There is a feature on the “Wrestling with Words” website titled “Pro Wrestling Punditry” where a wrestling fan of some regard and esteem is asked 10 questions about his (or her) wrestling fandom. I figured that since I am probably a long way of being interviewed for the site, that I would use my platform to answer the question.
Question1: How old are you?
Answer: I turned 35 in January
Question2: When did you first start watching wrestling?
Answer: I don’t remember a specific time. My younger brother was a big fan. I used to look at the television when he was watching and remember being scared of Kamala. This must have been around 1986 and so every time Kamala came on, I ran into the other room. In fact, Kamala was the reason that I hated wrestling when I was first introduced to it because I was scared he would come on every time my brother had it on. I don’t know how I got over my fear, but eventually I did sometime in 1986 (so I was five years old) and have been watching ever since with no breaks. Once I started we watched WWF Superstars, Wrestling Challenge and the AWA. My relatives in Lynchburg, Virginia had cable and we did not (we lived/live in Brooklyn, New York) so we were really excited to watch the World Championship Wrestling show on TBS every summer and winter when we visited (we did not get cable until 1995).
Question3: When do you recall first thinking critically about wrestling?
Answer: I think this happened in stages (warning: I don’t know how I can keep this answer short). I always knew that it was a show because I have a relative who wrestled in the Southeast and my uncle was a fan so my brother and I knew it was a show well before we were even 10 years old. As far as match quality went, there was a big part of me that liked the NWA better than the WWF because the match quality of the former even though I had more access to the latter. Moreover, I always liked technical wrestling which is why I had the favorites that I had (more on that later). When it comes to thinking critically about match quality, I think even now that I don’t look at what works as deeply as those on the prowrestlingonly.com board. I just know what I like.
My critical thinking about wrestling is more about booking than match quality. I started with that when I was around 12-13 years old. This is where my stages of thinking critically really took shape because even though I thought about booking a great deal, my first inclination was to think about it from my perspective. I remember once in 2003 (so I was 22), someone did a recap of Raw for the Wrestling Observer website and criticized WWE giving away the WM 19 rematch between Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho on Raw. He said that it was entertaining, but “wrestling is not about entertainment, it is about drawing money.” I was taken aback by that statement-“wrestling is not about entertainment? Isn’t that exactly what it is about? “Then I started getting the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and the more I read and heard Dave Meltzer…the more I began seeing wrestling as a business more than art. Right now, when I think about booking-I think about how it can increase, decrease or keep interest (i.e.: draw money). In fact generally speaking, I am most entertained by wrestling that works. When I say wrestling that works, I am talking about drawing money, drawing ratings and getting good crowd reactions. I never think about wrestling based on my personal preferences anymore, which is kind of weird for two reasons. The first is because wrestling is my favorite form of entertainment and secondly while I am relatively positive about the products that I watch-I am still critical. It’s just that if something works…I’ll put it this way if the Roman Reigns push was working-I would not be saying “push Cesaro” even if I like his work better than Reigns because the fans getting behind Reigns would be entertaining because it is always fun seeing a crowd engaged. I should also note that a big part of my analysis of any promotion is considering how it could do what it wants to do the right way. For instance, if WWE is going to take the approach it takes to its product, I want to figure out how they can make that approach work as opposed to living in the proverbial “fantasy world” where the company overhauls the way it promotes.
Question4: What is your favorite promotion of all time?
Answer: Despite what I said above-it’s WWE. Like I said, I grew up in the Northeast and my only regular access to wrestling was WWE. Moreover, my two favorite years watching wrestling was mostly because of WWE (even though I had cable by then and was watching WCW regularly). I always get defensive (even if it is in my own head) when people criticize WWE heavily and say it sucks. Let me change that a little, I get defensive when people suggest that anyone who watches WWE is an idiot and that Raw is the worst show on television (not just wrestling). I think that is a bit overboard…
Also my favorite wrestlers of all-time are from WWE. I would say with the exception of Ric Flair, the other 9 of my top 10 favorite wrestlers of all time had their biggest success in WWE (notwithstanding what they did in other organizations or the independent scene). WWE encompasses a lot about what I like in wrestling. I like the music, I like the Titantron, I like the pageantry of Wrestlemania and now that the in-ring is very good-there is little not to like in the macro (it’s the specifics in how it is presented which is problematic).
I should say that I am a huge fan of Jim Crockett promotions and WCW from 1995-early 1999. I like the serious/sports like approach to wrestling that the NWA had and I was/am a big fan of the New World Order.
Question5: Who is your favorite wrestler of all-time?
Answer: Bret Hart. As I said earlier, I was a big fan of technical wrestling growing up and Bret Hart was the master of that type of wrestling. I also enjoyed his heel run immensely (more on that below). In fact when Bret turned heel, it was the first time I ever rooted for the heel because I wanted to stay loyal to him. I used to appreciate heels, but I could not bring myself to root for them until Bret turned and reunited the Hart Foundation. As an aside, when I hear Hart Foundation-I think 1997, not 1987 even though I was a fan during both time periods.
On the favorite wrestler discussion, there are two things that will draw me to a wrestler-tremendous in-ring skills or a personality similar to mine. Bret was my favorite in-ring worker so he was my favorite of all-time. At the same time, I am drawn to anti-heroes like Steve Austin, CM Punk, Eddie Kingston and the Undertaker. With that said, I am also a huge fan of “traditional babyfaces” such as Ricky Steamboat, Bayley and Sami Zayn…it just depends. Daniel Bryan was my favorite wrestler before he retired and while I appreciate the fact that he is seemingly a great person, honestly he was my favorite because I enjoyed watching his matches the most.
Question6: What is your favorite era of wrestling?
Answer: The Monday Night War. The reason I say that is because WWE 1997 and WWE 2000 are my two favorite years as a fan. Moreover, I am a fan of invasion angles done correctly and the New World Order was the best American invasion angle in history. I like the in-ring of the pre and post Monday Night War era better than the in-ring of the Monday Night War, but as you can see from my earlier answers a lot of the Monday Night War appealed to what I like as a fan. For instance, I think the fact that a pimp and a porn star (and a porn star whose treatment of women was questionable) were babyfaces is hilarious. I like the Godfather and Val Venis, but I was never huge fans of either (in comparison to others)-I just think about the fact that they were heroes and I chuckle. It’s too strange not to be funny. Those two are just small examples as to why I thought the Monday Night War/Attitude Era was so appealing. With that said, 1998 and 1999 were not my favorite years-even though I actually like the Wolfpac and was a fan of Goldberg’s streak.
I like what is going on now because I like the in-ring product and I watch more wrestling now because I have WWE Network, I watch ROH every week, I have my ways of catching some New Japan, I do random searches on YouTube and watch some obscure stuff and I even enjoy TNA. I actually think the next 5-10 years could be my favorite era if the creative and star making processes of the companies that I watch become consistently good because the talent is there and the exposure is just going to become more prevalent.
Question7: What is your favorite style of wrestling?
Answer: This again goes to several earlier answers. For the most part, I like what I like. In other words, I am not looking for a certain style of wrestling. At the same time, Bret Hart is my favorite wrestler of all-time primarily because of his in-ring work and to that end I would say that I like technical wrestling. I remember a message board poster who I have great respect for asking “what is technical wrestling?” I actually think that poster was right, but I would say that technical wrestling is whatever is pushed by announcers as technical wrestling (or at least has been, that term is not used often anymore). I would say that technical wrestling is what Bret Hart, Daniel Bryan, Ricky Steamboat, William Regal and Ric Flair did.
As far as spotfests go, I am not opposed to them-I am more worried about how it affects the wrestlers’ health than I am my personal enjoyment. In other words, I can enjoy a match where there is a lot of as Steve Corino would say “crash and burn” if I was not worried about the health of the wrestlers. It’s not my favorite style, but the style in and of itself is not an inherent turnoff. My least favorite style is probably the walk and brawl…but those can be entertaining as well.
One more thing…I love watching the Young Bucks (I wanted to put this somewhere).
Question8: What are the elements that make up a talented pro wrestler?
Answer: This is tough because all wrestlers are talented in their own way. Some are big, some are highly athletic, some are technically sound and some are very strong. I don’t look for “talent” in terms of physical attributes or natural ability as much as I look for how the wrestlers use that ability. I would say that Dave Meltzer can be overly complimentary of someone who is a great athlete because I don’t equate that with great wrestling or being a great wrestler. This is not acrobatics, this is wrestling.
Question9: What is most important to you when it comes to spending time with a pro wrestling product?
Answer: Two things: access and context. I am single and I freelance…in other words I have a lot of time to watch wrestling. If I can access the content, then I am likely to watch it. When it comes to context, I really need to understand what is going on. For instance, I do not watch every New Japan show-but I always know what is going on so that when I do watch I have the context needed to appreciate it. Actually New Japan goes to access as well, New Japan World is too annoying to sign up for so I have not as of yet. As far as older wrestling such as the Network or YouTube clips-I rarely watch entire matches. I watch more for moments that will make me smile and/or big angles. Most of the time, it is just because I have a few minutes to watch something and/or I am reminded of an angle and just want to watch it again. Honestly, there are other times where I just need to use or leverage wrestling just to get out of my own life like when (hypothetically speaking) I am crushing on a waitress who is flirting with her co-worker. To mess with the wording of this particular question, wrestling itself is very important to my life. It is by far my favorite form of entertainment so going back full circle, I will spend time with just about any pro wrestling that is accessible, but I am too set in my ways/routine to watch anything where I don’t have context.
Question10: What major changes do you see in the pro wrestling landscape 10 years from now?
Answer: Well, I think technology is going to be a big part of change. I am not sure where wrestling is going to fit in as a weekly cable television show. At the same time, I do not believe that WWE (and maybe they will be the only company) will be forced into a television situation that will compromise their business. Indeed, they may not make the same amount of money in television rights fees-but the only way that Raw and Smackdown will be network exclusive shows is if it makes financial sense for WWE. Other than that, I think that WWE will still be on television, but I am not ruling out that everything in WWE will be on the network. I’m just not entirely sure.
I think other companies are going to leverage technology to increase their visibility…I mean even more than they do know. I do not know about television because I am not sure how any of the secondary companies are going to convince television executives (major stations) that they deserve a prime time slot without a major star or stars and lesser production values. I still think that wrestling will be successful because I have a feeling that promoters are going to super serve the hardcore fans in a way that will draw those fans in to major events. In other words, what we see now is just going to increase with knowledge as to what ardent fans desire. Perhaps another way to say it is that the loyalty of wrestling fans to wrestling in combination with more delivery methods is going to help wrestling survive. The thing is I do not know that it will thrive unless these companies find a way to create major stars.
I also should say that while the in-ring style may slow down because of injuries, in-ring work is going to become the most important aspect of wrestling. In other words, the big draws (such as they will be) are going to be the best wrestlers or the best wrestling events. Charisma is still going to be important, in terms of separating the mechanics from the stars-but the thing that is going to draw the hardcore fans I discussed above is a product that they know is going to deliver quality in-ring action.