Monday, May 15, 2017

Old Man Yells At Cloud

Of course Capt. All Lives Matter thinks Rip Rogers makes good points
Photo Credit:
So, Rip Rogers is back on his bullshit again, Lord help everyone. While last month, he was using a dude who dressed up in Nazi paraphernalia on at least one occasion to bash Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, and Yoshihiko, this time, he laid out what he thought was the standard template for a modern indie wrestling match. It was about as nuanced and understanding as one might expect from a guy whose entire Twitter persona is "GET OFF MY GODDAMN LAWN, YOUTHS."

Where to start, where to start here... I mean, to be completely fair, Rogers has some legitimate criticisms. For example, not everyone should be doing dives (LOOKING AT YOU, DEAN AMBROSE), no-selling should be saved for feud matches for emotional catharsis, and the Davey Richards Memorial Post-Match Put The Other Guy Over promo drives me nuts. But a lot of his rant feels like someone who doesn't understand wrestling, how it evolves, or what it's purpose is, which is hilarious since he's tasked with training the next generation of wrestlers at the Ohio Valley Wrestling school.

The thing is that if social media were around during the time of Rogers' active career as a wrestler, folks like Lou Thesz might be saying the same things about him. Well, maybe not about Rogers specifically, since that motherfucker was never more than enhancement talent, but about his contemporaries who, y'know, drew money and applause. Every prior generation has crotchety old farts who think their shit didn't stink while yelling about how the new guys just do the same thing over and over again, ignoring the fact that wrestling is all about fine-tuning a formula to maximize an aggregate crowd reaction.

I mean, Bret Hart (another guy famous in his post-career for yelling about how people not doing it his way are doing it WRONG) wasn't the only wrestler with five moves of doom. If you make a career out of wrestling and make it to a nationally touring company, you are going to be working in upwards of 200 dates a year. You aren't wrestling 200 matches with completely unique playbooks for each. Every wrestler has a formula that they're trying to perfect for a good 75-90 percent of those matches. What makes a great match a great match most of the time is how the wrestlers within it DEVIATE from that formula for maximum storytelling, psychology, and cathartic effect. I guarantee you that anyone pumping Ric Flair up from the '80s will look to his showcase matches with Ricky Steamboat or Jumbo Tsuruta, and anyone denigrating him will point to the churn he had as National Wrestling Alliance Champion touring the territories. But both iterations of his work, or of any great wrestler's work (guys doing shoot style in RINGS notwithstanding) are what make that person great.

But in order to have the showcase matches, a wrestler has to have a formula. It's just that more guys in 2017 happen to use dives than the guys Rogers was paid to lose to. That's how wrestling evolves. People like Rogers, Jim Cornette, or even Steve Austin, who feels like he knows wrestling has to progress but still has his bothersome little dumb critiques like "WHY AIN'T THE DDT A FINISH ANYMORE?" are on the right track when they say old school precepts shouldn't be forgotten, but what they don't understand is they're not great precepts because they're old, but because they're timeless. The ways on executing the blueprint might change a lot over the years, but the underlying principles don't. The way the best wrestlers today on the indies execute on that formula still do so within the boundaries of putting together great matches. It's just that they're relying on different spots than what Flair, Hart, or any other great from the '80s are.

And honestly, Rogers even unwittingly admits in his bullshit little slampiece that what the people he's blasting are doing actually works. Fans don't chant "THIS IS AWESOME!" or "FIGHT FOREVER!" if they don't like what they're seeing. They don't chant at all, or in the worst case, they chant "BORING!" or for wrestlers not even on the card. Of course, what else would anyone expect from a sexist, racist good ol' boy who thinks the exact same thing that made money in 1987 will make bank 30 years later. Granted, he's not the only wrestling talking head who does. Shoot websites have a separate cottage industry giving fogeys and washed up loons like Cornette and Vince Russo money going back and re-booking old shit through the lens of hindsight. Hell, Vince McMahon keeps trying to recreate the Attitude Era every chance he can without knowing why that perfect mix of primordial wrestling soup gave life to his company in the late '90s. It's no wonder that wrestling rarely ever evolves on the impetus of management outside of letting an entrepreneurial wrestler do his or her thing, and all the boom periods line up with a transcendent wrestler(s) making hay out of a new means of distribution.

Anyway, long story short, I wasted enough bandwidth talking about Rip fuckin' Rogers and all zero of the dimes he's ever drawn yelling into the abyss. The real issue is when people in the business feel the need to boost his shitty signal. It's especially laughable when one of the biggest ones is Randy Orton, whose great matches in the last few years have been inextricably tied to Daniel Bryan and whose ability to phone a match, a feud, fuck, a whole year in is legen-wait for it-dary. Of course, it's easy to have the career that Orton has had when he's a legacy in a company that loves hiring progeny of former wrestlers, when you have the look you do, and when you're gifted perhaps the most electric finisher of the last 20 years. Privilege is a potent drug, folks.