SEARCHING FOR MEANING
When you look around at the various characters populating the WWF today, you see a vast lack of creativity. I mean, what was wrong with Booker T sounding like a real person when he used to do an interview? Is Raven really more entertaining as a screwball comedian than the Gen-X manipulator we've all come to know and love? Is the simple fact that a Japanese guy can't speak English supposed to be funny? The real meaning of the Hurricane is so obvious: McMahon's distressed over how wrestling is fading from pop culture's ever-fickle crystal gaze, so he has to attack a form of entertainment that is lower on the totem pole than wrestling is.
There is a common trend running through these gimmicks: they try to be funny. There is a place for comedy in wrestling, and it's with the people who are good at it: Angle, Rock, Kanyon, Stasiak, Edge, Christian, Regal. Not with Booker T. Not with Raven. And certainly not with the venomous McMahon children.
Hell, who provided the funniest moments from Tajiri, Saturn and Helms? It was Lance Storm. LANCE FUCKING STORM. The funniest thing Tajiri ever did was "If I can be serious for a moment." The only thing remotely entertaining about Saturn's whole mop infatuation was when Storm gave the speech about how the mop had no place in an Intercontinental title match. And well from not a lack of enthusiasm on Helms' part, the fanboy gimmick really, really sucks. Maybe I'm biased because I actually read comics, but regardless, assaults on entire forms of media, no matter how unpopular, are the marks of true creative bankruptcy. If the WWF were interested in making Storm a top level heel, they should have him come out one week, and say he's sick of being ignored, so he's come up with a way to prevent that from happening: he's hired a pair of breasts (Dawn Marie's in this case), and the two can use parody to insult the wrestling fan's intelligence.
That last sentence applies to wrestling too. I mean, even hardcore fans criticize themselves from watching what they believe to be completely disposable crap. And when you try to argue it's higher merits with them, they tell you that the concept of two men pretending to beat on each other is stupid at it's core. Fine, but we don't have to endeavor to make it even more stupid than it has to be. Isn't it much more challenging and fulfilling to do this intellectually?
I mean, have you ever really thought about what some of the storylines and characters could be representing? That they have themes superior to some of the best selling novels, blockbuster movies and hit sitcoms out there?
Look at Steve Austin's feud with McMahon. You know what it symbolized? The maturation of the wrestling fan. McMahon was basically telling us that this guy was bad because he drank, swore and questioned authority. But then the audience collectively realized that this guy was doing the right thing when it mattered, espousing a spirit and ideology that was essentially valid, and that his flaws were essentially forgivable. We knew he was a good wrestler on his own merits, unlike Hogan, Warrior or Diesel. We could tell he wasn't a prima donna like Michaels or Hart. We had made our own decision as adults to cheer for him, and McMahon, who was frustrated at misreading his own audience so, tried to destroy all evidence of his failure.
The central tenet of Ric Flair's character was this: we were not worthy of him. The greatest wrestler any of us had ever seen refused to give us the pleasure of seeing his skill. We were below him: a bunch of teenyboppers, overly masculine idiots, or working class slobs. So he repeatedly took it out on the wrestlers who closely represented us: Sting, Luger and Rhodes. He cheated when he could easily win, since it was more of a challenge to smuggle in the foreign objects than to put on the figure four. But when someone like Rick Steamboat came along, someone with the skill to match his, the competitive juices began to flow, and his love of pure competition came back. It wasn't about winning or losing, it was about the pure beauty of the sport.
During the nWo invasion, Sting became emblematic of WCW itself. All his friends had mistrusted him, when he was the only one who had never left WCW's side. So he became twisted by the nWo: he started wearing their colours, and using their weapons. But everytime he came down from the rafters to save DDP or the Giant from a gang beating, he was trying to purge the nWo's influence inside and out: trying to return WCW to a simpler time, symbolized by him as the bright facepainted surfer.
Those are some examples of what wrestling has meant in the past, and, if we're lucky, what it will someday mean again.