Thursday 2 July 2015

Right to Praise

Apropos of nothing I want to talk about how great Right to Censor were.

Back in mid-2000 the WWF (now WWE) was getting hammered by the media for its continued pushing of the good taste envelope. They'd also attracted the ire of the Parents Television Council, a group which aspired to be to late-90s and early-00s America what Mary Whitehouse was to 70s Britain. This group had raised such a stink about the level of sexual and violent content in WWF programming that the promotion was in danger of losing sponsors. The WWF had also been steadily pushing further and further against their boundaries for several years at this point and, realising they couldn't realistically push any further, they did the smart thing and decided to make some changes.

These changes could have been made without fuss or attention being drawn. It would have been simple enough to phase out the undesirable characters and storylines with a minimum of effort. But someone in the Fed thought of a better approach. Instead of quietly phasing characters out and dropping certain types of storyline the decision was made to attribute the changes to an on-screen presence, a group parodying the thorn in the side that was the PTC.

On the June 26 2000 episode of Monday Night RAW Stevie Richards appeared at the end of a segment in which Terri Runnels was to strip naked and covered her with a placard which read "CENSORED". This being the Attitude Era the act got him nuclear heat with the audience. He would go on to reveal that he was heading up a new faction called Right to Censor (a name chosen to hammer home the PTC parody) with his stated goal being to return morals to the WWF.

Great pomposity on Steven Richards there.
Richards would go on to recruit Bull Buchanan, The Godfather, Val Venis, and Ivory. On the surface this doesn't seem like an inspiring line-up. But when you look at the individuals involved it was. Bull Buchanan had bounced around as a mid-card heel, starting out as Big Bossman's apprentice before becoming a generic thug who wore a generic black vest and cut generic bad guy promos. He was never going to amount to anything alone but excelled as Richards' initial heavy.

Venis and the Godfather were great additions for a different reason. As a porn star and a pimp respectively they were amongst the top targets for the PTC. Their gimmicks had to be given the boot in the name of good taste and preserving sponsors. Instead of watering down their characters or writing them off TV to be reintroduced six months later under new gimmicks the pair were made members of RTC, renouncing their former debauchery after being shown the light by Steven Richards. Amusingly, this prompted The Godfather to become The Goodfather, the sort of on-the-nose name that wrestling can do so well.

I suspect Ivory was tossed into the group so that it wasn't just four lads crusading against the loose morals of women (which RTC did a lot of by the nature of their gimmick) because, really, that was the last thing the WWF needed in mid-2000. She ended up being a perfect fit. She was able to play on the real life indignance she felt at the rise of female personalities with no wrestling experience at the expense of those who'd trained to learn how to wrestle and wrestle well. Behind Richards she was the most capable promo and charismatic speaker in the group and was perfect, as was Richards, as a self-righteous blowhard big into hypocrisy and double standards.

RTC didn't have any classic matches during their eleven month existence but they had some memorable feuds opposite everyone from the Dudley Boys to Chyna and Eddie Guerrero to The Undertaker. It was a group designed for a specific task and it performed it perfectly. It's saddening that the group, particularly Richards and Ivory who both did some of the best work of their careers, doesn't get praised that often. Because it deserves to be. It was a perfectly example of how to use limited performers and make the best of unwanted restrictions.

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