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  1. #1

    YLC-RD1 - Make Pro Wrestling Believe Again

    I have long known the truth about pro wrestling. I don’t need it to be explained by those who think it is time for me to grow up. Wrestling is a duality. On the one hand, we have incredibly talented athletes who on a nightly basis put their bodies on the line for our entertainment. On the other hand, we know that Becky Lynch didn’t really beat Rhonda Rousey in a fight. To be a wrestling fan is to accept the dual nature of our sport and to love it passionately anyway. Yet even though we are increasingly ‘in the know’ about the workings and machinations behind the curtain, it seems to me that just because ‘we know’ doesn’t mean we should say ‘we know’.

    Perhaps I’m just too long in the tooth for the modern wrestling world. My introduction to the sport came back in the 1980s. I watched wrestling before school, recorded on VHS tapes by my dear momma bear the night before. Sometimes the recording failed, and I would go to school grumpy that it would be at least another week before my next dose of wrestling. Then on other occasions, the recording would be perfect, and I would have an hour of WCW. I knew little to nothing of the WWF in those days and had no clue of the Japanese or Mexican scene. No, I was an early morning WCW guy and I’m a wrestling fan to this very day. Of course, in those days I didn’t ‘know’ about wrestling. There was no internet in those days and in my little corner of the world wrestling fans were few and far between. I wasn’t any poorer for my lack of knowledge. As I reminisce about those days, I was convinced that there was no one cooler than Ric Flair, no one more badass than Arn Anderson and no one who could kill you more quickly than Dan Spivey. Happy days and even happier memories.

    Today though something has shifted. Yes, I’m older and wiser, I have endless access to endless wrestling but whilst I love the sport, I no longer devour the sport. I don’t pull all-nighters to watch wrestling shows nor do I wake early to fire up the old VCR. What's the problem? Age primarily, but mainly, the business has been exposed and constant light is shone on the duality of wrestling. Another legend from my childhood, Jim Cornette, has long bemoaned this fact. Cornette is convinced that the pulling back of the curtain and the breaking of kayfabe has hurt the wrestling product. I don’t particularly care for Cornette’s language or bombast, but the legend has a point. He recently turned his guns towards AEW and the response from the Young Bucks to the chair shot that has set the internet on fire. For those of you who missed it, Shawn Spears almost took Cody’s head off with a chair shot straight out of ECW. Afterwards, the Bucks stood and proclaimed that the chair had been ‘gimmicked’ causing Cornette to question their suitability to be at this level of the game. Humbly, I happen to agree. To my mind, if you are going to have a thunderous chair shot, if Cody is going to bleed (again) all over an AEW ring - then own it. Tell the world that swinging chairs are not welcome in AEW, that Spears was completely out of line, has been fined a ridiculous sum and will probably never be seen on AEW programming ever again. Then Cody gets on the interwebs in the weeks to come and goes to bat for Spears. Cody was no fan of the chair shot, but Spears got his attention. Cody has raised his voice against the forces in AEW that wanted Spears gone and now if Spears has the guts, he will face Cody one on one, face to face. Done. Believable.

    Believable, that’s the word, that’s what rankles me. I know the duality of wrestling, but I promise not to run around proclaiming it be fake and in return I want the product to be believable. I’m not someone who will take sides in the wrestling world. I love WWE and want it to be better. I’m intrigued by AEW, I bought and loved ‘Double or Nothing’ and I want them to succeed. NJPW captures more and more of my attention. May all promotions everywhere know prosperous times, a rising tide lifts all ships - but may they all be believable. I want Cody & Spears to face off down the line and for there to be long term tension between the two. Cody might get revenge with a win over the chair swinging Spears but I don’t want Cody to ever forget the brutality of Spears’ attack. If we absolutely must watch Shane McMahon every week, I want him to be destroyed anytime he faces an actual wrestler. I don’t want intergender matches, Nia Jax is a talent but I’m thankful we never had to see her facing off against the late Dean Ambrose. I want long term storylines, wrestlers with memories, wins and losses meaning something and finishing moves finishing matches. Give me wrestling bathed and saturated in believability and I will lend it my eyes and my wallet.

    I guess that’s why I’m drawn to guys like Samoa Joe. I will watch anything with Joe involved. He speaks as if he means it and wrestles like he wants to destroy his opponent. I believe Joe, I’ll buy his t-shirts and I’ll cheer him on. The Viking Raiders? Not so much. Here are a couple of beasts who should strike terror into everyone on the roster and instead they’re lumbered with a horrendous unbelievable gimmick. I get the Revival, guys who want to beat up other guys. Simples. I don’t get the Viking Raiders. Admittedly, they haven’t been helped by shocking decision making, but if you want two big units to dress like Vikings every week, explain it to us. Make us believe. Why do these guys dress the way they do? Where did they meet? What's the attraction with Viking culture? Instead, they debuted with an awful name (which had already been changed from their time in NXT and the independents) and the very next week it was changed again. Unbelievable and sadly not in a good way. I won’t be surprised if they rapidly turn into this year’s Ascension.

    Professional Wrestling has always been a duality and always will be. We who love it know and accept this. Yet it seems to me that if our sport is to thrive, we must deny it's dual nature. We must stop shining light on the side of the business which should always be in the shade. We must stop making it unbelievable with poor decision making within and poor messaging without. David Letterman once asked Jerry Lawler about wrestling which according to Letterman was for many “a show, a display, a demonstration.” Lawler didn’t flinch in his defence of the sport, stood up and slapped Andy Kaufman off the stage. Yes please wrestling! More of this! Make us believe again!
    Last edited by scottwoodburn; 3 Weeks Ago at 07:32 AM.

  2. #2
    Man, i felt I just got hit with an old school fireball in the best possible way!

    Loved this! I dont know which Im more surprised by, that you were a first and foremost WCW fan or that you were such a morning person! I cant imagine waking up in the morning that early to do anything...but you were for sure starting the day out right!

    I loved WCW and grew up on it over the WWF. Its awesome to read such a fiery piece from someone else who did...

    I know there's no putting the cat back in the bag, but suspending disbelief while watching wrestling is a fine way to do wrestling storytelling. Wrestling, at its best, to me, is when its just being its own, unique genre.

    As for the Bucks, sadly they had to cave to this internet mob that finds the one negative thing they can to focus on and just keeps harping on it. They saw value, probably, in clearing the AEW's name and no reward in making the moment the big wrestling, storyline moment that it was.

    I think I'm able to enjoy other kinds of storytelling in wrestling, as I loved Lucha Underground, but I think for AEW, keeping it kayfabe and old school is a very good route. Much preffered MJF's scruffle over the Bucks.

    There were small grammar errors here, but they didnt detract me from enjoying the hell out of it. Good read! Keep burnin'the wood.

  3. #3
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    Really enjoyed it ! I echo what Benjamin said!

  4. #4
    LOP's part time glass ceiling DynamiteBillington's Avatar
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    Cornette may rub a lot of people the wrong way because of how he says things, but for the most part his points are correct. Despite knowing what we know about the business, there's no excuse when those in the business tell us what they're doing is fake. On the other hand (and I haven't actually seen it yet) what we know about concussion issues etc these days means they should know better than to be doing chair shots in the way I've seen this one described.

    At the end of the day, they need to make it real whilst still making it safe.

    FACT or FICTION: The Future of Smackdown
    PM me to get involved.

  5. #5
    Member #25 SirSam's Avatar
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    A very tasty piece Scott, I think a reflection on this topic is inevitably something anyone who writes about wrestling will eventually write so it is a great one to start with. You certainly did it better than my first one - Pro Wrestling & Why More Sports Should Be Fake. Anyway onto my feedback.

    STRUCTURE
    Really well done on this aspect, you have a strong introductory paragraph, reflect on your personal experience before relating it to a few scenarios in wrestling that relate to the topic and then wrap it up with a very strong conclusion.

    To get more technical I also like how you have structured your paragraphs, it is something I am not great at myself but it really stuck out to me. Each one is a different take on the topic and progresses your argument forward. You also had great usage of short sentences, particularly at the start of the paragraphs to introduce the topic and move the piece forward.

    Great work here, a real strength of the piece.

    CREATIVITY
    This isn't really a creative piece and as I said is a fairly common topic for wrestling fans to reflect on so not much to say here however I did like the style this was written in. The usage of first person made it more relate-able and was a very good choice.

    You blended in your more personal reflections with the factual parts in an engaging way.

    Overall this piece had a very strong voice and you could feel that you really believed what you were writing.

    CONTENT
    I really agree with you, I do view wrestling as a performance so the main thing I want is authenticity and a dedication to keeping the internal logic of the 'world' together. When you were talking about Samoa Joe being a badass and that resonating with you I certainly nodded along. Same with your reflections on what Cornette said about AEW and your words about Shane McMahon.

    Beyond me agreeing with you I do think you make a good argument however where you could have gone a step forward is truly calling out how not having this 'believe-ability' has caused long term damage and how you would fix it more fundamentally. To help you believe again should all comedy gimmicks be stopped? Should things be passed through a 'taking the piss filter'? Should everything be rooted in 'real life'? Should kayfabe be re-instituted or should everyone move beyond that to a world of watching wrestling as we do a movie?

    I'm just spit balling ideas but it is something you could have added to help.

    INTANGIBLES
    Nothing to say here.

    WHAT YOU CAN WORK ON
    As this is your first piece I have read I would say great start, I don't have anything specific you need to work on. I am looking forward to seeing your approach to other topics and seeing you write different style pieces down the line.

    Great first outing! Feel free to reach out to me on here or Twitter if you want me to clarrify any of this.

  6. #6
    Author of 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die Samuel 'Plan's Avatar
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    Hey man.

    I enjoyed this. Not really any technical errors worth commenting on, I got a real sense of who you are as a fan after I'd read it - always a good sign when it's your first I'm reading! - and I think there's a wonderful bit of natural flare to your prose for you to stoke the flame of. If you do, you could soon be dealing in output of excellence.

    The interpretation of the topic could be said to be a little straightforward, given that it's been written about so many times and often feels a little too much like self-loathing (a trap you mostly managed to avoid, mind you). Make sure you fact check properly. Misspelling Ronda Rousey's name isn't a great look that early in the column. Also be sure to keep an eye out for accidentally repeating a phrase once too often. I don't know if the abundant use of "those days" in your second paragraph was purposeful or not, but it struck me as awkward regardless. I'm also not a huge fan in writers falling into the fantasy booking trap as they explain why they disagree with a certain method or decision employed by those with a more robust knowledge of how 'it all works' than we're likely to have. It's a fine line to tread, but it felt a little bit too much like a gratuitous lecture to the Young Bucks as you began to delve into why you agreed with Cornette and that kind of content quickly puts me off any wrestling content, lest it come from a hand like Cornette himself. And even then I tend to treat it with cynicism!

    These criticisms shouldn't detract though, because I felt it was a good solid start to the competition for you, with a strong sense of identity in its content, a succinct approach to the topic and a sturdy technical foundation.

  7. #7
    Main Pager Maverick's Avatar
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    I echo much of what 'Plan says: this was a really good read, and in terms of the topic, sometimes the simplest idea is the best one, and the blurred line between kayfabe and reality is probably the single most difficult thing for pro wrestling to navigate in the social media age. It's hard to write stories about The Usos and The New Day being all time rivals when they're going bowling together on Up Up Down Down, you know? It's also predictable and sad that as soon as Rollins and Lynch outed themselves as an item, they're written into the storylines as a couple as well, but when Rusev and Lana did the same during an angle with Ziggler, they got a catstrophic depush. The writing was nice and clean other than the spelling error 'Plan already mentioned, although the title was a bit clunky. Good stuff, look forward to more!

  8. #8
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    With the dual nature of wrestling we as fans have to suspend our disbelief. However, it is most certainly better suited when explanations are given for things that take an extraordinary amount of suspension of belief. Kayfabe is all but done in this current iteration of WWE so perhaps they should go for some more reality aspects and make it more believable and as real as possible, fake fighting not withstanding.

    I enjoyed this column. There was lots of passion in this. Good stuff.

  9. #9
    You know who I am, but you don't know why I'm here
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    This was the first column of the tournament that I read and it set the tone for the other five writers as far as I'm concerned. You could say that your column set the bell curve and nobody else came close to topping this. Very good piece. 'Plan touched on the little writing bits that can adversely affect flow, but I too had no real issues with the quality.

    The biggest thing I'd like to see from you in the next column is consistency. Your writing here was engaging, smooth, and polished. Do it again.
    Author of The WrestleMania Era book series, author of The Doctor's Orders columns on LOP since 2010, LOP Columns Hall of Famer, former host of The Doc Says podcast on LOP Radio (2013-2018), former LOP Raw and WWE PPV Reviewer (2006-2007), and former LOP Smackdown Reviewer (2004-2006)

  10. #10
    scottwoodburn I think this is an excellent piece of writing. It's expository, makes an argument, and is a nice trim piece of work that doesn't outstay its welcome by a single word. Well done.

    I'm going to agree with 'Plan that fantasy booking is an immediate turnoff for me--it's a sub-masturbatory pursuit that rarely results in anybody (including the author) achieving any sort of satisfaction. Having said that, I DO NOT think you fell into fantasy booking here. You seemed to suggest an alternative way to handle a controversial topic (how the Young Bucks in specific and AEW in general could have handled the Cody Rhodes chairshot situation), but it didn't read to me like a chunk of fantasy booking. So just an alternative perspective on that portion of the column.

    Overall, well done. You've got a great voice and style.

  11. #11
    Pennycook Mills!

  12. #12

  13. #13
    The Brain
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    Many have beaten me to the punch here, but I'll just chime in to reinforce that this struck me very well for the most part, with a few small things to work on. Personally I think the bemoaning over the loss of kayfabe is overblown, to focus in on your chief example it'd be one thing if Shawn Spears turned to the camera after his attack and demonstrated how the chair was gimmicked, but for the management of a promotion to release details about what happened outside of the show itself is no more damaging to me that seeing a behind the scenes moment filmed from my favorite TV show. When the bright lights are on, it's essential to play it straight, but when the show is over it doesn't affect me what the people behind the wrestling do or say about it. That said, there are a lot of benefits to playing it straight and I liked the way you argued your point, as well as the history of your own fandom with WCW. Some good stuff here Scott, haven't checked how the round came up yet but I hope to see a lot more from you here.

  14. #14
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    I felt that there was a lot of stream of consciousness going on in this column. Things like the brief mention of Samoa Joe and then immediately going into a discussion on the Viking Raiders. It struck me as though you were talking about Joe, and then thought of the Vikings, elaborated on them and didn’t really develop your original thoughts about Joe that much. There were a number of instances of that, and it kind of caused your column to jump around without tying things up as nicely as they could have been. Another example is the mention of not wanting to take sides with regards to WWE and AEW – how does this really relate to the core theme of your column? Feels tacked on.

    You’ll want to be careful with spelling issues – things as small as “Ronda Rousey” instead of “Rhonda Rousey” and “Simple” instead of “Simples”. Run things over with a fine-tooth comb and catch these things. The next one I’m about to pick on is less of a concrete issue, and more of a preference, but saying, “What’s the problem? Age primarily, but mainly, the business…” seems a little contradictory. Is age the primary/main reason for your recession of interest? Or is the business the primary/main reason for it? You could easily tidy things up a bit by rewording – “What’s the problem? Age is certainly a factor, but the main reason…” That’s a small nitpick, mind.

    I liked the content of this, for the most part. Your calling out of a company jumping in the deep end of kayfabe, and then quickly providing some sort of an official justification out of kayfabe, lines up well in my books. It’s a good, topical argument for your stance. I think if you had stuck with that more than fluffing up the column with independent discussions about things you aren’t a fan of, your column would have been stronger.

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