This has always been the case since I started watching in elementary school. Professional wrestling has been a fantastic world in which I can escape when life is difficult. When the kids at school were mean to me. In college, when tests were difficult and friends were rare. When my jobs and relationships went away and I needed something else to worry about. Professional wrestling has always been there to escape reality.
I am the innovator of social distance
When I previously suggested that EAW should continue to broadcast and WWE should continue to broadcast by association, as this would be the last intense struggle to continue broadcasting, I assumed that the shows would be an escape from the world I know. Unfortunately, I was mostly mistaken.
Most of the WWE shows have been soulless slogs reminding us that there is no WWE universe to cheer them on. This is what happens when you train WWE superstars to play in a WWE universe. When there is none, they do not know what to do. It became obvious. When you train wrestlers to enter and play on a hard cam, it becomes clear. It also becomes clear when people advertise to television audiences. Some have said the promotions are better, and I see where they come from, but the same people who say they are the same people who whine and complain about crowds on a regular basis.
AEW has tried. They have wrestlers 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 and the rest of the team subscribe to the “show must go on” theory, as does Vince. They can continue to broadcast shows in various states and avoid staying at home for as long as they can. It has become obvious that if we have criticism to give to WWE for their position here, we must also give it to AEW. They’re there for the long haul, though they’re making concessions like saving their Blood & Guts match for later.
I thought these shows would be an escape from reality. They did not do it.
All these wrestling shows have managed to do is show us who is not there. The fans. The people the wrestlers would be there to entertain. It’s funny. Most of the history of this business has been based on belief and buying tickets. When brands can’t buy tickets, what do you do? You spin your wheels, that’s what we all do.
I’m quite jealous of my fellow writers who can get into this stuff. I see Larry recapitulating all kinds of things. I see writers approved by WWE acting like everything is fine. There are also writers not approved by WWE who make hay. They all have incredible things to say. Still, I sit here and wonder what can be said.
It’s a scenario like I’ve never seen before.
Bill Watts told us in film interviews how his UWF promotion was killed by a mega-trim. The economy of his major cities fell 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 the money to do it. UWF ratings were still good, but people did not go to the shows. Revisionists in recent years like to say that Watts’ UWF would have done better at that time if he had better ideas, and I’m not going to tell you that Bill Watts was right about everything he had booked. No wrestling booker has ever been, no matter what the sycophants of Paul Heyman want to tell you.
All I know is that once the economy is in ruins, people have less money to spend. They have less sex to give. Make no mistake, the Americans still have a lot to fuck. They are sitting at home. They are looking for entertainment. Ideally for those of us writing about professional wrestling, they would watch WWE or AEW or some other wrestling product. They are not. They watch Tiger King or Ozark or whatever they find more entertaining. Professional wrestling has not become a staple for people at home looking for something to watch.
The raw ratings, SmackDown, NXT and Dynamite have dropped evenly every week. No matter who presents professional wrestling, people have decided not to watch it.
For the record, I liked most of what I saw on Wednesday evening. I thought AEW had put on a good show. NXT had some very good games and a star performance for Shotzi Blackheart. Love me some Shotzi. I also thought Friday’s SmackDown had strengths. We had a hacker showing Mandy Rose that Dolph Ziggler and Sonya DeVille had deviated from her all this time. We got Sasha Banks in an incredible outfit. I had no complaints. However, I seem to be the minority here, which is not new.
It’s gotten to a point where even the prospect of WrestleMania doesn’t guarantee excitement. Generally, the show gets a lot of outside attention. In most years, Rob Gronkowski as host would provide this. This year, the outside attention is “how do they always run a show? That’s all that matters to everyone. Not athlete cameos, not title games, not celebrities, just people who wonder how they always run a show.
When it’s the main draw for a show too big for one night … it’s not great.
Generally, this is the easiest time to find something to write. The WrestleMania weekend brings the big show, an OPA NXT, a Hall of Fame and 27,000 indy promotions looking to impress. Even if the main show sucks, it’s still the biggest weekend of the year for professional mile wrestling. We are not getting any of this this year. It’s a show recorded over two nights. No takeover. No Hall of Fame. Indian authorities do nothing in Tampa. It’s a WrestleMania weekend unlike what we’re used to.
We needed something special to make it a real WrestleMania. A few good typical wrestling matches and one or two moments of WRESTLEMANIA would not be enough.
We needed the Boneyard match.
I know that many of you do not like this turn that the fight has taken in recent years. You didn’t give Lucha Underground a chance. The clips you saw from Matt Hardy’s broken universe did not do it for you. Heck, WWE has tried a few things like the Boneyard game before, and they’ve all proven to be … what do the kids say, “cringe”?
This time they nailed it. They found the exact formula that Undertaker should always be The Undertaker in 2020 and beyond. No one wants to see him stink in the ring with Goldberg or Roman Reigns or anyone. This is not how Undertaker should end his career. He should do things like the Boneyard match. Over-produced epics with kickass sets and guys who put it all there.
They finally produced something that served as an escape from reality. For a little less than thirty minutes, we forgot all the other things that were going on. We have not seen rows of empty chairs and wrestlers playing in front of invisible fans. We saw Undertaker & AJ Styles embarking on a boneyard. Sometimes that’s all we need. An impressive brief escape from reality.
Is it pure struggle? No. Is it important? No. Another great thing about wrestling is that at its best, it has something for everyone. There is no reason why this style cannot coexist with others. If you don’t see that … well, I feel bad for you.
Because I hope we get a lot more!