You know, I used to enjoy Jim Cornette and his motor mouthed ranting.
That’s not to say that I can’t go back in time and enjoy “Corny” in his verbal glory. I have tapes, I have DVDs, I have Youtube, not to mention a tremendous mental recollection of some of Cornette’s great one-liners and spiels. Being that I was never a big fan of Southern-style “rasslin” (one of the side effects of living in decent proximity to New York and Philadelphia), most of my exposure to Cornette came in the World Wrestling Federation, where he never truly shined, save for few instances. But those times when Jimmy would start spewing in that Louisville drawl with his garish outfits, he was quite the treat.
As a manager, he was undervalued. I mean, sure, he would serve as the antagonistic spokesman for Yokozuna during his reign as champion (getting in a hilarious one liner on dust-panned interviewer Joe Fowler at Summerslam 1993, expressing surprise that anyone would ever hire the future infomercial regular), but he was definitely capable of more. This is especially true when you consider that he managed the Heavenly Bodies of Dr. Tom Pritchard and “Gigolo” Jimmy Del Ray, who looked for all the world like hard-luck strip club patrons in 1985.
[adinserter block=”1″]Was this really the best that Cornette could add to the product?
In 1997, Cornette added a whole new element to the Monday Night Wars when he began doing these little two-three minute stand-ups at Titan studios, where he would lambast the state of professional wrestling, coming off as Rick Moranis doing a Lewis Black impression. He touched upon some very sensitive boundaries, most notably Sean Waltman’s drinking problems, the declining quality of WCW’s main event matches, Phil Mushnick’s anti-wrestling stance, and the whiny nature of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels (both, at the time, in WWF’s employ).
For someone like me who watched ECW religiously, and saw WWF and WCW as manufactured and too safe in comparison, this was something of a revelation. To go along with Stone Cold Steve Austin’s controversial act, as well as the racist overtones of the Nation of Domination and the overt sexuality of Sable and her usual attire, Cornette helped conceive “WWF Attitude”, although I’m certain that he would wash his hands of this notion. But to watch Cornette lose his mind over something in wrestling that struck a nerve to him was something that would etch its way into my spirit as a fan. He crossed lines. He named names. It was like the episode of the Simpsons, where Krusty the Clown became a legit comedian, edgy and cool, and experienced a career resurgence as a result. Of course, he squandered all of this newfound love by endorsing a vehicle known as the “Canyonero”, but that’s what helped make the joke funny.
In wrestling, you see so many people “endorse that Canyonero”, so to speak. Whether they jump from promotion to promotion, or they embrace a character change that’s less-than-satisfactory to diehard fans (as all eyes turn to John Cena), so many have changed fan perceptions for the worse.
I’m proud to say Jim Cornette always has been, and always will be, Jim Cornette.
And that’s the problem.
[adinserter block=”2″]January 4, 2010 was, in my humble opinion, one of the most exciting nights of ‘sports entertainment’ in a long while. It was the night that, after seven and a half years of existence, TNA challenged WWE head-to-head on a Monday night, a throwback to when WWF and WCW put their best foot forward in the late nineties. Sure, Raw and Impact weren’t perfect (far from it, actually), but who cares? It was nice to not be over-analytical for a change, to just sit back and be bowled over by the little surprises (the first and only time I think that I’ll ever be excited by Orlando Jordan). I think most fans would agree, even if the show quality wasn’t perfect.
Look through the message boards. Look at the combined ratings. Look at the press. Jim Ross (Cornette’s good friend) remarked in Beyond the Mat that he’s happy, so long as there’s a fan every 18 inches. Who would be short sighted enough to believe that getting the fans talking, getting them to tune in, and creating face-to-face competition that will only breed better efforts from both companies, is a bad thing that is worth mocking?
Why, that would be Jim Cornette.
It’s one thing if you’re a Jeff Hardy fan who felt he deserved a better entrance for his TNA return. It’s one thing if you’re a Bret Hart fan who found his hug with Shawn Michaels to be horribly contrived.
But it’s another if you work within the industry and fail to see two companies looking to better themselves, as well as trying to win over fans.
In a podcast that was posted the following day, Cornette declared that January 4, 2010 would be remembered as the day that the wrestling business fell into the toilet. He also opened the podcast by stating that he couldn’t wait to see just how bad Impact, helmed by his enemies in Vince Russo and Hulk Hogan, was going to be.
It’s clear, in hindsight, that the Jim Cornette in 1997 who delighted fans with his edgy demeanor, is never going to be happy again. He’s now 48 years old and has latched onto Ring of Honor for the second time in his career. Instead of ranting angrily about something most people would agree with (WCW having bad main events, Mushnick being a weasel, etc), he’s now rallied against the status quo. He cannot fathom how anyone could have had fun on Monday night, because it’s not his vision of what professional wrestling should be. This is the same Jim Cornette who once got angry with Chris Jericho during their shared tenure in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, simply because Jericho wouldn’t sleep with female fans (the idea being that to sleep with them would lead to them buying tickets for the shows, an apparently common practice for babyfaces in the territory). That was 1994, and Cornette was attempting to push a concept from the 1980’s onto him (one perfected by Ricky Morton).
Is anyone surprised that SMW went out of business?
Again, I’m not saying that Raw and Impact were at their creative apex this past Monday. But I had fun. I’m not alone. I’m shocked that Cornette has internet access, given what pride he takes in being a hateful relic of the primitive wrestling territory system. All he has to do is look at any wrestling site where the forums and message boards are widely used. He will see that while most fans will agree that neither show was great, they will agree that it was fun being an old fan again, and they would, most likely, tune in to see what happens next.
Isn’t that what counts? The fans had fun and are intrigued, so why is Cornette so angry?
If Cornette’s bitterness toward the world stems from an incident in his past, the good news for him is that he won’t have to go too far back in time to encounter it.
He’s already stuck in the past.
When he isn’t watching WWE, TNA, or his beloved Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies, Justin Henry can be found writing. It is his passion as well as his goal in life to become a well-regarded (as well as well-paid) columnist or author. He tweets at twitter.com/notoriousjrh and facebooks himself at http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh.
Order the book Worker: Last of a Dying Breed featuring a forward by Jim Cornette by clicking here.
Order the Night of the Legends DVD featuring Jim Cornette by clicking here.