Since the Attitude Era ended around 2001, professional wrestling, specifically the WWE, has seen a change in both the way the product is presented and the way fans (and critics) react to the product. Shifting from edgier storylines to a more family-oriented, PG-rated program caused some uproar with older wrestling fans who loved the Attitude Era. Thanks to the Internet, those fans have a medium to express their disdain for professional wrestling.
Right now, there’s too much hate in the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) and not enough constructive criticism. I understand people get mad over botched storylines, crappy wrestlers, and [insert favorite wrestler] not getting pushed. But instead of saying “WWE sucks!” or “Wrestling is stupid,” we need to go through the nonsense to find the diamonds in the rough. At least, that is what an optimist would say.
But of course, there’s usually at least two sides to an argument, so let me present you a conversation between a pessimistic wrestling fan and an optimistic wrestling fan.
Pessimist (P): Wrestling reached its peak during the Attitude Era and will never reach that level until this stupid PG-rating changes. The best times were when The Rock could say whatever he wanted during his promos and Stone Cold Steve Austin was drinking beer, throwing up middle fingers, and not caring about anybody else, including his boss. How many people would have loved to give their terrible boss a Stone Cold Stunner?! Those were the good days.
Optimist (O): I get the appeal for the Attitude Era. It was edgy, in your face, and it appealed to the young adults. However, just because you see the PG rating, that doesn’t mean wrestlers aren’t free to say whatever they want. They can describe their disdain for each other without using curse words, which was prominent in the Attitude Era.
As for “edgy” storyline, CM Punk led a stable called the Straight Edge Society where he, as the Messianic leader, had a feud with Rey Mysterio and even took it to another level by messing with Mysterio’s daughter. But pretending to be a Messiah and messing with one’s family just for a competitive edge in a match isn’t edgy enough is it? You don’t need curse words to prove a point.
Another fun/edgy storyline was the invasion of the NXT Rookies into Raw. Granted, the storyline eventually flopped, but it was definitely fun to see a bunch of wrestlers destroy an entire set and all wrestlers involved (including John Cena) to prove a point.
P: Speaking of John Cena, he’s terrible! Super Cena has his five moves of doom to win matches and he never sells his beat downs. How can I back WWE’s top face if he is so unlikable? I can’t watch a product when the main guy that I’m supposed to be rooting for and feeling sympathy for just gets up and beats everyone without selling.
O: I get the hate on Cena. He’s hard to love. But he can perform. Did you not see that epic match between him and CM Punk during Money in the Bank in 2011? If not then you missed out. It was a fantastic match. What about his match against The Rock at WrestleMania 28? That was awesome as well. He has great matches; it just takes the right storyline and patience from the viewers to appreciate it.
P: What about Tag Team wrestling? The best wrestling was when the Dudley Boyz, the Hardy Boyz and Edge & Christian were all feuding with each other. Those TLC matches were legendary. What happened to the Tag Team Division?!
O: Tag Team wrestling is making a comeback. I admit, a couple months ago the outlook for the division was bad, but with these young superstars forming up teams, the Tag Team division will be looking stronger than ever.
The problem with casual fans and their complaint about the division is that they don’t watch the other wrestling shows that WWE provides. I know it seems like much, but you can’t complain about something happening in WWE if you only watch Raw.
WWE also has SmackDown on Fridays and Superstars on Thursdays (on their YouTube channel). WWE Superstars is a 40+ minute program that has nothing but wrestling. Without the backstage segments, WWE Superstars gives the wrestlers more time to show their wrestling skills.
I have seen many tag teams go through Superstars and I am impressed. Titus O’Neil and Darren Young (the Primetime Playas) who are now the current number one contenders are young and very charismatic. Their “millions of dollars” gimmick is funny and reminds me of Edge & Christian when they were a heel tag team. The Uso brothers, sons of Samoan-American wrestler Rikishi, are also very young and very exciting to watch. There are many great tag teams out there in the WWE; you just have to keep an eye out for them.
P: The Divas division is a joke. They barely have any time and it’s just pretty girls who can barely perform a dropkick (see Eve).
The Divas are also plain and without depth when it comes to characters. Of course there’s AJ Lee right now but other than that, why should I care about any other female wrestler? Layla is a face because WWE tells us she’s a face? Are we supposed to forget that before she was injured, Layla aligned herself with Michelle McCool and they were the bullies of the Divas division? Now that she smiles and cheers instead of scowls and yells she’s instantly turned into a face?
And what about the other divas? The only other attention I see from them is if they are in an embarrassing angle (see Natalya farting gimmick). I long for the time when Lita was performing Hurricanranas off the top rope, Chyna was a monster, and Trish Stratus was one of the best wrestlers in the division.
O: There’s talent in the Divas division, though I hate to agree that they aren’t being used as much as they were in the Attitude Era. There was a time period where the only four wrestlers we saw on Raw were a combination of Eve Torres, Kelly Kelly, and the Bella Twins, all the while having talented Divas like Natalya and Beth Phoenix on the sidelines doing God knows what. I can admit that when they wrestled, it was my designated bathroom break. Now it’s July 2012, and the Divas division is looking better than before, which honestly isn’t saying much.
The July 9 edition of Raw did feature two Divas in a mixed tag team match in the main event, which is a huge step forward than weeks before. However, there was no sign of the Divas Champion on Raw. I should make the same point as I did before with the Tag Team division in that there are two other shows (not including NXT) that should be watched to fully appreciate the WWE product. Last Smackdown, Layla teamed up with The Great Khali to defeat Aksana (who I’m not much of a fan of) and Antonio Cesaro, but only because the general manager had a past beef with Aksana and Cesaro.
There is no storyline for the current Divas champion and it upsets me. I’m happy for AJ Lee and how she was able to wrestle (with good moves too) in the main event on Raw, but champions are important and WWE is not making me want to root for Layla. However, I’m sure this will all change once Raw goes 3 hours. Maybe they can use that extra time to show off Beth Phoenix, Natalya, AJ Lee, Layla, and maybe a return for Kharma? I’ll hold on to hope.
P: There aren’t any more good surprises in the WWE. Everything is predictable and the Internet spoils interesting things anyways. Why should I watch something when I know what’s going to happen?
O: On the premise that there aren’t any more good surprises in the WWE, I give you Money in the Bank. Last year, Alberto Del Rio and IWC darling Daniel Bryan won their respective MITB ladder matches. Bryan, coming off a winless NXT run and an alright mid-card run with the United States title, surprised many when he won the ladder match. The IWC was elated when it seemed as though Bryan was finally going to get a main event push. This year’s MITB won’t be any different.
The MITB ladder match for the WWE Championship is sort of a disappointment in that the match itself already has main eventers that have been a champion before. However, the World Championship contract MITB ladder match will be the one that steals the show. With only two past world champions (if you include Ziggler’s 11 min championship reign on SmackDown) in this eight man ladder match, this youthful group will produce a fresh new face into the main event.
My money is on Cody Rhodes to win, but I’m excited to see wrestlers like Tyson Kidd, Christian, Damien Sandow, and my personal favorite Dolph Ziggler perform. This should be a great match.
As for spoilers ruining matches, I tend to disagree. If a match is great I’m going to watch it, even if I know who wins. I can go back and watch last year’s MITB PPV because it was awesome. Same goes for watching SmackDown to catch the occasional competitive and entertaining match. Spoilers don’t ruin matches; bad matches and wrestlers (see The Great Khali) ruin them.
I can see why people don’t like the current product. However, I see great things coming. This Sunday, July 15, will be one of the biggest PPV’s of the year. Not only do we get to see my favorite matches of the year in the MITB ladder match, but watching CM Punk versus Daniel Bryan wrestle is always a treat. They are truly the best in the world at what they do (sorry Chris Jericho for taking your line) and I can never get tired of watching them wrestle.
Good things are coming to the WWE. You just need to be a little optimistic and patient about it.