Monday, June 27, 2011

The Lost Art of Telling a Story

Pictured: Katz, a guy who gets it
Photo Credit: Ames247
If you haven't listened to the landmark 60th episode of Kick-Out Radio, what the hell are you waiting for? Seriously, it's one of the best personalities in the wrestling journalism/opinion writing community talking to Jeff Katz about turning the wrestling industry on its ear. If you have listened to it, then you know that Katz spent about an hour detailing his vision for Wrestling Revolution, which is his plan to take wrestling to its next evolution. He laid out a lot of really good ideas, but one thing that he mentioned in the interview was that he hoped to lay out a wrestling promotion that had a three-act storytelling structure.

If this idea in general sounds revolutionary to you, then man, to quote Kurt Cobain, "I wish I were like you, easily amused". In terms of movies, television, scripted stage productions, etc., this format has been around since the dawn of recorded history. So why would he be so adamant about bringing that format back to wrestling? Well, "back" is definitely the key word here. That overarching storytelling trope has been lost in both WWE and Impact Wrestling, either for instant gratification, the swerve-for-the-sake-of-having-a-swerve model or some combination of both, depending on what month it is. If that doesn't make you sad, then hello, Vince Russo! Glad to see you reading my blog. I'm not sorry that I trash you on here, because you deserve it.

For everyone else who likes to have a cogent story attached to their wrestling, this has to sound like a breath of fresh air. I mean, what happened to having acts, having rising action, a climax, falling action and a resolution? WWE gives you 5 PPVs in a row of a babyface beating a heel clean as a whistle and tells you it's supposed to be a story. In what universe? Impact starts stories, muddles them with swerves and gives us no resolution. What sane person would buy a book or watch a movie if they were promised nothing even coming close to an end to the story? Wrestling companies in the mainstream strain to be accepted as part of the established entertainment, so why do they abandon the thing that keeps people coming in and satisfies them with the greatest success?

While wrestling is more than just theater, and while it has way more elements to it than scripted drama has, the fact is that the artform is still very much storyline driven. The matches are only a part of the equation, and even then, those matches probably should have some kind of story contained within to be good, whether it's part of a continuing arc or whether it's self-contained within the match.

Granted, WWE does give you a good story, but by and large, their angles and feuds are muddled messes where babyfaces dominate for the most part. Impact had one story that was put together okay in Jarrett/Angle, but other than that, it's best that we don't talk about them. Consistency, an overall master-plan and having people delegated towards planning the future for the individual stories while keeping the whole vision of the company in mind are all things that are missing in both companies and in some of the indies in America today.

If these problems are fixed, would it lead to another wrestling boom? I don't know, and really, I don't care. Unlike some people, I couldn't give any more of a fuck than what I give now if wrestling returned to 1998 levels of popularity. Let it stay afloat enough so that I have options. I care more that the product I'm consuming is good. That's why I feel like guys like Jeff Katz should be supported. If the only contribution he had in the next five years was that WWE and/or Impact ripped off his ideology, then he'll be rightfully lauded as one of the great people in this business. It shouldn't be up to CM Punk alone to make the show's story feel like something more than a hastily-thrown-together mish-mash of instant gratification.

Until then though, storytelling will remain a lost art in pro wrestling, and as a long-time fan, that makes me sad. I want a lot of things out of my wrestling, and to be completely honest, storytelling is tied for first along with great wrestling action in the ring. I'd dare say that it should be like that for you too. But if I did say that, I'd be projecting.

Remember you can contact TH and ask him questions about wrestling, life or anything else. Please refer to this post for contact information. He always takes questions!

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