Not that you need to be told, but professional wrestling sure has changed a lot in the last 30 or so years. Once contested in smoke-filled VFW halls—okay, that hasn't changed—the biggest wrestling events happen in sold-out arenas and stadiums. Hell, WWE's gonna try and fill a pretty huge one next year... a mission that may be impossible if their image isn't at least somewhat repaired in the coming months. But that's a story for another day.
Over time, as wrestling evolves, long-standing traditions and customs go by the wayside. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not so much. There's a good mix of both for this week's Cageside Countdown...
The things we miss the most about wrestling.
In the first part, I discussed some of the things you missed including named stables and teams, the World Heavyweight Championship, long-term storylines, blood, logic and continuity, the F in WWF, and War Games.
Yeah, you miss some of those things, don't you? Well, get ready to shed a tear or three for...
The 20 things we miss most about wrestling.
(As voted on by you, the Cagesiders. That means this is your list. That also means if your favorite didn't make it, it's your fault.)
20. Foreign—errr—international objects.
Speaking of legit heels, how long has it been since they tucked something in their tights and just whipped it out in an opportune moment to win a match? It's not nearly as much of a trope in the 21st century as it was in the 80s and 90s, which is probably why it isn't around in the 21st century. But come on: who didn't mark out for the many times William Regal pulled out his brass knuckles. Or that time Jimmy Jacobs surprised Kevin Steen with a spike. Or the time when Catrina popped Ivellise with that ROCK OF DEATH. I'm not saying international objects should make a full-on comeback, but would we totally lose our minds of Seth Rollins hit John Cena with a hidden chain or something at Summerslam?
19. Opening RAW with a match.
I took the Internets to find this. Surprisingly, it didn't take long for an answer. September 8 will mark one full year since "the longest running weekly episodic television show in history" opened with a match (thanks, r/SquaredCircle!). In the three hour era, this is simply inexcusable. I get that over the course of a three-hour show, 45 minutes will be commercials and 90 minutes will be filler (and that number's generous). But do we HAVE to have the 20-minute opening promo by the Authority to open the show every single week? (Granted one week, it was Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman and one week it was JAAAAAAAAAAHNNNNN, but the point still stands.) Mix it up a little, like move the show opening promo to the first segment after the commercial. It doesn't even have to be every week. Do it like once a month. It won't kill you. More importantly, it won't kill your ratings. Once is an accident, twice is a trend. 47 weeks in a row is pretty ridiculous, and you should stop. Like now.
For the record, the match that opened the September 8, 2014 RAW: Bray Wyatt vs. Chris Jericho in a cage.
18. CM Punk.
He was basically the smark wrestling fan's dream: an extremely talented wrestler who's a little rough around the edges with a snarky disposition and a gift of gab. Sure it took him having one foot out the door to reach the top of the mountain, but CM Punk got there in a path far less traveled than most. One he got there, he was still largely a footnote. By the time he had proven himself as a main eventer, his body began to betray him.
Overworked, underappreciated, and burned out, Phil Brooks, the man behind CM Punk, decided to make good on a promise he made to himself long ago: walk away from the wrestling business while he still had his health. He's since making the transition to mixed martial arts, and even if he flames out, he seems happier than he's been in a long time. Maybe ever. How you feel about CM Punk may be different, but we can probably all agree on one thing: the wrestling world's a little worse for Punk not dropping pipebombs on the mic and putting people to sleep via knee in the ring. (photo via foxsports.com)
17. Themed Survivor Series teams.
The Rude Brood. The Foreign Fanatics. The 4x4s. The Visionaries. The Teamsters. Those are just some of the awesome names of early Survivor Series teams. Now we've been left to suffer with the likes of Total Divas, True Divas, Team Cena, Team Authority, Team Brodus, and Team Ziggler. Yes, these are real names of Survivor Series teams in recent years. Look, I get Survivor Series may have outlived its usefulness with more weekly programming than in the PPV's early days. But if this PPV must remain around, how about we get a little creative with the team names, yeah? (photo via voicesofwrestling.com)
16. Howard Finkel.
I love Eden Stiles. I love Lilian Garcia. I haven't quite come around on Jojo Offerman. Hell, I even thought Justin Roberts was awesome when he was there. And Tony Chimel was awesome too, especially when he announced Edge. But seeing Howard Finkel on my TV only one day a year... that kinda grinds my gears, and I'm sure it grinds yours too. I'm not asking him to be on every show (though I'm sure some of you are), as he's clearly getting up there in years (the man's been with the WWE in some capacity since 1977). But if there's like a really big significant match of significance, dust him off and let him do what made him famous. Here's an idea. You got a big main event of a major PPV next month that just got a fourth hour. You mean to tell me you don't want a Finkel cameo? Child, please.
15. RAW and Smackdown as separate brands.
I know this may be difficult for newer fans to understand, but once upon a time, Monday Night RAW and Smackdown (later Friday Night Smackdown) were not only different shows; they were different brands. With their own championships and PPVs and everything. This was a necessity as following the purchase of WCW and ECW going belly-up, their roster ballooned practically overnight, thus the need for splitting the crew in half. And for a while, it actually worked.
By 2009, they began to acknowledge it less and less and less, and by 2011, it was gone altogether. The phasing out of separate brands had an unintended consequence: Smackdown began to matter less and less and less. These days, everything of significance happens on RAW, yet they have a big enough—or at least good enough--roster to support two shows. Two shows that matter. Two brands that matter. (photo via gamefaqs.com)
14. Two-hour RAW.
Remember when I mentioned up there that a good portion of RAW is filler? The filler was easier to tolerate when RAW was a two-hour show. Look, I get it. Watching three hours of wrestling in a row with commercial breaks every eleven or so minutes can be taxing on the human mind and spirit (just ask anyone who sat through those long Nitros back in the day). And yes, two hours of wrestling would force the writing staff to tighten up their show and dump the filler and maybe cut match time. But the horse is out of the barn, so to speak, and as long as USA Network is (reportedly) giving WWE $150,000 a week for that third hour that more often than not loses viewers, it's here to stay.
13. Tag team finishers.
When you think of the greatest tag team maneuvers ever, what comes to mind? The Dudley Death Drop, sure. The twist of fate/swanton bomb combo. The Demolition Decapitator. The Doomsday Device. More Bang For Your Buck. Total Elimination. The Spike Piledriver. Some of the most enduring maneuvers in wrestling history have always been tag team finishers. Since tag teams are en vogue again (for probably about three to six months before they go back to forgetting about them again), how about giving them double team finishers, yeah?
12. Special sets for PPVs.
The universal HD set introduced in 2008 has been both a blessing and a curse for WWE. A blessing because it saves money on sets (you only have one set to move around) as opposed to sets for RAW and Smackdown). A curse because it pretty much homogenized their TV shows. They all look the same with the exception of the lights near the ring (red for RAW, blue for Smackdown). In recent years, this has extended to PPVs, with the sets looking pretty much the same, with just a couple of things moved around. Well, unless it's Wrestlemania, of course. They go all out for that set, and they should. I'm not saying they should put a Wrestlemania effort into every PPV set (though it would be kinda cool); just do more than move a couple of chairs in the deck and a couple tables a few degrees and call it a day. These are your most important shows; the least they can do is look like it. (photo via independent.co.uk)
11. The Women's Championship Belt.
There seems to be a shift in progress in regards to the women's division. Less ladies being catty, slutty, bitchy, and crazy, and more ladies being athletic, badass, and compelling. But if they're really, really serious about the new direction, there's one thing they're gonna have to leave in the past (okay, there's more than one, but I'm focusing on one thing right now): the butterfly belt. The Divas Championship belt is, if I can be honest, an eyesore, and that's being nice about it. The last incarnation of the WWE Womens Championship, first introduced in 1998, isn't all that flashy, but it's got a bit of dignity to it. Bring this belt out of the warehouse and give this generation (and future generations of women) something to be proud of to fight for. (photo via wikipedia.org)
10. Legit competition for WWE.
Since the sale of World Championship Wrestling in 2001—and even a couple years prior—World Wrestling Entertainment has enjoyed a virtual monopoly on major wrestling in North America. It wasn't always that way, of course. It was only 21 summers ago that WCW decided they were coming for the heart of Vince McMahon's company with the signing of Hulk Hogan. The signing legitimized the company instantly. The next summer, ECW, a small promotion out of South Philadelphia, began creeping into the national conversation. Then Nitro happened. Then the nWo happened. Then ECW got PPV. The then-WWF went from lead dog to lagging behind quickly.
It was then the WWF had to look themselves in the mirror and get better. Within two years, they not only got better, they became a monster, and the monster grew and grew until it swallowed its completion whole, much like it did in the early days of Hulkamania. But unlike the late-1980s, no viable promotion survived. Sure, many smaller promotions have sprung up (TNA, Ring of Honor, and Lucha Underground for example), but none have the financial backing or commitment that WCW had in its prime. And unless and until that happens, there will be no legit competition for the worldwide leader in sports entertainment.
9. Lower card angles.
The Attitude and Ruthless Aggression eras get a bad rap sometimes. Admittedly, if we're being honest, some of those reasons are perfectly valid (gaping plot holes in stories, misogyny, giving away big matches far too often for example... basically the same problems that exist today), but one thing those eras actually got right is there was a feeling everyone on the roster at least had a purpose, and even the bottom of the card had stories and angles you cared about. Honestly, outside of maybe Axelmania, what's the last storyline featuring jobbers and people that are of no threat to win any championship ever you cared about? I'm sure there is one; I just can't be bothered to think of it. (photo via reddit.com)
It's a tradition almost as old as professional wrestling itself. The manager. The mouthpiece. The manipulator. The man behind the money behind the man. The guide. The sage. As late as the mid-1990s, wrestling was full of them. You remember them: Jimmy Hart. Bobby Heenan. Paul Heyman. Slick. Missy Hyatt. Gary Hart. Paul Ellering. The Grand Wizard. JJ Dillion. Paul Bearer. Freddie Blassie. Miss Elizabeth. Yeah, I could be here a while if I kept going.
More often than not, these men and women behind the men and women are the difference between superstar status and "just another guy". Truthfully, a lot of wrestlers in big leagues and small could stand to benefit from one. Certainly there's a laundry list miles wide that benefited from having a manager. Speaking of which...
Factions in pro wrestling have been around for about as long as modern pro wrestling's been around. No, really. Here's a list of stables from every major company in the history of ever. The truth is though, for every Four Horsemen and D-Generation X and nWo, you get three or four Unions and Corporate Ministries and Magnificent Sevens and Authorities. Don't worry: factions aren't going anywhere any time soon because there will always be a need for heels to get together under a united cause. Most of you would probably prefer they act more like the Dangerous Alliance and less like say... Team Dixie.
6. Time limits on matches.
Nothing says urgency quite like a match that is up against the clock (for evidence of this, see Jay Lethal versus Roderick Strong in the final minutes of their ROH world title match at Death Before Dishonor XIII. Or if you don't have the money to shell out for it at the moment, find the final few minutes of the WWE Championship match between Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle from September 2003). Think back to the days of the WCW (or NWA if you're older) World Television Championship, or if you're too young to remember those days, the ROH World TV title. That's more recent, yeah? If there's a heel champion, you're pulling for the face to hurry up and finish the guy and take the title because you just have this icky feeling in your stomach that the clock's gonna run out and then... dingdingding. Time limit's expired. Match is a draw. I admit, that grinds my gears, but damnit if a match with a time limit doesn't add a bit of excitement to it. Even the announcement of a match having say a 20-minute time limit, even though it goes only like three, or a match with "television time remaining" adds a bit of intrigue to it. ROH does this. Why not TNA or WWE? (Note: I'm not actually sure if TNA does this; I haven't watched a full episode of their show in nearly two years.)
5. Mid-card angles.
Because there was so little talent that broke through or stood out in recent years, we've been conditioned to believe that, at least on WWE programming, mid-card angles don't matter. And here's the truth: they don't. They should. They really should. And though it is nice (looking at you, John Cena United States Open), it shouldn't take a main eventer for me to care about a mid-card angle. Those floating along nicely should matter in some degree as much those at the top of the food chain. Eventually, you're gonna need one of those people floating along nicely to fill the top of the food chain. Giving them meaningful stories is a nice start.
God bless you for trying, Rusev, but kayfabe's dead. It's not coming back. I fully get that watching a professional wrestling program in 2015 requires a suspension of disbelief. But in an era where any Internet rumor is available in a few keystrokes and the world itself is more cynical and wary than it's ever been in the history of ever, some people simply aren't gonna buy the ol' wink and nod routine anymore. The curtain hasn't just been pulled back, it's been ripped off completely. And it's not coming back. Or maybe kayfabe isn't dead. Nope, definitely not dead. Or maybe it is.
3. Protected finishers.
A lot of people trace this to the main event of Wrestlemania X-Seven, though I'd argue it goes back quite a few years further. Show of hands if you remember how Randy Savage versus Ultimate Warrior from Wrestlemania VII ended. I'll explain for those that don't remember. Despite Randy Savage hitting five elbow drops in a row--FIVE ELBOW DROPS (because three ain't enough, man)... IN A ROW... CONSECUTIVELY--Ultimate Warrior beats Savage on what was essentially a shoulder block. Granted there were three of them and Savage by the third one was deader than the fish Rusev threw, but the point still remains. What would you think of anyone that got that same elbow drop once and got beat? You'd probably think less of them, right? (Ok, granted, the whole five elbows-kickout-die via three shoulder blocks thing was his idea. Savage really was gonna retire. But he had the itch, and the rest is history.)
Maybe not, but as recently as the late 1990s, and still to this day in some rare cases, one application of a finisher is enough. But perhaps the best example I can give of the state of the protected finisher is this: it took one Stone Cold Stunner to defeat Shawn Michaels in 1998. It took two to defeat The Rock in 1999. Three of them couldn't put away Kurt Angle in 2001.
Yet, at one point in Austin's, Rock's, Michaels', and Angle's careers, they've all been put down by Big Show's knockout punch. A bleeding punch, are you kidding me? People can kick out of the Gore, the Rock Bottom, Sweet Chin Music... even the TOMBSTONE PILEDRIVER gets kicked out of with regularity now. THE TOMBSTONE PILEDRIVER isn't protected, but that goddamn WMD is? WWE, get your priorities in order.
2. Jim Ross.
Good ol' JR's views on wrestling may not jive with your opinions of wrestling, as they may come off as curmudgeon among younger fans (not Jim Cornette-level of curmudgeonry, but it's pretty close), but there's something you should know: Ross has forgotten more wrestling than most any of us will ever know. The man's a virtual encyclopedia. He's wrestling's Wikipedia in a human. Not to mention if he's calling a match, he can make it matter, from Wrestlemania main event to mundane match on Superstars. So why Vince McMahon saw fit to fire Ross--more than once--is a mystery best left to those that solve those kind of things. Make no mistake, the wrestling world is worse for not having Jim Ross in it in a capacity other than being curmudgeon-like and doing podcasts with people not associated with the company that made him most famous. At least he lives on in other sports. The loss of Ross is for many the last of a dying breed, at least on WWE programming...
1. Announcers that call matches.
Maybe it's me, but when I watch a match on RAW or Smackdown (for example), I'd like the focus more to be on... you know, the match. Not more on what hashtag is trending worldwide or what's going on in the wonderful world of pop culture, or some unrelated story that has nothing to do with the match in progress. Now we all know who's at fault for that (coughVinceMcMahoncough), but how is it that nearly every other wrestling company (again, I haven't watched a full TNA show in nearly two years, and a TNA show AT ALL in over a year) in the free world... at least here in the States that have a TV deal.... can get this concept of "call the match, call the moves, interject with other stuff only as needed" right, yet the main roster WWE shows can't. Seriously: watch any show from ten years ago. And watch one now. Hell, watch RAW tonight and see how much time they talk about what's going on in the ring, and how much time they talk about... I dunno, Total Divas. During a Dean Ambrose match. Pretty sure Ronda Rousey will get a mention or seven on the show too. I miss announcers calling the match, and as it turns out, a lot of you do too... enough to make it the thing you miss the most about wrestling.
So what do you miss? Anything we missed? Discuss down there in the comments.
Check out these past Cageside Countdowns we did. And by we, I mean you.
- Best of Wrestlemania 31
- Best PPV Themes
- Worst Acts In Kayfabe
- Most Extreme Moments
- Best Wrestling Cities
- Best Rock Moments
- Things Missing on WWE Network
- Why You Hate Vince McMahon
- Best Things In Wrestling Right Now
- Most Disappointing Storylines
- Most Iconic Wrestling Photos
- Best RAW Guest Stars
- Best Wrestling T-Shirts
- Best TNA Moments
- Worst PPVs Ever