Welcome to the first edition of the United State of Wrestling. I am your host, Andrew Morris and each week I hope to deliver a thought-provoking column on the state of US wrestling. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
What has happened to our beloved wrestling business?
I ask because this is the first time I have ever been completely and absolutely worried that we won’t have a wrestling business in ten years time. The WWE are on a constant decline; competition like TNA have major problems of their own and are never going to make it big style and pose as major competition; and we, the fans are too smart. We have helped ruin the business by always knowing what is happening and why it’s happening and what happens daily behind the scenes.
The WWE started to lose its touch, and I believe that this will cause quite a debate, when one Vince Russo left the company in the direction of Atlanta. True, when he had his (very) brief return to pose some ideas he suggested he turned The Rock gay; and sure enough he has had many wacky ideas in the past; but look at the time when he and Ed Ferrara were the booking team. It was fresh. It was edgy. We had never seen the likes of it in mainstream wrestling before. Gone were the unrealistic characters. Russo and Ferrara gave the company a reality check.
We waved bye-bye to The Ringmaster. Now we had middle finger flashing, expletive – spouting redneck called Stone Cold beating up his boss; Dull Rocky Maivia became the cool and cocky Rock and Hunter Heart Helmsley became Triple H. It was this that hooked many people on wrestling in its last boom period of the late 90’s early 00’s. Stables like D-Generation X were a blatant answer to the NWO, but were edgier and the crowds enjoyed them much more.
When Russo and Ferrara jumped ship the good times continued to roll for a short time. Indeed, 2000 could be called the WWF’s greatest year of all time. Blistering pay per views and stories that were engaging, such as the Triple H, Kurt Angle and Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley love triangle were the norm. But it was as soon as WCW and ECW died that business would never be the same again. A writer like Russo could have handled the invasion storyline so much better than the egotistical McMahon’s whose sole purpose was to prove who was on top. Russo, with his more outside view could have built up both companies to look strong, something that WWF did for only the first month of the invasion.
Whilst it is fair to say that numbers were falling coming up to the start of the invasion angle, the actual Invasion pay-per-view pulled a huge number – one of the top 10 WWE buys of all time. But what happened the next month at Summerslam? Vince has The Alliance buried. It was downhill from there. Television numbers began to fall, pay-per-view buy rates were way down, and the Connecticut crew were starting to rely on veterans who could no longer work, or worse, shock TV. Katie Vick, anyone? And this has continued to this very day.
However, it is not just the WWE and their poor writing that means that business is right down. It is the lack of competition. I am sure even Vincent Kennedy McMahon himself would admit that rival organisations keep you on your toes and keep wanting to out perform the last show. WWE doesn’t have this anymore. They have hit a comfort zone, which is getting more uncomfortable every month.
NWA:TNA is never going to offer major competition to Vince – they have answered that for us by hiring all these oldies like Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. Jeff Jarrett has been on top for too long and nobody sees him as good enough to explain why he has been TNA Champion for over two thirds of the company’s existence. The fan base is too small, pay-per-view buy rates prove this and I cannot see the company really increasing the followers, despite the fact that there is a hell of a lot of good talent in the group.
It is the same for other groups like Ring of Honor, too. Whilst they are packed to the brim with good workers, something always holds them back. They have no mainstream appeal. The crowds are people just like you and me. The Internet fans. Grap fans who are dedicated to the business, but are maybe doing the worst to the business. There is no surprise factor anymore.
We know too much about wrestling. I’m a hypocrite – I admit it! I can’t wait to find out spoilers, what is happening behind the scenes, who are feuding backstage with who for real, hell I even check dark match results! However, there is nothing left for us fans to see anymore. It is becoming harder and harder for writers to impress us and shock us each week.
We are all to blame for this slide in business. The writers and the fans. Thing is, unlike other dips in business, this one seems like there is little way out. During the WWF slump in the early 1990’s there was always competition, and there was other things for us to see, too – stuff that we had not seen in wrestling.
After storylines of necrophilia, murder, rape, swearing, miscarriages, suicide and everything else under the sun, what is left to entertain us?
I love the wrestling business. I usually try not to be too negative, but I am very worried for it’s future.
*If you would like to comment on anything I have said, please do not hesitate to contact me via e-mail.