Monday, August 7, 2017

Wrestling's Wonderful Diversity of Variety

It's impossible for Joey Ryan to kill the business unless he somehow triggers thermonuclear war
Photo Credit: Lee South/
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but a wrestler, or maybe multiple wrestlers did some big spot that bent the traditional physics of wrestling or whatever. Say someone did a slow motion spot, or Lucha Underground rose a wrestler from the dead, or god forbid someone used their penis for offense or whatever. The throngs of people in attendance or watching at home rave about it, but the next day, some salty-ass veteran of the business who liked it better when it was his heyday (it's always a dude) says that action is literally killing the business. Jim Cornette, Disco Inferno, Rip Rogers, whoever, they come out and make these claims, even in the case of ol' Corncob going on with violent language, saying things like Kenny Omega is literally worse than Hitler or someone should drop a dirty bomb on Lucha Underground's set.

Whether or not one should pay attention to these asswipes or not is one thing. Spoiler alert, you shouldn't listen to them, since they rarely have any constructive critiques and are only lashing out to get a piece of the pie that they're not getting anymore. However, can one constructively make an argument that wrestling a sex doll or selling for a child is killing the business? When you think about the implications, I'm not sure you can.

No one creative action can kill a business that has spread so far and wide as professional wrestling. To say so implies that wrestling is a homogeneous artform, which to anyone who follows more than WWE is a laughable statement. Even within WWE contains stratification that proves wrestling has more than one interpretation, more than a single execution. Granted, the stratification isn't as diverse as it could be given that a bulk of the current programming is controlled by an almost 72-year old man with warped sensibilities about human interaction and popular culture. But even if one reads The Network and sees the archives, the illumination comes fast and furious.

Even further away from Titan's grip, the amount of professional wrestling promotions out there for consumption is at a peak in terms of diversity. Chikara and Lucha Underground embrace the fantastical elements of storytelling; one is for everyone while the other is for a mature audience. New Japan Pro Wrestling frames its matches and stories almost as cinematic struggles, epic in their scope, and if NJPW is the marathon, then lucha libre promotions like CMLL are the sprints. EVOLVE drives home the serious sporting nature of wrestling, while Dramatic Dream Team isn't afraid to take the piss out of itself or its audience to produce art. Hell, even Kaiju Big Battel tries bringing B-movie monster genre to life.

Each promotion has its own discrete fans, although some people will cross over among one or more company that fits into a different niche. People who watch Joey Ryan wrestle using his dick as a functioning appendage aren't going to be shocked that he's wrestling with his dick as a functioning appendage. They're presumably there to watch him whip people with his phallus. The shared link, from shoot-style Inoki Genome Federation to the most theatrical of theatrical like the Upright Citizens Brigade wrestling arm is that it's all a work designed to elicit a crowd reaction. How a company gets from point A to point B can vary as wildly as the person or people directing the vision wants it to be, but the points A and B are presumably the same no matter where one goes.

So for an art to be so branched with each vein having even its own family of capillaries to have one creative action that could kill it feels like a greater affront to suspension of disbelief than the fuckin' Irish whip. Wrestling is such a varied, branched, monstrous thing that if one person hates extreme comedy, they have a whole other family of companies upon which they can fall back. Individual things cannot by definition kill the business when they are part of the business in the first place. They draw fans, no matter how many or few, so they are part of the industry, for better or worse.

For any sport, art, political ideology, whatever to survive, it has to adapt to the times. Baseball isn't the same today as it was in 1917, and if it was, it would be played in front of tens instead of thousands. Wrestling is the same. Few aren't in on the work in any meaningful way anymore, and wrestling is better for it. Anything that Corncob or Rogers or whoever is bitching about as being the death of the business is just part of that evolution. One doesn't have to like the far-out interpretations of wrestling either; the serious side is never going to go away. It will evolve too. Hell, it has been evolving for the entire time wrestling has been a thing. The pushback from veterans isn't even something the blowhards today are innovating either.

No single performer can kill professional wrestling. The only things that can kill wrestling are entropy or the annihilation of the human race. The latter is obvious, but the former is a real thing and can manifest in many forms, whether it be humans shedding it as a thing they like or economics making it impossible to do on any scale or something bigger than the business taking hold and strangling it. If Kenny Omega or Joey Ryan were to kill pro wrestling, it would be a bigger fabrication than any "impossible" story told in a wrestling ring. The art is too varied and too much of a living, breathing thing at this point for any single creative decision to matter. Of course, I don't expect someone like Jim Cornette to get that. He's a fucking moron. Don't be a fucking moron like him.