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Loss

The aging of wrestling fans

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Gotta say, but I didn't realize how little I really cared about overall match quality until I got into ICW (Scotland) 6 years ago. That period from 2012 until right around they cut the WWE deal is some of the best booking featuring some of the pound-for-pound lamest in-ring talents of the modern era, but fuck if I didn't mark out like mad when Grado won the gold or Chris Renfrew finally turned on Whiplash to reform the NAK.

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Well yeah.

Promoters are following Vince's lead, obviously. And McMahon is in the business of producing content. Sheer quantity. Everything is a victim to that mindset. Storytelling and characters don't need to be marketable when you're strictly in the business of marketing time-consuming, filler content. Hours upon hours of it.

If we're talking storytelling, then of course they're capable of doing better. Hell, their documentaries are incredible devices for that. But their actual mainstream product is what sucks.

It could be argued that great matches have never mattered less than they do now. It doesn't help that every single match up and down a card is designed and structured the same way. Everything is a Wrestle Kingdom main event. From the closer to the opening act, everything is near falls and counters and kickouts. It's awfully exhausting and all so hollow to the senses.

It's all fireworks. You can watch it once or twice a year and never need to see it again at any point in between. There's no purpose or sense of fulfillment. It all just looks and sounds the same.

Meltzer's star rating system is even indicative of great matches meaning less than ever. Reviewers and critics over the last 15 years created a scenario in which they'd all cried wolf so often that Dave had to go and shout, "Six stars! Wait, this one's SEVEN stars!" just to get folks to stop and pay attention or even give anything a second glance. And none of it really matters a week later.

Bottom line - a match, no matter how great, is not going to make a star. It's not enough on its own. A match can push somebody over the top, but they've gotta already be on the verge of breaking through. It's gotta be Austin/Bret. It can't occur in an ice cold environment. Great matches just don't make that much of a difference in the end. In isolation, nobody gives a fuck.

I remember awhile back when everyone was raving about this epic gauntlet match Seth Rollins supposedly had. Against better judgment, I had to see what everyone was talking about. And the match was okay. I mean, it wasn't actively bad. And it killed A LOT of time for them. It certainly did that.

But really. At the end of the night, it accomplished nothing other than eating up some time. It was another match. It didn't "make" Seth like people were talking. He was no more (and no less) over than if the match had never even happened.

A great match can push a guy over the finish line. The problem is, nobody is putting in the prep work to get the personalities over first. And that effectively means they've never even crossed the start line. They've never taken off. They're not even in the race.

Personalities matter. Motivations matter. Story arcs matter. Otherwise, everything is just perpetual, meaningless, masturbatory motion.

Wrestling is so far removed from the pop culture conversation nowadays, I'm not really sure what it would take to get them back to relevancy. But I can tell you that what they're doing will definitely make sure they don't get there.

It's like a film franchise that follows up with terrible sequels and eliminates itself from the pop culture landscape. Instead of building up like the MCU or Fast and Furious, they've become the Terminator and just ran their reputation into the ground.

Also similar to Terminator, they're suffering from a mean case of nostalgia poisoning - and it's their own doing. Instead of cultivating a new crop, they constantly rely on the Arnold's and Sarah Connors of their past. They prop up everything on the pillars of Rock N Wrestling and Attitude booms, because that's all they've got.

So many problems with so many variables to discuss and deliberate obviously, but the simplest answer is to go back to basics and build from there. Advertise your personalities. Market your stars. Make them identifiable - as something, as anything. Create conflicts between them. And promote their fights. BUILD anticipation. PROMOTE payoffs. DELIVER outcomes. That's it.

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8 hours ago, SomethingSavage said:

but the simplest answer is to go back to basics and build from there

Agree completely. I just don't think Vince is necessarily looking for an answer. I think the emperor knows full well he's nude and feels vindicated by Montezuma's ransom-like piles of gold in his money room. This is a successful business model, no? (Insert CM Punk's observation here.) I don't know the nuances but it seems like he's riding a winner.

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He's largely coasting by on being lucky that there is both a sports rights fees boom and a "streaming services paying out the ass for content" boom going on. If one pops the other will still be around to keep them afloat for the foreseeable future. The only issue is if he believes he's getting all this money because it's high quality content rather than just large amounts of it. 

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They have actually been pretty smart about recognizing that sports rights is a bubble that could burst on them. Some of the other leagues are pretty vulnerable to that bubble bursting on them. 

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On the contrary, if good creative is less important to their bottom line than ever, it begs the question of why an already-stretched-thin CEO and Chairman spends so much time on it instead of leaving it entirely in the hands of someone he has delegated. It's unusual for someone in that role to be that hands-on in day-to-day operations. You could justify it when creative was the main driver of their business because Vince has a decades-long track record of success. When it's just filling time, why is he still involved and having to approve everything? If WWE is truly going to be judged on those terms, then that criticism should take hold because it's awfully inefficient.

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4 minutes ago, Loss said:

On the contrary, if good creative is less important to their bottom line than ever, it begs the question of why an already-stretched-thin CEO and Chairman spends so much time on it instead of leaving it entirely in the hands of someone he has delegated. It's unusual for someone in that role to be that hands-on in day-to-day operations. You could justify it when creative was the main driver of their business because Vince has a decades-long track record of success. When it's just filling time, why is he still involved and having to approve everything? If WWE is truly going to be judged on those terms, then that criticism should take hold because it's awfully inefficient.

Because it's his life work. I think he knows he should walk away but no matter how much he trusts someone, they aren't going to do his tasks as well as he did. I think that's probably a big sticking point for him. 

He is also Vince McMahon. He doesn't watch movies or TV and he doesn't have hobbies. What's he going to do in retirement when he's used to working all the time? 

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11 minutes ago, Loss said:

When it's just filling time, why is he still involved and having to approve everything? 

Obsessive workaholic micro-managing sociopath.

11 minutes ago, Loss said:

If WWE is truly going to be judged on those terms, then that criticism should take hold because it's awfully inefficient.

Yes, at this point : it doesn't matter. Maybe at one point it will again, but as of now, it doesn't. They've reached the top of a system where their revenu is almost totally detached from what they are actually producing. When they get shitloads of money from MBS, it has nothing to do with booking or creating stars of being hot, it's just a communication performance because of what their Brand is. More than ever before we live in an über-capitalistic world where the Brand and its narrative is everything. It's an illusion (which is why part of why the workforce can be exploited even more than before because the actual production is almost transparent, we barely pay attention to it while we consume Brands like WWE, Netflix and whatever). WWE with the same booking 25 years ago would have been slaughtered by an up and coming WCW. Now ? Doesn't really matter. 

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I think a lot of Eric Bischoff's tactics like focus groups and surveys would be a good start for trying to build a viable product. 

But I think ultimately AEW is the best you're going to get. Grassroots support with the right guy eventually putting money behind it. 

I think we romantize the past too much. Yeah wrestling was big once with far less competition in the marketplace of ideas. The more I read about wrestling history the more I see that 90% of old promoters were incompetent and just benefitted from no competition. I mean the NWA struggled to put down Anne Gunkel and her podunk outlaw group in the 70s.

We shit in Vince a lot and rightfully so but at this point his incompetence seems pretty par for the course for a wrestling promoter. 

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There definitely is too much romanticizing of the past. Wrestling could get away with being simple because most entertainment in general was simple. Wrestling was never high art, but the contrast between it and everything else on TV wasn't as stark. These days, there's more prestige programming than you can shake a stick at, and traditional pro wrestling storytelling can't help but look like the dumbest and most low-rent shit imaginable by comparison. There's only one thing pro wrestling does better than any other medium, and that's provide entertaining wrestling matches. And that's what it really comes down to. Most complaints about storytelling are really complaints about the in-ring style. If you think most modern matches are hollow exhibitions, building them up by having someone get hit over the head with a coconut or whatever isn't going to change that. Look, every generation has fans who think the wrestling they grew up on is best and today's wrestlers don't know how to work. If that describes you, might as well own up to it. There's no shame in moving on from something you enjoyed as a kid as it changes to appeal to new generations. But don't elide the real issue.

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The whole storytelling aspect of pro-wrestling is way overstated and overrated. I mean, sorry if that offends anyone but watching pro-wrestling for the stories is like reading Playboy for the articles (or watching porn for... well, the stories, too). And I don't mean the angles, who really at best are so simplistic that they would make mediocre plots for a Transformers cartoon episode (and at worst, really, really the dumbest shit you can find anywhere). I'm talking about the in-ring stuff. What is so compelling about the stories told inside the ring, really now ?

"Oh, my leg got a boo-boo, the other guy is kicking it and so I have to fight on one leg to win the belt !"

"Oh, the bad guy is cheating and the good guy is crying and now he's making a comeback. Yaaay good guy !"

OOOOOKay, that's stuff some 8 years old could write. You want compelling stories ? Read Dostoïesvki of something.

What makes things actually compelling is the *form* of pro-wrestling, which is unique. There's exactly nothing like it, which is why it's so hard to compare and nail down because it's not really theatre, it's not really circus, it's not really sport, it's not really acting, it's... pro-wrestling. And the form through which those stories are told is what makes it so fun to watch. Which is why, sorry to say, execution does matter (with a degree of acceptability depending on the context). Which is why also pro-wrestling is actually progressing with new generations because as we get new kind of athletes, they can do more and invent new kind of forms (new moves but also new postures, new ways to move inside the ring and even use the physical elements of the ring and its surroundings, new ways to use yours or your opponent's body). The stories are always pretty much the same and are really not that interesting in themselves. What the moves (very broadly speaking) mean sure is important, but in the end pro-wrestling is not a language at all (it's not even a code). It has its value as a pure form, in and out of itself. Which is why an out of this world spotfest will always be much better (to me, doh!) than a logical but dull "good story". It's not a surprise that the usual excuse for some of the worst shit is "But we're telling a story", as Bruce Prichard would say (which also finds its way into "He's playing his role right", which doesn't matter when the role ain't worth shit). Well, telling a story doesn't mean the story is good or even interesting. The form(s) of pro-wrestling is what makes it so unique and great. Or so terrible. 

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14 minutes ago, El-P said:

 

What makes things actually compelling is the *form* of pro-wrestling, which is unique. There's exactly nothing like it, which is why it's so hard to compare and nail down because it's not really theatre, it's not really circus, 

Speaking of Circus, I think if somebody else ever wanted to do a Lucha Underground type of show but not use specifically Lucha as the theme, I think a traveling Circus would be an awesome idea for a fictional show like that.

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Now you listen here @El-P, attacking the high art of pro wrestling story telling is one thing, but attacking the stories in Porn is the last straw! If I can't truly believe that she is a realtor and the only way to get those 5 guys to buy the house..... You know what, Nevermind. You've ruined it.

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1 minute ago, Blehschmidt said:

If I can't truly believe that she is a realtor and the only way to get those 5 guys to buy the house..... 

I'm pretty sure I saw *that* movie. Or a remake maybe... Or a prequel... 

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Pro wrestling could use more step-family storylines...

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1 hour ago, Al said:

Pro wrestling could use more step-family storylines...

This made me laugh, but then I heard Vince in my head going "That's a great idea Pal!"

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48 minutes ago, Blehschmidt said:

This made me laugh, but then I heard Vince in my head going "That's a great idea Pal!"

When Stephanie was pregnant for the first time, Vince wanted to do an angle where he would be revealed as the father. She of course rejected it out of hand, so he suggested that Shane could be the father instead.

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On 3/23/2021 at 10:32 PM, Loss said:

 To me, the bigger Becky Lynch issue was that after Mania, they tried to put her with Lacey Evans, who wasn't ready for the spot. They hadn't thought ahead to groom any challengers.

That's something WWE does REPEATEDLY with their babyface champions.

Which is why every babyface WWE run ends up feeling stale.

They don't have a "rogue's gallery" of heels they've been heating up with the idea that these people will challenge the new champion. Instead, they'll just have midcard heels challenge like Ziggler, Lashley (he's been built up now, but when they did Lashley vs. Drew last year he was ice cold), Owens at his most overexposed, and sit back and pat themselves on their back.

And then wonder why the babyface champion reigns don't go as well as they'd hope.

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The storytelling aspect of pro wrestling is overrated in the sense that it shouldn't be treated as an attraction in itself and it often has been. But you do need something to make people care about what they're watching in the ring and understand the stakes. I think it's usually overcomplicated and can be very simple and straightforward, but some context needs to be provided for the matches. Maybe I'm "romanticizing the past", but that's generally the way it worked most of the time outside of WWE.

Nintendo Logic has now passive aggressively told me to stop watching wrestling twice since I returned to the board. I should start a running tally.

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15 minutes ago, Loss said:

The storytelling aspect of pro wrestling is overrated in the sense that it shouldn't be treated as an attraction in itself and it often has been. But you do need something to make people care about what they're watching in the ring and understand the stakes. I think it's usually overcomplicated and can be very simple and straightforward, but some context needs to be provided for the matches. Maybe I'm "romanticizing the past", but that's generally the way it worked most of the time outside of WWE.

Nintendo Logic has now passive aggressively told me to stop watching wrestling twice since I returned to the board. I should start a running tally.

Have you tried Powerrr at all? It's been a little lackluster inring but they do a good job with the storytelling and making you want to come back next week.

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I liked parts of Powerrr, but it also felt like a parody of Georgia Championship Wrestling with the booing on cue and silly commercials. The best all-around wrestling presentation I've seen in the last 5-10 years was probably CWF Mid-Atlantic when it was at its best. It felt aligned with the past but was also fully modern. 

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1 minute ago, Loss said:

I liked parts of Powerrr, but it also felt like a parody of Georgia Championship Wrestling with the booing on cue and silly commercials. The best all-around wrestling presentation I've seen in the last 5-10 years was probably CWF Mid-Atlantic when it was at its best. It felt aligned with the past but was also fully modern. 

NWA Anarchy was my sweet spot promotion for a long time but there was a 2-3 year period where I thought CWF Mid-Atlantic was the best promotion going.

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