In a vastly different time in American politics, when there were such things as Democratic governers of southern states, a colorful cajun strategist helped one of those get elected president. A key element of Bill Clinton and James Carville’s 1992 campaign, as made famous in the Oscar-nominated documentary The War Room, was focusing on the recession. To do so, they coined the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid” and drilled it into staffers’ heads.
What does any of this have to do with wrestling, or the talk of the business this weekend, Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks’ ALL IN pay-per-view (PPV)?
Coming into Saturday night (Sept. 1) at Sears Centre, ALL IN was seen as a celebration of independent wrestling. Indie wrestling is something many fans and detractors believe is primarily about things like workrate, moves, dives, finisher spamming, no-selling and just generally style over substance.
There were elements of those things on display in Chicago last night. But more than that, what made the night special was a group of characters we love, involved in situations which depicted important moments in the journey we’ve been on with them.
It’s the story, stupid.
It started during Zero Hour, and the Over Budget Battle Royal. Whether it was meta moments like Jimmy Jacobs mildly trolling WWE, angles from different promotions like Ring of Honor’s Bully Ray and Colt Cabana coming face-to-face, or the double whammy Being The Elite payoff of El Hijo de Chico El Luchador being Flip Gordon’s disguise to win his way onto the main card, it’s the story which drew us in. That’s what we’ll remember from the pre-show.
That continued throughout ALL IN. Sure, there were amazing spots and mindblowing feats of athleticism, much of it from some of the best workers in the world like Kenny Omega, Pentagon Jr and the six-men in the main event (smart of the Bucks to put themselves and the people who wrestle like them in those spots). But even Omega’s match ended with a shocking moment which continued his year-long issues with Chris Jericho, and the veteran desperation which has turned Y2J so vicious in 2018.
We’ll have to follow that story to the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Rager at Sea and beyond (maybe even to Impact?), but I don’t know any fans complaining about having to keep up with too much story. We do that anyway, sometimes even creating it where it’s not. What we want is for those stories to advance in relatively logical ways, and for the consequences to matter. Reward us for following you and your tale. That’s what ALL IN was all about. It was our reward.
Wrestling is a big enough tent. It can fit everything from Kaiju Big Battel to CZW, Chikara to WWE, New Japan to DDT Pro. There’s a time and place for the choreographed acrobatics of something like Will Ospreay vs. Ricochet.
But the respect Stephen Amell earned from Christopher Daniels in defeat? An emotional payoff like Cody bringing the ten pounds of gold back to the Rhodes family after 32 years? Marty Scurll showing he’s a heavyweight after all, even against one of the best in the business? We always have time for that.
It took “The Biggest Independent Wrestling Show Ever”, an event many (myself included) criticized during its build as not having enough narrative backbone to be anything more than a moves showcase, to remind us.
When it comes to pro wrestling - it’s the story, stupid.