2005: Bits and Pieces
Kevin and Generico Start a Story from Fragments
So let’s say you’re an inexperienced wrestling fan who’s made an unwise and hasty vow to watch everything two indie wrestlers have ever done over the last 13 years (let’s say you’re me). This is kind of like suddenly being handed a huge bag of Lego blocks and told “Here it is, there could be a really cool thing here, but you have to do the work to put it together.” Because there’s no easy “Here are all of their matches” link out there, no. What you find are a bunch of free matches on YouTube and promos labeled things like “Funny Generico promo” with no date at all. You go looking more and assemble a pile of random DVDs and watch the matches featuring Kevin and El Generico and realize you’re watching something from 2011 and 2004 back to back, with no rhyme or reason, no connection at all. What’s going on here? Why are they friends sometimes and enemies other times? Is there… is there actually a plot? How could there be?
You stare at all the tiny little brightly-colored pieces–a jumble of matches and promos from random years, random promotions–and at first everything is just a cascade of disconnected things. OK, so assume each promotion is a color; you decide to put together all of the blue ones first (that makes sense, right?) And you do, and the result is… interesting, but incomplete. There’s a year’s worth of bright red here all pre-assembled, how convenient! But it’s still lacking something. And what do you do with these three random white ones, they don’t form anything at all! What a mess–a fun mess, sure! But still a mess.
But maybe if you arranged all the bits, not by promotion, but by time. Is there consistent character development? Again, how could there be? Any wrestler trying to develop a consistent character across all these promotions would be tackling an insanely complex task. I mean, maybe all these matches and promos could work together, all the different colors clicking into place to potentially make something surprisingly intricate. But who would even try such a thing?
Curious, I set off in 2015 to try and put everything together bit by bit in order and see if it makes sense.
The heart of Kevin and Generico’s story happens in Ring of Honor, of course. But the true ending and a lot of the emotional highpoints take place in PWG. And the beginning? The beginning takes place across at least four different promotions. It’s like a story where the authors scatter chapters across half a dozen different books, sometimes just a page or a paragraph–and now and then they write on the air in Italy, or on the water in Montreal, and if you weren’t there that sentence is gone forever.
More than a decade later, I sit down with a treasure trove of little fragments and start to see how they might fit together.
CZW Cage of Death 6, Dec. 11 2004
Kevin and Generico are back at CZW, and this time they’re not opponents–they’re teaming together against PWG’s Super Dragon and Excalibur. It’s the first time they’ve ever been in a two-man tag team together, and since they’re mortal enemies this requires some explanation, which Kevin provides:
El Generico, bless his socks, doesn’t quite seem to understand what Kevin is saying, but he gets the basic idea that they’re a team today. In fact, after Kevin unwisely gives him a non-violent pat on the back, Generico seems to reach a disastrous conclusion:
Oh no. OH NO. He’s decided they’re friends now. That’s… unwise.
The match is fast and brutal and good, and features Steen and Generico’s very first hot tag as a team:
Sadly, they lose. Generico takes the pin while Kevin struggles to reach him, but it’s no use:
Kevin helps Generico to his feet while the audience cheers them–and then to the surprise of exactly no one (except maybe poor Generico) turns on him and package piledrives him.
Because Kevin has made it clear that he is not Generico’s friend in dramatic fashion which could never be forgotten.
PWG Uncanny Xmas, Dec. 18 2004
Unless you’re El Generico and have had a whole week to get over it, because here they are seven days later, teaming up once more against Scorpio Sky and Quicksilver. It’s on the other side of the country, California instead of Pennsylvania–maybe Generico thinks California, the land of dreams, will be better luck for their team? Maybe he thinks Kevin didn’t mean it? Maybe he’s totally forgotten it–with Generico, who can tell? But here he is, cheerfully charging ahead. Kevin spends Generico’s turns in the ring yelling “encouragement” from the apron (“WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT?” “I TOLD YOU THAT WOULDN’T WORK!”) but in the end this time he’s the one who takes the pin for their second loss as a tag team and mopes as Santa Claus comes to the ring to hand out some presents.
Santa gives Generico (who’s been a “good luchador”) a flannel shirt, which Generico receives as if he has never been given a gift in all his life:
But there are no gifts for Kevin, who is a very naughty boy–until Generico (who seems to be still under the misapprehension Kevin is a friend) intercedes for him and convinces Santa to also give him a shirt:
Generico proves hilariously inept at shirt-wearing:
So Kevin goes over and helps him get into the shirt–just so he can package piledrive him again, this time in flannel.
Two matches, two losses, two betrayals. This tag team doesn’t seem to be working out so well.
Chikara, World Tag Team Grand Prix, Feb. 19-20, 2005
And yet two months later we’re back on the East Coast at a third promotion, Chikara, and Generico is teaming up with Kevin again and–look, I’ll be honest, I’m starting to get a little worried about Generico’s judgment, continuing to team up with this guy. But he seems oblivious to the risk, coming to the ring full of delight at tagging with his nemesis once more, begging him to pose on the turnbuckles together like a team:
Or trying to get a game of patty-cake started:
Any other wrestler and I’d say this level of optimism was beyond the bounds of credulity, but Generico? He’s so unworldly that it’s possible that he thinks friends package piledriver each other often. And he’s so innocently hopeful that he may truly believe that the problem is the losses, that if they can just win maybe Kevin won’t be so grumpy and they can really, truly become friends. If they can just win a match.
And they do!
After a really good match against All Money is Legal (K-Murda and K-Pusha), Kevin and Generico pull off what seems likely to be the first recorded Assembly Line, their combo package-piledriver/brainbuster finishing move, and Generico gets the pin for their very first win as a tag team.
And then they have a heartfelt but delightfully odd celebration:
Which features Kevin seeming almost to nudge Generico’s head into a compromising position so he can recoil from him.
And then he immediately does something similar with a hug:
It will happen again after their next tournament win tomorrow too. Kevin will surreptitiously pull Generico closer, then immediately protest:
It’s both hilarious and… and actually kind of weirdly heartbreaking, because it works at two different levels. At one level, of course, we’re just seeing two young wrestlers doing some impromptu goofing off, getting the hang of their dynamic and basically play-testing how they respond to events like wins. But at another level it works surprisingly well as foreshadowing of the flaws in their characters that will eventually destroy their team: Kevin’s constant pull-then-push of Generico that grows increasingly more violent the more dependent he feels; Generico’s stupid hopeful faith that blinds him to the looming disaster.
But right now it’s just charming and awkward, and seems 100% in-character for how monster child Kevin and semi-feral street urchin Generico would manage to become friends.
They also win the next match of the tournament, against Team CZW, featuring some physical humor since Generico is clearly, despite bluster, not eager to engage these two big guys:
But the match also features a lot of nice spots (I like this dropkick):
Steen and Generico pull out a win and get to have another wonderfully awkward celebration in which Generico gets confused and hugs the wrong red-shirted guy:
And then forgets his cape and Kevin has to bring it to him, to his gratitude.
This is all charming, this is all well and good, but considering both times Kevin’s attacked Generico have been after losses, it’s safe to say the real test of this fragile alliance is their next loss. Will their almost-friendship-well-at-least-not-murder survive the anguish of losing a match? We don’t have to wait long to find out, because this is a tag team tournament, so they’re either going to win it all or lose eventually (spoiler for 2005: they do not win it all).
The team they eventually lose to is the Superfriends, Mike Quackenbush and Chris Hero, but things start off well.
El Generico is in high spirits when they come to the ring, and Kevin doesn’t even bother to be horrified when he gets hugged, so clearly this is major friendship progress. I guess. The match has the same basic structure as the previous matches in the tournament: a fair amount of humor (as here, where Generico is extremely skittish about risking a wristlock with Hero):
That eventually transitions into a quick-paced match with one of my favorite genre of spots, the “Sequence of Failed Top Rope Moves”:
But in the end there’s a quick rollup and Steen and Generico’s brief winning streak comes to an abrupt end. Quackenbush (the Chikara promoter) raises their hands in recognition, and usually this would be the point where Kevin would attack him or Generico or both, but he… doesn’t.
No, somehow miraculously Generico–and perhaps their friendship?–survives this loss unscathed.
Now, it’s possible that Kevin didn’t turn on Generico because he had a moment of clairvoyance that later that evening would feature a much bigger turn (Chris Hero attacks Quackenbush to join up with Claudio Castagnoli and Arik Cannon and form another legendary tag team, the Kings of Wrestling) and it would diminish the impact of the later turn if Kevin beat up Generico and Quackenbush now. But that’s obviously a ridiculous explanation, because 1. Kevin wouldn’t care about overshadowing anyone else’s dramatic betrayal and 2. let’s face it, wrestlers in general aren’t known for their clairvoyance, and Kevin maybe less than most. So I guess that we can only conclude that Kevin somehow has found it in himself to actually form an alliance with Generico.
Chikara World Tag Team Grand Prix 2005 is available at Smart Mark video, and it’s, well, it’s pretty spendy for all three nights, and yet I’m immensely fond of it, because it’s this insane 2005 snapshot of every kind of indie wrestling, featuring:
–IWS’s Beef Wellington teaming with a bear–okay, a guy in a bear suit–who loses because his head gets kicked 180 degrees around, to everyone’s glee;
–Hardcore legends Necro Butcher and Mad Man Pondo brutalizing the fuck out of two very young Ring of Honor trainees;
–The first win by Steen and Generico, who’ll be Ring of Honor tag team champions, Ring of Honor singles champions, PWG multi-time everything champions; WWE NXT/IC/US/Universal champions;
–The origin of the Kings of Wrestling, Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli, who are (among other honors) still the longest-reigning Ring of Honor tag team champs.
Goofball antics, attempted maiming, and historic alliances, all in a random basement in Pennsylvania.
There was a piece of art by Lawrence Weiner at the Walker Art Museum that I often used to pass by when I lived in Minnesota: a brick wall with a phrase on it:
That’s what wrestling is, a lot of the time, a bricolage: a thousand thousand fragments from house shows and run-ins and random promos and social media interactions that all pile up into…something? Sometimes it’s something, at least. A lot of times it’s nothing, just a pile of interesting little bricks that never get cemented into anything solid. Sometimes you never get a whole, a story.
And sometimes you do.
It’s 2005, and things are starting to click together with Steen and Generico: almost randomly at first, maybe without much plan or pattern to them. They won’t tag together again for another eight months, and they won’t actually become a permanent tag team for a couple of years; I doubt the wrestlers had a whole lot of long-term plot in mind beyond seeing what worked to get more bookings (though you never know with wrestling, and you really never know with these two). It’s just a bunch of wrestling shows, after all, we’re not talking War and Peace here. As more and more pieces come together, though, it becomes clear this has the potential to be something unusual, something with a real shape, solid and complex. Keep adding enough little pieces and you could end up with a contraption as intricate and ambitious as a tower of ladders or a pyramid of chairs, something you could use to scale the heights and capture gold, something people really care about.
(And as always with the very best wrestling angles, just imagine the breathtaking crash it’ll make when it’s finally smashed to bits.)
Up next: Kevin and Generico start tagging together
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