When Roddy Left Us…So Did A Business We Once Loved
by VINCE RUSSO
Professional Wrestling is officially dead. With last week’s loss of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, fans from my generation had to come to grips with the cold heart fact, that the business we grew up on is long gone . . . and will never be returning again.
We lost something when all of the great ones started to pass; it started with the Macho Man, then the Warrior, Dusty Rhodes a few months back . . . and now the great “Rowdy” Ruddy Piper. In their prime, these icons were athletes and entertainers that perhaps we took for granted . . . I know I did . . . but now, in their passing we can truly understand and appreciate just how great they were.
Man, in the 70’s and 80’s, there was just nothing in the world like professional wrestling—nothing even came close to it, from Bruno at the Garden, to three of the greatest managers in the history of the business in Captain Lou, the Grand Wizard and Classy Freddie Blassie, through the birth of both Hulkamania and WrestleMania—the entertainment that wrestling had to offer was far and away the greatest spectacle going at the time. Then after a lull in the early-mid nineties wrestling came back with a vengeance with arguably the greatest period of all time . . . the Attitude Era. Everybody was into the Attitude Era, it didn’t matter who you were–businessman, teacher, doctor, college student, kid, all the way to the priest at the corner church. Remember this, “The World Wrestling Federation . . . What the World is Watching” . . . and the WORLD indeed was.
Unfortunately, since 2000 the wrestling business started to decline in popularity, and now it has for 15 straight years. The massive audience that was once there . . . is now only a fraction of itself. As the business moves further and further away from the entertainment aspect in favor of longer wrestling matches . . . less people seem to care. The internet exposed professional wrestling many years ago, and in 2015 we all understand what it is, with that being said, why would casual fans want to see a choreographed fight when they can see a real one over in UFC. The answer—they don’t—and that’s why they now spend their money on UFC. What they want to see is what they always wanted to see—entertainment.
Whether it was Uncle Elmer’s Wedding, Fuji Vice, Macho Man marrying Miss Elizabeth, Austin driving a beer truck into the arena, Goldust and Marlena at the Academy Awards—week in, week out, you never knew what you were going to see—that was the hook. Today, we know what we’re going to see, 15 minute choreographed wrestling matches–interrupted by commercial breaks– with no story, no characters and no casual wrestling fans caring about any of it. That is the truth–taste it, roll it around your mouth, then swallow it.
I talk to so many people on a weekly basis who once loved the wrestling business, and now just don’t watch it. The reason they all point out is that, “it’s just not the same”. Triple H likes to use the expression that “it’s a different time”, and quite frankly—I don’t even think Triple H himself knows what that means. It’s just an excuse—a lame, empty excuse. We’re losing the greats, and as they go—there are very few pure entertainers who are replacing them. Wrestlers are replacing them. Wrestlers who look like wrestlers . . . nothing special. And, the only ones watching are the wrestling fans. The same ones who screamed for it, now have it . . . but, nobody’s watching.
When ROH went on Destination America one of their wrestlers said, “the landscape has just changed”. Less than three months later . . . ROH lost its time slot. Why? Because those that enjoyed the pure wrestling aspect of the show weren’t enough for Destination America to warrant a prime-time television slot. So now, Big Foot is on instead . . . a character.
Professional wrestling is dead. There will never be another Savage, another Warrior, another Dusty, or another Piper. Tonight, during a match on New Japan, I saw one guy almost break his neck on a spot . . . only to hop up on his feet two seconds later, race to the top rope, and hit some spectacular move like it was the first spot in the match. Not even the psychology is there any more.
Hunter, you’re right, “it’s a different time” because you’re making it a “different time”, and anyone who is looking at the shrinking audience will tell you—it’s not working.
But . . . I’m the crazy one.
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