18)Will Professional Wrestling Ever Experience A Revival?

Q) Will professional wrestling ever experience a revival?

A) No. The internet has ruined wrestling forever. That and a general loss of naivety.

 It’s almost like Hulkamania never happened.

People forget this, but “professional” wrestling was once one of the most popular sports/television shows in the world. From the mid-90’s to the early 2000’s, the Monday Night Wars between the WWF’s Monday Night Raw and the WCW’s Monday Nitro completely dominated the airwaves. Guys like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, and Bret Hart became household names. Now, they’re relegated to William Shatner roasts, bad action movies, and reality television. I was a huge wrestling fan as a youth, but as I got older I lost interest, which seems to be the general trend of pretty much anyone born between 1982 and 1992.

Why the collapse, though? Why did something that was hugely popular become a footnote?

I think there are several reasons. The biggest is that people collectively realized “Hey, these dudes aren’t actually hitting each other!” A lot of kids always suspected it, but in the pre-internet era there was sort of a Santa Clause-esque level of collusion amongst wrestling fans (uncles, dads, older brothers, etc.) to treat it as a legitimate sport. Nowadays, it would be damn near impossible to find anyone who thinks it’s real, sans some ten year old kid living in the Ozarks. Think for a minute, though, about how cool wrestling would be if it was real. Yeah, it would also be fucking insane, and there would probably be a lot more deaths, but no little kid is thinking that. They’re thinking “Wow, that man hit that other man with a chair…that’s awesome!”

Second, the stars from the “Golden Era” either retired to make awful movies, or go too old to be take seriously (I’m looking at you, Ric Flair). In the late 80’s/early 90’s, there were guys like Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Macho Man Randy Savage, Flair, and Shawn Michaels who went from up-and-comers to headlining celebrities. They eventually mixed in with the Steve Austin, Razor Ramon, Diesel, Rock, and Mankind crew. And for a while, it was awesome. The WCW picked up a lot of the older guys (Hogan, Savage, eventually Hart) while the WWF pushed younger wrestlers like The Rock.

Eventually, though, the older guys were pushing sixty years old. Not only was it embarrassing to watch Rick Flair supposedly beat up a guy half his age, it was disgusting to watch him run around the ring in a freaking speedo, his man-boobs jiggling like that creepy uncle who always gets a little too close to the girls during the beach volleyball game.

 Imagine seeing those in high def. Yuck.

Then, guys like Austin and The Rock decided that wrestling had run its course and decided to flee while the going was still relatively good. You can’t really blame them; a career as a pro wrestler, from all indications, is a pretty hellish experience. But eventually, the guys who had been drawing huge crowds for all those years were either gone or obsure. It’s much easier to promote this guy:

 This is Shawn Michaels. Wrestling superstar, international sex symbol, complete dickhead.

Than it is this to promote this guy:

This is some dude named Seamus. I guess he’s Irish?

Thirdly, the wrestling schedule is simply way too rigorous. There’s never an off-season, there’s never any time for the fans or performers to take a break, there’s never a vacation period for the writers to figure out where the storylines are going. It’s insane. Imagine how boring basketball would be if it was all year round. They would play the championship game, and then the next day the regular season would start anew. Or imagine a television show that films all year round, with multiple episodes each week. I also think the lack of anticipation really hurts. Sure, we live in a society where instant-gratification is popular, but look at an event like the Super Bowl. One of the reasons it’s so popular is that fans wait all year for it. The WWF and the WCW tried to put on the Super Bowl once a month in their pay-per-views.

And yeah, it worked sometimes. But there’s only so many ways you can rework the “McMahon as an evil boss” angle before people get bored. Remember how awesome the NWO was at first? In 1996, they were the coolest thing ever. 7 years and 35 different incarnations later, it was pretty played out.

 Awesome.

 Still awesome.

 Not awesome. And probably borderline racist.

It doesn’t help that wrestling writers are notoriously, umm, stupid. Is that the right word?

Also, the disintegration of the WCW really hurt the whole industry.Competition, after all, is one of the driving forces of innovation.  One of the reasons that wrestling was so exciting in the mid-90’s was the sense that each company was trying to one-up each other. It was either come up with a good storyline, or the person watching was gonna change the channel. Each company was forced to come up with bold storylines or risk becoming obsolete. It led to the WWF’s decision to get “edgier” and it led to Hulk Hogan turning heel and great angles like the NWO and Degeneration X. Now, the WWE essentially has a captive audience. That doesn’t necessarily mean a company will get lazier, but it’s usually a good indicator.

Finally, and I have absolutely no statistics to back this up, but the people that liked wrestling can very easily shift their allegiance to the UFC. UFC has a lot of the qualities of the WWE; two dudes hitting each other, gratuitous violence, colorful characters, that “Let’s get ready to rumble” guy. And while UFC fighters are not allowed to use steel chairs, it does have the advantage of being a legitimate sport, as opposed to “sports entertainment.” Also, there’s less steroid use (I think?) and no Vince McMahon.

So I don’t think wrestling will ever relive its former glory. Those days, sadly, are gone forever. Long live Hulk Hogan.

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~ by fc13 on February 2, 2011.

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