Friday, July 19, 2013

Agave Nectar and a Love Rekindled

Sally and I had some friends over to the house this past weekend, one of my classmates from the Academy along with his wife and daughter.  He brought over the remnants of a sampler case of Blue Moon specialty beers, and we had, well, a few of them.  I particularly liked the Agave Nectar Ale, but that may just be because there are so many vegan triathlon recipes that use agave nectar as a substitute for honey and/or sugar when you’re making homemade racing gels.


If you’re wondering, basically what you do is throw about a half-cup of agave nectar and a pair of dates into a blender, along with a few drops of lime juice and a pinch of salt.  Blend and then pack that stuff into a plastic flask which you can then either strap onto your bike or throw in one of your jersey pockets.  My experience is that the stuff burns a little slower and more consistently than Gu’s do, but you wind up having to consume more of it over time, either because it doesn’t punch quite as hard regular gels do or just because measuring the dosages over time is more difficult because the shots aren’t individually packaged.*
Regardless, once the beer got flowing, my buddy and I got to talking about our lives and about the people that we both knew and all of that sort of thing, and as we were talking, I mentioned that I’d been married before.  I said specifically:
“My first marriage was a little like a train wreck.  Short.  Exciting.  Painful at the end.  Because, y’know, you really can’t build a marriage solely on the basis of good sex and a shared love of pro-wrestling.  Don’t get me wrong, that stuff can take you a long way.  But it’s not quite enough to be the foundation for the rest of your lives together.”
The shame of it is that I stopped watching pro-wrestling after my first wife and I divorced.  Because there was plenty about that relationship that was good, and somehow watching wrestling wasn’t the same when she wasn’t around.  And even though wounds heal in time, I’ve never been drawn back into pro-wrestling.  In the intervening years, it seems like wrestling has changed.  Certainly the WWE has changed, and for a long, long time, it’s seemed to me like the promotion just hasn’t had the star-power that it had back when I was a huge fan.
D'Lo was always one of my
Over time, I’ve come to realize that I--and wrestling fans everywhere--were just lucky.  Lucky to have had Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Rock, and Mick Foley all on the same stage at the same time, lucky that the promotion itself was able to put so many tremendously charismatic guys out there, all at once.  And it wasn’t like it was just those three guys.  Yeah, Austin, Rock, and especially Foley were my favorites, but they were by no means the only guys on the show worth watching.  Even a guy stuck as far down the card as former European Champion D’Lo Brown was, to me, eminently watchable.  I mean, you can say what you want to about D’Lo, but he’s the only guy in the history of the WWE who’s been able to make the European Championship actually mean something.
Maybe I’m just getting old, and this is one of those “the Corps has” moments, but it seems like the WWE kind of lost its way after acquiring WCW.  It was fine that they acquired all that talent--and the contracts that came with it--but those guys also came with all of the WCW’s titles, many of which were mere carbon copies of titles that the then-WWF already had, meaning that now the WWE is weighed down by about twice as many title belts as any one single wrestling promotion can possibly put to good use, and they all mean a little less because of it.  And sure, you may argue that the WWE isn’t just one promotion, that they’ve divided into a competing “brands” labeled Smackdown and Raw, but I’m sorry, I just can’t follow that.  It’s too confusing, I’m too casual a fan, and anyway, aren’t they still all on the same Pay-Per-Views?  Bottom line, that “brands” thing sounds like bullshit to me.
And, I’m sorry, I have to add this: John Cena is not the Rock.  He’s a poor man’s Steve Austin at best, and I’m not digging it.  At all.  Cena’s got a rock-star physique, but he’s wooden and uninteresting on the mike, and it was the mike that really made Austin what he was.  It was the mike that made Dwayne Johnson the Rock, and the mike was at least half of what made Foley, well...  Hey, I’ve got a huge soft spot for Mick Foley.  
Anyway, as I was watching the show the other night, there was Cena doing an interview with “The World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry, and all I kept thinking about was how far we’d fallen from when Foley and Johnson could do twenty minutes of essentially impromptu stand up with sock puppets (!) and have it be literally the best thing on television.  They’re up there just talking, it’s obviously not scripted, and we the viewers can’t possibly look away, nor will the promotion break for commercial even though the interview has to have gone way over its scheduled time.
I guess it’s lucky, then, that I never have time to watch a whole episode of Raw or Smackdown anymore.  It’s true.  I’ve found myself tuning in lately, but usually only while I’m waiting for my wife Sally to come downstairs after dinner.  But even when I sit down to watch for longer periods of time, I still never make it to the end because, bottom line, I still have to get up at 5:00 am every day.  So that leaves me watching the undercard.  
And wouldn’t you know it, the undercard is where it’s at right now.
The point of this story is that my new favorite wrestler is Dolph Ziggler.  That’s quite a porn star name he’s carrying around, and Hell, maybe with that hair, it’s supposed to be a porn star schtick, who knows?  But Ziggler reminds me a lot of a young Steve Austin, before he broke his neck, back when he was something of a high flyer.  Ziggler’s great on the mike, too, and he sells his falls like he’s on the verge of death, and that face-flop that he seems to do three times every match is an amazing thing.  After his accident, Austin changed his style up and became a brawler--and the amazing thing was the way he made it work--and I confess that I’d like to see Ziggler work of that style more, too.  I say that not only because I’d just like to see if he can do it and make it work but also because there’s something to that simpler, brawling style, especially the way you can use it to get outside the ring and bring in the crowd and the environment and all that stuff.  Stone Cold was that master of that, but it seems like nobody gets outside the comfort zone of the basic ring area much anymore.  Or maybe I just haven’t watched enough.
Regardless, this match against Alberto Del Rio for the WCW title shows exactly what I’m talking about.  It also shows how little the old WCW title is worth now, being that it’s the “World” title, but it’s still stuck firmly on the undercard of a Monday night show, but that’s another story.  The match itself was so awesome, even my daughter Emma came downstairs to watch it with me.

Watching that, I mean, wow.  Even the screwjob ending worked.
Heh.  Maybe I should say that my new favorite wrestler is AJ Lee.  One gets the idea that she could drag an interesting interview out of even Mark Henry, that if the face-off were Henry vs. AJ Lee, we’d all be riveted--and wondering at what point Big-E Langston was gonna drop the hammer on The World’s Strongest Man.  Frankly, I’d love it!
Anyway, the point of this post is just to say that I feel good right now about calling myself a wrestling fan again, and it’s mostly because of what Ziggler and Del Rio have had going lately, in concert with Lee’s work with Langston.  I’ll be watching the way the Ziggler/Langston feud develops with avid interest.  And after that, I’ll probably turn the show off.
* The actual recipe, and everything else you would ever want to know about being a vegan triathlete, is detailed in Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide by Brendan Brazier.  I’m not a vegan, but I can’t recommend the book strongly enough.  Even if you’re just a casual racer, it’s well worth your time.  It’ll change the way you think about modern food.

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