Back To School
September 1, 2005 by Johnny LaRue

Ah yes it's that time of year where you youngsters are heading back to school and my older readers are happy you are back in school. But Johnny what does school have to do with wrestling you ask" Well, I am glad you asked fellow readers of mine since every year on the first day of school I have the kids I teach write down their likes and dislikes. Last year I had 4 kids who marked down they watched wrestling. The year before I had 7 kids who liked wrestling. This year guess how many I had" A whopping one kid! So I asked the rest of the class if anyone could name 3 current wrestlers. One kid said Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan. To which another kid replied with and I quote "he said current not dead!" Another kid said "I think some Ice Cold wrestler who was bald was the first ever wrestling champion" (Yes that thud you heard last week was my head banging against my desk). Although nobody could name three current wrestlers the class was quick to name 3 X-Games athletes.

This brings me to my question for all of you readers. Is wrestling slowly dying" I recall when I was a kid in grade school and practically every boy in class liked watching wrestling or could at least name 3 wrestlers! I used to stay up late and watch wrestling and even rushed home to see wrestling on TV after school! I ended up working my ass off one summer just to buy a VCR so I could tape wrestling shows I happened to miss. I faked an illness so I could watch The Clash of the Champions instead of having to go to the class play. I even went as far as bringing hedge clippers to school and cut off some kids rattail at lunch recess. Needless to say my Brutus the Barber Beefcake impression resulted in a trip to the Principals office and a couple of days suspension. Hopefully none of you cut hair like I did but I am willing to bet that most of you reading this know where you were when the nWo formed or when Warrior pinned Hogan or when Austin fought Vince on RAW. Most of you can describe the event in detail. My point here is we all have some great memory that involved wrestling. For me one of the many memories was going to a WWF Superstars taping for the first time when I was a kid. I knew that this would be seen by lots of people and I felt like I was on top of the world.

So where did we go wrong" Why are the current crop of kids disinterested in wrestling as a whole" Was it the edgier content that hooked us (and still does) but unfortunately drives away the kids of today" Has wrestling evolved to the point of trying to retain us older fans with edgier content and forgotten about future fans" Are the characters today too real and lack the escapism I had as a kid" If Harry Potter was just a normal kid with two family members fighting over him *cough* Eddie and Rey *cough* would the book be as popular" Most kids today already have family problems so why would they want to "escape" by watching a custody battle" Are the wrestlers of today not connecting with the kids" Maybe video games and online gaming interest kids more" Are kids too busy chatting and instant messaging online" Are the X-Games taking the place of wrestling" Perhaps your average kid can't afford a PPV every month" Maybe us fans should be doing more to get others interested in wrestling or could it be that older fans that are turning the kids away" Are us older fans to blame for wanting wrestling to grow up with us" Some of us still watch and enjoy Disney movies that are geared toward kids. So why couldn't we be happy with wrestling that is geared towards kids"

Not to sound like some prophet but when the "attitude" era started I said it was a short term fix and does not take into consideration the long term effects. Now it seems the long term effects are slowly creeping up. Though I am willing to admit there could be other factors at play here. Okay, I admit that the current state of wrestling is somewhat stable but what about 5 years from now" I'm willing to bet in 5 years the number of kids who like wrestling will be less than it is right now. What about 10 years from now" Can wrestling truly survive by catering to the same fans and neglecting the future ones" Will we be stuck watching the same wrestlers 10 or 15 years from now since there will be few new ones to take their place" In 20 years will we see Hulk Hogan headline a PPV" (further proving my theory that he is a robot). In 50 years will most of us be trying to explain what wrestling was to our grandchildren" Will we get strange looks from our grandkids when we do try to explain it"

Maybe I am overreacting here and this would be one of the few times I wish I was wrong. What was it that got us excited about wrestling as kids and why does it no longer exist today" For me it was the escapism and only having a few must see PPV's a year. What was it for you" What got you hooked on wrestling" If you were a kid today would you be a wrestling fan" Are you a kid who likes wrestling and if so what got you hooked on it" Would you change anything about wrestling to attract the younger crowd" Are you as concerned as I am about the long term future of wrestling" Judging by the previous intelligent responses I have gotten from past columns I feel fairly confident that my readers can shed some more insight into this issue. Shoot me an e-mail and let me know your thoughts.

When Johnny LaRue is not watching old wrestling tapes he can be reached at [email protected]..

Josh Moran wrote:
I agree with you. I am only in Year 7, and in all of my classes, only 3 people can name the current tag team champions. When i was in Grade 4 3 years ago, at least 20 people (out of a combined class of 66 people) knew. What was more amazing, 6 of them were girls.

I realize critizing me because i'm so young, but don't. I used to go to my local video shop and hire 8 PPV's on video for a week, and i'd watch them twice each. I've seen every Survivor Series since 1997 (i own 2002-2004), i've seen every hell in a cell match, elimination chamber, and every time Triple H has won the title. But now they have got rid of them, i rely on Online World of Wrestling to get results from PPV's (i live in australia, but i am not allowed to buy PPV's) I also check the results for 2001 on, just to get a feeling of nostalgia.

But, enough of my life story. I really agree with you on the point. I asked my best friend who Vince McMahon was, and he said some wrestler. To not know Vince McMahon is an eternal sin. I also asked my other friend how many times Ric Flair has won the World title, and he said, and i quote " Isn't he that guy who worships HHH." To not know the answer (16 or 20, i don't know) is almost as bad as not knowing Vince McMahon.
Dave Hanson wrote:
Well, I agree with some things you say but not others. First off, in the 80s, wrestling was something that WAS accessible to children. It was a Saturday and Sunday morning show. There was no bleeding. The most "extreme" characters were The Undertaker and Jake The Snake. Nowadays, is wrestling something kids should just dive into at such a young age" At least without some parents in the room to guide the kid through it" Most likely the parent will take one look at lingerie pillow fights and bloody street fights and a big fat black guy who's finishing move is dry humping his opponent, and tell the kid he shouldn't be watching all of that. When I was a kid, I remember watching Wrestlemania 4, the giant tournament for the WWF Title won by Randy Savage, and I was hooked. I was 8 years old then. Would you plop down your eight year old in front of the TV to watch Melina's ring entrance" Matt Hardy with blood running down his face at Summerslam"

I agree very much with what you said about the changes of the "Attitude era" being a short-term fix. So many people look at that period as one of the high points in wrestling history, yet most of the things that people complain about in current WWE programming are a direct result of those "Attitude" years. Maybe it's time WWE stopped all of that and went back to being a product that both adults and kids can enjoy. I remember watching Bret Hart vs British Bulldog at Summerslam 92 when I was 12, and loving the match. I watch the match now at 25, and still love the match, but on so many different levels and for so many additional reasons.

I do have to ask, however, what grade is it you teach--what age group of kids are you talking about here, that should be exposed to bloodbath Hell in a Cell matches and Thong Contests and Todd Grisham" I'm not saying that it's not a good thing to get into wrestling at a young age...just that perhaps WWE's current product isn't the best thing to expose them to. Maybe bust out some old 70s and 80s tapes. Hell, anything before 1996.
Zach Goldman wrote:
I agree that wrestling (or soap-opera trash whatever you want to call it) has gotten a little, ok very stale. Even though I have only been watching wrestling since the Smackdown after Wrestlemania XX, I do know that wrestling (soap-opera trash) has seen better days. But no matter how stae wrestling (do I have to say what it is again) gets, I will watch it because I am a die-hard fan who is also looking to become a wrestler for WWE. I just hope that if TNA competes with WWE, WWE will try a little harder
Rhey Higgins wrote:
I know exactly what you're talking about. Last year, only three people IN THE SCHOOL watched wrestling, with me being one of them. The other two thought it was real, and I had to teach them otherwise. The really sad thing" Aside from us three, nobody knew who RIC FRIGGIN' FLAIR was! Everyone knew who Hogan was, a couple people knew who Bret was (it is Canada, after all), and a couple knew who Piper was...that's it. Trust me, the only thing harder than being the new kid at school is being "the new kid who likes wrestling", in an age where wrestling is becoming less and less popular.
noogy wrote:
Great article, im in year 11 in Australia and I totally agree with everything you guys have said. IK know my cousins and friends little brothers and sisters aren't allowed to watch wrestling on tv because of the blood and stupid things WWE throws on there. One point about how you said how kids are trying to get away from family problems, I gotta say SPOT ON! My parents have split up and one thing I don't want to see is crap like the eddie and rey saga which was so pathetic, currently I have not watched wwe for about 4 weeks I have been downloading matchs from American indie shows, TNA and ROH and I gotta say I love everybit of it. What first got me into wrestling was the fact that these guys were like gods to me. I remember the first ever match I saw, Undertaker vs Giant Gonzales... yeah I know not the greatest match but I was hooked, seeing two guys try and kick each others asses was awesome and I was hooked.

The mention about lingerie matches so true they are stupid and I was always change the channel when something like that's on its pointless and if kids are watching that its pretty obvious what the parents are going to do. I am currently training to become a wrestler at a federation called the AWF, and I remember our trainer/promoter saying that it's a show for the kids. They have shows at a small dojo and there is no blood, there is no women walking out in bikinis and that's because its for the kids. Now they had a show for over 18 recently, that's when they got blood and weapons and women involved. The WWE really needs to take a look at itself because I think what its trying to do is look at what makes the live fans happy, and when you see it there are a lot of adults at the front and yeah they wanna see some women, but people at home... they don't really want to and I think if WWE wants to have a dark match, make it that and let decent wrestlers on.




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