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Ageism in pro wrestling


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#1 goc

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 05:17 PM

So after seeing some of the reaction to Vader beating Will Ospreay in their match and recalling the whole twitter "debate" that preceded it I had to ask myself if there is any other fan base that seems to have such rampant ageism as pro wrestling does?

 

It's not just about not wanting to see "old guys" wrestle but it seems like any time anyone from the wrestling world over the age of 40 says something that isn't lavishing praise on current wrestling there is a huge barrage of vitriolic comments ranging from calling them "old fucks" to saying they need to get back to their retirement home or the standard "old man shakes fist at cloud." And of course the frequent wild exaggeration about "30 minute headlocks" whenever someone tries to say that wrestling was better in the 70s/80s/or pretty much anything pre-1995. It seems like there are a lot of wrestling fans that can't disagree with something an older wrestling personality says without coming up with some insult about age.

 

All sports have some aspect of ageism as any time an athlete gets to a certain age (which varies sport to sport) people start a retirement clock on them. But it goes beyond "when is this guy going to retire?" to almost acting like anyone past a certain age shouldn't be allowed to even have an opinion on pro wrestling anymore. So I thought I'd start this topic just to try and start a conversation about why ageism seems to be readily accepted in pro wrestling fandom and if there is any other kind of fan base that's comparable in that aspect.



#2 sek69

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 06:11 PM

Wrestling is such a different beast that people never leave the business unless they die or get too injured to compete. That leads to a lot of old timers feeling their opinions carry more weight than the youngsters, and maybe sometimes there's merit to that. The problem is that a lot of old timers don't handle getting their ideas challenged very well and usually end up coming off very poorly in the process. There's also the very real issue of not every great booking idea from the past being able to work today, and some people who either were fans of the past territories or worked for them take it to heart too much.



#3 Loss

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 06:49 PM

Wrestling has changed a lot. I think I was in denial about that for a long time, and it really hit me with Wrestlemania this year just how much it is different. I'm still making sense of it, but I realize that fighting it is futile. I hope I grow to appreciate it more over time so that I can continue a hobby that has brought me so much entertainment for so many years. But yes, it's rare that people engage people on the merits of whatever opinions they espouse. The messenger gets far more attention than the message, and that's not exclusive to old wrestlers, but I hate it. 

 

There is something I want to say that is going to age me soooo much but I'm thinking it so I might as well put it out there. I don't remember hardcore fan types in late 90s/early 2000s resenting the previous era and the way wrestling used to be as much as I think many newer fans resent it now. And I'm not saying that so much as a "back in my day" thing, although it sounds that way. It's just something I want to understand and wrap my head around. In the early 2000s, the Ric Flair DVD was an enormous success and paved the way for countless compilations released by WWE. Now WWE is hesitant to upload more footage to the network because no one watches the old stuff. Not to mention that they've gone from ignoring all of their history prior to 1984 to ignoring all of their history prior to 1993 when RAW debuted. There's a mentality about old stuff that has changed in the past 12 years and I'm not sure when or how or why that happened. I don't think it's even the majority (it may be), but it's a decent number of people nonetheless.

 

I do think being a wrestler should be something that people do who are mostly in their 20s and 30s, just like the real sports they have always aimed to emulate.



#4 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 07:11 PM

I broadly support ageism if it is directed at younger fans, especially those around 18-25.



#5 GOTNW

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 08:10 PM

The idea that fans hate older wrestling now is completely inaccurate, as of course is the idea anything's really changed in how fandom works. Put this into perspective Loss-Ric Flair's classics on those DVDs may not have been as old as Attitude Era matches are now, let alone the Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels stuff that's also part of the cannon. The 80s stuff just isn't the relevant older wrestling people look back to and compare current things to just like 60s/70s stuff wasn't relevant when people were talking about how much the Attitude Era sucks and how it was better when Hogan ruled. If anything older wrestling is now remembered more than ever due to how easily footage is available to find and share.

#6 fakeplastictrees

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 10:11 PM

Just some rough thoughts...I am going to go more in depth on this in a future podcast, but I think what this really comes down to is the old guys not moving into the new age gracefully. I am not talking about an old timey wrestler not love Generic Flippy Dude #32942994829 vs. Generic Flippy Dude # 939237286283. I am talking about the old timey wrestler not jiving with the general direction of the business and its interacts with the outside world. Whether its technology ( THE INTERNET FANS~! ), attitudes on the business from people within the business ( ITS NOT A JOB ITS A LIFE~! ), or some other random shitty thing ( LACK OF FANNIE PACKS~!), the old guys usually come off pretty bad. Factor in a lot of them just FLAT OUT NOT LEAVING when the time is right and that leads to the hostility and 'shut up old man' comments, etc. WCW began really struggling because people viewed the product as the old timers home while WWE had all the fresh 'young' talent in Austin, HHH, Foley, Rock, DX, Kane, etc. Fans also know a good con when they see one and know that guys like, in this case Vader, are just angling for that extra payday and it all comes off desperate and cheap and people know that there is some promoter out there who is going to bite and then that fan's ROH 2005 will turn into TNA 2010.

 

more later..



#7 El-P

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Posted 13 August 2016 - 02:24 AM

Come on. The biggest show of the year is built around nostalgia and old fuckers.



#8 sek69

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Posted 13 August 2016 - 03:56 AM

Come on. The biggest show of the year is built around nostalgia and old fuckers.

 

 

...and I think that creates a lot of the resentment towards the old guys as well. Fans who don't like how the company treats their favorites get upset they rely on draws from a bygone era, the older guys not used to the post-Internet Twitter banter world end up snapping back at them and looking like they're shaking their canes at all the whippersnappers in their yard, 



#9 goc

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Posted 13 August 2016 - 04:52 AM

Some of you guys sure did go out of your way to prove my point about ageism in wrestling fans.



#10 El-P

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Posted 13 August 2016 - 05:29 AM

A lot of what I read here is not ageism at all. It's valid points.

 

And yeah, older pro-wrestling as probably never been appreciated more than before.



#11 van_Fair

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Posted 13 August 2016 - 05:54 AM

Some of you guys sure did go out of your way to prove my point about ageism in wrestling fans.


So what you're saying is valid criticisms = ageism?
I'm sorry should people just agree with someones statements and actions simply because they are older? That seems like a very backwards attitude to me.

#12 goc

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Posted 13 August 2016 - 06:03 AM

 

Some of you guys sure did go out of your way to prove my point about ageism in wrestling fans.


So what you're saying is valid criticisms = ageism?
I'm sorry should people just agree with someones statements and actions simply because they are older? That seems like a very backwards attitude to me.

 


I'm talking about the "old fucks" "shaking their canes at all the whippersnappers in their yard" type of language that gets thrown around.

 

If a woman criticizes something about wrestling then it's not going to be acceptable for her arguments to get refuted with "just some dumb bitch" "she must be on her period" type of bullshit yet when it comes to older people in wrestling just insulting their age seems to be all the argument needed some times.



#13 El-P

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Posted 13 August 2016 - 07:36 AM

Because some old fucks are acting out like old fucks. That's why. The whole "it's not as it used to be, these young pricks don't know what they are doing and they play X-box instead of drug raping rats" is indeed old fucks talk. So there. They are the one making their age an issue.

 

Likewise some young pricks who don't know shit and get worked by an MMA troll on Twitter. The old fuck Jericho was the only one carny enough to make a smart reply.



#14 goc

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Posted 13 August 2016 - 08:13 AM

Because some old fucks are acting out like old fucks. That's why. The whole "it's not as it used to be, these young pricks don't know what they are doing and they play X-box instead of drug raping rats" is indeed old fucks talk. So there. They are the one making their age an issue.

 

Likewise some young pricks who don't know shit and get worked by an MMA troll on Twitter. The old fuck Jericho was the only one carny enough to make a smart reply.

I guess I can just relate to people who have fond memories of the past and still long for it. Like the way I long for that period a few months ago where you stopped posting.



#15 sek69

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Posted 13 August 2016 - 01:42 PM

The only time people are "ageist" is when the older generation makes an ass of itself on social media. Otherwise, pro wrestling is by far the most accepting to older folks than any other form of sports or entertainment. Like El-P mentioned, sometimes it goes both ways watching everyone in WWE but old pro Jericho get worked into a froth by a fighter doing an 80s Ric Flair cosplay.



#16 El-P

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Posted 13 August 2016 - 06:08 PM

Not to mention people gushing over 60 years old Jerry Lawler matches, the fact we all pretty much praised past 40's Tenryu's career as one of the best ever, or even I singing the praise of physically washed up but smarter veteran Shane Douglas on TNA PPV from 2003 as well as Raven's work in 2004 when he was already past his physical prime himself.

 

Not to mention the smarkiest, most obnoxious bunch of pro-wrestling fans ever in the ECW Arena Mutants treating past 50 years old Terry Funk like a deity.

 

Not to mention the old fuckers lucha guys being revered and still packing crowds for their last mask matches, the japanese veterans always being showed shitloads of respect by their audience etc...

 

Wanna talk about the nWo and those pesky young guys Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash & Scott Hall jumpstarting the last boom in pro-wrestling history, before 55 years old Vince McMahon became the biggest heel ever ?



#17 C.S.

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Posted 14 August 2016 - 12:23 AM

Vader is 60 years old. Name any other sport where that would be acceptable. You can't, and it would never happen. Wrestling is indeed a different beast and there has been plenty of acceptance of older guys - both points mentioned above.

 

But two things to keep in mind here:

 

1. Vader started this by acting like a grumpy old man going on a soapbox along the lines of "these damn kids" and "things were better in my day" (not direct quotes, just the general sentiment of what he was spewing). I'm sure it quickly turned into a work after that, but I don't think it was one in his first post.

 

2. More importantly, Vader played the heel throughout all of this. No matter how "smart" wrestling fans may think they are, the "smartest" ones are usually the dumbest and easiest to work and troll. They got worked and trolled hard here.

 

As I said in the Ospreay/Vader thread: "Looks like Vader beat Will Ospreay. Really hope this is leading to a rematch and series. Otherwise, wow, what a pointless result. Won't affect Ospreay's career one bit, but still, what does it do for the barely-active part-time Vader?"

 

A couple of folks replied with compelling points, and like I said, this won't hurt Ospreay. Couldn't have been too satisfying for the RPW fans in attendance though. Maybe this is leading to more, but maybe it isn't? I wouldn't know because I don't follow RPW and haven't seen the match. If there are more matches and more money to be made (maybe a DVD set of the entire feud), good. If not, I'll ask again, why have Vader win? He has barely anything left in the tank while Ospreay potentially has decades to contribute. If this is a once and done, it won't dent Ospreay career either way, but what does it do for Vader? Nothing. He gets the same payday either way.

 

Asking a valid question isn't ageism.



#18 goc

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Posted 14 August 2016 - 08:47 AM

It's not just about not wanting to see "old guys" wrestle

It seems like there are a lot of wrestling fans that can't disagree with something an older wrestling personality says without coming up with some insult about age.

 
So apparently Loss is the only person who actually read my original post so thanks to him. Seems like everyone else just wanted to prove the point.

 

And some of these "nuh uh it's not even a thing" examples are totally fucking shit. Like "but WWE has a lot of people of color in the company so there's no racism there" or "WWE has had a women's wrestling division for over a decade, there is clearly no sexism or misogyny" level examples.



#19 C.S.

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Posted 14 August 2016 - 10:03 AM

So apparently Loss is the only person who actually read my original post so thanks to him. Seems like everyone else just wanted to prove the point.
 
And some of these "nuh uh it's not even a thing" examples are totally fucking shit. Like "but WWE has a lot of people of color in the company so there's no racism there" or "WWE has had a women's wrestling division for over a decade, there is clearly no sexism or misogyny" level examples.

 

We all read it. Just because you want to inaccurately insist that something is ageism doesn't make it so. You also construct a false narrative that every older wrestler who criticizes today's industry or talent gets automatically dumped on for it.
 

That's absolutely not true though.

 

There have been plenty of instances of older wrestlers criticizing younger ones without the fans automatically labeling them old, out of touch, and any other "ageist" insult.

 

Stone Cold is the biggest example. He is always offering constructive criticism of today's talent, and fans seem to agree with him for the most part.

 

Even when Shawn Michaels called out Dolph Ziggler for being a carbon copy of other wrestlers who hasn't gone the extra mile to establish his own identity, I don't recall anyone really disagreeing with that.

 

About Osprey and Ricochet specifically, a bunch of wrestlers commented on the lack of selling in that match - I know for sure that Austin was one of them - and they weren't lambasted for pointing that out. It was a valid criticism.

 

Vader saw a gif - a gif and not the entire match - and proceeded to have an opinion about two wrestlers, their style, and everything else under the sun. Many fans - including me, I'll admit - were just as guilty of that. But the difference is, I ended up watching the match and revising my opinion. (But even if I still felt the same way afterward, at least I would have been armed with all the facts.) I'm not sure Vader ever did. (Of course, after the first tweet or two, it turned into a giant work and Vader expertly trolled and heeled all the "smart" fans.)

 

Keep in mind, too, that there are a lot of older wrestlers who are bitter, out of touch, and spew off a ton of nonsense and make themselves sound bad in the process. "We knew how to work, brother." Vader's comment only added to that baggage.



#20 Parties

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Posted 14 August 2016 - 12:26 PM

There are many counterexamples to “wrestling is ageist”, even in WWE where Vince claims to hate seeing older people wrestle/on TV. For every Jim Ross slag there’s been a nostalgia pop/GM role for Hogan, Flair, Foley ad nauseum. I’ve been very critical of Undertaker’s role for years, even if it works in the short-term on the night of his return. Wrestling is largely about icons and the “legend” of a character’s history and persona, so it’s only natural that the old-timer character would have legs when used right. It’s the Heyman idea of what ECW did with Funk as a god of wrestling, and later what he pitched to TNA, where he told them that they could have one legend who he would build stories around (and that they could pick whichever one they wanted, be it Flair/Hogan/Sting/even someone like Booker T), but that they needed to choose one and ditch the rest, as having a show full of old gunslingers dilutes the concept.

Take Japan, where age is viewed quite differently: About eight or nine years ago now, AJPW (then under Mutoh’s booking) toyed with the idea of a true Masters League, wherein they’d run shows of nothing but 50+ wrestlers. I believe the idea was to build around Mutoh and Fujinami, with guys like Fuchi, Fujiwara, Choshu, and other 80s stars in your undercard. Japan and Mexico at large still use veterans very heavily, in a range of ways: Kabuki in your Dome show battle royal, Sayama on the indies, lucha maestros on Youtube, etc. Even guys like Jun Akiyama or Minoru Suzuki are the same age as Triple H. But in the States, I do think we’ve seen as many companies who’ve failed because they were too nostalgic (Cornette, Harley Race’s company, latter-day Memphis, Jimmy Hart’s various projects) as we have of companies who failed by not having enough reverence/connection to wrestling’s past (maybe something like an XPW or Wrestling Society X, or Bischoff’s ventures that never got off the ground, or one of the other many failed endeavors of the 2000s). I suspect that if you’re perceiving a lot of kvetching from younger fans about the “old fucks”, it’s not so much their age as it is the hope that wrestling can enter another boom and create new mega-stars out of workers currently in their athletic prime. This is a false choice not to be taken literally, but if there was an either/or scenario where you have to choose between Lawler getting to have a title match with the Miz *or* actually pushing someone like Drew Galloway, even a huge Lawler fan like myself would rather see the young guy with massive upside get the opportunity. So perhaps there's a questionable correlation being made by certain fans: "Cesaro and Sami Zayn are being held back because Taker-Shane has to headline Mania!" is the 2016 equivalent of "Bret and Shawn are being held back because Hogan-Slaughter has to headline Mania!" There's truth to the sentiment, but the direct causation isn't clear.

If the real gripe here is that RPW booked a really stupid worked shoot Russo angle of “The old guys are keeping young up-and-comers like Will Ospreay and Evan Karagious down”, then I agree. Even if it does build to a rematch where Ospreay wins (or tag with Dunne and Ricochet), I suspect the whole angle/feud won’t age well (ha!) when looked back upon a decade from now. But how age is perceived in wrestling is a larger topic. Ospreay and Ricochet have been outspoken advocates of "Wrestling is always changing", and the name of the game is "Evolve", "Progress", "Revolution". Yet American indies still have tons of old guys and often sell whatever tickets they can on having *the* Jim Duggan or DDP or Ricky Morton or 9,000 other examples. Most fans spend money and watch wrestling with some degree of nostalgia. Whether that’s a positive or a negative depends on how the older acts are being utilized. My own personal reaction to Vader-Ospreay isn’t that ageism is a pervasive issue in wrestling, but rather a different “old guard vs. kids today” paradigm: I’m a wrestling fan in his early 30s whose fandom was changed for the better by things like that Flair DVD, and who finds the idea of in-ring feuds based around Twitter spats to be really lame. But I’m sure there will come a day where someone has like, the MS-1/Chicana of Twitter-based matches, at which point the business (and media at large) will have changed.






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