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Episode 00 – Tag Team (1991)

or “The Tomb of Anubis Pilot Review”

Starring: Roddy “They Live” Piper , Jesse “Predator” Ventura ,
& Shannon “Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death” Tweed
Director: Paul “Crazy Like a Fox: the Movie” Krasny
Writer: none credited (go figure)

Origin: USA

Review     
[NOTE: This is a review from my previous website. I updated it (slightly), but the majority of the review is intact. I’m posting it as a “pilot” episode of sorts, and I figured what better review to post as a pilot than a review for an actual pilot!]

Ah professional wrestling. Not quite a sport and not quite a soap opera. The spandex clad gladiators of the squared circle have been trying to break the barrier into Hollywood recognition for as far back as I can remember, always with mixed results. 20 years ago, professional wrestling was a pop culture oddity that everyone from the most tornado-ridden trailer park to the most cocaine saturated penthouse would flock to, the biggest annual gala of which was Wrestlemania. Over the years though, pro wrestling has more or less become society’s big heart tattoo with an ex-lover’s name on it. Long time fans either display it proudly and risk being mocked by those around them or try covering it up with a lifetime of big sweaters for the same reason, while the former fans who were only into it while it was popular pretend like it never happened, brushing it off as “something stupid I did when I was a kid” when someone gets a little too close and sees it peeking out from the neckline of their shirt.

Back in the good old days, everybody new the names: Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Macho Man Randy Savage, Jesse “the Body” Ventura. Everyone knew who they were and everybody still remembers them today. Of the current crop of wrestlers today though, it’s apparent that Hollywood’s not really interested in hiring glorified stuntmen for their movies anymore. If you walk up to the average Joe and Jane Nobody on the sidewalk and say, “Who’d win in a fight, Samoa Joe or Daniel Bryan? Sheamus or Abyss? Randy Orton or Sting? CM Punk or AJ Styles?”, chances are they’re either ignore you and walk around or pity/fear you, give you a dollar, and tell you they’re going to pray to God for your well-being tonight before they go to bed on their mattress stuffed with hundred dollar bills. If you went up to the same woman who watched the Undertaker and Hulk Hogan match at Survivor Series ’91 or the Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin match at Wrestlemania XIV and you asked her if she prefers WWE or TNA, chances are she’ll think you’re asking her about whether she prefers the Nintendo Wii or tits and asses. It’s true. You can’t even count Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson amidst the dying breed of wrestlers in popular culture anymore, as he’s officially sworn off wrestling in favor of bigger paychecks for less work, with the occasional exception where he comes back for a few big paycheck appearances and to promote his newest digital waste of 2 hours. Can’t blame the guy really, but with his departure there’s really nobody left to pull in the “outside” crowd anymore… well, there’s John Cena, but even as the biggest name in the business today, his crossover appeal is both minimal and very limited.

Anyway, the point of all this is that wrestling was so popular 20+ years ago that ABC was ready to make a weekly buddy cop show with none other than Roddy Piper and Jesse Ventura in the lead roles… no, seriously. The story stars Piper and Ventura as Tricky Rick McDonald and Bobby “the Body” Youngblood respectively. The duo is a tag team who are on their way to the top of the marquee, and a shot at the Tag Team Championships. Before that, they’ll need to get past the ruthless Samurai Brothers to get there. Prior to the big match with their “sounds like the title of an obscure NES game” opponents in question, their boss’s wife pulls them aside and tells them to throw the match, otherwise she’ll tell her hubby that the two of them have been making passes at her and he’ll blackball the duo from the wrestling world forever. Though this sounds stupid now, what with competing wrestling organizations always trying to buy each other’s top talents, back then the WWF was the only game in town, so for wrestling fans it’s not unbelievable to think that one promoter could successfully end the careers of two guys like McDonald and Youngblood. Also, even though it’s been widely acknowledged by wrestlers today that everything is scripted in regards to who wins the matches, this was still at a time when the WWF was adamant on the idea that the outcome of matches were not pre-planned, so you can forgive the lack of logic here. Of course these guys aren’t the type to back down to blackmail, especially not from some skirt, so they go through with the match and chalk up a victory against the Samurais, subsequently getting their asses fired as a result. Cue the basis for a tv series!

I’m going to stall the review for a moment (as I’m oft to do) by addressing the incredibly bad writing of this show, starting here with the entirely uninspired characters. Wow, Tricky Rick and Bobby “the Body”, what a long way from Rowdy Roddy and Jesse “the Body”… you’re telling me these writers couldn’t even stray far enough from their WWF characters to give Ventura a nickname other than his actual nickname?! At least they changed Piper from Rowdy to Tricky, but Ventura’s nothing more than “the Body”?! How hard is it to turn that into something like “the Stud” or “the Hunk”? The slacker approach to character naming doesn’t end here though. Check this out: the Samurai Brothers’ manager is played by real life wrestling manager Harry Fujiwara, a.k.a. Mr. Fuji. How far from the norm do our mysterious unaccredited writers deviate from the true life path here? Mr. Fuji becomes Mr. Sake… they couldn’t even drop the “Mr.”?! I guess writing TV pilots is easier than writing 5th grade science fiction considering my English teacher gave me an A+ and these guys lost their jobs. However, if this was all instead a marketing scheme by Vince McMahon that the characters in the show are contractually obligated to resemble their WWF counterparts as a way to better advertise his product on national television, I apologize to the writers… for now. Back to work.

So, no longer allowed near a wrestling ring and having no prior work experience other than lifting weights and pretending to beat people up, it’s a recipe for wackiness when Rick and Bob try to integrate themselves into the blue collar working world. Whether it’s moving pianos or playing padded assault victims to a women’s self-defense class, things don’t look favorable for the guys’ wallets. On top of that, it looks like they may soon be evicted from their apartment (yes, they even live together…)  if they don’t come up with a way to make money fast. Inspiration comes in the strangest of forms though, when the boys break up a robbery at their local grocery store and get the perfect idea: they’ll join the police academy! Hey, it worked for Bubba Smith, right?

Yes, before Trish Stratus was doing “Armed and Famous”</a>, two other wrestlers thought it’d be a good idea to become legitimate peace keepers. Though they struggle a bit, the boys make it through basic training and earn their shields. They look too damn goofy in police uniforms though, so it’s written into the script that Ricky and Bob-O will be working undercover… okay, time for interlude numero dos!

I gave the show’s writers a temporary pass for the name change thing, citing that it’s very possible Vince McMahon was being a dick about the whole thing and insisted that only the slightest changes be made so audiences would better recognize his performers and, thus, his product. However, I can’t blame McMahon for the unbelievably stupid rationale behind making two former professional wrestlers into undercover police officers! You want to make them cops, that’s fine, I can live with that. It’s made more acceptable when it’s revealed that Youngblood (mirror Jesse Ventura’s real life history) is a former Navy Seal. But, doesn’t it kinda defeat the point of being “undercover” when you’re also one of the biggest former names in professional wrestling and everybody knows who you are!? Gah, brain fire! Brain fire! Put it out! PUT IT OUT!

Like I was saying, while in the academy, Ricky and Bobby meet seen-to-be officer Ray Tyler. Ray becomes their bumbling comedy sidekick and the show’s general big talker, meaning he’s always the one who acts like he’s in charge until a genuine authority figure comes around and turns him into a brown-nosing weasel. A necessary evil in the TV dichotomy. He pops up from time to time to either try and butt in on some of our heroes’ glory or to get pushed around and have his status in the force threatened by Youngblood and McDonald’s antics. Speaking of which, the dynamic duo’s first assignment is witness protection. It seems that a dog walking veterinarian named Leona (Shannon Tweed!) witnessed a mob hit in a parking garage while our boys were running through basic training. The rest of the pilot revolves around Ricky and Bobby protecting Leona, beating up mob goons with their old wrestling tactics (I guess they forgot they have guns… as do most of the mob goons who seem to have had some in-ring experience of their own), getting suspended from the force for screwing up their job, running around looking for Leona, beating up more mob goons and saving the day so Leona can testify and put a crime boss away. It all ends with the two adopting a formerly injured dog and Roddy Piper on the floor in the last of what would be many questionably homoerotic situations, naked with the exception of a towel around his waist while laughing and playing with his new best friend while Ventura and Tweed look on. Kinda creepy in its own way really… Then again, being married to Gene Simmons, I’m sure Tweed’s seen 100 times weirder shit in her days.

If you had to sum up Tag Team with a single word, you’d be hard fought to figure out something more suitable than “campy”. There’s so much cheddar being thrown around here that it’s hard to figure out how much of it was intentional and how much was just really shitty “Hey, that’d be a cool thing to have!” moments between the writing staff. The show definitely nods to the absurdity of the pseudo sport on which it’s based though, the most obliging of which being the introductory scene in which a young fan visits Youngblood and MacDonald in their locker room (okay, so just anyone can waltz around back stage at a wrestling event and wander in and out of dressing rooms as they please?!), apparently unhappy with their current professional monikers and questioning why they would want to give up their former show aliases as “the Lizard Brothers”, to which MacDonald replies that “the green scales and the ears just weren’t us”. You think that two wrestlers dressed like lizard men is a bit much to swallow? You obviously haven’t seen the darker side of wrestling my friend…

Beyond the little touches like that, the rest of the wrestling stuff sucked. I don’t mean “sucked dick like a crack whore” sucked, I mean “sucked a conga line of hobo dicks like a drugged out trailer park whore with a Hoover for a mouth” sucked! It’s painful to watch as the cheese is ramped up to heart attack levels at such moments as Piper and Ventura jumping off of structures to land on people or coming up with their own catch phrase, “Body slam!” or, the coronary that finally killed the moose: Ventura is pinned to a tree by a thug with a rake, desperate for some help from his partner. Seeing the emergency state of his pal, Piper sees Vantura’s hand outstretched and, in a slow motion moment that makes “Baywatch” look like Hamlet, Piper leaps through the air and tags his buddy’s hand WWF style before saving the day… HE FUCKING TAGGED THE GUYS HAND!!!!! ARGH!

As far as the rest of the show goes, Ventura and Piper are actually pretty good actors, even when being Full Nelsoned with a bad script. They’re fun to watch. The only problem I have with the two is the frequent shirtlessness going on here. You half expect them to go knocking on their neighbor’s door and asking for a cup of shirt because they’re fresh out. You could make a drinking game out of the number of scenes they show up shirtless in or wearing a towel, all in a mere 45 minutes! In fact, if anybody wants to buy a copy of this off of me, I’ll include the rules for the “Tag Team: Get Tagged!” drinking game with it!

The pilot actually tested well enough that a regular series was given the green light by ABC execs. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) the idea was scratched a mere 24 hours before shooting of the first episode and “Tag Team: the Series” was not to be. Both stars went on to somewhat better things though. Piper, beyond wrestling, enjoyed a career as a b-movie star in flicks like Hell Comes to Frogtown and They Live (where he fought Keith David in the greatest fight scene ever), while Ventura would become a bad movie tough guy himself before ending up the Governor of Minnesota of all things. As far as Tag Team goes though, let me put it this way: Cheese is good. I like cheese. Cheese goes great between two slices of bread or melted on top of a taco (except for the pink kind). Cheese is great when eaten by the cube or in peelable cylinder form. Cheese can even be good for you in moderation. In that regard, there’s too much cheese in Tag Team. It clogs my arteries of tolerance and it gives me a cinemasochism heart attack. Ingest your movie dairy products in moderation my friends, so you can avoid that groaning agony in your chest. It’s fun up until the point where it just gets to be too much, and at those times it becomes flaming daggers in your chest.

On a sidebar though, let’s go back to the pre-review rant. Where do I stand on the whole tattoo situation? Wrestling was introduced to me by my dad and my grandpa. I have good memories of watching the pay-per-views with my family as a brat and going into school the next day to regale my friends with results from every event. Everybody else wet themselves over Wrestlemanias, but for me the best times of year were always January and Thanksgiving. January was the Royal Rumble and on Thanksgiving, after we’d eaten our meal and given the Tryptophan a chance to burn through our brains, it was time for Survivor Series. Both were unique for their specialty matches (the R-Squared for it’s 30 man battle royal and Double S for it’s 4/5/6 man tag team elimination matches) and always appealed to a kid like myself who was just waiting to see mash-ups of guys who otherwise would never have wrestled against each other, either through company politics or because they just wouldn’t have garnered the fan reaction the office big wigs thought they would.

Anyway, my grandpa died a few years ago from Leukemia. He’s not only the one who introduced me to wrestling and cultivated that love throughout my childhood, but he was the only person I knew besides my friend George who still watched wrestling. With him gone and George having graduated to being a full-time family man, I’ve got nobody. Despite that, and despite the brush off I get from everybody else around me when they hear that I still follow the stories, I stick with it. The easiest excuse would be to say that it’s to honor my grandpa, but even though that’s panty peeler for the sentimental gals out there just looking for an excuse to get laid beyond the socially unacceptable obvious reasons, it’s not really the point. I like to watch wrestling.

Yes, I know it’s “fake”, in that the feuds are written by shlubs in the background, but so is every Hollywood blockbuster or TV ratings grabber. I know that they’re not really hitting each other “that hard” and that they’re just selling everything to make it look good. But you know what? These men and women are more athletic than 98% of the “real” athletes in the world today. They don’t get paid the kinds of bloated salaries that these ungrateful pricks in baseball or basketball do, but they’re out there jumping off of shit and putting their physical well-being on the line 365 days a year. They don’t get an “off season”, they more often than not work through every holiday, and they’re putting their bodies through torture that leaves most of them broken when it’s all said and done, addicted to pain killers, alienated from their families and the rest of society, waiting for Vince McMahon to ring their phone and give ‘em one last shot in the spotlight. If you’re one of those dick cheeses that still thinks wrestling is a joke and the people involved are nothing more than pretty boys who can’t act their way out of a wet nut sack, then go watch Beyond the Mat or read any autobiography by Mick Foley and see if you don’t respect them afterwards.

Hmmm, once again it seems like a simple review has turned into a soap box session of defending a lifestyle choice on my part, so let’s try to end this on a joke. Here’s a good one:  An Irishman walked into a bar, hoisted his bad leg over the barstool, pulled himself up painfully and ordered a shot of whiskey. The Irishman looked down the bar and said, “Is that Jesus down there?” The bartender nodded and the Irishman told him to give Jesus a whiskey too. Next, an Italian with a hunchback came into the bar. He shuffled up to the barstool and asked for a glass of Chianti. He also looked down the bar and asked if that was Jesus sitting down there. The bartender nodded and the Italian said to give JC a glass of Chianti too. Last, a redneck swaggered in dragging his knuckles on the floor and hollered. “Barkeep, set me up a cold one. Hey, is that God’s Boy down there?” The barkeep nodded, and the redneck told him to give Jesus a cold one. As Jesus got up to leave, he walked over to the Irishman and touched him and said, “For your kindness, you are healed!” The Irishman felt the strength come back to his leg, and he got up and danced a stereotypical jig to the door. Jesus touched the Italian and said, “For your kindness you are healed!” The Italian felt his back straighten and he raised his hands above his head and did a cartwheel out the door. Jesus walked toward the redneck and the redneck jumped back shouting, “Don’t touch me, I’m drawing disability!”.

Oh those wacky hillbillies.

The Moral of the Story: Wrestlers can act. It’s part of their job. It’s the writers who are always faking the talent…

Screenshots_____

“So it’s agreed: no “e-i,e-i-o” jokes and no Rod Liefeld jokes.”


I don’t even know that kid and I already want
to smash a bottle of Old English over his face.


Little known fact: this moment is what
inspired Vince McMahon to create the XFL.


“‘Damn near killed ’em’! Don’t you get
it!? Come on! ‘DAMN NEAR KILLED ‘EM!'”


Homo-eroticism Level: Negligible


Homo-eroticism Level: Sitcom Misunderstanding


Homo-eroticism Level: Bukkake Party Grandpas!


In a pilot featuring Shannon Tweed,
there were way too many instances of the
wrong cast members ending up shirtless…

 

Click the Box Art for an Easter Egg ;)

Anubis will return next time in “Jeffrey Combs Dies at the End!”

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