Breaking Holds – Episode One

Recently, I attended my first live television event for the WWE, in the form of an episode of RAW at the Izod Center at the Meadowlands Arena Complex in serene East Rutherford, NJ on Monday, April 28th, 2008 Ano Domini. The tickets were purchased off of eBay by a friend of mine attending NYU Law School, and he had paid forty dollars for four twenty-five dollar, limited view tickets. Even though we were in one of the more darkened out sections of the arena, and found ourselves with a rear view of the TitanTron, we were still excited about the possibility of one of those stellar, standout shows. It was, after all, the first RAW following the Backlash Pay-Per-View, and the crowning of new WWE champion HHH.

Regardless of whatever I was expecting, I didn’t find it.

The wrestling was, overall, lackluster, and there were only a few genuine moments of really interesting characterization, humor, and the “testosterone-fueled soap opera,” that we used to call it back in the 90s, when the business was popular and we needed that last nugget of information to convince our girlfriends that we weren’t gay. While I think that Cody Rhodes, with the right experience, has the potential to be a world champion in five years if he can build up his moveset and storytelling ability just a smidge, and that the segments with Kennedy confronting Regal and Jericho messing with Shawn were excellent, everything else just sort of…mushed together.

I’ve been a fan of this horrible yet wonderful sport (?) since I saw an episode of Prime Time Wrestling, and watched Jake “The Snake” Roberts nearly effortlessly take out the “Bolshevik” Boris Zhukov with his trademark DDT. I was around eleven years old, and was fascinated with how he managed to be terrifying and awe-inspiring all at once. I didn’t know exactly what it was then, but I was witnessing Jake’s strongest weapon, which any wrestling fan worth his salt will tell you was his outstanding ring psychology. Any time he gave an interview or went inside the ring, his audience never knew what to expect as he seemingly toed the line between good and evil, and we could all see, if he were a heel, his vile malevolence or, in his face form, the dark avenger of justice.

Now, my question is not whether these moments exist anymore. We can find them in the heelish face that Kennedy is growing into, or Jericho’s excellent role as a tweener involving the feud with Michaels and Batista. No, my question is not about whether these moments exist.

Instead, it’s if we, as fans, deserve them, or are even capable of appreciating them.

I sat next to a young boy and an older man who I assume to be his uncle, and found the kid to come off as more intelligent than the grown man sitting next to him. He wasn’t anything resembling a “smark,” or anything akin to that, but was really excited about everything going on below him, while his uncle kind of…well, he was exactly what we as wrestling fans should strive not to be.

There’s nothing wrong with bringing a sign or chanting for for your favorite or least favorite wrestlers; frankly, as the elitist fans that tend to view everything according to workrate while occasionally attaching our attention to a decent skit or two, we depend on the live crowds to be enthusiasitic marks that we can write and/or read columns about, discussing fan reaction and who cheers for who and whatnot. But the following conversation was ACTUALLY had at this Raw a few minutes before showtime:

Man: Hey, whatever happened to Hardcore Holly’s brother? What was his name?

Me: Crash Holly?

Man: Yeah, Crash! Whatever happened to him?

Me: Well…he died.

Man: Sucks for him!

There is this terrible view of the wrestling industry, and in particular people who are fans of it. We are viewed as unintelligible, ignorant, screaming buffoons who revel in barbarism while waving our giant foam fingers for a “fake sport.” We proudly wave our incorrectly spelled signs while making Randy Orton arm motions and squealing for HHH and believing he’ll win because he’s “The Game,” even though I imagine three quarters of fans don’t even know what that means anymore. Whenever I meet someone, a girl in particular, if the subject of pro wrestling HAS to come up, I’ll admit that I’m a fan, but have to simultaneously admit that it’s a guilty pleasure, and that, for the most part, that it’s terrible. Because, frankly, it is.

When storylines are bad, we still cheer like the monkeys that Vince McMahon imagines us to be. And WWE isn’t alone in it. TNA, while occasionally attempting different things, falls back in the same idiocy that the big companies have always strayed towards (Super Eric? Seriously?), and ROH, despite some seeing it as the bastion of smart wrestling for the discerning fan, is really just catering to those who believe they’re hardcore, but having a mind too concentrated on wrestling can…well, kind of warp people. There’s good in all companies, but fans need to be far more vocal about the things that work, and need to do so in a manner that doesn’t resemble the message board for a website that’s teaching head trauma victims how to read good again. The “JOHN CEna iz teh sukzorz….F*K!!!!111!!!” nonsense isn’t helping anyone.

Don’t like how the Briscoes don’t sell anything? Then stop verbally felating them at every insane highspot, and instead chanting things like, “Hey Mark, shouldn’t your head be kind of hurting right now after seven piledrivers and four chairshots?” I know it doesn’t have the same ring as chanting the companies name or a strong three-syllable grunt, but maybe it’s something that they need fans to hear.

When will we get real stories, with interesting characters and plots that can rival Heroes or Law and Order? When we demand them. And I promise not to give you the opinions and analysis of only a smart wrestling fan, but an intelligent one as well.

Maybe then, we can break the hold that the unwashed masses on BOTH sides of the Titantron have put us on.

Tags: ,