WWE and TNA: Is There Too Much Talk? A Historical Analysis
Hello fellow wrestling fans, Tony Tuco here again! I want to thank you all the great comments on my previous articles, and I genuinely hope you find this latest missive massively entertaining.
It has been said that silence is golden and that less is more. In some cases, especially when being pulled over by the police on the Highway, this is indeed a true maxim (I, of course, don't speak from any experience, merely speculating).
But along with the piledrivers (now banded by WWE), pokes, prods, dropkicks, Finalies, Starships, FU's and the like comes a lot of talking....and, I think, necessarily so. Face it, even MMA and boxing show the pre-match "trash talk". Without a context to the violence, all you're really doing is watching a bunch of guys in Speedos roll around and punch each other. For some this is enough; for most, a little background story leads to a more enjoyable (and less creepy) time.
My father and I often watch wrestling, and at those moments when there's two wrestlers throwing down a promo or facing down in the ring, mic in hand, he wants to change the channel. He watches for the action.
I, on the other hand, want to actually see the promo so as to get some context into the slugfest about to ensue...or be put off to the next PPV.
So who is right? Well, the answer is a little more complex than merely a Yes or a No. I would like to look at promos for both WWE and TNA, look at a bit of history, give the case for more talk, the case for less talk and my final opinion on the matter. As always, of course, your input is more than welcome!
Is there too much talk in Wrestling Today?
Wrestling, ever since the early days of Kayfabe, has been about the story. While being a good worker on the mic is far more important now than in the days of Lou Thesz, ever since the days of Gorgeous George and the Original Nature Boy, Buddy Rogers, the ability to tell a story with words, before telling one with leg locks has been vital to wrestling success.
Few places has this been more the case than in WWE. Back when it was WWWF, Shane O' Mac's trust fund was built on Heels and Faces based on ethnic and socio-economic stereotypes. Gorgeous George would infuriate the crowd with his prancing and telling the Ref not to touch him, lest the Ref's commonness soil George's august personage. Rogers would extol the virtues of "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat." Words. They told a back story and elicited love or disdain that made the violence make sense.
Dropping a W would necessitate adding more and more promo work from the wrestlers, and history has proven the value of this stratagem. WWF was made back on March 1st, 1985, with Wrestlemania.
What put those million a$$es in the seats? Hulk Hogan's mastery of technical wrestling? The lesson in multiculturalism that was the match between Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik vs The U.S. Express? Perhaps acting tips from one of the greats in the business, Mr. T?
I would wager it was the Promos. The story. Rock and Roll under attack, first from Capt. Lou going after Cyndi Lauper claiming she was successful only thanks to him being in her "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" video (promo). Then, after the "Brawl to End it All", another attack by Roddy Piper who crashed an awards ceremony only to break an award over Lou Albano's head and put Lauper's manager and boyfriend in a fireman's carry, needing now a "War to Settle the Score" (again, promo). Hulk Hogan going on Richard Belzer's show "Hot Topics" and putting him in the hospital after putting him in a wrestling hold (unintended promo, but promo, nonetheless). The list goes on.
There would be no "Attitude Era" without the Promo. Without "Suck it" without "Austin 3:16", who would care about the WWE, especially when they had an edgy, gritty alternative like WCW? Who could forget the "Shot heard round the wrestling world" when DX fired an imaginary round at Turner headquarters only to have it "Topple" to the ground.
In every incarnation, the House that Winstrol built depended on the promo to generate interest and passion from the fans. And this brings us to today...
The case for more is better:
Well, why mess with a good thing? Let's be honest, WWE has always been character driven (this same double edged sword is also its current weakness, but I'll save that for another article). There have been moments of wrestling brilliance (Michaels vs Hart, Iron Man Match, Michaels vs Undertaker I and II, Undertaker vs Jeff Hardy in a TLC match...yeah, you read this right, I thought it was a great match...), but WWE has always, since before it lost a fight with a Panda and dropped a W from its initials, been about the spectacle and the story...especially the spectacle. I mean, McMahon got Liberace to play the piano for him at WMI.
The case for less is best:
They can't convict you of what you don't say. This can be applied, in some ways, to WWE's reliance on story.
The problem with being story heavy is that stories last a long time. Weeks, at least. A lousy story can drag on and on and due terrible damage to character and company alike. A bad match can be more easily forgotten, especially if a wrestler's next match is really good.
There have been some really lousy matches in WWE history. There have been some lousy story lines in WWE history.
Big deal you say? OK, try this. Write down the first really lousy match you remember. Now write down the first really lousy storyline you remember. Which one took longer to do? Better question: Which one made you want to never watch another PPV as long as you lived?
My final word:
Its good to grow and evolve, but WWE should stay with what brought it to the dance. Keep the (preferably good) Promos coming There are many issues with WWE quality control, but to anyone even halfway initiated, we know the WWE is as much "As the World Turns" as it is Ring Posts and Turnbuckles. WWE is and should stay a Promo/story centered league. This is not for all, but for those who watch WWE programming, it is what we expect...even of it could definitely come better.
TNA was born from the ashes of WCW and ECW. When you think of WCW and especially ECW, you think of a show more geared toward action. It is told that TNA was founded as a place where new talent could be showcased. In that sense, the wrestling was itself the "story", as well as the six sided ring, Destination X and the X division. There were no big talkers to speak of. TNA was known for wrestlers doing some out of their mind, sick s%&t.
The case for loquaciousness:
Well...look, I don't believe that good promos and good wrestling are not mutually exclusive. We want to know and care about this new generation of athletes. Good character development and a storyline that enhances, not drowns, the flavor of smash mouth wrestling can really add another dimension to a company struggling to find their own identity.
The case for going mum:
Hulk Hogan was a great entertainer. He could pull off a few moves, but nobody really watched Hogan for his wrestling mastery. He could sell a comeback and sell the hell out of a Promo. Then he tried to be an actor...and it was bad. I was the most die hard Hulkamaniac, and even I, in my heart of hearts, knew Hogan sucked as an actor. He just did not have the skills. Partly because he got lousy scripts, partly because God just didn't grace him with that set of skills.
TNA very much is like its new creative manager. The quality of the scripts is poor, contrived, downright uncomfortable. On top of which, even if TNA had a writer with a whit, there aren't many on the TNA roster who can pull off a good promo.
The young guns of TNA excel at wrestling, but with the exception of a few WWE acquisitions, there are not a lot of good mic workers in the house of formerly six sided mayhem. If you can't do something well, sometime it's best not to try.
My final resolution:
Perhaps TNA has brought in all these old WWE re-treads because they want to follow WWE down the road of the story and the spectacle...
In honesty, this is a big mistake. TNA's spectacle, show and story is the wrestling itself, from the heavyweights down to the x-division (or it used to be, anyway). THIS IS WHY PEOPLE WATCH TNA. Its about the contrast. I'm not saying there should be no promo or story, but please, keep the promos with those really good at it. Too many wrestlers in TNA are getting the mic who have no business getting that mic. And even those good with the mic are getting lousy stuff to say (I mean half the time, enemies sound like they are going to ask each other to go steady just before they start pounding on each other). It takes away from the time needed to showcase the great wrestling it is and should be known for.
Often times, to get better, one needs to bolster ones weaknesses. Sometimes what seems like a weakness or strength is just a natural manifestation of its nature. The question of whether or not there is too much talking in wrestling is all relative. Wrestling without any talking is dry (and a little creepy). Too much talking is dangerous, not just because it takes away from the action, but because a bad promo or story can do more damage than no promo at all.
Ultimately, WWE is doing the right amount of talking (even if not all that talking is good), and TNA is doing too much (because you watch TNA for wrestling not talking, especially since most of it sucks).
I hope you have enjoyed this article, and as always, any and all comments are more than welcome.
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