By Will Pruett
Spoiler Warning: This blog will freely discuss spoilers from Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. If you do not wish to read spoilers, please kindly move along.
Over the last week, I’ve seen The Last Jedi four times. While some would say it’s a little much (and they would be right), I would argue that the movie holds up to repeat viewing better than either of the other new Star Wars films. Plots that felt tacked on at first move at a fast pace and with thematic focus when viewed again. The Last Jedi is a beautiful chapter of the Star Wars story and it does something remarkable. It moves on from the past, while still respecting it, and prepares viewers for the future. This is something WWE refuses to do.
To make my case, I give you Kane. The monster who debuted in 1997 (the same year George Lucas released the special editions of the original Star Wars Trilogy and six new Star Wars films ago) has recently been seen in main events on Raw and pay-per-view. Kane is a 20 year old relic performing at 50% of his former ability and 20% of his former mystique. He is not enjoyable to watch on television. He looks out of shape and slow. He is a legend in WWE and an important part of history, but he is not the hero or villain we need today.
At the 2017 WrestleMania, we had Goldberg, Triple H, Shane McMahon, Chris Jericho, Matt and Jeff Hardy, and The Undertaker featured in prominent places on the card. One of these wrestlers even main evented the show. It was a tribute to the past and would seem fine if it wasn’t the same for every WrestleMania every year. Now, we’re getting lesser older performers on almost every pay-per-view.
I don’t have an issue with the occasional use of older performers. In fact, if WWE told stories about these performers aging, doubting their instincts, and learning to deal with their bodies in a new way, older wrestlers could be crazy compelling. My issue comes with both the prominence of the performers and WWE’s storytelling instincts. Instead of telling the stories of wrestlers aging, WWE has chosen to pretend these characters are timeless.
Imagine if Luke Skywalker had looked like 2017 Luke Skywalker but acted like 1983 Luke Skywalker. What about Han Solo in The Force Awakens? What if instead of coming back to the Star Wars series to pass the torch to the new generation of heroes, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford had demanded to be the central focus of every battle and moment of the new trilogy? It would please some fans to see the same old Luke, Han, and Leia showing the same age those fans do, but acting just as young, but the Star Wars saga could never attract a new generation of fans.
This is what it’s like as a wrestling fan. While WWE has spent the last two decades telling us how great 1997 was, wrestling’s median viewer has doubled in age to 54. Where are the Finn, Rey, Poe, and BB-8 of the new generation? WWE has pushed the occasional new star, but is still content to feed new monsters like Braun Strowman to older worn out monsters like Brock Lesnar.
WWE is often criticized for telling stories focused on children, but the opposite is true. WWE is focused on pleasing older men more than anyone else. They’re trying to tell old dudes they can do anything, because they watched Undertaker while they were in college and can see him now. While Triple H has to ride a “grandma won’t let grandpa ride a real motorcycle” tricycle to the ring, he still gets the best of almost everyone.
The Last Jedi was about leaving the past behind and embracing new heroes, new stories, and a new villain. While it featured an amazing last stand from Luke Skywalker, it told us this was the rebirth of a new resistance. The Last Jedi realized that heroes eventually age to become mentors. Where is this in modern WWE?
To paraphrase Kylo Ren, WWE needs to let the past die; kill it if you have to.
What I absolutely positively love in wrestling this week:
Raw on Christmas reminds me of this gem…
If you enjoy getting a little bit of what I love in wrestling 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:
I don’t think I can say more about hot great The Last Jedi is, so…
The Shape of Water – It’s your standard girl-meets-fish-man story featuring love, suspense, and some of the most beautiful visuals in any movie the year. Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro created a fairy tale where I never expected one. The performance of Sally Hawkins as the non-verbal protagonist was perfect. This is a great movie you all should go watch.
Got something to say/react to in today’s piece? Write to me at email@example.com or on Twitter @wilpruett. Just let me know whether you’d like your name attached to your statement or not. Alternately, there’s a comment section just below this article, so comment away!
“While I am happy to see more women added to the Raw and Smackdown rosters, the whole 3-woman faction thing being done on both rosters at the same time feels lazy.”
Agreed! I so wish WWE would have found a more interesting way to debut one of these groups. It’s depressing to see so little creative effort put into this. Hopefully the women’s Royal Rumble (which I’m totes excited about) will see a better creative effort. I so want to believe in WWE doing right by the women on their roster, but every leap forward is often met with steps back. When was the last time women main evented a WWE pay-per-view, by the way? (Please don’t answer this question. The last time was the first time, over a year ago.)
Anthony emailed me:
“I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks the brands need a secondary championship. I always felt Becky Lynch deserves an Asuka like title reign fending off obvious challengers such as Charlotte or Natalya while in the meantime Carmella could defend the Sherri Martell Heritage Championship (yes I’m a Sista Sherri mark!) against the likes of Lana while improving her in ring skills……I like the idea of tag team titles but don’t think the brand rosters are deep enough unless they have the championship float between both brands, although it would be problematic during Survivor Series time.”
I love the idea of a midcard title for the women to fight over as well! We’re seeing the women’s rosters grow larger and larger, as they should. If women are 50% of the world, they totes should be 50% of WWE. As we get closer to this, the imbalance of things for the women to fight over is getting worse. There’s no reason both a tag title and a “heritage” (or something like it) title couldn’t be added. There’s no reason WWE couldn’t stock a women’s tag division at least as well as Raw’s tag division (which is lacking in depth).
SSMGOTW (Superfluous Shane McMahon Gif of the Week):
We’re Done Here:
I wish I had a gif of Poe Dameron rubbing BB-8’s belly to close this out, but since no one has processed the entirety of The Last Jedi into gif form yet, I’ll leave you with this and remind you that Porgs are awesome. Have some kick ass holidays, everyone!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
If anything shows up the hypocrisy of the IWC, it is there attitude to these older performers. “We don’t like Roman Reigns because he is one-dimensional in the ring and gets way too many opportunities his ability doesn’t deserve…but go Goldberg!” “We boo John Cena because he buries young talent and won’t put people over…but hooray, Hulk Hogan is on Raw!” I totally agree with you about WWE’s self-harming reliance on nostalgia, but the fans are to blame for this as much as WWE for buying into it.
*’their’, not ‘there’.
Having read your take on the WWE’s use of older wrestlers, I’m going to have to disagree with you to an extent.
You made reference to Brock Lesnar being an old, worn out monster- but is he really? I was still in high school when Lesnar debuted, but I don’t really remember him being that awe inspiring, stylistically speaking, even back then. Could the fact that he’s never evolved all that much be the issue? Possibly. I feel like you’d be heading down a slippery slope though if you started to try and tell the story of guys who are supposed to be larger than life characters physically declining at forty, when the guy who’s supposed to be your top star, in Reigns, is thirty-two.
Nostalgia’s not always bad. I’d rather see older, more fleshed-out characters than flashier, vanilla personality type guys. I don’t care if a guy can do a nine hundred degree splash, or go for ninety minutes in the ring- if he can’t make me care about his character, I’m hitting FF on the DVR. I think that’s one area where the older guys do it better.
The WWE has, for the most part, never been about, and will never be about, twenty-three year old superstars bursting onto the scene and taking the place by storm. I like that WWE somewhat mirrors the UFC that way, in that for most it takes some time to really perfect your craft- and knowledge and experience are equally as important as pure athleticism.
My one-and-only gripe with the way WWE sometimes books the nostalgia acts is when they have a monster like Kane cut through three or four guys in their primes- but that’s more of an issue with how WWE books their big men, I think. One-on-one though, as a heel who’ll cheat, I don’t believe Kane looks out of place in there against anyone.
ugh, can’t even escape star wars here…
WWE’s take is a bit on the scared side. They KNOW the middle-aged generation will pay to watch the heroes of 1997, but they don’t know how 18 year old kids will pay to watch a new generation and at the same time they are afraid of turning off their older customers that will likely not take to the new generation. It’s just like the new Star Wars.
Most everything I have read from people that were around for the first trilogy HATES The Last Jedi. I am a little bit younger than the core original trilogy crowd, and I can’t stand what they have done with the new movies. I will not be buying the new movies on BluRay (or whatever they decide to replace that with in a year or two) and THAT is the risk that WWE is afraid to take. It’s a big gamble to turn off so many longtime fans in order to get a younger demographic. Although it does make sense that eventually their current demographic will die off, it’s just a question of going out of business in 25 years or risking doing that now.