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TWF Top 5: Worst Changes from “Pro Wrestling” to “Sports-Entertainment”

by Robert Zarp

June 8, 2011

Greetings to you, the wrestling fans, for a new edition (no, not the R&B group) of The TWF Top 5. I know, it's been a long time since I've compiled such a list for your bemusement, but I prefer quality over quantity, unlike other writers...I'm looking at you, Russo. Anyway, to the story at hand, I was born in 1985. I grew up as a kid in the golden age of “Hulkamania,” I was a rebellious teenager during the “Attitude Era,” and now I feel out of place as wrestling has dawned the era of...“Cenation.” I feel like I hurt myself just typing that word. Examining the business, over the past 10 years wrestling has undergone a massive overhaul, transitioning from a raunchy and edgy product to a kid-friendly, and at most times mundane presentation. Even in the heights of “Hulkamania,” there was a sliver of fear that the big orange hero might not win this time around. Professional wrestling used to have a sports atmosphere, and with stories similar to a Rocky Balboa comeback, the seeds were planted for sports-entertainment. In 2011, WWE has ceased all references to professional wrestling and insist on the phrase sports-entertainment, or even worse, just “entertainment.” For those fans waxing nostalgic...and I am not talking about waxing it to pictures of the “divas” of the 1990s...this list should resonate soundly, as we countdown The TWF Top 5: Worst Changes from “Pro Wrestling” to “Sports-Entertainment.”

#5. Here Today, Gone Today
In the days of territories, promoters were even cheaper than a Dollar Store ribeye as far as the wrestlers were concerned, and many times wrestlers were given chance after chance to get over with the crowd. Why? So as to not lose money in an investment, of course. In today's world of sports-entertainment though, little fat bastards pimp out their parent's wallets in order to attain as much merchandise as possible, thus making one promoter very, very affluent. Considering McMahon is the only real big-time promoter left, wrestlers that want to have a degree of success must attempt to work for the WWE. Being so affluent though, Vince now enjoys the luxury of being able to cart out new wrestlers, give them a few matches, and throw them away as if to say, “Oh well. We'll make that money back in t-shirt sales alone.” I miss the days when a guy like Bob Holly could get chance after chance to fail only to get a new gimmick because of his loyalty...well wait, that's a horrible example. The point is, it's hard to care about the wrestlers when you know a new guy might have only six months, tops, before getting the axe from Johnny Ace, so why bother?

#4. The Death of a Salesman
Not all wrestlers can properly sell a hold, and have the audience believe they are truly injured; however, in previous decades, more wrestlers were more apt and competent at suspending disbelief. Hulk Hogan may have ignored his injuries and “Hulked Up,” but more often than not, if something big happened to him, he'd sell and make you believe he was in true danger. Many fans worried that King Kong Bundy had broken the ribs of Hogan (and no doubt was ready to consume those ribs with some of JR's BBQ sauce) after a devastating assault. In the past ten years, this has really vanished from “sports-entertainment.” Whether it's Triple H being dropped from a huge forklift in a car, missing only one week, and returning with a band-aid, or John Cena emerging a night later after being tossed into a gigantic spotlight unscathed, or even Undertaker surviving an exploding low-rider, these guys appear to be unstoppable. Why would fans ever think that submission holds, joint attacks, and ligament stretches were seriously threatening when they can survive events that would kill everyone else?

#3. Where's the Wrestling?
Clara Peller would be asking this question if she was alive, and you are not doubt asking who she was. No doubt a future WWE Hall of Famer due to her involvement of being in the crowd at WrestleMania 2, she was also kinda known for her catchphrase “Where's the Beef?” for Wendy's back in the 1980s. Today, we ask where's the wrestling? It seems they have been reducing the number of matches both on television shows and pay-per-view events slowly over the years, eroding the product into a shell of its former self. What is WWE these days? A poorly written comedy show without any jokes, punchlines, humor, or relevance? Even if they are ashamed of it, the fact is people tuned in to see wrestling matches, not interviews backstage for a majority of the evening. Could you imagine going to a play and having only three minutes of actors out there on the stage and then having to watch the rest on a giant screen? It would seem rather pointless, and more often than not, these skits have no point whatsoever. It's not a sport, it's not even entertainment, so what the hell is it? I don't know at this juncture, but I sure do miss the days when they still allowed time for professional wrestling matches.

#2. What's My Line?
Shoot from the hip. Speak from the heart. Confess your very soul! To quote Hollywood Hogan, “Not anyyyyy moooooreee!!!” Back in the days of yore, wrestlers were given basic speaking points for their promos, but the rest of the work was up to them. If a wrestler didn't have great public speaking skills, their failure was simply their fault, unless they were secretly a Snitsky. It's never been his fault. Nothing really feels as if it is genuine anymore, and how could it? Wrestlers don't have much in the way of a character or personality these days, as it's more just force fed lines repeated on a weekly basis. Some may call it the Triple H Syndrome, as he did have a knack for cutting the same promo ad nauseum, but at least he had emotion. Nowadays, you can tell the guys just don't care anymore, and they really just try their best to remember their lines. If wrestlers had a chance to just speak their minds in an open forum, they may be able to gain more interest from the fans, but WWE wouldn't like that. Only John Cena and Randy Orton are allowed to be interesting to the fans...and Rey Mysterio, sometimes. Gotta sell those masks and t-shirts, booyaka.

#1. The 4th Wall Crumbles
The 4th wall is a device referred to in television as the barrier between audience and actors. An element of dramatic irony, the wall is often broken for comedic relief. A wink to the camera, directly addressing the audience in the middle of dialogue...you know these devices, and wrestling is no different. Unless you're totally ignorant, and then most likely a member of the “Cenation,” you know that wrestling is just a show. Yes, we know this, but we don't need to be reminded of it all the time. Would you like a movie if it always reminded you that you were watching a fictitious account and that it's not reality? This is akin to going to a magic show, knowing that the magician's tricks are just that, tricks to the eye, having that magician explain the trick to you, and still expecting you to come back and watch his show on a nightly basis. Maybe I'm just old, but I miss when it just felt more like a sport and didn't seem to want to blatantly insult my intelligence. The damage is not irreversible, but it is quite evident whenever you watch the current product. This in my opinion is by far the worst change we as wrestling fans have had to witness. The only one I ever want winking at me is Trish Stratus, damn it.

Hopefully, you shared some laughs with me, and didn't cry too much. No one likes a cry baby after all, if Jumpin' Jeff Farmer is to be believed. I'll go for some lighter humor next time, as I countdown the Top 5: Gimmicks that Need to Return! Until next time though, this has been Robert Zarp, and I bid you an uno, dos, adios!

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November 2006


by Sean Carless

With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).