I’ve been staring at this screen trying to figure out a way to start the column for far too long. Now that I’ve run out of websites to procastinate on, I should really just get on with it. I should warn you all right now that it isn’t going to make for pretty reading, particularly if you happen to be one of those poor, overlooked, increasingly harder to find people that considers yourself to be a ‘wrestling fan’.
After all, we aren’t allowed to call ourselves wrestling fans anymore. Not if we’re trying to churn out a weekly column on the matter – and yes, I know I skipped the past two weeks but I did have a solid reason for it and if you don’t know what it was by now then, well, just take a guess (Will was meant to be covering one of the weeks but he had a nasty accident involving a Smirnoff Ice bottle and the Liberal Democrat party) – and certainly not if we’re blinded by the light of that diminished zombie state known as ‘sports entertainment’. We’re already very aware of the absurdity of following a product when even the biggest manufacturer of it is ashamed to admit what they are making and hides behind meaningless terminology instead. We’ve pointed that out to others and had it pointed out to us in return time and time again, with the end result being that ‘sports entertainment’ is too hollow to be as fulfilling as it thinks it ought to be, while ‘wrestling’ is left to wallow in its inferiority complex unhappily ever after. WWE sacrifices talent for a Diva Search and continues to try and expand their house of cards, most recently with movies. TNA desperately wants to capture the lightning of vintage ECW in a bottle but can’t escape the fact that deep down inside they are as threatening and meaningful as WCW Thunder. Backstage there are tantrums, tribulations, troubles, turbulence and tumultuous trials aplenty, most of which are vastly more interesting than anything that happens in front of the camera. Random example: what sounds like a better story, Booker T picking a fight with Batista because the former and future champion considers himself to be better than the rest of the Smackdown crew, or Booker T and his wife doing everything in their power to win a meaningless tournament for no discernible purpose? Let’s not even get started on the worms. Woe betide anybody that wants to get started on the matches. It isn’t just as simple as that anymore. We need to give consideration to carefully timed commercial breaks, pre-planned interview segments, random promotional spots, extended non-wrestling material, and try to forget the names of any moves we might once have known. Meanwhile, stock up on some cliches to describe the size of The Big Show’s hands and be sure to thank your sponsorship gods. Now that the heart and soul has been thoroughly shredded from the product, feel free to have your little match. Just be sure it doesn’t overshadow the made men, and be sure to jump through any hoops marked Screwjob Ending, Dusty Finish, Excessive Interference, or Save It For The PPV that might get put in front of you.
We can even let the women join in. Just as long as they have big fake breasts and show off their thongs whenever possible.
And at the end of the day there is nothing left to do but try hard to turn off our minds and succumb to the sickness, to try and force ourselves to pretend that ECW2 will be the thing to awaken that ol’ grappling spirit, that it was ever anything other than an excuse for trashy violence, and that even when we get thrown a bone like Chris Benoit vs. Fit Finlay we won’t suffer the soured aftertaste of a sidekick leprechaun. Nothing can ever be as sweet as the first hit. For me, it was a Betamax videotape bootleg copy of WrestleMania III borrowed from a friend at school (and it was Steamboat and Savage that gave me the first one for free, not Hogan and Andre). Many years later I’m still trying to get that high, torn between being sensible and escaping and being loyally passionate and hoping to somehow get by on the weak methodone offered up by shows like Judgement Day 2006, ever hoping that one day it could possibly improve… couldn’t it? Just one last time?
Well, no, not really. Not when WWE persists with John Cena well beyond the point of reason, driven by some fanatical belief in the power of his merchandise sales as champion, and yet sacrifices Rey Mysterio, the second-highest merchandise mover and most substantial draw on Smackdown (officially more than The Undertaker and even Batista), at any given opportunity.
Not when being generous enough to watch Raw means having to tolerate the sight of Vince McMahon making out with women almost forty years younger than him, making other men literally kiss his ass in public, and challenge God to a fight. He can’t mark his late-life crisis by buying a sports car, not when he already has his own plane, so this is what happens instead, something that could only be worth watching if you happen to be a world-class psychologist.
Not when there is no way in hell that marginal and temporary increases in viewing figures could possibly come anywhere close to off-setting Sting’s $500,000 salary – money that would have been better spent on more advertising or on expanding their live shows outside of a theme park. As it stands he’s nearly halfway through his contract and everything is still geared towards Sting/Jarrett via Sting/Steiner, with little chance for anybody younger and untainted to benefit (he had little more than a cup of coffee with Christian, he barely even spoke to Styles, Rhino and Killings, and Project Joe would be at exactly the same level without his employment).
Not when the only possible match for WrestleMania XXIII that could conceivably draw any outside interest or raise buyrates beyond the recently established standards of the WrestleMania brand name is Austin/Hogan. In 2007. 17 years after Hogan first “retired” and 6 years after Austin became more of a hindrance than a help.
Not when nobody at TNA has yet to realise there is no such word as “nonstop”.
Not when Randy Orton will return and, sooner or later, be given yet another World Heavyweight Title. And fail to change as a person, as everybody does. And mess it up again. And in twenty years time turn into a bigger waster than Lex Luger did, without even having a Sting to help him out from time-to-time. And meanwhile the audience suffers.
Not when the powers that be remain so deeply afraid of change that they can’t even bear the thought of any voices other than those belonging to Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler commentating on Raw, despite both having long since turned into living adverts for the benefits of deafness.
Not when WWE has declared “Wellness” to be their new favourite buzzword whilst simultaneously continuing to employ Ric Flair and Kurt Angle as full-time active in-ring competitors.
Not when TNA remains so hopelessly insecure that they will sign up any available talent they can lay their hands on, especially anybody that ever appeared in WWE or WCW, then try to cram in various guest stars, non-wrestling figures, random women and a bunch of strangers from Japan and Mexico, and then attempt to blur them all into a single hourly show and fail to realise that no new viewers could possibly be tempted to care about any of them whatsoever. It is so rushed now that even guys like Christopher Daniels are being whitewashed by the pacing. Two steps forward, two steps back, then fall on your arse.
Not when people accept nostalgia as development and think that having the husband of Vince McMahon’s daughter and a clean-living bible-basher suddenly and inexplicably revert to the DX personas they fitted a decade ago could possibly be a good idea. If they really want to bring back the DX name then they can do it with younger and more suited people, then have the old guard get upset about it, then proceed with the feud – and for the love of the preservation of space and time please do not let this storyline involve any more HHH/HBK ego-wank matches.
Not when the unwashed masses seem so willing to line up and throw themselves at Ken Kennedy’s feet, for no discernible reason other than that he has a loud voice and the ability to use it to say his name. Rush me my replacement interest, the original was lost in the mail.
Not when Triple H continues to dominate whatever show he happens to be on. Look at last week’s Raw. Their would-be saviour, John Cena, and the guy most closely associated with the quickly returning ECW brand, Rob Van Dam, and the Intercontinental Title switch to Shelton Benjamin, were all quickly dispersed with at the top of the show. The rest was based around Triple H and an incestuous storyline involving his father-in-law, his brother-in-law, and his best mate. Important Safety Tip: you can’t expand inwards without imploding.
Not when the worst part of the above is that we all know there are still six more title reigns to go. At least.
Not when Mark Henry is eagerly awaiting his contract renewal around about the same time as the thoroughly useless Great Khali was debuted, proving that they still haven’t learned their lesson about the outdated benefits of the Wow He’s Big theory, which haven’t done a damn thing since Andre’s time – and not even he would have drawn that much in this day and age.
Not when the best creative mind employed by WWE, a certain Paul Heyman, was shuffled away to a well-intentioned yet non-essential developmental territory, brought back only to work on a third brand despite the first two badly needing fresh creative juices, and is only employed in the first place so that nobody can use him. Too talented to lose, too talented to use. Why? Because Stephanie McMahon doesn’t like him and doesn’t have to be a professional.
Not when WWE continues to run its talent into the ground for a fairly worthless house show circuit. Though it could benefit TNA (who therefore don’t use it), WWE must surely begin to realise how much of a drain these things are. Don’t scrap them altogether, since there is some benefit to be had in additional merchandise sales, gaining experience for the younger performers, and generally spreading the name, but certainly cut down on them. The costs of organising, promoting and running these shows for very little in return apart from injuries, particularly in the saturated national market, are beginning to seem rather foolish. They could make far more impact, reach far more people, and gain far more revenue by working on their internet presence instead.
Not when Triple H, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Kane, Vince McMahon, Mick Foley and others on their level have been around for so long that they have nothing new to show us at all and have failed time and time again to establish anybody to take their place, or even to move out the way when that happens. Orton’s a joke, Cena’s being laughed at and not with, Lesnar wasn’t even listening, and Batista just wants his laughing gas back.
Not when the best full-time, healthy, active and viable wrestler in WWE, Shelton Benjamin, has not been progressed at all in the past year and will continue to be squandered until the cows come home. Have The Coach be his mouthpiece by all means, but even if they do manage to ape the nonchalant/irritating tandem of RVD/Fonzie from back in the day, the company still won’t get behind them as anything more than Jericho-level career also-rans.
Not when Matt Hardy goes from zero to hero to zero in the space of a year, meaning that we’ll have to listen to him rant on about this Edge/Lita “will… not… die” crap in every single interview he does for the rest of his life.
Not when Bobby Lashley, despite having the body of Lesnar, has as much of a threatening presence as Judge Reinhold. Not even Beverly Hills Cop Judge Reinhold, but The Santa Clause Judge Reinhold. All he needs is a keen collection of knitted woolly jerseys and he’d be set. Actually, they could get him one and just change his name to Bobby Cosby. Roll out the slippers and the musk of the aged and say hello to your future World Champion, ready or not.
Not when people are now taking thumbtacks and barbed-wire baseball bats as bog-standard weapons to use during a match. Perhaps in ten year’s time we’ll have to progress to hyperdermic needles and sawn-off shotguns.
Not when there is no reason not to believe that whenever TNA finally gets around to having Joe kill Jarrett for the ‘proper’ title that they won’t f*ck it up in grander fashion than WCW f*cked up Sting/Hogan. Expect Joe to get a cheap victory following some kind of interference backfiring, promptly lose the title back to him after being pinned cleanly, spend a few months chasing him for the title, and then getting lost in the shuffle when the latest new signing turns up and jumps the queue (no matter how old they may actually be). Just ask Raven, Monty, Rhino, Killings, Styles, Abyss and in due time Christian about the benefits package of contracted work on the boggy surface of Planet Jarrett.
Not when there is a PPV on this weekend that I can’t even be bothered to download for free.
Not when the only new releases that are actually worth watching are collections of older material.
Not when Carlito is nothing but a haircut.
Not when so much has been revealed that all of the emperor’s new clothes have to be met with such forced acclaim.
Not when so many people still cling to the myth of the cyclical nature of the business. Let’s look at things since the dawn of the PPV age, since any business models before then were an entirely different kettle of fish. Things progressed quite nicely through the boom of Rock & Wrestling, with the NWA managing to flourish briefly too due to new technology allowing them to reach an audience that just wanted some wrestling and usually found it difficult to get the product. Then that phase passed, the WWF tried very hard to regenerate it yet did not update it enough to grow alongside the audience, while WCW just flat-out wanted to copy it and learned all about diminishing returns. The post-grunge, post-Playstation, post-Lollapalooza days had moved pop culture on in a loud enough manner to make even wrestling promoters pay attention and, via ECW, they took a walk on the wild side to pander to the bad guys for a change. The new world order that was established made a lot of money yet eventually the bubble burst. This was mainly due to complacency, even among the audience since viewing figures have levelled off at a fairly respectable mark, all things considered, with little chance for growth or shrinkage in sight. Sticking your fingers in your ears, closing your eyes and yodelling about the “cyclical nature of the business” in an out-of-tune voice is essentially admitting the defeat of imagination. So why do so many of them seem happy enough to do this?
Not when I haven’t the spare funds to go and start collecting the Ring of Honour DVDs, where I could safely avoid these things I hate and start to reconnect with those things I once loved.
Not when there are many other things to concern myself with.
But if not then, when?
I wish I had an answer. Perhaps by this time next week I’ll have found one to try at the very least. If you can help, then let me know.
In the meantime – no, I am not doing those stupid Hyatte things. I’m actually a little pissed off that so many people seemed to think I could possibly be lame enough to write such nonsense. Somebody higher up on the Inside Pulse chain of command seems to get off on them, which is hardly the inspiring leadership that the site needs but, hey, complaints and logic fall on deaf ears around here recently. Just check out the influx of idiots to our WWE forum.
There’s only one word for it all…