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More Wrestling Than Wrestling: Pearl Forrester

Pearl Forrester: Proof that women can rule in a man's world.
Pearl Forrester: Proof that women can rule in a man's world.

"Hell, if guys in WWE were cutting WWE style promos as good as Mir, Bisping and Lesnar, WWE would be the one whose business would be turning around."

     -Dave Meltzer


I have tried many, many times in many, many places to examine, expose, and ultimately discredit the notion that "insert non-wrestling thing here" is in any way, shape, or form pro wrestling. It's been a surprisingly popular talking point for some time now, with no less of a figure than wrestling news kingpin Dave Meltzer being one of it's biggest proponents. MMA seems to be the most common point of comparison, which is understandable, given that it's background actually is in pro wrestling. Still, Nintendo got it's start as a playing card company, and if I held up a copy of Super Smash Bros. Brawl and told you it was a playing card, I'd hope you would think I was an idiot. MMA is a combat sport. Pro wrestling is a genre of fiction. Not only are they different things, they belong to two drastically different classifications of things. That fact that MMA, and PRIDE in particular, may have borrowed aspects from a genre of fiction doesn't change the fact that MMA is a legit combat sport, and pro wrestling is a genre of fiction, and the two can not possibly be considered the same.

Except they are. Or, if not the same, then at least similar. Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s "heel" mannerisms led to an influx of boxing coverage in the Wrestling Observer continuing to this day, aided by several of Meltzer's wrestling sources telling him that the build to the fight - as documented on HBO's De La Hoya-Mayweather 24/7 series was the best wrestling television going today. The release of the documentary The King of Kong prompted comments about the antagonistic Billy Mitchell being one of the best "heels" in the world. Though I was a bit young to follow it at the time, I've been told that Meltzer used to talk about the TV series Beverly Hills 90210 extensively in wrestling terms. And perhaps the most bizarre example happened this past February when had Dave had Bryan Alvarez place an article on the website which contained the infamous "Epic Beard Man" YouTube video and a brief comment about how he should be brought in to host Raw and was tailor-made to be in wrestling.

I'm one small voice who's been trying to dissuade people from buying into this line of thinking. I haven't been alone, but still, I'm just one man. And well, this one man has grown weary of fighting what's clearly a losing battle. I surrender. Wrestling is everywhere, everyone, and everything. And if you're willing to see it, some things are even more wrestling than wrestling.

My first example is after the jump.

Mary Jo Pehl got her start with the Best Brains promotion in 1992 to work as a writer for their Mystery Science Theater 3000 TV show. In an odd inverse to the old axiom about how on-screen characters should not have the book, just about every booker on the Best Brains staff also had an on-screen role in MST3K. Still, there's only so much room at the top. Joel Hodgson, the series founder, naturally assumed the role of company ace at the show's inception in 1988 (though only after adopting the catchier stage name of Joel Robinson). Similarly, writer Trace Beaulieu adopted the moniker "Dr. Clayton Forrester" (inspired by the character of the same name from "War of the Worlds") and quickly established himself as the company's top heel and arch-rival to Robinson. Beaulieu also took the interesting step of adopting a second gimmick - that of Joel's robot sidekick Crow T. Robot. The show was staged in such a manner that the faces and heels never really had direct physical contact with one another, allowing cast members to pull double-duty with regularity (presaging the whole "Three Faces of Foley" gimmick by a number of years). But with fellow writers Kevin Murphy and "TV's" Frank Conniff and Best Brains promoter Jim Mallon snapping up the choice spots in the company early, Pehl was left somewhat adrift with other writers like Paul Chaplin and David Sussman without a steady on-screen presence. Even head writer Michael J. Nelson - who Robinson supposedly wanted to pass the torch to as early as 1991 - was hard up for screen-time (though occasional appearances under the "Torgo" gimmick proved popular with fans, but he could never escape the shadow of the original Torgo, the late John Reynolds), and though he was able to use his position to leverage his wife, Bridget Jones, into a regular role as "Magic Voice", she wasn't able to do much more than that.

Still, Pehl was a dedicated worker, taking what small appearances she could get and doing her best with them.  In 1993, she and Jones began sharing time with the "Magic Voice" gimmick, and by 1994, Pehl pretty much was established as the "Magic Voice". More importantly than that, '94 was the year that the "Pearl Forrester" gimmick was hatched. The brainchild of Mike Nelson, Pearl was to be the mother of Clayton Forrester (even though Beaulieu was two years older than Pehl) who would be brought in for an angle where Dr. Forrester would attempt to win his neglectful mother's respect and affection by demonstrating his experiments to her, only to be met with more neglect when Pearl turned out to be more interested in visiting with secondary heel TV's Frank than her own son. The angle wasn't supposed to lead anywhere beyond that, in keeping with Nelson's typical Crash TV style of booking, but when TV's Frank left the company in early 1995, the character was brought back as a replacement. Though Pearl was ostensibly a secondary heel to her on-screen son, it's pretty clear in hindsight that Nelson, who had replaced a departing Robinson as the top face two years prior, was looking to similarly establish a new top heel to oppose him, and he was giving Pearl the nod.

The dynamic between Clayton and Pearl was a drastic change from the dynamic between Clayton and his previous flunkies, TV's Frank and Dr. Erdhart. Whereas Dr. Forrester bossed around his previous sidekicks ruthlessly (one only wonders if they would've pulled the trigger on the seemingly inevitable TV's Frank face turn if he had stuck around longer), he was clearly subordinate to his domineering mother. Like with TV's Frank, we can only speculate on whether or not long-time top heel Clayton would've finally turned face to work a program with his mother, as other circumstances conspired to prevent it from happening. Mystery Science Theater 3000 was canceled by Comedy Central in 1996, and though it would return to television in 1997 on the Sci-Fi Channel, Beaulieu would not. Pearl's rapid push to the top was unsurprisingly met by many with scorn. Beaulieu's departure seemed to tell the whole story to a lot of people, and the fact that he was thoroughly buried on the way out (he was initially written out of the show by becoming a star-baby a la 2001: A Space Odyssey, but in the first Sci-Fi episode, Pearl cut a promo saying that he was later reborn and she had then killed him again because he grew up to be same kind of idiot he was before) surely added more fuel to the fire.

However, if one can look past this, we can see that Pearl certainly was deserving of her high position in the company. Unlike Clayton, who often was deliberately made to look buffoonish and seldom seemed to pose any real threat to the faces (He actually apologized for sending them "Manos" The Hands of Fate! Can you imagine Flair apologizing to Dusty for the Horsemen breaking his arm?), Pearl made no bones about the fact that she was the boss and that she was not to be trifled with. That's not to say she would never show weakness, put others over, or work comedy bits. On the contrary, one of her greatest gifts was her ability to work in almost any situation she was put into and still come out looking strong. Consider the enclosed promo which starts at the 7:25 mark (part of a larger segment beginning at the 6:27 mark, if you'd like the context). Note how effectively she gets over her newest charge - Observer - playing up all his strengths, his desire for revenge on Mike Nelson, and establishing him as a legit threat to the faces. And yet, at two critical moments, Pearl makes sure to remind Observer himself who's in charge. Again, some might look at that and see it as Pearl kneecapping the character to make sure she keeps her spot. I see it as someone who knows her role, and knows that she's supposed to be keeping her spot. That's to be expected. Triple H wouldn't put Observer over nearly as well as Pearl did. Most wrestling's top heels these days don't have that kind of understanding of how to establish your position over a guy without burying them and while putting over their significance at their current standing. Pearl did. Pearl Forrester did wrestling better than wrestling.


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