Matt Striker Photos © 2009 World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
By Arune Singh
His name's Matt Striker and every Tuesday on ECW—airing at 9pm ET on the Sci Fi Network—the self-styled "Extreme Educator" takes his place behind the announce table alongside broadcast partner Todd Grisham. But, as attentive fans recently learned when Striker mentioned two of the Avengers during his commentary, he can also be called an "Extreme" fan of Marvel!
With WWE's hotly anticipated "No Way Out" pay-per-view event approaching this Sunday, February 15 (where not only will ECW Champion Jack Swagger defend his title against Finlay, but the dreaded Elimination Chamber match makes its return!), Marvel.com spoke to Striker about his current job and his passion for Marvel.
Winner of the coveted 2008 Slammy Award for WWE "Announce Team of the Year," Striker's definitely feeling comfortable in his shift from in ring performer to announce table legend in the making.
"I think my affinity and almost obsessive passion for the art really lends itself to the transition," the former New York City high school teacher explains. "I really just transfer my energy and knowledge of the ebb and flow of a match into a different vehicle."
The same kind of passion also drives many comic book fans and creators, a parallel of which Striker is well aware.
"We as readers as well as fans always have this deep-seated belief that, yes, anything is possible
. It's a 'just because the guy before me tried and failed doesn't mean I will' kind of mentality that lends itself to the belief that we can have something on a different level than the common experience. WWE and comics in general always give the dreamers hope."
Of late, WWE has been giving fans the ultimate entertainment version of an SAT prep class, as Striker's ECW announcing vernacular provides the definition of academic.
"Ah, the perfect word! So elusive yet so rewarding when used properly," praises Striker. "I have words and phrases that I almost immediately associate with a Superstar. 'Serpentine' is great for the Boogeyman, whereas, poetic license allows me to use 'Working Class Hero' for Tommy Dreamer—and again, these words and phrases just fit. I am fortunate that I have the vocabulary at my disposal but there are also times when 'mean' works just as well as 'ornery' or 'belligerent.'"
Recently, Striker referred to the ECW Superstars Katie Lea and Paul Burchill as "the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver," instantly captivating comic fans viewing the program.
"Right when I tagged Katie Lea with the 'Scarlet Witch' descriptor it was a natural segue for me to refer to her brooding
brother as Quicksilver," smiles Striker. "I'm reading AVENGERS/JLA [right now] so those characters are present in my mind. I do, at times, plan certain things and if they're there, I try to make them as organic as possible."
Striker has long been a big fan of the Avengers and happily casts WWE superstars as Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
"Christian makes a great Hawkeye or Hank Pym. Jake the Snake Roberts, with a haircut, has the demeanor to play Tony Stark, as [would have the late] Rick Rude. Hulk is a green Batista. Hercules is Hercules Hernandez or Steve Blackman. Vision is bald Superstar Billy Graham. Namor is Randy Orton. Spider-Man is Evan Bourne. I think I could play Wonder Man."
Beyond the Avengers, Striker also pledges fandom for Marvel's cosmic characters, citing his own "out of this world" thoughts as part of his affinity for those heroes. He names Nova as one of his absolute favorites—"Is there any other real name better on a character than Richard Rider?"—and the highly educated intellectual who sometimes calls himself "Your Teacher" believes he could defeat the Human Rocket's super computer ally, Worldmind.
"After Secret Invasion, Worldmind made Ego into a host for [his essence], manipulating further events," Striker recaps. "So anytime there's manipulation and ego in the same sentence, I'd think you were talking about me. A weakened Matt Striker would be a perfect setting for Worldmind to prevail, but my power of faith will overcome."
This line of conversation begs the question of how Matt Striker became a comic book fan and he's happy to share his secret origin, as he explains, "I am of the opinion that I grew up in the 'Last Great Childhood'—title of my book and copy written, so don't try it! As a child we played stickball and roller hockey and rode our bikes to Mike's Comic Hut on Northern Boulevard in Queens. Inside was an amazing realm of sights and smells! I'm sure your readers know the scent I refer to. The scent of a classic comic in plastic—if
you were lucky there was a backboard to keep the comic firm. I also grew up during the live action 'Spider-Man' and 'Hulk' prime time [television] series so all that lent to my fascination with comics."
Like many fans, Striker drifted away from comics as time went on but came back because of a chance encounter with the medium of his youth—but it's not the kind of story you hear every day.
"Actually I returned to [comics] after I confiscated a 'Heroes Reborn' issue from a kid in one of my classes when I was a teacher," he recalls. "I read it and gave it back to him the next day, which he thought was great. We all know how frustrating it is to either lose a comic you know you had or be missing something in a series."
If you've ever seen Matt Striker in the squared circle, you might think his brash, arrogant and unarguably charismatic persona were inspired by similarly larger than life comic book characters—and you'd be correct.
"I would venture to say the fantasy of comics is infused into the passion and fervor that I bring to the character," he admits. "Comics have had a conscious affect on my character because my character is an extension of me. So in my life and daily activity and banter, I'm sure you can see bits of Reed Richards or Hank Pym in myself and
the Matt Striker character. There is some Spidey sarcasm in there as well."
Being on the road as a WWE Superstar takes its toll on Striker, and this means he can't always keep up with every comic he's interested in. He 's not alone, however, as many of his fellow wrestlers share his passion for Marvel.
"I talk with Mark Henry
and Hurricane Helms
a bit. My buddy Craig Tello at WWE.com has turned me on to some cool things. C.M. Punk is another comic-head but I think he enjoys 'the enemy.'"
Fans have been dying to know if Matt Striker might return to the ring, along with his patented "Golden Rule" finishing move and careful folding of the trademark argyle sweater he wore to the ring for each match.
"Ahh the slow fold," he reminisces. "Well you have
to be perfect otherwise the garment will crease and that's not very proper now is it? Never say never—in life and in the WWE."
But if a Marvel character were to draw him back to action, Striker knows who it would be: Hank Pym, who recently took on the mantle of the Wasp.
"As much as I love him and I love the Avengers, Hank Pym really has no
common sense," agonizes Striker. "It frustrates me to no end! I always felt that the character of Hank Pym has severe narcissistic tendencies. I often wondered if the 'stature' of the Wasp played games with the character's psychosomatic issues. Can you see why I find him so interesting?
"I'd also like to take Thing under my wing, maybe manage him."
If he were to battle other Marvel characters, Striker would likely do so in his "Striker's Rules" match, where the unique format allows for no punches, weapons or barbaric behavior. And what if he fought Wolverine, the mutant hero considered by many to be the best fighter in the Marvel Universe?
"Given Logan's hotheadedness and oftentimes inability to think or see things through then yes, I like my chances. All I have to do is hold his shoulders down for three seconds. I'm confident in my abilities to do that to most people. Mutant, meta human or otherwise."
So could a career fighting crime be in Matt Striker's future? For now, he prefers to stay close to the squared circle.
"There's an old saying: 'If you wanna hear God laugh, tell 'im your plans,'" he laughs. "All things considered. I'd like to continue telling stories on air. It is really like a live action comic book if you think about it. WWE matches and characters are issues and episodes. There are long, deep running rivalries and histories as well as new characters with new powers coming and looking to change the landscape. So if I can be around this form of entertainment, intrigue and fantasy then I will do whatever I can to remain in that realm."
You can read more about Matt Striker on WWE.com. And remember to catch him every Tuesday on ECW and check out No Way Out this Sunday!
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