“Raven’s Restler Rescue”, Kayfabe Commentaries‘ newest series, is back with its second episode and yet another young indy talent in need of gimmick resuscitation.
One part cinema verite, one part documentary, “Restler Rescue” is the most unique series yet from Kayfabe Commentaries. If Jim Cornette is KC’s resident professor then Raven is their mad scientist. With each new episode we see the man from The Bowery, Raven (Scott Levy) meeting, critiquing, and re-inventing an indy talent with a new, hopefully better gimmick.
This episode finds Raven at a Pro Wrestling Syndicate (PWS) show in New Jersey in late 2015 to meet with a young wrestler by the name of Chris Keuling. The 6’4″, 250 lbs. Keuling, 30, has been wrestling for 6 years as “Big” Ben Cromwell and The Scranton Strangler, to name a few, but none have really done the trick. But as we quickly discover, the gimmicks aren’t really the issue with Chris. Keuling, who has some high school amateur wrestling experience, is as awkward as a person can be. And while this may be amusing in the beginning, it becomes downright painful. To make matters worse, unlike the first episode (“Merry Men in Tights”) the “Dr. Acula” gimmick is not Raven’s creation but PWS promoter Eric Pleska, which makes Raven more of a coach/costume designer than the mad scientist that is the main selling point of this series.
From the very beginning, between Chris’ extremely awkward nature and Raven’s scaled back role, this episode is in trouble. Things go from bad to worse when Raven, who hasn’t seen Chris work ever, discovers in real time that Keuling, despite the experience, isn’t the talent Raven assumed he was. The program devolves into a collection of backhanded insults from Chris’ “droning”, “monotone” voice (“perfect for hypnosis”) to his personal hygiene. Even as Raven is applying Chris’ makeup in the bathroom, where we get cameos from the former John Morrison and the late Balls Mahoney, the latter physically ill with food poisoning, Raven stops to assist another talent, leaving Chris quietly standing.
Much of what made the first episode unique and enjoyable is lacking here. And it’s at about this time that one begins to wonder if this episode is on the up-and-up. Pleska either envisioned “Dr. Acula” pulling Chris out of his shell (which at 30-years-old may be impossible) or designed this thing to humiliate the kid, especially when you consider that Keuling is going through all of this for a lousy run-in. After watching the entirety of this program I can’t honestly say I know the answer for sure.
Nothing about the gimmick seems to work right. The baby powder doesn’t stay on, the gloves are wrong, and Chris’ hair won’t cooperate. Raven, who has no experience with “mist”, can’t tie the condom tight enough and Chris can’t bite into it. It’s Sean Oliver, off camera, who suggests Chris simply hold the coloring in his mouth until he’s ready to “blow”.
Most of this episode is spent putting the gimmick together. We don’t get any of the booking we saw in the first episode and, for that matter, we don’t see much of the match. Prior to the match Raven “hypnotizes” Chris to loosen him up and become “Dr. Acula”. Chris is told to hypnotize his opponent with the pocket watch and then mist the groggy foe, which does not go well.
After we see the gimmick in action, which is painful to watch, Raven tells Chris his skill level is not that great, that he’s too stiff, and relies on direction too much. But the makeup and the outfit and the hair and the pocket watch, they were great! In the end Raven feels he let Chris down for not knowing more about him as a wrestler or his stiff personality. The final lesson Raven gives Chris is in “Selling 101”, which Chris flunks on the spot. In the end, Raven leaves Chris with a homework assignment: work on basic selling and learn to loosen up.
As far as follow-ups go, unfortunately “Raven’s Restler Rescue: Dr. Acula” falls flat to say the least. Where the first episode was humorous, insightful and interesting, this episode is instead dull, slow and unexciting. Seeing as the gimmick was not Raven’s idea and that Raven had little input in general it’s hard to say this program should even be part of the “RRR” series.
If you’re a Raven fan it might be worth it. If you’re into schadenfreude (joy in the misery of others) this DVD is definitely for you. By and large, however, this is 90-minutes of cringe-worthy material that doesn’t make anyone involved, least of all Chris Keuling, look great in the end.
To be fair, Kayfabe Commentaries usually does outstanding work, from their excellent Timeline series to the incredible Back to the Territories, and all the YouShoot’s and Breaking Kayfabe’s in-between. This release, however, just falls flat. It’s clear they did all they could with the “material” they were given, but not even the stellar KC team could salvage “Dr. Acula”.
“Raven’s Restler Rescue: Dr. Acula” is available now over at KayfabeCommentaries.com.
You can purchase a physical DVD copy or stream it instantly On Demand.