I haven’t had much reason to bring this up before but I’m actually a fan of professional wrestling, or WWE at least.
In terms of expectations, “Tiger Philanthropist” was high on my list, “Tiger Millionaire” was one of my favorite episodes from the first season, and since the title “Tiger Philanthropist” has been floating around the internet since Season 3, it was as extensive wait for a sequel. Unfortunately, I ended up leaving my much anticipated sequel like Lars, that conversation he has with Steven is like the conversation I’d have with the episode. It’s the sequel I asked for but that doesn’t mean it matched my hopes, or even that I enjoyed it that much.
As a sequel, despite being written and story-boarded by a different duo, there’s a surprising amount of continuity between the two. Some are more simple returns, both Brothers Construction and the Good-Looking Gang return as active competitors in the tag division but even some smaller or entirely visual nods remain in tact. It’s nice to see that the move Purple Puma and Tiger Millionaire used to defeat Garnet in the original episode has developed into the pairing’s finisher maneuver for example. The episode also retains the red, white, and blue color palette for big moves and moments that “Tiger Millionaire” utilized. I like this because not only does it establish an easy connection between the episodes to separate them from the rest, but the technique itself also seemed like a homage to classic wrestling posters. And in terms of wrestling nods, this episode has a plethora of them too. Shark-o-Mania feels like a parody of TNA’s/Impact’s/Global Force’s Shark Boy, just this time sporting a Hulk Hogan shtick than Stone Cold, albeit in name only. Of course, it’s possible there I’m connecting dots with nonexistent lines, since they could’ve just really wanted to use that “fishy situation” pun. What isn’t in question though, is the continued use of ridiculously cartoon-y gimmicks inspired by late 80’s/early 90’s wrestling like the Wolves of Wall Street or just incorporating more of the theatrical elements of professional wrestling such as personalized entrance music. Tiger even hits a German Suplex, which is one of my favorite moves, and alone is more grounded of a move than anything featured in both episodes (as far as I recall anyway).
The issue for me, at least in comparison to “Tiger Millionaire”, is that “Tiger Philanthropist” doesn’t really compile it’s references in a manner nearly as entertaining as Tiger’s increasingly wacky heel tactics. There’s a few decent bits with the Wolves of Wall Street, and it seems like there was a joke attempted about surprise entrances being signaled by their music, with Smiley’s commentary introducing the teams by recognizing their music. Ultimately, this mostly feels like the homage itself is the joke, like just pointing out the zany theatrics of old school wrestling alone is joke, rather than taking the formula in mixing them in with something outlandish like a larger than Tiger cellphone to use as a weapon or tennis with coconuts. It’s a far more standard approach to a wrestling episode, and while I still like the inclusion of another one of my passion, I wish it captured the creative energy of the older one.
There is one are where area that the episode excels at in terms of wrestling however, and that’s understanding the fickle nature of the IWC, as represented by Lars. I myself am typically stubbornly steadfast in my initial opinions on a wrestler so I can’t personally relate but I’ve encountered many whose opinions turn on wrestlers based on their character direction. In fact, Lars here isn’t even being the unreasonable in his distaste of Tiger’s recent character direction. In fact, wrestling itself contains instances where a heel turns face to disastrous results as they ended up changing the persona of the wrestler completely. Randy Orton in 2004 comes to mind immediately, and it’s a similar factor here. Steven doesn’t seem to understand the actual appeal of Tiger Millionaire, as his face turn entirely rejects the characteristics that got him over to begin with. Well, at least with Lars as the rest of the audience eat it up. Either way, Lars has flip-flopped his opinion on Tiger plenty in the two featured episodes, and while it’s not as entertaining here as it was in “Tiger Millionaire”, the massive fan boys switches in dedication are still pretty amusing.
I realize it might not be enthralling to continuously compare this to the original episode rather than directly on it’s own merits but I think the context of the experience is pretty valuable to our own reaction to the episode. And more importantly, it feels like one of my criticisms is intentional. Earlier I stated that I wished the episode captured the same amount of creative energy as the original but for “Tiger Philanthropist”, it might be better that it doesn’t, as the two episodes reflect the passion of those involved. As Amethyst states here, wrestling was an outlet for her in order to feel better about herself. A method to cope with her own insecurities. For Steven, it was simply a fun activity that he shared with Amethyst, something special that helped fortified their own bond. This episode is all about moving on from that, not only has Amethyst battled with her demons, but the two have fused. It’s no longer necessary for Amethyst’s self-esteem or for the relationship between the two, they’ve grown past it. So presenting wrestling in a manner that still depicts the performance with many nods to the fans but without the energy the two leads brought in the second makes sense, though whether or not this was explicitly intentional is up for debate.
The episode concluding with the undefeated tag team being beaten The Good-Looking Gang for the Tag Titles in a ladder match provides nice closure to their wrestling careers. Not only are you suppose to go out on your back, something Amethyst clearly didn’t understand, but it creates a book-end callback to “Tiger Millionaire”, where the two won the Tag Team Championships in a ladder match with the aid of The Good-Looking Gag. The symmetry of ending on Lars in both episodes is another nice touch between the two. It’s pretty clear that “Tiger Philanthropist” wasn’t the episode I had hoped for it to be. I wouldn’t call it a bad episode but I do consider this to be one of the low points of season four.