The wrestling industry has really changed since the World Wide Wrestling Federation in the 1960s. While the wrestling industry wasn’t as big back then as it is now, it was certainly talked about. Bruno Sammartino was known all over the world because he headlined wrestling matches in Madison Square Garden. I talked to a casual fan yesterday and he was talking about wrestling from this time and in the 70s. He said this was when people thought, “It was real.” As time went on, the real factor certainly fell through the cracks.
People always say that time changes and you have to change with the time. The wrestling industry is a classic example of this. WWE (then WWF) blew up in the 70s and 80s. It certainly became revolutionary because of Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan. The wrestling business was thriving through this period. They were getting hotter and hotter. Certainly the industry wasn’t at its peak though. To me, and probably for everyone, the wrestling industry became the biggest in the 90s. The reason is because of the war… the Monday Night Wars. It was WWE vs. WCW. While some may think of the whole period is overrated, the numbers do not lie. WWF and WCW blew up. People were watching wrestling that never watched wrestling before. Over 10 million people were watching either Raw or Nitro each week. That is impressive. That is a lot of bodies! In this time, each wrestling company wanted to win the ratings war. They produced anything and everything they could. Some of the stories they produced were outrageous, but other times they were amazing. The wrestling fans tuned in every week.
Both companies would produce anything to get hits. WWE had D-Generation X use foul language and have sexual actions that pushed the envelope each week. Stone Cold Steve Austin put a gun to Vince McMahon’s head. Sure, it was a fake gun, but it looked real. The used women as showgirls to show off their body just to get the males fired up. Did we see that when Mae Young was champion in the 50s?
What about when Kane “made out” with a mannequin in a coffin? The list goes on and on. The wrestling companies crossed the line countless times, but the fact is, people were watching!
The reason why I bring this up is because of the actions that have taken place in the past year. They stem from WWE and TNA. First there was the CM Punk incident where he attacked a fan in the audience. I honestly understand that the fan hit Punk from behind and the the security guards weren’t really guarding Punk, but it was all over the news and people were blaming Punk. Next there was the Bully Ray incident with a fan. While Punk hit a fan, Ray verbally insulted him. That whole story can be found here. Also, what about Jay Briscoe‘s tweets? ROH had to publicly apologize about that. Finally, we see an incident with Austin Aries and Christy Hemme. This just happened last week. Christy announced the wrong team to the ring. She didn’t realize it until Austin confronted her. She was in the corner and he climbed to the second rope and put his junk in her face as she announced the actual tag team. The whole incident with Aries and Christy’s repines can be seen here.
All three incidents made it onto non-wrestling websites as they were all quite a big story. All three incidents also involved a response from the companies. WWE blamed the security guards but TNA blamed Bully Ray and Austin Aries. It was stated that Ray and Aries would be disciplined for their actions. We know right now that Austin Aries was fined for what he did to Christy. While two incidents involve the fans, the other involves a character vs. character situation. I have been quite surprised on how much each incident was talked about. It made it seem like wrestling was unstable and poorly handled. The non-wrestling websites made the wrestling companies look like they don’t take care of their wrestlers or their fans. The Christy Hemme/Austin Aries segment in particular really took a hit because it was actually on national TV.
These incidents really make me think of how the wrestling industry was back in the 90s. We have seen some hideous, vulgar, and sickening stuff in the wrestling industry in the 90s, but everyone nearly let it go. They didn’t attack WWE for their outrageous segments of sexual contact. Remember the Edge and Lita live sex celebration on Raw in 2006? That certainly crossed the line with a lot of people, but that became the, “Highest rated segment in ‘x’ amount of years.”
Now every questionable thing done on a wrestling show seems to be something that shouldn’t be done at all. Every little “Non-PG” or “Non-friendly-family” television needs to have a public apology. Sure, wrestling can be entertaining and great without all of the controversial incidents, but there are times when a heel has to play a heel or there are times when a star messes up and the other has to improvise. Heel characters do not have a different meaning then a heel character back in the 60s or 70s. They are still the bad person. They need to get the audience to “boo” them. That is what they are trying to accomplish. The stars try to pull that off. Sometimes it goes too far, but, in this day and age, everything is too far. Are people actually thinking that the business is real again? When I tell people about my involvement in the wrestling business they ask me, “Do you know it is fake, right?” Well, maybe I should start asking them that question because people really are taking the incidents seriously.
The wrestling industry has revolutionized and is now bigger and known by pretty much everyone in the entire world. Ask any person about anything in wrestling and I can guarantee that they can name at least one superstar, past or present. While the popularity of wrestling has died down since about 15 years ago, wrestling companies try to give decent television. They try to give decent television while the stars that are on the show try to make a name for themselves. Wrestlers are athletic and really have a talent, but they also are actors. One of the main things they need to learn is to improvise. That is what we seen with most of the incidents this past year.
Put these incidents up against anything from the late 90s and honestly no one will be talking about the Christy Hemme/Austin Aries scenario. The wrestling industry has to apologize for anything that may come off as “over the top.” The industry is becoming soft. They are becoming a cartoon. It’s time to step back and let stars rise to the occasion. It’s time to let the industry have some character. If not, we will be seeing the wrestling industry apologize for every segment, tweet, and match that happens. Maybe we should apologize to the wrestling industry for being overly anal on what is done inside the industry.
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