WZ Guest Column: The Anti-Antagonist Returns: “A Real Alternative”

Adam Gorzelsky

professional wrestlingIt’s been quite a while since my words have graced the pages here at Wrestlezone. Nevertheless, I am still around and graciously have been provided the opportunity to tackle an issue that continues to haunt the professional wrestling business.

The WWE PG debate has gone the route of beating a dead horse and resurrecting said horse, only to place it in the midst of enraged wrestling fans armed with flaming keyboards and other assorted weapons of internet mass destruction.

Does WWE often lack an edge? Most certainly.

Does a large segment of the audience feel alienated during long segments of child-oriented programming? Absolutely.

Will this reality change any time soon? I wouldn’t hold my breath.

The practical considerations behind WWE’s content and rating have been addressed many times in the past and continue to ring true in the present. From sponsors to the amount of merchandise consumed by the pre-pubescent sector of the WWE Universe, there simply is too much money tied in to the wholesome image that WWE attempts to portray to the public. If this continues to be WWE’s favored market, I can’t say that I have any complaints.

I grew up on wrestling in the late 80’s to early 90’s when WWF/E produced mostly family-centric programming. My parents had no qualms about allowing me to watch wrestling, as the positive messages vastly outweighed the on-screen violence. I was hooked.

It seemed as though wrestling grew up with me, as I more than enjoyed the content of the attitude era as a teenager/young adult. Nevertheless, throughout that time, I always questioned whether I’d be able to introduce my future children to a product that shaped my adolescence. Fortunately, I currently would have no hesitation utilizing WWE as the vehicle to drive my future next generation wrestling addicts.

As a company, WWE can’t have it both ways and can’t tap every market. But what about its “competitors?”

TNA is dying a slow and painful death because it insists upon being WWE-Lite. While hardcore wrestling fans may see a slight difference in this WWE alternative, the only thing that a casual fan sees is WWE without the production value.

Ring of Honor promotes the wrestling aspect of professional wrestling and does that aspect quite well. Let’s face it though; pure wrestling enthusiasts represent a considerably small niche audience in the grand scheme of potential customers.

These are not true alternatives to WWE. Their products may be consumed by existing wrestling fans, but they don’t provide anything that is sufficiently distinguishable to captivate the imaginations of those fans. Moreover, these products certainly do nothing to capture the attention of casual fans or individuals with little-to-no familiarity with professional wrestling.

But what about that potential other market? What about those individuals who crave adult content…that segment of the population that resulted in record ratings during wrestling’s boom period? Premium channels and streaming services consistently bring wildly successful shows that push boundaries and provide content that absolutely is not suitable for children. Why is the professional wrestling industry so terrified of breaching this market?

WWE has been boxed into a corner because of the monetary issues discussed earlier. If there ever was an opportunity for an upstart company to gain exposure and distance itself from WWE, this is that chance. I’m happy that WWE provides family-friendly entertainment, but wrestling itself does not need to be family friendly. While WWE-esque sponsors would not be available, the content itself would not deter monetary partners. Last season, the Walking Dead featured the death of two children…AMC is doing just fine.

At its core, professional wrestling features two or more individuals fighting one another with varying degrees of violence. This type of spectacle screams for adult content that tackles controversial, but real issues. Wrestlers aren’t actors. When you compel them to portray a character that is stripped of adult-like qualities, you force them to act instead of react. In this way, adult content provides increased quality.

While WWE can’t provide that type of programming, I remain shocked that a serious competitor hasn’t stepped up to fill that void. I wouldn’t be watching this product with my future children, but I certainly would know where to turn when they went to bed.

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