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Proposing a radical restructuring
By "Hotshot" JOHNNY DEVINE - SLAM! Wrestling
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I got into an interesting conversation with a promoter yesterday concerning the state of the wrestling business and its future. He brought up a very good point and it's one I would like to share with you and get some opinions on if it might work and how to institute it.

Now there are a couple types of respect for the business I am going to talk about here. One is the wrestlers and the respect for what has come before them and the men who have come before them to pave the way, as it were, and make the business what it is.

Any green/new guy worth his salt will have a healthy respect for the guys who have been doing it longer than him or he may quickly find himself in a world of hurt. That is one of the codes if pro wrestling. Respect the vets and learn from them or they will teach you the painful way!

But the other respect for the business is the one I want to talk about today. What other one you ask? Well the respect that the fans, or marks as some call them, have for the business. No I am not going to go into a tirade on "smart marks" here and how they have affected wrestling. That's a full column in itself. No what I want to talk about are the regular joes who love to take their kids to a wrestling show because their parents took them and so on.

When a regular guy takes his kids to a show, he wants his kids to have a great time, and isn't worried about already knowing how a match is going to finish or how obvious it was that someone was going to run in and interfere. He just wants to be entertained. And that's all well and good. But the point of this column and my discussion earlier is how does he know when he buys his ticket for him and his family he's going to be entertained?

People today are conditioned to seeing WWE on TV. With up to six or seven hours of programming a week you can almost always find at least something to watch at some time. So to these people WWE is what is expected when they see "PRO WRESTLING" on a poster or in a commercial. And then when they arrive at the venue and look around and it's your local indy, they are disappointed and thus are hard on the indy product and guys and lose respect for the "business." And that's not a knock at indies because God knows I love them and work them. But it's a constant irritant to see and hear people bitch and moan because there's no pyro or video screen.

And at the same time it's not the fan's fault that there are two 140-pound skinny kids in jean shorts or pleather pants and running shoes, dropping each other on their heads and passing themselves off as "wrestlers."

In the old days to become a wrestler you had to A: be trained, by a reputable trainer just to get work; and B: look the part. Our job is the suspension of disbelief, and it's pretty hard to believe your paper boy can kick ass! So where does the fault lie?

So how is a paying customer who feels cheated expecting WWE level production from CSJW (Crappy Skinny Jabronie Wrestling) supposed to know beforehand that what they are buying tickets for is in fact an indy show and not WWE? The poster does say "PRO WRESTLING." How? Now here's what was said and the good point made and that is, if pro wrestling is supposed to be treated like any other sport, ie: baseball, football, or hockey, how come there are no minor leagues or semi-pro leagues? Think about it. Hockey has all kinds of levels from pee wee, up to AHL and then the NHL or pro leagues around the world. Same with football and baseball. How come with all the wrestling going on there's no minors? I mean, as a pro (and I can say that because it's all I do), I know that a lot of indies are considered the minors. And that a lot of minor league indies shouldn't even be considered that. And I know because I am inside and see the skill levels. But how are fans supposed to know? All the poster will say is "PRO WRESTLING." And when these fans see a "minor league" show they lose respect for wrestling on the whole (told you I'd get to the point).

What I am going to propose may seem a little crazy and maybe a little out there. But I think it's something that may need to be done to give "wrestling" a better name. I am going to propose that a group of wrestling enthusiasts and knowledgeable wrestling insiders be formed to start "qualifying" indy companies for levels of professionalism. In that I mean, it's time to start giving "wrestlers" back their good names. (Not that they were that good to begin with!) By having someone like a Dave Meltzer or a Bob Ryder head a small group of individuals who can classify the amount of experience a group has and label it, it can give the unknowing fans who aren't familiar with CSJW a guideline to go off of and know what they are buying into when they purchase their tickets. Plus it would save guys like me from having to explain over and over how the 130-pound Jeff Hardy ripoff actually made it into the same ring and is considered an equal with me.

Now this doesn't mean that I am slagging on small guys as not everyone can be huge or muscular, as I am sure I will hear from a hundred guys fitting the above description telling me how hard they work and how much better than me they are, but what it does mean is I think there should be a divider between where I am -- experience and work wise -- and where the 350-pound Baby Huey who's never given a headlock takeover is.

If these levels of experience could be named and agreed upon by a majority of the wrestling insiders and writers then I think the business could get back a level of professionalism that has been lost with the proliferation of wrestling promotions that are not quite "PRO" level yet. Plus the guys included in higher levels would be held responsible for enforcing that the groups who run shows advertise properly that they are of a certain level of experience. I don't know maybe I am crazy, but I honestly think it could help.

* * *

Kudos out to TNA for what I thought was an awesome PPV with Destination X. Some great matches and surprises. Great job to the X Division Four-Way and to Alex Shelly and Jay Lethal. Of Course Team Canada delivered in their tag match. And a huge shout out to Showtime Eric Young! Damn I keep saying it but he is the best thing on TV. Period.

I am looking forward to WWE's Wrestlmania 22 April 2. There promises to be some good stuff. For me personally it's Foley/Edge and Angle/Orton/Rey that are my top picks. I am also looking forward to Trish and Mickie James as I think both these women are exceptionally talented wrestling-wise.

For those of you in the Winnipeg area I suggest you check out the Saturday, April 1st IWM show at Doubles Fun club featuring both myself in my first match back from surgery and "The Greatest Intercontinental Champion of All Time", The Honkey Tonk Man! It will definitely be a worth while "indy" show! LOL

As always any feedback or comments can be sent to either www.johnnydevine.net or johnnydevine@shaw.ca. And any promoters looking for booking info can email the same addy.

Support your local indies and keep your eyes open as I am back on the indy trail and may be appearing at a town near you. And I guarantee that.....

If you don't like it! You'll learn to love it! Cause I am Canadian! And Proud of it!

Take Care

Devine

EDITOR'S NOTE: "Hotshot" Johnny Devine's column will run on Saturdays (or whenever he delivers) on SLAM! Wrestling. Be sure to visit each week!

For more on Devine's career, see his biography in our Canadian Hall of Fame
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