PUTTING IT BLUNTLY: The State of Wrestling Today

Thanks for joining me.

Just like any previous year, there have been many ups and downs when looking back and seeing what’s been accomplished within pro-wrestling.  However, this year is different and 2019 has been magical for the grappling game, with regards to fans and wrestlers alike and 2020 looks to potentially be one of the most interesting years in pro-wrestling.

12 months ago, WWE was just about the only promotion to be picked up by the mainstream radar and there was somewhat of a “like it or lump it” mentality from Vince McMahon being the only show in town.

There is room in the world for more than a couple of promotions and we’re really spoilt for choice when looking at sheer volume.  However, when looking at overall quality, there are a few gaping holes that need fixing as soon as humanly possible.

Some of the long-standing issues come from decades of complacency, stagnation, and habit.  More recent issues arise from a reckless recoil-affect, responding to years of hearing “NO! You’re not allowed to have any fun/to get what you want, dammit!”.

Despite the current taste in my mouth being rather bitter-sweet, I remain optimistic that the quality of the alternatives will mature and improve over time.  At least others stand a chance now; oh, how things have changed!

I’m fully aware that some people deem even the thought of critiquing their favourite promotion so offensive, they’ll respond with mob mentality and explosions of anger, but that’s their problem, not mine.  Many people struggle with grey areas and only perceive the world in black & white, yes & no, love & hate.  The internet is in part to blame for this perspective becoming ever so common, giving us all we want, when we want it; but some of it also comes down to how we deal with things individually.

Life Spoiler: IT IS POSSIBLE TO LOVE SOMETHING AND BE CRITICAL IN SUGGESTING MEANS FOR IMPROVEMENT AND VICE VERSA!

Here’s my rundown of wrestling pros and cons across a few promotions that I and many others take the time to watch.  They’re not here to be pitted against each other by my judgement, but to offer a chance to self-analyse, learn, and grow each into much better shows.

 

The Big Dogs. (WWE)

I hope you don’t mind, but Vince McMahon and the WWE need no introduction at this point.

 

Pros of WWE

You pay for a ticket to a WWE gig and you can rest assured that you’re going to get some serious effort in regards to presentation and everything looking shiny; there will be no barns, gymnasiums or fields here.  The same can be said for their camera work and video packages too, top-notch.

Some of the backstage guys could do with a trip to the theatre (the one with a stage, not the one with a screen, you uncouth swine) in order to fully understand and utilise the pantomime element of their product.  Saying that, The Fiend/Bray Wyatt’s entrance at SummerSlam was done PERFECTLY.  Hats off.

stateofwrestling19fiend

WWE has most of the big, smiling, familiar faces too.  It’s almost like they’ve had a hold on the industry for over twenty years.  Even if you’ve been out of the loop for a number of years, chances are that you’ll know something about at least one person on the show.  It could just be as simple as recognising one of the many #WWETributeActs, such as Charlotte Flair, Shane McMahon, or Natalya.

Let’s take a quick look at who WWE has access to that piques my interest. I am forever waiting to see what amazing thing they may do next.

WWE has the money and a fantastic platform in The WWE Network to creatively do what they want.  This means that positive projections are always a potential prospect, despite the perpetually persistent piss-poor personal tastes of a problematic pensioner.  Say that ten times fast.

All that charity work too, ‘sbloody hell!  As cautious as I am of WWE and their transparent “we’re really just here for the photo op and perception of philanthropy” attitude, the individuals that get out there and meet people are doing a hell of a job.  I bet it’s a reason a lot of folk stick around for so long, despite not enjoying their in-ring use within WWE.

 

Cons of WWE

Despite the time and money being spent by Vince and co., it’s safe to say that WWE has become rather old and stupid in their complaisance.

Raw and Smackdown are shadows of their former selves and now serve as nothing more than 5 hours of IRRELEVANT adverts with a little ‘rasslin’ sprinkled here and there.  Depending on how you look/sound, you may even end up using your training to sing and dance said sponsor’s jingles live on television…since Vince is obviously too busy to engage in what should be his corporate-fellatio performance!

The target audience seems to be one old man; an individual so miserable and insecure, he actively seeks to sour people’s enjoyment of something that he doesn’t personally enjoy, he just happened to be born into the industry and has always seen the business as a form of low key entertainment for trailer trash.  #WrinklyWhoreEntertainment

Being the only show in town for some time has eventually gone to Vince’s head.  He persistently pushes angles/storylines/performers that nobody asked for, nobody enjoyed while they ran, and that nobody wants to be force-fed again…well, nobody but Vince McMahon.  He’s dismissed this as fans being stupid and suggested that he knows what they want more than they do.

Vince’s mantra of “learning to eat shit and enjoy the taste” springs to mind quite loudly.

It also seems very evident to me that another of Vince’s old fashioned mentalities hasn’t been forgotten.  In days gone by, Vince bought/looted/pillaged most of the territories and talent around the country, piece by piece.  In the modern era, there aren’t any territories left, and Vince was more than likely ignorant to the existence of any other promotion before the Wednesday Night Wars.  This leads him to hire successful talent (outside of the WWE sphere) that was shown to him by his stooges, purely so other companies can’t profit from them…also leaving them with no/very little drawing power.

Here are just a few people that have signed a contract with WWE, simply so money can’t be made on them elsewhere; none of them were/are regarded as highly as when they were cherished in previous promotions, meaning that getting lost in the shuffle with the rest of the pack is inevitable…you know, unless you’re good at peeling a banana with just your mouth.

I’m willing to accept that time will tell if WWE uses Matt Riddle to his full potential or not, but these are just a few of the people WWE hired to prevent the talent/other promotions from making a bit of money elsewhere.  Simply spiteful.

WWE refuses to let go of their fascination with the dying medium that is Television.  The WWE Network has so much potential, yet WWE throws it out in the back yard when Vince peddles his wares in exchange for big bags of cash to his buddies/THE VULTURES OF TELEVISION.

Just about everything in WWE Land is horridly plastic and over-produced, sometimes this applies to the talent too, both mentally and physically.  I’ve got better things to do with my time than judge people’s appearance, but when WWE has so many young, impressionable fans that seek guidance and direction, I feel it’s worth speaking about.

Charlotte Flair, for example, was built in NXT…well, wrestling-wise at least…I don’t have any contact details for the surgeon(s) she’s frequented.  My point is, take a look at her when she first signed up in the developmental system, and compare it to what we having woo’ing all over the place in the name of WWE’s most successful tribute act. The cries for help on her face are getting harder and harder to read…because of the Botox (slash, whatever face-work is responsible for that mess), not that she actually seems content with her lot in life. It’s a rather sad story.

Plastic anomalies aside, the WWE system seems like the last place that anyone with personality issues or even just those susceptible to negative influence should be; Paige, Big Cass, Alicia Fox, and Ashley Massaro are just a few people that have recently struggled with their situations and ended up being chewed up by the machine.

We should be more concerned with issues like this and how they affect the performers, not just the physical trauma when taking bump after bump after bump.  WWE has the finances and work-force to be a lot more responsible than they are being.

Thanks to years of video footage and interviews, Vince seeing his staff like tools/objects is just about common knowledge now and it helped me write this article on Vince McMahon.

 

 

Here Comes A New Challenger! (AEW)

The creation of All Elite Wrestling has a pretty interesting story to it.  In 2017, a snotty suggestion was made that an independent promotion such as Ring of Honor couldn’t sell 10,000 tickets for a wrestling show.

A few of the top stars from ROH at the time took that challenge, battered the absolute piss out of it with a show called All In, and followed it with numerous events of the same calibre.  I think this drove the point home nicely, and it got a lot of people’s attention.

Fast forward to 2019 and a brand new wrestling promotion with a weekly TV show called “AEW: Dynamite” is good to go.  Bajillionaire-business boss-man Shahid Khan took on the role of the promotion’s lead investor, yet his son seems to be the one that gets to play with all the toys.

Running the show with Tony Khan is the talent that gambled on filling those 10,000 seats two years earlier; that being “The Elite”.  This tree-house club is lead by Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega.  The majority of their backup are their friends from school, a teacher, a librarian, a (Britt) baker, THE BUTCHER, the blade, and a couple of those foreign exchange students that Kenny-chan took a shine to and destroyed their passports.

They’ve also signed a few people that show potential, but may be a little too green for some of the responsibilities they’re given.  I’ll get to that soon.

 

Pros of AEW

Chris Jericho is absolutely bloody killing it.  He knows it, they know it, we know it.  He was the headline act when AEW opened their doors and he was their inaugural champion.  The success is thanks in part to untapped potential combining with the freedom to be bigger/better than when Vince McMahon is shadowing talent, making sure they don’t get too big for their boots/his frail, old ego to handle.

Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens would have torn the house down if given that main event WrestleMania spot last year.  They got pushed aside and Brock Lesnar and Goldberg were given it instead.  I really don’t blame Jericho for being annoyed and making a point of proving himself so right.  Good for you, dude.

Having the salty veteran as the la champion from the start of Act 1 is a smart move on all fronts.  If a lapsed/new/potential wrestling fan happens upon the promotion that isn’t WWE and sees a familiar face from the Attitude Era, they’re a lot more likely to stick around and give it a chance.

It’s also a great place for those not quite as seasoned as Jericho.  Guys like Jon Moxley, Pac, Jungleboy, Luchasaurus, Shawn Spears and Maxwell Jacob Friedman are offered opportunities to shine either to a larger audience, or in a creatively less-restrictive environment than what they’re used to.

We received mixed signals from MJF/AEW at first.  He was switching between being a heel and a face on an hourly basis before booting Cody Rhodes in the bollocks.  Since then, he’s taken to heeling on a full-time basis, and it’s lovely to see.

Despite ignoring warnings to people’s health and well-being, AEW has taken advantage of SOME of the constructive criticism out there; things such as better choices in visual ad time content and focusing on who’s on-screen at the “top of the hour”.

 

Cons of AEW

Head-shots with weapons, no.  Just stop that now.  No.

I think too many people are heavily on the rebound from their abusive relationship with WWE.  Some may even/also be suffering a little love-blindness because we’ve all yearned for change, for so long.  As mentioned, growth is good in all aspects of life, and hearing constructive criticism is not the same as saying something is shit.  So, when people of different ages, cultures, and walks of life offer an alternative perspective, AEW (and some of their “passionate” fan-base) should take a moment to listen, in a mature manner.

Maybe try to avoid spending too much time shining a light on what other promotions are doing badly, and focus time and energy on enhancing your own merits.  Just an idea.

Although there were elements of the AEW shows so far that I have enjoyed, they’re far from perfect, or even great…we’re just all comparing the refreshing, over-pleasing treatment on a Wednesday to the near 20-year torturous ordeal the WWE has made us endure.  AEW presents somewhat of a level of lawlessness and it seems that when hiring people, they never thought to advertise for someone to act as a voice of reason.  I’ve said before that I hope it doesn’t take someone to get seriously messed up before rational minds appear.

Travis Heckel’s fantastic artwork encapsulates my feelings on the situation, oh so well.  More from Travis can be found here!

Sometimes kids (or reckless adults behaving as such) need to hear a firm “no” when they decide they want to do something daft.  The industry isn’t a joke, and sometimes you’ll hear resistance from folk that have already been there and done that; sometimes those who refuse to enable you are actually looking out for you and your best interests.

If you bomb hard when cutting a promo, that’s on you and the humiliation will fade in time.  If you’re 15-20 minutes into a match and you drop/injure someone during a spot you only had a 50/50 chance of hitting right 1 minute into the match, then that’s a shitty thing to do and it shows your lack of ability.  Responsibility should be taken and it shouldn’t require someone to get messed up just to acknowledge this.

By all means, praise IF praise is due, but don’t give people an Oscar while they’re still performing their first role, that’s how folk struggle/fail to grow and fail to accept constructive criticism down the road when they need it the most.  Kenny Omega, Joey Janella and Riho are prime examples that need to go back in the slow-cooker for a bit.

All these free passes (just because they’re AN alternative to WWE) will bite some arses in the future, that goes for what’s considered acceptable and who gets a job.  Time will tell if anyone becomes disgruntled with the pecking order and who has paid dues and such.

Kylie Rae got out of there, quickly, under strange circumstances, Shawn Spears doesn’t seem to be doing a great deal and Jon Moxley has already lost that twinkle in his eye…I wonder why.

I’ve tried to avoid mentioning that embarrassing women’s “division”…whoops.  There’s some talent there, yes, but please stop telling people they could headline VaginaMania tomorrow.  Sure, they’re full of potential, but they’re still getting around to mastering the basics yet.  This obviously applies to the lads of AEW too and the talent from other promotions, there are guilty parties all over.

If too much of this is left unchecked, in time the company is at risk of becoming WCW version 2.0, the 23rd reincarnation of TNA-Anthem-Impact, or even worse, WWE-Lite…if the level of lawlessness and pandering continues.  I don’t think any of us want that.

 

 

The Apple That Fell Further Than Expected. (NXT)

NXT began in 2010 as somewhat of a seasonal reality TV show.  After some success (and the closure of Florida Championship Wrestling/the end of relationships with Ohio Valley Wrestling), NXT became its own brand, and a weekly show was born on The WWE Network.

FCW and OVW had previously supplied the WWE roster with talent, so it made sense that something could, should and would rise from the ashes of all this talent.  The icing on the cake was that Triple H was given the green light to run things and nurture it like one of his own kids.

After spending years as the hottest thing on The WWE Network, WWE and the USA Network decided to throw NXT at a television audience every Wednesday night in an attempt to thwart AEW’s efforts of capturing the hearts and souls of lapsed wrestling fans.

 

Pros of NXT

While starting out on The WWE Network, NXT had a groundbreaking platform to reach people, as well as the subconscious support of the WWE umbrella, with more creative freedom.  They had so much success that NXT has begun splintering off around the world, beginning with NXT UK.

NXT recently got into the television game and they offer a much fresher presentation and roster than Raw or Smackdown; albeit still a lesser-known alternative.  They also join in the PPV fun with NXT Takeover shows whenever any of the WWE’s “Big Four” shows come to town.

That fantastic women’s division, Mamma Mia!

It’s not just Baszler vs Ripley that has me fixated.  The NXT Women’s Division has been rather consistent in offering/moulding some of the best when it comes to women’s wrestling, and more often than not, putting to shame the efforts of their main roster counterparts.

Triple H has built up quite the rapport with the fan-base too; often cutting a bedtime promo on Fakebook immediately after the NXT Takeover shows.  These loyally rabid fans react on TV and this gives off an enchanting aura to first time/passing viewers.  This sticks around week-to-week with them being at Full Sail University on the regular.

The best announce team award (if there was one) would land here.  Combining Mauro Ranallo’s energy with the experience of Nigel McGuinness and Beth Phoenix, makes a great balanced cocktail in my opinion.  They all do a grand job putting everyone and everything over, and they’re always on the ball when it comes to filling in the blanks of a narrative.

Who would have guessed not having a 70-year-old nut-job screaming in your ear helps you do your job better?

 

Cons of NXT

NXT still has that lingering odour of the corporate monster that is WWE.  The board-approved WWE logo every 20 feet and Michael Cole’s overproduced script/verbiage spewing into my ears and drowning my brain during the commercials are not tactful touches.  They sometimes come close to undoing the pleasure previously given by the magnificent Mauro.

It’s neither here, nor there to some people.  Grey areas don’t appear to be welcome and folk just see a promotion either as a corporate whore, or an independent deity.  It seems some see NXT as “just as bad as WWE” and stay well away.

The ones that do watch, will more than likely just give anything that WWE puts out a try.  The rest were more than likely already converted after being burned by Vince before and are willing to consume whatever is served in front of them that “isn’t proper WWE”.  It’s a win-win situation, for the most part.

The main roster has historically yanked the fruits of NXT’s labour once talent has grown to a certain level and are perpetually leaving NXT to refill most of the spots on their card.  This was accepted, to a point by many when NXT was purely seen as the developmental college that fed Raw and Smackdown with ambitious apprentices.

Today’s different, however, and NXT struggled with their TV launch due to an absence of big stars in their locker room and ring.  It’s almost like Vince misses his old talent-raiding days, needs to emulate that from time to time and NXT has to suffer for it.

Recent “graduates” include The Street Profits, Lacey Evans, Kairi Sane, Nikki Cross, War Machine/Viking Raiders, Heavy Machinery, Aleister Black and Ricochet.  Some of the people they could have done with keeping around were Samoa Joe, Sami Zayn, The Revival, Baron Corbin, Bayley, Chad Gable, Bobby Roode, and Asuka.  Just imagine what that show would be like with just half of those names!

With all these gaps to fill, management is sometimes pressured to put people in top spots.  As mentioned with AEW, sometimes it’s too early for folk, and sometimes, things don’t go so well.  Like the main roster, NXT has suffered from numerous injuries to top stars; these occur as a result of too much of that day-to-day grind, and other times are because someone a little bit too inexperienced has dropped you out of the ring when they had no confidence in their lift to begin with.  Not much worth basking in there, if you ask me.

So far the recoil from this has given us more bumps and bruises, dropping title plans, finding a new champion, and Tommaso Ciampa being way more verbal than he needs to be.  Ciampa and Johnny Gargano were fortunate enough to avoid a permanent place on either main roster show, but then both became injured again.  Too much weight to carry per pair of shoulders, perhaps?

 

 

Onto The Eggshells. (NWA)

The National Wrestling Alliance restarted this year and gave us a weekly hour-long show.  The pre-filmed studio-TV wrestling format had been long forgotten by many, yet a group of like-minded individuals (lead by Billy Corgan and David Lagana) banded together in an attempt to restore a semblance of the ‘rasslin’ glory days that they remember.  The team would put out the “Ten Pounds of Gold” series on YouTube, named after the NWA’s World Title and used as a prologue to the first episode of NWA Powerrr airing on YouTube in October.

Their timing couldn’t have been any more fortunate either.  The debut episode of Powerrr aired days after WWE’s 2019 Hell in a Cell weekend of doom, despair, and disappointment.  If there was a chance for the NWA to obtain a few disgusted, rebound-viewers, it was then!

Pros of NWA

#NWAPowerrr is a brilliant hour of entertainment that never outstays its welcome and it often leaves you still peckish for a bit more.  It looks, sounds and feels different to anything else out there at the moment.

A lot of the talent feels the same way, and this reflects in the roster.  Great wrestlers old and new are lining up to be a part of this.

There are a lot of people that get nostalgic over studio TV wrestling.  The NWA does a great job of giving the show a retro feel with modern elements, and not once do they try and convince you it’s actually 1970-something.  It’s good to learn from and remember the past, but not to live in it.  A great balance.

Since they’re on YouTube and they are their own bosses, they’ve got shit-loads of creative control…allegedly.

 

Cons of NWA

NWA Powerrr is pre-taped and there are dick-heads out there that enjoy spoiling shit online.  I’ve recently pissed and moaned about The Spoiler-World We Live In.

Despite the NWA being a reincarnation of an old promotion, they’re essentially building a fan-base from scratch over YouTube and social marketing/media.

The company had a bit of a bumpy start with the signing and then release/resignation of Jim Cornette.  Cornette spoke very highly of the promotion, its management, and the potential for just how great this phenomenon was.  He certainly brought a lot of attention to it when it debuted.  People wanted and trusted his wrestling recommendations in the modern-day, whilst being entertained by his personality.

Personally, I think they made the situation worse by feeding the trolls when the comment in question had been filmed 6 weeks before airing. Putting it Bluntly, the footage had been edited and overseen by others and nobody batted an eyelid…until the PC Babies started making a fuss, of course.

Since changing their theme song from “Into The Fire”, to “Onto The Eggshells”, I’ve got my fingers crossed that this hasn’t set a precedent for others to piss and moan in order to get what change(s) they want.

Now, a wrestler saying (even within the confines of a storyline) to another, something as simple as “you’re out of shape compared to me” could be enough to throw that proverbial snowball down the mountain.  Should the Planets of Social Justice align and some insecure shit-stain having a bad day/ten minutes happen to witness said comment and decide to take personal, outraged-offence to it, the NWA is going to have a tough time silencing that problem, without throwing another member of their “family” under the bus.

 

 

In Summation:

All of these wrestling shows have great qualities!  I cannot stress this enough.  There is a lot to be excited about!

It’s good to hear things from a different perspective from time to time, and remember, different doesn’t mean right or wrong, it just means different!  Just because someone disagrees in thinking something you like is perfect, it doesn’t mean they think it’s shit.  Nor is it an attack on your personality, your personal tastes or who you are as a person.

Escapism and entertainment are subjective, not everyone in the restaurant is going to order or even enjoy the exact same combination of meals, so why would we assume the same can be said for wrestling?

My commentary here is nowhere akin to me saying “this is how shite wrestling is at the moment”.  I’ve praised the good bits and there’s no need to fix them, so I’ve had my say and moved on.  My suggestions here are more to satisfy a “just imagine how much better wrestling could be” kind of statement.  I’ve mentioned the lack of grey areas out there, and I refuse to believe that a promotion is either all good, or all bad, like many try to sell nowadays.

Everyone needs to find that right measure of balance that suits their needs, desires, and abilities.  Whether that’s not being the contrary-fairy that turns left just because WWE turned right, or if it’s turning around and being honest about your regrets of staying up late on a Monday night because it’s part of your routine and has been for 20 years.

I feel many are missing the point/opportunity of making some fantastic wrestling because they’re either too concerned with puffing their chests out to the competition, pandering to cash-spewing sponsors, or they’re petrified of offending someone and/or doing something wrong.  People play the outraged/offended card way too often in order to win arguments they have no business being anywhere near.

Balance, say it with me!

I have high hopes for everyone involved, assuming that:

  • Promotions don’t buckle to the outrage-mob and let the PC Babies run their show.
  • Promotions allow individual talent to fulfil their potential, even at the risk of them being bigger than the company.
  • Wrestlers don’t injure themselves for the sake of it, over-working and/or trying to entertain the fickle, ungrateful, never-satisfied types.
  • Non-wrestlers don’t injure the actual wrestlers, the same goes for those much less experienced that have been given a mega-push.
  • WE the fans don’t further this into some stupid promotional war of toxic-tribalism, financing it and leaving us hating each other.

 

Digest and discuss! Feel free to do so below, and/or get in touch on Twitter!

Sources & Further Reading:

Travis Heckel – Just in case the link was missed in the article, here’s a link to a brilliant artist.

National Wrestling Alliance – Subscribe to the NWA YouTube channel and watch Powerrr each and every week for free!

WWE Network – You can watch weekly NXT as well as the NXT and WWE Pay-per-views/Network specials here.

All Elite Wrestling – Here’s a list of the different ways you can watch AEW.

Ring of Honor – Click here to watch ROH Wrestling.

NJPW – New Japan Pro Wrestling’s official site.

Impact Wrestling – Formerly/also known as TNA, here’s Impact Wrestling’s official site.

EVEN MORE PROMOTIONS – Wikipedia list of all known pro-wrestling companies, should the handful mentioned not be sufficient.

 

-Background Artwork Designed & Provided by Rachael Hope Media.

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5 comments

  1. […] These aren’t mutually exclusive statements or concepts. There’s no need for any of the tribe-picking, the black and white mentality, or the hostility that comes from someone being different to you. I suppose what I’m trying to say is, you CAN still love something and find fault with it. Just like you CAN dislike something and see something good in it. Further elaboration & examples on love-blindness in wrestling courtesy of another plug of an old… […]

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