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funkdoc

Wrestling parallels w/ wider cultural trends

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Hello everyone, this is something i've had on my mind for a while but never really discussed...

We often talk about the "wrestling bubble" mentality, where people think wrestling's problems, quirks & trends are unique to this particular industry.  We've occasionally mentioned cases where this is wrong, but one i wanted to bring up is the tendency to miss the forest for the trees when discussing creative & business trends in wrestling.

For example: Wrestling fans often see the business's greater economic success in the 90s as evidence that things were done better then, but you almost never see anyone bring up how many other industries were thriving during that exact same period.  To use music as an example since that's what i know best, the 90s were responsible for more Billboard-certified diamond albums (10 mil+ copies) than any other decade in history.  If i were to write a book on the record industry in this decade, it would be 267 pages of "Kenny G had a diamond album." repeated for the entire thing.

Point being: i'd argue that this was more a product of the 90s US economic boom resulting in more purchasing power for the middle class in particular.  Wrestling just happened to be one of many beneficiaries of that, in my view, and that's not something that gets brought up very often.

Another one i think about is wrestling's indie boom in the mid-2000s, and how people don't seem to make the connection with other entertainment industries here.  To keep the music comparisons going, i don't think it's a coincidence that Samoa Joe & CM Punk broke out around the same time that, say, the Arcade Fire did.  The mid-late 2000s are also seen as a golden age for indie rock, and i'd argue that these are similar phenomena that resulted from the Internet's expanding reach and power.

One last thought to get the point across: i often see people on this board complain about fans not being emotionally invested in winning and losing, "THIS IS AWESOME" chants, and wrestling's general transformation into a nerd subculture.  Again, this is far from just a wrestling thing - look at the movies breaking box-office records in recent years, or how A Song of Ice and Fire was made into the biggest TV show in the world.  The biggest winner from this year's Grammys posts selfies in Sailor Moon clothes.  Nerd culture has become not just mainstream but, i would argue, hegemonic now - acts like the New Day getting as over as they have likely couldn't have happened without this.

And even in sports, winning & losing have become an increasingly less important part of the story for younger followers in particular.  The athlete who's inspired the most heated discussion among your millennials & zoomers?  Colin Kaepernick.  The most popular Youtube sports personalities (e.g. Jon Bois) tend to focus more on human-interest stories and historical oddities than the "who's the best?" debates that have traditionally dominated sports fandom.  There's plenty of discussion to be had about why this is, but i would again suggest that wrestling fandom's turn away from wins & losses is a product of wider phenomena.

If you'd argue with any of this, or you're thinking of other examples that the wrestling bubble overlooks, feel free to discuss!

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29 minutes ago, funkdoc said:

Another one i think about is wrestling's indie boom in the mid-2000s, and how people don't seem to make the connection with other entertainment industries here.  To keep the music comparisons going, i don't think it's a coincidence that Samoa Joe & CM Punk broke out around the same time that, say, the Arcade Fire did.

That's the most out there thing I heard in a long time.:P What's the analogy between CM Punk, Samoa Joe and Arcade fucking Fire (a band I loathe BTW) ? I always thought comparison between pro-wrestling and music were pretty piss poor anyway (ECW as the "grunge rock" of pro-wrestling, completely laughable), but I have no idea what you mean by that one.

29 minutes ago, funkdoc said:

The mid-late 2000s are also seen as a golden age for indie rock, and i'd argue that these are similar phenomena that resulted from the Internet's expanding reach and power.

Hum... Except that by the mid-00's, "indie rock" meant exactly jackshit in term of being actually "indie" (like it was in the 80's or early 90's) and just became a new boring norm heralded by new internet music media Pitchfork. So, I guess the role played by internet has something do to with it, but there's really no analogy to me between "indie wrestling" in the 00's and "indie rock" in term of finding a form or style that would be its own. Which is not surprising, because what the internet brought was basically file sharing thanks to the mp3 and nothing else. At least not until Youtube and such came along and changed things again in term of distribution and production of content streamable in high definition.

29 minutes ago, funkdoc said:

One last thought to get the point across: i often see people on this board complain about fans not being emotionally invested in winning and losing, "THIS IS AWESOME" chants, and wrestling's general transformation into a nerd subculture.  Again, this is far from just a wrestling thing - look at the movies breaking box-office records in recent years, or how A Song of Ice and Fire was made into the biggest TV show in the world.  The biggest winner from this year's Grammys posts selfies in Sailor Moon clothes.  Nerd culture has become not just mainstream but, i would argue, hegemonic now - acts like the New Day getting as over as they have likely couldn't have happened without this.

Totally agree with this, and this is a point I've been thinking about too when people refer to Kenny Omega as a "geek". Yeah. Geeks are the one who are ruling the world now. Facebook is the creation of a geek. The new rulers are geek. People in Hollywood are geeks. The geeks have won the battle. And I don't see how it's better or worse than the jock culture which gave us Silvester Stallone and Hulk Hogan in the 80's. It's actually probably better, honestly. Or maybe that's me being a geek.

(Maybe it's actually much worse, in term of how it affects society, really, when you think about Amazon, Google, Facebook, Uber and other awful companies like that, but we're strictly talking about the entertainment industry here).

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42 minutes ago, funkdoc said:

For example: Wrestling fans often see the business's greater economic success in the 90s as evidence that things were done better then, but you almost never see anyone bring up how many other industries were thriving during that exact same period. 

Except pro-wrestling in the 90's in the US had been in the dump for most of the decade... It did not catch on again before the nWo in WCW and Austin/Rock in WWF (coupled with the raunchy Attitude Era booking style). There's something to be said about why these two angles (to speak broadly) worked when they did, just like why Hulk Hogan worked in the 80's, decade of Silvester Stallone, Schwarzy and Reagan/Bush in the White House.

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80's Hulk Hogan : Stallone/Schwarzy = big body guys, bigger than life heroes, jigoism, steroid and punches in the face

mid to late 90's : Shawn Michaels / Hardy Boys : Keanu Reeves = smaller guys, good looking, they slide and jump from bus who can't stop and do unthinkable stunts

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So can we use the X-Games kind of stuff with wrestlers the likes of Fenix who does all kinds of flippy stuff and parkour?

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On 6/12/2020 at 1:45 PM, El-P said:

That's the most out there thing I heard in a long time.:P What's the analogy between CM Punk, Samoa Joe and Arcade fucking Fire (a band I loathe BTW) ? I always thought comparison between pro-wrestling and music were pretty piss poor anyway (ECW as the "grunge rock" of pro-wrestling, completely laughable), but I have no idea what you mean by that one.

It's not that out there.  I think the original poster meant that there was a turn to people finding things on the internet/on their own instead of getting it from radio/tv.  I don't think they mean that CM Punk/Joe are anything like Arcade Fire.  It's just that people came to find them in similar ways.

Same with people calling ECW the "Grunge Rock of Wrestling" (I also hate the term Grunge).  It was just that ECW was seen as this unpolished alternative to the slick wrestling you saw on tv at the time.  Sort of like how Grunge "replaced" Hair Metal (I know it didn't really, but that's the common perception).  

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5 minutes ago, Log said:

It's not that out there.  I think the original poster meant that there was a turn to people finding things on the internet/on their own instead of getting it from radio/tv.  I don't think they mean that CM Punk/Joe are anything like Arcade Fire.  It's just that people came to find them in similar ways.

Yeah, I understood what he said a bit later, but wasn't gonna edit my post. Ok, I got it. But the sentence as it was first struck me as random as fuck and quite amusing. "CM Punk, SAmoe Joe, Arcade Fire, same thing" ! :D

5 minutes ago, Log said:

Same with people calling ECW the "Grunge Rock of Wrestling" (I also hate the term Grunge).  It was just that ECW was seen as this unpolished alternative to the slick wrestling you saw on tv at the time.  Sort of like how Grunge "replaced" Hair Metal (I know it didn't really, but that's the common perception).  

Yeah, I know, but I always found that analogy kinda simplistic. Also it was funny to me that the supposed "cutting-edge" promotion in term of pop-culture reference has a "grunge" looking-like character debut in... 1995 (same yeah WWF debuted Rad Radford BTW).

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Wrestling is always a few years behind the trends.

Speaking of "Indie Rock", I always thought a promotion should've done a hipster character back in the mid-late '00s.  Most guys were still coming out to some form of nu metal at that point (Hell, they still are.  Jesus.).  This dude could've changed his entrance music constantly since whatever he had last month wasn't "cool" anymore.  He could rip on the other wrestlers and audience for being stuck in the 90's and not following the latest trends.  It'd been a great heel.

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2 minutes ago, Dale Wolfe said:

Decaying empire ran by a borderline senile old man trapped in his own mind surrounded by sycophants? 

LOLOLOLOLOL!

Legit made me snort at my desk.

So true...(sobs).

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I wish more wrestlers kept up with the times and started referencing stars like Billie Eilish or Lil Nas X.

The only wrestler who seems like he has an eye on those trends is Darby Allin. Sammy would too but he's more on the Jake Paul side of Gen Z's internet culture.

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Sammy's too busy trying to get a date with Victoria Justice (although she DID respond to him with an Instagram post, I believe).

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9 hours ago, KawadaSmile said:

I wish more wrestlers kept up with the times and started referencing stars like Billie Eilish or Lil Nas X.

The only wrestler who seems like he has an eye on those trends is Darby Allin. Sammy would too but he's more on the Jake Paul side of Gen Z's internet culture.

Razor Ramon was way ahead of his time.

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4 hours ago, Log said:

One cultural trend that pro wrestling is definitely following is the #MeToo movement. 

Better late than never.  Hopefully the groundwork laid elsewhere in society forces the industry to take these things more seriously.

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If it finally happens, it's long overdue, and hopefully it won't be limited to indie/UK scene and hit the major market... 

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26 minutes ago, NintendoLogic said:

I'm still waiting for people with real power in this industry to face consequences. In particular, one whose name rhymes with Bince BcBahon.

That, too, might follow the #MeToo route and have one powerful person face consequences, but not all of them.

I mean, Kevin Spacey is still basically openly mocking people, so... 

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30 minutes ago, KawadaSmile said:

I mean, Kevin Spacey is still basically openly mocking people, so... 

Yeah, but his career is dead and he's lost everyone's respect.

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I haven't thought this through, but how do you all feel about the idea that wrestling stopped creating new megastars around the same time that film stopped creating new megafranchises, especially in the action genre? Are the endless references to "The Attitude Era" being the peak of all wrestling much different than The Fast and the Furious Part 49?

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My response to that is that while I definitely see that argument, I would say that the biggest movies are still the ones which have larger-than-life superheroes. Now, what a superhero can do on screen is wider now than it used to be, although not by much: they can be dorkier, crack nerd jokes, don't need to be big and ripped, etc. But ultimately, Captain America, Iron Man, even Star-Lord, are cool badasses who are pushed as such. Wrestlers are no longer pushed as cool by default; like being a wrestler at the high level by itself makes you cool. That certainly has played a role in wrestling's decline. 

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I think what I was getting at that I didn't articulate well is that there is now a lack of new action heroes. You see a lot of retreads of old stories but not really new stories with new characters as much. And that sounds similar to professional wrestling.

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37 minutes ago, Loss said:

I think what I was getting at that I didn't articulate well is that there is now a lack of new action heroes. You see a lot of retreads of old stories but not really new stories with new characters as much. And that sounds similar to professional wrestling.

WWE.

Which is why I think the parallel actually works pretty well if you consider WWE as its own franchise (instead of a franchise centered around a character). And really, the franchise inside the self-franchise of WWE in the last decade has been Mania. The stories and characters got rendered irrelevant. The issue is that pro-wrestling always drew because of storyline and characters and the long, drawn out decline of WWE over the last 20 years seems to indicate that the brand marketing, although working as well as anything else in a monopoly context, was damaging in the long term when the writing got totally inept and the star-making machine was deactivated. Seems to work better with movies, although I wonder why really, the complete lack of creativity of Hollywood in the last 20 years has been appalling. Wait a minute...

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