Has wrestling gotten funnier? Brutal, yes, but these days WWF's specialty is bringing the funny, says Mike Flaherty
Kurt Angle
Credit: Kurt Angle: Rich Freeda/WWF

Has wrestling gotten funnier?

Now that we marks have had a couple of weeks to experience life under the WWF’s ”brand extension” scheme — wherein ”RAW” and ”Smackdown!” feature two (almost) completely distinct rosters — some slight differences in flavor are becoming apparent. ”RAW,” with the likes of Austin, Undertaker, Kane, and Bradshaw looming prominent, suggests a darker, heavier, more nastily physical bent, while ”Smackdown!” seems a bit more colorful and personality-driven. But one refreshing development for both shows has been an uptick in the quality and quantity of comedy. To wit, here’s a rundown of the week in WWF ha-has.

”Smackdown!” (Thursdays, UPN, 8 p.m.)
Although they long ago established their respective comedy chops, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, and Edge are evolving into a bona fide axis of hilarity. Angle is, quite simply, the most entertaining performer in the WWF. His two-word commentary on Vince McMahon’s booking of Triple H and Hulk Hogan in Sunday’s ”Backlash” pay-per-view (”puh” and ”leeze”) along with his attempt to get fans to replace their ”you suck!” and ”what?” tormenting with his catchphrase, ”it’s true,” were priceless, as was his toadying gripe to Jericho about longtime nemesis Edge (”If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a loud-mouthed Canadian with long blond hair who thinks he’s a rock star — oh, except for you, you’re cool.” Edge, for his part, accepted Angle’s challenge to a match at ”Backlash,” saying ”I have to say something you don’t hear very often, but it’s a date.” Get these guys their own sitcom, please.

Thanks to the ascension of ”Tough Enough” winner Maven, his mentor, Al Snow, is really coming into his own as well. Witness his referring to Chuck and Billy’s sideburned ”stylist” Rico as ”Wolverine” and asking where the rest of the X-Men are. Who needs Head when you’ve got this kind of material?

Okay, so Vince’s in-ring interviews for his ”personal assistant” position were not particularly inspired (except for his immediate dismissal of the one male applicant: ”Get the hell out of here!”). But there are few things funnier than Vince’s rubber-faced absurdity when he’s in the company of a hot woman. And, with Stacy as his new girl Friday, the potential for leering, cooing nonsense is endless.

D-Von Dudley’s decision to become a minister to the ”Smackdown!” flock bodes well for future guffaws. McMahon: ”It would be my honor for you to help the sinners of the world, because I’m a very righteous man myself.” D-Von: ”My brother, testify!” Nuff said.

Hulk Hogan has unearthed the yellow-and-gold gear from his ”Hulkamania” days. And if the leather-skinned, saddle-bagged legend, still wallowing in his Wrestlmania glow, hasn’t yet started to look laugh-out-loud ridiculous, just you wait…

”RAW” (Mondays, 9 p.m., TNN)
The night’s comic highlight had to be the backstage encounter between Booker T and Goldust, the latter proclaiming their tag-team alliance as a meeting of two mismatched rogues, suggesting that they could be the best buddy team since Gibson and Glover in ”Lethal Weapon,” after which an incredulous Booker could only look away and say (natch): ”I’m getting too old for this s—.” A tag-team made in heaven…and hell.

He may be a bit of a drag in the ring (although he held up surprisingly well in his tag bout last night with Rob Van Dam, Eddie Guerrero, and Spike Dudley), but, man, can this scabrous Brit rock on the mic. After losing his European title belt to Dudley the week before, he referred to him a ”miserable foul piece of excrement” and advised interviewer Jonathan Coachman that any further impertinence on his part, and he’d ”crack his bloody skull open.” Right, then, guv’nor.

Of course X-Pac sucks. Nevertheless, the sight of him — or anyone, for that matter — walking around wearing Kane’s mask is hysterical. Can’t wait to see Kane’s new look…and hear what comes out of his newly functioning voice box.

Paul Heyman has been getting a push lately as the manager of Über-heel Brock Lesnar, and it’s about damn time. The very picture of back-room sleaze and old-school chicanery, the man is a perfect scoundrel, as his bit with Lita and her panties only suggested. Keep him around, and on the stick.

Clearly, last night’s pairing of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bradshaw was a sop to the Texas crowd. But the bookers that be might want to think about keeping these two together for a while. There’s no telling the trouble that these two beer-swilling, trash-talking roughnecks will get into. Yee-haw!

Are you laughing yet, or what?

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