Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Moulin Rougeau

You don’t hear the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers names much these days except as “the guys who sucker-punched Dynamite Kid.” What you don’t hear about is how good they were.

I didn‘t realize this when they were active, of course. In fact, I HATED the Rougeau Brothers.

I should have liked them. They were Canadian, for one thing, and we denizens of the Great White North tend to cheer for fellow Canucks regardless of alignment (often to the WWE‘s dismay). Les Freres Rougeaus were also the type of wrestler I most enjoyed watching: a tag team of smaller guys who defeated larger foes with quickness, athleticism, and teamwork (*). Nonetheless, I hated them.

I hated Jacques smug expression and Raymond’s stupid moustache. I hated the tiny little American flags they waved when they came to the ring (They called themselves the All-American Boys even though they were clearly French-Canadian). I hated the way they cheated, even against enhancement teams--using the fake handshake-then-boot-him-in-the-gut or Raymond screaming “Look at me! Look at me! Hit me!” and turning his back to his opponent while Jacques crept up from behind and nailed him in the lower back with a forearm.

The Rougeaus were insufferable front-runners when winning, bragging and showing off, but when they were behind they tended to run away and provide comfort for one another in an unmanly embrace.

Most of all, I despised the way they had embroiled my favorite tag-team of all time, the Rockers, in an endless feud. Worse still, in many of the matches I saw, the Rougeaus, who were clearly the inferior team, WON the match via some underhanded chicanery.

This happened to the Rockers a lot, now that I think about it. They may have been my favorite team, but Sweet Daddy Singh did they lose a lot of matches. In addition to the Rougeaus, the Rockers padded the resumes of Demolition, the Brain Busters, the Orient Express, Power and Glory, and countless others…always in the most frustrating way imaginable.

No team was better than the Rockers at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, mostly because they were forever getting distracted by a manager or being baited into the ring at the wrong time.

I loved the Rockers. I had their poster on my wall and was awe of their ring skills and popularity with the chicks. But in my quietest, most private moments, even I had to admit the truth: For all their wonderful qualities, my heroes were really fucking dumb.

I digress.

The point is, I hated the Rougeau Brothers. Which was exactly what they wanted.

But the real reason my flame for the Rougeaus has been rekindled is the opening sequence of a match in London between them and the Rockers. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it Best Opening Ever, but I think it’s absolutely, well, fabuleux, and I’ll tell you why in a second.

First, I’ll tell you what happens.

After a quick opening brawl in which the Rockers clear the ring, things settle down with Jacques Rougeau squaring off against a fired-up Marty Janetty. Marty moves in, but instead of locking up, Jacques waves off the Rocker, drops on his back to the mat, and does a kip up. He then challenges Marty to do the same.

Marty wants to Jacques to quit stalling and wrestle, but Jacques will have none of it. When Marty refuses to try the kip-up, he accuses the Rocker of cowardice, first trying to start a chant with the non-plussed crowd and then walking around the ring flapping his arms like a chicken.

Finally, Marty repeats the move. The fans are delighted. Jacques, not so much. He exits the ring and uses the ropes to somersault back inside. After several exasperated moments, Marty duplicates it. Again, the fans go crazy.

Now Jacques is ready to go, but this time Marty waves HIM off. Jannetty then tags in Shawn, who does a back flip off the top turnbuckle and land on his feet. Now it’s the Rockers doing the chicken dance while the crowd roars appreciatively.

After a confab with a dubious Raymond, Jacques decides to attempt the back flip. He climbs gingerly to the top rope, balances himself precariously….and immediately climbs back down.

Jacques is not done though. He just needs quiet. He holds his fingers to his lips, trying to shush the crowd, the Rockers, and in one inspired moment, the camera as though the noise from the folks back home are interfering with his focus.

Finally, he dusts off his hands, wipes his feet on the mat, and with an exuberant “Here we go!” he springs to the top turnbuckle wear he wobbles unsteadily for several moments…until finally the Rockers shake the ropes, crotching the younger Rougeau on the top turnbuckle.

At that point, the match begins in earnest, with the Rockers taking things up to a breakneck pace with some speedy double-teams (not to mention illegal switches-**). The match is good, possibly even great. Would it have worked without the extended opening. which actually takes up a third of the match? Possibly. Maybe even probably.

In his autobiography, Michaels credits the Rougeaus with coming up with the sequence out of laziness to fill time without actually wrestling. If so, they wouldn’t be the first.

Most veteran workers I’ve seen have tricks like this in their arsenal. I’ve seen robe-removal stalling and cowboy hat stealing. I’ve seen posedowns and threats to “walk out of here right now if you people don’t quiet down and show some respect!” and extended foreign object hide and seek games involving a hapless referee and a Popsicle stick wrapped in tape.





Good wrestling?

That’s a matter of taste, I guess. If you ask me, the Rougeau/Rockers was an example of this sort of business done right. It fulfills the three greatest qualities of an opening spot a) it tells the audience about the wrestlers’ personalities b) It entertains the crowd and c) no one gets hurt.

Too bad things didn‘t go the same way with the Dynamite Kid. A lot of things might be remembered differently if they had (***).

(*) A lot of people say heels shouldn’t use flashy holds and double-teams, but the Rougeaus made it work for them. Part of it was the nature of the moves; most of their tandem offence was variations on the cowardly theme of “You hold him and I’ll hit him,” but I think most of it was because they were just so damn obnoxious.

(**) When talking about this particular match, wrestling connoisseurs (hey, connoisseurs sounds better than internet geeks with nothing better to do) cite this match’s weird psychology. The good-guy Rockers were the first to cheat, starting off by bushwhacking Jacques and then following up with some illegal switches. The crowd loved the Rockers shenanigans though, and I think critics mystified by that audience reaction are missing the forest for the trees. Remember, the first portion of the match is to show the baby faces outwrestling, outsmarting or outpowering the heels. The Rougeaus whole gimmick was based on their being treacherous, opportunistic cheap-shot artists without peer. The crowd wasn’t digging the cheating so much as the Rockers beating the Rougeaus at their own game.

(***) Where are they now department: Jacques became the Mountie and later one half of the Quebers/Amazing French Canadians, scored a clean win over Hulk Hogan, and currently works in suicide prevention. Raymond retired to a broadcast position before leaving wrestling and being elected to city council(You would think being part of a pre-meditated violent assault on an Englishman would make people think twice about voting you to public office…in Quebec it may have actually helped.).

No comments:

Post a Comment