wrestling / Columns

Why We Needed The Boneyard Match

April 5, 2020 | Posted by Steve Cook
Undertaker Wrestlemania, Boneyard match

My favorite thing about professional wrestling is that it serves as an escape from the world I know.

It always has since I started watching back in elementary school. Pro wrestling has been a fantasy world that I can escape into when life is tough. When the kids at school were mean to me. In college when the tests were hard and the friends were few and far between. When my jobs and relationships sucked and I needed something else to worry about. Pro wrestling has always been there to give me an escape from reality.

I’m the Innovator of Social Distancing

When I previously made the suggestion that AEW should keep running shows, and WWE should keep running shows by association because they will be the last wrestling fed to keep running shows, I made the suggestion from the assumption that the shows would serve as an escape from the world I know. Unfortunately, I’ve been wrong for the most part.

Most WWE shows have been soulless slogs reminding us that there isn’t a WWE Universe there to cheer them on. That’s what happens when you train WWE Superstars to play to a WWE Universe. When there isn’t one there, they have no clue what to do. That’s become obvious. When you train wrestlers to make an entrance, and to play to a hard cam, it becomes clear. It also becomes clear when people cut promos to a TV audience. Some have said the promos have been better, and I see where they’re coming from, but the same people saying this are the same people that whine & moan about live crowds on a regular basis.

AEW has tried. They have wrestlers out there beyond the bike racks acting like fans, and it works from time to time. Britt Baker attacking people with a shoe is pretty cool. Cody & the rest of the crew subscribe into the “show must go on” theory just like Vince does. They may keep running shows in various states and avoiding stay at home orders as long as they possibly can. It’s become blatantly obvious that if we have any criticisms to give WWE for their stance here, we must give them to AEW as well. They’re in it for the long haul, though they’ll make concessions like saving their Blood & Guts match for later.

I thought these shows would serve as an escape from reality. They haven’t.

All these wrestling shows have managed to do is show us who isn’t there. The fans. The people that the wrestlers are allegedly there to entertain. Which is funny. Most of the history of this business has been based around getting the marks to believe, and buy tickets. When the marks can’t buy tickets, what are you doing? You’re spinning your wheels, which is what we’re all doing.

I’m pretty jealous of my fellow writers that can get into this stuff. I see Larry recapping all sorts of stuff. I see WWE-approved writers acting like everything is fine. There are non-WWE approved writers making hay off of it as well. They all have amazing things to say. Yet, I sit here and wonder what can possibly be said.

This is a scenario like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Bill Watts told us in shoot interviews how his UWF promotion was killed by a mega-trim. The economy in his main cities went to dust overnight due to an oil crisis, and there was nothing he could do. Fans weren’t going to buy tickets because they didn’t have money to do so. The UWF’s TV ratings were still fine, but people weren’t going out to the shows. Revisionists in recent years like to claim that Watts’ UWF would have done better in that era if he had better ideas, and I’m not going to tell you that Bill Watts was right on everything he ever booked. No wrestling booker ever was, no matter what Paul Heyman’s sycophants want to tell you.

All I know is once an economy goes to crap, people have less money to spend. They have less fucks to give. Don’t get me wrong, Americans still have plenty of fucks to give. They’re sitting at home. They’re looking for entertainment. Ideally for those of us that write about pro wrestling, they would be watching WWE or AEW or some other wrestling product. They’re not. They’re watching Tiger King or Ozark or something else they find more entertaining. Pro wrestling has not become a go-to for people at home looking for something to watch.

Raw, SmackDown, NXT & Dynamite ratings have been going down by the week uniformly. It doesn’t matter who’s presenting the pro wrestling, people have decided they don’t want to watch it.

For the record, I liked most of what I saw on Wednesday night. I thought AEW put on a good show. NXT had a couple of really good matches, and a star-making performance for Shotzi Blackheart. Love me some Shotzi. I also thought Friday’s SmackDown show had some high points. We got a hacker showing Mandy Rose that Dolph Ziggler & Sonya DeVille had been swerving her all this time. We got Sasha Banks in an amazing outfit. I had no complaints. However, I seem to be the minority here, which is nothing new.

It’s gotten to a point where not even the prospect of WrestleMania ensures excitement. Typically, the show gets a lot of outside attention. Most years, Rob Gronkowski being the host would ensure that. This year, the outside attention consists of “how are they still running a show?” That’s all anybody cares about. Not the athlete cameos, not the title matches, not the celebrities, just people wondering how they’re still running a show.

When that’s the main draw concerning a show too big for just one night…it’s not great.

Typically, this is the easiest time to find something to write about. WrestleMania weekend brings the big show, an NXT Takeover, a Hall of Fame & 27,000 indy promotions looking to impress. Even if the main show sucks, it’s still the biggest weekend of the year for pro wrestling by a mile. We’re not getting any of that this year. It’s a taped show spread out over two nights. No Takeover. No Hall of Fame. Indy feds aren’t doing anything in Tampa. It’s a WrestleMania Weekend unlike what we’ve grown accustomed to.

We needed something special to make it a true WrestleMania. Some typical good wrestling matches and a WRESTLEMANIA MOMENT or two weren’t going to cut it.

We needed The Boneyard Match.

I know there’s a lot of you out there that don’t like this turn wrestling has taken over the past several years. You didn’t give Lucha Underground a chance. The clips you saw of Matt Hardy’s Broken Universe didn’t do it for you. Heck, WWE’s tried a few things like the Boneyard Match before, and they all came off as…what do the kids say, “cringe”?

This time, they nailed it. They found the exact formula that Undertaker needs to still be The Undertaker in 2020 & beyond. Nobody wants to see him stink up the ring with Goldberg or Roman Reigns or whoever. That’s not how Undertaker should end his career. He should be doing things like the Boneyard Match. Over-produced epics with kickass scenery and guys putting it all out there.

They finally produced something that served as an escape from reality. For a little less than thirty minutes, we forgot about all the other stuff going on. We didn’t see rows of empty chairs & wrestlers playing to invisible fans. We saw Undertaker & AJ Styles going at it in a boneyard. Sometimes that’s all we need. A brief, awesome escape from reality.

Is it pure wrestling? Nah. Does that matter? Nah. Another one of the great things about wrestling is that at its best, it provides something for everybody. There’s no reason this style shouldn’t be able to co-exist with the rest. If you don’t see that…well, I feel bad for ya.

Because hopefully we’ll get a lot more of it!

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Steve Cook