Friday, January 15, 1999
Sleaze or Entertainment?
You know comments like the ones you made in your last SLAM! article make me sick. It's people like you that make the internet wrestling sites a horrible place for WCW fans... It makes us WCW fans sick to see sites, which are supposedly devoted to all of wrestling and then have reporters who love the WWF badmouth WCW... Don't badmouth the WCW because you want them to be like the WWF. There's simply more people that like the Jerry Springer "shock value" TV that the WWF has, than the traditional wrestling of the WCW. It's cool, I don't mind. I love WCW and I probably always will. So please, as long as you write articles for complete wrestling sites, don't try and bring down WCW in them. Us fans would appreciate it.
Roger L Harford Jr.
Many people in the World of professional wrestling believe that the World Wrestling Federation is the pinnacle of execution, creativity and talent. In their love of the WWF they overlook all the glaring problems of that company and wholeheartedly denounce any and all of the competition. Sure there are fans of both the WWF and World Championship Wrestling but for the most part there exists some sort of competition between fans of either company, who simply cannot enjoy one without attacking the other.
With the WWF thoroughly beating the WCW in ratings as of late, many have been quick to applaud the WWF's angles and matches while constantly deriding the efforts of the WCW and it seems from the fan and critic approval, that the WWF can do no wrong. While the WCW has received a number of criticisms in this column (and all completely deserved), it is time to be fair and take an objective look at the WWF (although there will be no such scrutiny of the ECW, as it is beyond reproach).
With the WWF hiding beyond the excuse of Sports Entertainment and the incorporation of more Hollywood or Soap Opera like story lines, the question of Sleaze vs. Entertainment must be addressed. The most glaring of which has been the miscarriage angle that has been played-out between D-Lo Brown and Marlena on Raw over the past two weeks.
For those who are unaware of this angle, Marlena fell off the ring while interfering in a match involving D-Lo and lost her unborn baby. Now, since she was never pregnant this wasn't really a big deal to many watching, however the moral implications and how this will now affect wrestling can only be guessed at. Wrestling is a fantasy, it creates the illusion of violence but no one is supposed to get hurt and no one ever dies, ever! Killing, even a fake killing, of something as taboo as a child is morally disgusting and unheard of in the WWF.
The fact that the WWF now condones infanticide is disturbing enough but what's next? When a wrestler is leaving the WWF can he/she now be killed as a convenient way of explaining their absence? Of course this is an extreme example but it's used to make a point. Moving wrestling into the nineties with more aggressive interviews and explosive/Hardcore matches is one thing but opening up the Pandora's box which is mortality is a cross the WWF doesn't want to bear.
Sex has also been employed more openly in recent months in the WWF especially with the women and the results are definitely mixed. While Sable is probably a strong role model for other females how does the WWF justify the Pretty Mean Sisters angle, sure it's entertaining but the basic premise is that two rejected women get together and take out their frustrations on the unintelligent men of the WWF.
Whether it's entertaining or not isn't the question, the angles PMS have been featured in have been sleazy, vulgar and tasteless and aren't going to stop any time soon. Also, we have Chyna introducing a drag-queen into the equation with Mark Henry without spoiling the angle lets just say it's going to go further than the Mark Henry gerbil angle, is this entertainment or is this smut? And what the hell does any of this have to do with wrestling?
The way women are treated by men isn't much better. For example, take the Godfather who is a pimp (someone who prostitutes women and then takes a share of their money), he constantly refers to his women as Hoe's and his catch phrase is 'Pimping ain't easy'. What's even more disturbing is the number of fans who eat it up, what's this teaching us about women? That we should treat them like whores? Also, don't forget Val Venis the porn-star who dumps the ladies when he's done with them, almost as much as Duke the Dumpster dumped the trash. In a very abstract way the WWF is condoning an extremely disrespectful attitude of and towards women and hiding behind the shield of entertainment. The Supernatural vs. the just plain Silly.
Wrestling has always relied on the suspension of disbelief to achieve its desired effect. If people didn't suspend logic when enjoying wrestling, who would watch? Just like a movie, wrestling takes you away and makes the implausible possible. Just look at the Undertaker.
When the Undertaker was introduced into the WWF his gimmick was that he was undead? He couldn't be hurt because he wasn't truly alive; he had strange supernatural powers and was a force for darkness. Needless to say he became huge and modified his gimmick a bit. He became the Lord of Darkness and prayed on wayward souls, he could make the lights turn off and on and smoke would billow-out of his urn. Sometimes he would be struck by lightning, buried alive, set on fire and always he would survive, because he had no spark of life which to extinguish.
As strange as it may seem the WWF has decided to push that angle even further, now besides being undead the Undertaker will basically ascend to a godlike figure. He will be worshipped, will have disciples and have the ability to convert non-believers (see Dennis Knight ritual). Again, the question is what does any of this have to do with wrestling? The WWF pushed the envelope of good taste in many people's opinion with the Stone Cold crucifixion angle, so where will they go now that he is a deity?
The Undertaker also admitted to setting the fire that killed his parents and horribly disfigured Kane. Kane in the story line is the brother of the Undertaker and not Glen Jacobs no-matter what anyone says and has powers comparable to that of the Undertaker's but are based more on fire than death. OK, undead monsters running around killing their parents, trying to embalm wrestlers, stealing souls, etc. The only thing which is keeping any of this from being entirely laughable is how 'over' it is with the fans. However, if the WWF pushes these 'supernatural' angles much further one must wonder how much longer even the most ardent supporters will watch. The Brood also deserves honourable mention, since it has been implied that they are a group of undead vampires but since it really hasn't come out in any major angles yet, it'll be left at just a mention.
In conclusion, while the WWF is the superior federation in both the ratings and in many fan opinions right now, the fact remains that there is a great deal wrong with the WWF. It's reliance on Vince McMahon to get wrestlers over; the way women are portrayed both by the wrestlers and by themselves. The lack of main-event talent and the lack of fresh angles for a majority of the talent. Stone Cold is a star but how much longer will they drag-out the McMahon feud? Also, how will the various occult angles play out and how can they be executed without seeming phony and stupid? While the WWF is the superior company right now, it wouldn't be hard for them to topple themselves from that spot, simply by trying too hard to push the envelopes of creativity and good taste.
Chris Gramlich originally hails from "anywhere he damn well pleases" (a.k.a. Vancouver, BC). His hobbies include: wrestling, piercing various body parts, aggressive music, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Star Trek related programs, good animation, any all shark programs, video games, wrestling and walking his dog. Gramlich plays in a jazz/metal/punk/noise band called Association Area, being previous associated with bands such as Bad Blood and Tchort. Also a respected music writer based out of Toronto, "Hardcore" writes for the Exclaim and Doomhauled magazines.
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