March 1, 2000
Former fan explains why he isn't tuning in
Memo to McMahon: Where's my wrestling?
When World Wrestling Federation owner Vince McMahon announced the formation of his new football league the XFL, one of his reasons for starting it was the complaint the NFL had gone soft. 'Where's my football?' he asked the crowd of gathered reporters. As a former professional wrestling fan I just smirked and thought instead of asking about professional football, McMahon should really be asking about the World Wrestling Federation. So if he won't ask, I will: Vince, where's my wrestling?
I understand what it's like to be a die-hard wrestling fan. I jumped on board in the '80s as a child, but I was not a Hulkamaniac, saying my prayers and eating my vitamins. I grew up reading The Wrestler magazine, rooting for the Ultimate Warrior to beat Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI and waking up early on Saturday morning to catch some Stampede Wrestling on TSN. For me the video store was not for movies but for renting wrestling pay-per-views that came out on video. I'd take the videos home, immediately watching them from start to finish, then watch my favourite match on the card again and again.
So now as the WWF is enjoying such huge sucess why am I not joining in the frenzy? Why I am not buying The Rock or Mankind's autobiography. Why don't I really care who wins the title at Wrestlemania this year? Simple -- where are the matches today that would make me rewind a tape and watch it again and again? Where's the Ricky Steamboat versus Randy Savage at WrestleMania 3? Where's the Shawn Micheals versus Razor Ramon ladder match? Where's The British Bulldog versus Bret Hart at SummerSlam in London? Where's the type of gut-churning displays of athleticism that got under your skin with just two guys in the ring being athletes?
The last time I followed professional wrestling was when the WCW was routinely beating the WWF in the ratings, and while once again Hogan was the signature attraction, it was the crusierweight division that held my attention the most. Why? The wrestling was amazing every week on Nitro. Cruiserrweights would put on great matches where the ending was geniunely a mystery. But as the WWF gradually raised in the ratings to become number one again, it became clear to me that everything except the actually wrestling itself was propelling its comeback. People watching Raw Is War and buying the pay-per-views seemed to be more interested in 'puppies' or watching Cactus Jack get hit over the head with a chair. Somehow watching untalented actors (which is why they're wrestlers) in silly skits that make Jerry Springer seem compelling is what pro wrestling has become about. The actual wrestling has taken a back seat to the craziness surrounding it.
In today's world of wrestling, Mick Foley versus The Undertaker's 'Hell in the Cell' match highlighted by Foley's plunge off the cage is considered an example of a great match. But that match is an example of the type of carnage that's contributed to me not watching wrestling. Great wrestlers don't wrestle anymore, they talk on the microphone, hit each other with chairs and take things to an extreme that undermines everything else they do. How am I supposed to have any emotional interest in a character when at any point they can just grab a chair and start wailing. I could hit someone with a chair, but I'd never attempt a moonsault.
When you watch wrestling today you'll notice the fans are not even watching the matches. I remember tuning into a match between Sting and Bret Hart on WCW Nitro, two wrestlers who used to make me watch and the fans, who have become so accustomed to the outside mayhem were more interested in who was coming down the aisle to interfere in the match than what two former world champions were doing in the ring. Of course the matchmakers had to have Lex Luger come down and interfere to ruin it. While outside interference has always been a staple of pro wrestling, it didn't use to be so apparent it was going to happen in every match. I don't want to watch a pro wrestling match when a clear winner is an exception not the standard.
A few weeks ago I tried to give wrestling another chance after about six months off. I sat down to watch Raw Is War and to the show's credit during the main event that old feeling came back, a ten 10-man tag had me on my feet and bouncing around the room with the match ending in a pin. I think that's a fitting end for the time being. You see earlier on in the program I had already decided to not watch the following week. When instead of showing wrist locks and arm bars, the WWF decided to have the tag team The Dudleys almost power bomb a small woman at ringside through a table. I don't care whether they were stopped or not, the mere hint of two huge thugs almost doing that to a small woman made me wish McMahon would answer the question...Where's my wrestling?
Wade Tomlin is a CNEWS Online Editor here at CANOE. He recently created the Law And Order section in CNEWS. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.