By Nick Perkins, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@WesternRebel)
“Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. In Greek, Nostalgia literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.” -Don Draper
Nostalgia. It’s a funny thing. As Don Draper pointed out, nostalgia is ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a beautiful pain, however; one that we continually return to, no matter how much it hurts. Nostalgia is why, after a few years have passed, we look back on former relationships and are able to smile. We forget the name calling and the hurt feelings and the broken promises and, instead, focus on that perfect kiss – the one we shared on Christmas Eve when the night was quiet and the future was spoken for.
Nostalgia is a powerful tool, and it’s one that has been utilized in the entertainment world for decades. Nostalgia is a big reason why shows like Mad Men or Stranger Things are so popular – they remind us of a time when things were simpler; when we could ride our bikes until porch lights guided us home. Nostalgia, in the right context, at the right moments, can transport us back to a beautiful moment we never thought we would get to relive again. But, sometimes, nostalgia is a well that is gone back to far too often.
We see this in Hollywood when the newest movie remake is released. Often times, these remakes are utter drivel, conceived and executed simply to make a buck off of name value and, you guessed it, nostalgia. Basically, these films are anything produced by Michael Bay. Once in a while, though, a film comes out that both harkens to the past and looks to the future.
A recent example of this is Halloween. The John Carpenter classic was “remade” once and it failed both critically and commercially. It didn’t have the heart of the original, or the talent needed to execute the vision. The newest Halloween, however, had ample degrees of both. Danny McBride and David Gordon Green channeled the spirt of the 1978 original and they created a film that was both a polaroid of the past and of the present. In the #metoo era, it allowed a mostly female cast to take the very real and very serious matter of trauma into their own hands and, quite frankly, beat the shit out of it. Halloween did not just rest on its laurels (or, its Laurie’s, as it were). This was more than just Jamie Lee Curtis showing up for a paycheck. Everybody involved in the project knew they had something special and audiences trusted that vision. The results spoke for themselves and Halloween had one of the largest October box offices in recent memory.
In regards to professional wrestling, nostalgia has always played a key role. Sometimes, this is good – The Rock returning to reclaim his title as “the absolute greatest” from John Cena or, on the flip side, Hulk Hogan returning to do the same at the expense of The Rock. These were moments that were, pardon the pun, electrifying. They hit the right balance of nostalgia and everybody involved came out looking better.
The Rock battled John Cena again, and nobody knew why. Hulk Hogan dressed up as Captain America and nobody knew why. Shawn Michaels came out of retirement for a throwaway tag team match at a controversial pay-per-view…and nobody knew why.
Shawn Michaels coming out of retirement for that proverbial “one more match” should have been huge. It should have been water cooler talk, even though nobody even gathers by the water cooler to talk anymore. When fans pictured Michaels returning, they pit him against AJ Styles or Daniel Bryan or Seth Rollins. They did not, in fact, picture him teaming with Triple H to fight The Undertaker and Kane. In 2018. They didn’t imagine HBK’s return match would play second fiddle to the LOCATION of the show in which he returned.
More than anything, they didn’t imagine that Shawn Michaels’ first match in eight years would be so…boring. Yet that’s exactly what it was. All four men worked hard, and can be commended for that. But even the most diehard Shawn Michaels (or Triple H. Or Undertaker. Or Kane.) fans couldn’t have been entertained by the performance we got in Saudi Arabia. While the live crowd seemed to love the match, they also loved the return of Hulk Hogan, which should tell you all you need to know about the taste of that country.
The problem is, the entire show left a bad taste in the mouths of the vast majority of other wrestling fans. It was a show fans didn’t want, in a country fans didn’t want the show to take place in, featuring matches that fans had no interest in seeing. Saudi Arabia wanted nostalgia and WWE gave it to them in spades. But at what cost?
Now, audiences don’t get to say that Shawn Michaels wrestled the ‘perfect last match.’ Now, fans may no longer salivate at the thought of HBK squaring off against AJ Styles, because they don’t know if Michaels can keep up anymore.
If professional wrestling were a Halloween movie, Crown Jewel would be Halloween: Resurrection – a largely pointless endeavor that tried to get by on name value, even though it didn’t have a story worth telling. It featured characters whom we knew and loved, but they were largely there for the paycheck and their performances lacked any of the details that made us love them in the first place.
Shawn Michaels may truly be one of the greatest, if not the greatest performer of all time. If he wanted to, he could have one or two more “big matches.” Let’s just hope that if he does return one more time, he does so to remind people of the same thing Halloween did – that nostalgia is great, but story is what creates the magic.
Nick Perkins is a world (okay, state)-renowned writer who dreamt of being a professional wrestler, until he realized that he was a) the opposite of athletically gifted and b) really, really afraid of being hurt. So he became a writer instead, and has been proclaimed (by himself, as well as close friends and relatives) to be a ‘natural.’
‘Natural Consequences’ are defined by various sociologists and child psychologists as “outcomes that happen as a result of behavior that is not planned or controlled.” As somebody who also works with troubled youth via his “grownup job,” Nick Perkins has seen the benefits of natural consequences on a daily basis. Coincidentally, the world of professional wrestling is full of natural consequences. This newest weekly article will highlight some of those situations.
NEW: Help support Prowrestling.net when you shop Amazon by starting your online Amazon shopping at Prowrestling.net/amazon. You are not charged extra, but we receive a small and very helpful commission on everything you purchase. Thanks for thinking of us every time you shop at Amazon.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Kenny Herzog discussing his journalism career, his new Outside Interference podcast, doing a feature story on CM Punk, pro wrestling in the pandemic, WWE talk on Retribution, The Hurt Business, Roman Reigns as a heel, and much more...