Wednesday, May 23, 2018

New Orleans to host Super Bowl in 2024

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2018 at 9:20 AM


New Orleans will host one of those Super Bowls in 2024, marking the 11th anniversary of that time Beyonce killed the power in the Superdome.

The NFL awarded New Orleans its 11th hosting gig after a bid presentation dubbing New Orleans as a neon-lit "2024/7" city.

In a statement, New Orleans Saints owner Gayle Benson said "hosting a Super Bowl is synonymous with New Orleans as is the legacy of my husband Tom Benson."

“This is a great honor and well deserved for our city as New Orleans and our Gulf South region continue to prosper in so many ways," Benson said.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell said bringing the Super Bowl to New Orleans would create a "tremendous" economic impact — the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation measures the last New Orleans-hosted Super Bowl's impact at $480 million, with $21 million to the state.

"So we’re talking a significant shot in the arm," Cantrell said. "We have proven that our destination is second to none — it is special and I believe the NFL recognizes that fact. They’re not coming to New Orleans for the 11th time for no reason.”

And that was a whole thing — from the first large-scale glimpses of the impacts of short-term rentals in New Orleans to Beyonce singing the national anthem at a press conference, the weird world of international press descending on the city, many for the first time under vastly different circumstances, to 86-ing Roger Goodell around town and then-Mayor Landrieu telling us to not do that .

Of course, Super Bowl LVIII (58) will fall right in the middle of Carnival on Feb. 4 — 10 days before Fat Tuesday.

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Monday, April 9, 2018

After WrestleMania crowd rejects main event, what's next for Roman Reigns?

Posted By on Mon, Apr 9, 2018 at 3:15 PM

A fan dressed as Roman Reigns poses with a beach ball outside the Superdome.
  • A fan dressed as Roman Reigns poses with a beach ball outside the Superdome.
WrestleMania 34, which starting from its 4 p.m. pre-show ended just a bit after hitting the 8-hour mark, was by almost every metric a triumph. Record-breaking attendance, superb matches, and a card that had something for everybody — thrills, surprises, technical matches and light-hearted comedy spots, star power, heart-warming family-friendly moments, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

It was almost a complete triumph— almost, because although it seems a shame to weigh hours of world-class pro wrestling against one bad match, the bad match was the main event, and the crowd turned on it with a ferocity that was genuinely unsettling to witness. It was like the worst kind of social media pile-on, with the important difference that 78,000 bellowing hecklers were present in person.

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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Sports-entertainment scholars unafraid to mix it up in the ring

Posted By on Sat, Apr 7, 2018 at 1:44 PM

The conference program
  • The conference program
There's never just one thing happening in New Orleans. At the same time WrestleMania week is slowly, multifariously unfolding across the region, beautiful wrestle-blossoms of different sizes and pay scales blooming in every available metro auditorium or high-school gym, the Southern Sociological Society is holding its annual meeting and conference at the Marriott across from WWE Axxess.

This year's conference theme is "Racial Theory, Analysis, and Politics in Trump's America." Digging into the program, I was gratified to discover multiple panels about pro wrestling, one of which I attended Friday morning.

Dr. Jack Karlis of Georgia College opened, detailing his research into how media framed (or failed to cover) the longstanding connections between President Donald Trump and WWE's owners, the McMahon family. I knew Trump and the McMahons were chummy; I hadn't known that Linda and Vince McMahon were the largest single contributor to the Trump Foundation, a gift Karlis estimates to be around $5,000,000.

JH Roberts
  • JH Roberts
Next up, the University of Georgia's J.H. Roberts discussed activism in pro wrestling during the Trump presidency. Usefully, or perhaps crushingly for some, she defined activism as "not just saying things on Twitter, but doing things." Roberts provided a survey of some forms this has taken, both outward-facing (WWE Superstar Sami Zayn bankrolling a mobile medical clinic in Syria, indy star Zack Sabre Jr. donating merchandise profits to a transgender law center) and inward-facing, which is activism focused on improving pro wrestling itself.

The third panelist, Chris Maverick of Duquesne University, talked about models of performative masculinity in leadership, comparing Trump to Lincoln, an accomplished amateur wrestler, and then to various comic book villains and pro-wrestling characters. The highlight, for me, was the connection Maverick drew between Trump's compelling, crowd-pleasing yet contradictory or semantically incoherent rhetoric and the promos of Dusty Rhodes and the Ultimate Warrior.

Perhaps defying assumptions about those that do vs. those that teach, I discovered both Roberts and Maverick are or have been wrestlers themselves. Roberts is actively training as a pro wrestler, and is part of a collective she describes as "a pro wrestling promotion dedicated to exploring within the boundaries of pro wrestling what you can do with feminist and gender performance."

"For example," Roberts told me, "within pro wrestling there's Ultimo Dragon, Dragon Dragon, Super Dragon ... Drago, in Lucha Underground ... but [in our promotion] we have potentially the first-ever female dragon character. In her storylines she addresses things a female dragon would have to deal with that male dragons wouldn't — aspects of reproduction and female bodily autonomy."
Chris Maverick
  • Chris Maverick

Wrestling is brutal. "I'm in pain pretty much all the time," Roberts says of her training. "At the same time, it's nice to do something so purely physical because it lets me turn my brain off. It's also exciting to push myself in new ways and confront things I'm terrified of, like front flips— since if you don't do those you can't wrestle."

Chris Maverick is on the other side, having retired from in-ring competition. "I did it for six years," he told me. "My last match was maybe eight years ago. I wrestled exactly 50 matches in my career and mostly jobbed," meaning he lost to more prominent wrestlers.

Maverick, a lifelong wrestling fan, joined a wrestling school and started training at age 29. His overwhelmingly younger classmates all dreamed of getting to WWE. "My goal was a little different. I said to myself, 'I'm going to wrestle one match, maybe write a paper about it.' There were 15 of us in the class and only three of us finished because it was so grueling." Maverick's wrestling career did include a stint as a tag-team champ in a West Virginia promotion; it so happened I'd just seen his erstwhile tag-team partner, DJ Z, wrestle at Evolve 102 the night before.

"I wasn't great," Maverick said. "I was older and had bad knees when I started, so I knew my time was limited. I dislocated my shoulder four times... it's hard. It's a very rough sport."

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

'Everybody wants to get seen' — A chat with New Orleans wrestler 'Outlaw' Matt Lancie

Posted By on Wed, Apr 4, 2018 at 2:22 PM

click image "Outlaw" Matt Lancie - INSTAGRAM / MATT LANCIE
  • Instagram / Matt Lancie
  • "Outlaw" Matt Lancie
While WrestleMania is the most important day on a WWE Superstar's calendar, the crowds of wrestling fans WrestleMania attracts to its host city also make it the biggest weekend of the year for independent wrestlers and those signed to smaller companies.

Among the many wrestling events in New Orleans between now and WrestleMania Sunday is a big "locals" show on Thursday, April 5 featuring New Orleans' own WildKat Sports. It's part of a multi-day non-WWE showcase called WrestleCon, which includes a convention at the Sheraton New Orleans and a series of wrestling events at the Sugar Mill. 

To get a local grappler's perspective on all this, I talked to "Outlaw" Matt Lancie, a Wildkat mainstay.  At the April 5 show, Lancie will be matched up with longtime rival Danny Flamingo, a trash-talking Chalmatian who calls himself "The Prince of Paris Road." Danny's scrappy and nasty, but I'm expecting the Outlaw to whup the pink Flamingo violet.  Lancie's also been invited to participate in the prestigious 40th "House of Hardcore" show on Saturday, April 7, a late-night event emphasizing (or at least paying tribute to) the less family-friendly, more "extreme" facets of pro wrestling.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A conversation with Paul Heyman, the best talker in the wrestling business

Posted By on Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 1:52 PM

The business of pro wrestling — the art, the sport, the drama of pro wrestling — is predicated on selling tickets. If a great wrestling match is scheduled for one fall in the forest and nobody pays to see it, then it's not a great match.

There are a few different ways to sell tickets to a pro wrestling show. One of the best ways, though not the easiest, is with your mouth. A gifted wrestler or promoter or manager can get on the mic, look into the camera and tell the audience something that will get them out of their chairs and to the next live show, ready to hand over cash. What's said might be a promise, a prediction or a threat. It might even be a fib or an optimistic exaggeration ... but it has to sell tickets.

Paul Heyman (right) speaking on behalf of his client, WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar.
  • Paul Heyman (right) speaking on behalf of his client, WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar.
I don't believe there's anyone alive, in any language, who's better at selling tickets with their mouth than Paul Heyman. He's in a class by himself, at the very tippy-top. The past few years he's been on TV mostly as the manager — the "advocate"— for the current WWE Universal Champion, Brock Lesnar. Heyman was ringside in the Superdome when Lesnar broke the collective heart and spirit of the wrestling world by ending the Undertaker's 21-match WrestleMania undefeated streak, and he'll be ringside Sunday when Brock Lesnar defends his championship against Roman Reigns in WrestleMania 34's main event.

But Heyman stays busy. He's launched "An Evening with Paul Heyman," a series of freeform audience question-and-answer events, the next of which will be here at the Joy Theater on Thursday, April 5. When Heyman talks, he ensorcels the listener. At an "Evening" in London a couple years back he put forth a conspiracy theory about Lesnar ending the streak that, despite being in this humble scribe's opinion transparently unlikely (and that's being polite), racked up millions of views on YouTube. Heyman is a powerful spellcaster, and Thursday night at 10 p.m., attendees will have a long-form opportunity to witness him weave his magic.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Supercard of Honor: chatting with wrestler Cody 'The American Nightmare' Rhodes

Posted By on Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 5:23 PM

Back at WrestleMania 30 in 2014, the talented Cody Rhodes, a hard-working wrestler with a magic touch for finding ways to connect with the audience, was relegated to a minor role in an opening multi-man match. Four years later, he's returning to New Orleans a proven main-eventer, and on Saturday, April 7 at Ring of Honor's Supercard of Honor, he'll face Kenny Omega in a dream match pro-wrestling fandom is buzzing about.

Cody (left) and Kenny Omega (right) will face off April 7 at "Supercard of Honor" - RING OF HONOR
  • Cody (left) and Kenny Omega (right) will face off April 7 at "Supercard of Honor"

After almost a decade at WWE, Cody left in 2016 to make a living as an independent wrestler. He's not the first to try, nor the first to succeed, but as a longtime fan it's been gratifying to watch Cody's journey, first out from under the shadow of his legendary father (bleach-blonde Hall-of-Famer Dusty Rhodes, The American Dream) and then beyond the gates of WWE as an international independent star.

Cody's always had charisma. Years ago, his absurdly perfect good looks were the basis of an ultra-vain "male beauty" persona that remains dear to the hearts of many (and helped get my then-partner interested in watching wrestling). It was Cody who finally reintroduced WWE's iconic white-leather Intercontinental Title belt, and he proved capable of making all kinds of unlikely material work, including getting fans excited about something as seemingly basic as him growing a mustache.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Road to WrestleMania New Orleans: Elimination Chamber adds appetizing items to the 'Mania menu

Posted By on Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 2:13 PM


While not nearly as newsworthy as the 2018 Royal Rumble, Sunday night's Elimination Chamber pay-per-view had lots of action, a memorable segment with Ronda Rousey, and settles some questions about who will be doing what April 8 at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans.

The show, which was exclusive to the Monday Night Raw brand, featured two matches set in its namesake structure. "Elimination Chamber" may sound like a euphemism for the water closet, but it's one of WWE's more reliably engaging gimmicks, a impressively mountainous enclosure of chain-link and steel with locked Plexiglas pods in each corner containing contenders. At predetermined times during the match, a quote-unquote random pod will open and release a new combatant into the fray.

The first-ever women's Elimination Chamber match opened the show, and it was very good. Good, not a revelation, in part because the RAW women's roster is a little shallow. The first-ever women's Royal Rumble was able to draw from Raw and Smackdown as well as the women's division's past competitors. As a result, that historic match was a veritable Who's-Who of women's wrestling, while the women's Elimination Chamber was more of a "who's that?"

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Cappuccino and conversation with wrestler Jimmy Hart, 'The Mouth of the South'

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 9:00 AM


It wasn't difficult to pick out Jimmy Hart, "The Mouth of the South" in the lobby of the Ace Hotel. Not only did his magnificent bouffant mullet immediately distinguish him from the conservative close-crops of all the slack-faced tech bros, but he was wearing a suit jacket festooned with high-contrast hearts and sunglasses with piano-key frames. At his side was his signature airbrushed megaphone.

Few in pro wrestling history have had less need for a megaphone — his distinctively shrill voice could cut through the noise of a jet engine — but Jimmy Hart's never been subtle. Why settle for annoying fans in just the first 50 rows when a little amplification could let you hector the entire arena?

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sportscaster Jim Henderson announces retirement after 30 years as 'Voice of the Saints'

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 3:33 PM

Jim Henderson. - WVUE-TV
  • Jim Henderson.
"Turn down the TV and turn up Jim."

It's been a New Orleans Saints gameday ritual for decades — muting the television sound and tuning into the WWL Saints Radio Network to hear Jim Henderson call the game.

Those days are over. "Hondo" has announced his retirement.

“It’s time. This is a good year to go out," Henderson said in a press release from Entercom Communications today, "It was a great season; the Saints were in two highly competitive playoff games and the future looks bright. It’s good timing."

Henderson began working at WWL-TV in 1978 and moved to a part-time position at WVUE-TV in 2012. Among his most famous utterances was "Get ready to party with the Lombardi, New Orleans! The Saints have won the Super Bowl!"

Henderson, who brought a literate and seemingly effortless touch to the on-the-fly world of play-by-play announcing, worked for years calling game with the late Hokie Gajan. In recent years,  his on-air partner has been former Saints running back Deuce McAllister.

"In a way you wanna cry, but in a way you’re so happy and proud, because you know the work, the heart Jim put into his job," McAllister said in a statement. "This brought joy to everyone who loves Saints football."

No replacement was named. In the Entercom statement, Diane Newman, WWL-AM operations and program director, was quoted as saying "Now the search begins."

(And good luck with that.)

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Road to Wrestlemania New Orleans: Royal Rumble a crowning achievement

Posted By on Mon, Jan 29, 2018 at 12:03 PM

click image Asuka in action, applying the Asuka Lock on Bayley, just seconds before winning at NXT TakeOver: Dallas. - PHOTO BY MIGUEL DISCART/CREATIVE COMMONS
  • Asuka in action, applying the Asuka Lock on Bayley, just seconds before winning at NXT TakeOver: Dallas.

What if the Phorty Phunny Phellows, who stuff themselves inside a streetcar to inaugurate Carnival Season, were ... hotter?

And what if the Phellows strove furiously to throw one another out of the streetcar, because the last one left inside earned the chance to become King of Carnival and would, on Fat Tuesday, fight last year's Rex for the crown inside the Superdome? I don't know about you, but that sounds to me like the absolute quintessence of entertainment.

That, reader, is WWE's Royal Rumble, which last night kicked off 2018's Wrestlemania Season, a rather slicker, longer and more profitably produced Carnival which will culminate at the Superdome April 8 at Wrestlemania 34.

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