You Say You Want An Evolution?

“Wrestling has evolved” has become the pat reply to anyone with a grievance against the current product.  But I believe a more-accurate appraisal is that the definition of wrestling has evolved—to a certain portion of the audience.

Advocates of the more traditional style often claim, while certain techniques (e.g. an Irish whip) require some very cooperative suspension of disbelief, the overall structure of a wrestling match should come off as plausible, regardless of the fact it’s worked.  They point to modern spots—such as where one man remains motionless for several seconds blatantly just waiting for his opponent to deliver some splashy blow—as ludicrous.  And, personally, I agree.

Let’s not get into “Well, Don Muraco laid on the mat all that time while Snuka climbed to the top of the cage for the legendary MSG Superfly Splash, and nobody complained about that.”  First off, The Rock had taken a beating, putting him on his back, semi-conscious.  Secondly, it set up the finisher, not a kick-out spot.

We could go back and forth for thousands of words, citing old and new examples.  Which would constitute entirely missing the big picture.  What the traditionalists most oppose is how clearly modern grapplers send out the message “We laid out every step of this selling-free 60-second barrage of 36 moves and counters, nothing spontaneous- and, hence, realistic-looking about it.”

The argument generally is “It looks like a dance routine.  That’s not wrestling.”

This brings us back to my comment about the DEFINITION of “wrestling.”  And it’s become clear to me that—“right” or “wrong”—some people now consider wrestling to be any form of activity that transpires within a three-roped ring.  So, to them, something that resembles a fight scene in a kung fu movie is perfectly acceptable as “wrestling,” and they sincerely don’t know what the fuss is all about.

Proponents of the spot-heavy style are prone to claim those knocking the style have not kept up with the times.  But what’s really the case here is simply a matter of human nature.  What sparked a new fan’s love for a particular hobby—and this is by no means exclusive to wrestling—is a set of components that greatly appealed to that person.  And, be they shredding guitar solos, bone-jarring quarterback sacks, braggart rappers or glimmering full-length ring robes, when those elements get phased down or out, OF COURSE the product is going to have less appeal.

“Stuck in the past” has such a negative connotation, implying stubbornness and bitterness, it is not a fair description of the perfectly reasonable act of preferring a product when it contained more of the elements that inspired one to get hooked on it in the first place.

 

Okay, traditionalists let’s look at the Golden Age, when the Flair-Steamboat series was electrifying and you’d much rather see the Midnight Express face the Road Warriors or Fantastics than watch something like the Young Bucks vs. Private Party.  Wrestling was firing on all cylinders, but the flippity-style guys have really dragged it down, right?

Wellllll…I became a dedicated wrestling fan in the Seventies.  In that era, it was acceptable for Muraco to call Pedro Morales “a greaseball” during an interview, TV matches were primarily quick squashes, a victory could come via a near-lethal “brain claw,” and about 20-percent of the men had bleach-blonde hair.

It was wildly absurd, considered “lowbrow,” politically incorrect (by later standards)—and I couldn’t get enough of it.

As such, Golden Agers, am I not within my rights to say the lengthy athletic Dragon vs. Nature Boy matches “really dragged it down”?

[For the record, I enjoyed both Superstar Graham winning via a bearhug and the Flair-Funk “I Quit” match. Just trying to make a point.]

And let’s be real, fellow long-time fans.  What was incredibly entertaining decades ago would be a complete bore now, if promotions and wrestlers were still doing the same things that floated your boat way back when.  If the Beach Boys were still around, only the most fanatical completist would be rushing to buy their 318th song about a surf bunny.

 

Some Related Points

*Nostalgia fills auditoriums.  The “latest thing” fills football stadiums.  That’s always been the case for every form of public performance, and will never change.  Accept it.

*Nostalgia is nice—in manageable doses.  (We really don’t need a seemingly bimonthly DX “reunion.”)  But if you have zero tolerance for it, just shut up.  The whole world isn’t about you.  This also goes for close-minded members of the opposing camp who can’t stop droning on and on about the past being “so much better,” while their selective memory forgets PN News on a scaffold.  Every era has its stinkers.  That’s not up for debate.

*Neither side is “right.”

*If you don’t like a particular style, don’t put all the blame on the wrestlers.  The fans, bookers and promoters who encourage it are equally to blame.  The boss says he wants more/less/none of something, that’s what appears on the card.  Period.