In 2005 we are perhaps one of the luckiest generations in history. As a human race, we are the most technologically advanced that we’ve ever been. We have increased the expected life span by leaps and bounds. We have made life more convenient through discoveries and inventions. For thousands of years, even after the beginning of civilization, we were living very simple lives. But since the industrial revolution began everything has suddenly come in a rush. Back in the 1950’s in science fiction novels and movies, they assumed that our civilization today would be full of flying cars and space trips to other planets and pretty much like The Jetsons. So we’re not quite there yet, but close enough. Today it’s hard to imagine what the future will be like. In science fiction movies they are always full of theories that represent the culture at the time that the movie was made, including bad hair styles and all. Everything is based on the structures that 1984 and Aliens created pretty much. Just as the future of our civilization is a complete mystery, so too is the future of the wrestling business. So when you think of wrestling in the future, what will it be?
As shocking as ECW and the Attitude Era might have seemed, and as innovative as perhaps ROH and TNA are today, will they really stand the test of time in the future? Will a few broken tables and bloody faces be looked at as “extreme” 50 years from now. If this is what we consider as extreme, what will the fans of the future consider to be extreme? Back in the ’60s older people hated the music that the young people listened to such as The Beatles. Today they are looked at as a harmless pop band (with the exception of their Counter Culture era music). Parents in the ’70s cringed to the music of KISS blaring from their teen’s bedroom. Sorry, but KISS just doesn’t seem like a bad ass band as far as lyrics go. Maybe it’s just the songs that I’ve heard, but KISS wrote pop lyrics. Some movies have stood the test of time as being shocking and dramatic such as Taxi Driver & The Godfather. In wrestling the veterans are always complaining about what the new generation of wrestlers are doing. As was stated in Ric Flair’s book, Lou Thesz would probably have had them go back to wearing wool tights. Ric Flair disapproves of the high flying and hardcore styles. He has taken shots as Raven and Mick Foley, as well as saying that he thought Terry Funk was great before going into the hardcore style. We consider them to be old fashioned and not open minded to change, but it’s highly likely that the wrestlers of today will be saying the same thing about wrestling in 20 years from now.
Wrestling has been changing quite fast since the 20th century started. The business evolved from being real to having predetermined finishes with real wrestling, to entirely scripted matches. Wrestling became Sports Entertainment in WWE and included in depth storylines now referred to as “Male soap operas”. The hardcore and high flying divisions made a name for themselves and things still continue to change. Though not the first promotion to do this, TNA has included a 6 sided ring. It has allowed for an exponential amount of new match opportunities and has really complimented the high flying style. Of course, there was an opportunity cost. Now there is no such thing as being isolated to a corner, which is especially important in the psychology of tag and handicap matches. But new psychology can be used and wrestling will most likely continue to be enhanced by this simple change. New moves are being invented such as the Canadian Destroyer and The Spiral Tap thanks to the high flying style. Grounded moves are less and less frequently invented due to there being a lack of good moves left to invent. In order to keep creating new matches and new scenarios, wrestling needs to change in big ways. The high flying style is absolutely necessary to the future of wrestling. Like the 6 sided ring creates new match possibilities, so do new styles create new match possibilities exponentially. Thanks to the high flying style the Ladder match has more depth, the Ultimate X match was created, and more matches will continue to be created and enhanced. The hardcore style has brought street fights and all out brawls which have been able to bring more drama to feuds. Triple H can use the sledgehammer as a tool to build his character. Steel chairs have become an intregal part of interference in a match. Things just keep getting better and more in depth as wrestling advances.
As much as wrestling has advanced, the imagination stops there. Perhaps we all have match types that we’ve invented in our head or moves that we created that no wrestler has used yet, but for the most part what we see on television now is the only thing that we use to imagine wrestling in our head. After all, what could possibly be next? Wrestling is pretty much limited to the boundaries of human ability. Things can only be pushed so far. But who knows what weird advancements in professional wrestling could be made? Maybe someday wrestlers will have special boots with springs in them and will wrestle in a padded area so as not to risk serious injury. Maybe high flying wrestling will be done with trampolines like that weird basketball league that was on Spike TV. Maybe wrestling will be taped and CGI will be added to fake big spots. Stunt doubles and wires have been used to fake big spots in the past. Maybe wrestling will be influenced by other sports such as soccer where leg offense and counters will be more frequent. Maybe wrestling will be further influenced by martial arts where it will be more graceful and rhythmic. The possibilities might not be as endless as you would think. An idea that we consider to be idiotic or disgraceful to the wrestling business today might just be the next big thing.
The future of wrestling is uncertain. Will you be the fed up fan who isn’t willing to accept change and stops watching? Just now, as I was trying to figure out how to finish this column, I was watching the opening video package for TNA’s Against All Odds. The voice that was overlapped on the video stated in a Lion King/James Earl Jones type voice, “The power of now is greater than the promise of tomorrow….Now is the only moment we can seize”. How appropriate. I have raised many questions in this column and provoked many thoughts, and now I must reply to myself by saying that we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. We have a whole era to live out before we start looking for more change. In life there are few things that you can count on, but it’s almost certain that you can depend on the sun rising over the horizon each day. Wrestling has been around for 15,000 years, but it’s not guaranteed to last and it’s not for certain that we’ll be able to see another wrestling match ever again after each match we see. So enjoy this era of wrestling while you can, because it’s just beginning, and it’s almost over.