Wrestling is like music, there are many different genres, and many different sub genres, it is so vast and expansive in scale that, especially in recent times, people have started to question what ‘is’ and ‘isn’t’ wrestling. For example a student of the old school, someone like Jim Cornette or Vader will say that the Best of Super Juniors match between Ricochet and Will Ospreay was nothing more than a gymnastics routine in a ring, while others will argue that it is an expression of a form of wrestling that has either passed them by, or they simply do not wish to understand. Wrestling is at heart subjective, no one form is any less than any other, or at least it shouldn’t be, here I shall take a look at the argument and try and form a balanced opinion, while injecting my own thoughts and musings.
There are perhaps no more divisive people in professional wrestling than Jim Cornette and Vince Russo, the are oil and water, chalk and cheese, cat and mouse, and many other metaphors one could make up in an increasingly more ridiculous scenario. Jim is a man of the old school, he likes his wrestlers to be tough, he wants the good guys to be good guys and the bad guys to be bad, in short he likes, what we’ll call ‘rasslin’. Russo on the other hand likes an emphasis on angles and wacky characters, he likes shorter matches with maybe more weapons, he believes to cater to those with minimal attention spans. We’ll call him ‘Sports Entertainment’.
Now before people think I’m opening this can of worms by bringing these two up, fear not, they are only examples of the point I’m trying to convey, they have two completely different philosophies, two different ways of seeing the business, but the thing they have in common is fans. Some people believe in Cornette’s philosophy and mock Russo’s and vice versa, they have an air of snobbery that no-one can seem to see, no-one at any point in the argument wants to admit they’re wrong, a Cornette fan will loudly exclaim: “All that Russo books is cornball angles and doesn’t focus on the wrestling, so it isn’t wrestling.” And a Russo fan might say: “Look at the old school, all guys in black trunks with no personality, it’s not entertainment, so it’s not wrestling.”
Pages and pages of this goes on online everyday (including, rather ironically, this one.) and no-one stops to see the bigger picture, that opinion is just that, an opinion, just because someone enjoys something you don’t doesn’t make you better than them, in fact mocking them for what they enjoy just makes you a terrible person, there seem to be matches every week where some old school guy will appear online out of nowhere and say: “That ain’t ‘rasslin!” What they fail to realise is that it’s not their ‘rasslin’ why does it bother you so much that people like different things to you? Are you offended because times have changed and have left you behind? I truly understand that wrestling is a cut-throat business, it’s chewed people up and spit them out, so bitterness is almost assured but why must they spoil others enjoyment by looking down on it?
Take, as another example, Dramatic Dream Team, a Japanese company known for outlandish storylines and matches and the Iron Man Heavymetalweight Championship a 24/7 title that puts WWE’s Hardcore attempt to shame, in the years since it’s inceptions, the champions have included: no less than 3 ladders, a mop, two blow up dolls, Vince McMahon’s Hollywood Walk of Fame Star and a 9 year old girl. Sure this may sound outlandish and to some people horrible, but the fact remains, they sell out arenas, people really enjoy it and what’s more some really talented people have worked there allowing their creativity to run free, this was the company in which Kenny Omega had a match with Haruki, a 9 year old girl, a match which in all honesty wasn’t that bad, especially considering one of the participants was still of primary school age.
Some people may scoff into their classic NWA collection at the thought of this, but hasn’t their always been comedy wrestlers? Hell, I can remember a wrestler in the UK, called Catweazel, he was doing wacky stuff like this in the 70’s on World of Sport no less!
If we are to genuinely think of wrestling as an art form, we simply cannot shun certain forms, imagine where the world would be now if more people had shunned Salvador Dali, or Andy Warhol, it’s true some people simply said it wasn’t ‘real art’ but the world accepted this as a new form of expression and the world became a much better place for having pop art and surrealism. In much the same way that the wrestling world is so great because it is so varied, if you want the best wrestlers in the world in great matches you watch NJPW main events, or ROH, if you want cutting edge high fliers, you can spoil yourself with the choice of Junior Heavyweights in NJPW or luchadors in CMLL or AAA. If you want your wrestling to have a cult cinema edgy feel, you watch Lucha Underground, if you want comedy you can turn to DDT and several contemporaries round the world, if hardcore is your thing the ICW, CZW or IWA: Mid-South is the place for you.
Wrestling isn’t objective. It doesn’t stop becoming wrestling because an old timer says it isn’t, it is like any form of entertainment, and as with anything in life there’s one simple rule, let people enjoy what they want, and don’t be a dick.