Honorable Mention: DOLPH ZIGGLER
Dolph Ziggler Ric Flair Kevin Nash
Coming off of the recent Brand Split (between Monday Night Raw & The New Live Version of Smackdown) and the dominance shown by Brock Lesnar at UFC 200, The WWE has been getting a huge amount of press lately. And based on what I saw on the July 25th edition of WWE Monday Night Raw, it appears that somebody in charge has actually been listening to the moans and groans of it's more traditional wrestling fans. I mean I've gotta say that for the last ten years, the product has been increasingly hard to watch. But as of last night, on the first post-draft edition of Raw, the was a very noticeable air of change in the air. The vibe was darker, there was much more action, the promos seemed less scripted, and most importantly-there was less talking. Period. There is a new title (because the name is pretty corny, we will just leave that part out for now), and there were some really good matches throughout the show-but the most refreshing parts of the show centered around the well booked debuts of now former WWE NXT Talents Nia Jax and Finn Balor. And they even brought back the "squash match!" Finn balor's long awaited move up to the main roster more than exceeded expectations, as he ended the show earning earning a spot in the main event at next month's SUMMERSLAM against Seth Rollins. The best match of the night honors go to Sasha Banks, as she defeated Charlotte Flair for the WWE Women's Championship. Sasha is quite possibly the best female wrestler I've ever seen; and her wild tribute to the dearly departed Eddie Guerrero was hilarious! And for those that don't know Sasha is Snoop Dogg's niece, and Charlotte is the daughter of The Legendary Ric Flair. It will be interesting to see what happens to keep the momentum up on Smackdown Live, and beyond. But for now, let's get you familiar with some other other stars that you may want to check out soon...
Honorable Mention: DOLPH ZIGGLER
Dolph Ziggler Ric Flair Kevin Nash
For years it seemed that A.J. Styles would go down as one of the most talented wrestlers never to step inside a WWE Ring; but alas as fate would have it "The Phenomenal One" finally arrived. Debuting at The 2016 Royal Rumble, A.J. hit the ground running and hasn't slowed down yet. Wrestling with The Ring Of Honor & New Japan promotions since 2013, Styles is most known as the long time face of TNA Impact Wrestling. Not really fitting the traditional mold of The WWE, few ever imagined Styles would ever have his "Wrestlemania Moment;" but undoubtedly the fan reaction he has received has been a huge driver behind The WWE's recent shift into their current "New Era."
As a kid this self-proclaimed "Boss" would beg her uncle Snoop dogg to take him with her to WWE Events, and from there the seed was planted that would she that young girl grow into transitioning The WWE Women's Division away from short eye candy exhibitions to Eye legitimate wrestling. Sasha is still eye candy herself, but with a penchant for stretching out her competition in all sorts of MMA-style holds. She's got style like none before her; and just the night before I wrote this blog, Sasha banks would see years of hard work finally rewarded as she became the new WWE Women's Champion. In the past, the women's matches were considered a chance to get up and go get snacks. But with Sasha, and a few others we will mention shortly, times have certainly changed.
Having built up a huge following wrestling under the name "Prince Devitt" internationally, Finn Balor's made it's way onto the American Wrestling scene after a super successful run as a founding member in New Japan Wrestling's NWO/Type Faction "The Bullet Club." After a memorable run as WWE NXT Champion, balor debuted in spectacular fashion this week on Monday Night Raw. For those not yet familiar, Finn Balor comes to the ring showcasing an exciting combo of high flying moves-with the "strong Style" tactics Japanese Wrestling is most known for. And as far as his entrances, only The Undertaker could claim to rival that. And he saves his best for Big Events...
Savelina Fanene (aka Nia Jax) is a former model, and is the younger cousin of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. She's only been wrestling since 2014; but with the way she throws her competition around in the ring, she did need to stew around on the independent scene for years to get noticed. she arrived, She Conquered, She Excelled...
Like A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe was one of the main faces of both The TNA Impact and Ring Of Honor Wrestling promotions. Currently The WWE NXT Champion, one can only assume that he hasn't promoted to the main roster so as to ensure that there is still a major draw to keep that brand as a viable and growing force that reigns above TNA & ROH. Joe also represents a trend of heavier set athletes that can really move around the ring, just as well as their smaller counterparts. Up until 2015, The WWE would have always passed these guys over. But now they are bonafied main event superstars...
Becky Lynch is a high energy European transport that came over to WWE in 2013. Along with Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Bailey, these ladies became known as "The Four Horsewomen" as they quickly became known for breaking the mold of what Women's wrestling had been up to that point. Not to say that all of their predecessors were wack-it's just that these ladies are that damn good!
Sesugh Uhaa made a name for himself in Japan's Dragon Gate promotion as "Uhaa Nation," before coming over to WWE as Apollo Crews. By all reports, the name is indeed a play off of Apollo Creed and Terry Crews (of whom he does somewhat resemble). At 6'1" and 240 pounds, it is amazing to watch crews do standing somersaults and come crashing down on his opponents. While most Black Wrestlers usually stay on the mid card, it does appear the company has bigger plans for Apollo Crews. Hopefully this will be the case. Especially after The Brand Split...
Not a lot of history to add here. Asuka, formerly known as Kana, doesn't speak much English. But with the way that she smiles her perverted "You Know You Just Fucked Up" grim at you (just before she kicks and twists her opponents all over the ring) she doesn't have to. Period.
Charlotte Flair is the daughter of The Greatest Pro Wrestler of All time. She was voted Pro Wrestling Illustrated "Rookie Of The Year in 2014," and by May of that year, had captured The NXT Women's Title. Charlotte was called up to The WWE Main Roster and quickly captured the then-Divas Champion, and at Wrestlemania was crowned as WWE Women's champion (an honor she held for over a year, until being dethroned by Sasha Banks on the July 25th 2016 Monday Night Raw). While comparisions to her father will never go away, she has done an impressive job of building her own brand-while simultaneously taking advantage of the path that was laid before her. Expect her and Sasha to put on many more spectacular matches well into the next year...
Formerly known as "Kevin Steen," Kevin Owens has been wrestling since the age of 16 years old. Now 32, The former WWE NXT Champion spent most of the past year feuding with the likes of John Cena and Sami Zayn among others. Like most of the others on this list, Kevin Owens displays an impressive and wide-ranging skillset of moves usually not found in a 260+ pound wrestler. Like the others, Owens falls into a category that Vince McMahon would have passed over in times past. And like most of the others, Owens stands to get a major shot at the main event due to the Brand Split.
In discussing the news that Queen Afeni Shakur had passed away, one common thought expressed over and over again centered around the idea of who would now control the music, legacy & likeness of our departed brother Tupac Shakur. As if the corporate culture vultures had not already done all the could to water-down and bastardize the defiant/revolutionary-minded Pac, in favor of the more reckless version we saw during his Death Row Records days-now they may have the opportunity to ramp those efforts to new levels. My next thought centered around which version of Afeni shakur would the media focus on, when discussing her life. Would they minimize her just being Mother Of the Late Tupac Shakur? How quick would they move to dwell on her past substance abuse problems? More importantly, how would they report on her time fighting on the frontlines of The Black Panther Party-if at all?? Being that she was the driving force behind the eventual acquittal of The Panther 21, anything less than the dignity warranted for a Freedom Fighter would be unacceptable. But I'm sure that I will be disappointed, as they will not due her justice and the focus will immediately shift to how to monetize the legacies of both her and her son. Why? Because in America, We The Black & Brown are not considered to have a soul worthy of the same dignities required to be given to others. So daily, whether we realize it or not, "They got us fighting for our spirit and mind." How much longer will we have to fight? Until more of us take up the mantle of those before us, move up into vanguard positions and work on every level imaginable to finally bring Power To The People...
Afeni Shakur We Salute You. Thank You For All Of Your Hard Work And Sacrifices...
For most people that grew up in the 70's and 80's Pro Wrestling and Shaolin Kung Fu Movies were two staples that dominated television on any weekend, and for me both of those somewhat guilty pleasures would continue to be a part of my life right up to this day. I don't really get too much into toady's wrestling as much; but can (and do) sometimes spend hours at a time watching the old classics. Figuring I knew just about all there is to know about the different legends and pioneers, I have spent considerable time learning about the Black and Brown Faces of yesteryear that could have been so much more well known-if not for segregation and old racist attitudes in certain territories. People like Ernie "The Big Cat" Ladd, Bobo Brazil, Thunderbolt Patterson, The Junkyard Dog and many others were fan favorites and generated lots of money for the different promotions that they worked for; but were not allowed runs as World champions because by many accounts promoters feared that angry white fans might riot. In fact it wasn't until 1992 that a Black World Heavyweight Champion would be crowned, when College Football Hall Of Famer Ron Simmons would be Big Van Vader for The WCW World Heavyweight Championship Belt.
One pioneering name seems to have fell through the cracks; and it wasn't until watching last week's WWE Hall Of Fame Presentation Show that I first heard the name "Sailor" Art Thomas. Inducted as a "Legacy" entrant, Art Thomas broke into wrestling back in 1943. After finishing up his time in the U.S. Navy, Thomas had already made a name for himself as a Bodybuilder and was asked to wrestle some house shows. Possessing an amazing physique, crazy strength, and 6'5" 265 lb frame he quickly rose up the ranks. Billed as a former seaman, Sailor Art Thomas was also known to showcase much style and flavor-always dressed immaculately in either a business suit or a seaman uniform. As a fan favorite Art Thomas would earn many opportunities to challenge for The NWA World Championship Belt-including several memorable battles with The Legendary "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers. In the 1960's Sailor art would move on to The then-WWWF and battle in Tag Team matches with Legends like Bobo Brazil and Bruno Sammartino. During the 1970's Art would move on again to wrestle in Canada, and would retire in the early 1980's. While working all over the country, Sailor Art Thomas was best known for his time wrestling in Chicago. Sailor Art would succumb to cancer in 2003. He was also known as "Seaman" Art Thomas, "Hercules," and "The Body." Without his hard work and sacrifice, so many others would not be selling out huge arenas today like The Rock, Booker T, and others have in more recent times. #SaluteThePioneers
WELDON IRVINE - "MORNING SUNRISE"
His genius is mostly only known by the truest of music aficionados; but his work is the foundation of so many classics of multiple genres. Weldon Irvine once worked for The Legendary Nina Simone-playing Organ, serving as Bandleader, Arranger, and Road Manager. He wrote "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" which would turn into HUGE Hits for Nina Simone, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, and Aretha Franklin. He would go on to record several albums of his own, and write/produce at least 20 stage musicals. And his magic would even transcend into the future generations, as he worked actively on albums by Mos Def, BlackStar & others. The featured song of this blog post, "Morning Sunrise," was sampled for Jay-Z's classic "Dear Summer" and also "Bitch Is Crazy" by Drake. The original appeared on his 1979 LP "The Sisters." Sadly, Weldon Irvine's time on this Earth came to close on April 9, 2002. However, his music and contributions will go on FOREVER...
OSHUN - "STAY WOKE"
In Yoruba tradition & culture, "Oshun" is "The great mother of love, the great mother of sweetness, the great mother of the river, great mother of healing and fertility, the great mother of abundance." In in that tradition Niambi Sala and Thandiwe have emerged on the music scene with a vengeance not seen since maybe back when Erykah Badu graced us with her musical powers of Elegance & Intelligence. And in their most recent visual, Oshun bless with the powerful mantra "Stay Woke." Starting off with a spoken word intro, that would make The Last Poets so proud, as they ask "When Will You Declare You Destiny?!" the track then glides into a super smooth ode that challenges us to shake off the comforts of blissful ignorance in a system that is designed for your exploitation & eventual destruction.
"Picking and choosing when you conscious like narcolepsy, Thinking you equal in the pot that they say is melting-Saying you righteous but you pray at the masters church,And when you're told bout yourself you get your feelings hurt!"
As far as the visuals go, the Chelsea Odufu directed video adds a very modern twist to the 1993 film "Sankofa." Don't just look at the video, ANALYZE it. Absorb the lyrics, and then play it again & again. This is just the type of medicine WE need to heal the sickness of post-slavery/colonialism mindset that we cling to still today. Feedback & Comments welcome.
"But i still got to get up, cause my dreaming tells me so-Reflecting truth and fate like divination from the soul. Its tiring but better than a wake like funerals. They trying to keep me sleep and dumb cause that's what's comfortable-Catching zzz’s while their alchemy eating pupils closed. And I’m not living life asleep niambi staying woke. Wake up, wake up..."
(WRITER'S NOTE: The "MUSIC OF THE MIND" Series is loosely inspired by the Classic 1972 "Music of My Mind" album by Stevie Wonder)
BONUS CUT: "STUCK"
The smash novel "THE MARYLAND BOYS" is coming to the world of TV and FILM. Based upon the 70 year voyage of Four Generations of the Williams family, as they strive for a better life in the DC METRO area. Enjoy the unique language, music, and culture of one of the most known "unknown" cities in America. "The Maryland Boys" is a colorful and entertaining story of Hard Work, Love, Patience, Education, and Commitment to Family and Friends. #REALLIFE.
Executive produced by RUFFIN2PRODUCTIONS-in association with VICAR FILMS and GIANT SQUID CREATIONS.
Don't forget to check out "The Maryland Boys" Book, a semi-biographical coming of age story about life in The DC/Maryland/Virginia Area from The 1940's thru Crack Era of The 80's/90's. "The Maryland Boys" Book can be purchased on Amazon.com at this link.
"The inner city cultures of LA,, Chicago, Detroit and New York, among others have all been represented in books, TV, music, and film. The African American experience of “Chocolate” city, Washington, D.C. is the most unique of them all because of it’s language, indigenous cultural music, fashion and close proximity to the White house."