to speak her mind. If her body wasn't grabbing enough attention, her opinions are. And whether you agree with her or not about mental health, gay rights, etc., she's not going to stop speaking out anytime soon. Apparently she likes Pokemon and Dragonball Z, and her particular nerdiness makes her even more appealing, especially to wrestling fans, who often overlap with anime nerds in Venn diagrams I could make if I felt like it.

I felt like it.

I felt like it.

And then of course there's her budding film career. Expendables 3, Fast 7, Entourage, and apparently Roadhouse?! The videocamera loves her, too, and I suspect she'll be in movies and TV shows for years to come, regardless of her professional MMA career. 

So why add wrestling to this mix if she already has so much going on? Apparently she likes it, since she attended Wrestlemania 2015 and jumped into the action long enough to lay the smackdown on Stephanie McMahon. Plus, she could get away with doing it only a month or two per year and still make money from it. Aforementioned crossover fans would eat it up. Additionally, she could still engage in active combat instead of relegating herself to "she used to be great" status too early (and she wouldn't have to trade hard blows to do it). 

The WWE would be good for her image. She could maintain herself as a badass by throwing down in the ring but also have the opportunity to develop a personality. Let her make up some hardcore finishing move. Let her come up with a slogan to shout when she puts her signature submission lock on someone. These repeatable words and actions will wiggle themselves into our collective cultural consciousness, along with Rousey herself, and stay there.

But here's the real opportunity: Rousey can command a serious shakeup within the WWE. National attention would shift to the WWE for getting Rousey on board. What to do with that spotlight? So glad I made you ask.

Wrestlemania 32. Kalisto is going to defend the United States Championship. Who will he be up against? It doesn't matter, because at the last minute, that person is going to be kayfabe injured. This will happen right before the match begins. And who will come out to fight for the title? Rowdy. Ronda. Rousey. And she'll win.

Yes, she'll come out and immediately take a title from the men's division. It will be a long, difficult match, not just a celebrity grab. After it's over, she and Kalisto will shake hands. There will be mutual respect. Then, the title, and a mic, will be handed to Rousey. Ideally, she will thank Kalisto for a good match in English and in Spanish (because that's the ultimate sign of respect, and he deserves it). Then she will look at the title, contemplate it for a moment, and say, "This works, for now."

For now. Because she'll have her eyes on a bigger prize. Wrestlemania will continue. Rousey will be shown watching the Divas Championship match, but won't betray any particular reaction.

She'll also watch the Dean Ambrose/Brock Lesnar fight, creating this idea of a connection between Rousey and Lesnar. Part of what makes Lesnar such an imposing figure in the WWE is the fact that he used to punch people in the face for real. Lesnar will always be taken just a little more seriously than anyone on the rest of the roster because of this. Rousey will have to be viewed in the same way. Rousey watching Lesnar's fight will almost make them seem like old friends from The War, as though they were in The Sh*t together. This creates a possibility of some future storyline between them. (Not implying that MMA fighting is in any way as important as serving in real combat. That's just the type of narrative I'm pitching.)

One of the most controversial bouts in the upcoming Wrestlemania will undoubtedly be Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker. Old Guard and New Guard will clash for control of the company. What this actually means, I am unsure. I'm guessing it's just a storyline. I'm guessing it's a good way for the Undertaker to make his exit, if that's what he wants to do. But my pitch is a bit different.

Taker. Shane. The future of WWE on the line. Generally speaking, The Undertaker doesn't lose. But in this case, he's representing Vince McMahon, and Vince McMahon is the guy who still thinks the WWE is a children's program. He still thinks buffer is better. He still thinks wrestlers are "superstars." He still thinks black people aren't good enough to be Heavyweight Champion (unless they are Samoan and black). He still thinks Foreigners vs. Americans is an appropriate storyline. He still thinks he can tell us who to like. He's got to go. It's only due to the codependence of the fans that the company stays afloat. If we weren't all a little masochistic, we wouldn't put up with this lack of quality. Shane McMahon must save us from ourselves.

But The Undertaker is The Undertaker. Shane won't win easily. In fact, he won't win on his own. Just as he's about to hear the third count on the pin Taker's got him in, a surprise disruption from Ronda Rousey. That's right. Since they'll be in Texas, Steve Austin could be in on it, too, but Rousey will be the only debuting wrestler to actively disrupt a match against her new boss. She'll jump in and knock Taker off Shane and maybe she and Stone Cold can pummel Taker enough for Shane to squeeze in a pin on him.

After "control" of the company goes to Shane McMahon, he will say something to the effect of, "I'm not the only one here who thinks it's time for things to change." Rousey and Shane McMahon can hold each other's hands up, signaling the start of a new regime. (The result of Reigns vs. Triple H is sort of a moot point in this scenario, but if Roman lost, it could be a true indicator of the company's willingness to change.)

This will be one of the most explosive debuts in WWE history. Rousey's addition to the roster could be the catalyst for the company finally joining the 21st century. (This is a free pitch for a reason. WWE's history suggests they have no balls, and their enslaving contract with Mattel almost guarantees they won't want to upset that deeply troubling relationship.)

I don't believe that a pink butterfly belt is good enough for Ronda Rousey. I don't think the UFC Bantamweight Champion, a real title given by a real martial arts organization, can be followed up by the "Divas" Championship. It would seem like a joke. So after Wrestlemania, Rousey will have a few regular matches as United States Champion, but then Shane McMahon will ask her to change up the women's division. Yes, I said, "the women's division." Because Rousey's presence there will mean that it has to start functioning like a women's division again.

"Diva" is an insulting term. The WWE have done a great job of branding their female wrestlers as "divas" both in the ring and on their E! reality show Total Divas. From a marketing standpoint, I can completely understand why they want this consistency. But participation in Total Divas seems to be optional for the members of the WWE roster. Not everyone who shows up on RAW or Smackdown makes an appearance on Total Divas. At its heart, Total Divas is not a wrestling show. Smackdown, RAW, and all 12 of the Pay-Per-Views, are wrestling shows. 

And Rousey is no diva. Rousey is a serious competitor. With all her endorsements and multi-media cameos, I very much doubt she'd agree to be part of that awful "reality" show. Chances are, if anything, she's got one of her own in the works already. For the WWE to get Rousey, I think they'd have to squash any dreams they might have of controlling her image outside the ring. I think they'd have to squash the Divas Championship, too.

If the WWE is serious about their so-called "Divas Revolution," who better than to lead the charge than the most powerful woman in sports? But under Rousey, it wouldn't be a "Divas Revolution" anymore. It would be so much more important than that. It would have to be. Rousey demands respect in the world of sports, and she therefore can command respect from the WWE and their fans. (By the way, I refuse to call them the "WWE Universe." The fans have the right to decide how they designate themselves.)

So eventually Rousey will have to go after the Divas belt, and this could be a real "clash of Titans" scenario between her and Charlotte. Or, it could be the start of a really cool feud between Rousey and Sasha Banks (somewhat like the current feud between "The Beast" and the smack-talking and charismatic Dean Ambrose). Either way, Rousey will win the belt after a 30-minute Iron Man match. No one ever sees Rousey fight for an extended period of time, so that would be a draw. And we all know that Banks can deliver on that front. Save it for a Pay-Per-View, and it will get record numbers.

Also in attendance will be all of the "divas." Every single one. When she wins, she'll pull an Alundra Blayze, but instead of throwing that awful pink belt in the trash, she'll cut it into pieces and toss the pieces at all the female wrestlers present. "Here's a piece of the past for each of you. The past is now over. This is the Women's Division again. This is the Women's Division forever."

The following week, a new belt will be created. A real belt. A Women's Championship belt. Rousey won't take it. Instead, she will decree (with the power vested in her by Shane McMahon) that a match be held for it. What kind of match? The rare pearl: a Women's Ladder Match. Who will win? Not Rousey. She won't even compete. She'll probably go make a movie at this point. But she'll say, "I'll be back." And she will. After those initial few months are over, she'll drop to a Brock Lesnar-style schedule. 

And in her absence, newer, better storylines for the women's division will be implemented. No more squabbling. If that sort of thing continues anywhere, it'll be on Total Divas only. Because there are more female wrestling fans now than ever. They need heroes. Bayley can't hold it all on her shoulders alone. And until they bump her up the main roster, she'll still be only a positive role model in NXT. And although the male fans of NXT appreciate women's wrestling, there's a lot of men who only watch the main roster. They need to learn to take these women seriously. If there's one woman you have to take seriously, it's Rowdy Ronda Rousey.


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The Six Phases of a Big Project

Last night as my Production Designer and I were tooling around Rutherford location scouting some of his old haunts, he mentioned the "Six Phases of a Big Project," a humorous list I only vaguely recalled. He slipped it in, I suppose, as a gesture of solidarity as I enter the final week before the first day of shooting a music video for the band Tigerman.

In case, dear reader, you are unfamiliar, the phases are as follows:

1. Enthusiasm

2. Disillusionment

3. Panic / Hysteria

4. Hunt for the Guilty

5. Punishment of the Innocent

6. Reward for the Uninvolved

Any good system with phases can and must exist within, without, or mutually exclusively to other systems or other sets of phases. The phases of the moon have to do with the rotation of two celestial bodies which exist within the larger rotation of other celestial bodies around the sun, and the sun functions within a larger galaxy of other solar systems, which functions within the larger system of the universe, etc. (Pardon the scope. My need to ground my peanut existence within the larger cosmos and some unknown "grand scheme," much like the universe itself, is ever expanding.)

One can compare two systems to see which overlap, as a bored kid in a school library draws Venn diagrams. Here are the generally accepted phases of the creation of a film, short, feature or otherwise:

1. Development

2. Pre-production

3. Production

4. Post-production

5. Distribution

Forgive my incredibly rushed Photoshoppitry, but here's how I believe these two sets of phases overlap:

Development is the most fun. The project is like a rolling plain stretching out in the dawn before you, and you get to populate that plain with ideas of all sorts. Development is imagining possibilities, hence the enthusiasm.

But give it some time, and reality will set in upon you. Now you have to take those ethereal abstractions and give them definable features. The word "schedule" begins to fall out of your mouth as from a meal consumed for nourishment, not pleasure. "Budget" is another soul-sucker of a word, and it will sound sharply in your ears despite the softness of its vowels.

In the time leading up to the actual days of shooting, PANIC will gallop its prickly fingers up your spine and then ceaselessly poke at your brain like some sinister version of your twin sibling. "Mom, he won't stop touching me!"

Then the shooting begins, and it's like a loudly-uttered scream you only hear the echo of. It's the Doppler Effect, whipping past you so fast you think it must have missed you, but it hit you alright, as you find out when instead of going to sleep that night you just sort of blink out of existence for several hours and are suddenly brought back to life with none of reincarnation's rejuvenating qualities.

And once the shooting is over and you have mentally recovered enough to begin to torture yourself once more, post begins. Now your dream not only has a face, but a wrinkly one. Is that a copy of the script in the shot? How did I never notice the fella playing my leading man has two wildly different sized ears? I could have sworn we got at least one good take here. Did the intern really log the footage with only numbers?!

Some feelings are bound to be hurt, because even if your entire production was touched by an angel, blessed by a shaman or financed and produced by your sweet uncle Marty S., nothing will ever truly manifest that amorphous, ephemeral vision your flawed and lovely brain concocted. That vision got you high, and now you're crashing, hard. Somebody's got to pay, and the ones nearest and dearest who senselessly stuck around are the closest targets. (Sorry in advance, everyone.)

But once it's done (just kidding, it never is) you get to send it, like a sparrow, off into the world. Why did you let it go? Now it will never really feel like yours again. Everyone from the little shit P.A. who got high in the walk-in freezer and was fired immediately to the "producer" whose sole contribution was a ShopRite cheese platter is gabbing on and on about their new project. "The more people talking about it, the better," you console yourself, but does it have to be those assholes? Even thanking your parents feels hollow and cheap. "I didn't ask to be born, Dad. This baby is mine!"

Now, the "Six Phases" do come across as resentful ones. But there's a beautiful side to each sour coin. For disillusionment to exist, there must be pride, belief in one's self and one's mission. Doubt is natural, but can't be permanent.

Panic is just a symptom of caring, of passion. If anxiety is the worst part of giving a damn, I'll take it with no hesitation.

And while I will undoubtedly become a crazy bitch while I'm editing, those that survive the scorching of the earth around me will earn a level of my loyalty so intense that when they eventually do call on me, my very presence will trigger feelings of calming reassurance if not outright tranquility. I will come through so fast and so hard it will make those who don't know me well quite uncomfortable. Where's the Kool-Aid? Give me the whole GALLON! Reciprocity is the real currency of the world. 

As for the freeloaders, the disingenuous who pad their résumés or their wallets unearnedly, I can't speak to that sort. As a creature chronically honest to my own detriment, I can't imagine taking credit for the work of others. So while it may not be true consolation to some, those of us who cloak ourselves in tragic morality can rest on the unkempt laurels of our prideful compasses, shaking our heads at the system-gamers and feeling the sort of smug righteousness we can only earn when we actually do something instead of just talking about how majestically we would do it. Basically, if someone's stealing morsels from your plate, that means you've at least had a worthy meal.

So good luck out there fellow filmmakers, fellow creators, fellow doers. By hanging your asses out in the wind for all the dangers that entails, you are heroes. Whether glory shines upon you or not, a hero is still a hero in the dark.

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