wrestling / Columns

411 Wrestling Fact or Fiction: Is Pro Wrestling Broken?

November 17, 2023 | Posted by Jake Chambers
WWE AEW Logos, Eric Bischoff Image Credit: WWE/AEW

Welcome back to the 411mania Wrestling Fact or Fiction. I’m your host Jake Chambers.

A big theory edition this week – with just one statement for debate. I had this idea for a stand alone column, but then I decided it would be good to get another perspective on this topic.

The comments section is always full of great responses to the FoF statements, but few as entertaining as the ones from the great D2KVirus. So I have enlisted his help this week to contemplate, in long form, the current philosophical state of the pro-wrestling world.

Grab a coffee and your reading glasses, this one is gonna take a while!

Statement #1: Pro Wrestling is broken.

Jake Chambers: FACT – Professional sports sometimes look broken. We hear the complaints all the time: the rules are wrong, those players got screwed, that team is cheating, the officials made the wrong call. And generally, it’s not intentional. The world evolves and so must the original rules, types of athletes, and technologies used in pro sports.

To fix things, sports leagues try to make changes. The NFL constantly tweak the replay and tackling rules. This year the MLB instituted a pitch clock to quicken the pace of the game often criticized for being too boring. And the NBA just added a mid-season tournament, and modified rules for when superstar players should rest, as a way to restore competitiveness to regular season games.

But how can pro-wrestling look broken? The rules are not real because the outcomes are predetermined and the matches are just stories. As pro-wrestling fans, we suspend our disbelief that this is a “sport” so that we can play along as the audience. We accept many unrealistic elements in return for exciting, sports-like action and drama. When the unrealistic turns illogical, that’s when things start to look broken.

I believe we’ve hit a point currently where pro-wrestling, specifically televised pro-wrestling in America, has become routine and expects us too accept too much illogical visual language to really be taken seriously as a simulated sport.

Now, just to be clear, this has nothing to do with the financial success of specific companies, mainly WWE and AEW. People can discuss all day about what “makes money” in professional wrestling, but that’s not interesting to me because these companies are going to make money regardless. The NBA is making more money than ever, but the problem persists that the regular season games are treated generally less important by the players and teams than they were in the past. So changes will be made by the league, and maybe they’ll make more money because of it, or maybe not. But my argument today is all about the visual presentation of pro-wrestling as a logical competition between fighters under specific constraints of the art form, and is not concerned with economics.

The main issues that are breaking the illusion of pro-wrestling as a logical competition are the lack of wrestling strategy or style, the performance by the referees to uphold the rules, and the commercial breaks in television wrestling. So let’s go through those one at a time.

Lack of strategy or style – the “great match” syndrome
We have gotten to the point in pro-wrestling where there is no apparent strategies used by wrestlers to win matches. Everyone wrestles the same way. I call this the “great match” syndrome.

At the top of all WWE and AEW shows is always a “great match” – 20-30 minutes of a constant barrage of moves, finishers and near falls. There is rarely any logic about why these matches are this long, or why wrestlers are able to keep going. They kick out of numerous “finishing moves” with no explanation how that’s possible. But on the other hand, there is little offensive strategy employed that would make a case for someone being defeated by a specific move or sequence. It’s always the same do-whatever match and this trickles down into all other matches.

Having more complex matches is a good thing, but that shouldn’t just mean longer matches, more moves, and constantly kicking out of finishers. Wrestlers could employ some clear strategy, and it should not just be once in a while, but all the time. They should want to win, they should be coming into the match with a game plan, and we should be able to see how they apply it and adapt to the defences of their opponent.

A recent example where lip service was given to this kind of strategy was the feud between Seth Rollins and Shinsuke Nakamura. It was revealed in the build-up to their first match that Seth Rollins had a “broken back”. Nakamura expressed that he was going to exploit that weakness for victory. Throughout their first match, however, there were some visual callbacks to this apparent debilitating back injury. But why would Nakamura not stick to using any number of the well-known back breakers or back-specific submission holds in wrestling history?

At certain points later in the match, Rollins even came back stronger after being beaten down. How could Seth Rollins get rejuvenated during a match when his broken back was being targeted? Instead, it became another “great match”, like every other match that main events a PPV these days. They did a bunch of moves, they kicked out of a bunch of finishers, and someone finally won because someone is supposed to win before the end of the hour.

Additionally, every wrestler with “great match” syndrome wrestles like they are the same size too. Big guys display the agility and quickness of smaller wrestlers, and those smaller wrestlers are capable of amazing feats of strength for their size.

Take a wrestler like Omos for example. In the past, he would have been a very unique star. He could have wrestled like a giant, with a move set specific to his size, and the company would have created scenarios where he was dominating opponents for years. Instead, today he needs to wrestle like everyone else. He is expected to go out there and have a “great match” with Seth Rollins, or he needs to be thrown around by a strong guy like Brock Lesnar. And now Omos is dead in the water.

When you look back at the first 10 Wrestlemania cards, you see such variety in the wrestlers and styles used compared to the last 10 Wrestlemanias. Every wrestler had a clear gimmick that matched to the style they wrestled in the ring, from Hacksaw Jim Duggan to Jake “The Snake” Roberts, the Bushwackers or the Rockers. Because of this, matches were shorter and there were less moves and near falls, but everything made some sense.

This is the core of what makes pro-wrestling an interesting performance art: variety and creativity. Now, we get the same things over and over… and over and over. This “great match” hegemony has broken pro-wrestling.

In the big data and analytics era of professional sports, why can’t this be adapted for pro-wrestling? We could be given data on how many moves it takes to finish an opponent on average, what body parts should be targeted, how long a submission hold should take to make someone tap out. And for wrestling, more than any other sport, this data can be manipulated to heighten the drama when necessary. Otherwise, what’s the evolution of this “great match” syndrome we are watching today? Can wrestlers kick out of MORE finishers in a match in 5 or 10 years from now? Are we going to be okay with that?

Obsolete “Wallpaper” Referees
I’ve said this for many, many years now – the referees in pro-wrestling are just going through the motions. Their counts are meaningless, their authority is ignored, and we just accept that they are there as some kind of communication between the producers in the back and the wrestlers in the ring. I call these “wallpaper refs” and they don’t just break the 4th wall, they sit on top of it and do a dance.

The referee’s role in the visual language of pro-wrestling is to represent the rules. And we all inherently know these rules – a wrestler wins when they pin the shoulders of their opponent to the mat for a count of three, when wrestlers leave the ring they have 10 seconds to get back in, and a variety of possible disqualifications – and we accept some bending of these rules for the fun of the show.

But pro-wrestling has taken advantage of our leniency with the enforcement of these visual rules, likely because they believe it serves the crowd-pleasing “great match”. Instead of helping the matches by creating challenging storyline obstacles for the wrestlers to overcome, referees and the rules and simply expose the phoniness of a show where none of it matters.

The kick-out is more important than the 3-count now. Referees often even need to adjust their count cadence and ridiculous body movements to reflect the timing of the wrestlers dramatically kicking out. So the referees are just there in the background, queuing us to a 3-count moment without the actual necessity of legitimately counting. They are wallpaper.

A “wallpaper ref” is barely on screen when making the 3-count. We are conditioned to not care if their hand touched the mat for that fall-finishing third hand slap. We react to the “great match” style of the inexplicably flailing bodies of wrestlers who were a second earlier visually unconscious. This is usually followed by a quick close up of a shocked reaction of the pinning wrestler. The authority of the referee is visually nonexistent in their most crucial moment.

You can see examples here at around 11:42 – 12:29 – 13:59:

A camera and a timer can do the job of a referee if they are not going to be important to the visual language of the match anymore. And this, I would argue, would add much needed challenge to pro-wrestling booking than the rote motions we watch every week now.

Put sensors on the mat that can indicate if the shoulders have been down for a consistent three count or not. Also, yes, the three count can be consistent across all matches this way.

As well, being counted out of the ring can start exactly when a wrestler leaves instead of the arbitrary time a referee starts counting. This is again just lip service to rules we know they are not going to reinforce. If there is a hard timer on when a wrestler needs to get back in, that would give a lot more drama to the action on the floor and how that plays out.

Any kind of interference in a match would be instantly detected by sensors instead of refs. It’s utterly ridiculous to think that breaking the rules or outside interference does not result in an instant disqualification just because one person has their back turned.

What exactly is the referee supposedly doing in that top half of the screen during this moment of interference being highlighted on camera in the above video at around 15:07?

The idea of heels hiding their rule breaking from the referee but allowing the audience to see comes from the old days of house show-y wrestling, when the dynamics between the heel, the audience and the ref were a lot simpler and interactive. Now we can all see any rule infraction – there are more cameras than ever filming and projecting these images onto massive screens, and supposedly there is a team of rule-enforcing general managers and administrators watching these matches at the exact same time. Pro-wrestling wants to keep the easy parts of cheating but without the basic logic of why it works.

Let’s give the cheaters something more to try and overcome than just this illogical notion that distracting one person-shaped piece of wallpaper is enough to get away with cheating, and especially when the distraction attempts are not creative anyways.

Commercial Breaks & the “Pre-Commerical Vamp”
This is the worst one, for me, especially since there seems to be more commercial breaks at the start or middle of televised matches than ever before.

No sport continues during the commercials. If there was a touchdown during a commercial break on an NFL game, there might be a national work stoppage the next day in protest.

Therefore, by pasting a commercial break in the middle of a pro-wrestling match the company is doing two things: telling you “this is not a sport” which is the opposite of what they should be doing visually, and making it clear that everyone agrees that the match will not finish during the break. These are two atrocious violations of the suspension of disbelief pro-wrestling is built upon.

But the absolute worst thing about commercial breaks – and this is a very recent thing – is what I’m calling the “pre-commerical vamp”. This new technique the WWE, in particular, is using gives me a sickening feeling when I see it multiple times on an episode.

You can see it here in this video starting at around 3:59:

The “pre-commerical vamp” is that moment, usually when the wrestlers have gone to the outside of the ring, where the camera pans from one wrestler on the ground (usually the babyface) to the celebrating or mugging wrestler standing up (usually the heel). The commentators are cued by this action to know that it’s commercial time, and set up the break in these few seconds.

And here’s another example at around 9:57:

People mocked the WWE for trying 2/3 Falls matches to try and get around this commercial break problem. And the WWE buckled on this rule change because of that response. But the WWE shouldn’t be catering to social media voices when they are making a logical attempt to fix a broken part of the show. Instead now we have MORE commercials breaks in matches than ever. That’s what people wanted?

I’ve never once read a match review that praised the creativity of the commercial break. In fact, usually most match reviews from television matches with commercials state clearly that the commercials ruined a match, or cost it points in their match rating system.

Pro-wrestling could easily put short commercial breaks between rounds, if they wanted. Which would align wrestling with boxing and UFC, which would never cut away to a commercial during a match round. Or let them put ads on the mats and trunks of wrestlers then, if selling products is so important. But all these commercials suck!

So, in conclusion, pro-wrestling looks broken. It starts with the over-reliance on the “great match” trope. Where this came from can be debated another time, but it has infected the wrestling world. Specifically, it has infiltrated the post-Vince McMahon WWE, as this was not something we saw much of during Vince’s long tenure as the creative force behind the most successful pro-wrestling company of all-time.

This urge to make everything the most epic thing ever, pushes the symbolic presence of the referees into obscurity because they would hinder this epic-ness by adhering to actual rules. Instead they are simply “wallpaper”. We know these matches are not real, but we also shouldn’t sacrifice the structure of the form for easy thrills.

And because the “great match” looms over all, everything must be extra long. Matches that could accomplish everything they need to between commercials are now stretching out across multiple breaks. This includes an over-reliance on the “pre-commerical vamp” that tells us through the wrestlers actions and expressions that they are about to pause their simulated attempts to win because they know a commercial is about to occur.

Don’t we want to fix these problems?

D2KVirus: FICTION – Okay, first of all, time to peel back the curtain just a little bit: when I got the initial pitch for this I thought this would be the usual five or six questions…and then I saw Jake’s response and realised that I might actually have to put some thought into this instead of being a snarky douche who makes references to British sitcoms that go over the heads of at least 90% of the people reading, though luckily the Movies FoF from the other day got most of that out of my system. Also, I’ll be honest here, when I saw the initial question I thought about the structure of wrestling itself, but when I got Jake’s side of the column which focused more on the mechanics of matches and angles I realised that I was thinking of a different version of the question itself – but because I already mentally plotted out some of what I was planning to say, I’ll do what my copy of the Hagakure says and dash in headlong.

For me at least, the issue with saying that wrestling is “broken” is that the statement itself is hyperbolic and sounds uncannily like the average caller to TALKsport…okay, maybe not that bad as that, as suggesting that wrestling is broken is a coherent sentence and TALKsport callers aren’t particularly good at that, but it underlines the issue with a hell of a lot of discussion about sport where the idea of using nuance makes you a filthy communist and instead you should pick a side between black or white, which is the exact same reason why it was really fun being a Tottenham fan for the second half of last season…

But more than anything else, looking at wrestling in 2023 and comparing it to what we’ve had in the past, while I certainly won’t be suggesting that we’ve never had it better – not least because every single wrestling fan has their own version of when they believe wrestling peaked based on the companies they follow and the era they were most into wrestling as everybody’s preferences and tastes are different – but what I will certainly say is that there have been moments in the past where it can be said wrestling has been broken in one way or another and the statement would have held far more weight.

The overall wrestling landscape
This is the main place where wrestling is not as broken as it has been in the past, and all you need to do is cast your minds back five years for a pretty good example. In late 2018 the wrestling landscape was certainly a pretty grim place to be, because getting through an episode of Raw or SmackDown would at times feel like an endurance test as the product was dull, stodgy, and often gave the impression that it was created to spite people who dared want to watch wrestling – and yet the main alternative to watching WWE was…watching WWE, as NXT was still in the Black & Gold era and was a viable and refreshing alternative to the turgid dreck being pumped out every Monday and Friday. And this was the problem with the wrestling landscape in mid-to-late 2018: the readily-available alternatives were just not particularly good to watch at the time, as TNA was struggling for an identity on a TV channel you needed to Google who they even were and was mainly serving as a refuge for people who had gotten out of their Lucha Underground contracts, ROH was really starting to feel like a shadow of its former self and by that point they were hemorrhaging talent to the job security offered by NXT or New Japan, Lucha Underground’s fourth and final season was watching one talent after another getting written out as talent were leaving the company in droves, while Evolve was NXT’s unofficial developmental league by that point, so if you were looking for a viable non-WWE alternative your options were NJPW or a company that just wasn’t what it was even a few years before, and for ROHBots such as myself that option was particularly depressing at the time. Or for another example, remember the summer of 2001 where the main options available were to either watch Raw or to watch SmackDown, because with WCW and ECW going belly up there was no alternative unless you really wanted to convince yourself that Heat, Jakked or Metal was where it was at – or, worse, pretend that XPW had any quality whatsoever.

In comparison look at the current landscape: Raw and SmackDown have a far better balance of in-ring action and storylines and don’t seem to be created solely to tell wrestling fans that wrestling is stoopid, NXT has rebounded from the 2.0 Error (sorry, Era) and is putting on a good weekly show not quite up to the standard of the Black & Gold Era but it’s a consistently good watch, but the real difference comes from options outside of WWE: if you want to watch wrestling and don’t want to watch WWE for whichever reason there’s choice at the other end of your remote, starting with AEW as the most obvious example as they planted their flagpole on the wrestling landscape in 2019, while TNA have quietly been putting on a much better product than they have been able to put together for years, and thanks to streaming really improving in the interim there is plenty of indie, puroresu, lucha libre or joshi content available for fans of wrestling beyond the confines of USA, Fox and TBS which can be accessed without having to work out what the URL for WatchWrestling is that week.

Financial security for wrestlers
This ties in to the overall wrestling landscape, but in late 2023 job security is certainly better for wrestlers than it was even five years ago…unless they’re Joey Ryan, of course, but fuck that guy.

Even five years ago, while there was plenty of job security for people coming up either with NXT, TNA and ROH all offering viable routes to get a regular pay cheque of varying sizes, there was very little security for people dropping down because if a wrestler was released by WWE, unless they were a Performance Center graduate, their earning potential was at the very least halved overnight because TNA had long since lost their contract with Spike so couldn’t offer the salaries that they were offering to the likes of Kurt Angle or Sting a decade earlier, and ROH was a step below that so unless talent bet on themselves like Cody Rhodes did and struck out to balance NJPW and ROH there was little security for them so it made financial sense to grip onto whatever spot they had within WWE with all their might even if their careers were going nowhere (admit it, you immediately thought of Dolph Ziggler when reading that sentence).

That has definitely changed between 2018 and 2023, because now wrestlers can bet on themselves without the potential risk to their financial security as AEW is a viable option, while Matt Cardona has shown that it is possible for a wrestler to make themselves a viable asset on the indie scene after leaving the WWE umbrella, so the threat of being wished well in your future endeavors has been defanged to a certain degree.

Availability of shows to worldwide fans
One thing that certainly has to be said is that, for the longest time, if you didn’t live in the US or Canada you rarely if ever got to see shows live where you lived. Here in the UK we certainly did better than most as WWE would schedule Raw and SmackDown tapings in the UK once or twice a year, TNA would regularly tour…and I just remembered that utterly grim ROH UK tour from 2018 where I swear that I’ve been on buses with more people than those shows drew. Or for another angle, if you lived in the US or Canada you did get the chance to watch NJPW live at Madison Square Garden at the G1 Supercard…but we try not to talk about the G1 Supercard if we can help it. But if you lived anywhere else your only chance to see whichever company you followed live was a house show – unless, of course, you happened to be a Crown Prince who uses sportswashing to further grow your own personality cult, then you got major shows almost literally in your backyard.

Five years later this is not the case as various countries outside of the US and Canada are getting major shows: this year alone has seen WWE stage major shows in the UK and Puerto Rico while Australia and Germany are on the slate for 2024, while AEW staged All In at Wembley Stadium – and on the other side of the Pacific we’ve also seen NJPW stepping out of Japan more regularly in 2023 with them staging events in both the US and UK this year whereas before the only chance to see a NJPW star on British soil was if they were booked on a RevPro card, which means that there are far more opportunities for fans to witness major events as the major events are coming to them and, judging by the noise the crowds made at those shows, you could tell it meant a hell of a lot.

Creativity in booking
When it comes to wrestling companies thinking outside of the box when putting together matches, five or ten years ago the results were very variable as for every positive such as NXT reviving WarGames to immediate success and acclaim, we also had the Shark Cage match which seemed to exist because Mattel came up with it. But what really came to the fore in the last decade was the rise of the cinematic match, with the Final Deletion setting the scene in that regard. Now for me even at the time I didn’t find the Final Deletion to be as good as people talked it up as at the time, given it served as Exhibit A for how the mid-to-late 2010s was a period where wrestlers seemed to be trying to create forced memes which Broken Matt Hardy and List of Jericho-era Chris Jericho were the main offenders, but as a self-contained piece the Final Deletion certainly worked. On the other hand there was…well, pretty much every attempt to get on the Final Deletion bandwagon, be it the House of Horrors match between Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton which was such a dud that Jinder Mahal played a major role in the finish, and to be honest I found the follow-ups to the Final Deletion match in TNA to be going back to the well too often while trying to be Very, Very Wacky.

More recently, though, companies have definitely had a much better hit-to-miss ratio when thinking outside the box for constructing matches, with WWE reversing their previous duds when attempting to put together a cinematic match with both the Firefly Funhouse which was ingenious in how it told and presented its story while the Boneyard match was arguably the perfect sendoff for Undertaker after the career that he had and did so much to erase some of the matches he’d had in the two to three years before that, while outside of WWE we had AEW creating Stadium Stampede which while not comparable on the storyline front to the previous couple of examples (but then again, what is?) it was a hell of a lot of fun and couldn’t have been done in a regular match setting. Have there been duds when flexing the creative muscles in the last few years? Absolutely, as the Pitch Black match just didn’t land while if the Tooth & Nail match between Britt Baker and Big Swole hasn’t been inducted to WrestleCrap yet it surely will sooner rather than later – and this is just using cinematic matches as the yardstick, because there’s numerous other stipulations and layouts which have expanded beyond the regular matchup to keep things fresh, and by and large they’ve all worked…even if the pyrotechnics for the end of the match didn’t.

Fan toxicity
Alas, we now get to the place where it is possible to say that wrestling certainly has a few dents around the edges that weren’t there five or ten years ago, and that’s the point where wrestling fans – or, to be more accurate, wrestling fandoms – have really become an anchor to trying to enjoy wrestling, to the point as I type this I’m guessing there’s a 50/50 chance that somebody read the first paragraph or two and stampeded to the comments to suggest I’m making out that AEW is the beacon of hope of all wrestling because the whole black/white nuance/dirty communist thing I mentioned earlier. So if you have done that, whoever you are, thanks for unwittingly proving my point.

And this is the thing, using 411mania as the sample base (since I wouldn’t touch Wrestling Twitter with a 15 kiloton nuclear warhead) ten years ago the toxicity was basically broken down into three categories: obvious trolls whose accounts could be easily identified by all of them stanning either Kane or Batista’s OVW gimmick, posters who could not let an article about a specific WWE wrestler go by without having to chuck their tuppence worth into the comments (and by complete coincidence, their targets always seemed to be people who came into WWE via ROH instead of OVW/FCW/NXT…), or TNA Mecca posters who came on here with an army of alts to upvote their every comment which was just lame. So in short, while fan toxicity did exist – not least that one Meltzer fanboy who tried doxxing me because I dared suggest The Word of Dave wasn’t sacrosanct – fan toxicity was more often than not a mild annoyance.

Fast forward to the present day and, Abdul Alhazred, it’s become a bit of a shitshow with the relentless fan toxicity, hasn’t it? It turns out that a certain Sopranos/Muppet-themed poster was just the tip of a particularly fetid iceberg where you see fans WWE hurling ordure at AEW, AEW fans coming to the conclusion that the best solution would be throwing ordure back at WWE fans because that’ll help, TNA fans popping up to hurl ordure at AEW apparently forgetting that they were the kicking post of WWE fans during the Monday Night Massacres, and the occasional obvious concern troll who hasn’t quite figured out that the regulars on this site know what they’re up to, which often means that comments section to some articles are more a circle jerk where anyone making a valid point or offering constructive criticism get submerged below a sea of effluent. And most of all, the biggest issue with it is just how boring it is to see the same “joke” which wasn’t funny the first time continue to not be funny the ten-thousandth time I read it (whoops, there’s some of that hyperbole I mentioned earlier…) making it wrestling fandom’s answer to “I identify as an attack helicopter!!!!!!!!!1!!!1!” even though there are already places where incurious bores can regurgitate the same “joke” ad nauseum, and those places are r/soccer and the Babylon Bee.

Moments where you say “Eff this”
The thing with admitting to being a wrestling fan is that, no matter how much you like the product or how much the product has improved, in some circles saying you like wrestling will get you looks similar to the one I got as a teenager when my parents walked in on me while I was enjoying one of the finer performances of Shannon Tweed’s cinematic oeuvre late night on Channel 5, and there’s no getting past that. Similarly, no matter how much tighter the booking or the writing of any show has gotten you’re never too far away from a match or a promo or an angle that will cause you to cringe so much that your neck is running the risk of becoming an internal organ, as the members of my monthly support group for people who vividly remember the one time AEW let Marina Shafir go in front of the crowd with a live mic and straw hat will surely attest.

Cringe, however, is something that can usually be brushed off and left for RD Reynolds & Co to write up after the fact, on the other hand there’s those moments where wrestling finds a way to make a fan hang their head in shame at what they have just had to sit through such as the segment where Dean Ambrose said Roman Reigns’ leukemia coming back was “karma”, or TNA sending a clearly out of his gourd Jeff Hardy out to the ring at Victory Road, or WWF continuing Over the Edge after Owen Hart’s fatal accident, or an angle where Jose Gonzalez pretended to stab Atsushi Onita to hype their upcoming match, and countless other examples of carny bullshit that has always been one of the pillars which props up wrestling as a whole, but the question is whether this is so common in 2023 as it was in the past?

Honestly, this is harder to answer because while so much of the stuff done for shock value or for gits and shiggles for the one guy booking the show has by and large been consigned to the dustbin of history while so much of what makes the wrestling industry look like a tawdry sideshow run by borderline (or actual) crooks is mainly something covered years if not decades after the fact by Dark Side of the Ring…mainly, though, and that’s the issue because there’s still going to be something that will make fans dread having to spend weeks or even months going over the same topic time and time again, for one obvious example the whole hornet’s nest that is the situation between CM Punk and The Elite which isn’t embarrassing in the way you can shrug off but instead embarrassing in a way that all you can do is shake your head and mutter a few expletives in response because the whole situation was caused by neither party wanting to be the bigger man or taking the higher ground and instead both parties wanted to be the smaller, pettier man doing the most smaller, pettier things to needle the other party until the whole thing became a complete shitshow that nobody came out of looking good while leaving plenty of damage in its wake.

So on one hand things have improved as the product itself is far less likely to go out of its way to make a wrestling fan regret watching the product due to absurd choices by whoever is putting the show together, but on the other hand there’s still moments where the wrestling industry finds new and innovative ways to make being a wrestling fan feel like a full-time job in all the ways that is not a compliment.

Bad booking habits
…or, to put it another way, I couldn’t think of any way to put these things into a coherent section.

The thing about being a fan of something is there is always something that is going to bug you no matter how much you enjoy the whole, case in point I still enjoy Frasier twenty years after its main run ended…but the second I remember that the episode features one of Daphne’s family in a prominent role then the urge to grumble to nobody in particular rears its head.

Much like how every wrestling fan has a different moment in time or moment for whichever company for when they believe that wrestling itself peaked, similarly every wrestling fan has their own list of things that they have an opinion on which means something to them but other wrestling fans think they’re being a Nostalgia Critic about. For example, for me it’s the lost art of the false finish, as the closest we get to that these days is the whole “Wrestler X outside the ring clocks Wrestler A near the ropes so Wrestler B can roll them up, only for Wrestler A to kick out” trope which does still get used or somebody kicking out when the opponent has a handful of tights, and as a result that has meant finisher kick outs have gone from something you would see a handful of times per year at WrestleMania or when the leading lights of AJPW or NJPW would face off to something you expect to see on every PPV/PLE as no bookers or agents trust that crowds would bite on a rollup or a small package as a false finish anymore. For others there’s referees enforcing tag legalities, which popped into mind as I remember one poster on ROH World who refused to rank a match above a B grade if the ref did not strictly enforce tag legalities… which is an example of somebody being a Nostalgia Critic about something, just so we’re clear.

So with the idea firmly established, does booker having some bad habits and not correcting them so those bad habits spread mean that wrestling is broken? Well…not really. Sure there is a problem with bookers relying on finisher kickouts to pop a crowd but because they lack the subtlety to create a proper false finish which was an issue with Golden Era ROH just as it was Black & Gold Era NXT (especially when Adam Cole and Johnny Gargano were the top guys) just as it is in AEW, but for somebody else the problem might be that bookers think tag legalities are allowed to go out the window for the last couple of matches to make the finishing sequence as OTT as possible, while for others it is seeing the DDT or the superkick go from a match-ender to a transitional move and/or the setup for the whole “Both men are down” spot, or whichever booking bad habit you cannot help but notice every time it happens which some people might agree with you while others might think you are overthinking things, none of these mean that wrestling is broken. Can it be improved? Yes it can, especially if you need a second hand to count the number of finisher kickouts in a match, but the biggest takeaway is that if there is one bad habit of bookers far and wide which you have a disproportionately strong opinion of, that means one thing: one of us, gobble-gobble…

There you go! Big shout out to D2KVirus for joining me this week for an epic debate.

So what do you think? Is pro-wrestling broken?

Or do you agree with D2KVirus’s argument that the overall state of American pro-wrestling is so healthy right now that any flaws in the visual language are unimportant?

Let us know in the comments below!