By David Dickson, Columnist
I love Professional Wrestling.
I love every aspect of it, the characters, storylines, promos, in-ring action, submission Wrestling, high flying Wrestling, hardcore bloody brawls, etc, heavyweights, cruiserweights, giants, minis, women, tag-teams, everything. I love all Promotions and eras.
I’ve been a fan/viewer/customer, of this great sport, ever since my Dad turned it on 1 day, in late 1986, when I was 6 years old. I was playing with my toys and my Dad got up and changed the channel. I stopped what I was doing and I asked what it was. “Wrestling”, he replied. I was transfixed. I’ve been hooked, ever since. That was almost 31 years ago, and I still love it just as much. I’ve never missed a week. If I do, I always have a marathon and catch up. I also went back and watched older content, from before I started watching. It was WWF, that I first saw. I later discovered all other Promotions, too, and loved them, just as much. I had to go and find older footage of those Promotions, too.
I’ve always researched my history. It’s how I’ve learned so much about this business. It’s why I have so much respect for it and respect for the legends that paid their dues, earned their stripes, and paved the way. My generation did that. We cared enough to. We loved this business enough to. And it was a lot harder to do, then, than it is, today. We had to read magazines, buy tapes. These days, you have video sharing sites, like YouTube and DailyMotion, and The WWE Network. But, sadly, a lot of today’s kids are too lazy to learn their history and don’t care enough to do so. They show a lack of respect. Many young fans, today, only watch the current WWE product. They don’t know what they’re missing. If you’re gonna be a fan, be a fan! You don’t have to pick sides, or pick a team. It’s not Football.
I’ve also been in the ring and I’ve Booked, myself, so, I have a great respect for this business. Yeah, OK, it’s scripted, but that does not mean it’s “fake”. I hate when outsiders call Wrestling, “fake”! I mean, you don’t go to the movies and say that’s, “fake”. Many of the moves connect, for real, because there’s simply no way to “fake” them. You have to train to learn how to do this. Yes, you have to be an Actor, a Stuntman, but you have to be an Athlete, too. The pain is real. I know! Wrestlers spend weeks on the road, away from their loved ones, without a day off, putting their bodies and lives on the line, all to pay their bills, feed their families, and to entertain us fans.
Now, as much as I still love this great business, and always will, the sad fact is that it just isn’t as big, or as good, as it used to be.
Think of the great Promotions that are no longer around. AWA, CWA, WCCW, MSW/UWF, JCP/WCW, SMW, ECW, and so many more. It’s so heartbreaking. I miss them, so much. Now, there are still a lot of great Promotions around, today, WWF/WWE, NWA Promotions, CZW, TNA/GFW, ROH, AAA, Lucha Underground, CMLL, NJPW, AJPW, Pro Wrestling NOAH, Wrestle-1, and so many more. But, as I said, a lot of young fans, these days, will only watch WWE. And besides, as great as they still are, these Promotions just don’t live up to their reputations, these days. Most cannot offer the strong competition to WWE, that is needed, like WCW did, back in the day. That means WWE holds the majority and thus have given up trying. They stopped trying when they bought all assets, Trademarks, and Copywrites, to WCW and ECW, back in 2001. I said “bought”, because they never put those Companies out of business. But, WWE have taken us for granted, ever since. WCW are the only Wrestling Promotion to ever beat WWF/WWE at their own game and stay neck-and-neck with them, the rest of the time. They pushed the then WWF to up their game and be better. And likewise, the then WWF had pushed JCP/WCW to get better.
See, back in the late 1980s, the then WWF had become a global phenomenon. They were well and truly on the map and they put Wrestling on the global mainstage. That’s because the storylines were just better. They were more thought out. They were planned, sometimes months in advance. They played the long game. These days, everything is rushed and changed at the last minute. They had larger than life characters. Superheroes and villains. These days, everyone are just ramped up versions of themselves, like always, but with nothing else to make them unique. The lines between good and evil are so blurred, too. The Wrestling back then was first class. The best Wrestlers would go out there and Wrestle for an hour, every night. Matches are over so quickly, these days, to make time for ridiculous backstage skits, endless plugging, and mini-concerts.
Plus, these days, WWE have their chosen favourites, normally jacked up muscleheads, and they force them down our throats and hand them everything. Nobody pays their dues, anymore. Nobody earns anything. And more often, than not, WWE’s handpicked favourites, like John Cena and Roman Reigns, just don’t have the all round skills to back it up and to warrant their positions. That’s why they can’t get over and fail to draw. Back in the day, talent was alowed to shine. And even if you lacked in 1 area, if you still excelled in another, you were still given opportunities, and could still entertain the fans and draw for the Promotion. We had Managers. A lost Art, today. Promos were great, back then. Wrestlers were given bulletpoints and then allowed to go out and cut their own promos. These days, they’re mostly scripted. Those that weren’t good on the mic, were given Managers. And it weren’t just WWF, either. It forced JCP, who renamed to WCW, in 1988, after being purchased by Turner, to up their game and get onto the global market, too. That’s why the late 1980s was the best era of Wrestling. It was the highest rated era of Wrestling. The first WWF Main Event, on February 5th, 1988, Headlined by Hulk Hogan “losing” the WWF World Heavyweight Championship to the now late Andre The Giant, is still the highest rated Wrestling show of all time, with 33 million viewers, giving it a 15.2 score, in the USA, alone.
Then, by the late 1990s, WCW had clawed their way to the top. Whilst a better quality of product, to today’s, the then WWF started to struggle, like they are again, these days. They had lost most of their top Stars, either to injury, retirement, or to rivals, WCW and ECW. Ratings and attendances were low. They were losing a lot of money. Just like today. WCW had signed a lot of top Stars from both WWF and ECW, as well as a lot of top Stars from Mexico and Japan, whilst still holding on to many of their own top Stars, and making new Stars, too. They could do that, with Turner’s money. That, along with with Eric Bischoff’s creative vision, made WCW number 1. For the first time in history, another Wrestling Promotion was beating WWF. But, it forced WWF to change direction and get better. Thus, the Attitude Era was born.
The Attitude Era, and I’m talking about WWF, WCW, and ECW, from the late 1990s – early 2000s, was a wild time. It had everything that was great from the 1980s, but we also had an edgier product. More hardcore brawls. More adult themed characters. Promos that pushed the boundaries. Shock TV. Just like other TV shows were doing, back then. It was never boring. Never predictable. That made WWF rise back up and become number 1, again, beating WCW, like they had before. WWF and WCW then pushed each other to be better, every week, to see who got the higher ratings, the Attitude Era was the second highest rated period in Wrestling history. Both WWF Raw and WCW Nitro, whilst head-to-head, were scoring huge ratings, in the 6s, 7s, and 8s. But, these days, without that level of competition, WWE just don’t put the effort in.
The audience are partly to blame, too. Like I said, many young fans, today, will only watch WWE. If they watched other Promotions, they’d see how great those Promotions were, but also, it would force WWE to sit up, take notice, and pull their finger out, once again. Sadly, many fans were bored away, after the Attitude Era ended and WCW and ECW were closed. Wrestling in general just hasn’t been able to come back from that hit.
I don’t like the WWE brand split, either. It was done to give more opportunities to talent and to make more money. But, they don’t have a big enough roster to do that, anymore. And they still just focus on their favorites, whilst true talent get neglected. It limits match possibilities. We end up seeing feuds dragged on far too long and the same matches over and over again. It’s now costing them more money.
Another problem is that Creative used to be made up of established Wrestling Bookers. The last 12 years, or so, WWE Creative has a lot of former Hollywood Writers, that no nothing about Wrestling, on it. You need a couple, sure, for the purposes of episodic television, but you need old fashioned Wrestling Bookers, who know what they’re doing, too.
Finally, another problem is how strict and lame this era of WWE PG can get. Like I said, the highest rated and best era of Wrestling was the late 1980s and that was PG. But, it wasn’t so uptight, back then. PG is so strict, these days, it’s damaging the product. After all, children aren’t the ones with their own money for tickets, PPVs, WWE Network subscriptions, and merchandise, etc. Adults do have their own money. Children aren’t allowed to stay up late on school nights, every week, to watch. Adults can. Plus, today’s children, as I said earlier, just don’t learn their history and don’t respect history. So, it’s a mistake for WWE to make their target audience strictly children. They need to have something for everyone. Have a bit of everything. Go back to what worked, in the past.
Bigger Companies than WWE have gone under, because of poor business decisions and ignoring their customers, and they were arrogant enough to think it could never happen to them, too. I don’t think any of us ever wanna see that happen to WWE. Over the last 3 years, WWE have lost hundreds of millions of dollars. Network subscriptions have dropped. Stock prices have dropped. Merch sales have dropped. And ratings and attendances are the lowest they’ve been in 20 years, not including Wrestlemanias, and this time, they’re unopposed. Their highest source of revenue and exposure comes from their TV deals, around the World. But, if ratings drop much lower, they will lose those, too, because all TV Executives care about are ratings. If WWE lose those, they will be in serious trouble. I hope WWE can pull it back, like they have before.
Until next time, I’ve been Davey Dickson and that’s been my bottom line.