I’m struggling this fortnight.
Struggling with the whole motivation of watching wrestling. Even the normally reliable Riot City Wrestling put on a show that was – while not bad – below what I’ve come to expect from them this past weekend. The Turning Point TNA PPV looked, on paper, to be rather mediocre. (Addendum: It was rather mediocre in reality as well …) And Hell in the Cell was mediocre. When pundits are declaring a Sheamus-Big Show match the best on the card, you know it sucked the testicles of a canine and liked it.
So what do I write? I haven’t got any books ready to review (not that anyone read my last one), I’ve exhausted all my ideas for ‘then and now’ and ‘the wrestler in society’. My latest wrestling piece of fiction is with people to read professionally, and so I don’t want to broadcast it at the moment. I only watch the Raw/Smackdown highlight packages and Impact clips on Youtube. I’ve been writing about Christmas for another site just lately, but that doesn’t really help here.
So I guess the problem is: nothing is grabbing me in wrestling at the moment.
No, that’s not the problem. Well, maybe a part of it, but not all of it.
You see, I am not the demographic that wrestling companies are aiming for. I am a middle class male in my 40s. The only merchandise I buy is DVDs and the occasional t-shirt. I started watching wrestling in the 1980s. I am the demographic who felt that ECW was over-rated, that the Attitude Era was over-rated, that the nWo burnt out after 6 months of never-ending beatdowns. I am the demographic that thinks professional wrestling should be, first and foremost, about professional wrestling, not sports entertainment, not MMA-type brawls, not soap opera story-lines. I am the demographic that still thinks work-rate, selling and psychology are important in-ring components to any wrestler.
I am the demographic that wrestling companies do not want any more.
They want an uncritical eye looking over their product. They don’t want people to think about what they’re watching, just to be watching something. They want hyperactive minds watching, so three minute matches are perfectly acceptable and being hit by a top rope piledriver onto three tables all on fire and covered in tacks should only get a two-count, and then the effects of it be shrugged off after thirty seconds.
They don’t want anything they do to be taken seriously. Why else would John Cena and Sheamus be such grinning morons as baby-faces? Cena took a hellacious beating from Brock Lesnar and then cut a promo afterwards. He no-sold a virtual mugging. Daniel Bryan., arguably the best wrestler on the WWE roster, has managed to get over by means of a comedy tag-team act with a guy who is the murdering half-brother of an undead biker-zombie-mortician. I have trouble even writing that with a straight face.
The don’t want coherent storylines. They just want things to happen. Last month they were deadly enemies, this month they’re tag team partners, next month they’ll be fighting in different feuds as though the other didn’t exist. Who? Everyone.
I thought for a while that maybe TNA was becoming different. But Jeff Hardy is now their champion. They are toadying to a demographic that is not me. I didn’t mind having Austin Aries as the champion, a little guy, but one who could wrestle. But they went for the one who pops the little girls in the audience, who the old WWE fanboys who have migrated across to TNA think is an acceptable champion (hey! he beat the Undertaker!), and who sells (apparently) a lot of merchandise. The fact that my demographic wants wrestling and not a flippy-floppy pop machine does not matter.
My demographic grew up in the dying days of the territory system, where there were enough promotions around that could pay decent money for workers who grew stale to go elsewhere and continue to wrestle, or change themselves up, and not be forced to do it in front of the same audience that grew bored with them already. My demographic grew up in the days of kayfabe where it was shocking when heels and faces were caught in the same car together. My demographic didn’t mind some of the cartoon characters, because we got Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and so many others who made you believe that what was happening in the ring was real.
My demographic could be the driving force of wrestling, but we are ignored in favour of the kids and the newcomers.
Wrestling does not care about me anymore. It hasn’t for a long time. I still watch because, well, it’s become more a habit than anything else, really. Do I enjoy wrestling? In parts, sure. Do I have the same fascination with wrestling I had 10 years ago? No.
People accuse the IWC of being cynical haters who just want to crap on the product. Well, look at it this way – the product has crapped on us and what we like and what we want. Turnabout’s fair play.
I try not to dump all over the product because I’ve been there at my own rather pathetic level and I know how hard it is to be slammed over and over again, to take bump after bump after bump, to do 200 Hindu squats for messing up a spot. And I want to like wrestling again. I really do.
But maybe, just maybe, it’s not for me anymore.
Or, maybe in the vein of optimism, it’s just not for me at the moment…
Tags: Austin Aries, big show, Brock Lesnar, Daniel Bryan, Jeff Hardy, john cena, Randy Savage, Ric Flair, ricky steamboat, sheamus, TNA, wrestling, WWE