What Is Really Wrong With WWE Wrestling Today: Lessons From Steamboat/Flair
One thing that strikes me about professional wrestling fans today is the fact that they are constantly looking for the next superstar. In a time when a new star can be made in a single event, those of us that remember the glory days can not help but to snicker a bit.
Back in the day, wrestlers had to earn their stripes as jobbers for a bit before they really made any kind of in-roads into the championship scene. Even then, they had some serious dues to pay before they sniffed even the mid-level titles.
Today, a brand new star might be champion in the blink of an eye.
So, how exactly does that hurt wrestling you ask?
For one thing, it hurts wrestling because the stars become entitled (literally and figuratively) and think they are owed something right away. This leads to poor backstage karma and even worse, booking decisions that are politically motivated.
Do not get me wrong—this happened back in “the day” as well. Still, it was happening with people who had paid their dues and at least had a foot to stand on.
Another bad thing is that natural rivalries do not develop. There are some good rivalries in the wrestling world today. Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker come to mind for example, as well as several others.
How do those rivalries compare to the days when people paid their dues though?
Think about Ric Flair versus Harley Race, Ric Flair versus Ricky Steamboat and rivalries such as this. Steve Austin versus the Rock is the only rivalry that I would think even approach that level in the modern era.
Those rivalries worked because they had a huge build up that lasted in some cases several years or even decades. Think about Steamboat and Flair. They feuded at the start of Steamboat’s career and Flair largely punked the young Steamboat.
Steamboat would be given some minor “wins” like whipping him on television and ripping off his clothes. Steamboat did not take away the title, however, until the legendary Chi-Town Rumble in 1989—over two decades later.
That is literally what made their feud so special and that particular match one of the greatest in the history of wrestling.
Time builds tension, excitement, anticipation and true glory. This can not happen with a wrestler overnight except in very unusual cases such as the Rock and Stone Cold, though Stone Cold was a gradual process as well.
Looking at the lineage of the WWE championship and the World Championship, one would be at a loss for why the championship changes almost as often as the US, Intercontinental and other lesser titles.
A need for change could be acquired easily enough with all of those titles, and they could keep the power and glory of the big titles intact.
They could make the title actually mean something again, and bring some of the prestige back to the most coveted position in the wrestling world.
Would this cause some wrestlers to not experience glory? Of course it would, and that is exactly why they should do it.
Many great former NWA, AWA and WWF superstars never owned a world title and it did not detract from their stardom one bit. They still are considered legends in their own right.
The world titles should be reserved for those wrestlers that transcend our sport. The Hulk Hogans, Steve Austins, Ric Flairs, Stings and so on. Those guys are head and shoulders above the others.
The under card can be their proving grounds as it was intended to be, and be the method necessary to find those mega stars among the masses.
Do not force-feed us champions, as it simply waters down the product.
That is what is wrong in wrestling today. Give me the best of the best in the world title scene, and use the under card and title defenses to build your next superstars. The stars will become bigger again and the excitement and tension of a title change will mean something.
That is what we want as wrestling fans, right?
We want to see larger-than-life champions. By definition, those should not come along every other week or month. Hopefully somebody will realize this before it is too late.
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