Professional Wrestling. Sports Entertainment. Catch-as-Catch-Can. An ever evolving performance art that entertains millions of people world wide on a weekly basis. Yet, the main stream fans that watch the number one company in the world, the WWE, never seem to be happy. So, my question is… Why in the blue hell do they still tune in? Like everyone else I have my dislikes and my likes. Angles that don’t capture my interest. Wrestlers who I find blander than plain yoghurt. Sequences that just look so choreographed that it’s impossible to suspend disbelief. But, of course there is a lot more that I like than I dislike. One of the most common statements I see is ‘he deserves’ such and such belt, victory, accolade, etc. This is where I start to part ways from your average fan and start to decipher what in my opinion is the main problems with the WWE at present.
To start with I want to clear up a misconception that is commonly held by, as Damien Sandow would say, the ‘unwashed masses,’ and today I intend to take his place as the ‘intellectual saviour ‘. It’s at this time I would ask anyone who thinks Vincent Kennedy McMahon, the Cliq, Jim Duggan or The Iron Sheik are the reasons that kayfabe was broken to take a seat. There have been many occasions when wrestling has been shown to be a work over the course of the last 100 years. In fact, there’s been way too many to even name them all, so I’m just going to share a couple of the earlier ones with you: 1937 – Marcus Griffins, ‘Fall Guys: The Barnums of Bounce.’ One of the more well known and complete exposes at that point in history. 1932 – Jack Pfeffer the long time New York promoter out of spite denounced the business that had once afforded him riches. Following a dispute with other promoters leaving him left on the outside unable to earn a proper living as a territory owner. 1925 – Charles Cochrane the manager of Stanislaus Zbyszko & Georg Hackenschmidt whilst in England, releases a memoir alluding how he worked opponents for both men in order to build the maximum fan attraction without risking the status of his clients. 1908 – Stanislaus Zbyszko and Charles Chochrane are named and shamed in English newspapers after it comes out that a contest with ‘Kara Suliman’ was a complete sham and ‘Kara Suliman’ was actually an assumed name to hide his real identity as an employee of the Zbyszko camp.
They are just a few of the occasions in history going back as far as over 100 years where it was public knowledge that the game was nothing more than a very physical stage show. Of course there have been many more situations that have exposed the business normally involving promoters trying to do harm to a rivals business by giving away results before the shows had even taken place. My point for stating all this is that the lack of kayfabe is not necessarily the issue with professional wrestling at this point in time. If I need to prove my point further, take a look at the Attitude Era in the late ’90’s – the biggest boom period since the mid-1980’s. So, what exactly is the problem? Well, in my opinion there’s only one major problem with the business right now and that’s the ungrateful fans. The fans who rant and bash the WWE on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. The fans who have not one iota of a positive thing to say about the WWE yet they still go to the trouble of illegally downloading or streaming because WWE simply, ‘isn’t worthy of paying for.’
Now don’t get me wrong by no means is this actually an issue in terms of the product itself or where the product is going to go. The only people this effects is those who frequent the ‘Internet Wrestling Community.’ That’s not to say the whole IWC crowd is of the same manner, just that it is only members of the IWC that seem to react in such a manner. I do understand their frustration and their annoyance at a product that at times seems to be going nowhere and rehashing the same old story-lines often without real consistency, yet I also feel if they just read a little history on the industry they’d get that it is some what of a roller coaster ride. For the sake of keeping this simple if you go from 1905 when Georg Hackenschmidt became the very first World Heavyweight Champion there have only actually been literally a handful of real boom periods in the business. Yes there have been little victories between, but real main stream prominence has only happened infrequently. It was actually Triple H who said that a product can not be hot forever, you have to ride that wave of white hot heat until it burns itself out and then and only then can you rebuild the product and make it hot again because only then will the product feel fresh once again by using old methods that people have either forgotten about or new generations are not familiar with.
Let’s take a look at ‘hardcore wrestling’ for example, Wild Bull Curry is arguably the first real ‘hardcore’ star who debuted in the 1920’s and continued on until the 1970’s. Of course he was followed by the Sheik who debuted in the 1950’s and continued until the late 1990’s. Then you had Extreme Championship wrestling in the 1990’s followed by the Attitude Era. What you have to remember with guys like Bull Curry, the Sheik, and even Bruiser Brody and Abdullah the Butcher is, they had the reliability to burn out a territory and then go to another territory allowing the previously burnt out territories to miss the ‘hardcore’ action. My last statement could lead to the argument that the lack of territories is what is wrong with the business, and it’s a very valid argument. It’s not what’s wrong though, it’s just the natural evolution of it. Professional wrestling started with competitors travelling the world to compete. Guys like Frank Gotch and Tom Jenkins were known the world over before territory alliances came along making the game more national and then later on aligning with local TV networks and further narrowing down the audience dramatically to purely a national basis. It seems only fitting that as we approached the turn of the 21st century the business was back to a true international level and it has stayed that way since. I just want to quickly touch upon is this notion that wrestling was better when I was a child. Well, go figure. Everything is better when we’re children, everything seems bigger, badder, more over the top and magical when we’re growing up.
In many cases the generation that got the 1980’s when they were children with the cartoon era of Rock ‘N’ Wrestling and then were growing into adults during the Attitude Era should feel very lucky they were exposed to what ended up being a masterful growing of both the company from PG into Adult programming as the audience they had secured in the 1980’s grew into adults themselves. Basically what I’m trying to say is, to those of you who only complain about the show, would you please SHUT THE HELL UP! And either switch over and find something more appeasing to watch or, or just may-be we can all enjoy the product for what it actually is. A growing and evolving machine that is working toward solidifying it’s next group of stars. Do they always make the right decision on the surface, no, it doesn’t appear they do, but then again we don’t know what’s going on backstage or what these wrestlers are really like as people, so who are we to judge who deserves what, just because they can wrestle good? Wrestling good is only a percentage of the equation that is needed to be a face of the company who draws big money and can handle all of the public relations that come with it.
Every single one of the wrestlers go out there and put their bodies on the line to entertain us whether they do it superbly or whether they are sloppy, they still deserve a certain amount of respect for being willing to do what they do. Which brings me to my final point… Fans defecating all over the wrestlers in the ring. I’ve never minded a ‘You f’d up’ if they do indeed mess up, or a chant like ‘You can’t wrestle’ at John Cena because it’s all part of the show, part of his gimmick. What I do take objection to though is this ridiculous idea that the fans some how are more important than the show itself. Can an audience make a show better than it is? Of course, just look at Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI. Can they break a show if they’re quiet? No, not in my opinion, just look at all the tremendous Japanese matches there are. Can a crowd be as annoying as Michael Cole as a heel? Oh Hell yeah! Now again I don’t mind fans get involved in a manner which is accentuating the match or storyline itself, but to sing, hum, or whatever you want to call it, someone’s theme music over a match that has nothing to do with it is just plain obnoxious. I’m particularly thinking of Sheamus vs. Randy Orton, I didn’t really care about the match, but it ended up being a really good match, apart from the fans thinking they are the stars of the show. Have some respect for the guys working their asses off.
To close, the wrestling product isn’t perfect right now or for the last few years, but there have been some extremely entertaining matches, some memorable feuds and watching the product continuously grow and be tweaked in little ways preparing for the next generation of superstars to really create their own era has for this fan been a truly awesome process to witness. Even if I don’t like everything that is put out there, I understand that it can’t change over night and a product has to re-energize, it has to go stale to become fresh again. The WWE are doing a fine job of moving with the curve, preparing for the things that are coming with the WWE App, the WWE Network, the movie franchise and so much more that isn’t even known to your average fan… It might not be next year, it might not be the year after, but when the time is right, I am excited for the explosion of professional wrestling once again. I am proud to say I am fan of the current product for the reasons I have stated and I will continue to suspend disbelief and look for them minor alterations to the product and I hope more fans will realize that it’s better to enjoy the ride because it will make the eventual ‘pay-off’ so much sweeter in the long run.
– By Jimmy Wheeler