JG's Columns
JG's Ten Life Lessons I've Learned From Wrestling Commentary
By James Guttman
Feb 8, 2012 - 11:10 AM

Comedian Steven Wright has said that he would wander into movie theaters as a child looking for parental guidance. Luckily for us wrestling fans, we don't need cinema. We have the broadcast booth. From the first day any of us began watching wrestling, we were bombarded by pearls of wisdom to guide us through life. Now, while some of these pearls have been positive, not all of them have been healthy. In fact, some of them were pretty screwed up. But it explains why many of us fans have some, uh, issues. We can't help it. It's a byproduct of learning how to interact in the world from people named "Gorilla" and "The Body", but it is what it is. Forget Plato, Aesop, and Dr. Phil because it's time we wax philosophic on Ten Life Lessons I've Learned From Wrestling Commentary.


"Win if you can. Lose if you must. But always cheat." - Jesse Ventura

I had to lead this quote. For fans who didn't take notes, this was the one big life lesson that they took away from wrestling commentary.

To exam this piece of life advice, you need to take it piece by piece because, frankly, it's a real positive message.

"Win if you can…"

OK. Sounds like a plan. I already try to do that whenever I compete at anything. I'd like to think that it's a natural instinct, but watching Saturday Night's Main Event may have helped the process.

"Lose if you must…"

This is the big one that you need to see by itself to appreciate. It's not often that someone tells a kid that losing is alright in some cases. In fact, the exact opposite message was spouted by many villains in 80s TV shows who pushed kids too far - most notably Ben Seaver's hockey coach on "Growing Pains" who punched Alan Thicke for being a "wishy shrink". But not Jesse Ventura. Jesse The Body wouldn't punch your dad. He's OK with losing - if you must.

"…But always cheat."

And now we enter some murky territory. As I mentioned at the start, these life lessons aren't all good and can explain why some of us are nuttier than a pet coon, as they say. However, this "evil" life lesson may not have been so evil after all.

How do I know? Because even when Jesse "The Body" Ventura wasn't around to spout his vile advice, it was still being repeated. Usually it was Gorilla Monsoon who would remind broadcast partners like Bobby Heenan that "just like your pal, The Body, says, 'Win if you can. Lose if you must. But always cheat.' Isn't that right?"

Hard to think that old Gorilla disagreed with the future Governor (and two time guest) when he was repeating the adage like a Manson Family member. You don't usually repeat horrible catchphrases that you're morally opposed to. Picture it in real life.

"Man. I hate that the lines here at Chipotle are so long. I'm starving."

"Well, you know what our friend Fred says, 'Mexicans sure are slow douchebags.'"

" What?  Why would you say that?! My mom is Mexican! I'm half Mexican!"

"Ah hahahah. Our friend Fred sure is a fountain of misinformation, hah?"



"Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades." - Mean Gene Okerlund

This quote is fundamentally flawed. So flawed, in fact, that towards the end of Mean Gene's WWF run, it was amended to include "and nuclear wars."

I'm serious.

It's something that Gene Okerlund would remind us whenever we saw a star come close to hitting a big move. If Tito Santana "almost" pulled off a big upset, Okerlund would shoot us back down to Earth and remind us that no one's ripping a horse's feet off or blowing shit up.

The premise itself was flawed since "almost" also counts in bocce ball, archery, and pregnancy scares. But, the idea was the same. No one is going to clap for the guy who nearly won the WWF Title Match. You go all out and win! Losing is not an option!

Wow. Jesse Ventura was more nurturing to young souls than Mean Gene. Who'd have guessed that one?


"How do you learn to fall off a 20 foot ladder?" - Jim Ross

Throughout time, man has been asking himself unanswerable questions.

"If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?"

"What does it profit you if you gain the whole world but lose your soul?"

And, of course...

"How do you learn to fall off a 20 foot ladder?"

Jim Ross's "Don't Try This At Home" rallying cry has become the age old wonder by fans the world over.

The idea is that learning such a feat would be impossible. It flies in the face of non-fans who think wrestling is some smoke and mirror show where the curtains are closed and they use goat's blood.

However, this statement forces us all to do something - ask it ourselves. At one point or another, all of us have thought to ourselves, "Hmmm. How DO you learn to fall off a 20 foot ladder?"  Would it involve the fall itself?  The angle of rotation?  Some sort of black magic? Does the man who learns how to do it go on to rule the world?  You may have wondered intensely for a moment, a minute, or years depending on the medication you take. But ultimately, you can't.

This is what JR was sharing with us.  Some things are impossible.  You can't learn them. You just have to do them. Life is about risks and, for some of those risks, we can do nothing but take them blindly. Go on. Jim Ross believes in you. He loves you.  He told me that.


"Shucky ducky quack quack!" - Booker T

Seriously. I learned from Booker T by this seemingly insane rambling bit of incoherent nonsense.

What did I learn? I learned that, for many moments in life, any statement will do. Don't believe me? Here are some other wrestling commentary phrases you can switch "Shucky Ducky Quack Quack" out with and have it still work -


"Boom shakalaka!"

"Bah God, King!"

"Are you kidding me?!"


"It's a Slobberknocker!"

"He's clubberin' 'em, Tony!"

I mean, he could just say anything. Watch this. I'm about to prove it.

Josh Matthews:  We're back from the break. I'm Josh Matthews here with James Guttman. James, this match has been absolutely crazy.

James Guttman: You got that, right, Josh.

Josh:  I don't know if Randy Orton can get up. He's been beaten down pretty bad. Wait…the Viper is stirring. RKO!


See. I could put that on a t-shirt and sell it. You just have to say words loudly when a big moment happens and you make a splash. It has nothing to do with duckies. Now can you dig that, sucka!?

"A friend in need is a pest." - Bobby Heenan

Man. That Bobby Heenan was so cynical. No matter what situation he was in, he was grouchy and unhappy to help those around him.

The worst of all was when people needed something from him. A poor soul would stumble into the picture and ask the Brain for assistance. He would inevitably turn to Gorilla Monsoon and remind him of his stance on friends in need.

But here's the thing…his "friends" would then go on to be pests essentially proving Heenan's theory. No matter what, he was always hounded, annoyed, pestered, and usually ended up with a face full of cake. I took note and have spent a great deal of my adult life trying to avoid having birthday cake hurled at me.

How can you fault this negative attitude? Maybe if someone genuinely came to him for help but ended the segment by giving him a Rolex in a box, he'd have a better attitude. No one ever gave the Brain a reason to have faith in humanity. No one ever…wait? What? Oh yeah…

Never mind.


"You don't talk smack about anybody's mother, Cole." - Tazz

Here's a piece of advice that ended up playing out for the world to see and, boy, was Tazz right on the money.

The full statement here is "You don't talk smack about anybody's mother, Cole. Especially a 294 pound machine like Brock Lesnar." He said it following this moment from 2003 after John Cena rapped on the future UFC Champion. If you don't remember the pre-Pebbles John Cena, you need to see this. It's one of the few moments an entire crowd reacted with an "OH!" to a promo line and the perfect example of how Cena rose to the spot he's in today. I miss this John Cena…

Now, at the time, Tazz was doing commentary with  Michael Cole, who was still a closeted little bastard. Outwardly, he was the grinning Maynard G. Krebs beatnik who was still a year away from being John Heidenreich's poetry partner.

The advice to stay off the subject of moms was lost on Michael. Years later, he went on to mock the passing of Jerry Lawler's mother. What happened to him? This.

Yeah. Up until that point, the worst thing to come out of making fun of someone's mother was Rick Rude's WWF "firing" for picking on the Big Bossman's momma. Firing is one thing. Foot face is another.

Somewhere during Cole's moment of shame, Tazz must have been smiling.   At least, I like to think he was.  He told ya so, yambag.



"Battle royals are very dangerous. So many arms and legs flailing around." - Gorilla Monsoon

The secret to life is control. You need to have control over your surroundings.

Whenever there was a battle royal, Gorilla Monsoon reminded me of this fact. After all, assembling such a large group of men in one spot, punching and kicking like mad, was bound to cause some sort of danger. You had to worry about attacks and vicious pummelings. It's a tough night at work.

But Monsoon saw the bigger picture. Forget people intentionally hitting you. What about the accidental punches and kicks? In Gorilla's world of battle royaling, arms and legs flailed around through the air like viciously violent wet noodles, slapping unsuspecting superstars about the head, face, neck, and chest.

It's something that makes you really think. Life isn't about direct attacks. It's about indirect hits and collateral damage. The more people you have around you and the less control you have over the situation, the more likely you are to get caught in the crosshairs. Gorilla Monsoon taught me that.

And now he's taught you that too.



"At least she's in the arms of someone who cares for her!" - Vince McMahon

Vince McMahon has a strange point of view about kidnapping. But, as I mentioned earlier, not all of these life lessons have left me well adjusted.

It was during a bout between Randy "Macho Man" Savage and George "The Animal" Steele on Saturday Night's Main Event.

-Skip to 5:27

As you saw, during the match, Steele rushes to the outside and scoops up the lovely Miss Elizabeth. As he runs away with her, Ricky Steamboat runs out to stop Savage from saving her life. From ringside, Jesse Ventura screams for help but Vince McMahon, displaying the type of insanity we'd all be treated to in the Attitude Era, reveals why it was OK…

"At least she's in the arms of someone who cares for her!" - Vince McMahon

Seriously? But where are they going, Vince?! He's taking her to who knows where! Have you even thought of that?!

"George "The Animal" Steele with two arms full of the lovely Elizabeth…taking her back to who knows where!" - Vince McMhaon

Oh. You have.

I mean, I get that he cares about her. I would imagine many kidnappers care in some way. The reason they take their victim part isn't as important as the whole kill and eat them part.

But Vince McMahon said it was alright. It's about caring. Take whatever you like. It’s all for you. Just don't get caught. Right, Jerry?



"Love thy neighbor, but don't get caught." - Jerry Lawler

There's a reason why Jerry Lawler won the award for's 2011 Interview of the Year. The guy is awesome. If you don't agree, that's okay. It just means you're a bad person.

Anyway, Lawler has said some pretty insane things regarding love. Some of his gems have included wishing -during a schoolgirl battle royal - that he were still in grade school so he could see girls in their uniforms. And this disturbing one…

"You know why puppies have wet noses? Because I lick them!"

That one was so disturbing when I heard it during a Raw Insanity that I created this picture, which can be found all around online, but was first created and posted on World Wrestling Insanity…

But of all this weirdness, the King managed to give one piece of advice that struck a chord and can be carried throughout life. If, you choose to have sex with someone on your block, make sure no one finds out. The implication is that one of you may be married, but it's not really stated. There are some other ways to break this down.

1. The "Neighbor" is unattractive

Moral: Have sex with everyone. No standards. Just make sure no one finds out.

2. The Neighbor is unconscious. The worry is that they will wake up and be the one to catch you.

Moral: Self explanatory (and pretty f**ked up)

3. Help the less fortunate but don't be pompous about it. Be benevelont and charitable without rushing to receive accolades.

Aw. That one's nice. Let's go with that one. It beats adultery, lack of standards, and sexual assault on drugged victims.



"This is the greatest night in the history of our sport." - Tony Schiavone

I have to admit. I'm not very positive sometimes. It's hard to keep an open heart when even friends seem out to harm you.

But like cold November Rain, every down time ends. We all have some days that are better than others.

But not Tony Schiavone. Nope. For Tony Jabronie, every night "was the greatest night in the history of our sport."

And you negative nellies hated him for it. For shame.

He felt that way every single week! Even if he didn't feel that way, he said it. WCW Nitro would play out and Schiavone would remark at how the evening was the greatest ever. It was his weekly affirmation. Rather than saying, "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And - gosh darnit - people like me.", Tony would just repeat that this was the greatest night in the history of our sport.


Now it's easy to have this fluffy feel goody feeling when you're watching a good show. But - again to his credit although he's never credited for it - he even felt that way during the terrible times.  When no one else believed in WCW, he showed that he was still trying.  Fans resented him for claiming that Nitro was still a historic masterpiece even during its Viagra on a Pole days. But I saw it as a testament to T-Bag's will. He never stopped believing. He still believed that things were going to be okay!

Of course, all of this comes crashing down at a certain point. Having all that pent up hostility for years hidden behind glowing promises of "the greatest night in the history of our sport" sometimes manifests itself in the craziest of ways. After years of hiding your feelings behind the smiling veneers, you go out, buy some Sun-In, a Hawaiian shirt, and yell at people.

Now, years later, Schiavone works at a radio station and his outgoing voice mail states that he is "no longer doing wrestling interviews". So sad. For a person who always knew that things were going to get better, the business let him down.

So now, as homage to the man who showed me what being positive could do, I wake every morning, look in the mirror, button my Hawaiian shirt, and tell myself…

"Today's going to be the greatest day in the history of our sport."

And sometimes it is. Thank you, Tony.


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