The Wrestling Genius: A bold new direction
Throughout the history of the great sport of professional wrestling (I hear laughing out there), there has been a traditional time where the sport evolved to fit the needs of its current and future audience.
This time in professional wrestling is coming again, and hopefully soon.
Wrestling started off as a carnival attraction at the sideshow where a "mark" would be pulled out of the audience and "worked" by a "worker." Yes, these three terms are still used today and actually in the context used above.
Then, the professional wrestling arena went to legitimate wrestling matches, collegiate style, which were two of three falls and could go for multiple hours. This is the time of Hackenshmidt and Gotch.
Then, Gorgeous George Wagner came along and captivated the popular culture of his day. "The Human Orchid" was a classic heel, and is credited as the beginning of the transition from sports to sports-entertainment.
With wrestling firmly established as it is today, legends such as Superstar Billy Graham, Classy Freddie Blassie, Gorilla Monsoon, Haystacks Calhoon, Lou Thesz, Nature Boy Buddy Rogers and Sonny Myers were able to take the hearts and minds of America and the world. The style of this era was a lot of ground-based, non-flashy entertainment.
Then came the ‘70s, with Harley Race, Dusty Rhodes and, toward the end of the decade, Ric Flair. The ‘70s featured much better promo work, matches where people left their feet more often, and blood, buckets of blood.
This time in wrestling also marked the end of the traditional territory-based promotions with Vince McMahon Jr. taking over his father's New York based World Wide Wrestling Federation and renaming it the World Wrestling Federation. This single move signaled the end for the National Wrestling Alliance's domination and foreshadowed WWE's rise to power.
The ‘80s saw Hulkamania run wild on America and the World Wrestling Federation become a household name. Wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, The Iron Sheik, The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase and Rowdy Roddy Piper came to the forefront. A symbolic passing of the torch came at Wrestlemania III, when Hogan body-slammed Andre the Giant and gave the Legend his first loss in more than 20 years of matches. This was the rock and wrestling era, and saw showmanship and character, or "gimmicks" come to the forefront of the day.
The ‘90s were highlighted by the Monday Night Wars, where Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling came to power and nearly closed the WWE's doors forever. The ‘90s also brought a change in fan and worker desires, with Philadelphia based-upstart Extreme Championship Wrestling.
Paul Heyman's band of wrestlers brought Lucha Libre and cruiserweight action to the U.S. Hardcore wrestlers, such as Tommy Dreamer, New Jack, The Sandman and The Dudley Boyz destroyed furniture and each other to the delight of the ECW audience.
The WWE and WCW followed suit with the nWo and D-Generation X stables fighting the establishment and doing things that were very different than their audiences. The deciding factor in the WWE winning the Monday Night Wars was the "Attitude Era" of WWE. This was a generous borrowing of the ECW attitude and saved McMahon and the WWE.
The late part of the ‘90s into the early part of this decade saw Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Goldberg, Sting, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin all come to the forefront of the wrestling scene. Gimmicks went by the wayside, and the "cool heel" came to power. The "everyman" was popular in professional wrestling long before "Joe the Plumber" thought of garnering the national spotlight.
This time is now over though, with Michaels, Sting and Triple H still hanging in there week in and week out. But what is the "era" we are in now? John Cena and Rey Mysterio are hugely popular, but don't carry the mass appeal that Hogan or the nWo carried in their days.
Ratings are down, and Monday Night Football can't be all to blame. So the thing I suggest is to usher in a new era of wrestling.
Independent wrestling is gaining popularity, with the nation's biggest Indy, Ring of Honor, now holding monthly pay-per-view events.
ROH could be the new era that the big companies need to rip off to survive. TNA's X-Division, in its infancy, was basically Ring of Honor junior. But, the X-Division, and TNA in general, had fallen into run-in/gimmick match central. WWE is trying to take some ROH-like steps, with ROH alumni CM Punk, and Evan Bourne (Missouri's Matt Sydal) seeing pushes and in Punk's case, a pair of World Title runs (ECW and World Heavyweight).
WWE and TNA need to find a new era in wrestling ASAP. The current products on both ends are bland and hard to watch at times.
Professional wrestling has always grown and adapted to its current and future audiences, the time for this metamorphosis is now.
Dustin Watson is a professional wrestling blogger for the Linn County Leader. He can be reached at email@example.com.