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WWE: Is Wrestling Getting Soft?

The Undertaker got a lot of criticism lately for claiming that the current crop of professional wrestlers are “soft” compared to his era, and TWM columnist James Klonowski is here to explain why he hit the nail on the head with those comments.

During a controversial interview with Joe Rogan, Undertaker made some remarks on the current crop of WWE Superstars that obviously didn’t sit well with a number of wrestlers.

“I try [to watch the current product], it’s tough right now for me,” Taker said.

“The product has changed so much and it’s kind of off. I’ll probably piss a lot of people off but they need to hear it. It is what it is. To the young guys [who think] he’s a bitter old guy, I’m not bitter. I did my time, I walked away when I wanted to walk away. I just think the product is a little soft. There’s guys here and there that have an edge to them but there’s too much pretty and not enough substance I think right now.”

“One of the big things that happened was that the generation before, we all got old at the same time so there weren’t enough guys to work with the young guys,” Undertaker continued.

Some have concluded that his comments were indeed those of an outdated, bitter old man, but I don’t think that was the case at all. I also think it was taken out of context. No matter what generation you’re from, you’re always going to believe that era was the pinnacle. That’s no different here.

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“…that era of guys too, those were men. You go into a dressing room nowadays, it’s a lot different. I remember walking into my first real dressing room, and all I saw were some crusty fucking men. Right? Half of ‘em had guns and knives in their bags. Shit got handled back then, you know? Now you walk in, there’s guys playing video games and fucking making sure they look pretty.”

“It’s evolution, I guess. I don’t know what it is, but I just prefer…when men were men.”

Of course, it’s good that wrestlers no longer enter arenas with guns and knives strapped to them, but I do get Undertaker’s point about them being soft. What he was referring to, I believe, is not the actual in-ring product, or the fact that them playing video games bothers him as much as he claimed, it’s that their entire personality to be the very best and grow the business has become soft.

Back in Undertaker’s day, it was every man for himself, a true dog-eat-dog world where they were scratching and clawing to reach that infamous brass ring. Now it seems the roster is simply content with being where they are on the card and are just happy to sit around and pat their contemporaries on the back instead of being desperate to take their spot.

Obviously, hardly anyone took his comments that way, and instead believed he thought the current product itself was soft, which was entirely missing the point completely. As with any controversial remark these days, there was a whole host of responses from just about everybody, including reigning WWE Champion Drew McIntyre.

“I don’t agree whatsoever,” said WWE champion Drew McIntyre in an interview with Sportskeeda. “Especially from an in-ring perspective. I’ve listened to part of it, I’ve got to listen to the whole thing, it’s pretty new. But I think he may have been referring to like the kind of storylines and characters etc.”

Undertaker has already gone on record stating his upmost respect and praise for McIntyre, along with a host of other top talents. The in-ring product is not the problem. It’s arguably the best and most athletic it’s ever been. It’s the actual personalities themselves that are the problem, as I previously stated. It’s the sheer contentment that frustrates the legends.

Edge was the most thoughtful of those who responded to Undertaker’s comments, and again, did not disagree with The Deadman’s initial remarks.

“I think any comment can be taken out of context and I think that’s part of what happened there. In a three-hour interview, I think they took the most salacious 20-second clip. I think anybody, whoever steps foot into the wrestling ring, no matter what era—whether it be the 1940s, whether it be the 2020s—all tough.”

All got into this because they love it, for the most part. And there are different challenges that come with every era, decade, and incarnation of what this business becomes. We didn’t have the challenge that is social media. Now it’s a great outlet in order to get your product out there, in order to make your brand bigger.

“But, there’s also a whole lot of hiccups and possible bumps on the road that come along with that. That’s a challenge we didn’t have to navigate. We just had to worry about getting to the building and producing. Now, the cameras never stop rolling. Now, every aspect of your life that is under a microscope. That’s an entirely different challenge than we ever encountered. It’s just different is all. To me, anybody who ever steps foot in there—badass.”

WWE icon John Cena told Alfred Konuwa that today’s product isn’t soft, but it’s certainly different from previous eras. “I may have a bit of disagreement with Undertaker’s word choice because I don’t think it’s soft, I think it’s different.”

“What do I think of the WWE product right now? I love it!” Cena continued. “I think it’s bold, it’s forcing people to take chances.” John Cena is certainly more diplomatic than Undertaker, but if you read between the lines he’s backing up what The Phenom is saying. It is different. Social media has changed wrestling and many other entertainment avenues forever. Kayfabe has long been dead.

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Would the Attitude Era have been as enjoyable with Twitter around to spoil the results? Arguably not. But if today’s wrestlers had that old school mentality of not quitting until they’re the best, then I believe we would be watching a much better product than we are currently suffering through. And this is solely on the men, by the way, because the women are killing it and have done so since the moment they were given the ball to be more than eye candy.

I truly believe that’s a big part of the frustration with Undertaker’s era. As he said, “men were men”. It was a man’s business, and now the women are taking over. They’re drawing the highest viewing figures, high merchandise sales, and are the ones getting the big opportunities outside of WWE.

I’m not saying Undertaker doesn’t like or respect women’s wrestling, on the contrary. I believe he’s a massive fan, and respects every single one of them. I think he’s simply frustrated that the guys have allowed the women to pass them by. The women are now what the men’s roster used to be. Hungry, committed, determined, all striving to change the business and become the very best, while the men are content with playing video games.

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