Each week as I watch the various wrestling programs, invariably I find myself saying, “I miss this or I miss that” followed shortly thereafter with “Why don’t they do that anymore?” To say that the world of professional wrestling is vastly different than it was 30 years ago, would be a gross understatement. Heck it’s very different than it was 10-15 years ago. It is with these weekly frustrations I decided to put together my list of the top 10 things I miss most in wrestling.
As I began this list, initially I thought it might be tough to come up with, however, after about 10 minutes I already had about 15 things. Keep in mind, I didn’t just narrow my list down to one area of the wrestling business, numerous facets of the industry are found in my listing. So here we go, the top 10 things I miss most in wrestling……
10 – Referees Names Being Announced
Is there a group of people who have become more and more irrelevant in wrestling than the referees? Back in the day we knew who these guys were. Randy Anderson, Joey Morella, Dick Kroll, Tim White, Tommy Young, Dick Woherle (with his 70’s bell bottoms) and Mark Curtis are just some of the names over the years who made their presence felt as the third man in the ring. As a fan you knew the match was in good hands and no shenanigans were going to take place as long as one these men were on hand to keep order. Even the rogue referees added to the entertainment value of the match. Teddy Long, Nick Patrick, the Hebner Brothers and Danny Davis all drew the fans ire with their actions at one time or another during significant matches. Now these nameless, easily distracted and personality free individuals, who rarely call anything anymore just take up space and seem to be more of a spectator than a person of authority in the ring.
9 – Time Limits
I can’t tell you how much I miss hearing the ring announcer say “with a 15 minute time limit” when watching a match on TV. Think of it, is there any sport, outside of baseball, that exists that has no parameters as to how long the game is played? In wrestling it feels like it is understood that there will be a winner at some point. They could go 5 minutes, could go one hour, but without a time limit how the heck do we know? Also, without time limits we basically have said goodbye to one of the best booking tools there was, draws. When wrestlers fought to a draw it added another layer to a feud and built up more hype to the rematch. Now we’ve been trained as fans to just come to grips with the fact these guys will go at it until the next commercial break, whenever that is.
8 – Fewer Pay Per Views
As money, cable TV and competition grew in the wrestling business, the natural progression of more pay per views occurred. But I would argue less is more when it comes to these monthly shows that seem thrown together on a whim. Imagine a WWE world that only existed of the big four PPV’s (Wrestlemania, Summer Slam, Royal Rumble and Survivor Series). You can stretch out the PPV’s so that they occur every three months which will allow you to build longer and intense feuds which the fans (not universe Vince) can invest into. More often than not, it feels like feuds are rushed into for a one off match just to fill a PPV card. Fewer PPV’s will also make RAW and Smackdown more must see TV. It also gives an opportunity to save the productions costs that go along with putting a PPV together and possibly putting that savings towards a live Smackdown product. And while we’re at it, let’s put Survivor Series back on Thanksgiving night, and make the other three late afternoon events again. These PPV’s that end on Sunday night at 11pm when you have to get up for work or class on a Monday morning are a killer.
7 – Top 10 Contenders
Quick question. Please name in order the current top 10 contenders for the WWE belt? That’s right you can’t. Why, because there is no listing. Also, how is it determined who is the number one contender? Couldn’t tell you, and I doubt you’d be able to share the scientific method WWE employs to determine the number 1 contender. I remember going to the local candy store to pick up the latest Pro Wrestling Illustrated to see who the top 10 contenders were for each title in each company. Now it’s a process which is quite confusing. Can WWE really expect us to believe that part time wrestlers Kane and Sting deserved title shots against Seth Rollins over the likes of Cesaro and Dolph Ziggler? Note to Vince those two horrible feud ideas almost killed Sting, and ended up costing your champion a serious injury against Kane which put him out of action for months. Anyway, with a ranking system wins actually start to matter again. A number 7 contender defeating a number 1, 2 or 3 contender moves them up the charts and keeps the fans interested and informed. So let’s get the rankings system back so we can actually begin to have some point of reference.
6 – Title Changes At House Shows
Okay, I know I already wrote an article on the decline of the house show. But seriously, and to briefly repeat myself, other than going to see the wrestlers live, why am I dropping pretty big bucks to see live matches, that I’ll probably mimic the ones I saw the same two guys have on the previous RAW on Smackdown? Having titles start to change on house shows, will start bringing more people into the building, and yes WWE that means more money to line the pockets to make a direct to DVD movie that only the actors family members and WWE personnel will watch. WHEW, okay, off that soap box.
5 – Managers
Two words – Bobby Heenan. This man gave us as many memorable moments in wrestling than most of the wrestlers in the decade of the 80’s. He was the ultimate manager but others like The Grand Wizard, J.J. Dillon, Jimmy Hart, Jim Cornette, Lou Albano, Gary Hart, Paul E. Dangerously and Classy Freddie Blassie played a vital role in helping bring fans into the arena too. For some of these managers, the most of important part of their job was that they were the mouthpieces for those wrestlers who were great in the ring or looked good, but lacked the proper verbal skills that made them connect with the TV audience. Why in WWE we have been reduced to only one lone “advocate” (see they can’t even use the word manager) to perform these duties for the Rusev’s Ryback’s and Roman Reigns’ of the world, to help build their characters up, is beyond me. You can be a great technical wrestler without having to have the gift of gab. Just partner up with a manager and go for it. Makes me think that WWE would miss out on the talents of a Dynamite Kid or a Great Muta these days unless they were able to develop the gift of gab.
4 – Wrestling Moves Being Announced By Play By Play Announcers
So let’ s see, we have backbreakers, chin locks, armbars, suplexes, waist locks, head scissors, the tree of woe (my personal favorite), step over toe holds and about 995 more wrestling moves, according to Chris Jericho’s famous list of over 1000 moves, yet we never hear them mentioned on Monday and Thursday nights. It is one of the most frustrating things that WWE has eliminated over the past several years, and to be honest it makes the announcers sound silly. The trained and experience eye of an older wrestling fan probably knows what move say Dean Ambrose is using on Kofi Kingston, yet we continue to hear the announce team go on at length about a topic that has nothing to do with the action going on in the ring, The younger fan base has no idea when a guy is given a slingshot into a turnbuckle. They’re just told the wrestler was “thrown into the corner”. It just continues down the path of lessening the appreciation of the actual skills of the men/women inside the ring. JR sounded like a free man when he announced the Wrestlekingdom 9 PPV this past January. Brought back memories of the Mid South/UWF/NWA version of Jim Ross again. Gorilla Monsson and Gordon Solie must be spinning in their graves on Monday and Thursday nights.
3 – Commercial Free TV Matches
Two guys are about 3 minutes into a match. One gets thrown out of the ring. What happens next? Yes, you are correct, a commercial. A commercial break right in the middle of the match. So now let’s take that same approach to the NFL. Patriots trail the Steelers by 4 with 1:45 left with no timeouts and the clock is running. 1st and 10 Brady throws, it’s complete for a 7 yard gain. 2nd and 3, now a word from our sponsors. Why would you take a commercial break in the middle of a televised match? It’s 2015. I know commercial demands and advertising dollars are greater now than 30 years ago. But all I keep hearing about are the crack writers and TV people employed at WWE and nobody can create matches that fall into a block of TV programming? See point 9 on my list. This is where you can take advantage of time limits. Here’s an idea, cut the ridiculous back stage antics and Authority bits and put that time into the matches so they’re not interrupted. Perfect case in point, Sting vs. Ric Flair, Clash of Champions 1 on TBS. They fought to a 45 minute draw without one single commercial break,
2 – The Territories
The old territory based system allowed the talent at all levels to work and get better at their craft. It also gave the wrestlers more places to work and make legitimate money. Whether you worked in the AWA, WWF, Mid South or one of the multiple territories within the NWA you had a chance to have a successful career and it gave the fans viewing options. Right now other than WWE, your options here in North America are very limited. And to be honest, I really don’t consider TNA, ROH and the indies as territories. They are just small wrestling companies trying give the fans another option than the big dog. The old territories, offered their own style of wrestling as well. What you saw in the Minnesota based AWA was a very different presentation than what you saw in the south from the NWA which differed greatly than what the WWF gave you. I know it will never come back but one can argue strongly that the death of the territories lead to the death of the business ever being what it was in its heyday.
AND NOW THE NUMBER ONE THING I MISS MOST IN WRESTLING…….Kayfabe
Oh the American version of the iron curtain. The mystique of what wrestling really was. You’ve heard it referred to many times by Dusty Rhodes and others it was like the equivalent of being in the mafia. Nobody ever was able to get in, but if you did, you were in for life. Hey, let’s be honest, most of us knew that wrestling had a predetermined finish between two athletes who were putting on an athletic performance, but it was still fun to think that maybe this guy really does hate that guy. When Vince McMahon came out and told us the truth, he burst our bubble. Any little doubt was uncovered, which I guess was ok, but what it has lead to is an abomination of the whole system. What we have now are a bunch of actors, playing roles in WWE’s shot story films. We will watch HHH and Stephanie being the manipulating, vicious, horrible leaders of the Authority, yet 60 seconds later they’re granting a child’s make a wish request. It just makes no sense. I find it insulting and I really do think the blatant killing of kayfabe we see now is hurting the business much more than it is helping it.
Well, that’s it. My top 10 list of things I miss most in wrestling. Now my honorable mentions include; 20 second counts for when a wrestler is thrown out of the ring, 2 out of 3 fall matches, Howard Finkel, a roster of only full time wrestlers, dark arenas, 2 hour RAW’s and the company name of WWF – I can’t stand that E.
It was fun making this list, but a tad depressing too. It also makes me worried about the future of the business. As they continue to take away the things that made us fans to begin with, how much longer before we just don’t watch anymore?
What do you miss most about wrestling? Let us know in comments section below.