Shining a Spotlight 2.22.13: The Final Spotlight
This isn’t easy for me to write. It’s not easy for me to do. Endings never are. And that’s what this is, an ending. Yes, after nearly seven years, “Shining a Spotlight” is coming to an end. I know this may be a bit of a shock to many reading but it’s what’s happening. For what it’s worth, I’m not exactly happy with it either but there are various factors involved I felt like going into.
The major one is the same thing that happens to a lot of guys here at 411mania: Burnout. I started this in May of 2006 and with the exception of a few vacations here and there, I’ve been at it every week since. There’s only so many stories and ways I can talk about things in wrestling. I’ve repeated myself a lot but frankly, been running on fumes for a bit lately. I’ve depended a lot on retrospectives of the past but let’s face it, 1993 and 2003 weren’t exactly banner years for wrestling. It’s been harder for me to come up with subjects lately; in fact, was planning to do this final column a few weeks ago but caught a break with Bruno’s Hall of Fame entry and a few book reviews. But seems I’ve finally run out of things to discuss for now, making this a good time to end it.
There’s also some persona issues, work and such that also take their toll on the free time needed for this column. I know it’s a bit of a shock to end this but as I said, has been building for a while and I figured you all deserved a real final column rather than just leaving it off like some guys have in the past. It’s also interesting to think about how much things have changed for me since I started in 2006 and how attitudes have changed toward the business.
I want to get this out of the way now: I am not tired of wrestling, that’s not why I’m quitting. I’m still into it as much as ever. It’s in my blood, no denying it. Folks who moan and groan over “this is the worst it’s ever been” haven’t been watching that long. Trust me, compared to 1993 and ‘95, today is pretty damn good. I’ve been through tons of ups and downs with wrestling so I have a perspective that as bad as it can get, it could be worse.
Perspective. That’s something I’ve tried to do with my columns, to break away from the usual cynicism of the IWC and let people know that things aren’t always as cut and dried as you’d think. I’ve taken stands that are unpopular (like my statements of RVD being a massively overrated worker) but also found support from others on positions like how Ric Flair gets too much slack for putting himself in the title main event scene all the time in WCW. I’ve tried to remind folks of stuff before the big wrestling boom of the late-90′s, to show how the business has evolved and make you realize how much can change but the main points of drawing money and pulling in fans with the illusion of reality, still remain. I’ve always heeded Raven’s brilliant comment of “the smart fans who think they know everything are the easiest ones to con.” I’ve fallen into that trap a few times but I’d like to think I’m not one of those guys who sets himself up as the authority of the entire fandom (as way too many in the IWC have done in the past.)
I’ve let my opinions and own perspectives change over the years. I’m always fond of quoting James Guttman who in 2005, wrote a book blasting WWE and basically saying he could run it better. But three years later, Guttman wrote a second book where he realized he knew very little of the business after all and a lot of fans are in the same trap. I’ve let that happen to me, my one-time love for ECW tempered as I realize just how overrated it was and how Flair’s brilliance in the ring doesn’t excuse how he put himself on top over the company’s best interests. It happens to a lot of other guys over the years; Scott Keith has nicely softened some of his past opinions and pride in things like Bret Hart and Owen’s death and such. The comments I’ve received from readers make me understand the wide range of opinions about and how tough it is to set yourself up as a real “authority” on a business that rests on working the fans. There’s still a line between us and backstage and we can’t assume we’re in on a show that’s constantly going on.
My Spotlights were often retrospectives, looks back at the past as I wanted to remind folks of great times but also point out how much hasn’t changed. There’s still guys who hog the spotlight, other guys held back despite great talent, others over despite folks supposedly hating them and bosses/writers who make constant mistakes and bad moves to ruin things. “The good old days” were never as good as we thought they were, you needed perspective and time to understand that but it is amazing to see how the basics of the business remain mostly unchanged over the decades despite the glitz and glamour of it all. Sure, guys get slammed for steroid use but the ‘80′s were rampant with massive drug use and you just can’t blame Vince for every ill of the entire business, despite his power. Wrestling has always been “sports entertainment,” Vince just brought that to the fore and admitted it but the passion guys bring to it reminds you why it stands out and why so many are willing to put up with it.
I’ve been through a lot of big events and stories in the last several years. I still remember that Monday night in 2007 when I was about to post a column on War Games, clicked on the TV and the Benoit tragedy was all over the place. My column then was my initial reaction of horror and how Benoit had undid his legacy and desecrated the entire business like no one before and I mostly stick by that. My exposure to various biographies (both DVD and book) have adjusted attitudes on some guys with how Randy Orton is totally up front over his asshole behavior of the past and changing as well as memories of great guys like Junkyard Dog. My review of Larry Matysik’s books shows great insight to how the business evolves but the basics remain the same of how to push a guy and how fans still respond. That’s what matters, trying to keep yourself in this and know you have to put up with the bad along with the good.
TNA has proven that over the last few years. The company has given me a lot of fodder for columns, albeit many of them negative. But that’s because I wanted the best for TNA to succeed, so much potential out there yet they kept making mistakes to weaken themselves. It really did seem like they were convinced they were on equal par with WWE, which they weren’t, and the idiocy of Vince Russo’s antics made a lot of it painful to watch over several years. But they have bounced back very nicely in creative ways in the last year to fire you up and finally touring for TV shows to increase their presence. The company has proven themselves time and again with an amazing ability to survive and capable of some great matches with their talent so you can have faith in their ability to grow over the years to come. Sadly, ROH has sunk a bit in the last year with bad management and workers leaving, not to mention the disaster of the iPPVs and their annoying attitude toward them. But they can still thrive as they recognize their place in the wrestling world and don’t overstep their bounds.
I’ve defended a lot of people over the years, most prominently John Cena. The man is a much better worker and performer than he’s given credit for and proven himself as the main event star WWE needs. He doesn’t throw his weight around to get what he wants but a good company man and if he’s pushed, that’s because WWE knows he can handle it. HHH has overcome the old complaints over his spotlight-hogging by putting over guys like Cena and others and managing to convince Bruno to be in the Hall of Fame shows he has some skills with management that should help him when he moves to the front office totally. And there are still guys who can rise up despite the doubts so many hold about them.
That’s something that sadly hangs over the IWC, how we still believe we are the majority of the fanbase. We’re not, it’s the folks in the arenas who pay money that WWE, TNA and the rest listen to. And so often, promoters and creative will do what they want, they’ll go ahead with stuff even if we hate it because that’s what they do. It’s been a reality of the business for decades, unlikely it’ll change anytime soon. Yet we think our voices matter more than they really do and so do our opinions. I’m as guilty of that as anyone, we have to accept that just because we hate someone or an angle, that doesn’t mean the entire fandom does.
If I changed your minds and attitudes to wrestling, I’m happy. But don’t take just my word on how things should be, I’m just one voice in a sea. I’m used to going against the tide (I still enjoy the Star Wars prequels, majority be damned) because it’s how I feel. Don’t let yourself be browbeaten into accepting something. If you want to boo Cena because you don’t like him, fine; but if you just boo him because it’s what the “cool” fans do, that’s just idiotic. You want to defend angles others hate, go ahead. Most important of all is the advice every fan should know: Never, ever apologize for what you like in wrestling, for your tastes. Don’t let yourself go with the flow just because it seems the right thing to do and such. But if you do want to comment, try not to be too much of a dick about it, actually discuss your opinion without just typing “YOU SUX” in some forum (oh and claiming that a simple typo or mistake completely invalidates an entire review/column falls under that heading). If you’re passionate, that’s great, just don’t let it overwhelm your judgment.
I want to thank Larry Csonka for taking a chance on me back in 2006 and for all the help and encouragement he’s given me since. I want to thank the slews of fellow 411mania writers who have helped inspire works and other guys around the net who have done the same. Scott Keith may have infuriated me time to time but respected his work nonetheless and the same for many others. I also want to thank WWE, TNA, ROH and the rest; you may drive me crazy a lot but also do things to remind me of how terrific this business is and how much it means to be a fan of it.
And I want to thank you. All of you readers who put up with my rants, writings and opinions for the last six years. Whether you agreed with me or railed against me, called me an idiot or praised my talents, your feedback pushed me on and helped me do my best to improve my writing and thinking. This column existed for so long because of you and I appreciate it all, good and bad. I won’t be leaving 411mania totally as I’ll still take part in Top 5 lists and roundtables as well as the occasional DVD review. And who knows, if something major happens, I might put out a special Spotlight on it. For now, though, on a weekly basis, it’s done and it’s as hard for me as for anyone reading. Once again, I want to thank you all, this was an experience I’ll always treasure and helped remind me of how much wrestling means not just to me but so many others.
For the final time, the spotlight is off.