WrestleMania or BeachBallMania – It’s All Just More of the Same Crap
On Wrestlemania weekend there was so much wrestling content that I don’t think you could even reasonably argue that it was too much wrestling content because no human on Earth can watch that much wrestling on TV to even make an informed opinion on the matter. Huh? To say we’ve reached peak pro-wrestling would be an understatement. The WWE has begun their dominating plan of Facebook-ing professional wrestling so that the whole industry is now a 24-hour experience that must pass through their filter.
And with that, their main agenda appears to be: quantity over quality.
The WWE gave us more than 7 straight hours of content on Wrestlemania Sunday, not to mention the NXT event and Hall of Fame. And then all those seemingly hundreds of independent shows scattered around Orlando that weekend reinforced this concept: just keep putting out more content, who cares if it’s any good.
And some of it is good, of that there is no doubt. But how can you stop and reflect on anything when you’re just constantly bombarded with content. Trying to evaluate what you got in total for your time/money, and whether or not that content was excellent becomes a moot point. Evolve had a couple good matches, Beyond had a couple, ROH a few, and WWE some as well, but look at all the wrestling we actually got – you can’t beat that, right?
This is exactly how they want you to think. And by “they” I’m not sure I’m even referring to anyone in particular. The collective economic thrust of the pro-wrestling industry is now moving towards this idea of safe, homogenized, stock-piled wrestling that never does anything particularly significant but sure does a lot of it.
And thus, with “quality” neatly brushed to the side as a critical concern, we now find ourselves surrounded by a style of fandom that I like to refer to as “barks” – the business marks – this de-opinion-ed sensibility of what a corporation needs to do in order to successfully commodify art for a mass audience (despite having no experience with this process at all). It’s a confusing and frustrating dominant thread in pro-wrestling culture that has infected fans aged 60 to 6, dooming us all to hear these repetitive hollow prognostications on how a wrestler should be “pushed” and what will “get over”. Literally in the same sentence, some critics and fans are decrying how detrimental it is for “the art form” of the pro-wrestling “product” when a group of fans do not properly play the role of a placated audience and start to chant and bounce a beach ball in the middle of a RAW episode.
This reaction both by the outraged bark fans who know better and the WWE voice who now encourage… no, promote this type of harmless disruption, is maddening because none of it takes into account the basic main idea here: this shitty show sucks!
The RAW After Mania (TM) should be a place where hardcore fans can express themselves, not unlike the One Night Stand audience who so violently rejected John Cena, the WWE ECW TV audience at Hammerstein who turned their backs on the horrible Batista/Big Show ECW Title match main event, or even the Toronto fans who so often went against the corporate WWE agenda that they were labelled as “Bizarro World” by the announcers and had all televised events and PPVs suspended for years in one of the biggest pro-wrestling markets in the world. But, contrary to what they outwardly say, the WWE does NOT want to hear these fans express themselves, unless they can manipulate it for their own purpose, as they did so well with the Post WM-30 Paul Heyman in-ring promo or this year’s passion deflating Roman Reigns opening segment. These are safe, careful, perfect little moments of dissent that can be marketed as such to people looking to pay into hefty WWE-sponsored travel packages or buy nicely branded DVDs.
To these fans, they might think the WWE is giving them official permission for one night to “boo the good guys, and cheer the bad guys” but the WWE is really just giving posers the one thing they really want: recognition.
Fans will focus on a beachball and try to get acknowledged by the WWE as “crazy” when the show sucks. When you’re watching a Cruiserweight match on RAW (a “division” that has been criminally destroyed for about 6 months by terrible creative decision-making) involving one guy, Neville, who is obviously going to win, against a guy in Ali who no one was ever given a reason to care about in the first place, in a match of no consequence that looks pretty much just like every other match on the show, then yeah, you might be bored.
These fans might have tried to violently protest but instead they’ve been so neutered by WWE’s corporate ideology that they’ll actually engage in harmless stupidity as an act of liberal resistance rather than anything that might enact change to a horrible Cruiserweight division. And why shouldn’t they? It’s not like anything they can do is going to communicate a renewed focus on an interesting Cruiserweight division that watching the shit out of the CWC and praising it constantly hasn’t already done. Instead they get the reward of Chris Jericho (by way of WWE corporate) later in the night legitimizing their silliness by acknowledging and approving of “beachball-mania” which means their “hilarious” antics might one day be featured on another DVD set.
But at the same time, there’s no defending the people at home either, the barks of the world who want to come down on the audience with social media moral superiority. What the fuck do they know? They’re so busy fantasy booking how to really (lol) get the Cruiserweight division “over” that they’re chastising a live and rowdy crowd of thousands on etiquette and decorum? You try sitting through the painful experience of a live WWE TV taping and see how you feel about “just giving Erick Rowan 10 more minutes to show what he can do”, or something, you’re just dying for them to bring out Roman Reigns already so you can get the fuck out of there. Telling this crowd to shut up and enjoy the “product” because that’s their role in this complicit economic transaction is about as dumb as standing in front of Transformers – The Last Knight and telling everyone going inside that instead they all have to watch Personal Shopper, and they better sit there and like it because it’s a better film.
Like I said, the real problem here is that the WWE’s deeply entrenched brand of suckage isn’t going away no matter how hard you lecture them on business practices and etiquette, or boo the heroes and cheer the villains. Their strategy is never going to be about trying to fill 7 hours of Wrestlemania with generally quality content, but rather continuing to give you more and more generic content. Even when they add something different like a serious women’s division, a cruiserweight tournament, their own indy-style promotion, that’s just to suck in more outlier fans and then condition them to the WWE “product” by slowly twisting everything back into a safe, easy to create, generic format. It’s like McDonald’s offering a Burrito or a Wrap or the McCafe. And as long as the most amount of people continue to pay into this system then you have no say and no choice.
The WWE has Facebook-ed us into a world where all wrestling must pass through the WWE filter, and they successfully manipulated the barks among you to become little phoney business-people rather than actual critical fans of aesthetics and action. And now we are all just data to the WWE, to show to shareholders and advertisers, this is no longer art and you are not a real audience. Even your resistance to the horrible product is a crazy-cute response that can be turned back into a commodity. Change is not possible if you’re engaging with the system in the very ways that they allow you to. The wrestling world desperately needs an ECW 1995 or an ROH 2005 right now, but 2017 is not a time for popular culture to make statements or change. We’re never going to see the next punk rock or hip-hop, directors like Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese will never top the box office again, and the WWE will not be a place for innovation, creative art in our lifetime. What we all have to look forward to is lots of wrestling, so much more wrestling, wrestling, wrestling, wrestling. Hope you like it.
That all being said, I just watched the Katsuyori Shibata vs. Kazuchika Okada match from New Japan Sakura Genesis and thought it was a thrilling, brilliant, creative work of art. So I can’t wait to watch more… wait, what? WWE just bought NJPW too? Ah shit…