Monday, April 17, 2017

Wrestling Is Anything, Wrestling Is Everything

Yoshihiko, shown here pinning Kota Ibushi, is not killing wrestling, sorry Rip Rogers
Professional wrestling is a wonderful thing, but it can be the subject of heated, divisive debates that fall into several categories. Some are constructive, others not so much, but perhaps the most destructive form of debate comes from people who want to dictate what wrestling can and cannot be. Usually, the ones driving the debate come from a bygone era where men with barrel chests and beer bellies threw punches and stomps at each other and finished matches with body slams or flying hammerlocks. Their definitions of what wrestling should be are narrower than Hank Hill's urethra. The patron saint of GET OFF MY LAWN takery is Jim Cornette, who once wished someone would set off a dirty bomb at a Lucha Underground taping. As a dabbler in shitposting left irony Twitter, I can respect the exaggeration, but I think you get where I'm going with this.

If Jim Cornette is the Paul McCartney of shitty regressive takes, then Rip Rogers is John Lennon. Rogers had a nice enough career in the smoky gym Southern/Midwest still-real-to-me era, and he parlayed it into a gig training students at Ohio Valley Wrestling. However, his recent claim to fame has been "shooting" on Twitter about how modern wrestling blows and wrestlers should do it the old way or no way at all. The latest Twitter shot fired came last week:
My own ribald response to this aside (one that Rogers didn't see cuz I blocked him, I did it for the laughs, I DID IT FOR THE ROCK), Dick the Bruiser may have been one of the most fearsome, toughest, best heel characters in the game when he was active. Nothing to denigrate the man, but he represented only a small fraction of what wrestling could be. Furthermore, in the Bruiser's heyday, what wrestling was, at least in the United States, was defined so narrowly. Different territories may have flavored their presentations slightly differently, but the main ingredients were the same everywhere. Babyfaces fought heels, and promoters presented everything as if it were real even if people may have been hip to the game as far back as the '30s and '40s.

Somewhere along the line, people in the business started exploring the boundaries and finding new ingredients and mixing the ratios up more. "Traditional" wrestling didn't necessarily die, but it became but one way that a troupe of human beings and other entities, living or otherwise, could present the recipe. I'd even argue the wrestling of Dick the Bruiser doesn't even exist anymore, which could be a good thing, is probably a bad thing, but may just be a function of evolution. I don't know.

What I do know is Rogers' declaration of "fuck Dramatic Dream Team in particular" is yet another attack from low-tolerance individuals from the old school who can't perceive evolution, who don't realize that wrestling is an art that has as many interpretations as exist people interested within it. DDT isn't killing the business by having Kenny Omega sell for a nine year-old or wrestle Yoshihiko the Wrestling Sex Toy, nor is it degrading wrestling by having Danshoku Dino and Joey Ryan grab each others' hogs. If anything, it's providing an outlet for people who want wrestling to be anime come to life. It won't appeal to everyone, but therein lies the beauty of it. It's a choice for people who are frustrated with the homogeneity of bigger promotions trying to ape WWE.

The real work in professional wrestling isn't promoters selling fans that what the performers are doing is real, but promoters selling themselves that what they're doing is high-ceiling capitalism. So much of what people in the business and too close to the people actually in the business believe is that a) the market for wrestling is lucrative and b) the only metric for success is money made. In this regard, people in the business are the biggest marks, and the person pulling the strings is Vince McMahon. The most damaging of those marks aren't the Cornettes and Rogerses, however, but those who think that aping WWE is the best way to do business like WWE. That reason is why companies like DDT or Chikara or even that fertile green stretch of time when TNA allowed Broken Matt Hardy to be its shepherd get so much attention.

If anything, someone like Rip Rogers should be embracing the different, especially since the brand of wrestling he's pining for has been washed away by the people trying to recreate the Attitude Era. He may not understand like the vanguard in the new school does, but he and Jim Cornette and the dorks on Twitter whose cottage industry it is to follow everything Will Ospreay says or does with canned outrage would be better off accepting what pro wrestling is, but more importantly what it can and should be. And that is, wrestling can be anything, because wrestling is everything.