Today marks the FOURTH straight week that I’ll be going without watching ANY wrestling. Prior, I had somehow escalated my grapplin’ watchin’ to an unbearable NINE HOURS A WEEK! I was watching it all, from WWE, to Lucha Underground, NXT, New Japan and TNA---like many of the smarks out there I had gotten to the point that if the show’s label had the word “wrestling” in it---I was watching.
And, it was complete agony.
Outside of Lucha, there was nothing I even remotely enjoyed. I was watching simply because somehow it had become my job. And, it was painful at that, even more painful then commuting from Long Island to Manhattan every day on the Long Island Railroad when I was in my early 20s---and trust me---that was freakin’ brutal. Wrestling had just become an absolute chore to watch, there was just nothing whatsoever enjoyable about it to me any longer. And the one constant that was clearly fueling my distain was the absolute lack of EFFORT. There was none in easily eight, out of the nine hours I was watching. And, I’m not talking about the talent---you rarely, if ever, see the talent just “phone it in”, that’s just not in their chemistry. It was all in the writing, producing and execution---it just wasn’t there for me.
I don’t think many people realize that up until last July, I hadn’t watched the WWE since I left the company in October of 99’. That’s right---I’d gone almost fifteen years without watching one, single segment of RAW---not one. I didn’t see any of it; Taker’s streak, CM Punk’s “pipe bomb”, the rise of Daniel Bryan---nothing. And, I think it’s fair to say that while I was working at TNA, for the most part, outside of some of the things we did with the Main Event Mafia and 10/10/10, for a decade I was just doing the best I could within the confines I was put in. I was never a big fan of the product.
Wrestling just isn’t wrestling any more, not the way I remember it any way. I freakin’ drove THREE HOURS with a carload of buddies to Atlantic City to watch WrestleMania IV and V, and I couldn’t wait to get there. This year---I would even walk from my office to my family room to watch the “event” unless I was absolutely forced to. I just have no interest whatsoever in a show that is being put on the shoulders of two legends whose day in the sun passed some 15 years ago. There just has to be more in it for me . . . but that’s just me.
So, in the absence of wrestling, I’ve started to watch some quality television again, really catching up with the things that interest me. Man, I caught four absolutely tremendous documentaries on Netflix this weekend that I greatly encourage all of you to watch:
ESPN 30 for 30: The Legend of Jimmy “The Greek”
ESPN 30 for 30: Survive and Advance
ESPN 30 for 30: The Price of Gold
Evocateur-The Morton Downey Jr. Movie
Four absolutely great pieces of work, all with one thing in the common---each show centers on characters that are special, unique, authentic and DIFFERENT---characters who you just can’t take your eyes off of. All so compelling, interesting, and here’s a word for you---ADDICTIVE. From the brash, hard-edged sports gambler turned CBS Sports analyst Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, to the beloved coach who always spoke of hopes and dreams, NC State’s Jimmy Valvano, to the most controversial talk show host in the history of television who crashed and burned within a two year period, Morton Downey Jr., to the skater who 20 years later we still don’t know whether to believe or not, Tonya Harding. Four fascinating people with fascinating stories---all ironically “working” the camera in their own unique way.
That’s the part that was the most fascinating to me---they were all “working”. Taking their surroundings, their story and their personalities and purposely embellishing them just enough to make them larger-than-life American folk heroes---an art that the WWE somehow managed to lose after John Cena. You see---stars are made---they are crafted---as long as they have the main ingredient known as the “It Factor”. From their---the rest is pretty much manufactured. That’s why the Undertaker and Sting are the only two guys that people care about going into WrestleMainia. There personas were created---mortal men who were turned into immortal icons, no different than “The Greek”, “The Heel Skater”, “The Mouth” and “The Coach”. It’s all an illusion taken from shreds of reality.
It’s called “the work”---the element that to this day sells tickets and puts asses in seats. Creating an illusion for the “every man” that he just has to see because he “never will be”. It really all comes down to that. Wrestling just doesn’t employ that anymore to one, single person in their teen years and above. Shoot, man, I wanted to be Savage when I was 26, and I wanted to be Scott Steiner was I was 46. Why would I ever want to be Seth Rollins, or Dean Ambrose---I already am a regular guy. You know what---that may be unpopular to some---but we all know it’s the truth.
We want to see stars on television---that’s just the way it’s always been. If you’re on a plasma TV, or a movie screen, you are there because I would PAY MONEY TO SEE YOU. You are larger than life---not a regular guy. Dolph Ziggler? Jake “The Snake”---YES. That’s what’s missing today in wrestling. Regular guys don’t pay to see regular guys. Regular guys pay to see those that they aren’t, and in their own imaginations---long to be.