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A Bitter Old Man

For the past few months I have not watched any WWE or TNA shows live on television. Well, the fact that I don’t have cable or the strong desire to when I can just read the recaps and then find what I want to watch online helps with this. I used to talk trash to my brother when he would fast forward (remember VHS?) past all the parts when wrestlers were talking and just watch the matches. “You’re gonna miss something important!” I’d say in protest. Oh, how wrong I was.

All these years later I now know that my brother was ahead of the times. Now many fans skip right through all of the talking turning a two hour show into about a twenty minute special. We all know that wrestling has changed quite a bit over the last 10 years or so leaving some of us bitter at the current product. I’ve made a list of things that I just have to accept or force myself to get used to if I’m gonna continue watching this.

1. Everyone Has A Microphone.

This comes as no surprise to anyone. I miss the days of people stating their issues backstage with “Mean” Gene or in a video package and then using the ring to resolve the issue. Now most shows start off with talking which leads to a match which leads to even more talking. I’m surprised there isn’t a Talking Championship. Damn it. Better not give anyone any ideas…

2. Finishers Don’t Finish People Anymore.

There was once a time when someone would hit their finishing move and the match would be over. Of course there was the special occasion where a kick out happened and you would lose your mind. “No one kicks out of that!” It let you know that something special was about to happen. Nowadays The Undertaker has to Tombstone someone at least twice to get a win. DDT’s would end feuds. Now they signal commercial breaks.

3. Managers/Valets Are Gone.

There was nothing like the feeling I used to get when a evil manager finally got it. When Bobby “The Brain” Heenan would climb on the apron and someone would grab his shirt collar, raise his balled fist, and signal to the crowd I would go nuts. As much as I liked Heenan I wanted him to get punched and when he didn’t I would wait until the next time when he would get grabbed and nailed. Valets like Sherri, Miss Elizabeth, Sunny, and Woman (Jesus, three of those four are gone…) brought something special to even the most uninteresting wrestler. Valets became just eye candy before finally being phased out which is sad because they used to be important to wrestling.

4. Tag Teams Are Dead.

This one bothers me almost the most. Growing up I was a huge fan of tag teams. The Legion of Doom, The British Bulldogs, Harlem Heat, The Hart Foundation, The Rougeaus, The Wild Samoans, The Powers of Pain. I loved wrestling so tag teams were like getting two-for-one deals. My favorite part was seeing a tag team finisher. God, I miss hot tags! I cant even place exactly when tag teams started to die but when the belts are being won and loss by different teams in one night it’s a sure sign that times are a changing.

5. This Is Real Life.

Sadly, wrestling isn’t the fantasy world I thought it was growing up. When wrestlers die they stay dead. Mr. Perfect, Eddie Guerrero, Owen Hart, Bam Bam Bigelow, Big Boss Man, Hawk, and Davy Boy Smith aren’t off filming movies where they have to fake an injury to go and finish. There are problems in their real lives that happen that take these people away from fans far too early. I hate that I know so much about wrestlers personal lives. It’s the equivalent of me not being able to watch an actor on film because I know that in real life they’re batshit crazy (seriously, can you watch Lethal Weapon starring Mel Gibson the way you used to?).

As I’m writing this I am asking myself “Why do I still watch?” Every year its getting harder and harder to answer this question. I'm used to defending watching wrestling to people who aren't fans but now its getting hard to defend it to myself. I wonder why anyone who knows how most wrestlers end up even get into it. The injuries, the backstabbing, the addictions. Sometimes I feel like an enabler. I should never feel guilty for being entertained. That is saved for people who enjoy cockfights, dogfights, and bullfights. But when I see a wrestler come out bandaged, limping, or with that “look” in their eyes I just wonder to myself “Is he even enjoying this anymore…?

9 comments: on "A Bitter Old Man"

AdamFromWelland said...

Great Article Dante!

I agree, in mainstream wrestling they used to know how to use a certain character. But now everybody is the same. Guys Evan Bourne is being booked the same way someone like Dolph Ziggler would be booked in terms of how they get pushed.

A push used to mean anything, specialized segments, putting something specific over that this uy has that nobody else has but now the push is the win on RAW nobody believes.

I'm planning on writing about this in my future articles but they need to get rid of the old formula that a finisher has to be the finish. A DDT should be able to finish a match, a superplex should be able to finish a match but the Attitude Adjustment or the RKO needs to be the big move that isn't used in every match.

I agree with you on promos aswell, it ruins the believability of the product more than anything.

balmoraldrive said...

Pro Wrestling needs an enema.

The ever-present promo has been a factor since the NWO era in WCW, where the top stars would suck up at least the first 15 minutes saying shit that ultimately never went anywhere. It's difficult to say if WWE or TNA is the greater offender in this category.

What I think is that the idea of it being a "show" and not about the contests on the card has turned the interview into a dinosaur of a concept. Ironically, in an era devoid of real characters, they have a framework where the characters have to sell themselves without the aid of a solid hand asking questions.

TNA is having a problem getting out of the worst parts of the 90s, which they won't escape unless they overhaul everything and roll the dice.

I can't agree that Managers and Valets being a thing of the past; it's more that they are used sparingly and in different ways. Take a look at Alex Riley being instrumental in The Miz's title run, or Vickie Guerrero constantly being a "power" figure who backs a "boyfriend" type of guy. You can even include Maryse in the mix, although it seems that it hasn't helped to de-stale-ify Ted DiBiase.

Again with Tag Teams, we have to blame the age of Character for this. Teams like The Usos have no personality and for two individuals to be over as a team is tough (not everyone can be The New Age Outlaws).

At it's best, I can't say that I can't watch anymore, but I can say that it's hard to have it hold the same level of attention.

The main stream WWE is stale as fuck and TNA needs to fire their top writers and bring in some real change.

Yes this is real life, and there are a lot more options available to take you attention away than there were in any of the hey days of this medium. The storytelling needs to get sophisticated and follow suit with the best video games out there.

We should embrace change, but not accept the watering down of content that we do see.

Dante Ross said...

Thanks, Balmoraldrive. Long ass name, dude. When I look back at the people who had the best promos (younger me says "Talked the best") it was people I believed. When the LOD said they were gonna pund someone I knew they would. When Austin said he was gonna stomp a mudhole in someone and walk it dry I knew he would. Now when guys say "I'm gonna win the strap" I dont believe it for a moment.

I think each show that is televised needs to stop having one good match, an okay one, and the rest being throwaways. Every fucking match needs to have a goal (like in video games as you said). When Smackdown vs. Raw has better storylines something is really wrong.

Alex Riley is not a manager to me. He is a Virgil. Managers manage. Maryse doesnt manage. Vickie threw her power around. Even as boss she was a valet at best. The last real manager in WWE was Armando Estrada.

Dante Ross said...

Thanks, Adam. I want to mentally get to a place where I dont even know what the word "push" means. When I watch some ROH and Chikara stuff online I dont always know what the stortyline is but I can still enjoy it as a good match. That's all I want.

Its funny but I keep think of video games. Its almost as if I want it to be like the old Royal Rumble game on Genesis where everyone just punched, kicked, bodyslammed, and had a finisher.

If they arent going to have everyone involved in some story, just give them time to show what they can do. I hate knowing someone is good and watching them be pretty much wasted every week.

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree that a finisher should be protected at all costs. Now, there are ways for a finisher not to finish a match and still stay over.

One example might be late in the match when the finisher is pulled out with as a desperation move close to the ropes. Then there is a reason for a slow cover and a reason for the "finished" wrestler to grab the ropes "out of instinct".

The only other example might be in a trios match when one guy gets "finished", his team mates make the save and drag him to safety, and then the guy sells the finisher by not getting up for several minutes on the sidelines.

When undercard guys use "finishers" as transition spots during their matches that to me shows that the booker has lost control of his product and is letting the boys go into business for themselves so they can sell t-shirts.

There's only case where I could see it being allowable to have an undercard match feature a finisher that doesn't finish and that would be the case where the finisher is a power move and the undercard wrestlers are not very muscular. The reason being is that if Joe Schmoe slaps on the full Nelson on Joe Proboscis then no one would care if Proboscis broke the hold. But, in the main event, if Superstar Billy Muscle Head puts on the unbreakable full Nelson then the fans won't even remember that move had been used before.

Dante Ross said...

I really like your first example. When a finisher just happens out of nowhere (RKO, Stunner, Rock Bottom, Superkick) as a way to stop being punished it makes everyone go nuts.

I recently watched an indie match online where a guy did a Flatliner and RKO within a minute of each other.

Unless youre a smaller guy and jacked I would suggest staying away from power moves. Just be quick.

Big Daddy Donnie said...

Finishers being used on undercard... reminds me of a story from back in 1999 ....

Jake Roberts was scheduled to work the main (he never did - he held out for more money then went to the strip club instead) and in the opener, an indy tag team finished with a top rope DDT.


Dante Ross said...

So would you, Donnie, as a booker, attempt to prevent something like that from happening or is it between the talent to hash it out themselves? If I were Jake I'd take my ass home.

verslaving said...

The article is great, but the discussion is even better.