I must make a confession—I am a fan of pro wrestling. Show me a Mick Foley match or a classic ECW bout (like the one where Bam Bam Bigelow destroyed the ring) and I will be happy. Its shlocky, cheese ball goodness. The morality plays and retellings of the Joseph Campbell Monomyth with knee pads and spandex are great.
Invariably when I tell people this, they have a few responses. A lot of people just mutter and shake their heads, thinking I am an idiot or believing it is some sort of personality flaw. Some people ask me: “You know its fake right?” They seem to be riding the line between breaking something gently to me and a bit of smug condescention. Of course, I know it is fake. In fact, I find that appealing. MMA and boxing are geat, but they lack the narrative cohesion and zaniness that makes pro wrestling one of America’s greatest homegrown art forms (Jazz being America’s crowning artistic achievement).
Then there are the true rarities, the people that get it, and we revel in the silliness (lest we forget the Vince McMahon Kiss My Ass Club whereby the actual CEO of an actual billion dollar company goes on TV and forces inflated and attractive women to kiss is 70 year old butt without even the faintest hint of awareness re: #MeToo or sexual harassment law). This whole show is the outgrowth of Vince McMahon—a shrewd businessman and great risk taker. Modern wrestling IS Vince McMahon and he is a human that has a T-Rex skull hanging in his office and a yatch named the Sexy Bitch.
Part of the joy of being a fan of pro wrestling is being in on the joke. There are all sorts of levels to this—on TV they still abide by kayfabe, the carnival code whereby performers pretend the outcomes are unknown and the competitors neatly divide into good guy and bad guy roles (faces, short for babyfaces, and heels for those that don’t know). But the modern product is even more clever, because off TV (and sometimes on it) kayfabe is dropped and we see something that acknowledges the fakery. But in reality, this too is another layer of the cake, the fake “real” stuff works perfectly in our age of so-called reality TV.
With this as the background I have come to really enjoy Cold Steel’s marketing. I have always liked Cold Steel’s products—their fixed blades are excellent with probably the best production sheathes on the market, and their recent run of foldes have been quite good. I have a sneaking suspicion that like pro wrestling, Cold Steel’s marketing is a bit of shlocky goodness. In interacting with Cold Steel behind the scenes, they have been exceptionally open, totally forthright, and incredibly decent folks. They make good knives and pick sterling collaborators (see: Demko, Andrew). This seems to be in contrast to their insane meat-boot adversting and their product catalog that has copy written by 14 year old boys that are trying to lower their voice to match the bassy rumbles of the guy that does movie trailer voice overs.
How do you square these two thing? Realize that the marketing is 100% tongue-in-cheek. There are a few times when the fourth wall drops, such as the Tri-Ad testing series of videos when Demko complements the design of the Spyderco Compression Lock. But most of the time the marketing is meat boots, Lynn Thompson butchering butchered hog carcasses with a giant Chinese inspired sword, and the occasional ballistics gel dummy filled with blood. Oh and there is more than a few videos of parking lot jackassery that makes me yearn for those summer jobs in college when me and another seasonal hire raced a pair of motorized scissor lifts through a high school gym with the lifts open all the way (I mention this noting that the statute of limitations has passed, not that we did any damage).
Want proof? Think of this: when has Joel McHale ever done anything that wasn’t sarcastic or jokey? Is there any reason for normal humans to own throwing stars or katana machetes? What purpose is there for a war hammer in this day and age? Cold Steel makes some really great knives (See: Mini Tuff Lite, SRK fixed blade, and the Mini Recon). Their core products are very competitive, nicely designed, and not terribly expensive. They have some real design chops. But then there are their over-the-top products like the Espada XL (or, as further proof of their tongue-in-cheek nature, the California legal Espada XL, which, while serving as a clever April Fools joke were 100% real) or any number of weapons that seem to be made for SCA folks.
Don’t take these things too seriously, though they do seem capable of standing up to real use. Realize that these weapons are for jackassing around. Embrace the humor. Don’t take all of this stuff too seriously. Knives and gear should be fun and it is clear, having taken lessons from wrestling, that Cold Steel knows what they are doing. You are now official in on the joke.
Oh and take a look at the Broken Skull blade, you know the collar between Cold Steel and Steve Austin.