Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wrestling Nostalgia's Critical Mass

I'm a wrestling fan.  I do not read much about wrestling online outside of the awesome community Brandon Stroud has created at WithLeather or David Shoemaker's columns.  I'm a wrestling fan.  I'm not a "Smart Mark" or a "smark" or anything else.  I liked wrestling as a kid and I like it now.  This is all a preface to say that I don't normally talk things outside what is seen in wrestling shows.  I don't really care about what happens behind the scenes and, even if I did, I would assume any knowledge that got out existed to further manipulate the audience.  This article breaks that rule some.

Nostalgia is important to wrestling.  Wrestling fans like to talk about the different "wrestling eras" and how great they were.  Wrestling fans, myself included, can obsess over past matches while ignoring excellent matches that are happening today.
Some wrestling nostalgia is earned.

How many of you guys saw William Regal v Daniel Bryan on Superstars a few months ago?  Or Heath Slater v Justin Gabriel a few weeks ago?  How many people scoff at Superstars?  I'm not trying to be judgmental, but there are some quality matches happening in places no one looks.

I can't blame people for not watching Superstars, NXT, Ring Ka King, or even TNA.  I really can't.  It makes sense for people to not want to watch the younger guys in Superstars or NXT when WWE Raw gets mired in an endless parade of Triple H, HBK, and Undertaker talking about how they were the last generation of real wrestlers and everyone afterwards sucks.  I have talked before about how I hate when people get buried by other wrestlers, but it's something else entirely when Triple H is trying to bury everyone as a babyface.

Triple H is only able to make this plausible case that he and Undertaker represent a dying breed because we, wrestling fans, hold onto the past too tightly.  We only remember the good things and anything that wasn't great is either forgotten or becomes something ridiculous and funny because of how bad it is.
I may exclusively write articles that let me use this gif.
Unfortunately our nostalgia is hurting the current state of wrestling.  One of these days I'll need to get into a lengthy post explaining why, but I believe the current WWE roster is better now than it has ever been.  There are tons of really amazing guys on the roster.  It's easy for me to point to CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, but the entire roster is just solid.  Even guys that get scoffed at and become ignored, like Heath Slater, are talented workers and could do something really interesting if given a chance.  We are so caught up in the past that it is becoming increasingly difficult to just shut up and enjoy the present.

David Shoemaker wrote a great column talking about how CM Punk's popularity is about, in part, his ability to tap into our nostalgia.  Wrestling's history is so deep and interesting that it can appeal to just about anyone: from guys like me who nerd out about minutia, to sports fans who want to relive the past, and to everyone that wants to call back to memorable moments so that they can feel as though they are part of something.  With Leather's Open Discussions have given new life to my wrestling fandom and this community is built, in part, by our nostalgia of the past and our happiness to share that with people we can relate to.
We have reached a point of wrestling nostalgia where we can exist solely by referencing the past and trotting out previously retired wrestlers to entertain us.  Having older wrestlers come back and steal the spotlight isn't a new things, I'm sure Dusty Rhodes stayed around longer than he should have, but the past year has shown fewer and fewer opportunities for very talented young guys to get much attention.  This past year has instead focused on Triple H and the Undertaker, Kevin Nash, Shawn Michaels, The Rock, and even people like Road Dogg and Sergeant Slaughter came back for the sake of nostalgia.

We always talk of wrestling in terms of eras.  It's a silly way to talk about wrestling since it ignores the fact that shows happen every week and that change is more gradual than the hard break between eras would have you believe.  I don't expect everyone from the Attitude Era to simply disappear after 2003, but it would be nice if when sticking around they actually wrestled instead of just talked.

I think I've reached a point of exasperation.  Writing this article has been difficult because all I want to do is yell, "JUST LET DOLPH ZIGGLER AND DANIEL BRYAN AND R-TRUTH WRESTLE WHY OH G-D WHY IS THE ROCK AND KEVIN NASH AND HBK STILL TALKING ALL THE TIME JUST GO AWAY YOU OLD GUYS!"

Like I said, I'm usually just a fan and don't care about what happens behind the scenes.  I did see that CM Punk also seems to agree with me, though:
“I just think there’s a lot of us backstage and behind the scenes that bust our a– and we do it 365 days a year, and Rock just kinda comes in with his veneers and he’s smiling at everybody and – I don’t fault anyone for making money, he can make all the money he wants, but when he preaches about WWE, how much he loves it, and how much it’s family, and he loves being there, and nobody ever sees him because he goes right from his limo to his dressing room, from his dressing room to the ring, it’s a stark contrast – he says one thing and does another.”
Sure, that's probably a "work" or whatever and it's just fake so we can feel better about cheering Cena, but I think he says something that might be true.  Who knows?

With that being said, I still get excited whenever Dusty Rhodes shows up and I want Sting and The Undertaker to finally have a match.  I'm the problem and this article would likely not exist if the WWE was better at pandering to my very specific tastes and desires.

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