It Couldn’t Happen to a Nicer Guy – The Kenny Vs Spenny Wrestling Episode
It wasn’t easy convincing Kenny to do a wrestling competition on “Kenny Vs. Spenny.” He’s more the UFC, Faces of Death, Kung Fu movie, video gamer kind of guy. Having said that, I will admit that while living in Los Angeles, he did watch Mexican wrestling, and told me about a match where 10 full-sized wrestlers went up against one midget. (Sorry little people, but political correctness and pro wrestling don’t mix.) He told me the match ended with the 10 large wrestlers in a heap on the mat, with the midget standing atop for the pin. Also, to his credit, Kenny loves the movie “I’m From Hollywood,” which chronicles Andy Kaufman’s legendary venture into pro wrestling in Memphis, Tennessee. It happens to be one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, and I wish I remembered how much he loved that movie.
I think what sold Kenny on doing the wrestling competition was when I explained that we would show the entire process of the art of wrestling – in other words no pretence of kayfabe. (Kayfabe was the unsaid rule that the wrestlers should stay in character during the show, and in public appearances, in order to maintain a semblance of reality among the fans.) I think showing the un-kayfabe realism mollified his fear that KVS would ever be seen as fake. Personally, I prefer the days of kayfabe, but that ship has long since sailed. So, we agreed and did “Who is the Better Professional Wrestler” competition, and to this day Kenny thinks it’s not a great KVS episode, but for me, it will always be one of my all-time favourites.
I’m a great believer that art should imitate life, and that’s how I came up with my wrestling personae, The Nice Guy. A lot of people think I’m nice … but obviously not everyone. There are a few gals, and too-many-to-count trolls/haters on my Facebook page who might not agree. But, generally speaking, I think I’m nice-ish. I’m certainly not a heel. I’m more what used to be called in wrestling jargon, a babyface. Thus, The Nice Guy was born. It was simple. Take my nice-ish-ness to a ridiculously comedic level in the context of a violent pro wrestler. The look was critical. I went for the one-piece leotard with Speedo swimming trunks outside the leotard. “The Nice Guy” was emblazoned across my ass, in a nod to “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. The boots were glossy wrestling boots with the initials “NG” on the sides. The attitude was nice and friendly, but with the capability of destroying my opponents with brutal, but fair, technical wrestling skill.
Kenny, on the other hand, went through a persona auditioning process with his crew before he landed on possibly one of the strangest wrestling gimmicks in the history of the “sport”… and that’s saying something. Specimen Yarp, also affectionately known as Yarp Yarp, makes The Undertaker look like Bob Backlund. Yarp Yarp was masked with part of an actual basketball made to look like a horrific alien or monster. (The mask was made years earlier by KVS alumni Sebby (Sebastian Cluer) for Halloween, I think.) Yarp Yarp is in the far reaches of the tradition of wrestlers hailing from parts unknown. Yarp’s bizarre/lazy chosen look was black underwear briefs (possibly Jockey), black socks and black un-wrestling shoes. Some wrestlers, usually heels, have managers, but Kenny, being Kenny, tweaked the concept, and had a doctor/mad scientist in a lab coat (played by KVS alumni Jamie Tiernay) who appeared to be Yarp Yarp’s keeper. Yarp Yarp is described in the Urban Dictionary as “an abomination created from a freak incident involving a spider, a hammer, a basketball and a bathtub … an untamed beast that can only be controlled by being fed used tampons.” Quite the back-story, but can it wrestle?
Yarp Yarp nonsense aside, I was determined to take the training portion of the competition seriously. This, after all, was my first attempt to actually learn the art of wrestling. I worked with Tyson Dux, a real pro wrestler, who would be my opponent in the actual match. It may seem odd to some that I would train with my opponent, but since Vince McMahon quashed kayfabe — apparently in order to dodge New York state athletic taxes (no wonder he’s a billionaire) — I’m going to tell the truth. The truth is that wrestling is an art, not a sport. Opponents often travel, work out and rehearse together, so that when you see a show, it’s entertaining, and somewhat organized so the wrestlers don’t get too hurt. I can’t imagine this would be a surprise to anyone, but there might be some 98-year-old lady in Memphis who still thinks Andy Kaufman is from Hollywood, and that Yarp Yarp would destroy the world if he wasn’t fed soiled tampons. It’s possible. I love wrestling. It’s an art. Pro wrestlers are part actors and part athletes. I have nothing but respect for the art form, and for the men and women who practise it. It is, simply put, show business!
The hastened training process for an out of shape pencil-neck geek like me was challenging. I was given a crash course in wrestling moves and choreographing a match in a very short period of time. There were a few moments I will never forget during that process. The stinging pain of a forearm slap across the chest is beyond anything I could have imagined. I think I took three or four of those chest blows. When you watch the episode, you can almost feel the pain coming off the screen. It was impossible for me not wince and whine like bitch.
Later, during lunch, Tyson asked me if I wanted to be suplexed. My gut reaction was no fucking way, but he talked me into it, explaining that though it looks crazy, it was relatively painless and simple IF I followed his instructions to a tee. I agreed with trepidation and spinal cord injury on my mind. The main rule, he explained, was to make sure my knees were bent because the heavy force of the impact could shatter my legs if they were straight. I remember as he lifted me into position that keeping my knees bent was all I was thinking. And then, in a flash, with a powerful impact, I hit the mat and it was over. I had been suplexed. When you watch it on TV you can see how proud I am of myself. And the best part, it’s on video and will live as proof that I had the balls (like Andy Kaufman) to be suplexed.
The other aspect that was hugely important to me was that I bleed. Not fake blood, but my own real blood. There are three kind of wrestling bleeders; fake, real blade cuts and real non-blade cuts. The real bleeders are easy to find simply by looking at their foreheads. Their skin is essentially scar tissue. Abdullah the Butcher can actually stand a playing card in the slice grooves in his forehead…nifty trick for parties. Between the Original Sheik and The Butcher, they’ve probably drawn more blood than the Red Cross in any given year. (Unfortunately, these days, there’s a serious side to blood-letting with AIDS, hepitatus, etc., and blood is currently banned in the WWE.) Tyson walked me through the old-school cutting routine. He would put me in a headlock, take a razor, hidden in his finger tape, and cut my forehead. He told me to make sure not to move when he was cutting. He also said that if I took a few aspirins before the match, it would thin my blood and I’d have heavier bleed. As usual, I obeyed the expert, but did forget to take the aspirin. But that didn’t matter, because I bled incredibly anyways. It was awesome, and also recorded for the ages.
A major part of pro wrestling is the interview. Being good on the mic is important. Some careers are made with great mic skills and limited wrestling skills. (I hope Hulk Hogan isn’t too offended).Back in the day, interviews used to be done at ringside, or in a studio nearby with announcers like Mean Gene Okerlund, Gorilla Monsoon and even Vince … excuse me, Mr. McMahon. Today, the wrestlers do what used to be interviews in the ring as their opponents often happen to appear (with their music) strutting, or running down the runway, to play out whatever scene/promotion the script called for that day.
As usual, I prefer the old-school way, but what can you do when wrestling makes gazillions of dollars the way it is? Answer: Suck it up and buy more merch. Unfortunately, my Nice Guy interview was cut out of the episode. When you only have 22 minutes per episode, things get cut. In a way, I’m glad, because in retrospect, I think I could have done it differently. When you film stuff, you often watch it later and think to yourself, why did I do that? Something else would have been better. I performed the interview in my real voice, acting super polite, as presumably a nice guy would. I wished my opponent, Tyson Dux, good luck and complimented him on his past victories. My regret, in hindsight, was that I should have said the same pleasantries, only with a rough wrestler voice. It would have been funnier. Maybe in my next life.
It was match day. The card was not exactly WrestleMania: Tyler Dux vs. The Nice Guy, followed by Celine Jian vs. Yarp Yarp. I had memorized a series of not very intricate moves that would become the match. Whenever I watch it, I’m reminded of how incredibly awkward and laboured my moves were, which made me appreciate real wrestlers even more. In my defence, it was my first time, with only two days training, so I shouldn’t have expected anything more than what it was. But that was the beauty of KVS; the worse it was, the funnier it was.
I’m particularly proud of my entrance, even though it was in a shitty warehouse/gym and not a snazzy ramp with great lighting and pyrotechnics like you see on RAW. I made two key decisions: One was that, being a nice guy, I would escort my frail, elderly mother to her seat, on my way to the ring. The other was my decision to have an entourage. Enter KVS alumni Kevin Morgan and Brian Peco as “The Gentlemen,” escorting me to the ring, wearing smoking jackets, and holding alcoholic beverages. They were my low-rent version of the time-honoured tradition of wrestler valets. Gorgeous George had Jeffries, Ted Dibiase had Virgil, and Macho Man had Elizabeth. The truth is that babyfaces tended not to have an entourage, but I was so excited to actually wrestle, I think I lost touch with reality, trying to jam into my match every aspect that I loved about pro wrestling.
The match began and I inelegantly went through the pre-arranged moves — sometimes Tyson would whisper in my ear what move was coming up next — and then he cut me. Once I felt the blood trickle down my face I was beyond thrilled. I had no idea how much I bled until after the match. I know that pro bleeder/wrestler/judge of the competition, Bloody Bill Scullion, said I bled like a stuck pig, which is good for me, but not necessarily a pig.
There were two endings to the episode. Both humiliating for me. What else is new? With all my knowledge of wrestling, it never occurred to me, even competing against a scumbag like Kenny, that Yarp Yarp, Celine and Tyson would blindside me (literally with a white powder) in what the business calls a “swerve.” They fake pummelled me, making a huge mess on the mat. It was a classic heel lynching, and I was so caught up in my own fantasy-come-to-life that I didn’t see it coming. Watching it later, during the editing process, Page Magen, Celine’s identical twin brother, who was the ring announcer, screamed during the beat down, “It couldn’t happen to nicer guy!!!” For me, it was one of the best lines in KVS history.
And if that wasn’t enough, to further my shame, I did the one thing a wrestler should NEVER do … I broke character. Honestly, I felt that Kenny was making a mockery of the episode, and didn’t realize it was a brilliant tactic. Sometimes Kenny crosses the line into cheating with no redeeming features, but unfortunately, that time, he beat me at my own game. I’m such an idiot. How could I forget that together we used to laugh our asses off at the end of “I’m From Hollywood” when Kaufman and Jimmy Hart conspired, giving Lawler a similar beat-down to what I got. It was a textbook heel move from a textbook heel.
Kenny deserved to win the episode, but NOT the match within the episode. And therein is the paradox of the KVS wrestling episode. We both got what we wanted; I got to live out my dream of becoming a bleeding, suplexed, pro wrestler, and Kenny got to win the competition without actually wrestling, ultimately humiliating me once again by having The Iron Sheik attempt to shove a beer bottle up my anus.
There’s no business like show business.
Spencer “Spenny” Rice is one half of the comedic duo from Kenny vs. Spenny and the executive producer of the documentary series X-Rayted. Follow him on Facebook —https://www.facebook.com/pages/SPENCER-SPENNY-RICE/216355453412 — or on Twitter (@Spenny) and watch re-runs of KVS for years to come.