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Ageism in pro wrestling


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#21 overbooked

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Posted 15 August 2016 - 08:58 AM

Well, Negro Casas is the best worker in the world and he is well into his fifties.

 

Ageism is a funny thing, as there is plenty of evidence to show that wrestlers can still be effective well into their 40s and 50s. In some cases they actually improve with age - physical limitations mean they spend more time on psychology, pacing and the 'little things', the things they have picked up over the years that are actually far more important than the athleticism of youth.

 

Perhaps ageism, or at least conflict between generations, is more notable because there is a clash between the old guys who started up in the last days of kayfabe, and the new guys who are the first truly post-kayfabe workers. I'm pretty sure wrestling has always had old-timers with rose-tinted glasses, but now the younger set have far more of a voice, and a distinctive philosophy too.

 

The Vader/Ospreay thing is odd, because I didn't think fans really cared who won or lost anymore. Why did it matter who went over, in this day and age? 



#22 Matt D

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Posted 15 August 2016 - 09:08 AM

Good post from overbooked.

 

I think that one element related to this is the fans' ages. When you're young and on the internet and caught up in the moment and discovering the freedom that comes with having the veil lifted and the inner working of the business and tapping into the Meltzerian culture of workrate it leads to a too cool for school attitude where you become part of something fresh by rebelling against the establishment (even if, numerically, you ARE the establishment online). 

 

Wrestling is a bs carny business where athleticism is not necessarily the most important thing and there are plenty of territories where a guy like Bulldog Bob Brown or Verne or whoever used power and politics to keep himself on top. That led to a certain ease of resentment which isn't necessarily based on facts, and, a counter-reaction of circling the wagons whenever something new does come around. 



#23 Loss

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Posted 15 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.

 

I just don't agree with this. I don't think the 60s/70s comparison works because we don't have nearly the same amount of footage for those decades that we do for the 80s. It's less an issue of being uninterested or deeming it irrelevant (although admittedly some of that was probably in play) than it is that there just isn't a huge amount of that stuff out there and accessible. (It is now more so than it was then because of things like the Chicago Films project and the emergence of French catch.)

 

It's interesting that you say the 80s stuff just isn't the relevant older wrestling people look back to, because I don't think that's the case for 1990s or 2000s wrestling either, nor am I sure it's even the case for wrestling that is more than six months old. I can't recall a time when historical comparisons of matches were more out of style than they are now, or where people can give a match ****+ and it's considered old news within a month. I also didn't say the old stuff isn't remembered, I said it's resented, and to an extent, I do believe that to be true.

 

I can like or not like the disposable approach to even the best wrestling matches that seems more common now (Do people still talk about something like Tanahashi-Suzuki or Styles-Suzuki?), just as I can like or not like that higher value is placed on All Things Current than All Things Good. (If you've never seen a match, why does whether it happened two days ago or two decades ago even matter in determining whether it's worth watching?) But it's hard for me to deny that either is the case. The constant focus on the here and now is ironically a concession to the Dave Meltzer approach to watching wrestling that so many in our circles have critiqued for years. And in that constant here and now focus, you get false assumptions about previous eras from people that should know better, like the 30-minute headlock comment goc mentioned or in a more benign example, Dave calling the 2014 G-1 Climax the best tournament in wrestling history without even attempting to identify other great tournaments that have happened and make side-by-side comparisons.

 

***

 

So I wrote the above post then immediately questioned things about it, but I still decided to post it because it captured something that even if it's not entirely right is worth sharing, because it allowed me to flesh out my thoughts. But then I started thinking about it more and it's not so much that there's a bias against old people or old matches. French Catch caught fire at PWO, as did the Chicago film archives project. It's that there's a bias toward uncharted and undiscovered wrestlers and matches, many of which happen to be current. I even have that bias to an extent in that I get excited if I find a match from a long time ago and it looks interesting on paper, yet I've literally never heard a word about its quality. I don't think ageism in wrestling is ageism in the literal sense -- I think it's more ageism of any time-tested beliefs about wrestling's matches and performers. That can manifest itself as ageism, and has for sure at times during the Vader-Ospreay debate. But there's probably a better term for it. We live in a time where people have tremendous distrust in institutions, so I think it's a logical extension of that. In a larger sense, Vader forming the conclusion he did about Ospreay isn't much different than Bill Clinton claiming Bernie supporters think everything would be okay if we would just shoot every third person on Wall Street. Both are ill-advised broad statements based on skewed undersampling. However, the one thing that is lost is that I think it's perfectly valid to form whatever conclusions of a wrestling sequence after seeing the wrestling sequence in GIF form, which is what *most* of the critique was.



#24 Matt D

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Posted 15 August 2016 - 08:25 PM

I love seeing Marty go through classics for the first time. Just dropping that here, especially since he's a young punk.

#25 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 15 August 2016 - 08:44 PM

I do not think the trend Loss is talking about is unique to wrestling, it is an affliction that taints all interests. I call it Sproggism because it is the pursuit of the sprog: a ribald disrespect for the classics in worship of the Cult of the New. Some areas have it worse than others. Board gaming, for example, has a particularly bad case of the Cult of the New.

 

There will always be people who want to go back to the sands of time, and to understand something from the ground up; who are not afraid to get stuck in to the dirt of history. But the vast majority of others -- the sprogs, the unwashed masses, the riders of the steam train -- will content themselves with ignoring the past to live in and only in the present. They do not care about the past and their attiude acts as an automatic defence mechanism which wards against them ever actually getting to know it.

 

Of course, the same is possible the other way around and those so disposed can create a hermetically sealed past beyond which they need never look. This is especially true in music fan circles, where it is common for even the most obsessive fans to have a "cut off" year beyond which they do not explore. In almost every field, just as sproggism, this is a bad thing. The sole exception to this is wrestling, because wrestling is quantifiably, demonstrably, and undeniably worse after the death of kayfabe. It is broken and can never be fixed. I actually view it almost in Biblical terms. The Era of Kayfabe is somewhat like The Garden of Eden -- innocent mark fans getting lost in Paradise, for they know not what they possess. The post-Kayfabe era is a time when fans are Fallen: the smart fan, having eaten the forbidden fruit, now knows too much. They live in a Paradise Lost, and in time, they know not what they have lost.



#26 Ricky Jackson

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Posted 15 August 2016 - 08:48 PM

Not saying I agree with it, but damn that last part was beautiful Parv

#27 overbooked

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 02:26 AM

The sole exception to this is wrestling, because wrestling is quantifiably, demonstrably, and undeniably worse after the death of kayfabe. It is broken and can never be fixed. I actually view it almost in Biblical terms. The Era of Kayfabe is somewhat like The Garden of Eden -- innocent mark fans getting lost in Paradise, for they know not what they possess. The post-Kayfabe era is a time when fans are Fallen: the smart fan, having eaten the forbidden fruit, now knows too much. They live in a Paradise Lost, and in time, they know not what they have lost.

 

I think this could be a new thread, as much as an example of ageism in pro wrestling, as there is so much to unpack. As much as I think I may agree with the philosophy behind it, I'm not sure it completely stands up. There were always fans who were clued up, or suspicious, or questioning. There was always a general population who were pretty sniffy about it. Wrestling was always kind-of broken. I doubt we could agree on a date when kayfabe ended, and even today there are glimpses of it still existing, in some form, depending on how you define kayfabe, which is a whole other discussion. However, I do think the shift away from "Believing" to something else is probably at the heart of ageism, as much as it is at the heart of how wrestling as a performance has changed, fandom has changed, and wrestling criticism has changed. I just think it is still hard to pin down exactly what happened, and when.



#28 Loss

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 05:29 AM

I don't think kayfabe means fans once thought wrestling was real. I think it means that wrestling always presented itself as completely and totally real up until a certain point in time. We're at a weird point where pre-shows and post-shows on the Network are in character, but documentaries or podcasts on the network are not. Fans are sort of expected to just know the difference rather than it being a clear, consistent application across every platform.



#29 GOTNW

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 06:01 AM

 

It's interesting that you say the 80s stuff just isn't the relevant older wrestling people look back to, because I don't think that's the case for 1990s or 2000s wrestling either, nor am I sure it's even the case for wrestling that is more than six months old. I can't recall a time when historical comparisons of matches were more out of style than they are now, or where people can give a match ****+ and it's considered old news within a month. I also didn't say the old stuff isn't remembered, I said it's resented, and to an extent, I do believe that to be true.

I mean that is a very real side effect of a consumerist society but when I think more about it I don't buy it one bit. People talk about "older" wrestling all the time. Wrestling that is more than a few months old always gets mentioned in people's MOTY lists. Wrestling older more than a few years gets mentioned in lists of their favourite matches. I'm not even sure how you go about doing something like that. Here's an example-I absolutely love this match.

I wrote a review for it praising it. Put it on my MOTY list. Pimped it on twitter. Sometimes mention it when I watching the Suzuki-Nakanoue stuff that came after it. I'm mentioning it here once again because I do think it is absolutely something almost everyone (at least people not grossed out by brutal PRIDE fights) would love. I mean. What more is there to do? If someone doesn't want to watch Big Japan because they watched a bunch of boring Sekimoto matches five years ago, that's their call. I think they're missing out but I can't force anyone to watch something. Generally speaking I think these days everyone has their bubble that they're not particularly interested looking outside of due to the sheer amount of wrestling out there. And if you're not around those bubbles it might some seem like nothing's remembered.



#30 overbooked

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 07:06 AM

I don't think kayfabe means fans once thought wrestling was real. I think it means that wrestling always presented itself as completely and totally real up until a certain point in time. We're at a weird point where pre-shows and post-shows on the Network are in character, but documentaries or podcasts on the network are not. Fans are sort of expected to just know the difference rather than it being a clear, consistent application across every platform.

 

This absolutely makes sense, but I still think it is tricky defining when the switch took place, or even if that switch has completely happened yet. WWF/E has flirted with it to some degree or other for at least 30 years. I'm not sure there was ever a real Garden of Eden, as wrestling has always been a bit shaky on doing kayfabe right. it is just more obvious and deliberate now.

 

Lucha and puro still feel real, although for all I know the commentary might be breaking kayfabe all over the place. The only modern stuff I keep up with in any way is lucha, and that is probably because it still feels Garden of Eden-ish. I really struggle to get my head around post-kayfabe modern wrestling. Am I meant to suspend disbelief? Or view it purely as an artistic spectacle? Or enjoy the weird faux-shoot stuff in the middle? Perhaps those anxieties at at the root of any ageism I have towards the modern product.



#31 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 09:03 AM

I would define the moment as being from the first "this is awesome" chant.

#32 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 09:26 AM

I think it's less about the specifics of knowing wrestling is / is not real, and more about a certain type of self-awareness, a loss of innocence.

 

A child is cute up until the point where they become cognisant of their own cuteness; perhaps worried that they are no longer getting the attention they once were, the child hence "acts up" and thereby, paradoxically, ceases to be cute. The wrestling audience is that child. And the wrestlers and promoters themselves are the parents who give the attention-seeking child what they want. Unfortunately, there is no going back after that, as the child goes on to become a stroppy, and spoiled teenager -- ironically losing that newly gained self-awareness, but never regaining the innocence.

 

As Vince Russo, Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff conspired to trash every single old-school principle there was, a whole generation of wrestling fans found the internet and mistook mere athleticism for good work. They forgot that wrestling was a morality play. They forgot that you need storytelling and grand themes of good versus evil or establishment versus rebellion as well as suplexes and backflips. They saw Benoit and Eddie, and demanded Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles; they didn't understand that wrestling was just as much about the The Crushers and Bruisers, Strongbows and Hogans. Just like Russo, Heyman and Bischoff, they thought they were smarter than the people who had been producing wrestling for the past three decades. The super-indie scene brought the workrate but forgot about the booking, the power of an angle, the vitality of strong character, the importance of out-of-ring values writ large on the moral canvas of the wrestling ring. And in this way, the heart and soul of wrestling was lost. As Jim Cornette and Jim Ross ranted, a legion of the so-called smart fans wrote them off as grumpy old men failing to move with the times. And in this way, the lessons of the past were forgotten.



#33 Matt D

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 09:33 AM

I feel that NXT works, as a territory, on a week to week basis despite all of that and for the most part, despite its fans. 

 

I think you're undervaluing structural issues, whether they be twitter, the rise of MMA and sports-driven casuals going that way, or the sheer amount of TV that WWE has to produce now without filler.



#34 Loss

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 10:35 AM

Doesn't TV have filler every week? And is that a rule? And who made that rule? And when was it made? And why was it made? And was it a choice that was right on the merits? Was it conscious? Was it well thought out? I'd like to explore that.



#35 Matt D

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 10:43 AM

The argument would be that it was due to the Monday Night War and that we've only seen a return to jobber matches (in very specific situations) over the last couple of years, and really, save for Ryback, just in the last month.



#36 El-P

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 11:31 AM

I think he's undervaluing the fact that we're in 2016 and not in 1970 too.

 

I love the idea that Eric Bischoff, Vince Russo and Paul Heyman of all people are responsible for guys like AJ Styles & Daniel Bryan (two objectively great, great wrestlers) becoming stars in the 10's. Eric "nWo Hollywood" Bischoff, Vince "David Arquette" Russo and Paul "Sandman & RVD" Heyman. Oh, the hilarity.

 

And yes, Jim Ross & Jim Cornette (whom I have defended for way long before I just couldn't stand some of his shit) are acting like two old fucks lost in an era that doesn't exist. Lucha Underground rules, people.



#37 El-P

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 11:41 AM

I think it's less about the specifics of knowing wrestling is / is not real, and more about a certain type of self-awareness, a loss of innocence.

 

Ok, seriously Parv, what are you smoking ? Loss of innocence ? Pro-wrestling as a carny trick to get "simple" (to be polite) people spend their money to watch fake fights.



#38 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 12:25 PM

If you read carefully I made no such causal connection.

#39 El-P

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 12:48 PM

I know. The evil "smart marks" wanted flippy-flops and the Russo/Bischoff/Heyman triad destroyed the "values" of old-school, and together they fucked it up because they all thought they were "smarter". Ok. You're channeling Corny ?

 

(BTW, where is Vince McMahon responsability in all of this ? You realize he, and not Russo, had the final say on the Attitude Era. He put Stephy into creative. He's responsible for the dull monopoly, crazy TNA outsider aside, that is responsible for the shape of the current scene.)



#40 jdw

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 01:40 PM

My head spins.






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