I don't watch new movies or listen to new music, and I pretty much have my head buried in the past when it comes to wrestling too, but I will say it's easier to cherry pick the past than it is to wait for something good to happen. Picking and choosing what you watch can make pretty much anything seem better than it was. Pretty much the worst year I ever had watching wrestling was 1995 and I'm sure I could find matches from that era I think are better than today's stuff, but does that really mean '95 was better? Ease of access also makes things less coveted and therefore less special. Typing into a search engine's not quite the same as reading about all these great matches that only traders had.
The standard answer is that wrestling was better when guys came up through the territories, when there were a number of vibrant promotions and legendary trainers breaking guys into the business, and when the crowds were different, the stadiums older and the production values lower, but I think it's actually harder to appreciate matches as they happen as opposed to a decade later. Once people start looking back on this era and doing "best of the 10s" and what not, people will formulate the classics, the hidden gems, and so on. I know a lot of people do that already with ongoing MOTY lists, etc., but if 2014 is given the distance that say 1999 was given with the Yearbook, I expect some fresh ideas about it in the future, especially once you remove people's feelings about the booking and the backstage politics.
Wow, this just hit on every point so perfectly. Well said. The distance is something I have decided I need for my fandom. There were even matches that Dave rated as high as ***** in the 1990s that haven't been very remembered, so I don't think it's exclusive to this era.
Agreed with everything OJ said, too. Wrestling is so context based and I think it is difficult to fully grasp the context of an era or event until after the era/event is over and there has been some time to fully digest the aftermath as well. I think there has always been a tendency to be very critical and perhaps pessimistic of contemporary wrestling. We endlessly compare ALL current wrestling to selective, cherry picked memories from the past which isn't fair. We also don't know how what is current going on in wrestling will impact the future of wrestling. The impact a style or promotion has or doesn't have says a lot of whether it is ultimately effective. The 1999 yearbook is a great example because with the benefit of time and distance, I have been able to appreciate the heyday of the Attitude Era much, much more. At the time, there was a lot of bellyaching about the brawling intensive style, a lack of "technical wrestling", and shorter matches. There was this perception that the crash booking philosophy was leading wrestling down a bad path that it would have difficulty recovering from. In hindsight, the brawling style was really good when done right by guys like Austin and Rock. Now that we are In an era with very little genuine heat, it sticks out how those guys (and others) were able to get a TON of great heat. We all scoffed at guys like Test in 1999 because he wasn't Chris Benoit or Rey Mysterio, Jr. but re-watching it is clear he was a pretty good worker who got over quickly and perhaps should have been utilized better. We now know that wrestling didn't continue down a path of short matches and vulgarity and in fact, came out of it pretty quickly in 2000 - 2002 which was a very successful period for WWF, The matches and that entire era seem more memorable now because we are able to put them in their full context.
Some things don't change. Triple H was still clearly not very good in-ring and had little to no heat despite being booked as strong as you will ever see someone booked form mid-1999 on. But that's the other good thing about watching older wrestling removed from the moment - it can reaffirm opinions.
It is difficult to fully appreciate anything in the moment, as it is happening. I think the same goes for wrestling. A lot of things can only be fully appreciated (either positively or negatively) in the proper context and after enough time has passed to properly reflect on them. At the same time, I like watching stuff as it is happening because it gives you a different perspective that you can than utilize when you go back and re-evaluate years later. There is plenty of good wrestling now and like with any era, I think we will find out five years down the line that some stuff wasn't as good as we might have thought while some 2014 stuff was better than we might have initially thought.
Lastly, I think heat has a lot to do with the point of view that current matches are less memorable. I think it is fair to say that in general - at least in the US - fans are less invested in the matches and results than any other time in history. That leads to less heated matches and therefore less matches that standout as truly epic and memorable. Wrestlers may or may not be more athletic, soundly trained, or whatever but I am not sure how much that really means when not even the biggest matches are getting the kind of invested fan reaction that matches got 15, 20, or 30 years ago.