Pro Wrestler Column – Uh-uh. Jericho is excellence! – By Paul Ashe
“What was once a captivating, trendsetting program has now deteriorated into a clichéd, boring snooze fest
Now let’s go over the facts; television ratings – downward spiral, pay per view buyrates – plummeting, mainstream acceptance – non-existent and reactions of the live crowds – complete and utter silence. And I know why you’re silent. You’re silent because you’re embarrassed to be here and quite honestly I’m embarrassed for you. And the reason why you’re embarrassed is because of the steady stream of uninteresting, untalented sports entertainers who you’re forced to cheer for and care for.
You people have been led to believe that mediocrity is excellence. Uh-uh. Jericho is excellence!”
Wrestler, rock star, Prophet? I’m beginning to wonder if Jericho was indeed a wrestling Nostradamus (as opposed to Matt Hardy, the wrestling Buddha) when he uttered these lines in his WWF Debut a whole 12 years ago. Long before the pg era, the OVW-production line, these throwaway heat-seeking lines have come painfully true in recent times with regards to the wrestling scene. But I can’t lay the blame entirely on Messrs McMahon, Laurinitis, etc. People are sheep as a general trait. The last 20 years or so, the entertainment media has become more and more entrenched in people and they have become more and more reliant on it. The average person now takes more advice from newspapers and tv shows than real people. They believe all the papers tell them, base their lives, their aspirations, their plans on what the latest no-name sub-z-list celebrity talks about in OK magazine, and generally go with the flow. (“Only Dead fish go with the flow” – Malcolm Muggeridge). But I’ll address that another time.
With the wrestling element, wrestling fans are more and more rapidly becoming drones, applauding and lauding mediocrity in growing amounts. There are no standards anymore, no minimum requirement of quality insisted upon. And for that reason it will continue its’ downward slide. The WWE farm production line is showing no sign of ceasing operations, and as long as old Vinny sees profits coming in, why would he? Some would say why should he? But the answer is simple. The rot has set in, and rot grows. Wrestling history has shown it time and again, if you don’t keep a finger on the pulse and remain relevant then those walls will come crashing down in time. There’s a huge lack of individuality now in wrestling. Worldwide. Legacy was the crowning example of this. I always imagined a conversation with a non-fan;
“Who’s Cody Rhodes?”
“The tall ripped handsome guy in trunks.”
“ Ok, so who was DiBiase?”
“ Oh, he was the tall ripped handsome guy in trunks.”
“ Er. Orton?”
“ The tall ripped handsome guy in trunks. With tattoos.”
“ I thought that was Batista?”
“ No, he’s the jacked up main event guy. “
“Isn’t that Cena?”
“No, he wears jean shorts and trainers.”
“ Oh ok. Why is a wrestler wearing jean shorts?”
And the characters (the few that there are) are totally non cross-demographic. And there is where the success lies, in filtering into society. That is what raises stock values, increases live gates, allows your movies to be a success and not straight-to-DVD messes. Steve Austin was a character any adult or even child could identify with. Anti authority, didn’t suffer bullies, down to earth, fought the good fight. Rock was a pure athlete, like a college jock, had money and was cocky for it, so was easily dis-likeable. We all knew people like them. Randy Orton is an unattainable character. Obvious genetics (natural of course), grew up in wrestling, looks like *that*. The average Joe doesn’t know anyone like that. Unless they know male underwear models. Which is what he looks like. Back to the conversation with the non-fan.
“What’s his character”
“Because he’s a snake”
“But he’s not underhanded or sneaky and has no reptilian gimmickery like Jake Roberts”
But this isn’t an attack on Orton alone, the whole roster is like it. And those with actual gimmicks, are un-relatable too. Wrestlers need to be superheroes but even superman has human qualities, weaknesses, moments when you can relate to him. The characters of today have a lack of that, and that makes wrestling a niche quantity again. Which puts it on the lower tiers, and as long as that is the case, it won’t be mainstream again, and will continue to sit in its’ own little corner. Wrestling fans will accept that though, because wrestling is a drug to them and every junkie needs their fix and no matter how crappy the fix, how unfulfilling, that fix has to be had. Wrestling fans have sadly become apologists as of late, doing anything to try and justify the product, list mediocre elements as “genius” or “awesome” just so they can feel justified in liking it despite its’ lacklustre quality. It’s not as good as it used to be, the viewing figures, PPV rates, house show attendances all attest to that. It’s in a bubble and in that bubble it is a success. Don’t you as fans want it to be more????
It’s a shame. I’ve been a fan long enough to experience the glory days, and I know how good wrestling can be. The business I have dedicated my adult life to, that has been with me through everything, every relationship, every job, every life moment, has changed so much, and not necessarily for the better.
First written Feb 14 2011.
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