November 15, 2010

TV-14 Won't Save WWE

Let's face it: We're all begging for a return of the glory days of WWE known as the Attitude Era. While this in theory is sounds awesome there are a few fundamental problems with that as of right now. I could talk about trying to attract younger viewers and that whole thing, but I'm going beyond that.

Pro wrestling in recent years has been under scrutiny for injuries sustained by performers and their effects. The poster case for this is of course Chris Benoit. He received so many concussions and other head trauma that he had the brain of an 80 year old alzheimers patient by 2007. The fact of the matter is that WWE and wrestling promotions in general are trying to eliminate these types of injuries by banning chair shots to the head and similar measures.

Things have changed dramatically since I first started watching wrestling in 1996-7. Some people may say that WWE's current product is what the fans of today want to see. While I don't discount that possibility, I think it's just bad business to alienate older fans by changing everything and barely acknowledging the past existed. Yes, you need to stay current but at the same time you can keep aspects of the past and present them in a new way. Every generation will have its Hulk Hogans, Steve Austins, Bret Harts etc. and I get that. Just so long as they acknowledge the originals I'm cool.

The other problem WWE has is that they can't seem to find creative ways to book gimmick matches anymore. I remember a time when there were years between Hell in a Cell matches, Ladder matches were used to crown champions not contenders and the matches were actually exciting when they finally did happen. Now, everything is watered down and we can predict the next HIAC, TLC and ladder matches like we can predict what time it was an hour ago. We know that there will be these matches every year now and in that they have lost their novelty.

Though the novelty may be gone, there is still the chance to put on a great match. A chance that is rarely taken anymore. Yes, there have been a few great gimmick matches in recent years, most of them are scathing indictments of the current WWE environment.

I do understand that we need to worry about the health of the performers. I don't deny the risks they subject themselves to for the sake of entertainment. That is very real and I won't dispute it. WWE in their recent push to protect their employees has taken some of the real risks away, and in doing so removed some of the perceived risk.

I'm not cold-hearted and I do think that there needs to be some safety for the performers, but I also expect things to look dangerous. I expect things to look like they hurt. The point is that the moves can be as safe as possible while still looking like they do real damage. Yes, accidents happen and people get injured but there is no need to completely strip out everything that is potentially hazardous from the ring. Some things do make sense, like banning chair shots to the head. That was a good call and while I do miss them I understand the purpose. That said, banning head shots still leaves back shots, body shots, arm/leg shots, etc. yet we barely ever see those. For the lack of use they may as well be banned at the same time.

I think the choice to expose the performers to these risks lies with the performers themselves. Let them make the choice to step into the ring and subject themselves to the use of weapons. It's as simple as a little check box on their contracts saying "yes I'm willing to have weapons used on me" or "no I'm not willing." WWE can still provide good medical care and inform their performers of the risk for injury and whatnot.

While some superstars won't be willing -- and I'm cool with that -- some will be. With that we could still see the extreme action some of us love, and keep everyone else happy. I'm not saying violence for the sake of violence is the answer. There is no need for everyone taking chair shots every week and I recognize that. I would rather see well written storylines that eventually culminate in the extreme matches.

Sadly, that will never happen. A TV-14 rating may allow for more violence, but we will never see an increase. The best we can hope for from a TV-14 rating in this new safer atmosphere is more extreme characters, more extreme promos and scantily clad divas (well, more scantily clad). In a way, those are all good things, but the wrestling will still be weak and unimpressive.

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