Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic – Wish list…

As a professional wrestling opinion/editorial columnist, I write a lot of unflattering things about the hybrid sport that I truly love. It’s partly because I expose myself to so much wrestling that I see a lot of bad with the good, but it’s also because I have developed very specific tastes by watching hours and hours of wrestling from dozens of promotions, both big and small, and have discovered that most of the easily accessible content isn’t my cup of tea. Because I do call a spade a spade consistently it seems like I’m jaded, and I’m often asked the question, “What things about pro wresting would you change if you had the opportunity?” This week I’ll give a few of my answers.

TODAY’S ISSUE: My pro wrestling wish list.

While I have enjoyed numerous shows, matches, promotions, storylines, and concepts exactly as they were, there are plenty of things I’d change about the current industry if given the chance. For example,
I wish Vince McMahon didn’t feel the need to always try to posture himself as a legitimate entertainment mogul. He’s nothing more than a glorified wrestling promoter, and he should be happy with that. I wish he’d stop worrying about how Hollywood views him and concentrate on being a billionaire carnie, which is clearly his destiny. McMahon is rich and somewhat famous because for a while, during two distinctly different eras, he was a great wrestling promoter and a brilliant schemer. Buying up all the talent from promotions across the U.S. and Canada, and basically wiping out the decades-long “territory” system was good business, for him (as bad as it was for the long-term health of the industry), while everything else he’s ever tried has been a flop. The WBF, the XFL, the movie No Holds Barred, WWF theme restaurants, a co-promoted ppv with Girls Gone Wild, all of them were failures. But he continues to make money by promoting wrestling, so he should just stick with that and be satisfied with his lot in life.

By the way, calling wrestlers “sports entertainers” to avoid certain restrictions isn’t clever, it’s underhanded. Since his performers aren’t really athletes according to McMahon’s diabolical determination, state athletic commissions can’t regulate WWE events. But since they aren’t purely entertainers either, the wrestlers can’t join actors’ unions and be treated the way other members of SAG are. What a genius that McMahon is…

Speaking of unions, I wish powerful promoters would allow professional wrestlers to unionize so they can be better taken care of during their active careers and into retirement, the way almost every other profession in America does. And by the way, referring to wrestlers on the roster as “independent contractors” doesn’t change the fact that while working under the WWE umbrella these men and women are restricted from certain activities, forced to do what the company tells them to do, forbidden to “contract” for anyone else while on the WWE payroll (or even 90 days after that in many cases), drug tested, and assigned to any one of the WWE territories (including training promotions) regardless of their personal preference. A worker required to adhere to those guidelines is known as an employee, Mr. McMahon, not an independent contractor. Independence is far from what any wrestler enjoys while associated with WWE.

Think of it this way: if I hire a contractor to paint the exterior of my house, I can’t force him to turn down other offers. If he wants to paint my house all day and somebody else’s all night, who am I to stop him? I can’t tell him what time he needs to be at work, and I certainly can’t force him to show up on a given day but then NOT allow him to paint, as McMahon often does when he brings in wrestlers for shows and then doesn’t book them. I can’t tell a painter whose house he’s not allowed to paint after he finishes with mine, whether I fire him or he completes the job satisfactorily. I can’t tell him not to use his best brush, his favorite ladder, or his most absorbent rags because I have a policy about that sort of thing. I’m certainly never going to worry about him painting the lower or middle portions of my house so well that the top of the card house might not look as impressive in comparison. Why that’d be just stupid, wouldn’t it?

On a lighter note, I wish some production company would record English commentary for puroresu and sell DVDs. Dragon Gate and Pro Wrestling NOAH have loads of exciting performers and a style that really suits me, but missing out on the storylines, the history between the men wrestling, the names of the moves, and everything else commentators add is a bit difficult. To a lesser extent, the same can be said of lucha libre. I’d buy a few DVDs if I were able to follow along with English-speaking commentators.

In fact, a weekly television show in English, featuring different wrestling promotions from around the world, would be a lot of fun. Imagine the same two hosts discussing AAA one week, Dragon Gate the next, a U.K. indy the next (1PW, RQW, or IPW:UK), then a German fed like wXw the following week. They could call it “Wrestling Around the World” or “Pro Wrestling Planet” and do an hour a week, showing footage from worldwide companies, discussing the angles and feuds, and pimping DVDs and upcoming events. I’d pay good money for a show like that. In addition to the well-known wrestling regions like the U.S., England, Germany, Japan, Canada, and Mexico, there are federations worth watching in places like Chile, Panama, Australia, Puerto Rico, and other surprising areas. A program that highlighted these international promotions could really blaze a trail in the realm of televised professional wrestling. It would be like RQW’s “Euro Slam” show but on a global scale.

I wish the following paradox did not exist: aspiring young wrestlers are forced to destroy themselves in their youth in order to make the big promoters notice them, which will only lead to a shortened career and a painful life outside the ring. Young wrestlers either ruin their most valuable tools of the trade, their bodies, via chemical substances necessary to gain an impressive enough physique to make McMahon or TNA management ogle over them, or the old fashioned way, otherwise known as the Mick Foley method, in which they mutilate themselves and take dangerous chances night after night just to get a foot in the door. The sad irony is that once Foley started making that big WWF money, the danger level of his routinely risky bumps tripled.

Remember King of the Ring ’98? It’s not as though he nearly killed himself to get to the big time where he could slow down and take it easy! If anything, his likelihood to end up in a wheelchair someday was sped up by his arrival to the big show. I hope I’m wrong about Foley’s destiny but let’s face it, the man absorbed more physical abuse in his 15-20 year wrestling career than six men would during a normal lifetime. Unfortunately the smaller, more athletically gifted and technically sound but less physically imposing performers hardly ever make it to the big time (or get treated like a joke if they do arrive) so a young man with dreams of paying the bills between the ropes likely sees little chance but to beef himself up to try to get his foot in the door, or attempt to stand out from the crowd by becoming a high-risk performer of epic proportion in order to get some respect from the powers that be.

Look at guys like Mysterio, Shannon Moore, Joey Matthews, and the late, great Eddie Guerrero. If you watch some older, pre-WWE footage you will see guys who look athletic, toned, and in great shape. Fast-forward to their WWE career highlights, and you see physiques with so much artificially packed-on muscle that they seem to have balloons under their skin. Coincidence? Hardly. They bulked up to get onto Vince’s payroll, and they did it in a very unhealthy way. They polluted their bodies with chemicals that come with long-lasting and dangerous side effects of which they were all well aware. Even if Vince and/or TNA management don’t flat out endorse steroid use, you can see by their actions the common results when a good performer does pack on the beef. Big dudes get hired and get push after push, even when their wrestling talent isn’t a strong suit.

I wish TNA had remained the true, quasi-mainstream wrestling alterative they once were. At one time they had Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, Alex Shelley, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Chris Sabin, Christopher Daniels, Matt Bentley, Frankie Kazarian, and plenty of other solid cruiserweight performers on their roster. But they wanted to become WWE-lite so badly that they gave away the one thing that made them stand out from McMahon-a-mania, their uniqueness, and became the bastard, red-headed stepson of the ugly beast from the north east. TNA once used the tag line “we are wrestling”, and for a time it was true. They depended upon solid X Division and tag team action to carry their weaker upper card, and it was a successful dynamic for them (from a content standpoint, if not according to their bottom line). It’s too bad that’s a thing of the past now.

I also wish TNA would refocus on their tag team division. It was once the hottest thing around, with several quality teams working consistently good matches in the pursuit of the old NWA tag team championship straps. But that focus has slipped away, even while they maintain a roster of performers who could shine in that environment. And rather than clogging up the main event scene, guys like Kurt Angle, Booker T., Sting, Scott Steiner, and Kevin Nash could do wonders if each teamed with a young gun in a mentoring relationship that would give the rub to a guy who needs it. Think about what wrestlers like Eric Young, Shark Boy, or Jay Lethal could gain by being kayfabe hand-selected by an aging legend to take under his wing and “study” with, bringing the younger performer up to their level.

I wish WWE didn’t run such stupid storylines (like Edge/Show/Cena/Guerrero). I think it’s terrific that they’ve given Vickie Guerrero a job to take care of her, but if her role as GM wasn’t poorly suited for her enough, making her the object of everyone’s lust is ten times worse! Honestly, she’d be better in a sympathetic babyface role, supporting Chavo as he tries to achieve greatness in the name of his legendary family. Making her one more in a long, dull, boring line of heel authority figures is more evidence of the creative department’s time honored stance on recycling, which is great when you’re talking about paper or plastic, but with storylines recycling sort of belies the word “creative” being in the actual name of your department. When WAS the last time a WWE brand had a fair, straight authority figure? The Big Show has no legitimate claim on being the #1 contender to any title, while John Cena deserved his spot in the ‘Mania match but had to lie, cheat and steal to get it! Why all the shenanigans? Where’s Linda McMahon to come out and set things straight like she always used to?

And trust me, nobody is lusting after Vickie Guerrero. If they put one of their vapid blondes in that role it’d be plausible, but not Vickie with her shrill voice, grossly overweight figure, and bad teeth. You’d think hanging around wrestlers for years would make her at least jump on the treadmill three times a week. In storyline terms, a guy like Edge could do better than Vickie. It makes no sense to see a guy like him married to a woman like her within the misogynistic, chauvinistic world of pro wrestling.

I wish more casual “sportz entertainment” fans had the opportunity to see matches like Bryan Danielson vs. Austin Aries, Roderick Strong vs. Erick Stevens, Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk, Nigel McGuinness vs. Tyler Black, or the Briscoe Brothers vs. Kevin Steen and El Generico. I guarantee that if they did, many would quickly gain interest in Ring of Honor and by proxy, other independent promotions. I’ll bet there are plenty of real pro wrestling fans out there who don’t even realize it yet. And while we’re on the subject of Ring of Honor, I wish ROH didn’t have to change one bit and that somehow Gabe was still booking when the HDNet TV deal came along. If more wrestling fans got a look at the ROH product as it was in the beginning of their pay-per-view era, I guarantee many would actually like it and want to see more of it, instead of Cary Silken changing ROH to be more like all the rest of the wrestling on U.S. television.

Speaking of wrestling on American TV, I wish WWE didn’t cut to commercials during every televised match, but somehow leave plenty of air time for all that backstage nonsense! Why not break for commercials when the GM is talking on their damned cell phone in their silly office, or when something juvenile and disgusting is going on (usually in a bathroom), or when some “diva” is sitting in a makeup chair waxing idiotic. They always seem to have time for those scenes, but they can’t squeeze in seven minutes in a row of wrestling on a two-hour wrestling program. Strange…

I wish WWE wouldn’t focus nearly exclusively on lumbering “giants” like JBL, Big Show, Undertaker, Batista, Mark Henry, and the Great Khali. McMahon’s need to satiate his creepy (at best) fascination with large men makes the “WWE Universe” a slow, boring, unimaginative place to watch wrestling compared to what it could look like. I wish guys like CM Punk, Evan Bourne, Kofi Kingston, Brian Kendrick, Colt Cabana, Paul London, and many others were allowed to shine on the big stage. Why not throw the IC or US title on ECW and let that be the “wrestling” show, highlighting two good, longer matches each week? They could even book a long tournament unifying one of the aforementioned under-card chum titles with the ECW championship to make it a legit, standalone world title, instead of the twin brother of the IC and US straps which it currently is.

Speaking of which, I wish they’d unify some of the gold clunking around in the “WWE Universe”, and this one actually looks like it might happen if McMahon actually pulls the trigger at WrestleMania 25 in the tag team title unification match that was recently signed. And by the way, I wish they’d stop calling it the “25th anniversary of WrestleMania”, because it isn’t. It’s the 25th annual edition of the show, but next year’s will be the 25th anniversary of the inaugural event. Unless I’m mistaken about the definition of “anniversary”, and we all celebrate our first wedding anniversary the same day as our wedding. But I digress.

Finally, my greatest wish. I wish so many young people didn’t have to die as a result of their involvement in pro wrestling, whether directly or indirectly. There are too many heartbreaking losses and too many candles burning for wrestlers who’ve died before their time. I wish the industry would learn to take better care of the men who made it what it is today. In case you’re not clear, that isn’t the promoters, bookers, road agents, television station owners, or advertisers; it’s the wrestlers. Promoters and owners, please, take better care of your employees, and wrestlers please take better care of yourselves and each other. Your fans want to see you enjoy retirement one day, get inducted into halls of fame, manage the new kids, come out for nostalgia pops every now and again, and sit front row while the next generation stars dazzle you with their best stuff.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – “If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.” – English proverb

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Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this week…

It’s a triple-shot of rock with Paul Marshall, who brings all the Total Nonstop… something or other in his latest Total Nonstop Weekly, muses on the Jericho-versus-legends angle in his revival of The W-Files, and covers the 500th episode of WWE SmackDown! – Marshall is everywhere, man!

Kace Evers is back with a St. Patty’s Day edition of Kace in Point.

John Wiswell analyzes Ring of Honor’s 7th Anniversary weekend in this week’s Cult of ROH.

Daniel Douglas brings the real-time coverage of TNA iMPACT!, and try John Bandit’s fun “Beer Money” game attached to his 10 Thoughts on… column from the same show.

Finally this week, HHHis HHHoliness shoots in two interviews on The Wrestler and his respect for Mickey Rourke, his heel/face preference, the pros and cons of “revealing” his marriage to Stephanie, and more.

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