FanPost

Giving up on TV wrestling

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For many years, I said that booking was the business decision and writing was the creative one. For the most part, I still stand by that.

I probably should have said, booking a show is like composing the musical arrangements of a song while writing a show is akin to writing the lyrics to the music. For a song to be great, both have to complement each other well.

My favorite stretches of TV wrestling, ever, are WWE 2000 and the first season of Lucha Underground (2014-15). WWE was conventional: the writing supported the booking. In contrast, because of Lucha Underground's creative process, the booking supported the writing.

Despite the mirror contrast, the execution was incredible. It really showed what pro wrestling TV could be. It could be on par with other scripted television shows. You can still have tried and true pro wrestling tropes; still have great in-ring action.

Layered stories. Character development. Depth. Vision. A coherent plot. Compelling narrative. WWE was a bit bawdy and tawdry; Lucha Underground probably went too far into the supernatural; nevertheless, the TV that was produced was fun to watch, at times riveting; all-in-all, it was just really exciting to see a pro wrestling show presented in that style.

In the years since, I've been trying to see if any promotion—WWE included—could recapture that magical approach to booking and writing weekly pro wrestling programming.

Hasn't happened.

At this point it probably won't.

Pro wrestling has changed in the past 20-plus years, especially with a greater emphasis on the in-ring product. Which is a good thing! But promotions and their television offerings, save Lucha Underground, have had inconsistent results in balancing a vast improvement in the in-ring product with an ability to keep up with the changing nature of scripted television.

I'm a sucker for a well-executed match, but I am nothing close to being a workrate snob. I mean, there's nothing wrong about being a snob about workrate—I mean a good chunk of diehard, enthusiast pro wrestling fans are—but I don't think a well-worked match is the end-all, be-all for pro wrestling.

In other words, I'll take a weekly episode of pro wrestling TV that is well-paced, well-booked, and most importantly, well-written, over a show that has a bunch of so-called 3 1/2 to 5-star matches that did little to gainfully advance an ongoing story (if there was one). I also feel that cold matches—matches for the sake of filling a card or matches for the sake of putting on a "dream match" (an overused, overrated term)—are a colossal waste of TV time.

To me, a TV match has to be more than just a good in-ring match. As a viewer, I prefer matches that advance an on-going stories rather than just being a great match to watch. It is a huge bonus when a match is well-executed in the ring while advancing a well-written story.

But that's just my taste—as well as a testament as to how I view the 1990s boom that got me into wrestling in the first place.

That time period saw the era's two biggest promotions—WCW and WWE—book their shows that followed the style of other scripted TV offerings seen on broadcast networks (mostly the soap operas). Pro wrestling was becoming a distinct television genre.

It worked wonders. Attendance went up. Public interest in pro wrestling skyrocketed. Pro wrestling always had a low barrier of entry, but this was a new level of accessibility. It was vastly different, yet strikingly similar to other shows that were on TV at the time.

Regrettably, neither promotion kept up with it. The decline in the quality of its TV programming, more so than the specific booking decisions regarding talent, ended up sinking WCW. Meanwhile, WWE never kept up with scripted TV's evolution. Even as financially successful as WWE is now, the company—and pro wrestling in general—is nowhere near near the level of popularity it enjoyed from 1998 to 2001.

So, I quit watching WWE programming on a regular basis sometime after 2017. In fact, I couldn't even tell you the last time I even sat through an entire episode of WWE programming (even when I was here defending NXT 2.0). I did check out the PPV events—well, the big ones, anyway.

I was quite a mark for AEW. I tuned into Dynamite. I paid attention to Rampage. Hell, I made time for even the Battle of the Belt specials. I liked AEW's accessibility and its desire to be different, but I always had bones to pick with AEW's programming. The lack of an experienced TV writer showed, sometimes in a really ugly fashion. While there was some good stuff, its potential was clearly left untapped.

Ultimately, the chaotic, frenetic nature of AEW's TV shows started to wear on me as a viewer. With AEW boss Tony Khan still struggling to balance booking and writing 3 years later, I finally burned out on AEW's weekly television offerings. I have not sat through an entire, open to close, episode of AEW programming since this summer and doubt I will anytime soon.

Don't get me wrong: I do not dislike any promotion. Hell, AEW is still my promotion of choice. I don't think any promotion puts out a bad TV offering—I just feel that much of what promotions are offering TV-wise is just wholly unfulfilling.

I also have to think about I might be asking too much out of a weekly pro wrestling TV show. Some fans don't like the idea of writers. Some fans like the chaos. Some fans like the fact that pro wrestling TV isn't like other scripted shows.

However, I like order, structure, discipline, and consistency in TV programming. Pro wrestling is not an exception, here.

As such, I'm still partial to shows that are booked and written like conventional scripted TV shows. It can be done with the right balance. It's been done. There is no reason why that promotions cannot consistently reach for a deeper, more nuanced level of presenting their product, all the while maintaining pro wrestling's signature ridiculousness.

To my chagrin, there is not a promotion right now that wants to go down that road—even though that might be to the delight of many other pro wrestling fans.

As long as promotions continue to eschew the idea of booking and writing their weekly TV offerings on a level that is on par with some of the better scripted shows on TV, I'm going to eschew the idea of watching pro wrestling on TV every week.

At least the YouTube highlights can fill the void. (Sort of.)

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.