During the 1950s, television became a mainstream form of entertainment. Shows like I Love Lucy and The Adventures of Superman filled the airwaves and won the hearts and minds of Americans all across the country. Pro wrestling was an early staple of television, this of course being the era of Lou Thesz.
Television also happened to be the biggest threat that the movie industry had ever seen. The movie industry fought back by going widescreen and releasing expensive epics that television could not, such as The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, Spartacus and Cleopatra.
As America entered the 1960s, beach films and romantic comedies starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day were popular entertainment. But as the 1960s went on, America's bright eyed innocence was challenged by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war.
By the end of the 1960s the United States and its culture had changed radically. The movie industry had completely lost touch with the pulse of the American culture, putting out lame movies pretending that it was still the late '50s and early '60s. Some great and challenging films came out in the 1960s, but these were, for the most part, the exception instead of the rule.
Hollywood was stuck in a status quo that didn't exist anymore. The old studio system, already on shaky legs since the 1950s because of television and other factors, collapsed under its own weight.
In 1969, Easy Rider was released and became a big hit. The movie industry, at that point struggling with its own relevancy throughout the 1960s finally touched a deep nerve in the American psyche at the time. More power was given to the producers and directors and the 1970s became one of the greatest decades of film output in the history of cinema. Movies had not only became relevant again, but returned to their place as the dominant form of culture in the United States. A new breed of filmmakers arose, people who spent their entire lives watching movies obsessively. These film geeks turned directors and producers were sometimes called the Film Brats. Their ranks include names such as George Lucas, Martin Scorcese, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, four men who changed the face of the movie industry as we know it.
Since the closing of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has been on a slow march into irrelevancy. During the late 1990s it was the coolest thing on television, completely in sync with the culture of the time. But it's been falling behind ever since.
With the likes of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan leading the way, though, WWE has a chance to become a major cultural force again, the kind of force it was during the 1980s and the late 1990s. As more and more indie darlings find themselves in the WWE ring, the landscape of WWE -- and the wrestling world in general -- could change dramatically.
What we could be witnessing is not only the end of the PG era, but the beginning of a brand new and entirely unexpected era as we witness the rise of the Indie Brats.
When CM Punk delivered his famous promo last summer, he gave voice to a lot of the frustrations long time wrestling fans were having with WWE's product. WWE had become hopelessly stale and complacent with its own status quo. Punk's promo sent a shock wave through the wrestling world and his title win at that year's Money in the Bank pay-per-view, as well as Daniel Bryan's win, was a refreshing change of pace to the usual WWE offerings. Longtime wrestling fans rejoiced because we got something, anything but John Cena winning the day yet again.
Both Punk and Bryan are of the generation that grew up with WWE being the national authority of professional wresting. No doubt stars such as Roddy Piper and Randy Savage shaped their early impressions of what pro wrestling was, only to be challenged by the stars of the 1990s such as Shawn Micheals, Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Indie Brats of today have a wealth of history and video tape to study and take in. They can pull bits and pieces from all sorts of wrestling eras as well as lucha libre and puroresu, crafting them into something new and exciting while adding their own ideas and flourishes. Much like the Film Brats of the 1970s pulled their influences from a variety of sources, not just great American filmmakers of their yesteryear, but also world cinema and the culture of their time, Punk and Bryan are very much the vanguard of this new movement.
The question of whether or not this movement comes to full maturity is in the hands of WWE. The Punk vs. Chris Jericho feud certainly gives hope. With Triple H slowly taking over the day to day operation of WWE, he is in a position to put more focus on wrestling and less on cartoon antics. In fact, the words "wrestling" and performers calling themselves "wrestlers" on WWE television again is a great sign. Putting the "wrestling" back in the World Wrestling Entertainment is long overdue.
After all, people love wrestling. Wrestling is an American staple. Wrestling is cool. Sports Entertainment is not.
Daniel Bryan is becoming the personification of this new ideal of wrestling, while John Cena remains the very essence of the sports entertainment concept. Sports entertainment was the dominate foundation of WWE for years, but with wrestling creeping its way back onto WWE television, its relevancy in the current climate is being seriously challenged. Two in ring concepts are clashing head to head on our televisions. The cartoon antics of John Cena vs the craft and storytelling of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. Performers such as Randy Orton and Mark Henry are already adapting to the new climate, while John Cena and Kane increasingly look out of place in the larger scheme of things.
With Antonio Cesaro already here, and Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins on the way, this shift has the potential to grow even stronger. The Indie Brats are here, its up to the WWE to capitalize on what they bring to the table. Mixing them with homegrown talent such as Dolph Ziggler and Cody Rhodes, the near future of the WWE could be a very interesting place indeed.
So here's to the Indy Brats of WWE. Keep it coming, guys.