Lita: A Less Travelled R.O.A.D. reviewed.
Well, THIS was an interesting find. A overview of Amy Dumas’s career, who played the part of Lita in the WWE from 1999 to 2006. To be honest, I didn’t even know it existed, and I love wrestling biographies. Well, some of them. Mick Foley’s series of books work very well as the man is a natural raconteur. Same with Chris Jericho. Bret Hart’s book is a fascinating look into the history of wrestling, the bitterness a lack of appreciation can create, and the scars betrayal can leave. Some, like Eric Bischoff’s and Shawn Michaels can explain the truth behind situations that seemed pretty black and white. (To the point where I’m actually more sympathetic to Shawn Michaels over Bret Hart when it comes to The Montreal Screwjob.
Then there are absolutely terrible books. The Rock’s biography is a Gimmick/Non-Gimmicked switch mess. Batista’s tome paints him as possibly the least sympathetic human being to ever step between the ropes (Suggested Alternative Title: Why It’s Totally Okay To Bang Someone Else’s Girlfriend While My Wife Is Dying Of Cancer.). Chyna should have just called her book ‘It’s Everybody’s Fault But Mine.’ Personally, I’m waiting for a couple of biographies to be written. One is Vince McMahon’s book, which probably won’t happen til he steps away from the business. I just want to know what he was thinking when he came up with certain ideas. Like Katie Vick. Or battering a one-legged wrestler on Pay Per View. Or his daughter in a ‘I Quit’ match.
The other is The Undertaker. That guy has main-evented with pretty much everyone worth mentioning in the last 25 years. Rock, Austin, Foley, Hogan, Angle, Flair, Michaels, Edge, Hunter, Lesnar, Edge, Batista, Van Dam, Jeff Hardy etc. He carried the company with a broken face at one point, as talent left for the better money at WCW and was instrumental in bringing up a lot of stars at a period when they needed it most. Taker’s got a lot of stories, and I for one want to hear them. Of course, the main probem with wrestling books is that they date very, very quickly. In a business where someone can be pushed for a main event run one year and end up on the indie circuit 12 months later, the obvious desire is to publish at the height of the star’s popularity.
Whereas Foley and Jericho are gifted enough storytellers to carry their stories from book to book, I’m guessing there’s a small audience for Chyna Vol 2 or Lance Storm: The Boring Years. What becomes interesting as time passes is how Vince McMahon falls out with talent as they break through a ceratin level of fame. No matter what a John Cena, Triple H or Randy Orton do, they don’t seem to become household names the way Hogan, Lesnar, Rock or Austin have. Quick, ask a friend to name a wrestler. Did they say Edge? Somehow, everyone gets on the bad sign of Vince McMahon. But where wrestlers just end up being written off television, Non-Wrestlers, and more importantly,women get it a lot worse in the WWE.
Sure, there are exceptions, like Trish Stratus who was smart enough to work enough until she was probably the best actual female wrestler on WWE TV for the best part of a decade, capable of playing a convincing face or heel (A pretty rare thing. Sherri Martel was one of the greatest talents in Sports-Entertainment during the 80’s/90’s, but you’d be hard pushed to think of any occasion where you’d feel sympathy for her.) and to finish her full-time career on her terms.
But that is a rare thing if you’re a woman working in the world of American Wrestling. Rena Mero Lesnar (Sable.) went from being one of their biggest stars to taking the WWE to court over sexual harassment suits to ending up having to renact the storylines she previously rejected to finally pulling herself out of the public eye. she’s now married to Brock Lesnar. Vickie Guerrero (Widow of the late great Eddie Guerrero.) literally took the job of performing in the WWE to cover the lack of income that her husband’s death. After wanting some time off to, er, raise her kids, she was treated to a plethora of on screen fat jokes from top talents like Edge (At one point her on-screen husband.) , John Cena (the face of the WWE) and Jerry Lawler (The longest-serving commentator the WWE currently employs on a regular basis.).
The guy in the purple top is meant to be the good guy, remember.
And saying that, as highly decorated and respected as Trish Stratus is here in 2012, just over a decade ago, things were a little bit different. Here, for the benefit of current Republican candidate Linda McMahon and her campaign is a couple of her family members in action with Trish:
If you think that’s bad, you should see what was booked for Lita’s exit from the company, but we’ll get to that….
The best thing about Lita’s biography is that she’s pretty straight about what you can expect when breaking into the business as a woman. Amy’s intelligent humility and understanding of the unwritten hierarchy of the backstage area ought to be required reading for anyone contemplating a career in the business. The amount of careers that appear to have been destroyed by not walking up to The Undertaker and shaking his hand when you’re new seems incredible.The essence of her experience would seem to be to say ‘Hello’ to everyone and be respectful. What’s particularly endearing is her love for Punk that she waxes lyrical about early on in the book. I really hope there’s a generation of fans who’ve discovered Black Flag or The Dead Kennedys via Amy Dumas.
She also shows a lot more intelligence, creativity, practicality and respect for the business than most of the women ‘pushed’ by the WWE in recent years. It’s pretty obvious that she didn’t view the world of wrestling as a stepping stone for other careers but what she actually wanted to do. It’s just a shame that there appear to be so many rumours surrounding her private life when she broke into the business that nobody actually can prove. I’ll come back to this, as in Lita’s case it’s quite a big deal, and ultimately the thing that quelled her passion for the business for quite a while..
An interesting theme that runs throughout the book is her being in charge of her sexuality, to a point. As you’ll see from the cover to the book, Amy doesn’t conform to the orange, blonde giggly homogeny that dominates the Divas (From Sunny to Sable to Major Gunns to to Torrie, etc, etc.) and enjoys the fact that her appeal is that she was the wrestler you could relate to. What intrigued me was her willingness to get her boobs done for no real reason except that she knew that was the look that got over. (Again, track Sable or Torrie Wilson over the years.) It’s an odd thing where I haven’t worked whether it’s a case of subliminal programming or sheer pragmatism on her part. Despite the constant suggestion that the only way to be a big star in the WWE is to be a big, jacked guy with look over talent, the truth is the likes of Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, or C.M. Punk don’t exactly fit that mold.
On the other end of the spectrum, whenever ,they’ve had female talent who could work, they’ve barely utlised it. The likes of Jazz, Kharma, or Beth Phoenix have been sidetracked in favour of bra and panties matches, Jello bouts and dance-offs. Say what you will about Impact Wrestling (They were called TNA for a long time, for one.) but they put on some cracking matches with the talent that they had. It’s just a shame about Brooke Hogan, really.
Sadly, the other thing that looms over the book is her love for her boyfriend, who at the time of writing was one Matt Hardy. The long and the short of it is Lita had an affair with Edge while Matt Hardy wasn’t touring with The WWE. It happens. It’s a very isolated experience where for most of the time your only company is the people you work with. There’s a lot of infedilty going on with the general ruling being ‘What Happens On The Road, Stays On The Road.’ Even I was a bit taken aback learning just how much goes on after watching shoot videos from the likes of Missy Hyatt, The Honky Tonk Man and Sunny. Bear in mind, this was still the period where Vince McMahon simply refused to acknowledge the Internet. Entirely. There’s an ancedote that still does the rounds about Brock Lesnar threatening to beat up anyone who worked for WWE who leaked ANYTHING to that gosh darn Internet.
Much to their surprise, Matt’s outing of the story (which to be fair, not only cost him his girlfriend but also his job.) became common knowledge with audiences attending shows. Both Edge and Lita, both meant to be babyfaces, were booed out of the building. But here’s when things got..interesting. Edge had experience of playing heel, and he went from mid-card whiner to the most hated man in the company. While his hard work, dedication and frankly professional way of handling himself amidst a huge scandal gave him the push into being a constant main eventer.
Lita, on the other hand, could NOT recover from it. Her characeter, already embroiled in a terrible pregnancy storyline, was switched to ‘Slut.’ That was pretty much it from then on,annoyed at the judgemnt of people who, to be fair, didn’t really know what they were talking about yet felt perfectly, righteously justified in shouting ‘SLUT!’ at her whereever she went/ Whilst she turned out to be a devastingly funny heel, burying Tommy Dreamer with the immortal line ‘Innovator Of Silence.’ at the ECW One Night Stand 2005 show, and turning in a stormer of a match for Trish Stratus’s last show at Unforgiven 2006:
Note the lovely video that accompanies Trish’s exit. The commentary, the manipulation of the audience to let them think they’ve seen something amazing. The honest gratitude for a performer who worked at her craft for the best part of a decade.
And then see what happens to Lita. By the way, this storyline was done TOTALLY against Amy’s wishes. She spent the day arguing with the entire creative team about her exit. Still got on with it, though. Although watch the video directly after to see how she felt about it once she’d left the ring.
Amy Dumas has made a few appearances on WWE TV since, but seems unlikely to return to any kind of long term schedule, now spending time with her Animal Charity A.D.O.R.E. and also touring /ecording with her band The Luchagors. Fans can find her on Twitter. Recommended reading for anyone serious about trying to get into the world of wrestling.