I’M BACK BITCHES! Apologies for my absence on Wrestling Rambles, I’ve been really busy over the past few weeks and I just haven’t really the time to write anything.Now that my schedule has eased up and my life can be filled up once more with tweeting inane nonsense on twitter and writing columns ranting about this that and the other, and I think I’ve got something good to kick things off. So without any further ado lets get to it.
One comment that I keep constantly hearing and reading is that we need to ditch the PG era in exchange for the Attitude Era. It seems to be some people’s magic pill that they believe will fix everything that is wrong with the current stale, bland product that is synonymous with the WWE right now. I understand that people have a rose tinted view of the past and like to remember “the good old days.” That’s all fine and well. The issue is that people mistake why the attitude era was so successful.
There’s a lot to say, so I’m going to do it the most obvious way I can. I’m going to look at the things that made the old WWF classified as a TV14 show as opposed to PG and see how many of those concepts would actually improve the product at the minute.
The most obvious place to start is with language. Does saying “ass” every 5 seconds really make promos any better? Would it make the Miz more tolerable as a babyface if he used mild bad language? Would Jack Swagger suddenly become a great talker if he did the same? No, of course not. Regardless of eras and times some wrestlers will always have the same flaws.
Someone like The Miz, a natural heel, is going to come over as fake and disingenuous as a face. Not to mention the fact that he doesn’t have any threat. I mean if you’re in a club or a bar or whatnot and you see The Miz glaring at you, are you frightened or at all worried? No, because he looks like and carries himself like a total douchebag. If you’re in the same environment and see a guy that looks like Austin or The Undertaker it’s completely different ball game because they look legitimately tough as hell and they look like they’re going to the ring for a fight.
Regarding Swagger, say what you want about his and his current situation, the guy cannot cut a promo. Allowing him to use bad language isn’t going to transform that or make is speaking any better at all.
I’m not saying that guys have to be built like they’re made out of stone with chiselled physiques to achieve this either. Smaller guys can still have the same aura. Two examples of this (one isn’t in WWE but he’s a great example) are CM Punk and Austin Aries. They carry themselves like they’re going to the ring for a fight, not like acrobats (Kofi I’m looking at you here…) or wannabe actors (Miz…).
We all know that wrestling is a work. That it’s choreographed and pre-determined entertainment. However, if you can create some sort of illusion of legitimacy or at least create the sense that the guys in the ring are legitimately tough then it’s easier to buy into it and suspend your disbelief for however long your watching the match.
Another thing that was prevalent in the Attitude Era was the use of weapons and hardcore matches. While I loved some of the old hardcore matches (the TLC tag matches especially and to a lesser degree ladder matches) these deserve to be left in the past – at least in regards to the regularity with which they used to happen. The hardcore fad was so short sighted it was incredible.
Edge’s career is over. Given that he was one of the pioneers in the WWF of TLC/Ladder/Chair matches I don’t see how you can deny that his participation in matches like the TLC match at Wrestlemania X-Seven delivering spears from ladders didn’t shorten his career. Another thing I’ve seen people bitch about is that weapons are used less often. Tough.
Not a convincing enough argument? Let’s look at Mick Foley, one of the guys who found his niche in hardcore matches. He’s 47 and retired from being an active wrestler in 2000 (he’s matches and runs since then obviously, but not on a regular basis) after Wrestlemania 2000 (Wrestlemania 16, for a trivia point also the only Wrestlemania Undertaker has missed since his debut at Wrestlemania VII) at the age of 35. Think about that. Foley’s body couldn’t go on a full time schedule because it was that beaten up. Chris Jericho once wrote that The Great Muta probably added ten years onto his career by going half pace at house shows. Foley took ten years out of his by putting his body through hell in hardcore matches and taking insane bumps.
Given the developments in the understanding of the effects and consequences of concussions I’d thank the heavens above that this has been stopped, especially the use of unprotected chair shots to the head. Some of the bumps guys chose to take to get themselves over has caused absolute tragedy in the aftermath. The amount of guys who have developed addictions to painkillers and who have become wrestling tragedies is substantial and, quite honestly, horrifying.
Something that goes hand in hand with the hardcore style was the use of blood. Don’t get me wrong, in certain matches and certain situations the use of blood can be extremely effective. It can add drama to matches. An example of this would be the Bobby Roode/James Storm match that was build up over a year which culminated in a no DQ bloodbath which was appropriate because it was a blood feud. Back in the attitude era it wasn’t uncommon to see blood. If you use something all time then it ultimately cheapens its’ effectiveness. Also, given the amount of guys who have received diseases that have been caused by sharing blades is it really something we need? Guys put their bodies through enough entertaining us by taking bumps night in and night out we shouldn’t be asking them to take any more risks than they already do on a nightly basis.
Even in a storyline quality sense the attitude era was pretty poor. Kane’s back story has been changed, corrected, contradicted so many times that I’ve no idea what on earth actually happened with that character. People moan and bitch about short title reigns now. Mick Foley, one of the most iconic figures of the Attitude Era, had 3 title reigns that spanned 47 days. I find it hysterical that people want a return to the type of television as written by VINCE RUSSO. Think about that.
You want a return to a format and type of Wrestling show that was pioneered by VINCENT FUCKING RUSSO?
The same guy that buried Ric Flair in the desert, the same guy that booked Buff Bagwell in a feud with the writers, the same guy who came up with the idea for the Owen Hart stunt, the same guy who booker Nitro Girls to have miscarriages and came up with an idea for Hand, and Mark Henry getting a blow job from a transvestite.
You know what made the Attitude Era great? It wasn’t TV14, or insane angles, or hardcore matches with blood in every match or stupid angles or “Bra and Panties” matches. It was a group of talented guys who understood their characters. Who had the freedom to develop their characters and do what was spontaneous and what worked.
These guys had the opportunity to hone their craft abroad and at home before they found themselves in the major leagues. Today guys are signed and thrown in with a “package” that’s been written for them by writers. Wrestlers aren’t actors, and even actors can’t play any part. It’s about finding something that fits you, that’s what performers are. Albert/Tensai trying to do a lucha moveset would be awful because it doesn’t fit. It’s exactly the same concept with characters. For instance: giving Matt Morgan a stuttering gimmick. It was a terrible fit that was never going to work.
I’ve ended up rambling quite a bit on this piece, but the bottom line is thus: a PG14, “Attitude-esque” program will not fix the problems with the WWE right now and being risqué wasn’t what made that period of time what it was either. It was the success of the wrestlers who got the characters over to massive degrees. You can have all the bad language, blood, violence, scantily dressed girls and insane matches…without character to drive it you have nothing. Absolutely nothing.
It’s characters that make wrestling, or any TV show that revolves around storylines, watchable. Having great stories (not that the Attitude Era really had them if you look at it by the large and with an unbiased viewpoint) is nothing if you don’t have the right characters in place to drive them. You can have an average angle but if the guys driving it are able to get the fans behind them it can make the product seem far better than it actually is.
And the final point for exclamation? TNA have a show aimed at an older audience with bad language and more adult themed angle. Is that fantastic TV?
I rest my case.
You can follow Michael on twitter @MichaelBrown_91