Incoming Personal Post - if you’re not interested in my opinion, I thank you for your time in reading this header. If you are interested, feel free to continue reading on
So it’s finally happened - at the ripe old age of 30 years old, I’ve finally realized that WWE is not for me.
A little background about me may be required to understand this post/message/note (still haven’t decided if I’m going to post this anywhere). At my core, I love stories. I love reading them, I love writing them. I love to experience stories, and I love to create them, and that’s part of why I love pro wrestling so much. Pro Wrestling, to me, has always been just a different medium for creating stories.
I’ve been a lifelong WWE fan for literally as far back as I can remember. I remember vividly the excitement I felt leading up to Wrestlemania X (IX was the first that I remember, but not the first I’ve watched) going forward into adulthood. My brother and I used to get grounded for watching wrestling (it was forbidden in my house), but when my parents found out that I had discovered on my own how to program the VCR to tape WWF shows, and had kept watching, they did a very sensible thing: they took the approach of “Well, if you’re going to watch it, at least watch it at home, when we’re around, so we can chime in if we feel the need to”. And that was the status quo from the time I was 9 until my parents realized that they could trust me and trust their parenting.
In 1995, there was a gas explosion on my street, destroying many houses, and forcing most of us to live in a hotel for several weeks while repairs were conducted. My brother and I demanded that my parents take us back to the wreckage of our house, so that we could carefully enter the basement, and watch the WWE show that night. THAT is how invested we were. I watched during the “lean years” and never lost the enjoyment, I was a child watching real-life superheroes. I watched during the rise of the nWo and then the Attitude Era, and I was constantly hooked. After the collapse of WCW, the end of the Attitude Era, I never found my enjoyment for the WWE product faltering. Even after the company moved to PG, I personally didn’t really care. I wasn’t a child any longer, but at the same time, I was enjoying larger-than-life characters battling other larger-than-life characters for some form of stakes. In other words, I was watching a story unfold.
All of that changed, but not suddenly. I was attending a few independent events a year in my local area, and while I enjoyed what I was seeing, I had no investment into any of the stories, and as a result, I had very little interest. At the same time, the stories being told by the WWE started lacking an essential element (to me): logic. I was constantly asking, Why are these characters fighting, what are the stakes involved, and most importantly - does this matter?
Please don’t get me wrong: not every WWE storyline lacks logic, and the ones that do are not inherently bad, but they just…weren’t for me. Years upon years of this storytelling continued, and I continued to consume, but not particularly enjoy. Until I discovered New Japan Pro Wrestling in mid 2015. After a particularly negative personal event, I was up quite late, and watched the Finn Balor special (the one aired prior to the Beast in the East event), and the images shown from NJPW sparked a desire in me. So I set out to watch the next NJPW show, which as my luck would have it, was the first night of the G1. Like the independent events I’d seen locally, I had no context on any of these characters, but I watched anyway, enjoying the physicality. By the end of the G1, I felt confident enough to predict winners/losers for NJPW’s upcoming Destruction card, and in an amazing feat, I got every single prediction wrong. I wasn’t looking at storytelling logic, I was using WWE logic. I didn’t realize the difference, not consciously, but after I started to understand NJPW’s stories, I grew more and more invested.
In the interceding years, NJPW’s undergone an explosion of popularity, while still trailing behind the WWE as the global #2 in wrestling. In that same period of time, my personal interest in WWE has nearly cratered, while my interest in NJPW is super high. I still watched nearly every RAW, and every PPV/Network event, as I still wanted to put forth the effort. I still wanted to believe in the WWE.
I had parties at my home for both Wrestlemania and WrestleKingdom this year. As expected, Mania was the larger get-together, but Kingdom was the most energetic (time of day notwithstanding). At Mania, I had a friend from out-of-town come by and watch the show. Prior to the card, she looked at every match and gave us her predictions for every match (aside from the battle royals). Shockingly, she got every outcome(minus one), AND NEARLY EVERY FINISH correct. She even correctly stated that Asuka would tap out to Charlotte, to the immediate derision of everyone in the room. (In case anyone is wondering, she thought Stephanie would beat Rousey, after Rousey was distracted by attacking HHH in violation of the Mixed-Match Rules, which, she was damn close)
At the end of the event, in the stunned silence that permeated my living room, I turned to her and asked a simple question: “How did you make these predictions?”. Her response is what made me realize that while I love, and will always love Pro Wrestling, I’m done with the WWE.
Her: “Here’s the problem. You all think that WWE is making a wrestling show. But they aren’t. They’re making comic books - live action comic books. The audience, and audience reaction, is an integral part of a wrestling show, but there’s no live audience to react to a comic book. The WWE doesn’t care, and will never care about the live audience, because they aren’t putting on a wrestling show. They’re here to tell a story, whether the audience likes it or not. If this show was happening without a live audience, you would have made the same picks I did.”
After following up with one more prediction (she thinks Charlotte v Asuka will be the main event of Mania 35), the room fell into stunned silence once again.
I’m not sure if I would have made the same picks she did, nor am I sure about her feelings if there was no audience, but she was absolutely right about one thing: The WWE is dead set on telling their story, audience reactions be damned. In comics, this sort of thing happens, the comic-buying population rejects a new story arc/direction, but that direction is only changed if Editorial steps in, or a new writer steps in to do so, and generally this only occurs after the storyline is completed. Some people like the new stories/directions, and others don’t. Sometimes, this turns into giant flame wars online, and sometimes, the disenfranchised find another story being told using the same medium, as I and many others have done.
I think Pro Wrestling, as a storytelling form - completely independent of any of the amazing physical feats, is wildly under-respected. And after all these years, I’ve finally realized that WWE is not a Pro Wrestling show. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that at all, and I’m not dumping on the company. Their goal is to make money, and it’s a lot easier to make money telling a story that you control all facets of rather than leaving some facets open to audience participation and support. But without that audience interaction, personally, I find the story feeling hollow.
I recognize there is some post-Mania burnout in this, and I tend to text-ramble (tamble? what is it called when someone rambles in an online posting?) which can make for a disjointed reading experience, and for that I’m sorry. I also understand that this does not take into account that a big part of the lack of coherent storytelling in WWE is based on the fact that they have so much airtime to fill that they can only create so many stories before repeating stories, contradicting previous stories, or having stories become stale.
I love Pro Wrestling. The WWE is not Pro Wrestling. I’m done with the WWE.
*P.S - I still intend to listen to the PostWrestling reviews, like a comic book fan following along on the internet, keeping an eye on the stories, to see if there’s anything that will pique my interest. After all, WWE was Pro Wrestling (to me) when I was younger, maybe it will be again (to me). If there’s ever a day when the WWE draws me back in, I’ll happily watch, but for now… I’m done.