Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wrasslin' around

[Left] Still the best entrance ever: The countdown clock from Jericho's initial WWE run.

The other day in The Los Angeles Times, there was a decent article about the new, family-friendly direction the WWE was headed in. However, to a longtime wrestling fan like myself, reading it reminded me that “family-friendly” is a relative term indeed. The columnist also didn't come across as much of a wrestling fan, since the article focused almost solely on current stars and provided little background.

While the WWE has undoubtedly strayed from the tits, ass, violence and blood of the appropriately-named Attitude Era, there is still plenty to get offended by. They have just shifted the focus from things that got them the teen / mature TV ratings (blood, breasts) to simpler storylines and non-bloody beatdowns. Also, with the exception of re-hiring Chris Masters, there has been a shift away from the professional bodybuilder look, probably in reaction to the Chris Benoit incident.

DX, the original group of bad humor, just reformed, even though Shawn Michaels and HHH are both in their mid-40s. Although it was played up as farcical, HBK did Superkick a tween girl in the face less than a month ago. (Background: They were doing a skit where HHH had to talk HBK back into wrestling, but HBK was working as a cook – I mean, a chef – at essentially a cheap hotel restaurant... Yeah, I don't know why I watch wrestling either sometimes.) They also still do childish jokes and crotch chops.

The best argument that can be made for the new direction of the WWE is a shift to more old school storylines. For example, Randy Orton is the current WWE champion, and he has retained his title each time with chicanery, normally with a member of his gang breaking up a pinfall or interfering. Orton has also done vile things, like punting HHH's wife Stephanie McMahon in the skull.

Opposing Orton would be John Cena, who you might remember from some funny appearances on late night television shows and some god-awful movies (The Marine, 12 Rounds). He is as close to Hulk Hogan as you can get in the current wrestling industry, as he is built like a starting middle linebacker and always plays the “good guy” role, at least for the last five years. (He does get booed a lot by hardcore fans, and while I'm not the biggest fan of his squeaky-clean persona, I do think he's a good wrestler. He also seems to be a good guy away from the ring as well.)

There are other clear bad guy vs. good guy feuds throughout the Raw roster, although I will say that as a result it tends to be the less entertaining show for longtime fans. Smackdown, which airs Friday nights on MyNetworkTV, is by far the better show at this point. That show has an edgier feud between the straight-edge CM Punk and the notorious risk taker Jeff Hardy, which culminated in a vicious tables, ladders and chairs match Sunday night at SummerSlam.

While there is far less blood in WWE programming now, there are just as many metal chair attacks and leaps from 20-foot-high ladders, so I'd hesitate to say they're getting back to “family-friendly” programming. When I was watching wrestling as a kid, it was just tamer in general; the brightly-colored outfits of Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Hulk Hogan definitely lightened the tone.


  1. How dare you criticize John Cena's films! He has stolen my heart! Although to be perfectly honest, the closest I've come to seeing them was constantly staring at that huge poster for The Marine in the Cigar office...

    I have not actually watched wrestling in forever, back then it was still WWF, everyone loved Y2J (I hear that's changed?), Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was God's gift to man, and they had recently merged with WCW. I find that in general it's a lot harder to watch these days, the story line just doesn't pull me in anymore.

  2. I just realized I forgot to reply to this comment until now. Oops!

    And, I also forgot that we had that huge poster of John Cena in the office, and it was all thanks to Samantha Turner #1! Wow, what a trip down memory lane. I wonder what happened to that poster... I'd actually like to have it now if no one else took it. My apartment walls are always so sparse when I move into a new place.

    Y2J actually only goes by Chris Jericho now, but he's still awesome. He did an angle with HBK (Shawn Michaels) about how no matter what HBK did, he was loved by the fans, even when he faked an injury in a match. Since then, he's been super intense and calling all the fans hypocrits, and even destroyed a huge TV by smashing it into HBK's face, a la when he smashed Marty Jannenty's face through Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake's plate glass window.

  3. I've seen very little wrestling since WM 23 but even I can tell you it isn't "family friendly".

    I can't get behind WWE anymore. I mean I'll catch the occasional PPV but that's about it. The guest host on Raw stuff is stupid and has a year left at best, ECW looks awful and I'm not sure where I can find Smackdown anymore. Oh and in my opinion the brand stuff has run it's course also. When you have Smackdown main eventers appearing on Raw pushing the Raw mid-carders off the show it's time to put them all back under one roof.


  4. Craig, I would say that if you're sick of the WWE of the past couple years, you should check out Smackdown. Week in and week out, it is shockingly good, with some good feuds and matches. Jericho is there now too, and he's working as a super intense heel who calls all of the fans hypocrites. They also have a couple other guys who work really well, and CM Punk as a heel champion is shockingly good; he just beat Jeff Hardy in a great TLC match at SummerSlam for the belt.


Try not to be too much of an ass, unless completely necessary. You are subject to tyrannical moderation.


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