The first thing I ever saw in professional wrestling wasn’t the badassery of Stone Cold Steve Austin, it wasn’t the cockiness of The Rock, it wasn’t the everyman in Mick Foley, and it wasn’t the juvenile behaviour of D-Generation X. The first thing I ever saw, following the opening pyro and the pomp and circumstance of your typical episode of Monday Night Raw, was the entrance of the odd-couple tag team that was Kane and X-Pac.
My first iota of exposure to the wacky world of wrestling could hardly have been any wackier. And frankly, I don’t think I could have asked for a better introduction: on one side, you had a monster of a man who would win championships left, right, and centre for decades to follow while maintaining his hold as a centrepiece of the wrestling world; on the other side, well, you had X-Pac. As I would come to learn, this was exactly what wrestling was all about.
The world of wrestling does not exactly make sense at the best of times. Whether it was Mae Young’s birthing experience, Mankind’s appeasing Mr McMahon in a hospital bed, the Katie Vick incident, or Stone Cold Steve Austin and Booker T brawling in a supermarket, WWE has been nothing more than a series of hits and misses throughout its entire existence. But never has a hit or a miss being more consequential than it can be today.
With the world the way it is, with the internet being at everybody’s fingers, an opinion is something that can be readily expressed (see this article), and easily made viral. Vince McMahon says Cesaro doesn’t have the “it” factor, the “Cesaro Section” is born. Roman Reigns gets put in the main event of WrestleMania, #CancelWWENetwork reaches international virality. Daniel Bryan gets shunted at the 2014 Royal Rumble, WrestleMania is forced to become the stupidly-named Yes-tleMania.
Some of the reactions have been warranted, some have just been the final straw, and some have just been people being stupid (see any CM Punk chant in 2015). But there’s something that really should be noted: study after study has shown that anger overrules all other emotions when it comes to internet sharing. If you want to see exactly how this works, there is a great CGP Grey video entitled “This Video Will Make You Angry” which I would highly endorse.
What this means is that for every positive piece of news when it comes to wrestling and WWE, we will receive a myriad of negative articles, blogs, videos, tweets, Facebook opinions… Any potential positive is entirely overwhelmed and so usually ignored.
Before I go any further, I won’t say I’m defending the current WWE product. I saw Raw last week for the first time in three months and was only reminded of why I stopped watching in the first place: too many confused storylines, a complete oversaturation of the product as well as its hottest acts, and the seeming refusal to take any risks other than making Sheamus WWE Champion. By the time I had finished watching, I was bored so stiff, rigor mortis had set in.
But therein the problem lies: a complete focus on negative fuelled only by others’ negative reactions online. What I and many others ignored for the sake of anger was the idea of an intriguing new faction in The League of Nations, the fascinating dimensions being added between the former Team PCB members, and the willingness of The Authority to become a side act on a week where ratings could have forced them into safe mode with every half-hour featuring a promo by Triple H.
I think that something many people forget about, or maybe don’t even know, is that professional wrestling was originally a circus act. The NWA tried to “legitimise” wrestling and, while it worked to a large extent, it was when Vince McMahon brought the circus back to the act that wrestling skyrocketed into a global phenomenon. The entire point of pro wrestling is a complete suspension of disbelief, and I think we may have forgotten how to do that. I’m not saying we are completely at fault, but badmouthing WWE simply because Sheamus was gyrating with The New Day seems like a bit of a cop-out.
Whoever reads this, I know that my argument is a bit muddied and incomplete, but the point I’m trying to make is this: wrestling is never as simple, nor ever has been as simple, as good and bad. The arguably greatest point in professional wrestling brought us Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock, but it also brought us Pat Patterson vs. Gerald Brisco in an evening gown match. There will always be ups and downs throughout any and every generation of the product. There will always be a Kane, there will always be an X-Pac, and sometimes the best and worst can come together to create pure and hilarious entertainment.