How Professional Wrestling has evolved (de-volved?) over the past decade is striking. But how it happened and why it happened are important, so let’s take a look. It may show us where the industry will go in the next decade and what should happen over that time.
Scripted Promos and Control
Since 2004, the WWE has doubled down on controlling every aspect of the wrestler’s presentation on screen. Over the last decade, the WWE has seen rating drop, from rating that grew 3% in the 2004-2005 TV season (http://corporate.wwe.com/news/2005/2005_06_29.jsp) to ratings in September 2014 as low as 2.69. From 4.4 in 2005 to 2.69 in 2014, the ratings drop has been dramatic and a long way from the 5’s and 6’s the WWE enjoyed during the heyday of the “Attitude Era”.
Over the past decade, the WWE now names every wrestler, writes every word they speak and blocks out all the action, effectively beating the soul out of the Art of Professional Wrestling. While they have invested heavily in a state-of-the-art Talent Development facility, they struggle to add new names to the main-event mix in completely virgin talent. Roman Reigns being the exception. Cesaro, Ambrose and Rollins came from strong Indy backgrounds. No athletes from other sports have emerged as big money players, as has been touted as a goal by Triple H.
Recently, additions in Talent Development are encouraging with the signings of Prince Devitt, KENTA and Kevin Steen. How those talents progress onto the main roster and if they flourish remain to be seen.
It all goes back to control. The more the WWE controls, the more they give back. Their answer? More control.
Vince and the Pencil
Nothing has changed here. Vince still has final say but for how much longer? And to whom should he cede power? Do they continue with a small army of writers, guided by agents (Brian James, Michael Hayes, etc.), overseen by producers, then to someone for final approval or do they simplify the process, go back to Professional Wrestling’s roots and allow the talent to create and perform?
It goes back to control but what they’ve done over the past 10 years hasn’t worked so why keep doing the same thing?
Would Paul Heyman be the answer? How about Triple H/Stephanie? As a fan, who do you have more faith in for the “final say”? When I was in the WWE, we always said that one day, we would find Vince dead with the pencil in his hand. Will he take control to the grave or will he hand everything over before that day comes? Or will he live forever, as some speculated when I was there?
Care of the Athletes
One area that the WWE and all of Professional Wrestling can tout as a huge success is an increased level of awareness of concussions and need for immediate medical care for the wrestlers. In the wake of the deaths of Chris Benoit and Eddy Guerrero, the WWE took steps to bring the medical profession into the industry even more than they had over the prior decade.
From 1997 to 2004, the WWE had already taken huge leaps in this area by engineering safer rings, enlisting top flight surgeons for devastating injuries, developing the Wellness Policy, etc. Over the past decade, the WWE began paying for drug/alcohol rehab for anyone who ever was contracted for the WWE, assisted WWE Legends with health and rehab services and now have a Scholarship program for those who look begin or continue their education.
But more must be done, especially on the Indy’s. State athletic commissions and licensing agencies must be formed, re-ignited or strengthened to regulate wrestling schools that seemingly open on every street corner. Trainers must be licensed, CPR/First Aid certified and standards of care must be required of every wrestling school in order to get and maintain a license. Training standards must be employed in order to get a license and train wrestlers. Fine promotions who hire non-licensed wrestlers. Put Dr. Tom Prichard in charge of this.
Wrestlers must be required to pass concussion protocols in order to compete. Commissions must report concussions to a national reporting database that is established though a cooperation with the Federal and State Governments. Doctors and/or paramedics must be on site for every event. Blood tests must be done every 90 days within the licensing period. Put Nigel McGuinness in charge of this.
Drug testing can’t begin and end with the WWE. All state athletic commissions must add drug testing to their requirements for licensing. State legislation must be written to allow tax breaks for licensed wrestling promotions in order to defray the costs. Promoters must be required to post a bond to prevent stiffing talent. Put Frank Goodman in charge of this.
These changes will chase the lowest of the low out of wrestling. Promoters who refuse to see the need for these types of reforms have no business in wrestling and by policing schools at the local level, the partnership between athletic commissions and wrestling promotions will ensure that the health and safety of Professional Wrestlers will be at the forefront of everyone’s motives.
Why the Rock Was Bad for Raw
The excitement was off the charts. Enthusiasm palpable throughout the fanbase. Finally, the Rock came back to Brooklyn! My issue with this was two-fold and I want your opinions on this.
Did they have to sacrifice Rusev the way they did?
Did the energy and power of the Rock show you that most everyone else on the roster sucks?
Those two things stood out to me but what the Rock did Monday was remarkable.
Let me know your thoughts @RealKevinKelly on Twitter