It’s the Final Day of #TheNationWeek. In celebration of this month’s Survivor Series, we’re taking a look at famous stables from the wonderful world of wrestling. This is the twelfth installment in our patent-pending Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series. As always we started by making The Nation A Stable You (Should) Probably Know Better, then gave you the finer points of their oeuvre tomorrow with some Essential Viewing. On Wednesday, we gave everyone the opportunity to Watch and Learn, then After Hump Day, we got our BuzzFeed on with a Top 10 List. Finally, we’re finishing everything off today with a Difference of Opinion (where JMS HQ hopefully doesn’t erupt in a giant race kerfuffle like that episode of Community.)
Nick: Are you busy for the next 15-20 minutes? Or, at any point today? I want to talk to you about #TheNation for Difference of Opinion.
Daron: Of course.
Nick: Not because you are black. If it was because you’re black, I’d pick someone better. It’s because you’re old.
Daron: Awww, you always know how to objectify a girl for just the right reasons.
Nick: I was worried that was a long walk for a “you’re old” joke but it seems like it was worth it.
Daron: If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the beauty of having known someone for so long is in being able to set up a joke from a mile away. I think we were talking about how corporations are taxed once, and I wove into an excuse to call Dustin fat.
Nick: To be fair, that guy deserves it.
Daron: I mean, sure. But the point is about the journey
Nick: Speaking of the journey, which was a bigger deal for you: Barack Obama getting elected president or The Rock joining the Nation?
Daron: That is genuinely tough, seeing as how I was a mark for Ahmed. And anybody messing with my Pearl River Powerhouse was on the shit end of my favor.
Nick: Ahmed got messed with a lot. By Faarooq. By calorie intake.
Daron: Barack was certainly more surprising, but I was more emotionally affected by Rock’s betrayal of Ahmed. Also, because he was still that squeaky clean not-so-cool guy at the time Although, he had begun doing the Urinage, which I thought was awesome
Nick: Yeah, looking back, it’s very weird to think about The Rock as Rocky Maivia. Not because it feels fake, but because if you were capable of the former, why would you ever act like the latter?
Daron: Because back then, right before the attitude era, the company thought there was still money to be made in faces. At least old school eat-your-vitamin faces Though, they weren’t out of line for thinking that. It was essentially them thinking, “If you work hard, act honestly, and remain reliable, you can make it in this world,” and hoping people would resonate with it. They always had before. Who knew they wanted a bank robber?
Nick: A handsome bank robber. Who did a weird thing with his eyebrows.
Daron: And bragged about it.
Nick: The best part of looking back at the Nation for me, was how upsetting all the heel turns were.
Daron: Oh man, Mark was an Olympian! How could someone who went to the OLYMPICS be a bad guy?
Nick: *Smash cut to Kurt Angle circling a Burger King screaming “I GOT HER CELL PHONE”*
Nick: Given your advanced age when this was happening, did it resonate with you at all? I was confused by it, because I was super white. I was definitely intrigued, but more in a “I can’t believe they are saying these things!” than a “yeah, fucking white people!”. They were actually saying things like “this shit is racist”.
Daron: To be fair, I remained largely oblivious to the socio-cultural ramifications and/or undertones of things they said I mean, I heard them. And I can remember Farooq saying a few things while being a mite perturbed. But my usage of “mite perturbed” should give you some insight into how in touch I am with The Struggle ™. The absolute most exciting thing about the presence of the Nation to me was the fact that their initial creation spawned two other groups who could all fight each other. it was way more about faces and heels than races or feels.
Nick: So your favorite moments involving the Nation were the race wars?
Daron: Stable Wars, Nick. They were the Stable Wars. That is genuinely all I saw.
Nick: Which for me, is weird. Growing up, they were the “Black Power” stable. And while I definitely think the WWE has moved away from that as their legacy, it’s odd to see someone who watched it along with me not get the “racism” pang every time you see the No KFC graffiti they did in their locker room.
Daron: Completely missed that. Mind you, I may have also only been able to watch Superstars and Shotgun at/around that time
Nick: No cable?
Daron: I had fuzzy cable channels, so I heard what was going on and caught the recaps on Shotgun Saturday nights. To me, The Nation was the power group who had all the best finishers.
Nick: You were a fan of the Sky High?
Daron: Thing. Of. Beauty. And the Dominator is just one of the meanest moves ever. Rock Bottom, Pearl River Plunge, the Lo-Down. Even Mizark’s splash was impressive because, well, Mizark. DoA were the tall biker dudes who used to have different gimmicks 5 years prior: Crush, Eli and Jacob Blu with a feisty Dutch Mantell as Uncle Zebediah. And Los Bouricuas were the guys who did spinning wheel kicks and head scissors all the time. This might all actually be because I spent a lot of the time just listening to what was happening and not seeing it or because I was too thick for my own good. Either way.
Nick: Does that mean that The Nation doesn’t feel that important to you as a wrestling fan? In other words, one of the many reasons The Nation felt like a group worth doing for Wrestler(s) of the Week was because they were the first prominent black stable.
Daron: It was important, but not because they were the first black stable. Like I said, that little niche was about the Stable Wars to me. It also helped spawn DX, which, good or bad depending on where you sit. I was largely unfamiliar with Ron Simmons’ work in WCW at the time
Nick: In other words, them being black was entirely neutral attribute for them?
Daron: I can’t say entirely neutral, but it wasn’t why my butt was getting put in the seat. I didn’t like them because they were black and I happened to be black. I liked them because they had a Great theme song and a ton of talent
Nick: Does that extend to other performers? In other words, was it just that you couldn’t see them? Or, going behind the curtain, does your fandom of Shelton Benjamin or MVP work the same way?
Daron: I chalk it up to being largely oblivious to social undertones…and overtones.
I liked Shelton because he was part of WGTT and came in under Kurt and I liked MVP because his gimmick was Hilarious. I can say that for them, as with Ahmed, I did hope they were successful because they were black because I’m still waiting on the first black WWE champion. Just to see who does it first.
Nick: Whether or not you “like” them is separate from whether or not you want them to be successful. Would you root for Kofi to have more success than, let’s say Justin Gabriel?
Daron: They go hand in hand, but they are two separate criteria I “like” Heath Slater, but I don’t ever want him near a big belt. I hope Kofi is successful, but I think he’s a piece of shit
Nick: You want them to set precedents in a business that essentially requires them?
Daron: I just like it when records are broken
Nick: It’s not even a sentimental thing?
Daron: I would have been as enthused by Ahmed beating Taker for the belt as I was when Shawn took it to the house at the Rumble. Because neither had been done before. In the case of a black wrestler being champion, sentimental, no. Emotional, a little more now, since I’m aware of more things. Which, actually, ties me back to the original question. I am fully aware of the significance of Barack Obama being elected president and why that’s a huge deal. I get the sentiment involved .But I’m not really affected by the sentiment as much I am able to just live vicariously through the reactions of others for whom it’s monumental.
Nick: Wait, I’m confused: you are saying you are an individual who enjoys the happiness and interest of others?
Nick: But not necessarily based on your personal attachment to them based on things like skin color? This doesn’t make any sense.
Daron: Let me give you an example: One of my favorite moments ever was when Miz got the belt. Because we all KNEW how much that meant to him, and it broke through his character at the time in his reaction. That it affected him so much affected me. I didn’t think it was somehow a win for me, since I was rooting for him Much the same way that I wouldn’t consider it a win for me if, going back to it, Ahmed beat Taker for the belt I would be able to recognize that others considered it a big deal for their varying reasons and appreciate the moment for those reasons.
Nick: That sounds kind of new age, but I guess I have to accept it.
Daron: It’s not new age, I’m just oblivious to things and have to piecemeal emotional reactions. Like laughing at the joke that went over my head after everyone else already started
Nick: So, stripped of anything we just talked about, and in the larger idea of wrestling as a whole, how do you feel about The Nation in terms of their place in history?
Daron: Their place in history, huge. While they grossly misused Ron Simmons, they gave us Mark, Dwayne, and almost gave us Ahmed. And, in the larger historical sense it was probably the best “black” gimmick the company has ever had. Much better than, “you’re black, here’s a rap intro. Now go do that stuff I’ve seen you guys do on tv”
Nick: Wait, is that what Cryme Tyme was?