I’m going to a Ring Of Honor wrestling show this Saturday night and I’m having a hard time determining what tee shirt to wear. I do have an ROH tee but that’s off-limits, as it would violate the sacred don’t wear the tee of the band you’re going to see to the show of rule. I mean, I was at The Cure concert last night, and tons of people were wearing Cure shirts and nobody was mad about it. So, yeah, there are exceptions to the rule (Motley Crue, Kiss, and, ah, Insane Clown Posse probably) but Ring of Honor is not one of them. It’s like, yeah, ah, we know you like ROH because you’re like, here and stuff, but do you also maybe like PWG or Tommy End or some shit? Anyway, I’ve also really been lacking on writing since I burned myself out penning a million year-end best-of lists back in December of 2015. So, coupling a sudden urge to write some shit with my love of power rankings and brackets and I find myself doing this incredibly dumb writing exercise that you’re reading at this very moment.
I truly hope you’ll take the time to vote. It would mean a lot in terms of self-validation. It’s all being done on Twitter, and has to be wrapped up by approximately 3pm CST on Saturday, June 11, 2016. At which time I will proudly or perhaps begrudgingly adorn myself in the tournament-winning pro-wrestling tee shirt. I’ll then head out to drink beers and eat terrible food with my pals before going the show, where I will try to avoid getting in a fight with anybody who yells disrespectful shit at the performers. Read the rankings below, then find me on Twitter, and cast your votes over the next few days. I’ll update the brackets here as they happen. Okay, now let’s get started shall we? What tee shirt should I wear to Ring Of Honor this Saturday?
By Nathan G. O’Brien
#1 – Minnesota Wrecking Crew: Gene & Ole Anderson
I might be older, but I’m still a too young to fully appreciate Gene & Ole Anderson. When it comes to fake Minnesotan tag teams, I’m actually partial to the later incarnation: Arn & Ole Anderson. And even more so, Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard. (Arn & Tully were never called MWC, and Tully was never a fake Minnesotan himself but he famously teamed with one.) Hell, I even liked Minnesota Wrecking Crew 2 more than Gene & Ole. (They were actual Minnesotans, masked and managed by Ole for a cup of coffee in WCW in 1990; while simultaneously holding the AWA tag belts as unmasked fake Chicagoans The Destruction Crew; which predated their WWF stint as fake Ohioans the Beverly Brothers.) But I like this shirt because one of my best friends gave it to me and because it always elicits some type of reaction. I wore this in the front row of a RAW show and it provoked off-camera reactions from HHH, Paul Heyman, and about a thousand dudes who said, “cool shirt, bro.” Even though it’s white (the drizzling shits of tees shirt colors) it’s the number one pick based on topicality and location.
#2 – Pro-Wrestling Feelings
PWF is pro-wrestling zine out of Chicago made by Ed Blair; a sweetheart of a human being whom I’ve traded zines and mixtapes with for a year or two now. PWF is excellent. It’s a thought-provoking, literary take on pro-wrestling, as opposed to the match or show reviews that you’ll see in other wresting zines. It consists of poetry, essays, and the like. Imagine taking an Interpersonal Relations course but you can only write about wrestling. It’s kind of like that. As I said, it’s very good. Anyway, this particular tee shirt design is based on Casiotone for the Painfull Alone, which is a one-dude keyboard music project that I’m not going to pretend to know anything about. The shirt is nice though. And cheap. Get it here.
#3 – Wrestling Legends of Minneapolis
This is an AWA-centric tee made by the graffiti writers turned print & design mafioso, Burlesque. Once upon a time Minneapolis was a pro-wrestling mecca. A cornucopia of the greats were from the Twin Cities and/or jump-started their pro-graps careers here; they were trained by Vern Gagne or Eddie Sharkey and performed in the AWA or smaller promotions like the PWA. This shirt is a little all-over-the-place in terms of who’s on it, but then again, the AWA (and regional promotions in general) were a little all-over-the-place. I bought this at the State Fair from the Minnesota Made booth (or whatever it’s called) that sells all those corny Minnesota is the best-type tees alongside cool ones like this.
#4 – The Gay Community
In the words of this shirt’s creator, Atomic Elbow fanzine honcho Robert Newsome, this is “the stupidest Bullet Club parody shirt ever made.” Although I appreciate the self-deprecating sentiment, I actually don’t believe this to be true at all. This is the best and definitely the most important Bullet Club parody shirt ever created. A quick version of the back story goes like this: several years ago AJ Styles (former Bullet Club/current The Club member) was being interviewed by Dave Meltzer on a call-in show. Sadly, in addition to being an incredible in-ring performer, AJ is also a known bigot. A knowing caller asked what AJ thought of his large following in the gay community. To which AJ exasperated in apparent disgust, “THE GAY COMMUNITY?!” Unfortunately Meltzer cut off the call, when there was a unique opportunity to have a real conversation about the homophobia that has long-plagued wrestling. Well, now there’s this great shirt, with its hyper-specific reference that you can’t wear without forcing that very same conversation. I literally cannot wear this shirt without having to explain it to someone. And while that can be difficult, it’s also a good thing. The only reason this one isn’t ranked higher is because it’s a Bullet Club parody, which in the year 2016 is the wrestling equivalent of the Black Flag bars. And to be honest I don’t want anybody to think I’m wearing an actual Bullet Club tee. Too sweet me… BANG!
#5 – Eddie Guerrero: Viva La Raza
I read Eddie’s book way back when but I can’t remember what he had to say about the specifics of any of his characters or if they affected him interpersonally. So I’ll just say this and if someone wants to jump in and tell socially-conscious white boy wrestling mark to shut up, please go ahead: this shit is racist. No, not the front where it says, “Viva La Raza.” La raza just means “the streets” in Spanish. (I know this because my brother had the KidFrost tape when we were kids.) I’m talking about back where it says “Lie, Cheat, Steal” and has a low-rider car and the Mexican flag. I have to admit I don’t really remember thinking about that when I bought this. It was in the days after Eddie died. I was torn up and wanted a way to memorialize him I guess. So I bought this tee shirt in haste. I was massively in love with Eddie. He and Chris Benoit’s in-ring celebration at the end of Wrestlemania 20 is one of my all-time favorite wrestling moments. Soiled only by the fact that they’re both dead now, and by their own hand at that. (Of course one them will go down as an all-time dickhead for taking other’s with him.) Eddie’s wasn’t a murder-suicide like Chris’, rather the result of years of treating his body like an asshole to achieve success. Maybe the same desire to succeed that led him to put all that bad stuff in his body is the same that led him to willingly participate in racially insensitive gimmicks.
#6 – Randy Savage
Another parody shirt. This one in the style of the famous Obama “Hope” design that Shepard Fairy did for the 2008 presidential election. That shit gets clowned heavily by anyone that sees the opportunity to make a buck. So someone made this Randy Savage version after he died, which my buddy (same guy who bought me the Gene & Ole shirt) promptly dropped some change on, and then gave to me. I’ve since asked him where he got it, and all he remembers, “the internet.” I’m sure there are millions of print-on-demand/Café Press/Zazzle-type websites where you could find this if you cared to dig deep enough. I only wear this twice a year at most, and am hoping it doesn’t win. It’s only ranked higher than no.7 and 8 because it’s the last actual wrestling tee on this list.
#7 – Team Viggity
Not a wrestling shirt per se, but the connection is not far off. I got this during my brief tenure as a member of Team Viggity. Viggity was the name of a fitness program run by pro-wrestling/MMA/BJJ/nutritionist/atheist/all-around good guy Dan Velten AKA Peach Machine. He’s developed training regiments for a number of wrestlers: Roderick Strong, Matt Sydal, Daizee Haze, Yoshi Tatsu, Tyson Kidd, Nigel McGuiness, Bryan Danielson, and a whole bunch more. The basic premise was eat a lot of egg whites, raw almonds, and steamed broccoli; lift heavy; and do cardio on the days you don’t strength train. And it fucking worked. Not only did I get leaner, stronger, and healthier, it eventually led me to doing things like CrossFit, running Tough Mudders, and riding 100 mile gravel bike races. Of course, since blowing my achilles a couple years ago and having a child I’ve turned into a piece of crap again, but let’s just keep that between us. I don’t believe Team Viggity exists anymore. At least not by name; likely changed to a more business-friendly moniker. But this shirt will live on. I’ve already worn it to a couple of ROH shows. Roderick even pointed me out once. I’d rather not wear it again though, as given the current state of my lovehandles it could be misleading.
#8 – East Lake Liquor
Okay, this is in no way a wrestling tee at all. But I don’t have any more left to fill out the bracket. That’s why it’s ranked last, duh. I had a Rick Rude tee (again, from the same friend that gave me Ole & Arn and Savage) but it was just a picture of Rude making duck lips with the words “simply ravishing” in Comic Sans font above it, proving any idiot can make a wrestling tee shirt (and my friend will likely buy it). So I cut the picture of Rude off and sewed it to the back of a sweatshirt that I’ve never worn. I go to East Lake Liquor and talk to the guys about wrestling all the time. Okay, look, even if the previous sentence was a complete lie, you’d have no way of knowing unless I told you or if you were one of the guys that works there, so let’s not question it okay? For all you know, I’m telling the truth. Okay, fuck it, here’s the deal: I’ve never talked to the guys at East Lake Liquor about anything other than Metallica and the video store across that street that finally shut down. (RIP Video Lease.) Basically, I picked this tee because it would be cool if I was somehow able to give a liquor store I like some free advertisement at a pro-wrestling show.
Okay, now go vote!