Respect. More than simple a catchy tune sung by Aretha Franklin. Defined in a number of ways, most see it as to to feel or show deferential regard for something they hold dear. We can respect our parents, relatives, friends, celebrities and even our bosses.
We can respect things, companies and institutions. Alongside love, it remains one of the most powerful emotions we possess.
In wrestling, respect is a rare commodity. How do you even define "respect" in this cartoon world?
There are some wrestling superstars who, I believe, personify respect. They are performers who have given their body and soul to the business, encouraged others both in and out of the ring, and who have remained loyal despite the offer of financial opportunities elsewhere.
Whether he will sign for the WWE or not, Sting personified these qualities as the public face of WCW.
Whereas others came and went, the icon remained loyal. And as the empire crumbled, wary of how his legacy was to be used, he preferred to go it alone rather than sign for the "evil empire of the north."
Having seen what happened to at least some of the WCW blow-ins, I think he made the right decision.
The Undertaker is in many ways the WWE's Sting (or is Sting WCW's Undertaker?) Whatever way you see it, they are both stalwarts—loyal to the company that made them what they are.
The Undertaker in particular has become the unofficial leader of SmackDown, offering new wrestlers advice, keeping them in line and in some cases putting them over to advance their career.
Its often said that wrestlers need to put someone over in the ring in order to give back to the business, and in the cases listed so far, this has happened on a number of occasions, with Sting passing the torch to AJ Styles and The Undertaker helping the careers of Steve Austin, Brock Lesnar, Mankind and his on-screen brother, Kane.
It is perhaps not a coincidence that both Sting and the Undertaker are also two of the most loved wrestlers of all time. They cared about their career and had genuine respect for their role and the business. Arguments aside regarding the meaning of the title, but they are nonetheless both Hall of Fame certainties.
There are some that have crossed the divide and maintained their loyalty.
The Hitman, Bret Hart, is a traditional superstar that represents technical wrestling at its finest. His apprenticeship in the Dungeons of Calgary, served him and and many others well. They learned the business inside out and knew what made a successful storyline or feud. They were wrestlers who knew wrestling.
Unlike other superstars who relied on their size or microphone abilities, Hart represents the old school. Indeed it is even possible to suggest that of his abilities, mic work was his weakest. However he did his talking in the ring.
Respect for the superstar ensured that he never sought out to hurt anyone and it remains one of his proudest claims. He treated others with dignity as fellow performers.
I feel that the likes of Hart who bitterly opposed the extremes of the Attitude Era must be brought in to lead the creative teams during the PG era.
In the desperate quest for money, the WWE has lost its way in terms of balancing its show to accommodate both young fans and those who have watched for years. Employing the likes of Hart and others such as Roddy Piper would ensure that new superstars know what it means to be a wrestler, and so be able to manage their careers.
Wrestling may be scripted but there is no reason why a wrestler can not influence their destiny. By improving their moveset, mic skills and overall character, they can actually benefit with promotions and featured matches at major Pay Per Views.
Too many today are not passionate enough to drive themselves forward, preferring to simply make their living and moving onto the next show.
The counter examples to this idea of respect comes in many different forms—people who are not appreciative of the tradition and some who are in it for themselves.
And it is here that we look at Shawn Michaels. The Klique was designed for personal advancement and their control over wrestling in the mid-1990s stretched across both the WWE and WCW.
That being said, though, I think Shawn is one of those few examples of wrestlers who matured into a new character and personality. His willingness to put over other superstars at WrestleMania created iconic moments and helped sell not only the event but his opponent.
His willingness to retire at the biggest stage on a defeat showed a respect for the Undertaker and the business.
However it is on the topic of WCW, that we begin to really question those superstars and figures who are still involved in wrestling, mostly in TNA. And it is here we talk about Bischoff, Russo and Nash.
The big gold belt was heralded as traditional. Having its roots in the old NWA (albeit not the original), WCW tried to create for itself a link to the past. And yet when you actually examine the champions and their reigns we see staggering results.
Kevin Nash held the belt five times covering a time period of 98 days! Yes that is right, his five championship reigns lasted on average less than three weeks each.
Legendary superstar, Randy Savage held the belt four times for the total duration of 53 days—a 13-day average, Jeff Jarret four times and 58 days, Bret Hart two times and 56 days, DDP three times and 29 days, David Arquette one time and 12 days and of course Vince Russo for a week.
And so, Russo.
This is one of the major talking points in relation to respect. Wrestling is founded on tradition and history and the fact that Arquette was even allowed in a ring never mind winning the top prize, was one of the biggest mistakes in wrestling history.
Now it has already been analysed by many, but surely in the various creative meetings held, someone should have said—WAIT A MINUTE!
This was the same title that Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Roddy Piper, Dean Malenko, Arn Anderson and until they joined the WWE, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit were unable to win. And yet Arquette and Russo both held the title.
There is no greater disrespect for wrestling than this sight.
And so with this in mind, it makes me think of all that is happening in wrestling today. Guest hosts on Raw like Jerry Springer. Robbie E and Cookie in TNA. The controversial concussion storyline involving Ken Anderson. The Undertaker in vegetative state storyline.
Wrestling to some extent has lost its way. The simple formula for wrestling is good versus bad in a series of matches were good wins. Now in some instances this can deviate and like WrestleMania 25, there can be two faces or two heels, but the concept should be the same—wrestling takes centre stage.
Watch Raw, Smackdown or Impact and there is very little actual wrestling. As one noted wrestling analyst said, it seems that most of these programmes are simply adverts for the next PPV. We get very little action, very little wrestling in our weekly broadcasts.
TNA should be spending its time developing the likes of Amazing Red, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and other TNA originals, not giving time over to the likes of blow-ins like Robbie E who is a desperate attempt to cash in on the success of Jersey Shore.
So too WWE should not be selling its heart and soul to whatever movie star wishes to sell their latest offering.
Wrestling needs to get back to tradition. It needs a basic structure of giving fans matches to enjoy, feuds that are well developed and this will help the overall product. It needs the likes of Hart, Sting, Undertaker to be there helping the programmes.
It needs people to be in creative roles that can say, stop, wait a minute lets think about this for a minute. Arquette as champion? Undertaker in a coma after all that has happened? Jerry Springer in a Raw ring during PG?
I for one think that the WWE and TNA need to form a legends creative team comprising of traditional superstars who have a say in how the company is run. They can offer advice to the superstars on how to develop and grow. They can offer storyline suggestions and creative angles. They can be part of the product's development. All the while ensuring that wrestling tradition is respected.
Wrestling needs a third golden era. And I for one think it needs to be built upon the wrestling traditionalists like Daniel Bryan and Alberto Del Rio who know how to wrestle and know how the business.
The future of wrestling is dependent upon new and creative angles. And yet sometimes the most successful concept is a good match, a great rivalry and a worthy victor. Fans respect the match, wrestlers respect the business, and the companies respect the fans.
That is what R*E*S*P*E*C*T means to me in the wrestling world.