THE PRO-WRESTLING RENAISSANCE
Professional wrestling is on the verge of a renaissance.
The signs are there, if you’re keen to see them.
This potential revival can be traced back to CM Punk’s "Shoot Heard Round The World". The effects of that single promo continue to radiate throughout the professional wrestling community and particularly in the WWE; namely in the current top program that revolves around Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar. If CM Punk had not incorporated their names into that promo, would we be seeing them at the top of the mountain today? Had CM Punk not talked about Triple H and Stephanie McMahon in that promo, would The Authority stable exist today?
Had CM Punk not mentioned Colt Cabana, would the slew of increasingly popular and revealing pro-wrestling podcasts exists today (for Colt was at the forefront of pro-wrestling podcasting, inspired by Marc Maron’s WTF)?
Without "The Shoot Heard Round The World" there would be no "Paul Heyman Guy" or "Pipebomb" or "Brass Ring", phrases that have come to define a generation, lending narrative power to recent WWE events.
Since 2011, a wide assortment of seemingly disparate elements have coalesced to create one of the most interesting, important time periods in pro-wrestling history.
If you are not watching then now is the time to start watching.
The WWE Network has fundamentally changed a thirty-year-old pay-per-view model, providing you access to every pay-per-view at a fraction of the old cost, as well as access to a vast history of professional wrestling artistry. This will crete a new generation of passionate pro-wrestling fans who have easy access to a history they would never have had otherwise.
Interest in independent wrestling is at an all-time high, partly due to fan-discontent with the WWE; promotions like ICW, Ring of Honor, and Lucha Underground (to name only a few) gain new fans every day.
The actual phrases "New Japan Pro-Wresting" and "Ring of Honor" were heard by many WWE fans for the first time in Punk's pipebomb. Following that promo, many fans were inspired to become "smarter" to the business, learning what phrases like "shoot" and "work" and "worked shoot" meant in the pro-wrestling vernacular. That generation of "smart" fans then went on to fundamentally change the course of the WWE.
The WWE was forced to altar their planned WrestleMania 30 main event based on the direct, internet and live-audience input of pro-wrestling fans; the internet reshaping one of the WWE's most lauded traditions.
Two years in a row, bad booking led to the WWE fans expressing their disillusionment and frustration at The Royal Rumble. That same bad booking continues to lead the WWE’s main product in a seemingly endless loop of questionable decisions that will eventually reach a boiling point. While change within the company has come at a snail’s pace, it has come and it’s still coming. The growing pains are apparent, represented in Frankensteined “top guys” like Roman Reigns, the company’s attempts to cope with a changing, increasingly corporate and less organic landscape.
The WWE's current main roster is "green", but made up of incredibly talented individuals with a wide assortment of pro-wrestling backgrounds, appealing to a wide variety of viewers. This roster, when freed from the shackles of a bad script, will define a generation that rivals the success of The Attitude Era. And, on NXT, the WWE's farm league, the best of independent wrestling has fused with the best of WWE's spectacle, a roster that represents everything the millennial generation finds entertaining and interesting.
Every week, several times a week, social media trends revolve around professional wrestling.
Every time Paul Heyman cuts a promo he proves the point of this website: professional wrestling is an art.
Brock Lesnar has redefined the idea of a "top guy" and should the WWE resign him and transform him into a babyface, he could evolve into the truly transcendent star the WWE has been so eager to find since The Attitude Era.
Brock represents the influence of UFC and MMA on the WWE. The increased popularity of legitimate fighting sports informed the 2014 SummerSlam main event and the top story in the WWE today, and it could go on to reshape the entire presentation of the WWE should they finally mature with the times.
Brock Lesnar is "reality" come to destroy the gimmick "fantasy" that is the WWE - a fascinating angle on the cutting edge of the professional wrestling medium, offered right here on The Work of Wrestling back in December, and then solidified into the fabric of the WWE verbally by Paul Heyman.
Every week, veteran pro-wrestling talents like Chris Jericho, Jim Ross, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Colt Cabana provide listeners unprecedented access into their minds and lives thanks to the podcasting revolution. This will create a new generation of fans who have learned about the business in an entirely new way. I am one such listener who has benefited from the direct line of communication this access provides (see my review of Steve Austin's WrestleMania 13 call linked on his site).
The actual way people think about professional wrestling is going to change. The way people watch professional wrestling is going to change.
The way people critique professional wrestling is going to change.
And it's going to change for the better.
While it’s important for the WWE to recognize its failings and evolve beyond their outdated creative philosophies, it’s becoming increasingly important for the fans to similarly recognize their need to evolve beyond the simple dirt sheets and rumors that continually dismantle their ability to suspend disbelief and actually appreciate and understand what they're watching.
Pro-wrestling fans are regarded as complacent, overly emotional smarks.
This has not served the community, nor the revolution, very well.
The WWE is emboldened to disregard valuable criticisms as unqualified complaints because unqualified complaints dominate the criticism scene.
This contentious relationship with the fans, combined with a self-importance and a short-sightedness that continues to halt the WWE’s progress is slowly but surely reaching a point of no return.
Being that the WWE is primarily responsible for the way professional wrestling is perceived in our culture, the decisions the company makes in the next few years are not only important for the company, but for the entire medium.
Will the blatantly destructive principles of the scripted promo and the casual viewer and sports entertainment trudge on, becoming even stronger, or will these outdated edicts finally succumb to the natural course of history?
It’s clear that the WWE is its own worst enemy.
In his interview with Stone Cold, Triple H gave brief glimpses into a truth he understands: people want to watch professional wrestling, not Vince McMahon’s sports entertainment-reality TV-game show.
That truth, one that is seemingly impossible for a massive corporation to accept, will dictate whether the next decade is one of ongoing discontent or one of inspiration and revival.
Look to NXT to see what the future of professional wrestling and the WWE desperately wants to be - a blend of the old and the new, the fiction and the reality.
Find your way to contribute to this renaissance in a positive manner, whether it’s through a chant, a Tweet, or a comment below.
And, above all, we must pay attention and appreciate what is taking place. It’s hard to see the positives, the signs of progress behind the crushing defeats, the snarky stream of hate, and a laborious three hour flagship show.
There will be geniuses sacrificed on the altar of progress along the way, dashed dreams, forsaken hopes, and broken hearts.
But soon, there will be triumph.
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