The Wrestling Genius: WWE, SNL, and Why I Love Them
If you have read anything I’ve ever done you can clearly see I’m a huge wrestling fan. That is a given, there are few things I like as much as I do wrestling, football (specifically the Vikings), gambling, and cooking. Yes, I cook and I love it lets not look too much into and just move on. I am also a huge Saturday Night Live fan. Which is why the slew of emails I’ve gotten about the youth movement in the WWE and people apparent hate for them has me drawing parallels between SNL and the WWE. You see everyone invariably hates the new guys. Whether it’s new wrestlers or SNL new cast members, people don’t want new all they want is what they know and what they have grown to love. People always talk about the good old days of SNL and the WWE. Back when Chevy Chase, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd ruled the roost at SNL. It was seen as edgy and it has been referred to as the “Golden Age” of SNL. Just like when Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, and Andre the Giant ruled wrestling it was considered the “Golden Age” of wrestling. Have you gone back and watched those early SNL years, or seen an Ultimate Warrior match? By today’s standard they are awful, there is very little funny about the first two seasons of SNL, and there is very little entertainment from a Hogan or Warrior match. I know it sounds blasphemous to say that but just watch the tapes, or in this case catch the first few seasons of SNL on Netflix and Youtube Warrior and Hogan. It doesn’t hold a candle to what they are doing now, but people put emotion ahead of what was real and they only look back fondly.
To take that analogy further we could say that the WWE’s Attitude Era compares to when the bad boys were there at SNL (Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Dana Carvey, and Mike Myers). Those years are looked at now more fondly then the previous era by some fans, but only because again we cut, out the crap and only remember the good. We forget that Adam Sandler struggled to connect with the audience and only had a few good characters. We forget that those years of SNL were very hit or miss and Chris Farley secretly wasn’t that good in anything where he wasn’t falling down or having awkward interviews ( that one hurts because I’m a huge Farley fan but the fact is he just wasn’t that consistent, he took sketches off, or entire shows). We forget that the Attitude Era went a little too far with some things (Mae Young giving birth to a hand comes to mind or anything early Golddust did). Again, we as people for whatever reason want to say that the things we saw growing up are invariably better than the product is now. We don’t want to believe that anyone can be as good as The Rock or Stone Cold was, and anyone that comes along that threatens that belief gets beat down in dirt sheets and on blogs. The Miz by all accounts is as good on the mic as anyone from The Attitude Era was this early in their career, and The Miz has to deal with the PG rating. The in ring product is just as good if not better because it has evolved. Remember earlier when I brought up watching a Hogan match? Go ahead and look back at any of his matches, they don’t last very long and the offense consisted of clothesline, punch, kick, headlock, leg drop, end of match. We want to remember how iconic those matches were but in reality, they were not that great. Sure, there are a few exceptions to this rule, i.e. Macho Man vs. Ricky Steamboat, but those happened rarely. Just like there were a few entertaining skits from the first few seasons of SNL but I would put anything done now against them and I guarantee you laugh more at today’s sketches.
For my money the greatest SNL cast members were Phil Hartman and Will Ferrell. You can put their work up against anyone else’s work and I guarantee it will not compare. They are the two funniest guys to ever be on that stage, they could carry a sketch basically by themselves, or they could be the straight guy when necessary. They are funny no matter the era, just like the two greatest wrestlers of all time Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels. Their work can’t be compared to anyone else’s work because it just won’t stack up. However when Will Ferrell started and Phil Hartman both were considered “too old” and weren’t given a big shot early on. It wasn’t until they killed every sketch they were in and forced the writers to recognize them did they get their chance. Just like Michaels who spent years and years as a mid-card no matter how many times he tore the house down. No one wants to give the young guys a chance because they aren’t “seasoned” enough, they haven’t “proven” anything yet. We resent people who get too much too fast and we want to put them in their place. When really we need to embrace the young talent that is being pushed in the WWE.
The young guys in the WWE are currently being pushed to the back burner (with the exception of Del Rio and Miz) not because we as fans aren’t embracing them but because just like when an election comes around and SNL brings back the big guns, Wrestlemania is around the corner and the WWE needs the big names back. After Wrestlemania the youth movement will be back in full swing and we as fans need to start to embrace guys like Kofi Kingston, Cody Rhodes, Ted Dibiase Jr., and the slew of other young talent we as fans have failed to embrace.(everyone but Brutus Clay, watching him wrestle makes me sick. Seriously if the Bella Twins have a wear a bra he should to, put those guns away Brutus) Cody Rhodes is a very talented young wrestler and I believe he has what it takes to be a world champion one day if given the opportunity. We as fans need to get over our need to put young talent down in an effort to build up the past. The past is the past and we need to live in the now. Guys like HHH, Undertaker, Kurt Angle, and Kane aren’t going to be around much longer. While it is fine to embrace those guys as legends and believe that they were some of the best, we don’t need to do it by trampling on the new guys by saying things like “John Morrison will never be as good as Shawn Michaels”. Those guys are legends I get that but they all started out like the new guys are today. I never saw the backlash from The Rock’s push that I’m seeing from the Miz’s push. Maybe it is because I was younger then and I didn’t use the internet all that much because it was dial up and I never had 3 hours to kill to read about wrestling, or maybe it’s because the generation that grew up on the Attitude Era and we just can’t get over that era. We just can’t get past the fact that when were younger and the Attitude Era was in full swing wrestling had its highest ratings ever. We equate that to it being the best product we’ve ever had in the history of wrestling. When in reality there were fewer cable channels in that era, there were two competing companies that built up a rivalry that can’t be duplicated. It was a perfect storm of circumstances that allowed the Attitude Era to be the highest rated wrestling era of all time.
I still say you can take the Morrison vs. Sheamus ladder match from a few months ago and put it against ANY Attitude Era match and it will stand up to most of them. The only difference will be the WWE now takes more calculated risks with its wrestlers, whereas the Attitude Era was chalked every match full of risks too big for wrestlers own good. We remember a young Jeff Hardy jumping off a 20-foot ladder, but now we see the consequences of those actions. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that almost everyone from that era has developed a drug (illicit or medical) problem, or drinking problems. Guys like Hardy, Scott Hall, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Sean Waltman, Shawn Michaels (although he is clean now), they all lived the Attitude Era and they all developed a substance abuse that led to serious health issues, or even death (with Shawn Michaels being the exception). Just like SNL’s early days were filled with drugs, booze, and ultimately killed some of the funniest people alive. The product had to change and it did for the betterment of the wrestlers. We can talk about the Attitude Era all we want but the fact of the matter is guys taking unprotected chair shots to the head had to stop, and quite frankly if you need chair shots to the head in every match for it to be a five star match , then maybe there is something wrong with you. I loved the Attitude Era, I love the current product, sure, it has its faults and I’ll gladly point them out. I do like a little blood now and then but I’m glad they made the changes they made. I don’t like going onto my favorite wrestling sites and reading about how another one of my favorite wrestlers from my childhood is dead or in rehab. Today’s wrestlers are more aware of the consequences and that is because they have seen what happened to those Attitude Era guys.
The current PG era matches are from a technical standpoint just as good as anything from the Attitude Era. Guys like Morrison, Sheamus, Kofi Kingston, Alberto Del Rio, and a few of the younger stars are just as good in the ring as The Rock, Stone Cold, or any other Attitude Era wrestler was at their age. We just continue to poke holes in the new guys because A) Their new and B) Not every match has blood in it or every promo has a swear word in it. I enjoy wrestling or sports entertainment or whatever you want to call it. I love the new guys and I’m excited for the future of wrestling. I just wish you guys would stop being so cynical and take a moment to realize that this youth movement and the PG era, is not only necessary but will ultimately be a good thing for the product as a whole for years to come. I have a feeling I won’t have to worry about Kofi Kingston or Daniel Bryan being a leading story on prowrestling.com as being back in rehab or found dead in his apartment (hope I didn’t just jinx them, know that if that happens I had nothing to do with it, I should really just delete that sentence entirely). That means something to me and I hope it means something to you guys to. Well I had better get off this high horse and soapbox before I fall on my face.
Thanks for reading and as always if you wish to email me with any comments, concerns or hate you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Wrestling (Sports Entertainment) Genius: Jared Gebhardt