Professional Wrestling Has Lost Its Edge

Eighth grade and there I am begging my parents for a trampoline. I cited imaginary statistics about just how much safer trampolines are than in-ground pools. Truth be told, my reasoning was more backhanded, more sinister: You couldn’t deliver a Stone Cold Stunner in a pool, but you sure as hell could on a trampoline.

I longed to sell the Stunner like The Rock, flying up and bouncing around the trampoline, exaggerating a knockout so theatrically, my friends would think I was having a seizure. My parents, like the parents of dozens of boys in my neighborhood, caved and took me to Costco to buy my very own wrestling ring. I helped my dad painstakingly assemble it. The resulting matches, for the Mawal Drive Backyard Championship Belt (which I fashioned out of cardboard and beads), were most epic.

I was fortunate enough to grow up before World Wrestling Entertainment. I grew up during the Monday Night Wars, when the World Wrestling Federation collided with World Championship Wrestling every Monday night. I grew up during the Attitude Era and walked around yelling things like “Oh Hell Yeah” and asking questions like “Do you live on Jabroni Drive?” I was team nWo Wolfpac and Degeneration X. I told my mom to “suck it.” She washed my mouth out with Irish Spring. It doesn’t taste that bad.

I am 25 years old now and have seen professional wrestling watered down to the point of sterility. Now, World Wrestling Entertainment has all but monopolized the industry. There are no more Monday Night Wars, no Monday Nitro versus Monday Night Raw. But something else happened along the way. Professional wrestling, the same entertainment that once asked me to believe a man could survive being buried alive, to watch as a millionaire CEO was sprayed with a beer hose, has become so tame, it hardly warrants a TV-14 rating.

Every wrestler had a gimmick. Back in the mid-90’s, Stone Cold Steve Austin pounded beers and delivered his trademark Stone Cold Stunner to everyone and everything. He won the fans over with profanity and lewd gestures. He gave the middle finger during matches and we all appropriately cheered and flipped out. The Rock, before he was Dwayne Johnson, was a heel, then a hero. He worked with the bad guys, only to turn on them for the good of the fans. These guys were larger than life. They weren’t even above calling out The Bible, with Stone Cold making a mockery of John 3:16 with his patented “Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass.”

The gimmicks were huge, and they sold tickets and merchandise. I owned every t-shirt, every action figure. I knew every catch phrase. I watched wide-eyed as Stone Cold attacked an enemy in a supermarket, as he drove a zamboni to the ring to attack Vince McMahon, the president of the WWE. Hulk Hogan became the ultimate bad guy when he and his group of thugs, the nWo, viciously attacked Macho Man Randy Savage (RIP). Not only did Hulk and the boys attack him, they beat him senseless, then spray-painted him yellow, all while the outraged fans flung garbage and chairs into the ring.

A few weeks ago, I turned on Monday Night Raw to find two popular wrestlers, Chris Jericho and CM Punk, feuding. CM Punk’s gimmick is that he’s straightedge, which is all well and cool. Chris Jericho was attacking CM Punk’s dad (verbally) on a giant screen calling Punk’s old man an “alcoholic.” My sister, two years younger than me, pointed out, “you know, back in the day, Jericho would have wheeled CM Punk’s old man out, stuck a funnel in his mouth, and poured beers down his throat.” I laughed because, well, it’s the truth.

The wrestlers I loved are either making comebacks (The Rock) or making direct-to-home video films like Tactical Force (I’m looking at you Stone Cold Steve Austin). There are no more real gimmicks, no wrestlers with back-stories or developed characters. Now everyone just yells things like “I’m the best and I’m awesome.” The thing is, my oiled-up friends, we don’t want you to be awesome; We want you to be larger-than-life.

I look back on the career of Diamond Dallas Page, whose in-ring promos during his time at World Championship Wrestling bordered on extreme spasms. By the end of a sentence, he was so incoherent and so fired up that he was just yelling and running around, throwing up the original ROC sign (a diamond made of thumbs and hands and index fingers) and screaming “BANG.” He was by no means a role model. In fact, he had a mullet that looked like hipster macaroni and cheese. Yet, for some reason, I walked the halls of my middle school saying things like “Randy Savage, don’t bother bringing your Slim Jims, because I’m going to give you something to snap in to!…BANG.”

Professional wrestling taught me how to swear and give the finger; it was a reason to get together one Sunday a month with ten of my best friends to watch the pay-per-views. It was the reason girls didn’t talk to us and our parents thought we were just “boys being boys” …it was the cure to ADD before medication.

I think back to the epic trampoline matches for my imaginary championship belt. We sweat and bled on that trampoline. I broke a finger and crushed a lung, all while yelling “and that’s the bottom line …’cause Nick Orsini said so.” What do I miss? I miss the over-the-top theatrics, the stunts. I mean, The Undertaker once crucified someone in the middle of the ring — that someone happened to be Stephanie McMahon (the boss, Vince McMahon’s daughter).

Now, the best you get is Chris Jericho, on the TitanTron, calling CM Punk “CM Drunk.” I am lucky to have been a part of the golden age of professional wrestling. Some called it too violent, but I called it perfect. Let’s raise a Steveweiser to a bygone era, to trampoline matches and to always feeling… the BANG. TC mark

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  • http://twitter.com/elizabethve Elizabeth Van Egdom

    YES! I grew up watching WCW, and I’m a girl! I even went to a Monday Night Nitro when Dennis Rodman decided to try out professional wrestling for awhile!   It was pretty much the most intense night of my life ever.

  • Carlo

    Wow. Amazing read right there. It’s very rare that I come across a wrestling-related blogpost. Every wrestling post I see on Tumblr nowadays consist of senseless rants and raves from the Internet Wrestling Community, and I’ll be honest, I was once a part of that, but I grew tired of it quickly. This post brings back memories of the very first WWF match I saw on TV, between Val Venis and Edge, and all those late nights of trying to keep my mother at bay while checking out what will happen between Austin and The Rock.

    Amen to this! m/

  • Guestropod

    WHAT’S YOUR NAME?  
    IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Guestropod

      true facts though, my brother once administered a piledriver to a friend when we were playing wrestling at the pool and he broke like three of his teeth it was super gory

  • Isaiah Taylor

    I think wrestling changed because it couldn’t keep that pace going. I think more wrestlers died, paralyzed, or ruined their lives during that era.  [For pure depression youtube: “Dead Wrestlers *insert year*”]
    I’m actually surprised you didn’t compare the previous 80’s era [which some would argue was the fall of the original golden age of the 50’s and 60’s], but I understand, an article about nostalgia can only be so long.

    I look at idols and characters like Stone Cold, as representations of a change that needed to happen. Pro-Wrestling,  prior to him was very “Blue Tights versus Red Tights.” 

    At the time people wanted to see individual representations of themselves, as opposed to this wide broad swath of good guys versus bad guys. Stone Cold was our “Roseanne “, our Al Bundy. We wanted to see ethnic white people and over-the-top stereotypes played out in our male dramas. Dramas that women, children and men could watch … in separate rooms.

    Let’s face it once we had “bra & panty” matches every other week, the “Attitude” era was more “tit” than “tude.”

    Though the idea of anti-heroes had long been tread in cinema and comics, we hadn’t really seen that in Wrestling. Well, specifically, American Pro Wrestling. Mexican and Japanese wrestling were kinda ahead of the curve in that regard.

    It won’t be that way again. Some for good reason, some for bad. American’s don’t like seeing ethnic white people anymore. And if we do, they’d better be giving us the impression that they are making a ton of money [wink: Jersey Shore]. 

    Cheers to you Orsini

  • http://twitter.com/alalalex alex

    Disappointed by the lack of Hulk Hogan’s sex tape in this.

  • Greg

    this is a tear-jerker man. as a kid who was actually in attendence the night Owen Hart died in Kansas City, this whole sentiment hit home. i know people who still watch, but reluctantly, because they know and i know it’s juat not the same anymore.

  • Guest

    Yes. I grew up watching Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock. Miss WWF

  • izvansvakekontrole

    Couldn’t agree more. Also the one that grew on Attitude Era and WCW VS NWO feuds. Been tapin’ it for years.

    It lost its charm, sold its soul for handful of cash. Which is such a shame really, because I don’t think merch was selling in any smaller amounts back in 1999…

  • Nishant

    Sigh, DX.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2203179 James Rocker

    “There are no more real gimmicks, no wrestlers with back-stories or developed characters. Now everyone just yells things like ‘I’m the best and I’m awesome.'”

    Dead on. I’m not entertained, guys. If you want to bring the ego, sure. But PLEASE, at least bring it as a golden auteur, or a drill sergeant, or a convict (I will also accept cop/guard), or a clown, or a vaguely immortal behemoth. Even Irwin R. Schyster, a tax-collector(!), was more interesting than what I see today. 

    I will give Sheamus credit for being extremely pale though. It’s at least interesting that photographers can use his skin to set their white balance.

  • http://robvincent.net Rob T Firefly

    ECW! ECW!

  • WrestlingFan

    I couldn’t disagree more. Just like with everything else, wrestling goes in cycles. They have the “technical wrestler” era, the “larger-than-life superstar” era, the “gimmick” era, etc. Right now, it’s back to where the technical wrestlers are earning the top spots. Just because things aren’t over the top and obnoxious doesn’t mean the stories and the characters themselves can’t draw you in. 

    There’s character development and back stories for the wrestlers, but flipping channels and catching one segment obviously isn’t going to give you that back story like when you watched religiously during the Monday Night Wars.

    Also, how are today’s catchphrases of “The Best in the World” and “I”m Awesome” any different than “Suck It” and “Feel the Bang?” They’re not. They’re still part of the wrestler’s character, extensions of the personality, etc.  And by the way, Punk being straightedge isn’t just a gimmick.

  • HeyChico

    I truly miss Scott Hall’s terrible accent. And Mae Young giving birth to a hand after a night with the unforgettable Val “Hellllloooooo lAAAdiess” Venis.

  • Ali

    I miss Kane and all of his fire-y glory.

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