Wrestling's need to move too fast, too soon is everyone's fault
It took Barry Windham years to finally become the superstar wrestler who was on par with the likes of Ric Flair and the Horsemen. Only after joining the greatest stable of all time did he truly discover his greatness. And some would argue that before the shock and awe of Hulk Hogan making the leap to heal status, Windham’s turn on Lex Luger, joining the Horsemen, was the biggest swerve in wrestling history.
Back before the beginning of Hulkamania, professional wrestling took painstaking steps to build characters, to establish faces and heels and to create the right mood for the all-important “turn” that left the fans in the arenas stunned, some even crying in despair.
Today’s wrestling is to a point where fans expect it from the moment they are introduced to a character or see a tag team move into the arena – one that is fresh and exciting. Today’s WWE is nothing like the one where Bruno Sammartino held onto the WWWF World title for years and Bob Backlund had long-standing feuds with Don Muraco and Superstar Billy Graham. That wouldn’t happen today, Fans want the quick fix, the quick title change and a neophyte wrestler, who a little under three weeks on television, to ascend to the top of the food chain.
It’s the impatience of the fan, the need for more promotion and the fear of losing fans that has caused such a stir in the wrestling community today. And after WWE suffered its worst ratings of the year on Raw this past Monday, we can all see the ship continues to sink and the idea of ascension is killing the product.
And it’s everyone’s fault.
As a fan myself, I have never understood the true concept of “face vs. heel” since nothing has truly been territorial and wrestlers changed roles like moving targets on a pond. For every time the Freebird’s were booed in a match against the Von Erich’s, they were cheered Michael Hayes when he wrestled Geno Hernandez. Or Ric Flair was booed when he wrestled Charlie Cook in Florida, but was treated like a god in Florence, SC. How Harley Race was the villain in matches with Flair, but revered in Missouri. Wrestling cannot create that anymore. There are no territories, there are no competitors and worst of all, there is no time to create it.
Everyone is at fault because the business got itself in such a damn hurry. There is no stop watch – everything is on an accelerator. Roman Reigns isn’t ready to carry the world on his shoulders. Seth Rollins is about three years from being truly great and The Dudley’s are trying to save a tag team division that is stronger than it has been, but is still weak from lack of competition.
All the while, Kane is trying to become this split-personality demon, or has finally shed the attempt and shown his true red colors.
If WWE were to slow down, believe in the Simon and Garfunkel theory (slow down, you move too fast, you have to make the moment last), then professional wrestling and WWE wouldn’t be in a predicament and feel a catastrophic plunge about to take place.
And I never thought I would get a Simon and Garfunkel reference in a wrestling column, but here it is.
Should the creative team at WWE re-think its steps and come up with ways to develop wrestlers, then the ratings may get better. Fans won’t be so impatient and Vince McMahon wouldn’t be pushing Roman Reigns on us as the only person who can lead this company into the next year.
Everything is supposed to start at the top, but there is this bottom to top theory within the structure of the company that is dysfunctional. It needs more of a massage than anything else (without a happy ending), so wrestlers have true roles, and belts that are won really mean something. Only then can everyone stop, look and listen.
And in the end, the business, the industry and its need to be bigger, better and more all the time could just relax for a moment.
A breath is all this company needs to see what lies in front of success and what it has left in the past that is causing its defeat.