Corner 2 Corner: The Road Back

     In 2003 when I first started writing for Lords of Pain, I had a vision. It was clear and it was enthusiastic. The goal was to be an agent of change in my industry. Write emails, letters, scream to the heavens if that’s what it took. All so I could change the experience for myself. You see, it was an inward view. And I believed in this view so much that I was willing to yell, cuss, scream, and argue with anyone who disagreed just to get my point heard. It was selfishly therapeutic. The industry was in such a crazy state in 2003 that you’d hardly recognize what it was compared to now. It’s been 16 years now and finally Corner 2 Corner returns. And since we’re still just finished from the holiday season, let’s see if I got what I wanted.

Wrestling is a chaotic industry. It’s filled with jesters, behemoths, monsters, beauties, and wonders the likes you’ve never seen before. There are tacticians. There’s anarchists. There are people so inundated with money and power that you’d think they were running for office. Still, it’s the best contained chaos you can ask for. Bar none. From a financial standpoint, wrestling has never been more profitable. The largest mainstream company today, WWE, is set to begin their BILLION dollar television deal this year. Professional sports team owner, Tony Kahn has begun a new adventure with a motley crew of entrepreneurs known worldwide as The Elite. The The Elite! Yep… I’m a fan. All Elite Wrestling is, quite frankly, the talk of the town. Every performer in WWE that was ever rumored to be unhappy is apparently looking to go there. At least that’s what the “sheets” say. Their control over the internet fanbase is so ridiculous in fact that there are at least 4 different AEW Facebook groups currently discussing who they want AEW to hire and how they want the first shows, storylines, and feuds to go. Hell, there’s even one guy who wants to tell fans what they can and cannot cheer during events. Crazy right? In fact, I don’t there has ever been a more exciting time to be a fan than right now.

Let’s compare 16 years ago to now, shall we? This time 16 years ago, Triple H was the World Champion for Raw. Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar were feuding for the WWE Title. Over on TNA, we had a brilliant feud between AJ Styles and Samoa Joe. The X division was filled with hungry young talents like Chris Sabin and Frankie Kazarian. Tag team wrestling was seemingly reinvigorated with America’s Most Wanted and XXX. Over in Japan, a young up and comer named Shunsuke Nakamura won his first IWGP Heavyweight Title. It was definitely a good stone to be a fan.

Except when it wasn’t. Twenty minute promos. The kind of promos that made no sense. Less than Steiner math sense. Triple H would stand around basically playing the roles of good and bad guy. If a guy came in and was more popular, Triple H would try to outcool him. If a guy was more evil/vicious, Triple H would step in and turn that guy face so he could be the bad guy. It was pretty much, Monday Night Triple H. Smackdown was tremendous but, directionless. Matches occurred seemingly at random and without logic or explanation. The fans were cheering but most times, it was because they wanted to be heard. It was never a question of where or why, because who’d answer for it anyways? TNA and WWE were both equally guilty of being asleep at the wheel. There was seemingly no system of checks and balances on any side. Jeff Jarrett was all over the place trying to take the NWA-TNA Title to his vision of new heights but, that seemed to fall short as he was unable to lure Hulk Hogan away from WWE. I remember writing so often that I couldn’t wait until there was a change because of the inconsistency of the industry. We could get a four or five star match by most estimations and then get the worst follow up segments simply because it wasn’t what certain guys wanted. We couldn’t pay for opportunities for our favorites because it was never in our favor to try to “vote with our wallets.” Instead we’d get what seemed like the same old thing day in and day out.

We get a lot of great matches today with Finn Balor, AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, Rey Mysterio, and Samoa Joe. Hey wait… that’s a majority of the guys we wanted to take the top spots in the industry 16 years ago. We also see a lot of wasted energy applied into guys like Baron Corbin, Brock Lesnar, and Braun Strowman. The only saving grace for both Brock and Braun is ticket sales or popularity. Sorry about your luck Mr Corbin. We tend to look for trouble and then make it our mission to cry to the heavens for relief. Back then, Twitter was in its infancy and hardly used. So we used message boards(I know. Weird right?) , mass emails(annoying then, annoying now), and some still used this thing called Newsgroups. Today, we have podcasts, Twitter, YouTube channels, Twitch streams, and even Facebook Live reviews of matches and shows. Seems like we’d understand the cost for everything we asked for. But…

The one thing that remains constant in the industry is the fanbase and just how truly fickle they really are. One minute we’re cheering Seth Rollins and the next we’re chanting BORING during one of his matches. I say we because, well quite frankly all of us are in that group. We are all part of that fandom even if we don’t claim the side that screams and shouts at everything they don’t like. We are the ones typically who are just there to enjoy the show and see some great wrestling. It doesn’t always turn out the way we want and yes, we get upset about it. Still, we aren’t the ones throwing trash at the ring or planning to #OccupyRAW. Speaking of that, how well did that movement work? Yeah…. Not so well…

The heart wants what heart wants. You’re probably understanding of this because you’ve probably felt a certain way in your gut about the direction of either a performer or the performance in general. And that’s ok, we all have certain things we love. Just like we all have things we hate. The key is how we put our emotions into action. How do we convey our desire for change or staying the course? Much like Daniel Bryan says, we are a fickle bunch. We tend to lash out blindly or follow blindly based on the emotion either a company or a wrestler has created within ourselves. And it changes often. Roman Reigns anyone?

Oh we like him this month? Cool. I always lose track. You’re going to notice that throughout your reading of Corner to Corner, I’m going to call out behaviors and attitudes. And it’s not just the wrestlers. It’s us, the fans. We tend to behave in such a childish way that I often wonder if we realize just how childish we sound. I’m a Dad of four now. I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing how children react when their don’t get their way. The crazy part is that it happens to be the exact same way fans react when Bray Wyatt misused for the umpteenth time or when Brock Lesnar trots his lazy tail to the ring for his obligatory semi-annual appearance. I gotta say though, he’s the smartest man in the business. Work less, make more. Can’t fault that at all. Do your thing Beast! The point is that we don’t react like normal humans. We react like spoiled, entitled, and petulant children. We feel justified because of the $30 spent on a ticket. Lance Storm would tell it the way I prefer, “Hey listen I appreciate you buying the ticket and supporting me but, once I leave that ring I don’t owe you anything.” He’s right by the way.

The best thing we have to our advantage is actually the wallet we pulled the $30 out of in the first place. What if we made our choices based on how the performer or performance makes us feel. So if we don’t feel a purchase is justified we end up saying “No,” right? So why don’t we just do that with the wrestling we see? We make choices based on emotion everyday except for the one that will help see us make an actual change. Like an abuse victim, we can’t seem to turn away. Therein lies the problem.

The Royal Rumble is this coming Sunday. Reports are flying in that seats are just not selling. It appears that fans are finally saying “No.” While I am an avid WWE fan, I have to identify how awesome that choice is. It helps the industry. It helps the fan community. It helps the talent. It does this not in the form of a pay off but, in the form of a vote of confidence or no confidence in the product. It’s produces a reaction from the provider that hopefully creates a paradigm shift in how the product is displayed and how the performers are maneuvered. We get to actually see change enabled and it stems from our decision to NOT blindly purchase a ticket or t shirt. We simply say, “No.”

The Rumble is my favorite event so I’m hoping the buying decision made by fans causes this event to change the course of the current product. For one, let’s see Finn Balor get back what he should have won after his shoulder healed. For another, let’s put a renewed focus on a tag division that really matters. You have the depth of the roster. Use it. I hope to see Becky Lynch utilized as much as possible as she has become the main attraction. With our surprises, can we all agree that they have to be used the proper way and not as a one off? We need substantial movement from the company to see what we want. And that requires us to be different. To be better. Say no to tickets. Say no to blind purchases. Say yes to variety. Look to All Elite Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and of course your local independent promotions for the entertainment that was missed on Monday or this coming Sunday. You can check out Ultimate Championship Wrestling at UCWforever.com and see myself and my partners Rob and Brian provide the commentary for an exceptional Virginia based company.

It’s time we make decisions based on why, not what. Because in the why, we make the most impact.

Thanks again for reading and I am so proud to be back on Lords of Pain!

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