I don’t like to be negative or rant about wrestling, but today? Today, you’re going to have to afford me the time to do both...
As a 30 year old wrestling fan I’ve grown accustomed to being disappointed by WWE over the past decade. I don’t mean just on the big angles or matches. I mean a general sense of malaise with everything WWE do. I can’t shake the feeling that they aren’t really taking this seriously anymore. That their long term planning and star building ability has been kicked to the curb in favour of week to week booking and the constant rehashing of tired characters and over used angles.
Then there’s the worst trait they’ve picked up recently - ruthlessly pointing out the flaws in their own performers and then repeating them ad nauseum. They do it so often that it isn’t long until the only thing you can remember about the guys that they want you to spend money on watching, is how much they suck according to WWE.
This isn’t what I signed up for. It isn’t what I grew up watching as a kid in the early 90s and then in adulthood grew to study closely. I find endless hours of fascination in the whole spectrum of pro wrestling, from today, to the past, wrestling in other countries and all the amazing things in between. I watch WWE today and I just don’t get it. It’s as if WWE’s (Vince McMahon’s) view of what wrestling is has become so warped and so confused that when I watch, I just don’t see wrestling any more. At least a version of wrestling that appeals to me. I understand and appreciate that a lot of people love WWE and will think I’m talking shit. That’s cool for you guys. But not for me.
Over the last ten or so years I’ve felt increasingly isolated from the WWE Universe (that term alone makes me want to vomit because it’s so damn corporate and fake). I’ve stuck with it because it’s what I know and what I love. But there is just so much about WWE that annoys and frustrates me. If it’s not their child orientated programming, then it’s their intelligence insulting booking that drives me nuts. If I do everything I can to ignore those issues then their terrible announce team usually fills the annoyance gap right to the brim.
The frustrating and damaging stop/start pushes of so many talented young wrestlers just adds another layer to my ever growing sense of disconnection with WWE. There are about 3 wrestlers I actually give a fuck about in WWE these days and that is not down to a lack of talent on the wrestler’s part. WWE has some exceptionally talented people on its roster. The problem is how WWE book, present and basically fuck with a huge chunk of their roster for reasons that I struggle to understand. That and the fact they just don’t give a fuck about the fans anymore. They really, truly don’t.
Now, before you all stop reading and write this article off as the ranting of a IWC mark, you should know I’m not just here to bitch and moan for the sake of it. I’m not trying to ‘put myself over’ or project a sense of my own insider knowledge about the inner workings of WWE. There are thousands of other websites where you can read that shit. That’s not me.
Who am I? I’m just a life long fan of professional wrestling who, with each passing year, is rapidly approaching end game – that fateful day when I finally walk away from WWE for good. I’m not talking about casually watching Raw now and again or following the results online with the intention of coming back to watching full time. I’m talking full amputation from WWE and their programming. Cold turkey. Sever all ties and don’t come back.
I just don’t enjoy this fucking show anymore. I really want to. I want to care. I want to see the spectacle, the characters, the compelling stories and all the things that I’ve loved about wrestling for over 20 years. But when WWE produce a show as boring, lacklustre and completely run of the mill as the Royal Rumble 2012 was, I’ve got to question why I’m giving up my time and more importantly my money to this company.
Overly dramatic? Probably. But man, it’s tough to sit back and watch something you love so much being done so fucking badly. It’s tough to watch something you know could be so good, be mishandled to such a degree. Maybe I’m just getting too old for this shit, I don’t know. All I know is after watching the first WWE PPV of the year and the official start on the Road to Wrestlemania – I now care less about everything they do than I did before the show. Not a good sign.
As a show the 2012 Royal Rumble was more like an extended infomercial for Wrestlemania (well Cena vs. Rock) interspersed with the occasional wrestling match, as opposed to what it should be - the 2nd biggest PPV show of the year with one of the most exciting matches in WWE history at its centre! To steal a phrase from the music business, “it was all filler and very little killer.” The matches on the show were entertaining but they struggled due to injuries, strange booking and a focus in the WWE Title match on an angle that was happening with HHH the following night! I thought only TNA used PPV to hype their TV show? Guess it’s different rules when HHH is involved.
The most worrying part of all was the Rumble match itself, which laid bare for the whole world to see, the ridiculously small amount of stars WWE has on their roster in 2012. Oh sure, everyone who works for WWE is a SUPERSTAR (apart from CM Punk who is allowed to call himself a wrestler) but if the tepid, near silent and frankly bored reaction of the crowd to nearly three quarters of the guys in the Rumble is the reaction a superstar gets - I’m calling myself a fucking superstar from this day forward. I’m pretty sure I would have got a bigger reaction than Alex Riley did coming out at number 2 in the Rumble this year.
Now I accept and actually enjoy the fact that some lower card guys are going to be in the Rumble match. It’s simple maths that causes that. It’s actually always one of the interesting parts of the Rumble – will someone have a stand out moment in the Rumble that moves them up in the eyes of fans and WWE management? This year though? I swear to God I thought I was watching an extended version of Wrestling Challenge from my childhood. It was an endless parade of jobbers. Not one of them over. Not one of them put over by the announcers. One after the other, walking out to a chorus of yawns and questions like, “who is he again?” The Rumble match really shone a spotlight on how badly WWE have dropped the ball in recent years when it comes to making people care about their wrestlers.
Most tellingly of all was the fact that Mick Foley, ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan, Road Dogg, Jerry Lawler and Booker T got the biggest reactions to anyone else in the Rumble match other than home town hero Randy Orton. I know the nostalgic pop is usually one of the loudest and I did enjoy all these guys in their roles in the Rumble match (although Foley’s talents were wasted). I just can’t help feel that those fans were cheering out of sheer relief to actually see guys who were presented as stars during their careers.
I’m left searching for reasons why Duggan can come back and have a crowd going bat shit crazy and yet The Miz (who headlined WM last year) and was booked as the ‘work horse’ of the match alongside Cody Rhodes was greeted with mild indifference and eliminated as an absolute afterthought by someone I can’t even remember right now!
Here’s the deal – I was really pleased and surprised to see Sheamus win the Rumble this year. I think WWE made the right move in using the Rumble win as a way to sky rocket a career. Plus the man is going to be in one of the main events of Wrestlemania. That’s the top of the wrestling world. It’s thoroughly deserved as well. Sheamus has been the most over babyface in WWE outside of CM Punk and Randy Orton for months. He has a great look that stands out, he’s entertaining on the mic and his in-ring work is really starting to shine through. A big moment in the career of a guy who WWE could build around for the next half a decade.
Yet there I was as I read report after report of Sheamus ‘breaking through’ or having ‘finally made it’ and I found myself thinking, “break through? Finally made it? The guy is a TWO TIME WWE CHAMPION” and therein lies the problem. Nothing is important anymore...not even the Royal Rumble.
Wins, losses, Titles, stipulations. They’ve all been abused and run in to the ground by WWE and their inept booking for so long that, just like their ‘superstars,’ no one takes any of it seriously. No one really cares. That’s why over the last ten years their PPV buy rates have all trended downward.
As I watched the Rumble unfold all I could think of was, “this is so camp. This is all about silly moments and comedy characters. Where’s the stars? Where’s the fucking heat? Why did I pay £15 to watch Foley/Santino in a sock off?” That’s not a knock on Foley or Santino but seriously, they’ve got a real living legend and one of the most popular guys ever in WWE with Mick Foley and they do THAT with him? I just don’t see the point. Then again, maybe I’m not supposed to.
I’m not saying this was the worst PPV of all time. Far from it. The Rumble show had some highlights. The ten minutes CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler got to work where the focus wasn’t either on John Laurinaitis, or the commentators talking about John Laurinaitis, or the commentators talking about John Laurinaitis and his impending angle with the mighty and much more important than the WWE Title (judging by this show) HHH.
I thought Daniel Bryan put on a tremendous performance and has been doing so for weeks now since becoming World Champion. I thought it was fantastic to see Kharma back in a WWE ring. I literally laughed out loud at everything Ricardo Rodriguez did. The final few minutes between Jericho and Sheamus were brilliant, up there with Taker/HBK in 2007 in terms of working the ending of the Rumble match to mean something really special.
Yet today, when I look back at the Rumble, I don’t feel anything. I don’t feel excited for Sheamus – which I should but I just don’t trust WWE to do what’s right with him. I already feel like I’ve seen enough promos and interviews with Cena and The Rock to last me a lifetime and that match is still 2 months away! I know HHH coming back to Raw is more important than Dolph Ziggler. That was made abundantly clear last night. I know that I got my hopes up that this Royal Rumble would be something special and in the end it was decidedly average.
One thing I don’t know? How much longer I’m going to keep watching this company. Jaded, over analysing, full of my own self importance, taking things to seriously? Sure, I’m probably all of those things and more. But whatever it is I know one thing for sure - if WWE produces a Wrestlemania that is anything like the show I watched this weekend, I’ll be hitting the kerb quicker than Evan Bourne after a wellness test. 20 years is a long time to break off a relationship but shit, WWE and Vince McMahon really aren’t giving me much of an option.
I hate to write pieces like this but sometimes you just gotta vent. I hope you don’t all feel like someone just crapped in your cornflakes after reading this. In an effort to cheer you up, don’t forget to check out the Marks for Xcellence Wrestling podcast where you can hear me being much more fun and positive about all things professional wrestling every single week!
The show is also the home to Stu and his AWESOME Indy Corner. We’ve got some big things planned for 2012 with MFX and The Indy Corner, so don’t be left behind, check everything out at http://www.mfxpodcast.com. Remember you can follow me on Twitter @WLHDuckman.
Thanks for reading and until next time...