I write a column every Monday and Friday for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The latest column is about the fans, wrestlers, promoters and crap that I’ve seen in my time that hurts professional wrestling.
The statement of professional wrestling being a dying art is more true than some realize.
Professional wrestling used to represent a glorious blend of sport, showmanship and a special fraternity. To be involved with it was something a step above everyone else. People used to see professional wrestling live or on television, but they didn’t know the magic that went into it.
Now, everyone is part of the show, or thinks they are.
When I’m not talking WWE on print, radio or television, I will work on the independent wrestling scene as a heel manager character. I find it makes for a good promotion of my name to get out in front of people, plus it’s a great experience full of networking and learning.
You shouldn’t be a commentator at a football game if you’ve never played the game. Well, I find I shouldn’t analyze the business or performance of professional wrestling unless I’ve participated.
This past weekend I spent a lot time with Matt Hardy and Bruce Prichard.
Hardy has worked for every major promotion, gotten rich doing so and is in high demand as he approaches 40. Prichard was Vince McMahon’s right-hand man for over 20 years in WWE.
I’ve known Hardy for several years and been happy to call him a friend through our experiences together. I’m just getting to know Prichard, and I’m like a sponge around him with his knowledge.
There were some great laughs and stories with those guys this past week, accompanied by a reminder of reality to me with the state of professional wrestling. This reminder was enhanced by a camera crew following them and working on a potential project that’s similar to the show Bar Rescue, except rather than a bar, it’s a wrestling promotion.
The complaints I have aren’t subject to only this past weekend. I’ve compiled them over the years and all around the country.
It’s dumb things like the back door for the wrestlers to walk out of the building with no air conditioning is right next to where the fans hang out during intermission. You walk outside and can’t tell where the talent begins and the fans end. There is no more curtain. The figurative curtain is so absent at times it’s as good as the fans knowing the finish to the match, which actually happens.
What good is a magic show if everyone gets to go downstairs and learn how the illusion is pulled off?
As I watch fans mingle with the talent as if it was a high school reunion, I think about emails a good friend of mine who is a steady wrestling promoter has gotten over the years. Emails with a variety of requests or questions.
“I’ve watched a lot, I could get in the ring.”
“I’ve watched a lot, I could book for you.”
“I’ve watched a lot, I could do commentary for you.”
“I’ve watched a lot, I could ring announce for you.”
The response to all of them is the same. The best thing you can do to help the show out is buy a ticket and tell a friend. Before you know it, everybody is involved putting on the show and there is nobody to perform for.
My grandfather worked as a promoter or helping the promoters for a show — I could remember being a kid backstage at the arenas and if I saw any other kid I didn’t know, it was like seeing someone from another planet. I saw a few kids my age who were related to the wrestlers or the promoters. It was the same kids. Almost like they were classmates. I expected to see them.
Nobody who was the son of the friend of the guy who was the brother of the guy who helped park the cars was backstage. The business was too well protected.
Today, if you find an unfamiliar face in the backstage, the justification can range from ring crew to a guy who is bringing a cigarette to that guy who needed it.
The promoters aren’t immune to this problem, either.
Being a promoter used to mean a business person who had connections to a venue, sponsors and knew the art of marketing the product. I see promoters who were at the wrestlers’ gimmick tables three months earlier who think they are the next Vince McMahon. It’s always the guy who takes the night off from delivering pizzas to pay one recognizable name some money while getting nine other guys to put on some kick pads and come out of the curtain to Shinedown.
The era we live in doesn’t help matters.