Did The Nasty Boys Kill Professiona Wrestling?
In the 1970's, the world of wrestling was a million miles from the world we know today.
At that time, the industry was built around an unwritten law of regionalism, which divided the country up, into small, regional promotions, with a territory system that had been the foundation of the industry for more than half a century.
Whilst still sports entertainment, the focus at the time was more on the actual sport, rather than any long term scripted feuds, or segments, and the majority of customers came to local events to see the action in the ring, and would see not a lot else.
This began to change under promotions like the Capitol Wrestling Corporation, which was owned by Vincent J. McMahon. McMahon began to realize that for many, professional wrestling was more about entertainment than actual sport, and should be marketed as such.
This process of evolution continued in 1980, when Vincent Kennedy McMahon, the son of Vincent J. McMahon, founded Titan Sports, Inc. and in 1982 purchased Capitol Wrestling Corporation from his father.
Against his father's wishes, McMahon began an expansion process that fundamentally changed the sport.
Central to McMahon's plans were two bold, and revolutionary ideas, that would break the code of regionalism.
Firstly, he his WWF promotion would tour nationally, and secondly he was launch a pay-per-view extravaganza called Wrestlemania.
The concept of a wrestling supercard was nothing new in North America. The NWA had been running Starrcade a few years prior to WrestleMania, and even the elder McMahon had marketed large cards viewable in closed-circuit locations.
McMahon jr. wanted to take the WWF to the mainstream, targeting the public, and a new audience, who were not regular wrestling fans.
The original WrestleMania, held in 1985, was a resounding success, and the WWF did incredible business on the shoulders of McMahon and his all-American babyface hero, Hulk Hogan. For the next several years, they created what some observers dubbed a second golden age for professional wrestling.
During this period, the push for entertainment overcame the push for sport. The world saw more characters decked out in bright colors and feather boas than anything else found in the culture of the times.
In 1985, a new tag team burst on to the scene, teaming together as The Nasty Boyz. This was rather fortunate for them because a lyric in Janet Jackson's hit single "Nasty", gained popularity at about that time, and gave the name an instant contemporary theme.
Their gimmick was that of anti-social punks who specialized in hardcore wrestling and brawling. They were also noted for their distinctive all-black "street look", which, while very commonplace among today's wrestlers, were a world apart from the colorful attire of their wrestling contemporaries.
This gave the Nasty Boyz an instant wow factor, and connected them to a new, younger generation of wrestling fans. It gave those fans wrestlers they could connect to, and believe in, rather than the detached cartoon-style characters that they were used to.
In 1990, the Nasty Boys joined the World Championship Wrestling, and the gimmick remained. Other wrestlers started dropping the bright superhero costumes and started looking for a more edgy, streetwise image.
This progressed via the nWo, New World Order stable, of the WCW, and into the Attitude era.
It can not be argued that this new, edgy world of wrestling, wrestling with Attitude, brought in a new audience and was immensely popular with the fans.
However, it also brought it's downsides.
Amongst the big names of the Attitude era, we find three individuals: Brian Pillman, the loose canon, who brought his natural attitude to the sport, Steve Austin, who revolutionized the world of wrestling, and Dwayne Johnson, the Rock, a particular crowd favorite.
While all three were headliners in the Attitude era, they also share one other common trait.
Each one had a short career.
Brian Pillman made his WWF debut in 1996, and sadly passed away the next year, in 1997.
Steve Austin's genuine rise to superstardom began at the 1996 King of the Ring, but by 2004 he was effectively in semi-retirement while Dwayne Johnson changed his image. He went from Rocky Maivia, to the Rock, in 1997, but by the end of 2004, he was retired too.
They burned brightly, but they didn't burn for long.
These shortened careers covered over one of the main drawbacks to the new, contemporary gimmicks of modern wrestling.
Many people today criticize John Cena, but why?
His wrestling, while heavily criticized by many, is far from the worst the industry has ever seen. Whether you love or loathe his gimmicks, he is quite good on the old stick. He knows how to use the mic and how to work a crowd, but the trouble for a lot of people is that he's just out of date.
He may have dropped the gimmick, but in all other aspects he is still that turn of the century, vanilla ice style, white rapper.
He looks like it, he talks like it, he acts like it, and it's so dated.
The sales for that style of music have plummeted, and been over taken by other styles, and genres.
And who under 35 dresses like Cena these days?
John Cena is still only 33, he's barely just over half the age of Ric Flair, and others who graced the squared circle, in the second golden age, and yet eight years into his career he's starting to look stale, and dated.
So did The Nasty Boys kill professional wrestling?
Have we now entered a new era that either embraces a new gimmick, or accepts that, if wrestlers wish to remain contemporary, then they will have to face shorter, and shorter careers?
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