SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: Does wrestling even matter anymore?
By CHRIS GRAMLICH -- For SLAM! Wrestling
The Gramlich says...This man is a crock.
Vince McMahon once said that wrestling without a storyline is just about watching two guys in their underwear grapple, and the same basic sentiment can be applied to a wrestler's gimmick as well.
While this may be true (if not exactly as banal as Vince would have you believe), there is something to be said about a display of skill, where two opponents match each other move for move, put on a striking display of timing, innovation and technicality and tell a story through the sheer physical actions of a match. One is established as the winner and one as the loser.
It seems that many people disagree with that assessment. Why else would the average match on either the WWF or WCW's programming be in the five to six minute range, while an interview can last anywhere between ten minutes to a half an hour? And why would these shows continue to be successful and draw millions (and millions) of viewers?
I mean, Triple H only had the Iron Man match because he was contractually obligated to wrestle for as half as long as he cuts promos (although, he's still about twenty hours short) and exactly how much time does Vince Russo need to on TV anyway?
It seems frighteningly obvious that the average wrestling fan (at least for the time being) cares more about the dancing, the catchphrases and the endless repetition of stale plots than they do about the matches, but to quote the old-school hero Steve Corino, "The W stands for wrestling, people!".
And after all is said and done, after every plot has been rehashed, after every gimmick has been recycled and after every promoter has turned heel, it will still come down to "two guys in their underwear", despite what some might have you believe. But how did it come to this? How did we get so lost? The fact of the matter is we that have only ourselves to blame. The day we started cheering a person's catchphrase, his persona, rather than the wrestler who went out night in and night out and put on superb matches, was the day it all went away.
It's not about ability. It's not about work ethic. It's not about constantly improving on one's abilities. It's about the quick fix and the punch line. Rather than have matches we have endless interviews, instead of moves we have tag lines. A storyline, or a gimmick if you will, should be nothing more then an appetizer, a side dish, a dessert, a seasoning, something that enhances or compliments. It should never have become the main course, but it has and just like trying to survive on a junk food diet, it's starting to make people sick.
If it wasn't for "the worm" and the "dancing" do you think anyone would give a crap about Too Cool? They were always excellent wrestlers, but their pre-cartoon character matches drew so little heat from the audience you could actually see frost forming on their bodies. And let us not forget the McMahons versus the disgruntled/rebel employee angle. An angle that has been used to get just about everyone over in the last couple of years, ever since Vince first struck gold using it with Austin and has continued with Mick Foley, Undertaker, Rock, Chris Jericho...the list will surely only grow before someone thinks of something better.
Hey Vince, just because it's working for now doesn't mean it will always be hot. Remember the nWo, Vince. Remember the nWo. Still, a wrestler does need a gimmick to "get over," needs something to distinguish himself, to market, to be, but what happens when the gimmicks become the wrestlers? Do they still need to wrestle, or is it enough to spew some cliches and drop an elbow?
Grandmaster Gramlich: Yo! Yo! Yo! Too Cool are playing the fools, holmes.
That is what we are being marketed. That is what wrestling is becoming: "the worm", "the people's elbow", "Do you smell?" "Who's Next?", "I am the game!"...and on and on. Where will it end?
The true wrestlers are still there. Hell, even Triple H used to be an accomplished technical wrestler although it's all about the punch, kick and punch these days. Chris Benoit, RVD, Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio Jr., Jericho and Shane Douglas all are great technicians who have adapted to today's wrestling climate while continuing to deliver great matches. But, they seem to be a dying breed. More and more it seems that the wrestlers who get over are the ones who can recite their lines the best, who can say their catchphrase over and over again.
Fans don't applaud when they see an excellent ten-move, counter-for-counter series. Well, at least not in the WWF or WCW. They applaud when Vince gets punched. They applaud when some fat guy dances. They applaud hitting someone with a trashcan. What happend to the actual grappling?
Terry Funk once said that wrestling goes in cycles. He's been there when people wanted wrestling. He's been there when the people just wanted entertainment. He's been there when they wanted both and heaven knows, Terry is living it now. Eventually, "the worm" will turn and people will grow tired of all the fluff. They'll crave real wrestling or any wrestling for that matter. Obviously wrestling, plots and gimmicks share a symbiotic relationship. One cannot survive, or more to the point, hold the attention of an audience without the others. It's only a matter of time before wrestling reasserts itself in this triumvirate, but until that happens the question seems to be: Does the wrestling matter anymore? And I'm not sure that the majority of today's wrestling fans really care about that.