Wrestling fans everywhere have recently had the pleasure, (or displeasure) depending on who you ask, of watching WrestleMania 36. And while I personally enjoyed the event, I must admit that there were times throughout the night that I found myself longing for the “old days.”
It should come as no surprise for those of you who watch the MCW Magazine, that I, along with my co-host Phil Gordon, grew up watching wrestling in the late 1980’s, the early 1990’s and beyond. And one could say that we grew up in arguably the best era in all of professional wrestling. The Golden Era. An era that saw superstars that were truly larger than life. An era with men and women, who in the eyes of fans everywhere were seen as superheroes and villains, and many who have stood the test of time to this very day.
So let’s back up a little bit. Let me ask you the fan, a question. What was it that made you a wrestling fan? Was it the over the top personas? The lights, the music and the sheer spectacle of it all? Or perhaps it was the storylines. The continuation between two and sometimes four of the absolute best athletes on the planet as they slammed and clawed their way through each other for a chance at either the tag team, intercontinental or World Heavyweight Championship. If you are like me, it was a mixture of all three of these things.
That is what brings me back to the present day and the real question at hand. Why, was Nicky Martin longing for the old days during parts of this year’s installment of the Granddaddy Of Them All? Let’s go in depth shall we? Come along and I’ll paint a picture and explain with a story of my own.
Picture this – It’s 1987, the one and only Immortal Hulk Hogan is THE biggest superstar that the (formerly known) WWF had ever seen. Having won his first Heavyweight Championship from the Iron Sheik in early 1984, the man with the 24 inch pythons had gone on since then to really solidify himself as the face of the entire company. With the help of Mr. T, not only did he oust then heated rivals,Rowdy Roddy Piper and Cowboy Bob Orton at WrestleMania 1, but he had also outlasted the enormous King Kong Bundy in a cage at WrestleMania 2. And how do you top that? You put the Immortal one into a heated battle with former friend and perhaps the best known individual both in and outside of wrestling, the 8th Wonder of The World, Andre The Giant.
1987 would see this very feud come to fruition as Andre would turn on his friend, and align himself with the notorious Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and throughout the year, they would build.. And build… and each and every week, fans would be hooked, tuning in to see what would happen next. This would lead to one of the most talked about, and memorable matches in the history of professional wrestling.
And that my friends, is where the difference lies. The presentation, the lead up, the build. These are the things that MADE this match what it was. And these are things that I believe are lacking in today’s product.
Now – fast forward with me to this past weekend. We had a series of matches, that despite the circumstances, I feel had very little build up. But for the sake of this example, let’s just focus on two of these matches. The first being Braun Stroman vs Goldberg
In the weeks leading up to Mania, the fans were under the impression that Roman Reigns would be facing the former WCW star. Promos were cut, several times during programming, both men would meet in the middle of the ring, and both men would attempt to set the stage and write their story. But the depth just wasn’t there. Some would say that with the current set up and time constraints between pay-per views,that it is difficult to really set up something to get fans really invested in a story. Others would say that the fans of today simply lack the patience for a long drawn out storyline, much like the ones that were enjoyed in the Golden age. While still some would argue that the pool of new stars, aren’t being booked and presented in a way that will allow them to stand out as stars of the future. Whatever your viewpoint is on this, what we saw with Strowman and Goldberg was what I would call par for the course for most main event matches of this era. Several quick finishes by both men, and then one gets the upper hand and gets a fast victory and a shiny new title to hold.
The same can be said for Brock Lesnar and Drew McIntyre. Again, quick to use their finishing moves and even quicker to get to the end of the match. And while Paul Heyman, try as he might did his very best to elevate both men,there is only so much he can do.
Now, rewind with me again back to 1987. Hogan and The Giant had weeks to truly build a story. Because at that time, there was no such thing as spoilers and no internet to ruin things or to have fans complain about outcomes or how their favourites weren’t being pushed, people simply enjoyed the product and tuned in every week. And it didn’t matter if a story went for three years as long as it was a good story. THIS, ladies and gentlemen is why stories with people like Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat, and Hogan and Andre and Hogan and Savage and Rude and Piper were so successful. They had time to build. And during that build, fans had time to invest. REAL time.
This, I believe is also why NXT is so successful. Because they are keeping things simple. The stories are easy to follow, they follow psychology and, THEY MAKE SENSE.
In closing, so much of today’s product is focused too little on the end game and too much on the cheap pop and the quick ratings. If fans today just took a few moments to appreciate the product. Whether it’s WWE, whether it’s AEW or whether it’s something completely different, I think we would see a whole new resurgence of wrestling as a whole. And I feel that if the national companies that made us fall in love with wrestling in the first place shifted their focus back to the fans, and really took the time to look at INVESTMENT and simple, yet engrossing stories, perhaps, just perhaps the fan of today and the fans of a bygone era could truly connect on a whole other level.
Thank you for delving into my Magnificent Mind, and until next time, just remember that I always get, the last laugh.