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Ageism in pro wrestling


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#41 The Fray Movement

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 03:20 PM

To be fair, I think Dave Meltzer is more responsible for killing the business than anything "Russo", "Heyman," & "Bischoff" ever did. Without his newsletter, Bushiroad and its awful booking and mediocre ring work would never recieve the attention it does today. Because of "Dave", we've got "men" like "Omega" jerking around for half the year and then winning Thesz/Flair because he had three "decent" matches at the end of the most overrated round robin tournament in professional wrestling. 

 

Don't blame Paul E., or "Vince", or Eric. Blame Meltzer and probably David Bixenspan too. 

 

Dirt sheets are the worst, man. 



#42 sek69

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 06:09 PM

Man, all I gotta say is Johnny's gonna be so pissed when he finds out ya'll got into his stash.



#43 Parties

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Posted 16 August 2016 - 08:50 PM

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.

 

Most fans who actively watch modern wrestling would happily welcome modern versions of Bruisers, Crushers, Hogans, and even Strongbows on their weekly TV. Benoit, Eddy, Bryan, and Styles would have gotten over in 1950/1970/1990 working their style or the style of the bygone era. To fault the fans is to fault the victim. I don't like "This is awesome" chants either, but they're not the problem or even particularly emblematic of the problem. The blame should be placed upon WCW killing wrestling's southern roots, 20 years of bad WWE booking, the homogenization of talent, Vince losing touch, and largely uninspired indie bookers who lack the imagination or knowledge to stop parroting WWE (TNA) or avoid cringe-worthy hackery (ROH, Lucha Underground, more TNA, even EVOLVE to a degree, etc.)

 

Keep in mind that we're saying all of this at a moment when WWE's presentation and direction seem better than they have in years, lucha is as good as it's been in a decade, and numerous indies around the U.S. are booking fantastic matches and characters. Even some of the more flawed companies cited above still have a lot of good matches and TV segments. RevPro and all the other wink-wink kayfabe-soiling idiocy happening in the UK scene right isn't really representative of the big picture, which feels healthier and truer to the spirit of wrestling's old guard than it has in some time.



#44 fxnj

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 02:39 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.

Watch some news reel footage from the 30's or 40's and you'll hear commentary pretty openly mocking wrestling and not even trying to treat it as a legitimate sport. My grandpa only needed to see one match back in the day to realize the whole thing was fake. The kayfabe situation is far more nuanced than it simple being "alive" then "dead," and the 70's-80's period where it was treated as a big deal is a relatively brief period in the overall history of US wrestling. I'd also argue the emphasis placed on protecting the business during that period is more indicative of the lowest-common-denominator crowd being pandered to than anything to do with the working style as stuff from that period is generally far more distanced from a real fight than stuff before or since.

#45 El-P

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 03:15 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.

Watch some news reel footage from the 30's or 40's and you'll hear commentary pretty openly mocking wrestling and not even trying to treat it as a legitimate sport. My grandpa only needed to see one match back in the day to realize the whole thing was fake. The kayfabe situation is far more nuanced than it simple being "alive" then "dead," and the 70's-80's period where it was treated as a big deal is a relatively brief period in the overall history of US wrestling. I'd also argue the emphasis placed on protecting the business during that period is more indicative of the lowest-common-denominator crowd being pandered to than anything to do with the working style as stuff from that period is generally far more distanced from a real fight than stuff before or since.

 

Word. If you listen to the french announcer Roger Couderc (who was awesome) during the Golden Years of French Catch in the 50's and 60's, there's a definite "wink-wink" element in the way he treats the whole thing, although never mocking pro-wrestling. My father used to sneak in with his friends to watch L'Ange Blanc and such at that time, and he never thought wrestling wasn't fake. The whole "kayfabe era when people believed it" never really existed. And the people who really thought it was real, well, it kinda speaks poorly about them and the way pro-wrestling were using their lack of culture and intelligence.



#46 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 03:25 AM

And so we come to the inevitable slew of counter claims: kayfabe never existed, and people never believed; Russ Davis and Joe Garigiola were both a bit nudge-nudge wink-wink on commentary; wrestling is actually really good now; the 70s and 80s are outlier periods in the history of kayfabe; there were newspaper articles exposing the business; people always mocked wrestling; coal miners in the 1930s actually discussed workrate; and so on and so on and so forth. And blah blah blah.

None of it changes the fact that if you watch wrestling before 2001 you generally get crowds who cheer and boo, and who seem genuinely invested in what they are watching, while if you watch it after crowds seem more interested in getting themselves over and voicing their two-bit opinions on "booking direction". To pretend nothing has changed is to be blind to something so obvious and plain to see that it should not really need pointing out. Sometimes we don't need more than vernacular intuition to prove a point, and in this case, the evidence is so overwhelmingly in favour of what I've said, that objections should be treated as token jobber offense.

"Fight forever, fight forever" - on reflection, that match was a cornerstone moment in wrestling history: perhaps the largest spontaneous act of posturing ever witnessed, as 9,000 people in Dallas at once want to be seen as knowing who Shinsuke Nakamura actually is. A bizarre moment in which a crowd en masse shows off it's "smart" credentials. Yes, Dallas, we respect how smart you all are.

Let's apportion some specific blame:

Paul Heyman - chiefly responsible for the self-aware crowd that gets itself over.

Eric Bischoff - chiefly responsible for destroying Southern wrestling and giving Vince a monopoly.

Vince Russo - chiefly responsible for inculcating insufferable cutesy post-modern presentation in which wrestling becomes a knowing parody of itself.

Dave Meltzer - chiefly responsible for producing Scott Keith, CRZ, The Rick, and a hundred other fans who knew better who in turn created many thousands more fans who knew better.

Gabe Sapolsky - chiefly responsible for commentators and wrestlers acknowledging and pandering to "critical acclaim"

#47 overbooked

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 04:03 AM

Let's apportion some specific blame:

Paul Heyman - chiefly responsible for the self-aware crowd that gets itself over.
 

 

I'm no Heyman fan, but I think this is too simplistic. He just harnessed a Philly crowd who always had those inclinations, and made that behaviour more acceptable and mainstream. But considering how irony soaked the nineties were (in the wider culture, not just wrestling), that was probably inevitable anyway.

 

I'm also surprised you haven't got Vince McMahon on that list. WWF was hardly the last bastion of kayfabe, or crowds that cared.



#48 Matt D

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 04:04 AM

Obviously the real enemy is Martin Luther.

#49 El-P

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 04:04 AM

Eric Bischoff - chiefly responsible for destroying Southern wrestling and giving Vince a monopoly.

 

Yes. Don't let the fact in the way of your ridiculous reactionnary narrative. WCW was drawing flies in 93 before Bischoff came in. WCW beat WWF at its own game in 96 and jump-started arguably the biggest boom in wrestling history. Then you know what happened. Bischoff may be partly responsible for WCW's demise, but the idea that he gave Vince the monopoly is a plain lie.

 

As far as the cult of southern wrestling as it was some kind of superior and pure essence of US pro-wrestling, well, it's also ridiculous. Plus, Dallas, Florida, Mid-South surely died because of Bischoff, much like Memphis became a indy because of Evil Uncle Eric. The Mid-Atlantic territory died the day it was sold to Turner. So, blame the Crokies I guess.

 

Dave Meltzer - chiefly responsible for producing Scott Keith, CRZ, The Rick, and a hundred other fans who knew better who in turn created many thousands more fans who knew better.

 

Ah, the anti-Dave Meltzer point now. Gotta love it. Well, first, Jim Cornette and some other guy whose name eludes me invented the star rating. So there. And if we have to blame Meltzer for something, blame him for *us* then.

 

Also, I love the idea that a crowd full of people actually having fun is a bad thing. Really, I'm annoyed as anyone by some of these chants, but the line has to be drawn at some point too. Pro-wrestling is entertainment. People going to a pro-wrestling show and having fun *with* or *against* the show are entitled to do so. What about those "smart marks" chanting "We want Flair!" at the GAB 90 ? Were they guilty of being corrupted by "Evil Meltzerism" already ? Of because they were chanting for Flair and shat on a crappy show, they were decent old-school fans still in the "Garden of Eden of kayfabe" ( :rolleyes: ) ?

 

And yes, kayfabe existed. Form the pro-wrestler's point of view. But let's not pretend the people ate it up without thinking. I never, ever "believed" in pro-wrestling, not for one second.



#50 El-P

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 04:07 AM

I'm no Heyman fan, but I think this is too simplistic. He just harnessed a Philly crowd who always had those inclinations, and made that behaviour more acceptable and mainstream.

 

"Shane sucks Johnny's dick". Philly. NWA. 1989. Oh, evil Heyman, you evil boy.



#51 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 04:22 AM

 

Let's apportion some specific blame:

Paul Heyman - chiefly responsible for the self-aware crowd that gets itself over.
 

 

I'm no Heyman fan, but I think this is too simplistic. He just harnessed a Philly crowd who always had those inclinations, and made that behaviour more acceptable and mainstream. But considering how irony soaked the nineties were (in the wider culture, not just wrestling), that was probably inevitable anyway.

 

After watching dozens and dozens of Philly cards from the Vince Sr era, it is true that the crowd was a little snarkier than the average. There was a contingent who cheered Larry Z even while he was feuding with Bruno. There were Backlund booers, and Billy Graham cheerers.

 

Vince Sr, a booker who understood that he and HE alone dictated what the crowd got never once wavered, not ONCE, in giving in to that crowd. He basically grabbed them by the scruff of the neck and pushed their faces in the sand and said "screw you, I don't care what you do, you're having THIS. Cheer this guy, boo this guy" And if you watch those shows, the dick element in the crowd is mostly silenced by the end of a title match. The idea that Philly crowds couldn't be tamed is patent nonsense. I've watched them give Backlund plenty of ovations and I've watched them boo the shit out of Sgt. Slaughter and even ostensibly "cool" heels like Don Muraco "the beach bum".

 

Paul Heyman -- lacking the strength and conviction of Sr, more desparate I guess to create SOMEthing -- just pandered to those elements in the crowd rather than moving to curb them. The internet, not knowing as much as it thinks, mistook lazy, bad, gutless booking for something innovative. It wasn't innovative, it was a booker trying to give a crowd what it wanted. Yes, he created a nice cult atmosphere for a while, but history shows it's not the way to do business. And ECW failed.

 

Also, the idea that it was simply wrestling following the "sign of the times" is pretty ridiculous to me. The 60s, 70s and 80s all had their fair share of popular counter-culture and anti-establishment types. And wrestling promotors harnessed them in every decade. What they didn't do is lose control of their crowds because ... they knew how to book.



#52 El-P

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 04:28 AM

Yeah, pro-wrestling has always been a harvest for harnessing counter-culture.  :rolleyes:



#53 ohtani's jacket

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 04:31 AM

The real enemy is the internet. In which case Parv should go off the grid. 



#54 overbooked

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 04:38 AM

 

Also, the idea that it was simply wrestling following the "sign of the times" is pretty ridiculous to me. The 60s, 70s and 80s all had their fair share of popular counter-culture and anti-establishment types. And wrestling promotors harnessed them in every decade. What they didn't do is lose control of their crowds because ... they knew how to book.

 

 

I think irony and cynicism went from being counter-cultural to just plain cultural in the late 80s and 90s. I think it might be worth re-reading David Foster Wallace's take on TV, fiction and irony to see if it resonates with this discussion.

 

It is not just a case of wrestling following the "sign of the times", more that the audience, and popular culture, had fundamentally changed. Cynicism towards wrestling had always existed, but by the late 80s/early 90s one of the primary methods of consuming popular culture was to view it through jaundiced, cynical eyes and popular culture either adapted (with more post-modern or self-aware content) or looked horribly out-of-date.

 

I'm not sure knowing how to book was enough when playing it straight was increasingly not an option, and even if you did, the audience would just view it through the prism of irony, not sincerity. 



#55 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 04:43 AM

 

 

Also, the idea that it was simply wrestling following the "sign of the times" is pretty ridiculous to me. The 60s, 70s and 80s all had their fair share of popular counter-culture and anti-establishment types. And wrestling promotors harnessed them in every decade. What they didn't do is lose control of their crowds because ... they knew how to book.

 

 

I think irony and cynicism went from being counter-cultural to just plain cultural in the late 80s and 90s. I think it might be worth re-reading David Foster Wallace's take on TV, fiction and irony to see if it resonates with this discussion.

 

It is not just a case of wrestling following the "sign of the times", more that the audience, and popular culture, had fundamentally changed. Cynicism towards wrestling had always existed, but by the late 80s/early 90s one of the primary methods of consuming popular culture was to view it through jaundiced, cynical eyes and popular culture either adapted (with more post-modern or self-aware content) or looked horribly out-of-date.

 

I'm not sure knowing how to book was enough when playing it straight was increasingly not an option, and even if you did, the audience would just view it through the prism of irony, not sincerity. 

 

 

So you're saying don't blame Heyman, blame Seinfeld, Beavis and Butthead and Clarissa Explains It All?



#56 Matt D

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 04:45 AM

Melissa Joan Hart is a big fan. She's probably a secret Stu niece.

#57 El-P

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 04:47 AM

It is not just a case of wrestling following the "sign of the times", more that the audience, and popular culture, had fundamentally changed. Cynicism towards wrestling had always existed, but by the late 80s/early 90s one of the primary methods of consuming popular culture was to view it through jaundiced, cynical eyes and popular culture either adapted (with more post-modern or self-aware content) or looked horribly out-of-date.

 

And really, ECW was as "relevant" as a pro-wrestling company could. But the Raven character showed up in 1995. Kobain had already killed himself. Grunge was dead. ECW used a Guns'n'Roses video for their yearly big event in the mid to late 90's. Gun's & Roses, people. And so on. Of course they were still way ahead of any other pro-wrestling company.

 

Still waiting to a female wrestler coming out to bubblebum bass. Use Hannah Diamond before she's yesterday's news. She almost already is.



#58 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 04:49 AM

Melissa Joan Hart is a big fan. She's probably a secret Stu niece.

 

She was to Hogan in the 90s, what Molly Ringwald was to him in the 80s ;)



#59 overbooked

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 04:58 AM

 

 

So you're saying don't blame Heyman, blame Seinfeld, Beavis and Butthead and Clarissa Explains It All?

 

 

I'm saying let's not critique pro wrestling purely within the bubble of pro wrestling. There were/are broader trends around irony for irony's sake, self-conscious narratives and a general distrust of sincerity (especially when it is clear that the sincerity is false - in a TV show, ad campaign or pro wrestling match).

 

You've supplied examples of that shift, and how mainstream that shift became. It would be easy to do the same in music, fiction, advertising, politics, "real" sport, even. How people consumed popular culture, and what that popular culture became, were greater influences on pro wrestling than, say, some guy writing a newsletter.



#60 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 17 August 2016 - 05:08 AM

So you're saying don't blame Heyman, blame Seinfeld, Beavis and Butthead and Clarissa Explains It All?


I'm saying let's not critique pro wrestling purely within the bubble of pro wrestling. There were/are broader trends around irony for irony's sake, self-conscious narratives and a general distrust of sincerity (especially when it is clear that the sincerity is false - in a TV show, ad campaign or pro wrestling match).

You've supplied examples of that shift, and how mainstream that shift became. It would be easy to do the same in music, fiction, advertising, politics, "real" sport, even. How people consumed popular culture, and what that popular culture became, were greater influences on pro wrestling than, say, some guy writing a newsletter.


I don't necessarily disagree with this, but it still doesn't mean that you have to book to pander to heel fans.

I mean, think of old surfer Sting -- slightly earlier time, sure -- but there are plenty of annoying smart ass elements to his character. It occurred to me during one ep of WTBBP that Sting is essentially a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ... his personality is basically Bart Simpson. Yet, Sting, despite being a smart ass, could still be booked as a proper babyface. I mean for all the excesses of the Atittude Era, even Austin was booked as a proper babyface -- just one with attitude.

You can harnass things like irony or sarcasm or whatever, without making the "dick fans" feel like they are the most important people on earth.




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