Mike Shannon’s Take: Have WWE Fans Forgotten What Good Wrestling Is?

So, my last article for this site drew quite a bit of controversy and conversation about the topic of Daniel Bryan and my insistence that Bryan was finished as a main event player in WWE.

As has been widely reported, Daniel Bryan is indeed finished with the WWE title picture for the foreseeable future, and his main event run is over. Meaning that the same people who blasted me in the comments section for “not knowing what I was talking about” were wrong and I was right.

I will accept apologies in the form of cash payment.

However, this article is not about me calling out people for being wrong or even making fun of the one guy who said Stephanie McMahon was a “serious wrestler.” Nope, this article is about a disturbing trend I noticed in the comments section: I don’t think today’s younger fans know what good wrestling is.

People constantly made mention of the “Attitude Era” in their comments and insisted that I was out of touch with today’s product and wanted it to be 1999 again. I took a moment to think and realized that most of these people commenting were probably in the 15-20 year old range, meaning they were born between 1993 and 1998.

After I was done feeling ancient, I then realized that meant they had never seen the primes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Sting, Ricky Steamboat, Ted DiBiase, Curt Hennig or any of the other greats.

They were in diapers when the Hart Foundation was battling Steve Austin in 1997 and had no idea what “Suck it!” meant when DX was screaming it in arenas all around the world. Many of the Attitude Era references and storylines probably went right over their second-grade heads (if their parents even let them watch).

So, logically, that means they became fans when they were about eight or nine years old (the prime age of any wrestling fan), meaning that their only exposure to professional wrestling has been this watered-down WWE product that has been in a down period since 2002.

Hell, some of you probably don’t even remember WCW or ECW when they actually existed. Sure, you’ve seen DVDs and watched matches on YouTube, but we all know that’s not the same thing.

Today’s teenage fan has grown up during an era in WWE when viewers have been leaving in droves and the product, with a few notable exceptions, has pretty much stunk. This Vince McMahon-run monopoly is the only thing some of you people have seen, and that pretty much explains why you’ll defend this WWE booking to the death: It’s all you know.

This has nothing to do with bringing back Attitude Era stars, or TV-14, or blood or any of the other nonsense that people were rambling about in the other article. This has everything to do with me wanting to return to a time when wrestling was booked, not written. When performers like Randy Orton weren’t shoved down your throats for almost a decade, even though they couldn’t draw money if you covered them in super glue and dragged them through Fort Knox.

I’ll prove it to you: Get rid of the Attitude era and go back to the last big wrestling boom period in the mid- to late 1980s. The top stars of that time were not nearly as overexposed as today’s talent, so fans never got the chance to get sick of them. I mean, when I was a kid, it seemed like Ted DiBiase was around forever, but that was definitely not the case.

Here’s how long the WWE stars around 1987 stuck with the company through house shows and TV:

– Hulk Hogan, 10 years (1983-1993)

– Ted DiBiase, 9 years (1987-1996)

– Randy Savage, 9 years (1985-1994)

– Rick Rude, 3 years (1987-1990)

– Ultimate Warrior, 4 years (1987-1991)

– Jake Roberts, 6 years (1986-1992)

I could go on, but let’s compare that list to today’s stars:

– John Cena, 11 years (2002-present)

– Big Show, 14 years (1999-present)

– Randy Orton, 11 years (2002-present)

– Triple H, 18 years (1995-present)

– CM Punk, 7 years (2006-present)

– Kane, 16 years (1997-present)

You also have to consider that today, there is much more television time to fill and there’s a pay-per-view every month. Simply put, fans are sick of seeing these guys over and over again, and the audience is responding by not watching WWE programming anymore.

Think about last Monday’s Raw—Daniel Bryan was slotted in a tag team feud with the Wyatts, while the Big Show was seemingly placed in a position to do battle with a combination of Randy Orton and Triple H in the months ahead. Those guys have a combined 43 years of TV time in WWE, and people still wonder why some find the show boring?

You can argue your vast superiority of wrestling knowledge all you want, but one thing does not lie: ratings. The ratings for WWE are awful right now. They are even worse than 1996, when WWE lost $6 million and was very close to closing down for good.

These days, WWE will never go out of business thanks to international business and other various revenue streams. But the bottom line is simply that people aren’t watching because the product stinks.

Me? I’m a hardcore fan, so I’ll watch no matter what. “Well, why do you watch if you hate it? Just stop watching!” It doesn’t work like that.

I write articles like this because I care about the product and I want it to be better. I realize there will never be another Hulkamania Era or Attitude Era, but that doesn’t mean the business has to outright suck.

Wrestling can be saved and wrestling can be better.

However, before that can happen, today’s fan has to accept the fact that the product simply isn’t good enough.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter because I’m awesome and all that stuff.

  • Cody Langdale

    So glad to see someone that shares my view. Sadly, WWE’s product feels stale and dated, even when taken week to week. Look at the Wyatt Family. They certainly have an interesting gimmick, but their debut comes right behind that of the Shield, another three man group with murky at best intentions. We’ve seen so many storylines and rivalries rehashed as of late, it’s easy to feel a sense of deja vu. I always enjoy reading your articles, and this one, in my humble opinion, expresses a point that myself and several friends have been saying for months.

  • Wrencis

    Ratings are lower but that is almost universally true in long running tv. At the same time, profits are the best they’ve ever been. So, wwe is in a complex place. Would you grant that ‘booked vs written’ may not summarize adequately the phenomenon we’re experiencing?

    • MikeS

      No, there’s definitely one simple answer to the problem. As I said, profits are high because of international business and various other revenue streams. But, I could argue that interest in wrestling has never been lower.

      Of course, WWE only cares about money (as they should), so I doubt ratings are going to phase them that much so long as they are pulling in the dollars.

      WWE is definitely complex but I wish they would simplify things and head back to old school booking. I think it’s pretty clear that new school “soap opera” stuff isn’t working.

  • SemajTheSellout

    As probably the first to speak against your last article, I think it is funny that you are generalizing who has an opposing view.

    First off, Randy Orton was out of the title picture for a while, CM Punk was out of the title picture for a while (and look how that turned out), HHH was even out of the title picture when him and HBK were being the most entertaining thing on a John Cena, Randy Orton centric product. So the fact that for two weeks Bryan is focusing on a group who jumped him in order to allow the Show and Authority storyline to play out, is not evidence that he is being buried. For me, this will be a fresh interesting feud with the Wyattst that will benifit all parties involved. This will keep his character out there while not becoming stale. Because I honestly believe they are saving him for better days. Could be wrong but I’m not gonna freak out about it.

    Also I’ve noticed that you think those who oppose you are 15-20. I am personally 25, not a huge leap but I did start watching and was hooked at 5. So that would be 1993. That would make me well aware of the Hart era, which turned into the Attitude era. I do long for the good ol days sometimes but to be honest all that shit would probably be stale too. Think about it, Jerry Springer is still doing the same shit he always did. It got old and seemed to be there to shock, now the only reason one would watch Springer for any amount of time is to light up a bowl between channel surfing.

    My point here, and in my last retort is to calm you down. We totally see where you are coming from, but you have to understand that we are older now and all this shit is not made for us individually. Like it always has been, its 2 great matches, 2 decent- dope mic segments and some filler. Yes even in the boring ass Hogan and Andre era there were duds. It’s like SNL fans complaining about current seasons until they leave and think… “Hey, the last guys were geniuses. I always liked Sandler”.

    This is a product that is non stop. All these live events, TV tapings and tours have to be difficult to put together. All of the pressure from the IWC, the board, sponsors… Yet they are flourishing regardless what the ratings say. It’s like the music industry, if they aren’t buying alblums they sure as hell are buying merch and event tix. I want to see Big Show going for the title less than you do, but I’m sure the WWE will find a way to get passed it if it fails. However, remember the great Sheamus vs Show matches? Who knows.

    Anyway, this doesn’t prove we’re wrong and you’re right. It means that you don’t like what they are doing right now, which is valid. I’m sure there would be plenty of ppl upset if it all went your way or the IWC’s way. This is where we grow up and go with the flow or we tune out. Either option is fine, because the WWE universe does not revolve around any individual or vocal group.