Winning Isn't The Only Thing, It's Barely Anything
July 6, 2006 by Jacob Kuhn
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One of my favorite moments in my long history as a wrestling fan is the Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon ladder match at WrestleMania X. I was 18 years old and no longer in high school. Wrestling had become everything to me. Even though deep down I knew that it wasn't 'real', it wasn't something that I worried nor concerned myself about. I was able to let myself believe the matches were real and it was easier for me to cheer for someone to win. It was a major disappointment for me when Razor won.
When I was watching Vengeance 2006, something occurred to me. The fire and the drive that had existed back in 1994 was no longer there. While some of the matches were enjoyable, and I definitely had favorites, none of the matches had the life or death mentality that the ladder match had for me. I was happy Johnny Nitro won the Intercontinental Championship and happy that Van Dam held onto the WWE title. However, not even when Ric Flair was facing Mick Foley did I feel myself on the edge of my seat.
I couldn't figure out what was missing. Wrestling has evolved since then. Whether that is for the best or worst is an ongoing debate. Honestly, I can say that I enjoy it as much as I had back then. So, what changed"
Winning a match seems to have lost most of its significance. As far back as I could recall, it was always an important thing. Winning matches was the way to set up the hierarchy of the wrestlers. If Ric Flair could beat Lex Luger each time they faced one another, Flair would always be known as the superior wrestler. Other performers with long undefeated streaks would look invulnerable to the fans. It would get to a point where the fans would just turn in over and over to see the grappler lose for the first time.
Nowadays, wrestling has evolved. Fans are much more concerned about how enjoyable the match itself is rather than who wins it. Mick Foley-who has one of the worst win/loss ratios in major matches-is now a legend who has put on some of the most memorable moments in history. However, almost every single one of them is a losing effort.
Many of the fans I hung around with as a kid didn't care so much about the quality of the match. Neither did many of the teenagers. That is probably why, at the time, I tended to lean honestly more towards the NWA than WWF. For me, the matches were more enjoyable and both quality and winning were important. Many of my friends, however, were only concerned that Hulk Hogan could win a pointless match in about five minutes.
Most of that mentality seems to be missing from today's product. While, on the surface, that appears to be good, it's actually a double edged sword. Rather than find a happy medium between winning and quality, many fans have totally forsaken winning altogether. It seems today, if a title is not on the line, it doesn't matter who wins.
I don't in any way mean to say this is about all fans. To some of us, a victory still means something. However, as a lifelong Flair mark, I found myself not caring too much over who won the match he had with Foley on June 25th. It didn't mean anything, really.
Some of the apathy might be the way that matches are built up these days. With at least two pay per views every month (one TNA and one WWE), there is not enough time to properly build many matches. If a fan misses one week's worth or RAW or Impact, they might turn into a pay per view and have no idea of what is going on. Generally, unless it's around WrestleMania time, some matches only get a week or two of proper build up.
Another issue might be with the total eradication of the kayfabe era. Even though most of us fans knew the matches were predetermined, we were able to convince ourselves that they weren't. Or, we were at least to the degree that was needed to enjoy the matches more. We were able to get angry at the managers or valets for not interfering when it would help. The stupid mistakes made by our favorite wrestlers also irritated us. Now that wrestling practically is anti-kayfabe, it's hard to do that.
Many wrestlers today get title shots solely based off their affiliation with the champions. It doesn't matter how many matches they win, a simple sneak attack on the champ and the wrestler finds themselves in the main event.
None of this makes wrestling any worse though. I hope by reading that, no one gets the idea that I am criticizing. Things have just changed. Does the fact that Mick Foley got his butt kicked against the Undertaker make his Hell in a Cell performance any less than it was" Of course not. Does the fact that Umaga wins all of his matches make him any sort of legend" Definitely not.
Wrestling has just moved on. I don't think it's for the better or the worse, though. It's just different. There are wrestlers out there-such as Samoa Joe- who put on great matches and long undefeated streaks. There are those who rarely win matches, but put on great performances. Christian was this way when he was in the WWE.
Every now and then, when I re-watch WrestleMania X, I hope for the outcome to change. The match is over 12 years old, but still holds strong emotions for me. I strongly wanted Shawn Michaels to walk out with the belt. I wish I could get that fire back. Lacking it makes me think that I am not as true of a wrestling fan as I think I am. But for some reason, I keep turning in and enjoying what happens, regardless of who comes out on top.
by Jacob Kuhn ..
Neil from manchester, England wrote:
I just wanted to say thank you for an excellent column, your love of wrestling is evident from reading this. It's not something I ever thought about previously but it's certainly relevant.
Even though you were already 18 at the time, perhaps it is just a case of growing up with wrestling. Even if you knew the outcome was predetermined I doubt you read as much about wrestling back in the day. The internet has a lot to answer for in terms of kayfabe going truly out of the window.
Kevin Hill wrote:
great column. I have felt the same way for about 4 years now. Im a full fleged WWE fan (for one i cant stand TNA, but thats beside the point)
I grew up being able to still see the territorial wrestling, barely still around (late 80s), then early 90s I was the biggest Sting mark you could ever find on the planet. Loved him. As time went on when i was 6 or 7 in the mid 90s i realized wrestling was predetermined, etc. but didnt care because it was pro wrestling. I was 100% mark until around 97, 98 then i started only liking the truely talented wrestlers and looked for a great match not just the biggest babyface to make the come behind victory. I dont really have a true favorite wrestler, majority of the ones i like are heels, so i definetly understand where your coming from with this. Great column!
Jon Rosaler wrote:
You're comparing Scott Hall's win to Nitros" Now I see why this is your thirtenth piece.
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