Monday, August 10, 2015

Jumpin' Jeff Farmer

In the theatrical world of pro wrestling, it could be argued that the “promo” is maybe the single most important tool in the box when it comes to getting fans to tune into the next show or to buy a ticket to the arena.  The late Dusty Rhodes and Rowdy Roddy Piper were masters of this art — both men could deliver a speech so impassioned that you couldn’t wait to see the big match when the hero (Rhodes) would finally get his promised revenge on the villain, or conversely, the villain (Piper in his prime, though he was arguably just as good as a hero) would be obnoxious that you’d tune in to see someone kick his ass.  Rhodes, Piper, Ric Flair, the Rock, Mick Foley, CM Punk…the list goes on and on with big stars who could sell a match on words alone.  Even guys who weren’t quite as flamboyant speakers, like Bret Hart or Dave Batista, has innate charisma that allowed them to just be no-nonsense and direct.

And then there’s Jumpin’ Jeff Farmer.

Oh my god, where to begin.

* The interviewer himself is your first hint that something is askew.  He has the weird vocal cadence of a slowed-down, southern Michael Buffer if Buffer was terrible at his job.  Also, I’m no television production expert, but if you’re cutting to a pre-taped segment, wouldn’t it be less jarring to have either the live or pre-taped segment in a different setting?  Also, this can’t be overlooked…it was a PRE-TAPED INTERVIEW.  As in, they could’ve reshot it but were apparently satisfied.  (Or, conversely, they did several takes and that was somehow the best one.)


* It should be noted, this all took place in some small-time local promotion in the 1980’s and I actually have no idea what the context of the promo or the feud between Farmer and “Motley Cruz” was all about.  I don’t know if this was a rivalry that this company was actually using to headline their shows, or an undercard bout.  In either case, if “the hardest match [you] ever had in your life” was against a guy named Motley Cruz, your career probably isn’t going places.

* If you had a hall of fame for lame names given to 80’s wrestling heels, Motley Cruz is a first ballot inductee. 

* Emotion is just fine in a promo.  Heck, some of the best promos of all time have been delivered by a face (good guy) wrestler who was on the verge of a breakdown out of either joy or rage.  What generally doesn’t work, though, is when you’re less “passionately emotional” and more “five-year-old on the verge of a tantrum.”

* When Farmer stumbles over the “things aren’t going my way” line, the interviewer gives a quick glance at the camera.  He does this a few times during the course of the promo, but I’d like to think that first one was a quick “uh oh, this is going off the rails” reaction and the rest were just to cover it up.  Kudos to this interviewer for both keeping a straight face throughout and also resisting the urge for a Jim Halpert face reaction during those looks at the camera.

* If you turn the tables on someone, you’re reversing things to your own advantage.  But if Motley Cruz “turned the tables in the wrong way” on Jeff Farmer, shouldn’t that mean that Cruz somehow screwed himself over?  It could be that Farmer doesn’t know what a double negative is, but nahhh, he’s a linguistic master.

* My guess is that Cruz cheated to win a match against Farmer at some point, hence this, um, enraged promo from Farmer.  It’s possible they might’ve been tag team partners and Cruz turned on him, thus inspiring the “you backstab me one way or another” line.  The point is that I’ve listened to this promo about 20 times and still have no idea whatsoever what the point of this feud is.

* Maybe the best way to judge a wrestling promo is to transpose it to a real life situation.  Forget about even the content, let’s just focus on the delivery.  Imagine you’re at a bar and you accidentally spilled a drink on Jeff Farmer.  He turns around and gets upset in this same quivery, semi-tantrum state, maybe even “issuing a challenge” to fight right then and there in the bar.  Are you worried, or do you laugh in his face?  (Of course, the gentlemanly thing to do in any drink-spilling scenario is to buy the person a drink of their own to apologize, though admittedly, even the nicest guy in the world would have a hard time stifling a laugh while calling the bartender over. 
“Jeff, would you like another Coors Light?” 

* The only way this promo could’ve been any funnier would’ve been if Farmer had pointed his finger so that his hand completely obscured his head as he spoke.  I presume that’s what happened in the first 6-7 takes of this interview.

* I may have to start using the term “goin’ FULL FORCE” several times a day.  Like, I won’t just be taking the garbage out in my usual way, no, I’ll be goin’ FULL FORCE.

* The interviewer couldn’t have wrapped that thing up any quicker if he tried.

So there’s that promo, which I can only presume led to a Wrestlemania-caliber match in a sold-out 90,000-seat football stadium.  The kicker comes in the follow-up promo….

* That’s right, Jumpin’ Jeff LOST THE NEXT MATCH.  I can only presume that the company promoter saw the original promo, realized that pushing Farmer as a star was a lost cause and quickly rebooked the match result.  Best of all, Farmer openly admits it was a clean loss, which is kind of rare in the 80’s when heels generally always cheated no matter the opponent.  How far down the totem pole was Farmer even in this small potatoes company when he can’t even get a tainted loss to a heel?

* Content-wise, this promo is 100 times better than the first one.  Farmer actually sounds like an actual pro athlete discussing a loss; it’s a basic “I got beat, opponent had a good strategy, I learned from it and I’ll get him next time” sound bite.  I’m actually not sure I’ve ever seen a promo quite like this before in pro wrestling — just a complete humble-pie interview from a face after losing to a hated heel.

* “I learned well, it don’t take me long” is followed up by a near-total derailment of his train of thought.  You can see it in Farmer’s eyes, as they suddenly start shifting all over the place.  So while he may be a quick study at wrestling…

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