WWE hasn't ruined wrestling, you have
If we want to enjoy wrestling the way we used to, we need to watch it the way we used to.
Wrestling isn't as good as it used to be -- that's the consensus of most fans who are old enough to remember the Attitude Era or even the days of Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund.
There's a lot to point fingers at; one could argue there's too much advertising now (we are looking at you, KFC), there aren't as many fun characters as there used to be, and the lack of any real competition perhaps does mean that WWE can get away with coasting along where they once had to deliver the goods or go out of business to WCW.
These are all potentially valid talking points and ones that you'll see time and again on comment threads across the internet.
But the truth is, there's one defining factor in why you're not enjoying wrestling as much as you used to: you've spoilt it for yourself.
Think about the conversations you would have as a child, when you were first getting into wrestling.
"Wow! Stone Cold Steve Austin beat the Rock at Wrestlemania!"
"I can't believe The Undertaker kidnapped Stephanie McMahon and Stone Cold saved her!"
"Wow! Big Boss Man and Al Snow in Kennel from hell was amazing!" (maybe not that last one)
Now fast-forward. You're in your late twenties and you're having the conversation again but it goes like this:
"Ugh, I can't believe they had Finn Balor lose to Kane on Raw. That's so stupid."
"Vince McMahon is so out of touch, I can't believe he's still pushing Roman Reigns."
"TLC was so badly booked."
Which version of yourself do you think enjoyed wrestling more? The wide-eyed 10-year-old, who enjoyed the product at face value, or the twenty-something smart-mark who reckons he knows it all because he's read a dirtsheet or two?
This is what we have become. Everyone believes they could write a better show and book a better show than Vince McMahon - for a reminder, that's the same Vince McMahon who invented Wrestlemania and gave us the Attitude Era that we're all apparently missing.
This belief is so overpowering to us that it's actually taking away from our enjoyment of the product. We're right, and the guy who built WWE into a multi-million dollar company is definitely wrong.
The truth is, we don't actually know anything. Most of us haven't even stepped into a wrestling ring or been anywhere near a conversation regarding booking a match on an indie show, let alone in WWE. We know what we read on the internet, and the internet doesn't "know" anything either. We've listened to podcasts from wrestlers, so we reckon we know all about it because we've heard the subjective opinions of wrestlers we like.
We have become the smart-arse kid at a birthday party who refuses to be impressed by the magician, because he's read or book or two and reckons he knows how the tricks are done, even though he's never done a magic trick in his life and has never spoken to the magician in question. The kid isn't enjoying himself and nobody is actually impressed by his determination to ruin the experience for himself, apart from the other kids who have read the same books.
Granted, the wrestling world isn't helping us. Nobody seems to care about protecting their character anymore. The Undertaker was probably the last great example a wrestler truly protecting themselves in this way. Even Bray Wyatt -- potentially the only true "character" in WWE right now -- shares Instagram pics of him with his family on his downtime.
Wrestlers today will go on podcasts and talk about how much they like working with the person with whom they're supposed to be having a bitter feud. WWE releases its own kayfabe-shattering documentaries on its own network.
But here's the kicker: we don't have to read, look at, listen to or watch ANY of it.
We enjoyed WWE back in the day so much more because the wrestling shows like Raw and Smackdown existed in isolation. The internet wasn't so prevalent at the time. We didn't have ways to spoil the magic for us.
But now we do, and we're bizarrely determined to have less of a good time, to absorb the rumours, to scour the web for "leaked" information (like the rest of you, I don't know how these "leaks" come about but they're either done on purpose or WWE needs to start firing more people).
So here's an idea, and it's going to be difficult because we've all got into a certain mindset but I promise it will make wrestling better for you:
Just be a fan, and just watch the matches. Don't read the dirtsheets, don't listen to the podcasts and don't get into the mindset of what you would do if you were booking the show, because you're not and you're never likely to do so and you'll only upset yourself.
If we want to enjoy wrestling in the way we used to, then we need to start watching wrestling in the way we used to.
There are people who still do this and enjoy the product for what it is, and the worst thing is that these people are often mocked and scorned as being stupid or not knowing the product is scripted. Of course they know. It's 2017. Everybody knows. But they are appreciating the product for what it is. Odds are that they are enjoying themselves much more, and they know about as much of the ins-and-outs of the business as the average "smart mark".
It begs the question: who's the real "smart mark" out of the two? The one who knows they don't know anything and just gets on with enjoying wrestling, or the one who's read the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and therefore thinks they can book a whole episode of Raw, and gets angry when the actual show doesn't go their way?
So let's drop everything from wrestling that isn't actually wrestling, and see if we get along any better with the modern product. The "smart" money says we will.