By Will Pruett
Watching TLC’s main event this past Sunday with vest-wearing dad Kurt Angle and his sons, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins taking on the absurd combination of wig wearing homicidal politician Kane, Braun Strowman, Cesaro, Sheamus, and Miz, I couldn’t help but think of how weird wrestling is. Mainly, I thought of WWE and its history of weird career-based wrestlers, odd Vince McMahon vendettas, bringing in various degrees of “reality” thus making everything less real, and mind-numbing storyline management structures. As I spent the overly long 45 minutes of that match having an existential crisis of wrestling fandom, I came to a conclusion. Wrestling isn’t “just wrestling” and we deserve better.
Over and over again, the criticism leveled at criticism from the anti-critical is that wrestling is “just wrestling.” They are saying wrestling isn’t a serious art form, a real source of entertainment, and will always be bad, so we need to accept it. Maybe they feel empowered by their ability to lower their own expectations. Maybe they are fine spending many hours per week on an entertainment source that disrespects them at its very core. Maybe they really don’t want anything better, but these people are so very wrong.
Wrestling is never “just wrestling.” At its best, wrestling tells us the story of human struggle. It tells us about rising above adversity and inspires viewers to do so. Wrestling tells those who watch it closely about good and evil and doing things the right way. Wrestling, when it comes together perfectly, can create a feeling of catharsis one cannot find anywhere else. This is why I watch. I watch for the moments where wrestling lives up to what it can be. I watch hoping to catch glimpses of wrestling being more.
Professional wrestling is a massive medium capable of encompassing just about any genre. Wrestling has immense potential for comedy, drama, romance, horror, and any crossover of them. Even the TLC match from Sunday has elements of horror with Kane, the classic comeback story with Kurt Angle, and Ambrose and Rollins brought elements of action comedy. All of this and the match wasn’t even good!
What if we expected better from WWE? What if, as fans, we told them absurd meandering senseless matches like TLC’s main event weren’t acceptable? Even when they’re entertaining, they serve no purpose. TLC filled time, but little else. Why would someone waste 45 minutes on it?
Imagine a wrestling world with consistency of character and intricately told stories. I’m not just talking about drama here. I want great comedy wrestling. I want great action film-esque wrestling. I want great romance-based wrestling (without tired tropes like “crazy” or gullible women falling for nefarious men).
What’s the excuse for WWE not producing something great on a semi-regular basis? What’s the reasoning for a lack of great stories? WWE often prioritizes short term financial gain over long term storytelling. They want to do everything right away and patience isn’t a strong suit. If all of entertainment did this, we’d live in a world with only Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. No one wants that.
We deserve better. As fans and appreciators of the medium that is professional wrestling, we deserve better. WWE wants fans to spend more than five hours per week watching wrestling. For this time commitment, nothing delivers less consistent quality than wrestling. We deserve better and should begin holding WWE accountable for their complete lack of consistency. Wrestling isn’t “just wrestling,” it’s a broad artistic medium capable of just about anything.
Last week’s essential viewing and what I absolutely positively love in wrestling this week:
AJ Styles vs. Finn Balor – I’m combining essential viewing with what I love, because this was the only thing I want to watch again after the week that was in wrestling. Styles and Balor, two wrestlers who haven’t crossed paths in WWE and have rarely even been on the same tour, put together one of the best WWE matches this year. They didn’t get a long story to build it up. They didn’t get time to work out the perfect match. They didn’t get more than two days notice and AJ may not have even slept the night before. They created something beautiful in the ring.
This was Balor’s best match in WWE (including NXT) and was surely better than Pumpkin Demon vs. Lady Bray would have been (Bray Wyatt is bad). AJ Styles is the best wrestler in the US and it isn’t close. Name almost any wrestler and I’d assume their best possible match would be against AJ. This was art and I’m glad I got to experience it.
If you enjoy getting a little bit of what I love in wresting each week, check out my new YouTube series called “What I Love About Professional Wrestling!”
What I absolutely positively love in the world this week:
Springfield of Dreams: The Legend of Homer Simpson – Aside from my mother, father, and brother, no relationship has been with me as long as my relationship with The Simpsons. It is the pop culture core of my being. While my interests have broadened and I try to enjoy more than yellow animated humans, I will always love Homer, Lisa, Bart, Marge, and Maggie. It was with joy that I ignored football on Sunday to watch Springfield of Dreams, a documentary that treats the brilliant Homer at the Bat episode as true. I have no idea where this can be watched online, but I urge you to seek out alternate means (wink wink) to view it. It was a wonderful hour of my life.
SSMGOTW (Superfluous Shane McMahon Gif of the Week):
In honor of Halloween, remember that time mayoral candidate Kane (Glenn Jacobs) hooked a car battery up to the testicles of a son of a member of President Trump’s cabinet, Shane McMahon? What a world we live in…
We’re Done Here:
Two in a row! As I sit in a coffeeshop in Atlanta, Georgia and listen to depressing music, debating the nature of coffee itself with a barista, I’m thankful that anyone would read my weird rambling thoughts. Let’s all try to be as happy today as Kurt Angle inexplicably was entering through the crowd to Roman Reigns’ theme music.
Will Pruett writes about wrestling and popular culture at prowrestling.net. Of interest to him are diversity in wrestling and wrestling as a theatrical art form. To see his video series “What I Love About Professional Wrestling” subscribe to his YouTube channel. To contact, check him out on Twitter @wilpruett, leave a comment, or email him at email@example.com.
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