Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wrestling is Dead?

In reading Ole Anderson's piece about being a booker in the WCW I couldn't help but wonder about the state of modern wrestling. The bulk of the matches and interviews we've watched up to this point have focused on what I'd call the early and transitional periods of pro wrestling--early because those times preceded television and transitional because they preceded and gave rise to the modern era. But what exactly did wrestling transition to. Yes, modern wrestling, but what marks this current age of wrestling.

According to Ole Anderson, wrestling was pretty much dead by the dawn of the '90s. Now i'm not going to take a lot of what he wrote at face value. Throughout his piece he seemed pretty disillusioned (i.e. really pissed) with his whole involvement with the WCW. So to me, his account has limited value as an objective view of the state of wrestling during the past two decades; but his writing has some value nonetheless. Aside from his venting about Jim Crockett, Jim Herd, Ric Flair, and a slew of WCW figureheads, Anderson does seem to provide a unifying theme in his writing; namely, that wrestling simply isn't what it used to be.

From the few matches that I've seen from the 90's and beyond, I can see that now, more than ever, wrestling is a form of pure entertainment. Anderson writes that modern wrestlers just don't know how to wrestle. The idea of appearing to pull off a shoot, of really working the audience, seemed beyond the likes of Ric Flair and Lex Luger. I must admit that older wrestlers sold the athleticism of wrestling a lot better than most of the new guys. Sure they didn't inorporate the high-flying antics that are the staple of the modern wrestling program; but they were more, as they say, "scientific" about their moves.

In saying that wrestling today exists purely for its entertainment value, I admit that wrestling has always existed, to some extent, as a form of entertainment. I'm attempting to make the distinction between the goals of the wrestling program now and throughout its history. When I sit down to watch a match today should I judge how well these guys carry out a fight, or am I missing the point? Should I just let slide the fact that most punches will never connect or that some guy purposely drew his own blood? I guess it comes down to me wondering what really constitutes wrestling's "entertainment value".


Carolina said...

I've always thought of wrestling as coming in cycles. It has its highs, and then hits some lows, but somehow always comes back. Wrestling is not the same now as it was twenty years ago, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Clothes have drastically changed in the last twenty years, so has hair styles, so have TV shows (compare 1986 MTV to 2007 MTV), so have movies, so has everything. Let's take music for instance. Excuse my gross generalizations here, but I believe music over the last twenty years went something like metal (Bon Jovi/Guns N Roses/etc) -> rap (Tupac/Snoop/etc)-> pop (boybands) -> whatever it is we're at now. What you like in music surely isn't what your parents used to like, and what your kids will like, you'll probably hate too.

Wrestling to me seems no different.

There are some elements to wrestling that will never change, such as the actual matches and the core wrestling that will always be there. You'll always have the guys that can really go, the athleticism can never be completely detached. But you'll always have the older generation that gripes that it's not the same - it's changing, it's different, it's dying. But everything changes, and as we've seen, if you don't change with the times, you don't make it. This is appealing to wrestling as purely business - you have to market to the current generation, who has a new standard.

In this day and age when everyone knows that it's fixed, wrestling has to be extra creative to get a rise out of fans that maybe it didn't need in the past. With the internet "smarks" around and making up a good part of your hardcore longtime fans, they seem to step up their game and try to keep on top of it. In the 80s, I don't think they had to deal with results being leaked before things actually happened. Times are different, and to pretend that no one can see past the rosy lenses now would be an insult to the fans.

So what do they do? They get flashier. The matches get shorter to have more backstage segments. The finishes are rarely ever clean. They blur the line between reality and work, making you wonder. Wrestling today is completely different from what it used to be, even though the goal to entertain is still the same. That much hasn't changed and won't ever change so long as the goal in the end is to make money. If you're a fan of today's product, I think you just have to accept that it's different. Is it better? Well, that's personal opinion, but realizing that it's different and will still keep changing will make it more enjoyable overall.

Sam Ford said...

I think you have some great points here, Omar, about what definition of wrestling Ole is talking about. He talks about how modern wrestling couldn't sell out the same arena on a weekly basis and don't even have full houses in some towns they only come to once a year. Yet, Ole's product probably wouldn't have made for nearly as compelling national television, sold PPVs, or driven merchandise and DVD sales like McMahons does. They are asking two really different questions.

But I think Ole's book is full of a lot of good points, especially his pragmatism. And, while Ole is all business, he also talks a lot about the psychology and art of booking at times. Think back to Kate's post, for instance, about how he planned the storyline with Tommy Rich.

I think Ole and Larry are describing two sides of the same story in some ways, but their versions are quite a bit different. Now, St. Louis and Georgia were not alike, but they describe the same history with Larry's reserve and grace, compared to Ole's unabashed and opinionated honesty.