The Pepsi Plunge- Pop Wrestling

Shak


The term marking out as regards to wrestling means to lose yourself in the moment, forget about all the politics, backstage relationships and agendas and just allow yourself to be sucked into the drama of what you are watching unfold on the television screen. It is a truly great thing to experience, and it’s what I feel wrestling is all about. However, the act of marking out is not restricted to simply wrestling. This past week, I have had two experiences of marking out, once to wrestling and once to something else. The wrestling incident was at New Years Revolution when Chris Benoit came off the top of one of the chambers with a breathtaking flying head butt. Having being quietly discussing the potential outcomes of the match from a backstage point of view with a friend only seconds earlier, I literally jumped out of my seat to shout my appreciation for a spectacular effort from a truly great wrestler. The second one was while listening to a CD while having a conversation with two friends over a couple of beers. While Led Zeppelin’s ‘Moby Dick’ had been playing, I had subconsciously removed myself from the conversation and become immersed in the music. My eyes closed, my head nodding slowly to the fantastic drums of John Bonham. Nothing else mattered but the music, much like nothing else mattered except Benoit flying off the top of the chamber at the time.

When I snapped out of the trance the music was holding me under I realised, much to my amusement, that I had just marked out to a song. As an avid fan of both wrestling and music, I found it strange to think that I had never really put much thought into the comparisons found between music and wrestling. As a matter of fact, with the exception of Rob Taylor, I could not remember any columnist amongst the IWC having dealt with the relationship between music and professional wrestling. The more I thought about it, the more sense it all seemed to make. After some time, I drew one main conclusion. It was a conclusion that helped me understand better than ever before why so much of WWE’s product continually disappoints both myself and many of the members of the IWC. My conclusion was that WWE is what can only be described as ‘Pop Wrestling’. If you would like to understand why, please enjoy taking The Pepsi Plunge.

Now, before I get any angry WWE fans e-mailing me up calling me all sorts of names, hear me out. The misconception that “Pop Music” is somehow naturally worse than other types of music is a common one. The term pop is merely an abbreviation of the word popular. Just because something is popular and familiar to a large number of people, it is not by association to be seen as being less worthy of praise or deemed to be bland or generic. WWE, like pop music, is easily the most readily accessible brand of wrestling in the world, just like pop music is the most easily accessible type of music. Much like all you have to do is turn on the radio for a couple of hours a week to keep up to date with all the new music being released by the likes of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, a couple of hours every week will be more than enough to keep up with all the latest developments in WWE. Also, much like pop music, it is very easy to watch/listen to and enjoy without paying particularly large amounts of attention to. The verse-chorus-verse-chorus formula used in so many pop songs is imitated by WWE in their weekly shows RAW and Smackdown. Begin with an in-ring segment, set up a main event for later and continue with the show. A couple of matches, some backstage altercations, a pillow fight or two, and then a main event. All very simple, very formulaic and, above all, very easy to watch.

Perhaps the most obvious comparison we can draw between WWE and the pop music industry is the way which appearance or marketability plays a bigger part in determining a wrestler/musicians success than actual talent. Much like we see wave after wave of blonde, slim, beautiful young women being unleashed upon us in the form of CD’s, posters, merchandise and all sorts of other marketing ploys designed to gloss over the fact that they aren’t particularly outstanding musicians, we see WWE continually introduce intimidating, psychotic large men and shove them down our throats, despite their obvious lack of talent. While these are often an insult to evolved wrestling and music fans, they have been proven to be the best way to make money off of the younger generation, who are not as developed as fans as those who are really “in to” music or wrestling. Taking a good looking male or female in their late teens, dressing them up in the latest trendy clothes, running advertisements for them, portraying them as being “cool”, and convincing youngsters to part with their parents hard earned cash is a tried, tested and proven formula for music producers. Much the same, taking a seven foot tall man with an incredible physique and portraying him as some sort of freak of nature whose only goal in life is to inflict evil and destruction upon WWE, and subsequently having him thwarted by one of WWE’s top faces, is another proven money making technique. Much like the pop music “marks” fall for the old Hillary Duff character time and time again, the Heidenreich’s and Snitsky’s of this world will always be a proven moneymaker for WWE amongst the casual fan.

Having said all of this, it is essential to remember that just because something is very commercial, it is not necessarily an inferior product. Much like a great pop song must be acknowledged for it’s quality, it is important to remember that, in the midst of the many frustrating things WWE seems to inflict upon us these days, there is guaranteed to be something of high quality to show the obvious talents within WWE on a regular basis. Much as I don’t tend to like most of the music that regularly tops the charts, there is inevitably a song or two from time to time that I just have to hold my hands up and applaud regardless of the person or promoter it comes from. I will freely I admit that I consider ‘Crazy in Love’ by Beyonce and ‘Hey Ya’ by Outkast to be damn good songs! Same goes for some of the stuff Eminem produces. While I couldn’t listen to him for long without at least feeling the urge to find out just how difficult it would be to do a shooting star press, I have to admit he obviously has a great lyrical talent. Same goes for WWE. Amidst all the Diva searches, Tough Enough Contests, Winner Marries Lita matches and Al Wilson angles, there are inevitably enough genuinely fantastic wrestling matches that keep us watching. Guerrero vs. Lesnar, the WMXX main-event, HBK vs. HHH in Hell in a Cell, Orton vs. Foley and Angle vs. Guerrero from WMXX are just examples from the past year of absolutely fantastic wrestling matches that WWE has given us. So while many of us reminisce about the glory days of pro-wrestling in the late 90’s, it is important to absorb and appreciate the great matches that WWE are still giving us, despite the fact that it can be buried deep in an otherwise drab and frustrating show.

Speaking of the glory days of professional wrestling, it is interesting to note that the “golden era” is another thing that pop music and WWE share. While the attitude era of the late 90’s is seen by most as the most exciting time to have been a fan of mainstream wrestling, the 60’s represented a similar great era for pop music. Much like names like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, DX and Mick Foley became household names due to the popularity of their chosen profession; there were amazing amounts of legitimately brilliant musicians topping the charts during the 60’s. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Kinks, The Doors, Roy Orbison (yes Roy Orbison!) and numerous others were household names. These two eras’ came about for the same reasons also. Firstly, the intense amount of competition that drove those involved on resulted in better and better results. Much like WWE were pushed all the way by WCW and ECW in the wrestling wars of the 90’s, bands like The Beatles knew they had to produce constant quality in order to preserve themselves as icons. The Beatles released their first album in March of 1963. Before the decade had ended, they had a total of twelve albums to their name. Twelve albums in less than seven years is ridiculous by today’s standards. Much the same, the number of massive events, plot turns and massive matches that happened in the late 90’s had a far greater regularity than in what is arguably a very stagnant WWE today, due to the need to constantly outperform those they were competing against for viewers.. The constant desire to improve and produce is what made these two eras’ so wonderful. A second factor was the freshness of the product. The rebellious attitudes of Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison and others was seen as cool during the “hippy” generation of the 60’s. Much the same, DX and Stone Cold were the rebels that captivated the late 90’s wrestling crowd and made wrestling as close as it ever was to being considered “cool” on a national level.

So, why exactly have I been comparing and contrasting the wrestling and music businesses for over 1,500 words? The reason is quite simple. Us members of the IWC who look at WWE and see a product that does so many things that we feel are insulting to us as wrestling fans need to realise one quite saddening fact. WWE is not targeting us. We are a minority, and quite resoundingly so. From a financial standpoint, there is a lot more to be gained from impressing young children by having The Undertaker overcome that evil Heidenreich than it does by giving Christian a main-event push. While Christian is a better wrestler by Heidenreich by an obscene distance, it is easier to get youngsters to notice that Heidenreich is impressively big than it is to get them to notice that Christian has great mat skills. Much the same, it is easier for a youngster to turn on a Good Charlotte album and nod their head to the catchy riffs and beats than it is for them to turn on a Pearl Jam album and get into the, dare I say it, psychology of a good song. Yes, sad as it is to say it, just like the radio eased more creative and experimental music away from us in favour of money-generating repetitive pop songs, WWE seems to be gently easing us away from the IWC vision of great wrestling in favour of a shallow and generally quite repetitive product in the pursuit of their own financial gains. Generally, only the very best of the best will make it to the top, regardless of the fact that they don’t fit the “pop” mould. Metallica, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dave Matthews all had an appeal to a large enough audience that, despite not being the most marketable of role models, they became household names for many. As is the case with such wrestlers as Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero. Despite being almost the antithesis of the typical WWE wrestler, both were just so good that they got the rewards their careers had deserved.

So, what do we do? My advice is to go and find some sort of alternative to WWE in your wrestling viewing. There is no shortage of varying styles of promotion out there to suit your own particular tastes, much like there is no shortage of types of music for people to find what they like best. If you consider yourself a serious wrestling fan who is frustrated with the direction of WWE, yet have not explored other promotions, then you are the equivalent of a Pantera fan who continuously moans about the lack of good music on the radio! Much like there is Indie Rock, Country Music, Rap, Dance Music, Heavy Metal, Grunge and numerous other genres of music, there is TNA, ROH, CZW, IWA-MS, PWG, FWA (for those in the UK), 3PW, NWA Wildside and others to choose from. The key is to find one that suits you. Another thing to remember is that independent wrestling, much like alternative music, may take a little more time to get into than WWE. This, like alternative music, is largely because it is so different to what you may have grown accustomed to over the years in WWE. It is only natural for our brains to take a little time to adjust to something so different Much like I didn’t appreciate some of my favourite music the first time I heard it, I didn’t fully appreciate such promotions as ROH on first viewing. However, when you put the time and effort into appreciating independent wrestling, it’s like discovering WWE all over again, a new lease of life on your wrestling fanaticism.

Well that’s about it from me. As always, I would love any feedback on this column, and to hear your thoughts. I can be e-mailed at thepepsiplunge@yahoo.co.uk and I will return all e-mails.

Peace Out, and all that.

Shak.

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