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The World Wrestling Ring Master

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Look at the wrestling article above yours; now below yours; now yours. Studies show that three out of those three articles are about Randy Orton and/or “The Bash.”

While I do think it’s great that everyone has an opinion (and I will read yours, don’t worry) about this past weekend’s PPV, I’d like to remind all of you that it is Thursday, Goldust needs to start rocking ECW’s world by bringing back “Shattered Dreams,” and there are actually really kickass wrestlers outside of WWE.

Anyone who doesn’t live under a rock has heard of Tyler Black, and depending on whether or not the latest plagiarized bio has been deleted or not, you can probably get a read in about Nigel McGuinness right here on B/R.

I don’t want to promote them though. Yeah, they’re not part of one of the two big companies, but people know them.

I can engage a wrestling fan in a conversation about Bryan Danielson, or Ric Flair’s ROH appearances. The people I want to promote are different…people like Grizzly Redwood.

So, who is this man whom I hype so much? In a nutshell, he’s what would happen if Paul Bunyan and Rey Mysterio bumped into each other in a supercollider; Evan Bourne with a beard; Mike Knox if he had charisma and were a little person.

One of the reasons you probably don’t know much about him: He wasn’t always known as Grizzly Redwood. Redwood’s real name is Mitch Franklin and that’s how he debuted in Ring of Honor on Oct. 29, 2005, with a loss to Ricky Reyes.

Franklin worked fairly well for a few years, but much like a certain Gold Standard fellow over in WWE, the following was clear: He had all the tools, something just wasn’t clicking.

After a loss in the scramble match at Night of the Butcher II, Franklin went away for a month and when he returned, he’d been given a brand-new gimmick: Grizzly Redwood, the Littlest Lumberjack.

What makes this persona great: It just works. Besides carrying a log into the ring (completely awesome in and of itself) Redwood’s in-ring style actually helps make good on his signature line of “chopping the opponents down to size.”

In reality, Redwood’s style seems more realistic than the high flyers of WWE or TNA.

When he mounts the ropes, it’s not to do some ridiculous maneuver that makes you say “really? Nobody saw that coming?” It’s to chop you in the throat, then jump on you.

It’s not that he doesn’t do some acrobatics, it’s that they aren’t totally unbelievable.

Giving a quick look back and then delivering an elbow drop from the second rope is a whole lot more believable than getting on the top rope, preening to the audience for five minutes, then backflipping onto the opponent with them never moving an inch.

There are no wildly unbelievable kicks mid-ring. He whips opponents off the ropes, then stops short and quite literally chops their legs down.

It’s fun because he’s a real wrestler, using a believable skill set that ties in with his gimmick (which rules, by the way) and is all combined with some damn fine mic skills.

If you really don’t believe me, check out his debut as Grizzly here. The man went from being told to shut the…well…you know…up to being cheered for by the entire arena in a matter of a minute or two.

Did it help he was up against one of wrestling’s more self-absorbed talents not named Chris Jericho? You bet, but plenty of other men have tried to get over against heat magnets and failed.

Take it all in, watch him believably use his size to his advantage. Sure, he loses; when you’re not even a full six feet tall that will happen every once in a while.

The point is the match itself was great, and Grizzly looked and fit great and has done so in all his other matches since then.

The acrobatic moves, the sudden shift in popularity, it’s not just because ROH fans are the descendants of the ECW.

The love (and sometimes hate) is there because he’s talented and fans can appreciate it when given a chance to see it; for confirmation, just ask Colt Cabana.

Redwood is the kind of talent that thrives outside of WWE. Yes, I’m well aware that if he had a shot at the big time as it stands, he’d be buried.

Evan Bourne and Rey Mysterio are the only little men who get any exposure, and Mysterio is the only one who gets attention of any significance.

The best aspect, though, is that he seems to really enjoy the part. It makes watching the character a lot more fun.

Dusty Rhodes said it best: “If someone doesn’t look like a wrestler, you throw a gimmick on them and then they take off.”

Hopefully, that’s the case for Redwood, a gimmick and wrestler who certainly are entertaining enough to qualify to keep rising.

The next time you’re in the mood for a change of pace, watch some matches with “The Littlest Lumberjack.” I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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