A History Lesson
August 17, 2004 by Xander Tristin Conner
I would like to start this column off with a very brief, personal history lesson. I was born in mid-June of 1982 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and ever since late 1985 i have been a fan of professional wrestling. Well perhaps early on i was just a mere viewer, who didn't exactly realise what it was that he was watching, but as time went on i grew up into a dedicated fan, which lasts to this very day.
Back when i first started watching, wrestling was way different than it is today. Some of it for the better, yet in other aspects obviously some of it for the worse. If i had to choose between then and now however, I'm pretty confident that i would still stick with today's version of what pro-wrestling has become, although i think a few things need to be said before I can fully elaborate as to why...
Looking back in time, only in the eighties could a leg drop not only end a match, but become one of the most famous and beloved moves of it's era. At the same time it didn't really matter that it was "only" a legdrop because I believed it, in fact every fan my age did, and although I wasn't a Hulkamaniac as a child, I never thought to question the sillyness of that man's finishing move, as it was completly unstoppable. Many of my favorite wrestlers fell to that move, much to my dismay.
Fast-forward into the late eighties/early ninties and I was now a regular viewer. When I got a little older the highlight of any weekend would be to get some money from my parents and run down to the local videostore to rent some old wrestling tapes. Normally I went for all the Royal Rumble events they had in stock, those were definitly my favorite, but after watching my first Survivor Series event and after seeing all the teams do battle in a three hour, four on four war, I was completly hooked.
By those last two paragraphs I'm sure that most of you have already caught onto to the fact that I grew up strictly a WWF fan. To be completly honest if you had asked me as a child I would have probably told you that the WWF invented wrestling and would have been completly shocked if you could actually prove otherwise. Growing up in Montreal, Canada, you see, we didn't get access to the old NWA or any of the various territories who may or may not have had their own television show. Today there are local shows ran here by the Rougeau brothers, as well as the IWS (Internet Wrestling Syndicate) ran by Carl Pierre Ouelette, but at the time if any local promotion existed, well I had no idea. I was in my own little WWF wrestling world and was loving it.
As more time went on wrestling evolved. WCW started up, broke away from the NWA and started to make a name for themselves. Of course i was still living in my little fantasy WWF bubble and was totally unaware of this. In fact it wouldn't be until the famous "Monday Night Wars" took off that TSN or RDS (Canadian sports channels) would even carry an episode of Nitro.
From there on however things were going along great, there was more wrestling on televsion, talent was jumping ships, things were fresh and exciting, it was even becoming mainstream, but then "it" happened...
Like most fans, once I discovered the internet it immeditatly changed everything I knew and loved about wrestling. Suddenly they wern't wrestlers anymore, they were "workers". There were backstage politics, matches were rated, superstars were rated, certain superstars were even over-rated or under-rated (depending on who you talked to), but worst of all every bit of dirt surrounding my favorite superstars was right there at my finger tips, and I was devistated.
As a kid I loved men like Razor Ramone and Jake "The Snake" Roberts, but suddenly I hated them. Why" Well they each had their share of personal problems of course, Scott Hall wasn't one of the greatest technical wrestlers on the planet and Jake Roberts had really let himself go and was now stinking up the ring. It didn't matter that just a few weeks before I was cheering them on, now I hated them, I had to, I was an internet wrestling fan, but was it really the internet's fault" Of course not, it was mine for caring so much.
Thankfully from all that negativity something good happened however. Actually it was more than good, it was even more than great, it was ECW.
ECW was smart... They knew that we fans knew all the backstage stories, we knew the wrestlers real names but most importantly we knew who was good and who wasn't, in everything, from mic work to ring work to how nice of people the talent were after shows. Surprisingly ECW embraced that and turned it into the federation with the most hardcore fanbase possibly of all time.
Then everything changed, again.
By this point everyone reading should know the story. ECW picks up steam, WWF copies their idea's and renames it "Attitude", WCW copies WWF thus watering down the stolen idea even further, along the way WWF and WCW split most of ECW in half by raiding their roster & invading their t.v. slot.
During this it leaves the wrestling market as one huge wasteland, with fans being burned out, owners scrambling to outdo the violence and shock value, pressure being put on ratings or buyrates over quality and finally causing Paul Heyman's company to go bankrupt, as well as WCW being in such a mess that it was sold off for next to nothing.
By this point you're probably asking yourself why after all these terrible things would I want to keep wrestling as it is today, and instead not go back to the golden eighties or early ninties before the internet or before all three companies almost destroyed the sport.
Well six letters really, TNA and ROH.
I'll admit it, neither company is perfect, and some of you reading may not be familular with either product, but they're each on the right track in my opinion.
See, when the WWF got sold to Vince McMahon Jr. he changed wrestling by marketing it towards children, adding fun characters and turning it into a real show while leaving just enough sport to please the hardcore fans. By the mid-ninties it got stale but thankfully WCW bought out the aging top roster resulting in Vince McMahon being forced to create younger, fresher stars while taking the company in a new direction. Crash t.v. was born and shocks, twists and surprises were awaiting fans at every episode, wrestling had truly been re-invented (even if it were due in large part to Paul Heyman and then Vince Russo.)
Today however where Vince McMahon is stuck once again with a crew of aging talent while trying to milk the "Attitude" era's last drops, both TNA (Total Nonstop Action Wrestling) & ROH (Ring Of Honor) are busy building and creating the legends of tommorow.
Wrestling fans have spoken, the majority want substance over style, and while WWE shows signs of hope (such as Chris Benoit and Eddie Gurrerro both holding World titles at the same time) both cannot even compare to Samoa Joe's year and a half title reign, that is currently still taking place. While Benoit & Gurrerro either fought people that wern't anywhere near contendership or had the same opponants over and over again in rematch after rematch, Samoa Joe has fought different oponants, at almost every single event, in long lasting, hard hitting matches with almost all of them recieving standing ovations at the end. One only needs to take a look at the classic Samoa Joe vs. Low Ki "Fight Without Honor" match from last year to see a real wrestling champion.
Samoa Joe isn't the only one though, in the past two years both TNA & ROH have created or discovered some of the best talent in years. From "The Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels, A.J. Styles and Sonjay Dutt to Alex Shelly, C.M. Punk and Bryan Danielson (and that's barely the begining) they each have rosters full of men who may not have the name value their WWE counterparts have, yet would blow WWE fans out of their seats if they were given the oppertunity to perform for the masses.
Lastly if you want wrestling re-invented, once again, past the stale "attitude" era it only takes one ROH Scramble Cage, one TNA Ultimate-X match or one event filled with fresh faces, unbanned moves and a hunger to entertain before you fall in love all over again.
So in closing while wrestling doesn't need to be as insane as it has gotten in recent years (ex: Jerrell Clark's 630 Splash, Jack Evan's double moonsault or Petey Williams flipping piledriver, a.k.a The Canadian Destroyer) the reason why I choose the future over the past is because while it's not only exciting and sure to lead to fresh, innovative matches perhaps wrestling should be more than just a leg drop, a stone cold stunner or an F.U..
by Xander Tristin Conner ..
Willis Smith wrote:
I do agree with your brief history of wrestling and how it has evolved/devolved to what it is now. However, I do not agree with your comparisons of Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit to Samoa Joe. The reason that Samoa Joe has so many opponents is because it's an indy, people are always coming and going at a much faster pace than with the bigs. Sometimes, it's only for a one-night deal. If you ask me, Samoa Joe is a Rikishi starter kit. As far as TNA, the X division has an appeal to it, but it will never be a front line event. If it was, then why isn't lucha libre a major player here" Quite possibly the two greatest flyers-Rey Mysterio and Jeff Hardy-aren't exactly selling out stadiums around the country. ROH and TNA do have their place and are succeeding nicely, but there is a reason that the WWE is the only major federation in the world today, it's because they have the best wrestlers.
Xander Tristin Conner wrote:
Hey, thank you very much for taking the time to read my column and for giving your thoughts. In responce to your feedback however i would like to clear up that Samoa Joe has not "only fought a bunch of indy people" to retain his ROH World Heavyweight Championship Title.
In the past year and a half Samoa Joe has taken on the likes of A.J. Styles, C.M. Punk, Christopher Daniels, Low Ki, Homicide, Doug Williams, Matt Stryker, Xavier, Mark and Jay Briscoe, Dan Maff, BJ Whitmer and Colt Cabana (just to name a few), all of which who are known ROH talent. No one was ever brought into the company and then just handed a title shot, each person who faced him had to earn a number one contenders spot. If they didn't, believe me, the ROH fans would have probably boo'd the entire match out of the building as the ROH World Title deserves more than meaningless matches.
Also, although wrestling usually comes down to opinion i'd like to think that you were only joking when you called Samoa Joe, "the Rikishi starter-kit". Personally i get the feeling you're only saying that due to the fact that their both Samoan, and to be honest i'm starting to think that you've never even actually watched an ROH event, because if you're basing that statment off their wrestling skills then it's obvious you've never actually seen Joe wrestle before.
As for the TNA X-Division, once again, you're wrong. The X-Division has been the main focus of the company longer than anything else. When you said "it will never be a front line event", well then what about all the various X-Cup events that took up the entire two hour P.P.V.'s" What about the Ultimate-X matches that headlined each show they were on" What about men like A.J. Styles & Kid Kash main eventing last night's P.P.V." To most fans TNA is the X-Division and the company has pushed it as their main division since day one.
You also said "If it was, then why isn't lucha libre a major player here"" What do you mean" TNA added the six-sided ring for that very purpose. Why else would they enter into an agreement with Mexico's AAA promotion" Perhaps you missed team Mexico's four straight X-Cup victories and countless apperances, including other talent such as Apollo, the lucha mini's, et cetera..."
Lastly i'd like to point out that Rey Mysterio Jr. and especially Jeff Hardy are not the two greatest flyers in wrestling. Off the top of my head Teddy Hart and Jack Evans easily have both men beat. You're right though, WWE do have some of the best wrestlers in North America today, they just don't know what to do with them.
Glenn Harrison wrote:
This message is in response to the History Lesson column by Xander Tristin
Conner. He remarks how WWF and WCW "stole" ECW's concept during the late
1990's, but I am not sure if he realizes that the entire ECW concept itself was
"stolen" from Atsushi Onita's FMW in Japan. Paul Heyman has admitted this
numerous times in interviews and states that he took most of his ECW ideas from
FMW. Just thought I'd pass that along, feel free to have Conner e-mail me if he
has any questions.
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