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THE RANT: Sorry Sean Waltman, Wrestling Has Lost That Loving Feeling

Posted By James Walsh on 07/09/17

Recently, Sean Waltman was critical of wrestling fans who cite the lack of popularity of pro wrestling these days versus the glory days of the Rock and Wrestling era or the Attitude Era of the following decade. He cited numbers to support that WWE is more successful now than it was then and suggested it is rose tinted glasses that prevent long time fans from appreciating what we have now versus what we had then.

There are elements of this I agree with. And, elements I do not. So, here we go.

First, and I hate having to do this, I like Sean Waltman. He has guested on our show a number of times and has always been a gentleman to us. In fact, we shared a mutual friend who passed away a few years ago so that binds us. We're good. Nothing I am saying is a dig at him in the slightest. I wouldn't do so. I'm straight up OK with X Pac. Period.

With that said, where I disagree is not in stats. As he points out, the ratings are a fraction of what they were during the Attitude Era if you combined WWE, WCW, and ECW viewership together. But, the revenue produced by massive merchandising is higher than back in those glory days. Amazing if you think about it. If merchandising was what it is now back when the product was actually good, could you imagine the profit amount then?

"Rose tinted glasses" is a very true statement. However, I also think some people put those glasses on today to like a fairly predictable and redundant WWE product. My thinking is there is a section of wrestling fans unwilling to be critical of WWE because it is kind of the last man standing to some extent and to shut the door on them is to shut the door on the wrestling industry.

There are "rose tinted glasses" though. I remember arguing with a fan who grew up watching with the "New Generation" of the WWE - The era between the 80's and early 90's Rock and Wrestling connection yet before the Attitude Era. The product was lost and filled with cartoon-like characters that all seemed to have day jobs. There was a plumber, a garbage man, a dentist, and even a cow man. And yet, to this fan, it was their glory days.

Much like the music we first find when we rebel against our parents' musical tastes and find our own music becomes what we view as the best stuff ever, the same is true of wrestling. Whatever we watch when we fall for it is viewed as the best stuff ever. I grew up in the 80s though so naturally the stuff I grew up on WAS the best stuff ever. That's just fact. But, I digress. :)

The bottom line is this. WWE has managed to merchandise and shine shit for the past 15 years. Thanks to monthly subscriptions via the Network, they have an almost steady amount of money coming in each month both nationally and internationally. As much as I dislike the WWE and their underhanded business tactics in many situations throughout history, you cannot fault their rock solid business model.

Back on track.

When fans are critical of wrestling today, they are not talking about who watched it more and when. They are also not talking about dollars and cents and who sold how many T shirts. They are talking about that feeling you get when you know you're watching something special. It does not come around often. But, when you feel it, you know it... Even if you can't describe it after the fact. Not to start singing that wrestling has lost that loving feeling. But, it has. And, because WWE is so redundant and repetitive, which phrased that way is actually both things, I find the only thing I can get excited about is the potential of other companies to at least push the business to be better.

For that reason, I have continued to get excited about the prospects of the growth of Ring of Honor and Global Force Wrestling/TNA Impact Wrestling. I have backed both companies, more so TNA, since day one and will continue to do so. Why? Because the Monday night Wars were great because you had 2 great shows. The era after the Monday Night Wars sucked because you had 1 really shitty one.

Now, I don't expect ROH or GFW to compete with WWE. I am not sure we will ever see that again. But, I do champion their continued growth and success so that maybe one day we can legitimately see their product's success force WWE to be better and produce that loving feeling again. But, I'm just not sure the current set up of WWE can do that. Not for me, anyway.

Bottom line? Looking at the business as a business, Waltman is right. Looking at it as an artf form and a TV show? The intangible is what we are talking about and that is what Waltman's rant does not cover.