I’ve been watching pro wrestling for about 25 years now and every fan knows that the quality of the product has be sliding over the past several years. I don’t expect things to stay the same after decades but recent changes really have me worried.
They’re not wrestlers, they’re superstars
This year me and my wrestling buds (including King Tom) reinstated our annual Wrestlemania gathering. It was great to get back together and talk about wrestling…reliving the past and bitching about the future. This year’s Wrestlemania turned out to be more or less a dud and as it turns out was a possible signs of things to come. The first sign of the apocalypse was the announcement that World Wrestling Entertainment (which you probably still know as the WWF) is no longer “selling wrestling”, they are now selling “entertainments,” whatever that means.
For some reason, after only 30 years, they’ve decided that the term “wrestling” has a bad connotation. Look, I know wrestling isn’t a real sport but wrestling has always been the ass end of jokes, I’m not sure why they’re just realizing this now. But you know what? It’s not even the name change that bugs me. Call yourself whatever you want…it doesn’t matter what your name is, it matters what you’re selling and in this case that is pro wrestling…at least, it used to be.
Straight from the horse’s mouth
Over the past 15 years at least we’ve been seeing less and less actual wrestling on TV, and for the most part I’ve been okay with that, it’s been subtle. But when I paid for Wrestlemania and got a C grade show, it really told me the future holds. The worst part is, it sounds like the people on the inside are feeling the same way. A recent interview with a WWE writer has him admitting, “if you bought the PPV for wrestling, you did not get a lot of that… the end result was a show that, when you look back, might be the most disappointing WrestleMania.” Well that’s reassuring.
Wrestling needs to be 58% character “acting” and 42% in-ring fighting and that balance just isn’t there. Wrestlemania really turned me off from what has been a weekly ritual for half of my life. The WWE claims they will continue to focus on their “core product” but unless that means going back to some basics, then I fear pro wrestling as we knew it will be gone forever. It doesn’t help that the WWE has very little competition to push them to be better, so perhaps the best I can hope for is that the TNA company will take advantage of the WWE’s misstep and make their product better to force some competition.
The other thing missing from wrestling is characters. From the mid-80s to the early-90s, wrestling was full of fantastic characters. There were masks, capes, managers and other great cheap gimmicks. But then we all got tired of that and thus began the grunge era of wrestling. Gone were the more colors, the masks and the fantasy. Every era has a burn out period and I think wrestling has worn out the “real” angle just a bit longer than it should have. It’s time wrestling jumped back into over-the-top characters and crazy gimmicks. Bring back the colors, the capes and the masks (and maybe some good tag team wrestling). After 20 years of beating the “attitude” horse, I think a little bit of the big 80s would feel fresh and new.
Is the end near?
Maybe I’m not the demographic they’re looking for, despite the fact that my generation grew up and helped invent modern wrestling…I mean, “sports entertainment.” I want to watch wrestling. It can still be fun and entertaining. What they need to do is take the fighting style of the past and teach it to the current roster. Watching most of these guys wrestle and damn near painful, it’s just not exciting. There’s no finesse, no rhythm. It’s just sloppy. Pro wrestling is not hard. It’s simple entertainment that I think they’re trying to complicate.
I’ve kept up with wrestling for a long time, a lot longer than many of my friends. I watched it get good and I watched it get bad. When things started to suck there always seemed to be a silver lining but now I’m not so sure…and doesn’t sound like the WWE is either. It just makes me sad to see something I enjoyed so much for so long start to falter. At least Netflix is now flush with classic wrestling so I can go back to better times whenever I want.