WWE Abandons Wrestling – Shock, Horror!

25 Mar

I know, I know, we’ve all read a million articles on this, and it’s probably getting old by now, but I thought I’d try and bring a different perspective to the table.

Firstly, let’s try and establish the fact that WWE has NOT abandoned wrestling, and no matter how many times you misread a badly written email from a poor public relations officer they’ve never actually said that.

What they’ve said is they are now more than wrestling, they have grown beyond being solely wrestling, and that as such the term wrestling, and wrestler, doesn’t cover the subject, and so they now need to be referred to as Sports Entertainment, and Superstars.

Of course that’s the positive spin version of events, which avoids having to point out that by promoting themselves as entertainment, with superstars, rather than a sport, with sportstars, it keeps many wolves from the door, and saves them a tidy sum of over $21 million+ a year.

Now ask yourself this, if you had a choice between paying $21 million+ a year, and calling yourself a wrestler, and not paying $21 million+ a year, and calling yourself a superstar, which would you pick?

I’d be happy to call myself a superstar everyday of the week!

People can debate the fine details of the matter, should the WWE pay more, or should they not, but the position is understandable, and at that cost the hand is pretty much forced, as to pay those additional costs would require either pay cuts for the roster, or savage cuts to the number of stars on the roster itself.

Something I’m sure most here would want to avoid.

It’s also why over at TNA they also resort to calling their performers superstars, rather than wrestlers.

It’s a legal thing.

I’m slightly amused by the term Sports Entertainment.


Contrary to many myths that float around the internet, the phrase wasn’t actually coined by Vince McMahon, and has existed for over 80 years, to describe the wrestling industry, with the oldest recorded example coming from Toronto Star sports editor Lou Marsh, who described professional wrestling as “sportive entertainment.”

Why does this amuse me?

It amuses me because 80 years ago wrestling desperately tried to keep up the impression that it was genuine, and the term was used by a sneering media, to imply that it wasn’t.

Today a phrase that was coined as an attack on wrestling has now been appropriated by the industry, to sell itself.

However, the phrase is perhaps appropriate, as Sports Entertainment is what we’ve been getting since the wrestling slump of 90 years ago.

Wrestling has a long history, and 100 years ago it was much bigger than many of the mainstream sports we see today.

In fact, wrestling’s popularity was second only to baseball from 1900 to the early 1920s, launching trading cards and competitive wrestling programs in colleges, high schools, and athletic clubs, legacies that have endured to the present day.

The problem was, around about that time wrestling started to go into a tailspin.

The biggest star in the game, Frank Gotch had retired, and audiences were growing tired of seeing overgrown men in slow, technical bouts, who to the untrained eye seemed to spend long periods of time laying on the canvas ring floor, doing virtually nothing, except adjusting, and readjusting their holds, over and over again.

At that moment in time wrestling could have become extinct if it were not for the actions of three professional wrestlers, Ed Lewis, Billy Sandow, and Toots Mondt, who joined to form their own promotion in the 1920s, modifying their in-ring product to attract fans.

This was the beginning of Professional wrestling as we know it today, and also the beginning of Sports Entertainment, as the “Gold Dust Trio”, as these three men named themselves, included new radical moves like body slams, suplexes, arm drags, and the addition of brawling.

They also scripted endings, invented the “finisher” and invented the concept of the “no contest,” which included such innovations as time-limit draws and double count-outs.

In short they relegated grass roots wrestling to a secondary position in the show, and promoted the theatrical arts that we associate with the industry today.

This new revolution, this invention of Sports Entertainment, caught the eye of a boxing promoter, from New York city, by the name of Roderick McMahon, who approached Toots Mondt, and together they formed a new promotion called Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC), the company that would later become WWWF, WWF, and eventually WWE.

Right from the beginning it was Sports Entertainment, and right from the beginning that’s what made it successful.

By the late 1940’s, after the “Promotions Wars”, as a way to settle the peace, and to bring order back to the sport the NWA was formed, and the territory system introduced, and in 1953, Roderick McMahon’s son and heir, Vincent J. McMahon took CWC into the NWA.

Of course Vince Snr was every bit as canny as his son would later turn out to be, and the late arrival of the CWC came at a price, of around 70% of the NWA’s bookings.

If it hadn’t been for the “Promotions Wars” though I doubt Vince Snr would even have settled for that, but would have instead tried to step out, in the way that his son later did, and try to go national, on his own, taking on all comers.

However, just like his father before him, and just like his son who was to follow, Vince Snr was all about Sports Entertainment and in 1956, the CWC signed a deal with WTTG Channel 5 to air live professional wrestling shows, and with the dawn of coast to coast TV wrestling we saw the birth of entrance themes, and promotional spots, or promo’s as we call them today.

Through out this period we also saw performers like Sky Low Low, a Canadian professional midget wrestler (Think Hornswoggle, but 20cm shorter).

In fact, by this time, we had everything we see today, we had promo’s, scripted endings, flashy finishing moves, midgets, female wrestlers, inter-gender bouts, comedy skits, gimmicks, entrance themes, and even dance off’s.

Over the next 30 years a division grew, inside of the NWA, between those who wanted to push the Entertainment side of the industry, and those that wanted to push the Sporting side, and this division primarily cantered around two factions.

The CWC/WWWF, of Vincent J. McMahon, who wanted to capitalize on the entertainment side, and the AWA, lead by Verne Gagne, who believed in the concept of the “Real Deals”, wrestlers who could actually wrestle, and who was known for putting on an “old school” show.

He sought out wrestlers with amateur backgrounds over the hulking brutes who dominated wrestling in the 1980s, and this led to a problem with his biggest draw, Hulk Hogan, whom Gagne felt was not championship material, due to the fact that Hogan was a powerhouse wrestler and not a technical wrestler.

It was Hulk Hogan who was at the center of the first shot fired between the two companies, when Vincent Kennedy McMahon, after purchasing the World Wrestling Federation from his father in 1982, signed Hulk Hogan, and pushed him as the company’s showpiece.

The war was on, and anyone reading this today doesn’t need to be told who won.

Sports Entertainment once again beat wrestling, just as it has every other time the two have collided.

The industry is Sports Entertainment, and has been for around 90 years now.

Therefore that poorly worded email shouldn’t really come as a surprise to us.

It is what it is, and to be fair it’s also what mot of us want.

How many of us want wall to wall pure wrestling, and how many of us enjoy a healthy dose of Sports Entertainment?

Favorite wrestlers of all time?

The Rock?

Shawn Michaels?

Stone Cold Steve Austin?

The Undertaker?

These are Superstars, these are entertainers, these are men who have given us comedy, and drama, and who also wrestle a bit.

If we wanted pure wrestling then we’d be watching Ring of Honor, and voting for people like Bret Hart as our all time favorite.

We shouldn’t be so snobby about this sort of thing, as Sports Entertainment is actually what we crave.

So am I defending Vince here, and exonerating him of all the charges laid against him?

No. The man is far from perfect, and at times he has got the balance wrong.

The foundation of this industry was wrestling, and that point should never be forgotten.

Whilst what we really want is Sports Entertainment, incorporating wrestling, what we don’t want is Sports Entertainment, where the wrestling is reduced to a ten minute segment, in a two hour show.


4 Responses to “WWE Abandons Wrestling – Shock, Horror!”

  1. chinmay March 25, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Your knowledge is tremendous. This was again one hell of a work.

    You have brought up extremely valid points here and I agree with you here entirely.

    To be honest, hardly one percent of IWC is raised on pure wrestling. Almost every head that is boiling these days has watched and waited for WrestleMania every year.

    Secondly, Wrestling and Pro-wrestling are two different entities. PW has many no-wrestling elements. Without those elements, i don’t think i would have ever loved a show. Those elements are defining difference between a superstar and a wrestler.

  2. Double A March 26, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    Nice work. Hope to see you writing on b/r soon 🙂

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