Mike Bessler – Editorial Director

Pro Wrestling Illustrated contributing writer

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. The Rise and Fall of TWD, part three

To read part one of this series, click here.
To read part two of this series, click here.

Part Three: Agitato

When it comes right down to it, I don’t know if missing the boat on the whole Wrestlicious ad was completely our fault. As noted in “Rise and Fall…part two,” we were contacted by lotto tycoon Jonathan Vargas about the possibility that he’d take out some ad space on our now burgeoning hotbed of pro wrestling journalism. Content Director Jason LeBlanc, Chief Editor Ray Bogusz, and I tried to hammer out some prices for premium ad space at the very top of the site and we did reply to Vargas with what we thought were very reasonable prices but no deal ever materialized. Adam Testa, who joined TWD’s Administrative Committee as our Marketing Director, had tried to steer us in a direction that was more consistent with what he’d seen as a journalist but we were too excited to really get our heads around it all. Whatever the case, nothing ever came of it.

It might have been around this time that I was getting very sensitive to the financial aspect of things. I felt like I’d shelled out more than my share for our setup costs with the understanding that this was a collective effort and that expenses and profits would be shared. And while expenses were nominal up to this point, I was getting frustrated that my fellow administrators weren’t contributing to fees for the URL purchase, site hosting and the like. Moreover, we had also turned down another offer by an advertiser who wanted to pay something like $30 to put an ad on the main page for something like 60 to 90 days. Those who opposed this said that the offer was too low but to my mind, something is always more than nothing…and anything is always a good place to start. Expenses for the site would ultimately pick up yet again with the need for a better hosting plan. Truth be told, I did live in a two-income household at the time and, in fact, both my wife and I had some small part-time jobs that were bringing a little more to the family coffers but I didn’t think this necessarily figured into who should pay the bills for TWD. Besides, nobody asked me how much my house payment, outstanding medical bills, and the entire myriad of living expenses that go along with raising a small family figured into my overall financial picture. With all that in mind, though, here’s the truth of it: we had a crappy business model. Okay, maybe it’s even more accurate to say we had no business model. There were better approaches to consider (pooling resources before the project began, true shared ownership registered through a third part or service, etc.) but none of us could really see beyond our initial vision and excitement to build a foundation that was more stable than what we’d ended up creating. The end result was that we were constantly stressed out over a lot of things that could’ve been handled differently.

With our continued increase in traffic and the establishment of a dedicated fan base, there came a call for a site overhaul. In our present configuration, our main page could feature somewhere around 9 to 12 articles with additional links appearing in the sidebar(s). It seemed that quite a few TWD writers and readers felt that our general aesthetics could be greatly improved and a good deal of the criticism was that the site appeared drab and gloomy. I have to admit that I internalized the critique of my design and was even a little bitter about it. This was also one of the few things that Ray and I were in complete agreement on by this point (to my recollection, anyway), as we both liked TWD’s layout and appearance up to this point.

At some level, though, it seemed reasonable to expect that TWD should evolve to a more elaborate and ornate layout and it was mostly the vision of Adam Testa who made this happen. He selected a much more powerful “theme” for the site’s overall appearance as well as a black, red and white color scheme that seemed to evoke the spirit of the old ECW logo. I purchased the theme package and Adam and I customized the hell out of it using our admittedly limited experience with HTML, JavaScript and PHP. It also turned out that Adam was both adept and prolific when it came to graphics and design elements. He created new logos and used pictures he’d taken at WWE & TNA house shows and local events to enhance the look and feel of TWD. But what really amazed all of us in the end was his drive and determination to make TWD something great. I mean, the guy would sit outside of his local library late at night well into the fall and winter months just so he could use their Wi-Fi connection to work on TWD. . I remember the night of the re-launch well, as a bunch of us including Adam, Ray, Scott (don in Australia) and possibly Michael Scanlon stayed online for hours chatting on Skype as we recategorized all of our old articles to fit into the site’s ne configuration. It was a really happy and exciting time. In the end, the site’s re-launch was extremely well received and it gave us a much more credible and dynamic appearance on the ‘net. Adam gets the lion’s share of the credit for this. He brought a lot to the table, but this might well have been his crowning achievement as part of TWD.

Adam also brought a journalistic flair to TWD that compelled him to go straight to the men and women of the industry itself for comments and for full-length interviews. One of the biggest interviews he landed was with Ring of Honor’s Tyler Black (now WWE’s Seth Rollins). It was really cool that ROH talent were directly communicating with our site and Adam’s piece on Black was particularly timely as it spotlighted Black’s imminent return to the ring after a neck injury. So, it seemed there would be a lot of eyes on the piece. Indeed, a lot of folks did read the article and, oddly enough, that created a few conundrums with regard to both TWD and Black himself. In the original draft of the article, Black had made a rather unflattering comment concerning ROH’s television deal with HDNet. In his 2012 intro to the re-publication of the article, Testa recalls:

The article originally contained a comment from Black about HDNet being a “stepping stone” to something bigger. The day after publication, Black sent me a text message, stating he had received heat from management about those comments and asking me if I could remove them.

If this was my real newspaper job, ethics would have prevailed, but for our fledgling site, it wasn’t worth burning potential bridges to take a moral stand over the issue. In the end, it paid off, as ROH plugged the revised article in their newswire.

The decision to revise Black’s quote(s) came pretty easily to us. I think there was some unspecified concern among Ray, Jason, and me that Adam’s journalistic integrity would put us at odds with our desire to go ahead and revise the piece in hopes of fostering a relationship with ROH I recall that all four of us came to agreement on the matter quite quickly and I think we were all quite relieved to have come to agreement with very little hullabaloo.

Adam's mock up of the business cards we never printed. Image credit: TWD Media

There was some discord behind the scenes, though. I’d say a fair amount of it was between Ray and me. It was probably more than that; we argued, after all, about damn near everything up to a point. We argued about whether an interview should be called an “interview” or an “exclusive,” we argued about what a “byline” really was. We argued about whether or not to put a disclaimer at the end of our articles. Hell, one time Ray and I even argued about the correct spelling of the phrase, “Que sera sera.” (For the record, I was correct but Ray got in the last shot of that one by saying that working with me made him feel like he was running a preschool. Something like that, anyway.)

Adding to my concerns about our business model was an odd decision by some of the administrators to start crediting original artwork and logos to “TWD Media.” I had no idea what in the freakin’ hell TWD was and I couldn’t seem to get anyone to explain it to me. My brain kind of filled in the gaps and I ended up thinking that this was some kind of way to undermine any possibility that there was collective ownership of TWD by making “TWD Media” a larger entity that would encompass TWD itself. (No word if it would’ve also included “The Motorsports Daily,” which was a pie-in-the-sky idea between ray and I that never got off the ground). The whole “TWD Media” flap made me feel like Michael Kiske’s memorable line in the song “Your Turn”: The thing that I once started isn’t mine anymore.

I was, for my part, trying to keep my uncertainty and the friction between some of the administrators under wraps and hidden from the writers’ bullpen. I can’t really remember how or when it ultimately came to their collective attention but I recall that some folks were surprised about the seriousness of the schism by the time everything  was finally out in the open. Our political differences had a lot to do with the tension. I had come to expect that this would be a problem at some point but I was actually rather taken aback when our first really huge blow up over site matters ended up spilling into a disagreement over politics. I don’t know how the dispute started but I recall getting some grief because one of my Facebook friends had showed off a picture of his living room that included a framed picture of Mao Zedong. It was like a total non sequitur to me but since it was obviously such a sensitive situation, I resisted the urge to share the information that I keep a framed picture of Mao at Anyuan on my side of the bedroom. What frustrated me most is that I felt like I had to hold a lot back for the sake of everyone else. Any of my replies – even ones that seemed innocuous to me – usually tended to inflame things and I felt like everyone who knew what was going on secretly blamed me for each and every argument.

In hindsight, I know that everyone wasn’t against me. I know there was blame to go around, too. Surely it wasn’t all on me and it wasn’t all on Ray, either. Here’s the truth of the matter, though—it’s something about me that I’ve never really articulated in any amount of detail: I loathe neutrality. I feel the same way about neutrality that Charu Mazumdar felt about Centrism. I want people to take sides. I want contentious matters out in the open so they can be vetted, examined and dealt with. I hate tension. I prefer quick resolutions. Further, I prefer not to sound so moralistic that I believe that everything is either “right” or “wrong,” but I do view most things – especially in debates – along the lines of “correct” and “incorrect” ideas. I think that, fundamentally, most people tend to think they’re “right” or “correct” when taking a position and I’m certainly no exception. I’m also fairly absolute about things and I can be very, very difficult to deal with when I am accused of being in the wrong or otherwise mistaken or dishonest. I think this was definitely a factor in the problems with the administrative dynamics of TWD. Put rather bluntly, there were some very strong personalities at odds with one another…and I was surely one of them.

Still, TWD’s combination of timely news reports, in-depth analysis and thought-provoking opinion resonated with fans. We enjoyed interacting with an assortment of regular readers, most of whom were now visiting the site at least once a day. Once we started touting our work on Facebook, a handful of folks even sought out their favorite writers and sent “friend” requests, which isn’t nearly as creepy as it may sound. There was hate mail, too. Some folks looked at us as smarks and others were just run-of-the mill trolls. The thing of it was, the site was founded by three guys who’d bonded by trolling it up over on Bleacher Report. A lot of the headstrong, know-it-all loudmouths who tried to take shots at TWD were put down with overwhelming force. I think Ray and I blew about an hour and a half taking apart some guy from State College, Pennsylvania one night. That was a fun evening with some outlandishly hilarious insults flying hither and yon. It kind of says a lot about a relationship, though, when the only time you get along is when you’re tearing someone else apart.

So how’d we know the commenter was from State College? Well, the blogware that we used allowed us to see the IP addresses of folks who were posting to the site. From there, it was pretty easy to figure out where they were unless they were smart enough to use some kind of proxy service. It was both a blessing and a curse to have this kind of information at our disposal. On the one hand, it was helpful to know more about our readers, whether they were hostile or — as they were in most cases — good-natured and friendly. At the same time, though, this did foster some mild paranoia on our end. Some of us had been concerned about people sabotaging the site in one way or another and for a time, it became a regular thing to “look up” where this commenter or that e-mailer was posting from. I remember thinking it had gotten especially bad when a reader of the site wrote to us asking to become a regular contributor. Despite some impressive skills and credentials, a few of us (including me) thought it might be someone trying to infiltrate the site and cause trouble. I mean, just based on the guy’s name alone, I figured he had to be a provocateur of some kind. Really, have you ever known anyone with the first name Denim? As I recall, I think I asked Jason for a second or third round of info for the esteemed Mr. Millward before we formally brought him on board but Jason effectively put an end to my quasi-hysteria by telling me that he’d already told Denim that he was “in.”

The Wrestlicious banner we never got to use. Image credit: Powerball

We also came to regard other IWC sites as “competition” although when it comes right down to it, this was just a charitable way of saying they were “enemies.” I actually don’t have any problems with Jason taking shots at Lords of Pain (a.k.a. “Fjords of Shame”) in his hilarious S.C.O.R.E. columns. I also took a swipe or two at a WWE recapper that would always refer to himself “Your Personal Harvester of Sorrow” and that mouth-breather who’d always stick his “Hot Asian Bitch of the Week” cheesecake pictures into his wrestling columns. Yeah, be proud of that crap-ass idiocy, 411mania.com. Still, some of of the shots we took at guys like Joe Burgett, Matt Hester and his Ring-Rap.com site and even our old pals at Hit the Ropes were way over the top and completely uncalled for. Those guys were almost always complimentary and many of us would respond to their posts by making cracks about the quality of their work while hoping that they’d spontaneously fold in the shadow of TWD’s collective badassery. I remember it got especially out of hand in the comment thread of a pay per view recap one night when one of our contributors and someone from another site were threatening to physically assault one another (despite the fact that they lived hundreds of miles away from each other, mind you). That level of nastiness did suggest to me that it was time to cool things off and I did make some efforts to patch things up with that site’s administrator shortly thereafter. After TWD’s ultimate demise, I personally reached out to the guys from those sites I listed above and apologized for things that I had done to insult or offend them. Old pretty criticisms and rivalries aside, the fact that they were willing to mend fences without even the slightest bit of hesitation says a lot about them…and it’s all good.

While there were a number of problems with regard to those of us who were running TWD, the general construction and functionality of the site itself seemed satisfactory for quite a while. There were some glitches but we all thought that we were just getting an “up close” schooling on some relatively typical hiccups for an otherwise successful website.

In my mind, however, my personal mantra of “hope for the best but expect the worst” was causing me to anxiously fixate upon some of the site’s developing performance issues along with all of the recurring personal disputes and that was definitely taking a toll on my habitus mentis.  Things took an even more discouraging turn when I received an ultimatum from our web hosting service: The skyrocketing volume of traffic TWD had been enjoying for the past few months was causing their server to crash repeatedly and knocking other sites off line in the process.

We would have some hard choices to make from here.

Mike Bessler was a co-founder of The Wrestling Daily. He hasn’t thrown up in at least four years, which has to be some kind of personal record.

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. The Rise and Fall of TWD, part two

Preface for the remaining parts of this series: I am providing recollections of events and situations in rough chronological order to the best of my recollection. Where possible, I am seeking assistance and feedback from other “TWD Originals,” and checking old correspondence and documents to confirm certain aspects of the story. As previously noted, I will consider editing or revising text if important and substantive shortcomings are brought to my attention. To read part one of this series, click here.

Part Two: Moderato

The original site layout for the Wrestling Daily pretty well finalized a week or two before launch. It was a newspaper-like layout with a grey background which was apparently necessary to prevent eyestrain for the legions of TWD faithful that were expected to spend hours upon hours poring over our online awesomeness. Over the course of the preceding months, I’d purchased a dedicated URL for the site and hosting plan, set up e-mail accounts for everyone, created basic design elements and press releases to herald the coming revolution. In the meantime, the TWD bullpen was hard at work on their inaugural pieces.

Our August 2009 debut was stretched out over the course of three evenings. The 12 of us divided ourselves into three teams of four writers each and every night for three nights, each team posted their four articles. Among the selections in our maiden series of offerings included: Kurt’s objective defense of McMahon’s role in revolutionizing the business of pro wrestling; an analysis of the pros and cons behind the use of “canned heat” at live wrestling shows; and my “Lessons from the Old School” piece that revisited Ric Flair’s first and only appearance at the Championship Wrestling studio in Memphis, Tennessee (still archived on my personal site). The three-day extravaganza yielded a great mix of material that included in-depth analysis, news and opinion pieces. Above all else, the material was coherent, insightful and thought-provoking. We’d declared ourselves to be a “new standard in pro wrestling journalism” and we’d already taken bold steps towards that rather lofty goal, mindful of our collective desire to steer stay clear of the typical, fan-generated, wild-eyed speculation and conjecture that ran rampant in virtually every nook and cranny of the IWC. Even Tenechia’s rant-styled “Ramblings of a Wrestling Fan” columns were poignant yet provocative by virtue of her journalistic desire to foster spirited discussion and debate. By and large, the “TWD Editorial Roar” was offered by TWD’s Editor to this same end and—while controversial—the column was never boring and always unpredictable. These characteristics were the heart and soul of TWD at the most basic and compelling of levels. Indeed, despite all the bickering and infighting that was to eventually come, the product that we offered to our devoted readers and casual browsers proved to be consistently superior, not just at the beginning of TWD but all the way through to the untimely and unfortunate end of TWD.

Truth be told, I don’t remember exactly I noticed the earliest signs of problems behind the scenes. At some point prior to the establishment of TWD, the guy who would become the site’s editor and I had realized that we had rather significant differences of opinions when it came to politics, ideology, values and personal boundaries. Moreover, the two of us had agreed well before the project was even a concept that we wouldn’t let these differences get in between our friendship and any collaborations we’d undertake on Bleacher Report and beyond. We definitely lost sight of that. I was especially shocked when he called me one evening shortly before (or maybe right after) the site launch and explained that he had spoken to Jason—TWD’s other co-founder and the site’s Content Director—and that they had significant concerns that I’d try to politicize the site. Specifically, my micro-publishing endeavor Erythros Press and Media, LLC was mentioned as it was noted that there was concern that I had intended to festoon the TWD site in communist-themed iconography. Exactly where this had come from and why it was even raised as a topic of discussion was a complete mystery to me. I was certainly proud of my efforts and relative successes with respect to writing, publishing and distributing texts on a variety of subjects related to the study of the radical left but at no point had I ever even so much as suggested that there would be any overlap between that my politically-themed projects and TWD. Never. And having the matter raised, implicitly critiqued and ultimately inferred that I should somehow be ashamed of something that was so very important to me was, quite frankly, a roundhouse punch in the gut that set the tone for a lot of mutual distrust and intrigue down the road.

Nevertheless, TWD’s efforts gained steam and recognition quickly. One of our top priorities following launch was to get the site into the Google News feed and we succeeded in doing so with our first application. This effectively placed TWD work alongside of articles from much larger and more well-established sites like 411mania.com, prowrestling.net and pwtorch.com. We could see the difference in web traffic in real time, too. We had a counter on the site’s sidebar which showed how many readers were online at any given moment. Additionally, I’d installed Google Stats code on the site and seen consistent increases in traffic from day to day and week to week as we pulled in visitors from all over the world.

Khaldei's iconic "Raising a flag over the Reichstag" picture was never on the list of design elements for the TWD site.

Particularly opinionated folks shared their feedback about our efforts by posting comments to the site and sending e-mails to writers and administrators. The response from readers was overwhelmingly supportive and enthusiastic, with a few exceptions. One of our earliest scraps was with a rather persistent fellow who was rather agitated with our review of WWE’s Rise and Fall of WCW DVD. In the comment section of the article, he took issue with a handful of issues with the review, eventually becoming so incensed that started calling the reviewer “retarded,” among other things. Interestingly enough, our blogware provided us with the IP addresses of folks who posted comments to the site (unless they used any kind of masking service, which happened in a few other instances later on) and it happened to turn out that our angry commenter was posting his tirades from…wait for it…Stamford, Connecticut! Eventually, the controversy died down and we never figured out if the angry guy was really a WWE employee or if we’d just experienced some kind of geographical coincidence. But it was certainly clear to us that a lot of people and organizations were tuned into TWD, for better or for worse and the possibilities for the future of TWD seemed endless.

Our breakthrough came with a considerable amount of schadenfreude on September 11, 2009 when Jeff Hardy – fresh from his release from WWE – was arrested on a slew of drug-related charges. I can’t remember which TWDer took the initiative to grab Hardy’s mugshot and post a thorough rundown of the situation along with some analysis and commentary, but that particular move quickly directed a staggering amount of traffic to TWD, thanks in most part to the fact that we were in the Google News aggregator. We watched our numbers climb moment by moment and at one point we were drawing hundreds and hundreds of visitors at a time that day—up to 750 at a time, if I recall correctly. This was a watershed moment for the site as we were enjoying more attention than we’d ever experienced up to that time. Heavy traffic continued for the next couple of days and people who visited the site seemed to genuinely appreciate what they were seeing on TWD, even if they didn’t always agree with our assessments of things. Lots of folks stuck around, bookmarking TWD, registering as a commenter and checking back each day for updates. I guess it all worked out, especially for Hardy who only did about 5 minutes of jail time at the end of it all and—despite some subsequent missteps since then—still enjoys a pretty prominent place in the wrestling business.

After only a couple of months in operation (maybe even less than that), we lost our first member of the TWD family. It was an odd situation, to say the least. It was the guy who wrote our DVD reviews and created our “Action Figure Theater” cartoons who stepped away from the project abruptly. One evening posted a series of cryptic messages on Facebook about having just come into a large sum of money (suggested to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $7,000, as I recall) and about a day later, he sent us his resignation by e-mail and then unfriended everyone from TWD. That was it. Not particularly messy but very weird and somewhat of a surprise. It was kind of like a net-based version of The Rapture in which the angel Gabriel appears in the form of an insurance settlement check.

A short time later, we parted company with Kurt over something that I can only recall as an unfortunate misunderstanding. There were definitely some issues surrounding power and control with respect to  how the whole TWD machine worked and I really don’t think that Kurt’s departure was for the best in a lot of respects. But to his credit, Kurt was decent to everyone evolved, doing his part to mend fences quickly and ensuring folks that he had no axe to grind. To my mind, Kurt is a lot like Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear; he’s a great big evil teddy bear that smells like strawberries. Or beer. Or probably strawberry beer, if that’s possible. In any event, I still have a lot of platonic, sweaty man-love for The Mighty Krut.

Rob always hated this graphic...

Although we lost guys, there were a few folks knocking on the door for their own slots in the TWD bullpen. Among them was Rob Siebert, an experienced newspaper writer and wrestling fanboy extrordinaire. Rob was referred by Adam Testa, who’d met the esteemed Mr. Siebert while they were both studying journalism at Eastern Illinois University. Rob  brought exceptional creativity and writing prowess to the TWD team. I have no problem asserting that Rob was one of the best of the TWD talent pool with regard to his writing abilities and insight. I don’t think anyone else should have a problem with me saying this, either. His “Inside the Wrestler’s Studio” series was one of the most celebrated features in the TWD spectrum and, to this day, I’ve not seen anything like it on the ‘net or in print. Moreover, when we decided to start posting daily “newz” summaries and breaking news bulletins (we had resisted doing this in the beginning but found it to be a necessary change in direction in the wake of the Hardy scandal), it was Rob who stepped up and agreed to spearhead this facet of our daily operations. Like the rest of us—every last one of us in the TWD family—Rob had his foibles, but in retrospect, I think he deserved far greater recognition as an integral part of TWD’s short-lived success, especially considering that he received a lot of scorn and criticism that he shouldn’t have had to endure. Rob was one guy who didn’t let the fall of TWD slow him down too much. In fact, a short time after the project ended, Rob and some of his fellow nerds co-founded the Internet pop culture clearinghouse, PrimaryIgnition.com, which is still going strong today.

Things continued looking up for us as we started hearing from folks who were interested in taking out advertising space on TWD. Thanks to Jason’s passing reference to Bakugan in one of his articles, we received an inquiry from a toy company. We heard from some kind of fighting/boxing site that wanted to buy some space on our main page as well. But one of the most intriguing and promising proposals came from Jonathan Vargas who was setting up Wrestlicious and wanted to discuss the possibility of putting a banner at the top of TWD. While Jason, TWD’s Editor and I were thrilled with the possibility of this, we also realized that we didn’t have a clue about online advertising rates and how to draft an “ad card,” which was what Vargas was specifically requesting. Adam Testa, who was writing some fantastic stuff for TWD at the time, had some bona fide journalistic chops and seemed like the best person to help us with this kind of thing. It didn’t take long for the three of us to agree that we’d “promote” Adam to TWD’s “Marketing Director” to help us negotiate all of the challenges that were shaping up before us.

To be sure, it was a terrific idea to bring Adam “into the fold” as a Co-Administrator of TWD, as his experience and insight were true assets to the effort. It was unquestionably the right thing to do for the site. Unfortunately, this was one of the last times that the three TWD co-founders would find it quick and easy to agree upon much of anything for the duration of our work together.

Mike Bessler was a co-founder of The Wrestling Daily. He believes that the universe is a fairly random and chaotic place and he maintains a healthy appreciation for serendipity and happy coincidences.

A Very Special Announcement from TWD 2012

In a move that can only be described as quasi-Machiavellian and uncharacteristically sensible, pro wrestling raconteur Brady Hicks has grudgingly allowed a coterie of the original writers from the one-time IWC juggernaut known as The Wrestling Daily to class up things here on thebradyhicks.com. As such, over the course of the next few weeks this site will experience an unprecedented influx of high-quality, insightfully entertaining coverage and analysis related to the dynamic and multifaceted world of professional wrestling, presented in the celebrated and critically acclaimed TWD style.

TWD 2012 already has a number of great material on deck, including new work by Adam Testa, Scott Beeby, and Rob Siebert as well as classic TWD articles by Denim Millward and others. Additionally, the next senses-shattering installment of the epic series “The Rise and Fall of TWD” will be published next week as part of the TWD Revival.

The revolution continues…

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. The Rise and Fall of TWD, part one

Part One: Allegro

You couldn’t call it unexpected. Sure, it wasn’t all planned. Sure we were all taken by surprise at one point or another by this or that. But the big picture – the rise and fall of what could have been, would have been and probably should have been one of the best pro wrestling news and analysis sites on the ‘net – was in the cards from the very beginning. The site was called “The Wrestling Daily” or “TWD” to its readers and detractors alike and it was absolutely terrific…while it lasted.

It took a long time for me to write this piece; 3½ years – from the very beginning to now, actually. To be clear, I’ve never posted anything in any public forum that amounts to “my side of the story,” and this certainly isn’t intended to be anything like that. If anything, what I’d like to provide is a favorable look back at a tremendously ambitious project that simply didn’t succeed in the long run. There were a lot of people involved in the founding and evolution of TWD and it’s safe to say that every one of us was disappointed in the manner in which it ended. Hell, at some point after the project unceremoniously ended, a number of ex-TWDers decided that the initials actually stood for “That Wrestling Disaster.” I don’t blame ’em. Time doesn’t heal everything and while I did reach out to a number of “TWD  Originals” in preparing this, I also figured that a number of others might not want to be bothered with some difficult or unpleasant memories, a few of which would undoubtedly involve yours truly. In fact, in the interests of discretion and privacy, I’ll keep many things fairly general, referring directly to the people with whom I am on relatively good terms and have indicated their approval for my efforts at piecing together celebration of our old corner of the Internet Wrestling Community. (Of course, if any former TWD folks ask me to add in their respective names, improve upon important details or other pertinent stuff, I’m certainly willing to revisit and revise this and any subsequent installments accordingly.)  So presented here – with the assistance and support of TWD alumni as well as that of journalistic raconteur Brady Hicks  –  is a handful of reminiscences about the rise and fall TWD.

*  *   *

My involvement in TWD goes back a long way…Back to the beginning, even. Before that, really. Hell, in true, long-winded and rambling IWC fashion, I could go way, way back to the first wrestling show I attended at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia back in the early 1980s. Or I could wax philosophically about how I became obsessed with Lawler’s Memphis-based promotion and Poffo’s ICW during my formative years and how that’s still my favorite style and era of wrestling to this very day. I could fondly reminisce about my days as a the dreaded “M,” a “troll” on the glorified megablog known as Bleacher Report , a user-generated cacophony of gossip, rumor-mongering, recycled content and grade-school level creative writing. I could even touch on the fact that it was former BR wrestling community mainstay Joe Burgett who challenged me to step up and spend more time writing instead of just sniping and complaining and how that turned into the impetus for some of the better articles that BR had seen up to that point. But instead, I won’t mention any of that stuff. Not at all. (See what I did there?)

Somewhere along the line during my foray into Internet writing, I unexpectedly started to give a damn. A handful of like-minded individuals felt the same and many nights (or mornings for Krut, who lives in down under) we’d stay up e-mailing and Facebooking, plotting about how we could shape BR – and the IWC  – into the kind of place where accountability, ethics and competency amounted to more than just buzzwords and lofty ideals. The “BR Illuminati,” as some of us jokingly referred to ourselves, accomplished a little to that end. A little. (Hey, we convinced the BR administration to sack the head of their wrestling community at one point, which was pretty cool.) But it was the trio of guys from Hit the Ropes – Shane, Daris and Demetrus  –  who took the first steps beyond the confines of BR and began creating original and dynamic content in the form of their weekly podcast that, incidentally, is still around today.

Revealed at last...The inspiration behind my infamous BR avatar: "Venom and Friend," c. 1979.

But the rest of our clique were writers at heart and we really wanted to show our stuff by creating a forum for news and analysis that would outshine damn near everything else in the IWC. Even though this was only about four years ago, there wasn’t a whole lot of serious competition at the time. Not in our minds, anyway. Nowadays, every jabroni and his slow-witted nephew has a wrestling blog…or two. I’m all for freedom of expression and all that but just because you can have your own site doesn’t mean you should. Anyhoo…

Three of us from the “Illuminati” group (again, that name was not official; it was just a joke going around our niche at the time) decided to take the ball and run with it. Jason LeBlanc (a.k.a. “JLB”), who had been appointed to lead BR’s Wrestling Community after the other guy had been canned and/or “quit” (as he’d claimed), made the announcement that he was departing BR to form a new wrestling-themed site, noting that he’d be joined by a prominent editor/writer and yours truly, who, by that time had more or less dropped the whole “M” moniker (although I did return to BR now and again as “Whistler’s Mother,” which was one of my better aliases, if I do say so myself.)

The original banner for TWD v1.0

Jason’s initial announcement was met with tremendous enthusiasm as well as a swell of volunteers who wanted to offer content for the new site. In time, we firmed things up by creating applications and waivers and announcing our project’s new working name, “The Wrestling Daily.” In the weeks that followed, Jason – who was TWD’s Content Director – pored over applications with TWD’s Editor while I worked on creating and refining the initial incarnation of the website in my capacity as Site Administrator. We also engaged in some shameless self-promotion on BR and I, for one, tried to kick up enough of a stink by trying to get myself kicked off the site altogether. Unfortunately, the best response I could get ever out of BR administrators was having a few of my articles deleted.

Interestingly enough, at one point, we were contacted by someone who ran his own family-owned, purportedly “successful” sports-related blogging site. He actually offered us (the three co-founders of what was to be TWD) the opportunity to write for his site with virtually complete creative control under the conditions that we write for him exclusively and that didn’t go ahead with creating our own site. As a practical matter, we did investigate the matter and decided to politely decline. Also, he didn’t have any money to offer us. Really.

After a couple of weeks, we settle upon an impressive bullpen of very competent and insightful talent. Included in the mix was Kurt Lewicki, a shit-stirring bass-player from the land that gave us Muriel’s Wedding and Midnight Oil; Albert Dankwa III (a.k.a. “AkD”), the fur-cap wearing comic book enthusiast from Gotham City; Michael Scanlon, everyone’s favorite wise-cracking über-geek; Adam Testa, the Ron Burgundy of wrestling journalism (that’s a compliment, Adam); Scott Beeby, an odd hybrid of Kurt and AkD in that he is from Australia and sometimes wears a hat; and a handful of others who are no less important than the aforementioned individuals but who have not agreed to be mentioned at this time. My opinions of these folks as writers has never changed, irrespective of whatever  transpired between us and the stuff that ultimately drove us apart. All of them were the absolute best at what we’d set out to accomplish. I think I said it best in the press release that I wrote in early August 2009 when I described the TWD collectively as “a diverse group of people who possess a rich background of writing experience, and a broad scope of expertise.” And brothers and sisters, we had a lot to say.

With our first lineup of writers and a preliminary writing schedule in place, we set our debut date and posted a countdown clock on our new site. August 17, 2009 was our date with destiny.

To be continued…

To read part two of this series, click here.

Still to come in future installments of  The Rise and Fall of TWD: TWD rising; Jeff Hardy gives TWD an inadvertent boost; controversy and criticism; new writers; an e-mail from Wrestlicious; Tyler Black’s TWD-related heat; The TWD 50; crashing our server; Branko Broz; creative differences; TWD interviews with Mike Sydal, Chris Hero, Chris Nowinski, J.J. Dillon & Jesse Ventura; growing pains, more controversy and “That Wrestling Dénouement.”

Mike Bessler was a co-founder of The Wrestling Daily. These days he does lots of other things. 

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. – The Bruise Brothers’ Funeral

Plenty of moments in pro wrestling prove to be genuine, bona fide head-scratchers. But that’s not always to say that these situations are poorly conceived, offensive or downright crazy. Sometimes it’s the art of the swerve that yields raised brows, double-takes and a healthy amount of laughter and profane exclamations.

Take, for example, the old “Death of the Bruise Brothers” angle from Memphis Wrestling way back in 1984. The whole bit started with an allegedly grief-stricken Jimmy Hart appearing in the television studio to advise Lance Russell that his infamous tag team The Bruise Brothers (a.k.a. The Dream Machine and Pork Chop Cash) were  – as he put it  – “no more.” Now, the Memphis fans were accustomed to all kinds of chicanery and deception from the much-maligned hart and his “First Family” and despite the fact that Jimmy laid it on thick, the studio audience wasn’t buying it…at first. But as time went on and Jimmy spoke at length about his tragic loss and rolled some news footage complete with an apparent funeral procession, many fans likely wondered if perhaps this time, Hart was telling the truth. Even Canadian Lumberjack Jos LeDuc made a cameo in a scene from the funeral home, musing about mortality and the like before summarily dismissing the camera crew from his presence.

Eventually, the truth came out and the whole plot turned into what is likely one of the funniest moments in the history of Memphis Wrestling. But for a second, there, The Mouth of The South had a lot of folks saying, “WTF?”

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