I don’t write about wrestling much because there’s usually not a lot to write about. It’s pro wrestling. It’s the best/worst men’s soap opera ever. Always will be and I’ve been watching it most of my life. I’ve been there for the good times and the bad. Recently it’s been pretty bad but this week there was a chance for change.
Back when it was good
Until 2001 the WWF (now the WWE) had some competition in the WCW. The competition got fierce in the late-90s and made for some of the best wrestling in a long, long time. I have great memories of those days as Monday night wrestling was a weekly ritual with friends. Since then wrestling went into a period of suck for several years. Without competition, the WWE was the only wrestling company in business and it got boring. How good can you be when you can’t be compared to anything?
The last hope
Well that changed this past Monday night when the “other” wrestling company, TNA, finally managed to get their wrestling show on a Monday night during primetime…going up against the WWE show that has been top-rated for years. I had high hopes that TNA might light some fire under the WWF so they would improve their product. But after watching TNA’s first Monday show, I have to say that the WWE has absolutely nothing to fear.
Now I’m all for throwing in old retro wrestlers every now and then – we all like to see our nostalic heroes – but you can’t expect your product to look shiny and new when you use nothing but old names…old names like Hulk Hogan. And if all the fans on Twitter on Monday are any measure, they agree.
A little too much nostalgia
All though he is the most well known wrestler of all time, Hulk Hogan is no longer a wrestling legend…he ruined whatever legacy he had with a reality show and a tabloid joke of a family life. Then you throw in other wrestling names from the Class of 1998, like Scott Hall, Nash, and Val Venis, and even older names, like Ric Flair and Sting, and you can’t help but shake your head. If you left wrestling in 1998 when most of my friends did and tuned in on Monday to see what all the hype was about, you’d think you had never left high school.
The first 90 minutes of TNA Impact barely featured any talent under the age of 40…maybe make that 50. The company touted change with Hogan at the helm but they delivered nothing but regurgitated gimmicks and washed up performers (I mean, the Nasty Boys?! C’mon!). It was disappointing to say the least and whatever hopes any wrestling fan had of a decent showdown between brands were jobbed worse than the Brooklyn Brawler.
I’ve been bitching about the quality of the WWE for months. Without any challenge from another company the WWE got lazy and boring. There failed to be any innovation in stories, characters, and matches. Very quickly a “sport” I used to watch for two hours week after week turned into barely a few minutes during commercial flipping. Their product just got lame and tired. I was hoping TNA would do something special to cause a stir in the wrestling world.
But instead of TNA causing the WWF to re-think what they’re doing, they made the WWF look great by just being piss poor. The lack of production quality, lack of good characters, lack of new characters, and just some overall shotty fighting made the WWE look fresh and new without even trying (even before they went on the air!). It didn’t hurt that the WWE brought back one of their own has-beens with Bret Hart…but unlike Hogan, Hart hasn’t been in the public eye for the past 12 years with a drunk driving son or wannabe pop singer daughter. Wrestling fans were actually interested in seeing Bret Hart again…not so much when it comes to Hulk Hogan.
Don’t let them know you’re trying
It just goes to show you that you can lose sight of how good something is when you see it week after week without anything to really compare it to. If both wrestling products are in the crapper right now, one is a nice tightly coiled turd while the other one is just a sloppy mess on the floor. And at least you can appreciate a nicely coiled work of art.
It also goes to show that if you want to be taken seriously and have a better product than the other guy, you have to believe it whole-heartedly from the get go. Don’t address your competition. When you do that you show them you’re trying and you can’t look like you’re trying, you have to look like you know what you’re doing from day one. When you admit you’re trying, you’ll always look like you’re trying. TNA started their show talking trash about how they’re going to be better than the WWE which put them squarely in the “we have something to prove” category and that’s not where you want to be (especially if you can’t deliver).
Wrestling really hasn’t changed for 30 years…and it probably won’t change in the next 30 years. Like any other TV show, it becomes interesting thanks to good characters and good writing – but in the case of wrestling, replace writing with fighting. So what do wrestling fans want? We want good characters and good fighting. And apparently that’s harder to create than one would expect.
Is it a good time for wrestling? Probably not. But at least someone stepped up the challenge and gave it their all. As long as TNA continues to put in some effort week after week, it will pay off eventually…at least for the fans…and that’s all I want.