|Our 3rd Anniversary||
THE SLASH ANNIVERSARY COLUMN
Ok, first off, before I start off on this tried and true, "beating the gimmick dead" random thoughts piece, I would like to personally thank CRZ and his Slash site, for giving this young buck here a chance to have his somewhat different, sometimes grounded opinions on the sport(z entertainment; damn you Vince, and your subliminal spelling!) format. It is very cool in my opinion that someone can read some of the "big deal" sites, and then go to another "big deal" site that isn't laden with pretension and will allow you the opportunity to get your thoughts published. So here's to ya, CRZ.
So, considering the fact that the last couple of weeks have been a big deal in the "sports entertainment," here are some thoughts, that are planned ahead, but give the appearance to be "random":
Mr. Austin's Situation:
So ALMOST EVERY GODDAMN WRESTLING FAN IN THIS WORLD has said their piece about this, so I figured that I would too, in order to complete the quota. Now, the story has been beaten to death, moreso than this column idea has, but here's a quick summary: Austin is unhappy. Austin walks out. Austin hits his wife. The WWE pretty much dumps his ass, but mentions him frequently on TV. Austin is seen giving the finger with an open can of beer in his car via a helicopter (who in the hell devoted the time to follow him anyways?).
Now, I very much dug the "Stone Cold" character, and liked Austin as a worker. He actually, was one of the few top guys that still would actually work if in the right situation, (I.E. his 'coward' heel turn) cause he basically busted his ass, and entertained me, match wise (The whole 'What?' deal died for me though when the fans started doing it). But, after the whole "walk out" deal, there was two universal truths that were evident before any of this happened, and I really don't think that the gen-pop realizes this:
1. The "Stone Cold" era is dead.
2. Steve Austin, the once top guy, is/was now at a point in which he should be phased down the card, and soon out of said card.
The "Attitude" era is gone; gone forever, and it doesn't matter if Russo comes back. It's a whole different ball game now; and just as wrestling had a peak in the 80's and hit the fan in the early/mid 90's, the same holds true here in the new millenium. And just as the old guard like Hogan, and Savage and co. got phased out around '93 to provide guys like Bret, Shawn, Austin, and Foley a chance to be "the man," the new "old guard" has to be phased out to give another crop of new guys the chance to be the man. And the peak turns into the valley, and goddamn, Austin is not as fresh as he was at the peak. His act was tired (That "what?" deal reeked of desperation), and it was extremely obvious that he should not be the guy holding the world title. And what happens when you're not the guy who should be the top guy? Well, you get moved down. Not "jobbing in the first match" down, but not one of the top guys. But sadly, no one ever wants to realize that it's your time to move down, and Austin was the same. To think, that this was a guy who used to bitch at WCW for holding him down in favor of "the old guard" back in the day, and now he completely flipped his mode of thinking to act the same way via "protecting his spot" and holding down the rest who are ready to take that same spot. Let's face it; Austin ain't the man anymore, and he should have accepted that (BTW, there are others that fit this mold; I.E. a 'dead man' and 'the man with three H's'), and if he wasn't going to play ball, then, as sad as it may be, I look it as another "Bret Hart" situation; the a top guy leaves because he couldn't deal with change, so the new guys fill in the space. And thankfully, this company has got TONS of guys to fill that space. So in essence, thanks Steve, for being that damn good, and good for 'ya for grabbing a large piece of cash; you deserved it, but because you wanted more that you deserved, don't let the door hit 'ya on the ass if you ain't gonna realize the shift of time.
Chris Jericho hates us all:
Chris Jericho, (ironically, one of those guys who shall fill in that 'Austin' void) wrote a commentary on his site (sight) in which he got really pissed and gave up on the whole internet "smark" deal because he didn't get that golden "5 star rating" from the critics.
So I heard about his grief, and read his 'lil piece, and one single thing popped into my mind: "Why should you care about critics?" Professional wrestling, like music, like TV, like movies, like theater, shares one thing: it is a performance based deal, and when you perform, there are critics watching you, and REVIEWING IT. Are the critics always right? Well, sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren't. Led Zeppelin's first album was PANNED in Rolling Stone magazine back in the day. But did that group write a bitchy letter to the magazine? Face it, Chris: EVERYBODY HAS THEIR OPINION. For instance, I like your work, but there are times when, GOD FORSAKEN, you just don't entertain me. It happens, and it happens to everyone, and it happens all the time. So why this time you decide to react? Is it because this was a strange switch that you for once were not the critic's wrestler of choice? Professional wrestling has the unique fortune that it's main source of media is regular people just like you and I. So when we get to voice our opinions, the companies actually look at it, and sometimes follow it. But for Chris, by god, don't bitch and moan about you not getting 5 stars for your match. Do even begin to realize that there are some people who don't post to the sites that think that your match was very cool? Do you realize that fans who read the sites don't rate matches with a "star system?" Think about that for a little, and send me an e-mail thanking me for clearing your mind.
The New Competitor:
The NWA/TNA did their debut show a couple of weeks ago, and after the good and bad hype that I have read, I am now actually interested in seeing exactly WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS HYPE ABOUT. The first show actually got a weird reaction from what I read; some sites thought it totally sucked, some sites thought it was marginally good. And some sites thought it was kinda in the middle, but the next show would be really cool. I shall say this, mainly because I can't get the PPV's on my cable operator, and I would like to see it:
I am a fan of wrestling, any wrestling I can watch; Mexican, Japanese, Southern, whatever. To prove this point, I actually used to watch GLOBAL CHAMPOINSHIP WRESTLING and the WCCW/USWA back in the 80's. Just like that football fan that watches European football, I watch wrestling, any kind I can find. And there are more like me. So, because of these facts, I want to watch the new group because:
I would like to see something different than what is going on now.
I have heard of such stars as Lo-Ki and Christopher Daniels, and I would love to find out what the big deal is about them, because I only saw them once on that WWA PPV, and I liked what I saw.
I recognize some of the other stars, and while my opinions differ amongst them, I would like to see them again, if not for anything else than it's something different than what I usually see.
I bet that there are others like me who don't care what impact this new company would make, who don't care if they beat the WWE, and who just want to see a different company putting on another show.
So don't treat it as "The fed who will compete with Vince." Look at it as just another company who are doing shows. And this is a good thing; there has to be other promotions that can at least make enough money to provide an alternative, because it profits both the wrestlers as much as it provides the fans with other forms of wrestling entertainment. So, because of this, as soon as my cable operator gives me NWA/TNA, I'll definitely drop a ten spot to watch the show; not because they're going to be a competitor, but because I love to watch wrestling, and here I have in front of me another group putting on shows.
Peaks and Valleys.
I'm gonna go back a few paragraphs to that "peaks and valleys" subject that I had mentioned earlier. Everything in pop culture comes and goes in waves. As soon as the new thing comes in from out of nowhere, it's seemingly passe, partly because of the fact that overexposure is a stone cold bitch to overcome. And like all other forms of entertainment, wrestling is the same.
Let's go back a little to the mid 80's. Now, my chronological facts and time periods are gonna be a little off, but basically around that time period, the WWF was the big cheese, the hip deal, the mainstream form of sports entertainment. It had Cyndi Lauper, it had MTV on it's side, it had "Rock and Wrestling," the Hulkster was in that "Arnold/Stallone" area of recognition, and was the main superhero of wrestling's big boom period. Pay Per Views were selling out, wrestlers were going on talk shows, and odds are you saw people walking down the street in a WWF related T-shirt. It was mainstream, and the people loved it for a variety of reasons. Then, sometime around the early 90's, (or late 80's if you wish) the bottom fell out. The party was over, and the mass public split. Even the main superhero was gone. And, on top of all this, Vince stood to serve some heavy prison time. So, things looked grim for the business.
But, as with every other entertainment form paying rent in the pop culture condos, wrestling became cool again around the late 90's. The WWF was again the big cheese; it had Tyson, it has MTV on their side, it had "Attitude," Austin/Rock were/are in that "Arnold/Stallone" area, and Austin was the main antihero of the new big boom. PPV's sold out, wrestlers went back on talk shows, and "Austin 3:16" shirts were seen on the streets.
But I wanna talk about the valleys now; that middle period right after it was popular, and right before it got popular again. In 93, the big hammer finally dropped when Hogan left the company. The leader of cartoon-ish gimmick era was now gone, and a big spot was now open. So the WWF tried recasting the "big superhero" role with basically minimal success, and kept the cookie cutter cartoon gimmick machine going. And I don't fault them; fuck, I would have tried to find the next Hogan myself if I was in that position. In time, Vince slowly learned his lesson that there would be no "next Hogan," and the cartoon gimmick era was old and tried.
The middle period was the most interesting; without any real direction to go in, the WWF threw out different ideas to us, and we picked whom we wanted. And the remaining few of us picked guys like Shawn and Bret to be the new guys, mainly because they were good wrestlers, and mainly because we were sick of slow moving muscle guys. And while it was a difficult pregnancy, the "valley years" ended up birthing the next big boom. The big steroid superheroes were fewer in numbers (Vince HAD to share workout tips with somebody, after all), and in it's place stood smaller guys who worked faster, had different "attitudes" (no pun intended), and put on great matches. And because of this middle period came about the next boom. The setup looked different, and the wrestlers looked different. By '98 it seemed, you had to be quicker and more athletic, and proof of this lied in the fact that there were few, if any fat guys, or bodybuilders doing anything of note. The new version of wrestler came into the mainstream, and it was because of the "valley experiments" that this happened.
So the moral of all this? Well I hate to say it, but we're taking another trip back down the valley. The ratings are lower and lower, the "Attitude" era is now fully dead, Austin's gone, the Rock is basically gone at this point, and the WWE is setting up the lab again to do more experiments. But the WWE isn't gonna go out of business because of the low ratings. Face it; the most real it ever did come to dying was when the steroid trials went down, and if Vince could slither his way out of that one, then I am not really worrying too much about today's low ratings. I have been reading the critics comparing the WWE right now to WCW at it's downward spiral period, and while some of the booking choices match up, the plain fact is that the WWE is A: far better managed, and B: is self owned, and doesn't have that big, money funding corporation looking at the bottom line for immediate success.
So be sure to take a step back and have an open mind about this new middle period. The WWE is gonna try now to do everything they can to make you like them again. And, they're gonna listen to how you react about their new ideas. Plus, and this is a good thing; there's a whole load of guys like Booker T, RVD, Benoit, Guerrero, and others ready to grab that higher position up the card, which already makes it better that the last "middle period." So as I have said in other columns, sit back, pour yourself a drink, and scream your asses off at your favorites, cause this time, it's gonna count that much more.
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