Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Trap of Nostalgia

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This scene was old in 2001. This photo was taken in 2012.
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
There's been something bugging me for awhile. I've felt it for a good long time, but it really started to well up at EVOLVE 10 when the slack-jawed hooligans in their ratty hockey jerseys and tacky cut-offs started to boo Johnny Gargano and Ricochet in what should have been the main event of the show. Extreme Reunion only mollified that feeling, but it's not just the ECW trolls who get to me like that. It's the people who want a return to the Attitude Era, those who think that changing the rating on RAW is going to solve all their problems. Fans like these two groups bug me because they're not wrestling fans.

Sure, they may have liked wrestling at some point in time, or they may have liked a form of wrestling. When that form of wrestling went away though, they too went away. However, because wrestling promoters are greedy and shortsighted, these people are drawn back, whether it's by One Night Stand or some other glomming of ECW's memory, or by an appearance by The Rock or because they heard some new guy with a bunch of tattoos was "shooting" at the end of RAW, they come back because the thing they liked, the certain time period of wrestling that was in their wheelhouse, was featured.

Of course, those promoters are trying to bank on recapturing past glories, but the problem is they assume those people who come back for rehashes are wrestling fans. Some of them may be. Some may find their passion for wrestling is rekindled by seeing guys like Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Alberto del Rio, Jigsaw, Johnny Gargano, Sami Callihan and Bobby Fish. However, there usually is a reason why fandoms die out when eras end. Peaks in pro wrestling happen when they court fans of movements. The fans of wrestling are the core, and judging from the numbers WWE has been drawing for the last four years or so, that core is sizable. However, the siren call is to get back to an era when they had more than just the most viewers on television. Competing against one's history is a recipe for disaster because the fans lost are the ones who only stuck around because of a certain thing. When that thing is lost, it almost never comes back except in nostalgia.

Because promoters, whether they be Vince McMahon or Gabe Sapolsky or anyone on any level between or below the latter, are both impatient and hungry for the dollar, they don't realize that the only way they can reach those peaks again is if they create an organic movement that will attract in a new set of fans that will supplement the fans of wrestling who will always be there.

That also isn't to say that I, a fan of wrestling, am better than the average fan who had his or her fill and left. I'm a different fan, more easily satisfied by the form than someone who was a fan of one specific thing. I harbor no ill will to the people who came and left when their time was up. That being said, the people I DO harbor ill will towards are the ones who think that wrestling shouldn't evolve. That the people who are here changing the business for the better are never going to be good enough because they're not Sandman or because they're not Steve Austin. Those people can stay the fuck away from my wrestling shows and keep watching their DVDs or tapes at home.

In fact, this is a good maxim to use for any facet of life, since nostalgism is pretty much the third certainty in life, along with death and taxes. The specter of the other two makes life miserable, so obviously, always longing for the past is another good way to be satisfied rarely if ever. Modern day drunken prophet Billy Joel sang it best - "The good ol' days weren't always good, and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems." The same is true in all forms of popular culture, but ESPECIALLY in professional wrestling.

I'm not saying abandoning the past is good practice. It's great to have memories of days when Rocky and Mick Foley palled around in the ring or when Raven fucked with Tommy Dreamer's head. Just don't let those memories dominate how you think wrestling should be today. If that's the case, then just watch the tape library and find something else current to keep your attention span occupied.