It’s rant time with Uncle Tom (me, not that one - also, not that Tom Green). Not a bad, mean rant. Just something I hope someone with a brain reads and maybe implements.
So, I’m out of the wrestling game. Never say never, but I don’t see any doors opening (and I’m not exactly trying to open them). But I’m begging SOMEONE: please do something remotely hip with the artform.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8gFlysob5g - This music video (“Never Listen to Me” by The Thermals) is years old. Yet, in terms of aesthetics, it BLOWS AWAY anything that pro wrestling’s put out, in terms of edginess or remotely reflecting youth culture in this part of the world.
Wrestling, at its core, is a youth-driven industry that is at its most successful when the personalities are the person behind the performer, turned up to volume level 11. Right now, the industry at the whole is in the image of folks stuck in the wrestling bubble. Good, bad, ugly, indifferent - pretty much all wrestling in 2013 is derivative of something that’s been done before (even those who claim that they’re “alternatives” or they’re unique little snowflakes). At 25 years old, I feel like I’m too old to single-handedly dictate a product without referencing those younger than me. Most of the artform is dictated by men (and a woman) who are old enough to be my parents.
To paraphrase Patton Oswalt in The Comedians of Comedy, in reference to whether he is leading a “punk rock” comedy revolution:
“(David) Cross has a hairy asscrack. I have womanly manboobs. We’re not the ones to do it. Someone’s coming to do it - it’s not us. Someone’s going to spike it, it’s not us.”
That’s how I feel and have felt. That’s how anyone currently in power in wrestling should feel. In general, wrestling is presented by people too old to be current and too out-of-touch (no matter the quality of their product) to give the world something new.
Watching the wrestling landscape in 2013 is like going through a sweaty time machine. This place is ripping off what worked in 1994, that place is ripping off what worked in 1999, this other place is ripping off what was cool in 1985. That’s why nothing sticks anymore. It’s like going back and watching a show you loved as a kid on Youtube. You get excited and think you’ll watch every episode and have all of these amazing memories and laughs. You end up getting bored after a couple of episodes (if that) and move onto something else.
I’m begging someone to bring some edge to a wrestling product. I don’t mean boobs or cussing. I mean big characters who are extensions of real young people in today’s world with real frustrations and real angst. If the turnover in young talent is how it should be and bookers/writers/creative folk/whatever the next buzztitle will be are doing their job and driving from actual personalities and not just borrowing from Youtube or their old tapes, the artform and the sport should constantly reflect youth culture since the personalities coming out on screen should be those of actual young people who have a clue what the heck’s going on in their world and what their demographic is feeling, seeing, listening to, and so on.
Get to know your talent if you decide what ends up being your product. There’s nothing worse than phony, hokey pro wrestling, and there’s nothing phonier than guys just being plugged into roles because the promoter/booker/writer/butthead quasi-writing e-fed shows had a genius idea for a character and just needs someone who looks the role to fill it. Essentially, as a booker, you’re just playing with human action figures when you do this (“Oh, my Bret Hart doll kinda looks like Sabu - that’s who he’ll be this time!”).
By the way, I’m not anti-gimmick by having this stance. Wrestling’s a freak show and you need the bearded lady and the human cannonball. If a gimmick lives in a performer’s soul, it will probably be just as strong, if not stronger, than if you asked him to be himself turned up. Often, when a performer’s struggling to get himself across, he or she is probably one of the billion of us who are boring folks but have a fiery promo living in our bellies (whether it be towards a person they loathe, a boss, a job they’re just waiting to quit, etc.). If you have a creative role in the wrestling business, your job is to reach down into their gut and grab that promo, then direct it in whatever way it needs to be directed in order to allow the spectator to want to give you money to see your next clash of characters. If using a gimmick to pull that out is what’s needed, then it’s necessary. But you can’t just slap a silly gimmick on a guy because it’s part of your buttheaded vision. Sure, it might be easier for a crowd to instantly relate to a bullfrog or a guy in a dog costume because they know what it is right off the bat, but if I want to see a guy in a cowboy costume who doesn’t believe an ounce of it fake-fighting a guy in a bright mask and his underwear, I’d hang out in downtown Indianapolis on any Saturday night.
Also, present it differently. If your show looks and sounds like promotion XYZ, no matter how great it looks, you’ve lost the battle. I’m fully aware that a lot of promotions can’t afford quality cameras and pretty much no one can afford the rights to real, popular music. But there’s such a thing as flying under the radar on the independent level. Say what you will about Jeremy Borash’s reality show, TNA British Bootcamp, but the mainstream modern music clearances he got for that show give you an immediate connection to each of the characters. As for the visual appeal: as someone with a broadcasting degree out of work in 2013, I can tell you that a LOT of people with my similar skillset and background are out of work right now. Take advantage of it. If you’re a promoter, someone who has a clue how to produce quality video that doesn’t look like independent janky pro wrestling shouldn’t be THAT hard (and as we all know, promoters are cheap - just find someone young who needs a resume reference or just loves wrestling enough to do it for free/minimal charge). HAVE SOME PRIDE IN YOUR PRODUCT. If you shoot your shows on a ten-year-old camcorder and all of your performers use iPhones to self-shoot their promos, you have no belief or pride in what you’re putting out and shouldn’t be running. Period. If you believe in your product, put some damn effort into making it look the best it can. There has to be an overall vision behind it, and it can’t be an antiquated, rehashed one.
Make your own stinkin’ trend. Something I loathe about American independent wrestling is when something, someone, some concept, etc. gets over in one place, so it shows up EVERYWHERE else. Be aware of what’s going on elsewhere, but have the self control to not let if influence what happens with your art.
Just feed the people something real and something different. Not something phony and something that they can get most other places (whether they realize it or not). You need to stick to the basics of pro wrestling, but modernize the product and make everything else unique. You can’t ignore EVERY SINGLE RULE while throwing a coat of paint and claiming it’s pro wrestling (Jeff Katz put out a Youtube show called The Underground that did such a thing and not only did it get NO attention, but it was complete dog garbage), but when you present something as it is (don’t set up a wrestling ring, put on wrestling matches, and claim it’s a human cockfighting ring or something), then build up a protagonist and an antagonist, allow the people to get to know their personalities, send them on a collision course, and have a consequence built up to full importance for the two characters to fight over, that’s pro wrestling. After that is when you can update, modernize, and bring a real, fresh spin to it.
Allow people to live vicariously through the personalities that clash in the ring and on the screen. Form of liquid versus form of solid might work a time or two if it’s weird or different just to be different, but try doing it month after month in the same region (and “internet DVD/VOD audience” counts as a region if you aim for it). You can grow an audience for a while just because it’s a shiny new package, but eventually people are going to open that box and find that it’s the same package being sold two shelves over and they can probably get it for cheaper over there.
I fully believe that the first promoter, producer and/or creative mind who can make their product feel modern, look modern, be driven by young personalities, and can keep up with the times (don’t be satisfied with being current this month and then never update - THAT creates a popularity cycle more than anything in wrestling and any cycle will have its downturn) will be the next product to make something of the artform and have real upward mobility.
I keep going back to “young”, “youth”, and “cool”. Yeah, these steps will immediately appeal to young people, but what happens to ANYTHING when it gets cool? It draws a much larger audience than its aim because everyone thinks they’re cool and will hop onto a trend just to feel young/hip. That’s when updating and staying with the times comes into play - that initial audience will want to go away because your product isn’t as immediate to them anymore. But if you continually update and stay ahead of the trends, you’ll keep the first audience you drew and until you lose sight of the goal, you should be able to stay fresh. Again, that goes back to the youth cycle in wrestling talent and basing their characters on turning the real personalities up to 11.
Everything’s full circle when you have a clue.
Give the world something to bite into.
Help a brother out, wrestling. Please?