Last night, thousands (maybe millions?) of people sat at the TVs or gathered with me at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston for the live broadcast of the WWE RAW’s 900th episode, making it the longest running primetime TV show in history. Apparently, no other show has ever gotten to show number 900, and last night’s show definitely looked its age.
It’s a different time from when RAW debuted on January 11, 1993. The collective mindset of the human race is on a different level now. I’m wondering, though, if we took a few steps up or down in those seventeen years.
When RAW first aired, it was “extreme”. You never knew what was going to happen. Sure, it was gimmicky, and we all knew it was fake (well, I didn’t, but I was only eight at the time), but who cared? There were memorable moments, like when Big Boss Man fed Al Snow his dog, Pepper, calling it “Pepper Steak”. Or when Stone Cold Steve Austin drove the beer truck into the ring and sprayed everyone. Or when DX drove a tank over to a WCW show, or kidnapped Stephanie McMahon so that HHH could marry her (was the Smackdown or RAW?) or did any of the other wild stuff they did back in the Attitude Era.
Now, what do we have to work with? A team of rookies named after a shampoo vying for title shots, a US Champ who used to be on Real World, a general manager in the form of a laptop and enough guest stars for any real fan to choke on.
When did WWE stop being about the ring and become Real World: Wrestling – “This is the true[ly scripted] story, of like, 50 wrestlers, drafted to RAW, to tape a soap opera, and find out what happens, when Vince stops giving a fuck, and wrestlers stop be talented.”
Professional wrestling has always been, simply put, a violent soap opera. There’s always been the beautiful chicks, bad guys, weirdos, lackeys, good guys and heroes put into random, often awkward, situations and forced to make decisions that would throw the audience for a loop.
But what got lost in translation between the era of Trish Stratus, Edge (bad guy Edge, not wimpy good guy Edge), Mankind, Al Snow, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin and what we have now – Lacool, Jack Swagger, Kane (lame-o Kane, not cool, mask-wearing Kane), NEXUS, The Miz and, of course, John Cena?
Well, a few things have been lost in the scramble to the top. Talent, for one thing. WWE wrestlers of today don’t really have to have…well…skill. This goes especially for the Divas division, where the only prereqs seems to be a boob job and the ability to read. Outside of the ladies division, it really isn’t any better. The moves don’t hit as hard. The falls don’t seem as devastating. The finishers aren’t as epic or as personal. Even watching the new guys, it seems like everyone is just going through the motions (literally) with no passion. And I know that they’re at about a PG rating, and they have to be careful because no one wants to get hurt, but come on! You’re a professional wrestler. You’re supposed to get beat up! It’d be like starting a job as garbage man and expecting to never stink.
What about customer service? I get better service from the air freshener in the bathroom than I do from the WWE. At least it knows that when I come in the room, it should poof some apple air at me. I pay to see a WWE match (the 900th episode of RAW!), and get nothing…but the Big Show and Stone Cold’s intro music. No old school wrestlers come to pay their respects for show that help boost their careers. Nothing featuring the entire RAW roster. No words from owner, Vince McMahon. Nothing commemorative at all. They just kinda carried the story on as if it was just another episode, and had the audacity to put these newbie NEXUS weirdos over on everything that RAW is: Orton, Sheamus, Edge, Jericho and Cena. Even more insulting, they let Cena lose in his hometown?! Really????
Never in the Attitude Era.
Maybe my time as a WWE fan is over. I’ll always have a place in my heart for the WWF, but the Attitude Era and all that it stood for is dead and has been replaced by a muted yet still bacchanalian capitalistic orgy that maybe I’m just too old, or too smart, to enjoy.