Talking Pulp Wrasslin’: Essential Business & Empty Arenas

I wanted to do a follow up to my last Talking Wrasslin’ article after some time passed and I could properly analyze the changes and differences between the wrestling product that now exists in a COVID-19 world.

As many know, professional wrestling is now considered an “essential business” in the State of Florida, my home state. It’s a pretty controversial decision and one that is actually baffling when you look out how other entertainment and sports companies have been hit.

Sure, you could argue that these people aren’t athletes and wrestling isn’t a sport and they can film their shows in an empty arena. However, people still have to physically contact each other, constantly. With the film and television industries halting productions due to social distancing suggestions, I don’t think that you can really make the argument that professional wrestling should get some type of pass when actors in films and television shows don’t have as much direct contact as athletes in a wrestling match. But politics are politics and we all know who Vince McMahon is buddies with and those of us in Florida know that this buddy is also buddies with our governor, who runs the state where WWE’s Performance Center is located. But I’m not going to harp on about politics other than to add context to the current state of the mainstream wrestling business.

That being said, this also benefits All Elite Wrestling, as they are headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida and can now produce live shows, once again, within Florida’s borders.

Up to this point, World Wrestling Entertainment and All Elite Wrestling have had to produce their content in empty arenas or other locations where there isn’t a crowd. Most of the content has been pre-taped with long shoots in an effort to create multiple weeks worth of television, allowing the wrestlers and production staff to not have to travel nearly as much.

Both companies are essentially doing the same thing but there is a difference in how they are doing it and presenting it.

WWE has been filming TV at their Performance Center in Orlando but despite having million dollar production value, the product feels soulless and flat. It doesn’t connect well with the audience and this is pretty apparent when you look at how the ratings have dropped, even with everyone sitting at home now, desperate for content to watch on television or online.

AEW has filmed in an empty arena they own, as well as at a wrestling school owned by one of their wrestlers and backstage agents. The big difference and the advantage that AEW has is that they were smart enough to take some wrestlers from the back and put them around the guardrails outside of the ring area where they cheer and boo and get involved in the in-ring conflict. It creates crowd interaction even though the crowd isn’t actually comprised of fans. There’s a cool energy about it and it can also work to enhance stories, rivalries and the television show doesn’t feel like it’s taped in a morgue.

Granted, AEW wasn’t doing this and Jim Cornette suggested that they should in one of his podcasts. That very next week, they did add wrestlers to the crowd. But with most guys at AEW having beef with Cornette, I’ll doubt they’ll ever give him credit for the idea. And while they could’ve come up with this on their own, this alteration to their show suspiciously happened at the next broadcast.

Additionally, AEW has had the benefit of having Tony Schiavone and Chris Jericho on commentary. Jericho deserves a fucking Emmy but I don’t think they give those out for wrestling because it wouldn’t be fair to Grey’s Anatomy and Modern Family. Sorry, Sheldon Cooper but you’d get the Buckshot Lariat from “Hangman” Adam Page on that awards stage.

AEW is killing WWE in the commentary game, right now. WWE just can’t top the great Schiavone and there’s no one WWE has on color that can come close to Jericho. If only WWE actually had Mauro Ranallo on a marquee show, they might have a chance. Sorry, Michael Cole… to fans, you’re never going to be that guy despite Vince McMahon being stubbornly convinced that you’re the voice of a generation.

I’ve kept watching both WWE’s Raw and AEW during the pandemic. However, Raw is really damn hard to sit through, especially for three hours, and it all just feels like filler until they can just go back to business as usual. It’s so bad that Raw is all I can do each week. I can’t watch Smackdown and I’d rather watch AEW than NXT, as AEW has more energy and is more engaging.

WWE was already getting shittier and shittier before COVID-19 hit and this pandemic certainly didn’t do it any favors. But it also sort of exposes how out of touch the company is with its own audience, as it just sticks to its guns, looks down its nose at its competition and won’t adjust their product to something similar to what someone else is doing. They’d rather die than adapt or follow the lead of a company they perceive as beneath them. At this point, they’ll be lucky if I can even get through another abysmal episode of Raw.

AEW, despite its current limitations, is still a show that I feel is worth watching and supporting. They’re actually trying really hard over there to make the best out of a bad situation. Their product is far from perfect but they seem to learn from their mistakes and adjust to new changes and challenges without ego being in their way. They certainly seem a lot less stubborn and are open to trying new things while not pretending that they’ve got the game figured out.

Wrestling is really weird, right now. But this is probably just temporary and things will slowly go back to normal. It’ll be interesting to see how these companies come out of this when the dust settles. Sure, WWE will still be top dog but I don’t think that they’ve won over new fans or impressed anyone with how they’ve handled all of this. Their attitude of “People will just tune in because we’re f’n WWE” isn’t a sound strategy and they are probably going to learn that the hard way.

But with rumors of them trying to sell, they might not care anymore. Granted, rumors are just that and this isn’t the first time rumors like that have surfaced. However, Vince McMahon is getting up there in age, despite him thinking he’s immortal, and with the XFL failing again (probably not his fault) and his kids might not wanting to take the reins, the future isn’t guaranteed.

Talking Pulp Wrasslin’: PandemicMania 2020

Well, 2020 has been a real kick in the balls. So much for going into a new decade with optimism and hope for the future.

Granted, all this COVID-19 stuff could actually be a wake up call but humans will probably just do what they always do and that’s be pissed for awhile, promise to make changes to ensure a catastrophe like this doesn’t happen again and then forget all about it after some time passes.

I hope I’m wrong about that but our leaders just react to things that happen and don’t put too much thought into preventing these problems in the first place. But I digress, as I don’t want to go on a political or social rant because that’s not what this is about, it’s about the state of the wrestling business.

Since The ‘Rona showed up and bitchslapped Earth, almost all industries and businesses have been adversely affected by it. The wrestling business is no different, as it can no longer have live shows in front of crowds and because the athletes and personalities involved have to be especially careful, as you can’t have a wrestling match and practice social distancing at the same time.

I noticed how negative it was on the wrestling community when a lot of the indie wrestlers I follow on Twitter were posting about shows being cancelled and not having any real income coming in. Some of them found ways to combat this in pushing their merchandise and by coming up with creative ways to fundraise for those most in need within their community.

The real big blow came just last week, however, on what many are now referring to as Black Wednesday.

In the much larger landscape that is World Wrestling Entertainment, many probably assumed that nearly everyone there was most likely going to be taken care of and a complete loss of their livelihoods wasn’t in the cards. But not too long after WWE’s flagship event, Wrestlemania, the company released and furloughed nearly forty employees, most of them being wrestlers.

Fans and the media haven’t been too kind in criticizing this decision with some calling it “morally heartless” and “not the way”. While it does suck, there could be a silver lining in some regards, as there was such a big pool of talent released into the wild and that could significantly alter the professional wrestling landscape going forward. Also, I’m sure that several of these people will be back sooner rather than later. For those that don’t make it back into the WWE in the next few months, there are at least more options available to them than there were even a year ago.

While they can’t all jump to All Elite Wrestling, the young company that may be able to become real competition for the WWE, there are still other places like New Japan, Ring of Honor and my personal favorite promotion, the National Wrestling Alliance.

I definitely think that AEW will scoop up a few and they could use the help, if I’m being honest. There’s some wrestlers that could flourish in fresh waters and be literal goldmines for that company.

Some of these released wrestlers have already hinted at where they could be going with one of the top tag teams letting it be known that they are most likely going back to New Japan, where they were once superstars as part of the most popular stable that country has seen in years.

All of this happened just a few days after The Revival got their release after wanting it for quite a long time. I put them at the top of the free agent list and I hope that they do stop off in the NWA because it fits their style and what they’re all about.

The landscape isn’t just going to change because of an influx of free agents into the open market, however.

It’s also going to change due to how these marquee wrestling companies have had to adjust how they present their product. Both WWE, especially at Wrestlemania, and AEW have gotten really creative in how they’re trying to make their programs work without live audiences and without being able to show their product in the traditional way that it has been presented in since the start of the television era over half a century ago.

That being said, a lot of this experimental content has been met with mixed results and it is going to be interesting to see what this means long-term.

Are we going to get more unique “matches” like the Firefly Funhouse Match or the Boneyard Match? Is it even wrestling if there’s movie style presentations, multiple camera setups, special effects and obvious edits and cuts? Does this somehow diminish the art of wrestling? While some fans may love this stuff, others don’t and won’t if this becomes the norm and with the wrestling business already having problems with ratings and audience numbers, should they try and reinvent the wheel beyond this pandemic?

While traditionalists will probably turn away, can these new creative changes possibly attract new audiences? I don’t think that they will but stranger things have happened and we live in a time where a new generation of fans don’t really know about the business before WWE became the only mainstream attraction in town.

Wrestling, like everything else, has mostly seen tradition stamped out and replaced with something that barely resembles what it used to be. I guess it’s all subjective but as a wrestling fan, I’d rather see the business thrive. But then again, if it becomes a business I no longer recognize and it can’t generate the same emotion and passion out of me as a fan, then what’s the point?

The great thing about wrestling, especially in a time where there are more mainstream options, is that there can be something for everyone. But if I’m being honest, AEW is guilty of some of the same things they claimed they disliked about WWE.

Plus, modern wrestling fans tend to have blind allegiances towards the things they deem superior. A lot of the things AEW fans claim they like about their favorite promotion’s product are the same things they say they hate about modern WWE. I’m mainly referring to the comedy shit, the goofy shit and the obvious favoritism that gives certain talent more screen time than those who probably deserve it more.

While I’m personally not against the expression of creativity and I’m all for trying new things, I hope that those that hold the keys to the business going into the 2020s don’t lose sight of the great history that existed before them.

Wrestling is fragile, right now. While it does need something to get it over this current hill, it can’t forget about the hard journey it had in getting to this point.

Side note: If you do want to help out your favorite wrestlers through this time, buy their merchandise. A lot of the current wrestlers have their shirts and other stuff available on ProWrestlingTees.

Talking Pulp Wrasslin’: All Elite Wrestling – Year One In Review

It’s been just over a year since All Elite Wrestling officially formed and close to a year since their first show, 2019’s Double or Nothing. We’re also several months into their weekly nationally broadcast show, Dynamite. So I figured I’d look at the first year of AEW and provide my thoughts, good and bad, as well as what I hope the future brings for those of us looking for a mainstream alternative to World Wrestling Entertainment.

Initially, my excitement was at an all time high after the success of the indie wrestling mega event All In, back in September of 2018. When I got wind that something bigger was happening beyond that, my excitement overflowed and I was “all in” on what this met for the future of the wrestling business.

However, right off the bat, there were decisions being made that made me question the newborn promotion’s direction and leadership.

First off, executive roles were given to wrestling talent that hadn’t proven themselves in that realm. While I was okay with Cody Rhodes being the public face of the company, due to who his father was and because he had flourished independently after leaving WWE, I was concerned as to whether or not he could effectively co-manage a brand new wrestling promotion with a lot of money pushed into it.

Additionally, when his wife and buddies were also given executive roles, I found that even more perplexing. Not because I’m hating on them but because none of them have had any experience in these sort of positions within a wrestling promotion.

Understanding that AEW wants to give more power and creative control to the on-air talent seems like a good idea in some regard but as history has shown, when active wrestlers become management, it typically leads to a shitty product and if I’m being frank, it’s not too dissimilar from some of their criticisms of other major league wrestling promotions, past and present. So even if they’ve got the best of intentions and are going to run their company differently, it still paints them into a corner. I’ll explain what I mean by that as this article rolls on.

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the Young Bucks but I liked a lot of Kenny Omega’s work in Japan and especially liked his matches with Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi and Chris Jericho. However, there are distinct stylistic differences between Western and Eastern professional wrestling. That being said, Omega has primarily wrestled in Japan for years but he and the Bucks have been given three of the highest ranking jobs in the company. As far as I know, based off of information that’s been discussed by many over the last year, these guys have their hands deep into the creative side of the women’s and tag team divisions. I’ll also get more into this, further into the article.

The first mistake that these guys made is that they started hiring all their other buddies. This also isn’t too dissimilar to what other wrestlers given power in promotions have done in the past. And while I’m not saying that the talent they’ve hired isn’t good or bad, it feels as if they don’t care either way and they’re trying to hook all their buddies up with gigs because they either didn’t make it big in WWE or because WWE doesn’t want them. From the outside it looks like, “Hey, buds… we’re your saviors! Come on in and let’s party!”

Plus, most of the guys they’ve hired wrestle similar styles to the Bucks and Omega where everything is highspot after highspot to the point that highspots become way too commonplace and lose their meaning and their effect on the psyche of the audience. I’ll also delve into this more.

Additionally, almost all of these guys are small by wrestling standards and even if the game is changing, a roster full of guys that don’t convincingly look tough is detrimental to a product that is supposed to be about kicking ass and being badass. No one is afraid of the hipster asshole that runs the register at Chipotle.

Furthermore, typical Western audiences don’t want to watch two hours of just high-flying shenanigans that are done so much that we’re seeing a record number of spot botches on national television. Anyone can Google “AEW botch” and see a slew of videos and GIFs that make my point for me.

Now there are a lot of good things about AEW too. I generally like the product, for the most part, and it is a decent alternative to WWE. While it’s got its issues, so does the juggernaut WWE, which is why AEW got massive support to begin with.

I think that the writing that’s been on the wall for well over a decade is that Western wrestling fans want to try a new flavor other than vanilla. AEW has answered that challenge but it’s like they took vanilla and added some hot sauce to it. Point being, you’ve got to have a palate in order to be a good chef. It’s like AEW has the palate of a six year-old kid left home alone with a full fridge.

Now I don’t say that to be insulting but the product they’re putting out is just recycling the standard mainstream wrestling formula but trying to overpower it with lightning fast matches, countless highspots, more colorful language and a pretty high emphasis on comedy wrestling. While all of that stuff has its place, doing everything with the volume turned up to 11 is pretty fucking tiresome to experience.

I feel like AEW is just throwing a lot of shit on the wall to see what sticks and what doesn’t. Maybe they’re in a little over their head due to how fast they got off and running and because of the lack of experience running a wrestling promotion. It feels like there is a lack of understanding in regards to the fundamentals of what works on this hemisphere. While Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks were big in Japan, it doesn’t mean that what worked for them there is going to work for them here. I’m personally a big fan of Japanese wrestling, always have been since I was a tape trader in the ’90s, but I also know that my love of it isn’t something that most mainstream normal wrestling fans have on this continent.

It’s like they’re trying to appeal to a niche audience. The problem with that is a niche audience will always be niche and not mainstream. If you’re “in it to win it”, you’ve got to think bigger and you’ve got to produce a product that is enjoyed by the largest audience possible.

That comes down to one simple fact: you’ve got to know your audience. Right now, I don’t know if AEW does. At least not fully and not this early. That doesn’t mean that they won’t figure it out, re-work some things and fix some of these issues going forward. I certainly hope they do because more wrestling is good for everyone.

Diversity between promotions is a good thing that helps build brand identity and uniqueness. However, there can also be too much diversity and I think AEW suffers from that in trying to encompass many things, all at once. But I really hope this is just growing pains.

My point with this is that you can’t try to cover all bases by trying to appeal to every little niche simultaneously. You have to find the balance between them while, again, appealing to the widest audience possible. I think that the solution is to be something between WWE and what AEW currently is.

The best example I can give is the Attitude Era of WWE. No, not because it was edgy with a Jerry Springer atmosphere but because it allowed talent to be themselves, have some creative control and it took chances and had diversity within the content of its segments. At its height, it found a way to take the best elements of the mainstream WWE formula, mixed that with an ECW influence and also adopted some of the better elements of what was working in WCW, at the time.

WCW succeeded for awhile too because it was doing the same thing. Even though they had their own style that slightly differed from WWE, both promotions were just different sides of the same coin.

So since I’ve brought up WCW, I want to go back to my thoughts on wrestling talent being in charge, as that was ultimately a major factor in WCW’s downfall.

Back in the ’90s, when WCW was buying up WWE talent like Beanie Babies, they gave their heavy hitters too much control of their characters and too much power in booking the shows. This led to these guys only putting themselves and their buddies over while younger talent got the shaft and ultimately, jumped ship to WWE, which helped that company recover and win the war.

I know that the guys running AEW know this, as does anyone that loves wrestling and has been paying attention to the business for several years. But just because they probably don’t want to make the same mistakes doesn’t mean that they won’t. Power is one of those things that can change a person and while I assume that Cody, Omega and the Bucks have the best of intentions, who is to say what this will mean over time.

Having now watched AEW for about a year, I can actually say that it looks like they are actually trying to deliberately do the stark opposite of what the WCW stars did. Maybe that sounds good but it isn’t. So let me explain.

First, there needs to be a balance, just like with all things. All four of these execs are four of the absolute best wrestlers in this new promotion. However, they seem to be putting everyone over except themselves. I’m not sure if they are just afraid of being accused of what guys like Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan were accused of twenty years ago or because they think that they’re building up the rest of the roster at their expense. But that’s just it, it’s at their expense.

You can’t objectively look at what has happened over the last year and tell me that Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks’ stock hasn’t dropped. Omega has lost his luster and the Young Bucks should be reigning tag team champions. Instead, Omega has been booked to look like a goof and the Bucks resemble the New Rockers more than the real Rockers.

In regards to Omega, he sucks as a babyface and he was at his best with The Cleaner gimmick. But the guy is sort of awkward and can’t cut good promos, at least not from what I’ve seen. And I thought of the guy as a superstar over the last few years that he was in New Japan. But now that I think about it, I watched his top matches and never really saw him talk all that much outside of press conferences. Also, the style of cutting a promo in Japan is different.

The Young Bucks just do three million superkicks per match and take two million dives to the outside. This reflects a problem I have with modern wrestling where devastating moves that should be finishers (or setups to finishers) are used so frequently that they’ve lost their luster and their impact. It’s like when someone uses a stunner or a cutter in a match and the opponent recovers like it was a simple neckbreaker. It shows a complete lack of understanding of ring psychology and in-ring storytelling. It’s like they’re just playing WWE2K and put in a cheat code to always have finishers active.

While some refer to this as a reflection of the times, I say that modern times suck because no one has time to have a real conversation without looking at their phone every five seconds while only having the attention span to absorb information the size of a tweet. But these people are what this style of “wrestling” appeals to. This is also probably why AEW considers an Ironman Match to be just 30 minutes. That’s more like an Aluminum-Man Match.

In regards to Cody, he’s at least had a main event spotlight on him but they booked him so that he can’t ever compete for the AEW World Championship again. I think that’s a massive mistake and hopefully it is rectified through a storyline because Cody, as well as Omega, should be World Championship chasers when the time is right. In fact, Cody should be the guy to take the belt off of Chris Jericho when that time comes. But I’d keep the belt on Jericho for well over a year because the title needs to build prestige and not be used as just a prop, which has been WWE’s problem for a few decades now.

I also have major issues with how the women’s and tag divisions have been booked. I don’t care how it looks on paper but the Young Bucks, despite my opinion on them, should have been the inaugural tag champs. They were the most famous team in the promotion and they came into AEW super hot after leaving Japan and Ring of Honor. I guess since they run the division, they didn’t want to crown themselves as the kings. That was a mistake and, as I’ve already said, their stock has fallen in the last year.

Now that’s not to say that the Young Bucks can’t recover but they’ve booked themselves into a corner and frankly, I don’t give a shit about them or the division anymore. Hopefully, management finds a way to right the ship.

Looking at the women’s division, despite her in-ring ability, Riho is not believable as the champion. They put the belt on Nyla Rose, who is massive by comparison, and that’s a much better fit. However, having Nyla lose to Riho when they crowned the first women’s champ was a major mistake that hurt the division immensely. People have talked up the quality of their last match but I can’t suspend disbelief enough for it to have physically made sense in my brain. Especially, when Riho’s neckline is below the top rope and she’s skinnier than a stop sign pole.

Beyond just that, the women’s division in general has been booked atrociously with just about everyone looking weak. They’ve ruined Britt Baker, their first female signed to a contract, and they brought in Kris Stadtlander and got her over immediately, only for her to get knocked out of the picture in a matter of weeks.

In a perfect scenario, Awesome Kong should have been the inaugural champion and she should’ve run through the division until management settled on who the top young star should be. Then, only after climbing the ladder to the top, should the new champion have been crowned.

Moving on, AEW also suffers from a lack of creative. Most of the storylines aren’t interesting and the show is carried by just two rivalries. Those are the Jon Moxley v. Chris Jericho (and The Inner Circle) feud, as well as the superb work being done by MJF and Cody Rhodes in their emotional conflict.

Outside of that, nothing interests me. I’m half interested in the Pac v. Kenny Omega Aluminum-Man Match coming up but that’s just because of the physicality of what the match should be and not the actual storyline that’s been booked like a fucking afterthought.

I don’t give a crap about The Dark Order bullshit and they’ve got enough Ministry/evil goth faction ripoffs between The Dark Order, The Nightmare Collective and The Butcher, The Blade & The Bunny.

Granted, The Nightmare Collective have been abruptly cancelled but that also is another problem with creative. You don’t just cancel an angle in the middle of it and say, “Oh, we weren’t feeling that, so whatevs!” No, you find a way to creatively end it within a storyline. How am I supposed to buy into what you’re selling when you can just pull the plug on it at any second? How do I build trust with your brand and the universe you’re building?

I’m not going to really get into my issues with the comedy stuff other than to say that I don’t hate Orange Cassidy like many old school purists do. I find the schtick to be somewhat enjoyable and it has got him really over with the crowd. But this will only work for so long and the character has to adapt and evolve if he’s going to have longevity and not go down as another joke lost to the sands of time. He needs to have something push him into actually getting physical in a non-comedy way. He can still fuck around and be funny but something has to make him actually pull his fist back and haymaker the fuck out of someone. You have to show him break through the character if you ever want him to emotionally connect with the audience beyond just being the doofus sidekick in a stoner comedy.

Granted, I don’t know what he’s actually capable of beyond his limiting gimmick and I don’t have the faith in AEW creative to capitalize on him and strike while the iron is hot. The thing is, you can only tell the same joke so many times before people start scrolling their Twitter feed.

The last thing I’m going to harp on is AEW’s insistence of having win-loss records. This is another thing that paints them into a corner, creatively speaking. No one really cares about wins and losses, they just care about seeing great matches and having the best guys get over. But to truly get the good guys over, you have to have them overcome the bad guys. Usually, this comes with losses and misfortune, only to have them eventually get the upper hand and win the rivalry. But with also including a weekly rankings system, keeping track of wins and losses is detrimental to that, especially when you compare them to the rankings and they don’t make sense. They need to get rid of this shit fast and just focus on stories and booking proper programs and feuds. They said, early on, that AEW was going to be treated like a real sport. Well, they’ve failed in that regard and seeing a guy ranked at No. 5 with a 3-1 record behind a guy ranked No. 4 with a 0-0 record is asinine.

I know it seems like I’m taking a big shit on All Elite Wrestling but hey, I’m still watching it every week and hoping for the best. Right now, I just have to focus on the things I love about the product. Those things are mainly Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, MJF, Cody Rhodes, Pac and Hangman Page, who could be the next massive superstar in the wrestling business. All six of these guys are the absolute highpoints of every show. I’m also really excited to see what Jake Hager can do in this environment, once he gets in the ring.

Furthermore, there are probably some new faces coming in. I’m most excited for what Brodie Lee (WWE’s Luke Harper), Lance Archer, Matt Hardy and The Revival can bring to the table if they sign with AEW.

The Revival are really what the tag division needs, as they can slow the matches down and add a new flavor to the proceedings, as their in-ring style is in great contrast to teams like The Young Bucks.

As far as Lee and Archer go, they would add some real size to the roster, which is definitely needed.

Keeping up with all the behind the scenes stuff, Tony Khan, the real guy in charge, has stated that he’s had some buyer’s remorse with certain wrestlers and that AEW, at least for the moment, are primarily looking for bigger, athletic guys. That shows me that he’s aware of the criticisms and that he’s trying to plug some holes and get the promotion on track.

Also, the commentary team is solid between legends Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone. I also like the recent addition of Taz. I’m still not sold on Excalibur, though. He needs to calm down a bit and focus on the action, as opposed to yelling out the name of every move just to prove he’s a human wrestling Wikipedia.

I feel like I’ve stated enough, even though I could go into greater detail on a lot of these points. The thing is, I like AEW and I want it to succeed because real competition benefits all parties involved. I want AEW to flourish and give me something to get excited about. I also want WWE to feel the heat and to start making their product better because they’ve become really fucking complacent at the top for two decades.

I hope that 2020 is the year where All Elite Wrestling finds its groove, works out a lot of its kinks and gives the fans a wrestling show that they don’t want to miss. I’d love for the Wednesday Night War to become as big of a phenomenon as the Monday Night War. The wrestling industry needs its fans to feel the passion that existed during that time. Hell, if you’re a fan and you don’t want to feel that passion again, why are you still watching?

Talking Pulp Wrasslin’: Reflecting On My Personal Experience at NWA Hard Times

*I wanted to write this and have it up last weekend but I was dealing with a loss in my family, the hustle and bustle of my trip to Atlanta (for family and to see this show) and then I had to get right back to the real job while fighting off a cold for the last few days.

Being that I have been digging the hell out of the National Wrestling Alliance’s product since Billy Corgan bought them and took over, I didn’t want to miss out on one of their marquee events, as I regretted not being able to make it up to Atlanta for Into the Fire a month ago.

Making the trip this time, I wasn’t disappointed and I plan to go back because the show and everything surrounding it was fantastic. I haven’t been to a wrestling event where the promotion hosting it seemed to care this much about their fans and providing them with a memorable experience.

Also, I haven’t quite felt this level of energy while at a wrestling show since the late ’90s when I used to go to ECW events whenever they came to the southern half of Florida.

What made this even more cool was that it didn’t just feature NWA talent but it also featured some of the guys from Ring of Honor: Marty Scurll, Flip Gordon, Matt Cross and Dan Maff.

The NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis is currently in a program with long-time friend and rival Marty Scurll, which has opened the doors for NWA to crossover with ROH (and possibly other promotions). This makes for a really exciting time in the wrestling business for fans that need alternatives to the mainstream WWE content.

Hard Times was built around a tournament for the recently resurrected NWA World Television Championship. The tournament bracket featured eight wrestlers (six from NWA and two from ROH). Well, Ken Anderson didn’t make it to the event, so his first round opponent, Tim Storm, got a bye.

The tournament itself was damn cool to watch, as I’ve always been a fan of wrestling tournaments but have never seen one live, in its entirety.

Apart from that, the show also featured other marquee match ups and there wasn’t a low point. Everything was fun, energetic, engaging and kept my, as well as the crowd’s, attention.

Sadly, due to the loss in my family mentioned earlier, I was only able to go to Hard Times and missed out on the TV tapings for the third season of NWA Power. But for the one night I did go, I bought the VIP pass because I wanted to immerse myself into the product as much as possible.

I’ve got to say, even if you do it just once, the VIP experience is well worth the price of admission.

We got let into the studio an hour earlier, which we were allowed to explore pretty freely. We also got first dibs on seats, got to touch and hold the Television Championship while taking photos with it and we also got to meet producer Dave Lagana, as well as have a Q&A session with on-air personalities Dave Marquez and Kyle Durden. On top of that, we also got treated to a pre-televised “dark match” that advanced the storyline between Eddie Kingston and “The Pope” Elijah Burke.

My biggest takeaway from this was how much the NWA personalities liked us being there and how much they seemed to enjoy shooting the shit with us all. Marquez and Durden were open, personable, held the attention of the small group and didn’t shy away from answering questions on any topic. We even got Marquez setting the record straight on what the difference was between rides and attractions at Disneyland.

After the show, my friend and I waited a few minutes for the studio to clear out a bit so we could soak the place in a bit more before leaving. What I had felt that day was pretty infectious. My friend, who had just watched the show casually up to that point, became a die hard loyalist over the course of the night. We didn’t want to leave but as we went to exit the building, we discovered some seriously badass fan service.

In the lobby of the studio, the merchandise tables weren’t just selling the merch that was displayed before the show. Now most of the tables had the wrestlers themselves there, selling all types of cool stuff. But most importantly, they were there to talk to us, hang out a bit and make us feel like we were appreciated and that we were all a part of the same wrestling family. It didn’t feel like there was an imaginary line between the show and the fans. There wasn’t a guardrail or a curtain surrounded by guards, there was just us and them and just good, jovial times where everyone was happy.

I got to talk to Kamille and the Wildcards, Allysin Kay, Thunder Rosa, Marti Belle, The Question Mark and my main dude, hands down, the “Outlandish” Zicky Dice.

All in all, this was a great experience. I’ve been to dozens, if not hundreds, of wrestling shows in my lifetime and very, very few have ever made me feel the way I did seeing this modern incarnation of the National Wrestling Alliance. I’ve been backstage at WWE, WCW, ECW, old school NWA, indie shows and Championship Wrestling from Florida tapings but my first experience going to the modern NWA was one of my all-time greatest nights as a lifelong wrestling fan. There was just this overwhelming feeling of something right and comforting in my soul.

I was already sold on the NWA and Power is the weekly wrestling show I most look forward to. But what I was feeling before Hard Times has now multiplied tenfold.

Everything that the NWA is doing, right now, is perfect. I just hope that they can win over the hearts of many more people and continue to grow. For those who are already watching NWA Power but haven’t seen any of this live and in person, you really need to make the trip to Atlanta.

With the Crockett Cup returning in April, as the next big pay-per-view event, I know that I have to make the journey, wherever it is held. They’ve already announced that this show will take place in a bigger venue, I just hope it’s at least in the southeast and in a city I can fly to or drive to easily. And by then, maybe we’ll see more ROH talent get involved or even talent from other promotions.

Talking Pulp Wrasslin’: Reflecting On NWA Into the Fire

It’s been a few days since the National Wrestling Alliance’s Into the Fire pay-per-view. I tried to go to the event live but I had issues with my Internet when tickets went on sale and they sold out too fast for me to get my hands on a few. Since this event took place on my birthday, I thought that I’d make it an awesome present for myself but alas, I had to watch it on television through the Fite app on my FireStick.

I also didn’t see this live, as my friends took me out for my birthday. Instead, I watched this Sunday morning while nursing my hangover. Unfortunately, the surprise of Marty Scurll’s shocking debut was spoiled for me thanks to Twitter.

Overall, I thought Into the Fire, my first modern National Wrestling Alliance pay-per-view, was good enough to keep newer fans interested but it lacked in some areas that I want to discuss. So I guess this is kind of a review of it, even though the article isn’t labeled as such because I don’t typically review wrestling shows on Talking Pulp – although that might change.

To start, my biggest gripe about the show was match length. Every match, even the main event, which ran the longest, felt like they flew by too quickly. When I looked up what the actual match length times were, the first five matches ran between 4:15 to 9:16. The two longest matches clocked in at 12:20 and 22:00. For a two and a half hour show, these run times seem pretty scant and frankly, the matches, most of which were good albeit green in spots, felt like flashes in the pan.

Additionally, I wasn’t crazy about the pay-per-view being broadcast from the TV studio where they film Power. The main reason is the look of it. I felt like the show should have had its own distinct aesthetic to set it apart and make it feel special or next level. Granted, this could’ve been simply achieved by using different colored curtains or modified sets. I know that stuff costs money and the National Wrestling Alliance isn’t a financial juggernaut like WWE (or even AEW) but I felt like more effort should’ve been made there.

Or they could’ve moved it to a small arena in the Atlanta area. I don’t think that the promotion can sell out a decent sized arena in 2019 but even a nice hall or something like what ECW used to run shows in back in the late ’90s. Hopefully, as the NWA grows, and I sincerely hope it does, this will be something that they can do in the future. Working in marketing for nearly two decades, I think it’s important to brand the pay-per-views differently than the weekly show. As I’ve said, it can be achieved with just some minor tweaks to the studio.

I understand the concept that the episodes of NWA Power between the pay-per-views are being looked at as “seasons” with the pay-per-views themselves being looked at as “season finales” but I still think they need to differentiate them, as Into the Fire felt more like an extended episode of Power than it did a flagship event. While I’ll watch these events, regardless, I’m thinking more about making the NWA appeal to a larger audience. If you’re in business, it should be to make money. To make the most money, you have to try and appeal to the largest audience possible.

Moving on, I thought that the action in most of the matches was good. Some of the younger talent still need to refine their in-ring work but I’m not going to call out anyone specifically, as the end result was still a good show and I think that the talent is only going to improve, especially with the guidance of some of the veterans on the roster. I hope guys like Nick Aldis, James Storm, Tim Storm, Trevor Murdoch, Ken Anderson, Aron Stevens and Colt Cabana are allowing the younger stars the ability to come to them for advice.

Out of all the matches, the one I most enjoyed was the main event, two out of three falls match between NWA champion Nick Aldis and solid veteran James Storm. They put on a good match, had solid chemistry and the inclusion of Tim Storm into the story as one of the referees was a nice touch and a nice rub for a guy that doesn’t get the fanfare that I feel he deserves.

Ultimately, the high point of the entire show was the last few minutes that saw Marty Scurll, now a free agent after his time in Ring of Honor, show up to confront Nick Aldis. Obviously, this is to set up a big feud for the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship that will most likely be the main event of the next big pay-per-view.

It’s damn cool to see Scurll show up and show the NWA some love. I’m assuming he is off to All Elite Wrestling in the near future, as that promotion was established by his good friends, but his presence in the NWA only helps it, even if it is just temporary.

The National Wrestling Alliance is off to a decent start, looking at this as the first pay-per-view that their newly acquired audience has seen. I hope the buyrates were solid and that it helps keep the NWA going strong, as they film more episodes of Power and build towards the next flagship show.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Television Title is coming back and will be contested for at a pay-per-view in late January. But I guess I’ll have to wait for this week’s episode of Power to find out more. And maybe I can get tickets to that show.

Lastly, I really liked Stu Bennett (formerly WWE’s Wade Barrett or Bad News Barrett) on commentary. The voice of Jim Cornette will be missed but Bennett has the chops and did a superb job calling the action.

Talking Pulp Wrasslin’: The National Wrestling Alliance: Out of the Fire

For almost two decades now, World Wrestling Entertainment hasn’t had any real competition, at least in the United States, its home country. But even on a worldwide scale, it’s been pretty hard for other companies to rise up and challenge them. It’s become an empire, poaching the best talent from everywhere on Earth while becoming a boring shell of what it once was. Because without someone really on your heels, what are you running from and what are you running towards?

In the last year or so, the landscape has changed pretty immensely.

Ex-WWE stars and other stars not wanting to ply their trade in that company (because of how they’ve wasted and misused talent) have started to band together, make noise and a new company has formed: All Elite Wrestling.

This fledgling AEW is being bankrolled by the Khan family, who own the Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham F.C. after becoming billionaires in the automotive parts industry.

The Khans teamed up with an ex-WWE star, Cody Rhodes, as well as some of the top North American wrestlers that were working in Japan, one of which is arguably the best in the world, right now: Kenny Omega.

They then started doing their own pay-per-view events, showcasing all the great talent that left WWE or that didn’t want to go there. Then they got a major television deal with TNT, the same network that used to host World Championship Wrestling’s weekly Nitro program, the show that nearly broke WWE two decades ago until WCW imploded.

Companies like Ring of Honor and Impact (formerly TNA) started stepping their game way up. New Japan Pro-Wrestling started coming Stateside and everything started to evolve in an exciting way.

But this isn’t really about any of those companies. It’s about the one really old promotion that seemingly hadn’t come up for air in a really long time. A promotion that no one was looking at because for most fans, old and new, it had died out years ago, even if its championships still existed and were contested for at indy wrestling shows that didn’t have much, if any, national exposure.

I’m talking about the National Wrestling Alliance, the NWA, the once gigantic organization that served as a network and governing body between all the territories in the United States.

The thing is, the NWA never really left. On the grander scale of the professional wrestling landscape, however, it hasn’t made very much noise in quite some time. In fact, it’s been pretty damn mum and kind of an afterthought once the WWE absorbed it’s top competitors and nearly every major video library of every territory that got swallowed up by the global juggernaut. They even absorbed the libraries of several NWA-allied companies from yesteryear.

Two years ago, Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins fame bought the National Wrestling Alliance. He had some prior experience running Revolution Pro Wrestling and handling creative for TNA, now Impact Wrestling. However, TNA had a lot of issues and Corgan ended up on the outs. But he had always had a love for professional wrestling and decided to purchase the NWA with the hopes of building it back up into the large brand that it once was.

In the time since, Corgan has grown the NWA’s exposure and with the help of his current world champion, Nick Aldis, he’s brought some real prominence back to the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship.

The title was defended in a major marquee match at the culture shifting pay-per-view event All In. Aldis even dropped the title to the soon-to-be AEW Executive Vice President, Cody Rhodes. Although, Aldis won it back a few months later in another massive match that got a lot of exposure.

The thing is, people were talking about the NWA and it’s premier title once again. It had national exposure, it helped make Aldis a more recognized performer on a larger scale and it planted seeds for something bigger on the horizon.

So back in October of this year, AEW was finally ready to debut their television show on Wednesday nights. WWE then decided to take their developmental brand, NXT, off of their WWE Network streaming service in order to move it to television, on the USA Network, to go head-to-head with AEW in order to try and keep that brand from becoming a juggernaut on the level that WCW once was. You know, because Vince McMahon is kind of a dick and has to own it all, unopposed.

This battle for wrestling ratings supremacy was coined the Wednesday Night War, as a play on words of the Monday Night War that was the nickname of the intense ratings battles between WWF Raw and WCW Nitro from 1995 through 2001.

But while all this was going on, the National Wrestling Alliance decided that it was going to return to the ways of old and start filming wrestling shows in a studio setting like they used to do in the ’80s, at the height of the organization’s popularity.

Knowing that nostalgia can be a very good thing and that this sort of studio presentation would generate the right kind of feeling in old school wrestling fans that miss the days of yore, Billy Corgan gave us NWA Power.

Personally, I was aware that the show was coming and that it would be broadcast on YouTube weekly on Tuesdays at 6:05, similar to how the NWA shows of old started at :05 on the hour because that’s how TBS did things back then. But I didn’t know what to expect or if I’d even like the end product that much. I knew it was going for the nostalgia thing and while that made me happy, I was unsure of what the end result would be. It could be disastrous if handled poorly and in a cheesy, hammy way that insulted fans’ intelligence.

Then the first episode dropped and as soon as I heard Dokken’s “Into the Fire” blare through my TV’s stereo speakers, I was immediately in the right place. I felt a nice ease come over my body, releasing the apprehension I had and then I heard Jim Cornette’s voice, the excitement of the live crowd in the studio and the classic blue ring apron and a set that looked like it was from the era it was emulating.

I didn’t care that NWA Power looked dated, that’s what made it so damn cool. But it also didn’t just rely on that. It taps into the right vibe and hits the right notes for fans of what the NWA once was but it doesn’t rely so much on old faces, as it showcases a lot of young, newer talent, most of whom seem like they’ve got legit chops in the ring and in the realm of being entertainers.

As each new episode dropped, my rekindled love of the National Wrestling Alliance grew. And despite the great shows that AEW and NXT have been putting out since the start of their war, it’s NWA Power that I most look forward to each week. There’s just something special about it. It’s pure and it sparks that feeling that I used to get watching wrestling when I was a kid. But nostalgia alone can’t do that.

NWA Power has stars and I don’t mean that to come across like they’re the stars of tomorrow. No. These are the stars of today. And while they might not be on the biggest platform, that doesn’t mean that they can’t compete and also, who’s to say that the biggest platform is the right platform for everyone? It’s been clear that it hasn’t been right for a lot of wrestling talent. And, at the end of the day, where the biggest platform fails their talent, it only benefits companies like the National Wrestling Alliance.

Billy Corgan has big plans for new things going forward. There’s a reality show starting soon, which works as a talent search for indy wrestlers that want a shot at being on NWA Power. There is also pay-per-views, which the NWA has streaming through Fite TV, an app worth getting. Plus, there’s the ongoing Ten Pounds of Gold documentary series that follows the story of the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship.

So this Saturday night, the NWA is putting on a big pay-per-view called Into the Fire. And that’s honestly the inspiration for me to put down my thoughts in this article. Reason being, I haven’t been this excited for a wrestling pay-per-view in decades, as far back as the Monday Night War era.

I feel like I just have to tip my hat to the National Wrestling Alliance, Billy Corgan, Dave Lagana, Nick Aldis and all the talent in front of and behind the camera for making me feel as excited as I do. Being a wrestling fan has been a really rocky road for a long time with only one big show in town. But now things are changing and weathering the storm ended up being worth it.

While the big pay-per-view is called Into the Fire, the National Wrestling Alliance really just rose like a phoenix out of the fire: reborn and ready to ignite the hearts of fans across the globe.

Talking Pulp Wrasslin’: How WWE Finally Broke Me as a Lifelong Fan

I have been a fan of professional wrestling my entire life. I grew up with a lot of my family members watching it and I got to go to a ton of shows throughout Florida, as a kid in the ’80s and ’90s. In fact, I would often times get to go backstage at events, as some people in my family had old relationships with certain people within that industry. I grew up with this thing in my life at a very early age and I even aspired to be a wrestler after seeing the matches of Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, Randy Savage, the more technical guys in ECW and all the great Japanese and Mexican classics that I acquired on VHS in the ’90s.

To say that I was a hardcore fan in my teen years and early twenties is an understatement. I grew up with the ’80s cheese, the early ’90s weirdness and the Attitude Era began as I was in my late teens. I remember vividly the first time I saw Scott Hall on Nitro, an ECW show on the Sunshine Network and the Montreal Screwjob. All of it instilled a passion in me that I never thought would die.

However, I’ve now gotten to the point where I can’t stomach WWE. It’s been something that has actually been slowly growing in me for decades since the start of the PG Era and the loss of real competition for Vince McMahon’s monster company. But despite holding on, because I love great matches and great in-ring psychology, I have finally broke down and can’t support WWE anymore.

To start, Raw has had some record low ratings this year and Smackdown is pulling in worse numbers. You can’t really look at pay-per-view buyrates anymore because WWE found a way to skirt around that statistic by putting their marquee shows on their own streaming service. Being that the WWE Network is $9.99 per month, paying that is a no brainer when compared to the $50+ per event that they were charging on the standard cable pay-per-view format. But this also gives WWE an inflated number when compared to pay-per-views of old, as more people can pay $9.99 over $50+. Regardless, you can’t compare pre-WWE Network buyrates to WWE Network subscriptions. It’s apples and oranges but WWE doesn’t want you to see the ruse. But they have seen their audience as dumb for many years, despite their insistence that they care about what the fans want and that WWE fans are “smart”.

You still get a damn good match in WWE quite often but usually they are watered down by the shit show around them. And in cases where you should definitely have awesome matches, you don’t. Look at this year’s AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura feud. Those matches could have been classics and we could have had an incredible feud but WWE stands in the way of its performers and don’t tend to trust outsiders that come into the company that made a big name for themselves outside of WWE. Instead, we got lackluster matches written around low blows and non-finishes.

And that brings me to the writing. It doesn’t take a genius to see that WWE can’t produce a good story anymore and for the most part, every single episode of Raw is made up of the same matches over and over again, week in, week out, where the winner loses the next week and the loser wins the next week. This prevents characters from growth, momentum or any sort of real development.

WWE is absolutely predictable. Even when it isn’t, it’s only because they didn’t see the actual writing on the wall and had their hands over their eyes and ears. It’s very rare that you are surprised by it anymore. Going back to last week’s Raw, everyone was “shocked” by the heel turn of Dean Ambrose but it’s been teased for a year and they only sped up the storyline, as he was probably going to turn heel at Survivor Series in three weeks.

Whenever WWE finds a hot young talent, they tend to build them up strongly, at first, or they become superstars in NXT and then get called up. But once they get even a sliver of the spotlight, Vince McMahon loses confidence and the company doesn’t let a star become a supernova. Most recently, we’ve seen it with Finn Bálor, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, Asuka and even Samoa Joe, who just came off of a high profile feud looking irrelevant. Point being, you invest your own time and emotion in these great performers that could carry this company into a bright future but ultimately, Vince McMahon doesn’t understand his audience and books his shows to promote his own biases to his own detriment.

Fans really want Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks to come to WWE. I don’t because I know what will happen, they’ll come in strong and within a year or two, they’ll flounder on the mid-card wondering what went wrong and wishing they’d stayed in New Japan and Ring of Honor. And based off of WWE’s track record, why would anyone think differently? I mean, what did they do with Cody last time? He was Stardust, a comedy act and a rehash of his older brother’s gimmick.

But the thing is, I have put up with all this bullshit for years and I have still tuned in. But that’s really shifted, specifically in the last few weeks during the build up towards two pay-per-views: Evolution and Crown Jewel.

Evolution, for those who don’t know, is, as they promote it, “…the first ever all-women’s pay-per-view event!” I was pretty excited about this when it was announced but it has become abundantly clear that WWE doesn’t give a shit about this show. In fact, it has actually come out that it was put on as more of a way to get Stephanie McMahon good PR, as she has been taking over as WWE’s public face.

The WWE doesn’t really give a shit about the “women’s revolution” and it’s pretty clear, at this point. All of it is PR and an attempt at virtue signaling and getting imaginary social justice brownie points, which absolutely sucks because the female half of the roster has never been stronger than it is right now. This could be a tremendously stacked pay-per-view with loads of talent, high quality matches and a place to showcase some of the female legends with the superstars of today.

Instead, we get one good match up with Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair, a Ronda Rousey match, a tag match where the premiere star has to sit out injured and then a few NXT level matches and a battle royal. So yes, 80 percent of the women’s roster is wedged into a battle royal. The last time this happened was at Wrestlemania, which no one remembers or cares about, and the trophy looked like a golden uterus… that’s not an exaggeration – Google it.

WWE Evolution has been promoted and booked like an afterthought because that’s exactly what it is. But hey, Stephanie McMahon… what a gal? Am I right? Out there putting women first and making things happen for the sisters? Maybe she spent a little extra and got a platinum uterus trophy this time.

But even with Evolution being a blight on WWE, nothing is as embarrassing and as heinous as what has gone down in regards to Crown Jewel, WWE’s second event in Saudi Arabia this year.

Why is this heinous? Well, there’s that whole thing about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, less than a month ago. For those that don’t know, he was a Saudi born journalist that was outspoken against his home country and was murdered for it in the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. This is a terrible event that has put a microscope on Saudi Arabia and everything coming out about it is very, very bad.

Since this happened, there was been strong speculation that WWE would cancel the show our move it to another country but WWE is in bed with the Saudis and getting paid a ridiculous sum. This is actually the first year of a ten year contract that Vince McMahon made with the country. WWE wrestlers have expressed their fear in going there, fans have made their anger over it well-known and Vince hasn’t said a damn thing, other than WWE officially revealing that they are still going.

WWE has spent the last year promoting Saudi Arabia as a “progressive” country, even though women aren’t allowed on the show. So much for that “women’s revolution” business, right? In fact, Evolution was probably given to the women to keep them complacent while WWE continues to do business with one of the most non-socially progressive countries in the world.

WWE’s biggest star, John Cena, announced that he will not go to Saudi Arabia. Daniel Bryan expressed the same sentiment but we’ll have to wait and see if he’s forced to do the show against his will. And while other stars also don’t want to go there, it’s pretty clear that Vince McMahon prefers money to morals or if I’m being completely honest, fattening his own pockets while his employees are forced into performing like circus animals for a country that literally murders its own, simply for expressing other viewpoints. Saudi Arabia sounds so “progressive”.

In regards to Crown Jewel, social media has shown that most fans are upset with the event. In fact, polls on just about every wrestling news site have shown that fans oppose this in a landslide. But again, Vince is getting rich and the show must go on. Because some people can’t be satisfied by already being rich and heck, who cares who they murder over there, it’s none of our business and the show must go on! Glad to see that WWE truly cares what their fans think.

I just can’t give this company my money anymore and there are much better alternatives out there like New Japan and Ring of Honor. I just can’t stomach what WWE has become, as they can’t see the line between reality and the circus they’ve created. The McMahons live on another planet, high on their own rich gases where the fantasy is their reality. I don’t think their brains have broke kayfabe in quite some time and they don’t realize that most fans know the difference between the show and the real world.

Vince McMahon, we’re not stupid. And frankly, I have financially supported your product since the ’80s when my mum was yelling at me about the phone bill after calling your hotline too much. I have watched every “big four” pay-per-view since Wrestlemania I but I’m not doing it anymore. So enjoy the Saudi blood money and placating to the virtue signalers. I know I’m not alone in this, so I hope you can right the ship before it’s too late… but it’s probably too late.

But hey, “It’s all about the monaaay!”… am I right?

Talking Pulp Wrasslin’: Hulkamania Is Runnin’ Sour

One cannot deny the greatness that is Hulk Hogan. He is a superstar that took some redneck pastime and made it into a worldwide phenomena.

Sure, he had help from the WWF (now WWE) marketing machine and was guided by the vision of Vince McMahon, Jr. but he did takeover 1980s pop culture and injected a surge of professional wrestling into the arms of kids and adults at that time.

Hulk Hogan is a mastodon and without him, professional wrestling might not exist today. Every superstar and diva that has enjoyed their life in that world, owes a huge debt to Hulk Hogan that none of them will ever be able to repay.

Hulk Hogan preached morals and expressed ethics, he told us all to take our vitamins and to fight for what is right. He became a comic book hero that slammed the immense Andre the Giant, stood against the evil corporate greed of “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, continually conquered the evil Heenan Family and proved he was better than his allies when they grew jealous and turned on him. Every challenge Hogan faced, he overcame. Okay, maybe not the Ultimate Warrior but at the time, Hogan was passing the torch to the next great superstar and hero. He was doing what was “best for business”.

However, that was all thirty years ago and Hulk Hogan is a character just like Spider-Man or Superman are characters. The comic book isn’t reality.

Terry Bollea is the man that played Hulk Hogan. He is not Hulk Hogan. Granted, I don’t think he knows that and most of the time, neither do his fans or the press. It probably doesn’t help that he refers to himself as “The Hulkster” even when he isn’t in the squared circle. He has become the physical embodiment of the fictional character, even though the real man is still in there and will always be there because fiction is fiction and superheroes don’t exist.

If you aren’t aware of the recent controversies regarding Hulk Hogan and his blatant racist and homophobic remarks, then you’ve really been living under a rock. I’m not going to rehash and reprint them here, as they are posted everywhere and this article isn’t about the remarks themselves. This is about the bigger picture.

Somewhere along the way, Terry Bollea started drinking his own Kool-Aid. It is probably our fault, the fans of the guy who have watched and worshiped him since he won the WWF World Heavyweight Championship from the Iron Sheik in January of 1984. But how could we not be effected by Hulkamania in the 80s? Granted, I was more of a fan of the heels (or bad guys) but Hogan was a force of nature and the most charismatic guy on screen no matter who he faced. Hulk Hogan was the brand and that brand was the WWF, which I (and many other people) loved back then. He was the centerpiece of that comic book come-to-life.

When you play a character like that, one who represents your ideal persona and is an extension of your own personality, albeit massively exaggerated, how do you not get lost in that identity? When everywhere you go, people are there expecting to see you, as that character, it is probably damn near impossible not to fully become that character. Take into account the level of stardom and fanfare that Terry Bollea had wearing his red and yellow uniform and one can see that it is something that isn’t easy to just walk away from.

Most people want to be liked. Hulk Hogan was loved and adored and certainly benefited in regards to the lady folk. Why wouldn’t one embrace it? I don’t really blame him for that. I also don’t blame us, the fans, for playing along because it is hard not to love Hulk Hogan, the character and the brand.

By the time the 1990s rolled around, Hulkamania had gotten boring. Hogan eventually became a bad guy and revitalized his career as the leader of the n.W.o. (New World Order). Sure, the n.W.o. was the coolest thing to ever happen to wrestling at the time but despite the revisionist history that is popular now, which states that Hogan became beloved again as a bad guy, people still wanted him gone in order to make room for the new superstars such as Sting, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Bill Goldberg. Even when the n.W.o. was cheered, Hogan was often times booed, violently. Hulkamania was a thing that most fans, if not all, just didn’t want to buy into anymore. Times had changed.

When Hulk Hogan returned to the WWF in the early 00s, he was still n.W.o. Hogan. However, shortly after, he returned to his superhero roots and put the red and yellow back on. By that time, it was a welcome change and fans embraced it. People are weak for nostalgia, especially professional wrestling fans. The long hiatus without that character allowed people to get over their boredom with it. The fans loved old school Hogan and he has been powered by that reaction ever since.

Following his career resurgence, he has been in and out of WWE (which changed from WWF in May of 2002), ran TNA (Total Nonstop Action) and even started his own wrestling promotion. Mostly, he has been a WWE character that shows up at big events to help with promotion. Terry Bollea, as Hulk Hogan, has spent the last few years being an ambassador for WWE and he’s done a pretty fine job of it, as he is still the most recognized face of the brand – sorry, Dwayne.

However, he’s seemed a bit off ever since a lot of his family issues came to light in recent years. He has gotten divorced, it was messy and very public. His son drunkenly crashed his car, giving his best friend permanent brain damage in the process, after Hogan allowed his kid and his kid’s friend to drink while underage. He has had issues with his daughter and trying to manage her nonexistent music career. He even had a sex tape surface. I don’t want to watch Hulk Hogan have sex. Celebrities are terribly boring in the sack anyway. Seriously, they have awful fucking sex.

Also, while making media appearances over the last couple years, he seems like he has a bit of brain damage. Maybe he took too many chairshots to the head.

For instance, while cutting a promo during Wrestlemania XXX in the Superdome, he kept referring to it as the Silverdome. The Superdome is in New Orleans, the Silverdome was in Detroit and hasn’t been functional for a decade. Then during the Stanley Cup Finals he kept talking about how big of a Tampa Bay Lightning fan he was but kept referring to head coach Jon Cooper as “John Connor”. I didn’t know the leader of the resistance against SkyNet was a hockey coach? Of course, this can all be brushed off as the effects of old age and Hogan being senile.

However, he’s often times told his own revisionist history when describing his relationships with other former wrestlers who grew to hate him. He kept talking up how he and the Ultimate Warrior buried the hatchet just before he died. It got to the point where the Warrior’s widowed wife had to blast Hogan for it. Nothing is sacred to Hogan and he has become a guy who will do anything to keep the spotlight on himself. Hence, the whoring out of his family to VH1, as well as him force feeding the world his daughter.

Hulk Hogan became obsessed with himself. Or I should say, Terry Bollea became obsessed with parading around as this fictional character he and Vince McMahon created years ago. And all the while, we have seen him as nothing other than Hulk Hogan: an invincible, moral, ethical and positive role model.

And that is why people are so shocked. Hulk Hogan would never say and do those horrible things. Hulk Hogan is a perfect superhuman. Hulk Hogan is a hero to everyone. “Take your vitamins”; “Fight for the rights of every man”. Hulk Hogan is the “Real American”.

Terry Bollea is just a man though.

Men have faults. Men aren’t perfect. They can, at times, be super and heroic but ultimately, at the end of the day, they are mortal. They can hurt and be hurt. They can fall. They can make mistakes.

I’m writing this because I think people have either lost sight of this or they have never really put it into the proper perspective. I am not excusing what Terry Bollea did, by any means.

We’ve all said stupid shit at some point or another. Most of us have probably done something horrible to someone else over the course of our lives. We’ve all fallen. Luckily for most people, we aren’t under a microscope.

We live in a celebrity obsessed culture that completely fucks up the perception of reality for many people. And this is what happens when we deify human beings. When they don’t live up to the image of perfection placed upon them, everyone loses their damn mind.

Terry Bollea will have to live with this for the rest of his life and face the consequences of his stupid behavior. Behavior that has gone on to taint the legacy of “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan.

But instead of Terry looking in the mirror at Terry, he’s probably going to keep hiding behind his Hulk Hogan facade. It isn’t about turning off the switch because he’s gotten to the point where he doesn’t remember where that switch is.

Delusions of grandeur are still just delusions.

The thing is, we don’t have to be delusional with him anymore.