isn't really a competitive sport, per se. At best, today's business is "sports
entertainment," and that's a lot of what interests me. I know that the winner of
each match is determined in the locker room, ahead of time. Exactly how much ahead of time
depends on the booker, but it always is. There hasn't been a real contest in a
professional wrestling ring in my lifetime, and probably in anyone's lifetime whose
eyesight is good enough to read this. So they haven't been real contests...big deal. I'm
entertained by the worked ones.
The World Wrestling Federation appears to be taking the "sports" out of it,
in a way that's really bothering me. It isn't the fact that they rarely have a match on TV
that goes as long as the weekly Vince McMahon interview. Their
product is solely angle-driven. Has been since the arrival of Hulk Hogan.
For every great match we got (Randy Savage/Ricky Steamboat
at Wrestlemania III, Bret Hart/British Bulldog at Summer
Slam 92), there have been hundreds of stinkers. The WWF's target audience didn't care
about arm drags and high spots and near-falls. The triumph of good over evil was enough.
That concept is in full force again, only now it's the triumph of
McMahon's Corporate Team over anyone who dares stand in
their way. The difference is that any possible rules
of sport in "sports entertainment" have been tossed
out with the bath water.
Wrestling has always had managers interfering and foreign
objects and blind referees missing tags. That's one thing.
Another thing is when any outcome that McMahon or Shawn
Michaels don't like is simply tossed out. So the odds are
stacked against one competitor, usually Steve Austin
or Mankind. But when that competitor succeeds
despite those odds, a knife gets stuck in his back. It happened
to Mick Foley on the Rock Bottom PPV, then
to the New Age Outlaws the next night on
Raw. Both of these were main-event caliber title defenses.
First, Mankind puts the Mandible Claw
on Rocky Maivia rendering him unable to
continue and the referee stops the match. Instead of getting
the belt, Vince McMahon comes out and says that the title
can only change hands on pinfall or submission and
the referee stopping a match because a wrestler can't continue
isn't a submission. He rules that Mankind wins the match
but not the title. The next night, the New Age Outlaws defend
the tag title against McMahon's team of Ken Shamrock
and Big Bossman. One of the Outlaws
gets knocked out, Shamrock apply the ankle lock and the
referee stops the match. This time, the belts do change
hands because it was Vince's team on the right side of the
What becomes the point of having a title, and having a wrestler strive to achieve that
Wrestling audiences have always shown to be an incredibly
tolerant bunch of people, but there's always something
that drives them away in disgust. Most of the time they
leave because a series of events causes them to question
why they're spending their money. In Dallas, the demise
of World Class was due in good part to Texas fans refusing
to believe that Eric Embry, a man of average
height and no obvious athletic talent, was the best wrestler
in the promotion. In Memphis, Jerry Lawler's
humiliation as a heel in the WWF didn't balance his attempts
to be the lead babyface for USWA.
If enough fans say "I'm tired of Mankind winning,
only to have Vince McMahon change the rules of what
constitutes a submission," could that be enough to
drive WWF fans away?
Maybe it's unfair for me to judge the World Wrestling Federation in the same way that I
would one of the "real" professional sports leagues. Those referees may not
always be right, but at least there is some sense of impartiality within in the spirit of
determining which man or team is better than another. So, you may ask, what happened in
the Buffalo/New England game a few weeks ago?
Don't get me started....