Pro wrestling fans online, the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) if you will, are all abuzz concerning a twenty-five minute video that Chronicle screenwriter Max Landis dropped on YouTube yesterday (a Cagesider by the name of MisterGilmore posted it here as a FanShot).
Entitled Wrestling Isn't Wrestling, the video is Landis' response to people who react to his telling them that he watches pro graps by asking him if he knows it's fake. The title is taken from his argument that Raw is "a TV show about a wrestling show" and that WWE is a lot of things, but an athletic competition isn't one of them.
The vehicle he uses to illustrate this is the character of Triple H, from his Connecticut blue blood beginnings in WWF to his current on-screen role as COO of WWE. There's a lot to love about the nearly twenty-five minutes Landis uses to tell The Game's story and make his case. But it's not perfect, or, it's not exactly how I view WWE and the art form of pro wrestling.
One great thing is how Landis comes across as an example of the type of fan who frequents web sites like Cageside Seats. Some might call them "smart" or "smarks", but (as I've argued elsewhere recently), we're all smarks as that term was originally defined. Wrestling Isn't Wrestling is, a little John Cena-bashing and X-Pac LOLing aside, an illustration of how an adult fan with some knowledge of the backstage scene deconstructs the product without judging the players or taking shots at fans who like different wrestlers or types of stories.
The last three minutes in particular are freaking beautiful, as Max explains why humans need fiction - in whatever form - as "a sort of simulator for bigger stories and bigger emotions".
- That most of the characters in the re-enactments are gender-swapped. Although I found it a little weird being turned on by Cena. And puzzled that Chyna was played by a man while Stephanie McMahon was also played by a woman. While it may not have been intended, the former is a played out joke about Joannie Lauer, and the latter just an excuse to work in some HLA between the "McMahon-Levesques".
- The cameos. Seriously, watch it once for the content and them multiple times to try to catch the cast. Once I recognized Shad & JTG AND Drake & Josh AND Chris Hero & Justin Roberts AND MacCauley Culkin & Seth Green AND Joey Ryan & Johnny Mundo AND Colt Cabana AND John Landis...I was spent.
- Everything about this version of the set-up to Taker vs. Haitch in Hell in a Cell at 'Mania 28.
The areas where my experience viewing wrestling and Wrestling Isn't Wrestling don't synch come from Landis' allegiance to, at least focus on, WWE. From the title on down, Max and Vince would seem to agree that they're watching sports entertainment instead of pro wrestling. And I still watch in large part for the in-ring exhibitions.
Sometimes WWE and other companies nail the melodrama and character arcs The Game is used as an example of here, but if I'm looking for a satisfying dramatic experience, my odds of getting it are much better in a lot of other genres.
Wrestling might not always be wrestling, but if it's not often wrestling, it's losing something unique to the form. And nine times out of ten, I still watch WWE for what goes on in the ring. Even when I feel like none of the stories are directed at or clicking for me, I can still count on a match or two to impress and entertain me the way nothing else on television or online does.
Landis does cop to leaving stuff out, and I'm cool with that. There's a reason we watch things like this, DVD collections or promo packages for wrestling angles, big games and even "previously on" preludes to TV shows. But it's a little too close to the school of thought that says it's partially the fan's responsibility to construct the story in a satisfying way.
(And I'd probably talk about what goes on in the ring, and how that's integral to the story. And how freaking cool it is that these men and women can pull of the things they do in a match without seriously injuring themself or their partners.)
Audience impact on the product is one of the wonderful things about wrestling. But we're the focus group; we don't have seats at the writers' table. WWE is capable of delivering amazing short and longform stories. I'm not a fan of letting them off the hook when we can see what they should have done, or what we think they meant, or even when they back into a better story by circumstance or to placate angry crowds.
But those are nits I'm picking, and interesting thoughts raised by Landis' phenomenal work here. If you haven't already, give it a look and see what you think.
And thanks for dissecting this wonderful, unique thing we call wrestling with me, Cagesiders.