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The "Superstar Image" Today vs Yesterday

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First, it's unquestionable that steroid and PED usage is as rampant in wrestling today as it was in the 1980's. It's a key component of that "larger than life" look that defines a top wrestling star. But even with that factor in play, I can't help noticing that a typical star of today looks a whole lot different than a star of yesteryear. Indeed, it's not just limited to US wrestling. The Puroresu prototypical image has changed drastically as well. In fact, the top guys in many Japanese promotions are resembling their US counterparts, more and more. For a long time, the bulky strongman look was the prototype for a Japanese ace, now you've got guys a hell of a lot leaner and ripped.

 

Does anybody think that the difference in "the look" is something that has evolved with the mentality of the business (namely, that promoters are changing their minds on what constitutes as a "big guy" or a "larger than life star"), or it's come about, simply with the differences in diets, training regimes and access to better drugs in recent years?

 

Look at Hogan of the mid 1980's and John Cena of today. Both very muscular guys, but Cena simply looks in better physical shape than Hogan ever did. He's leaner for sure. Then you've got guys the former athletes. Take Brock Lesnar and somebody with a similar amateur wrestling background like Steve Williams or the Steiners. Again, both examples of incredibly muscular guys, but Lesnar simply looks more like somebody who is/was an athelte, than either Williams or the Steiners did, despite all men being almost as equally as proficient in the ring.

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I think in general the body types might reflect broader cultural trends.

 

In the 1970s, action stars were not stacked. They were lean, athletic, toned, but not jacked up. Bruce Lee, Burt Reynolds, Chuck Norris, etc. Their body types are reflected in guys like Ricky Steamboat and Jack Brisco, who were top stars in the 70s.

 

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In the 1980s, action stars were Arnie, Sly Stallone ... Mr. T. Guys who were more jacked. Hogan and co are the obvious wrestling counter-parts.

 

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1990s had smaller guys -- not "small", but not Arnie-size, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise ... Wrestling had smaller guys coming through -- although steroid deal played a role in that.

 

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00s saw some bigger dudes in action films: Vin Diesel, Hugh Jackman, guys like that. Wrestling got guys like Dave Batista at the bigger end (who incidentally, has a pretty big role in Spectre, the new Bond film, which I watched last night) but the look is most closely reflected by Randy Orton.

 

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10s saw a general leaning up of the look, less bulky more . Best example is Harry Cavill in that Man of Steel film a couple of years back:

 

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I think the most important thing is the drugs available to these guys. I'd guess almost everyone on WWE's roster is taking something. It is physically impossible to look like John Cena year-round while natural, let alone with the constant travel and stress wrestling entails.

 

The last guy I'm confident wasn't was on gear was CM Punk just for the straight edge thing, and his physique pretty much the same as a random guy on the street with a non-obese BMI. 70s stars like Jack Brisco have a similar physique, so I don't think they were on much either.

 

After Billy Graham, though, the whole thing explodes and the bulky steroid look is basically a requirement to get hired by the WWE. As was mentioned, though, there wasn't much emphasis on being lean with many stars, including Hogan, having noticeable guts.

 

In the 90's, things go backwards a bit as the steroids scandals hit and such a look becomes frowned upon. By the late 90's and early 2000's though, things pick up again with Triple H, Brock, and Batista as pretty much wrestling's answer to the mass monsters that had taken over bodybuilding at the time. This was also when that lean but still muscular look became popular among mid-carders.

 

With Eddie and Benoit's deaths, things slowed down again and now I think we're in an era where the focus is more on juicing for performance than it is just to be huge.

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JerryV, I really enjoyed looking through that. I think you've hit it on the head, that the wrestling image follows popular cultural trends in image. Amazing for an industry lead by people known for living in their own bubbles eh?

 

 

I think the most important thing is the drugs available to these guys. I'd guess almost everyone on WWE's roster is taking something. It is physically impossible to look like John Cena year-round while natural, let alone with the constant travel and stress wrestling entails.

The last guy I'm confident wasn't was on gear was CM Punk just for the straight edge thing, and his physique pretty much the same as a random guy on the street with a non-obese BMI. 70s stars like Jack Brisco have a similar physique, so I don't think they were on much either.

After Billy Graham, though, the whole thing explodes and the bulky steroid look is basically a requirement to get hired by the WWE. As was mentioned, though, there wasn't much emphasis on being lean with many stars, including Hogan, having noticeable guts.

 

The thing that amazes me about Cena, is that he's never been seen looking bad... like ever. He is currently (and has been for several years) the most exposed wrestling talent in WWE, and quite possibly the world. He never looks like he's packing a gut or shrinking, even when he's on the sidelines with an injury.

 

Compare him to the other big and prominently exposed (guys who have been touring a lot over the past decade or so) muscle monsters (read: steroid users) in WWE, guys like Triple H, Kane, Batista, etc. They've all had intermittent periods where they've been either smaller or flabbier. In Trips case, he's looked at his worst around the time he and Stephanie have been having kids (coming off cycle for fertility, presumably), Kane fluctuates regularly, sometimes he can be flabby, sometimes he can be jacked and leaner than guys 20 year his junior. But Cena, Cena has looked and continued looking great from day one, he's even got denser in recent years, without developing any kind temporary flabbiness (look at any offseason bodybuilders gaining size, who walk around a lot softer than usual). It's amazing to try and imagine how he does it, given how often he's on camera. He must really have a great pharmacist.

 

I used to buy completely into CM Punk being straight edge. Definitely in regards to his physique, he definitely wasn't using steroids to augment his image... But, I think, at least I hypothesise, that part of the reason (and he'll probably never admit to it) he walked out on WWE was because the touring schedule, his mounting injuries, and constant burnout was forcing him to use painkillers and other pharmaceutical recovery aids. Not to the addict levels, but even just using went against everything he believed in. In essence, he discovered his lifestyle choices were incompatible with his chosen career, and he got to the point where he chose to put his career over his lifestyle, however briefly.

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Parv hit the nail on the head up there. Not just in presentation of stars, but in how the products feel when viewed (which is a different discussion but related).

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He must really have a great pharmacist.

 

I told you before, Cena needs to turn heel and go Lance Armstrong on the WWE Universe's ass. Greatest gimmick ever.

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Parv hit the nail on the head up there. Not just in presentation of stars, but in how the products feel when viewed (which is a different discussion but related).

Took the words right out of my mouth. Wrestling over time has looked at what people want in their male pop culture sex symbols and have applied it to the top of the card.

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I remember Batista walking out with HHH and Orton when Evolution reunited last year, and how strange it was seeing Batista as the smallest guy in the group. That's not at all what his role was in that group the first time around. Still, Batista looks far healthier today than he did ten years ago, but I think most top stars of this era look healthier in general. HHH in some ways looks younger than he did a decade ago too.

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I remember Batista walking out with HHH and Orton when Evolution reunited last year, and how strange it was seeing Batista as the smallest guy in the group. That's not at all what his role was in that group the first time around. Still, Batista looks far healthier today than he did ten years ago, but I think most top stars of this era look healthier in general. HHH in some ways looks younger than he did a decade ago too.

Triple H harps on now that he does weight training like an athlete instead of a bodybuilder. The language he uses when he's talking about looking for new talent is athlete and being an athlete. It seems like his vision of new talent is that they have to be similar to today's modern athlete.

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jushin muta liger's post ties into a wider sports phenomenon today. time for a bit of a history lesson...

 

outside of american football, weightlifting was never fully accepted in the big team sports until the 90s. and at that time, most of the top strength coaches came from a bodybuilding-related background. in that world, the conventional wisdom of that time favored an ultra-high-protein & ultra-low-fat diet, and assumed that extreme muscularity and leanness should be top priority.

 

things have changed since then, of course. the low-fat meme has been strongly debunked now, with non-saturated fats gaining a lot of favor over the past decade or so. there's an increasing amount of debate over how much protein a person really needs. more and more coaches are saying that six-pack abs don't really do anything for you athletically, although the fitness culture of social media has made that one an uphill battle. but in elite pro sports nowadays you're seeing guys who aren't as massive as your mark mcgwires & albert belles, or below 10% bodyfat...but who are better all-around athletes than the generation before them.

 

i think that's what HHH has been getting at when talking about this transition in wrestling. fitness & athletic training have broken out of the bodybuilding bubble and wrestling's gotta catch up there!

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i think that's what HHH has been getting at when talking about this transition in wrestling. fitness & athletic training have broken out of the bodybuilding bubble and wrestling's gotta catch up there!

 

But Vince is still in charge (for now), and he seems relentless, even to this day, about favoring the Bodybuilders over the "athlete" types.

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i think that's what HHH has been getting at when talking about this transition in wrestling. fitness & athletic training have broken out of the bodybuilding bubble and wrestling's gotta catch up there!

 

But Vince is still in charge (for now), and he seems relentless, even to this day, about favoring the Bodybuilders over the "athlete" types.

 

Roman Reigns was a 3-year starter for a solid D1 football program. Rollins is a pretty impressive athlete. These guys aren't the Warlord.

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i think that's what HHH has been getting at when talking about this transition in wrestling. fitness & athletic training have broken out of the bodybuilding bubble and wrestling's gotta catch up there!

 

But Vince is still in charge (for now), and he seems relentless, even to this day, about favoring the Bodybuilders over the "athlete" types.

 

Based on what exactly? The most jacked guy on the roster is Ryback and it's not like they've done a great job of pushing him. Reigns is a big dude but he's not a jacked bodybuilder. Cesaro has one of the most impressive physiques on the roster but it's not like that's getting him anywhere.

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