Thursday, June 16, 2011

Please Call a Cease Fire: My Plea to Impact Wrestling to Stop with the Shootiness

Pictured, Hogan, Sting and Bischoff doing something I hate
Photo Credit:
Dear Impact Wrestling,

As you prepare to air another episode on Spike TV tonight, I am coming to you with this plea. Granted, it'll do no good for this week or the week after, given that you've already taped the episodes, but hear me out anyway. There's a reason why I pan the shit out of your program each week. It's not because I'm a hater. Lord knows I want to like your product, and I want to praise it and I want to give your company all the credit in the world. I don't dislike Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo because of some arbitrary reason.

No, over the last 15 years (15 years), I've seen them systematically destroy the art of professional wrestling in ways that outside forces can only dream of doing. Under their watch, one company became so undesirable for the people running it that they sold it to their biggest competitor even though it was still pulling strong ratings1 on its weekly television program. A big reason for that was because under the tenure of Russo and sometimes Bischoff, the magic of professional wrestling, a magic known to carny folk and to smarky wrestling fans alike as kayfabe, was dealt a critical blow. It was cute when Russo had to answer to Vince McMahon, and it helped draw huge numbers (even though I still maintain that it was more the on-screen charisma of Bret Hart, Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, The Rock, Mick Foley, Triple H and even McMahon himself that had more to do with that than anything Russo ever did or said outside of maybe "Hey, why don't we let these mooks be themselves!"). However, when left to his own devices in WCW, his continual drawing back of the curtain, making everything a "shoot" and continual scatterbrained direction caused WCW to die a grisly death. Add in Bischoff from time to time, a man who never met a legal storyline between two NPCs that he didn't like, and you had someone who helped piss away WCW's lead on the then-WWF when he was on top and then helped accelerate Russo's best unintentional Dr. Kevorkian impersonation when he came back in.

So, it should come as no surprise that your numbers aren't as good as you think they should be. Of course, I'm not interested in your analysis of the numbers or even what numbers you hold important. Ratings can eat my left buttock for all I care. However, if you look at the meaning behind why your ratings suck, that's where you'll find my wheelhouse. Your ratings are terrible because people who think like me, but who don't really feel obligated to watch for purposes of writing a blog, aren't enticed to watch. These people you're not getting to watch your show really want to believe your slogan, but are turned off by every promo Jeff Jarrett cuts on Kurt Angle mentioning that Jarrett, the administrator, signed Angle for ratings, by every time Bully Ray references "the boys in the back" or out-of-character respect when talking on the mic and every time Sting says he needs to keep his title because it gives him "stroke".

While reality TV is still all the rage, the wrestling fan - and believe me, there are still a ton of them left, whether active or in remission - doesn't really subscribe to the theory that wrestling is the original reality programming. Either they're super young and still subscribe to the theory of kayfabe, sweet, lovable kayfabe, or they're our age and watch for the theater, to forget about real life problems and just watch two (or more) guys pretend to wail on each other and then talk about wailing on each other in between wailing on each other. Dragging in legit, real life problems into the fray counteracts that. I mean, you don't go to a Broadway play to see the star talk shit about her costar for stuff that happens off-script. I'm sure if that happened, you'd have a big stink. But hey, it worked in wrestling in the '90s. Okay. Traditional kayfabe? It's worked in wrestling for almost, if not over, a century. I'll take that track record over the track record of something that fizzled out within 5 years of beginning.

Again, you guys have talent on the roster. They're either bogged down by having to put Bischoff over or they're shunted to once-a-month status because God forbid we don't give Hulk Hogan 4 segments to lumber around and say "brother" like it hasn't already gone out of style. The emphasis is all wrong. If your wrestlers weren't forced to act like ZOMG SHOOTZ all the time, maybe some stories would organically get over. Maybe if the emphasis was taken off authority figures and onto real wrestlers, then wrestling might matter. The formula doesn't work.

I don't have high hopes for Impact the next two weeks. Excepting Austin Aries wrestling tonight, I'm not sure there's going to be a whole lot of must see TV for me. Quite frankly, I'm not really excited for the future after next week either, because the same people are still going to be in charge. But if you wake up, smell the coffee and realize that a change will do you good, maybe the future won't be so bleak. Maybe there'll come a time when I look forward to watching Impact, either first-run or on my DVR.

But that'll only happen if you at least pretend you give a shit about restoring the magic. Please, for my sake, for the sake of fans who want you to succeed... give a shit about restoring the magic.

1 - Strong relative to everything else on TNT at that point, not strong compared to WCW's peak or the numbers the WWF was pulling.

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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