Over the course of the last weekend I decided to catch up with wrestling again. The last time I was actually up to date with what was going on within the WWE was during the Attitude era, back when it was still called the WWF.
I’ve wanted to see some of the more recent stuff for a while now, but I put it aside for later. Maybe when I’d get my own place and could make myself comfortable again. That turned out to be a much longer while than I’d expected. It took over two years before I got to a point in my life where my life allowed me to pick up wrestling again.
Now that I’ve moved, I’m in a spot that’s just the right amount of comfortable for me to commit to wrestling again. I grabbed the last month’s worth of Monday Night RAW episodes, put aside two hours every day over the weekend, and watched some muscled men throw each other around the ring.
Two years ago, someone tried to talk me into catching up on wrestling. He showed me a wrestling match on YouTube starring Cena. I didn’t like it very much. Cena came across as a douchebag fratboy. I couldn’t connect with his persona. The fight itself started off fast and strong, and ended in the same note it started. The middle was a five-minute empty part in which nothing happened at all. There was no tension. No real energy in the fight itself. Some impact at the start and a thud at the end. It didn’t draw me in.
Because of that match, whenever I felt like watching some wrestling fun I’d stick to videos on YouTube from either the Attitude era, or the WCW/NWO era. Maybe some Macho Man Randy Savage from before that.
Being a fan podcasts, I’ve had the luck to hear CM Punk and Chris Jericho talk on the Nerdist podcast. CM Punk fueled my interest in wrestling again.
Luckily enough, the first episode I watched opened with him walking into the ring, taking a microphone, and telling the audience that The Rock doesn’t deserve to be champion. Then going on a tangent as to why he should be the champion. And why the audience is a group of worthless, lazy assholes that will amount to anything. You can see why I like the dude already.
Later on, he fought Chris Jericho thanks to a majority vote from the audience. Jericho was already around when I last watched wrestling, plus he was on the Nerdist Podcast not too long ago. It wasn’t too hard to get behind them during this match.
I was sold on modern wrestling after that.
I like how wrestling both has, and has not changed all that much over the years. The pure basics are still the same. Hell, you can never change it too much or it’s not the same thing anymore. Two guys trash talk each other, usually one of them takes things too far or has them stand for something controversial. Building up the tension as the audience gets enough reasons to see at least one of them have their face bashed in. Then they fight. With a good chance of someone else coming in and distracting or helping another wrestler, adding extra fuel to the fire.
Characters get built, broken down, discarded, changed, reimagined, fortified, and thrown out again. It’s a constant dynamic of character building with immediate feedback that is then used to set the course for them.
It’s simple, often plain stupid, but a lot of fun to watch.
What has changed is the delivery. Back in the WCW/NWO era it was a lot more about imagery and gimmicks. This was still the main point during the Attitude era, which to me felt like a more streamlined extension of the same thing.
Now the wrestlers are Superstars who are honest in the fact that they’re entertainers, while still going back and forth with the backstage and ringside drama. The politics and showmanship are more upfront and honest now. Although the gimmicks and weird stories are still a main selling point.
CM Punk is an excellent example. He’s a heel. A bad guy. He’s great at giving the audience a reason to see him get beat up. And he mostly does this by saying the exact type of things a wrestling fan would on the internet as he slams wrestlers and their acts and gimmicks as well as the backdoor politics… While still playing his own part in all of it.
The only thing I never got about wrestling was the argument about how it’s fake. In fact, it bothers me when people feel the need to point that out. The Avengers is fake too, but you don’t see anyone get on a high horse saying that it’s not real. It’s not a statement. Saying wrestling is not real is like saying playing Rock Band is not really playing music. Everyone in the room enjoying it is aware of the difference between the real thing and the thing they’re getting their enjoyment out of. It always strikes me as the mating call of the unimaginative.
So now that I’ve caught up with RAW, I’m looking forward to sitting down for RAW and Smackdown on a weekly basis now. It’s a great way to wind down after a long day of working on my projects.