An Open Letter to Pro Wrestling
Dear Wrestling Promoters and those who claim to know what we want,
WE WANT CHANGE!
Kind of a surprise, huh? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only lifelong wrestling fan—or maybe even casual wrestling fan, for that matter—that is unhappy with the current state of professional wrestling.
The truth is, I don’t think anybody within the industry has to be happy with the state of their programming, perhaps with the exception of Ring of Honour, who seems to be rising more and more. Ratings are down, house attendance is down. And, quite frankly, nobody inside of the industry has anybody to blame for this downward spiral but themselves.
We’re in a rut similar to that of the mid-90s. In the rut where it’s no longer cool to be a pro wrestling fan. Where we can’t even defend our professional wrestling love affair because of how painful the programming is becoming from a storyline standpoint. It’s time we wrestling fans start holding you people in charge accountable for the terrible programming that we’ve been suffering through for the last little while. And yes, Vince McMahon, that goes for you, too. Dixie Carter is not the only guilty party here.
Professional wrestling is in a terrible state creatively. Comedy segments that aren’t funny, painful segments watching the wrestlers tear each other down with insider terms no casual fan will grasp. Horrible Diva sketches and seasons of NXT. Rushing through storylines that should have a chance to play out and lure fans into the program. Why is this so bloody hard to grasp?
It is not rocket science, people! I’m a writer by nature, but I don’t think it takes a writer to get this basic concept. You entice, you hook, you play it out, and then, you hit them with a pay off that leaves them feeling satisfied for wasting their hard-earned money on your pay-per-views, your merchandise and watching your product.
Not all of the blame goes on Vince Russo and Stephanie McMahon, however; there are people much higher than they are that green-light what we see on television. It’s time they are held accountable alongside the creative departments, especially for whomever green-lighted the Last Rites match back in the day.
Let’s start with TNA, or Impact, or whatever they’re calling themselves these days. TNA says it’s Impact, Spike TV still says it’s TNA. Business 101 tells me that a company at least needs to know its name to be a good business. The fact that the simplest thing like a name is in such disarray internally shows everybody just how disorganized the product is.
TNA has become the "pro wrestling punching bag," and unfortunately, they have put themselves into a position where by ignoring the feedback of everybody else, there is great uncertainty over whether or not they can ever really and truly get it together.
In all fairness, this is a company that has some of the best home-grown talent that I believe could compete—and probably beat WWE, if they tried—and you opt to put main events on that were recycled from WCW Monday Nitro 14 years ago. Even recycling storylines, using the exact same professional wrestlers from the WCW angles!
The worst part is that by expressing our aggravation with the product, we are dismissed as nothing more than “trailer trash,” “Internet wrestling fans” and “Armchair quarterbacks.” They tell us to “get a life," of course with none of them stopping to think that if we went out and got a nightlife, nobody would be around to watch their product. Go figure.
Desperate, TNA brought in the “saviours”—Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. Mr. Bischoff becomes defensive when the fans inform him that in the year and a half-plus since he and Mr. Bollea have taken the reigns to take TNA/Impact to “another level,”, the program has gotten worse. Mr. Bischoff will quickly let us know that the numbers don’t lie.
You know what I say? You’re right, Eric. The numbers don’t lie. And in the past year and a half, the numbers haven’t been very kind to the “Hogan-Bischoff experiment,” enough that there are a lot of people out there that are just on the “Final Countdown”, waiting for TNA to close its doors. That’s not what we need in pro wrestling right now.
Wrestling fans are aware that we are in a corporate age of wrestling. We have become used to wrestlers in suits, to the corporate policies, to towing the company line just like everybody else has to do in their day-to-day life.
Wrestling fans want to see TNA succeed; but it’s hard to put stock in them when they are so OK with their champion’s deviant behaviour and their treatment of the fans who have to suffer through their product because of their lack of decisive leadership on the subject. I still believe that the fans were and are owed a full refund, and at the very least, an apology for what happened this year at Victory Road.
The fact that it took so long for anyone to acknowledge anything is horrendously unprofessional, especially Dixie Carter and her disappearing act, hiding from the angry fans or just outright ignoring them. The fans have the right to be mad when their money is wasted, especially in this economy.
Vince McMahon’s program is doing no better. For the past 10 years since both WCW and ECW have closed their doors, Vince has been suffering from a lack of competition, because ROH hasn’t crossed the barriers yet, and TNA can’t get their product together. With no competition, Vince McMahon and his product has become complacent, and the lack of effort shows.
WWE is in dire straits right now because there is such a lack of newer, fresher stars. And it is not from a lack of talent. They have enough new talent for the next generation, though they just refuse to take a few low ratings numbers while they build up these new guys to take WWE into the next generation.
The bigger problem is that they have known for years now that all the Attitude Era guys were going to start stepping down. So many start-stop pushes have killed the momentum for many, and we are still left with the same guys crowding the main-event spot, including guys that come out of retirement just to get a win over some of the younger talent.
John Cena is in desperate need of a heel turn; nobody above the age of 12 seems to care much for him, and the fact that he is always champion is something that is beginning to turn me off the product—a sentiment that I am sure is shared by others. A great Superstar should be able to integrate seamlessly into the mid-card and main event fluidly. Undertaker could do this; why can’t John Cena?
The Divas and Knockouts divisions are in dire straits as well. Think about this: it was only six years ago this coming December that Trish Stratus and Lita main-evented Raw. Now, we can’t even get a good three-minute match with Beth Phoenix and Natalya, for crying out loud! Not only that, but it appears that their abilities are ignored and passed over for basketball dancers, Diva Search rejects and bikini models who can’t even run the ropes.
We’ve seen the departures of Melina, Mickie James, Jillian Hall, Maria and Gail Kim quit—though she is sitting out her contract—while Divas who have contributed little to nothing—like Rosa Mendes—who is currently spending her time attacking the fans for this sentiment—keep squeaking through these roster cuts.
The Knockouts division has also taken a hit, becoming less and less important in favour of 20-minute Immortal segments to start the show and backstage segments showing Sting ripping off The Joker.
So what is the solution to this? To me, it’s relatively simple: start working on the future instead of staying in the present. There is no need to rush; wrestling fans will follow. Don’t be afraid to take risks; wrestling fans admire it. After all, if risks were not taken, we would never have been entertained through the Monday Night Wars.
If risks were never taken, ECW would not have been that in-your-face product that fans still hold in such high regard. The biggest suggestion is BUILD YOUR TALENT. After all, Hulk Hogan, Sting, Ric Flair and John Cena aren’t going to be around forever. It’s time to get prepared.
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