By Ross Casey @RossCasey24
I listened to a Jim Cornette podcast recently where he claimed that pro wrestling died in the nineties.
He of course was referring to the lawsuit that saw Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan amongst others admit that wrestling is pre-determined. That omission has led to an audience that is in on the secret and as such you simply don’t get the rabid crowd reactions of old for babyfaces like the Von Erichs or genuine hate filled mobs chasing heels out of arenas.
Cornette is right. That era of pro wrestling is dead and years later crowds don’t react to good guys and bad guys. Reactions are now largely for wrestlers that are perceived to be good at what they do in the ring, how they come across on Twitter or reading about their behaviour in the dirt sheets or shoot interviews. It is not just in WWE either. Look at the organic face turns in PROGRESS of Travis Banks and TK Cooper. They proved themselves to be very good workers without changing their act and started getting cheered for their performance levels.
It seems the only way to truly be a heel in modern wrestling is to not be exceptional in the ring and carry yourself as a heel on social media. Baron Corbin is a perfect example of this. He has no redeeming features to his character on screen and often berates fans on Twitter. However, the old dynamic of having a heel you don’t like win by cheating or beating up the faces backstage, struggles to get over as we have seen with him.
Because we know it’s not real now, the reaction is ‘I don’t like Baron Corbin matches and I don’t care if he wins or loses, I just want him off TV.’ Not ‘I can’t wait for him to get his comeuppance next week and I hope the face is OK.’ The same can be said for Jinder Mahal’s title run. So who do we want as our heels now?
The Miz should be an excellent heel. However, he has improved immensely in the ring and is now accepted by the fans, not least because of his excellent promo work. He won the Intercontinental title on RAW last week to almost universal cheers against Roman Reigns! How does that help anyone? That’s what you get now in modern wrestling. People picking sides not on a moral level as it used to be, but on favourability.
I’m not against it as much as Jim Cornette is and there are still wrestlers that can be genuinely hated or loved, Jimmy Havoc as PROGRESS champion created some genuine heat that at times looked like it could get out of control. These are rare occurrences, though. I am guilty at times of wishing for a heel to win over a face because they are superior in the ring. How much of that is on me and how much is that the current state of being a pro wrestling fan? Do we have too much knowledge? Should we have the gate closed on our faces again so we can be marks and enjoy the product without prejudice?
Perhaps, but that wouldn’t change the fact that we know the BIG secret. Pro wrestling as it was is dead… and I must admit on some level, I wish it wasn’t.