Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Wrestling Isn't What It Used to Be...But Why Does That Always Have to Be a Bad Thing?

So, after what has seemed like a lifetime since I found out I would be doing this, it is time for me to write my first piece for Across The Pond Wrestling.

I was deciding for a while what I wanted to write about first, and eventually decided that I wanted to start off by writing something positive, because there doesn't seem to be so much of that out of there.

It's always easier to criticise things. People like to focus on the bad things about pro wrestling these days and don't get me wrong, I'll certainly be doing that regularly in the future but I wanted to start off by doing something a bit different.

This piece is about wrestling not being what it used to be, it is about it not being as popular as in the past but it's also about why that is absolutely okay.

Now, just to add a little bit of context to my views, I'll tell you a bit about my background. I'm 24 years old and I've been a wrestling fan since roughly late 2000, when a school friend introduced me to the crazy world of the World Wrestling Federation. It's been something that bar a couple of short hiatuses, I've had an interest in ever since.

Now, as amazing as it seemed at the time, the main angles during my first year watching wrestling saw Stone Cold Steve Austin turn heel at WrestleMania X-7 as well as the infamous Invasion angle... hindsight kind of proves that I was introduced to wrestling just as its mainstream popularity began to dwindle, which was also around the same time WCW and ECW were about to close their doors.

Since the true competition disappeared, there's been a lot of discussion amongst fans about WWE's lazy approach to storytelling, with many suggesting that they need to push boundaries in order to recapture lightning in a bottle like they did in the eighties and nineties.

I personally think that this is unlikely to happen regardless of what they try to do but that is something I'm fine with, simply because it's not something I blame the industry for.

We do live in a period where pro wrestling doesn't really fit in with society's mainstream culture any more but then what does that really mean in 2017? Pop culture in general is an a perpetual state of nostalgia when it comes to film, television and music. There's very little fresh being brought to the table in any area of entertainment.

In fact, funnily enough, I think whilst the WWE in particular can be very heavy on nostalgia at times, wrestling is actually one of the few artistic pursuits that is beginning to change. For a start, wrestling is now being made for the pure wrestling fan, which means it is catering to the audience that remains. This is a smart business strategy, even if it's not always the most successful one.

Today's wrestling has become purely athletic competition for the most part, and that is a direct result of the new generation of talent. That is never going to bring in the mainstream crowd but is it really that big a deal? Popularity and quality aren't two things that go hand in hand. As long as the industry is still surviving, and it is more than doing that, it will continue to entertain generations for years to come.

People will miss the larger than life characters from the childhood without a doubt, but the pure wrestling fan is absolutely spoilt for choice in terms of content these days if they look hard enough.

You only have to look at the situation here in the UK to see how much better our scene is for this, with the likes of PROGRESS, WCPW and IPW:UK in particular flourishing in a British scene that is hotter than it has been in years. I was used to All-Star Wrestling shows as a kid with the main attractions being WWF tribute acts. It's now the other way around, and WWE are using our wrestlers to enhance their product.

Add in the likes of New Japan, Lucha Underground and NXT across the world and there has never been such a high calibre of in ring talent in the industry.

While WWE in 2017 might not always be everyone's cup of tea, even their product has suddenly started to resemble an independent promotion these days. I'm not just talking about NXT either, RAW in particular has never been less about storylines and more about in-ring action on a weekly basis than it is today.

Something else that you can look at as a positive is the way women are treated in wrestling these days. Although as a red blooded male there were always some positives to the way women were portrayed in the past, I've also always realised that it was a bit tacky, and there wasn't really any true justification for the industry to be as misogynistic as it was.

It is truly refreshing that the industry has decided to grow up a bit and champion equality. In addition to the huge strides women's wrestling has already taken, we're getting the Mae Young Classic on the WWE Network and the first ever Women's Money In The Bank Ladder match in a few short weeks, so the boundaries are being pushed all the time.

Then, there is the most important thing. The deaths. A wrestler's lifespan has been greatly increased as a result of the changes in the industry over the last few years, and there is no way, shape or form that this can't be considered a good thing.

There was a point where it seemed a weekly occurrence that another wrestler had died young, and it was quite soul destroying. You watch pay-per-views from twenty and thirty years ago now and it's often quite ridiculous how many people on those shows have passed away when you consider how young they were at the time.

It might have taken an absolutely horrific incident in June 2007 to kick start this whole movement, but nobody should ever have to die for their craft and to entertain others, which is something that the younger generation should never have to deal with when it comes to their heroes..

So, as I said at the start of the piece, wrestling isn't what it used to be, but lets not ignore the positives either, both in and out of the ring.

Written by Andy Phillips 

No comments:

Post a comment