I recently had the chance to pick the brain of wrestling guru Mike Mooneyham as I attempted to figure out what's really going on in wrestling.
For those who aren't familiar with Mike's work, he's a NY Times Best Selling author (Sex, Lies and Headlocks: The Real Story of Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation) and he has the longest running wrestling column in the country.
So over the span of 45 minutes, I continually drilled Mike with question after question until he had more answers than I had questions. Here's what came out of the conversation:
As I'm watching Raw, Smackdown and Impact I often find myself wondering what's wrong with wrestling. It's stale and missing the umph that it had in the mid- to late-'90s. I couldn't figure out why. But Mike knew immediately. NO STAR POWER.
The Bottom Line... No Star Power
Wrestling's missing that one guy who could take the mic and mesmerize the crowd. No longer can we turn on the TV and be captivated by the humor, anger, and fun-filled emotion that we received when watching the likes of Stone Cold, The Rock, and Ric Flair.
Don't get me wrong, Jericho's witty and MVP's cool but it's not the same. We're not overwhelmed with their presence.
Mike said it best, when fans see these guys they have to stand out. They have to seem larger than life. To me we've lost some of that appeal with the coming of MySpace and personal websites.
Development is Dead
But that's not wrestling's problem. As Mike pointed out, not only is there a lack of star power right now but there doesn't seem to be anyone coming up through the ranks because the territories aren't breeding new talent.
The few shining stars (Ted DiBiase, Kofi Kingston, Evan Bourne) are spending so little time in independents that they aren't as developed as they should be when they make it to the big leagues.
So the obvious question "where does wrestling go from here?" doesn't have an obvious solution. WWE is working hard to harvest talent overseas in South America, China and parts of Europe. Maybe there's a fresh face out there who can sweep us off our feet.
But Mike warns about stretching your talent too thin. Both the WWE and TNA are touring overseas, and the WWE is even setting up headquarters in some places. But if they both aren't taking care of business at home, they could see their main product become diluted.
The more immediate fix is transforming the way fans watch wrestling. In the '80s it was introduction of nationwide PPV. The '90s had the Attitude era.
What is in store for today's fans? Vince is eliminating the term wrestling from World Wrestling Entertainment, partially so he won't have to pay the extra sport-related fees. And he's hiring TV actors to help the entertainers with their acting.
An End of an Era
This movement might be the change we need. Or it could be the destruction that is his own doing.
This raises more questions, like "Is Vince out of touch of what today's fans want?" and "Is it time to hand the ball to Shane and Stephanie?"
I'm not sure, but Mike called it an End of an Era. The wrestling world just lost its last big star when Ric Flair hung up the boots, and now it's starving for help.
Although the big two are hanging in there okay financially, viewers won't hang around and wait for them to get it straight. Both the WWE and TNA have forgotten what it took to get them to the game, and it's important that they realize this in a hurry. Because the State of Wrestling depends on it.
What do you think wrestling needs to get back in the mainstream once again?