Saturday, 23 June 2012

Retreading the path to Glory

My approach to this blog has usually been video and commentary, show and tell if you will. This week I offer an aberration and a State of the Union, inspired somewhat by Grantland’s excellent The Masked Man. As he concerns himself with story telling, I’m all bout the style.

I am not just a wrestling fan; I’m a music fan to. Back in the mid nineties I had a favourite band, The Ataris. Being a punk I loved their attitude, their “for the cause” realism matched up with explosive pop punk. They had shows that where joyous parties of exclamation. They rocked in short. Then they signed to a major. Their attitude changed somewhat. It was slow, but I saw every faltering step. By their second album on the major they had essentially split up. I felt for them, all they wanted was a bigger audience after all, but I knew that would be the way things played out. I had a slight sense of disappointment when they joined up to the major. It wasn’t that I thought they’d sold out; it was that I thought they wouldn’t be treated right. I have seen to many bands fall by the wayside or seem out of their depth, a story in Kerrang confirmed it to me; gone was the relaxed attitude, the turning up late for interviews and goofing off, on was the serious face of being a professional rock musician. I feel the same way about wrestlers that go to Vince after being darlings of the indie circuit. Certainly it felt that way people came up from ECW around the same time as my beloved Atari’s signed with Columbia. Essentially though it was the same thing, some drowned, some made it. A lot of that was to do with Vince Macmahon and talent relations. However for every Mick Foley that got down to work to reinvent themselves, there was a Dean Douglas who got lost in the shuffle. Whose fault is it? The front office? The wrestler? The fans for not caring enough? As Paul Heyman recently let loose on his twitter feed, wrestlers need to take every opportunity afforded to them. Looking back at the great careers of the past, indeed of the people who made me fans. I look at every open door the purposefully strode across. Would Dynamite have had as many great matches in his career had he not got on the plane to Canada? What would have happened if Ric Flair had staid in Minnesota? If Hulk Hogan hadn’t had been pushed into taking the job with WWF by Verne Gagne? This is where as a wrestling fan thing gets tricky, you can hate Vince for what he did to the territories, but he only really put out of the business the men who didn’t happen to be hungry enough, or the places in which his product did not relate to its audience. This is especially true of Japan, the style doesn’t work and they are all hungrier than he is. All these opportunities, some times they come, and some times they go. Two guys who have had opportunities most recently at the highest level are Colt Cabana and CM Punk. The NWA and WWE Champions and two best friends who this week presented the Art of Wrestling podcast and essentially explained not only the differences between being today’s NWA champion and WWE champions, but as representatives of their respective styles of wrestling. Back in the eighties when the territories crumbled, it took with it individual booking styles. They way things could be presented varied all over the world. When WWE became top dog essentially that was all we had left for mainstream consumption. The WWE became the biggest thing in the world and that too many people is wrestling. Not to me though, I would fantasise about matches between Wayne Bridges and Hulk Hogan (Joint and WWE world Champs) as I tried to figure out in my little kayfabe heart where everything lay. Out of the ashes of the territories though grew and underground. Just like in music, more specifically Punk. The underground is currently represented by Cabana as NWA champion, king of the Indies, most popular worker in the North America outside of the WWE bubble, probably in the UK to aside from the darlings of TNA. CM Punk is probably the most popular wrestler in the world aside from John Cena. They both learned how to wrestle at the same time; they both went to the same school and gyms and still do. They are both self made men. What they have done for the wrestling industry is bring the mainstream a little closer to the underground (Punk) and given the underground a model from which to work (Cabana). So what I hear you cry has this got do with British wrestling? The links in the chain go through Punk, Cabana and indeed Chris Hero, Daniel Bryan, Claudio Castignoli, Sara Del Ray, Mike Qaukenbush, Davey Richards, Eddie Edwards, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries and many more. This generation of stars took influence from what came before, but never have so many given credit to the people who it was due to. They name check their heroes and heroines constantly and encourage their research in the finer arts of pro wrestling. They look back at the glory days of British Wrestling and bring it full circle; they find people like Robbie Brookside, Les Thatcher and Steve Regal and encourage them to train themselves and others. Their hard work and dedication to British pro wrestling is paramount into revitalising what was once thought of as a dead style. When the FWA was a fledgling promotion I remember Power Slam magazine reviewing one of their cards, exclaiming that the match between Johnny Saint and Steve Grey was an anachronism to that spoiled the card of excellent wrestling in the ECW style. Putting that match on then it turns out was around fifteen years to early. LDN wrestling recently put on a match with Johnny Kidd and Johnny Saint that tore the house down as people now had something to appreciate in the sense of history. They didn’t learn it from Saturday afternoon ITV broadcasts. they learnt it from youtube, they learnt it from watching and listening to Steve Regal, they learnt it and watched it from Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Colt Cabana and Chris Hero. These men who loved our wrestling more than we did; enough to embrace it, reinvent it, cross breed it, develop it and produce something new.

When Punk went full on mainstream last summer, and more so when Daniel Bryan did, that evolution was complete. Looking around the wrestling world we have a mat technician in Austin Aries in the main event of the next TNA PPV, Bryan and Punk at the very top of the card in the WWE, Cabana as NWA Champ. Castignoli and Hero ready to be reborn to that new audience. Of course I still feel protective of some talents, just like my small and perfectly formed punk bands. Would Sara Del Ray make it in the WWE? I think so, would she want to be a WWE Superstar is another question. The woman who helped reinvent Joshi for a new North American audience is unlikely to want to be considered a Diva, but then again Punk only ever wanted to be a wrestler and he managed to make that change in the WWE happen. Back home we have the strongest scene we have had for a very long time; I just hope it remembers its roots as well as our friends cross the pond do.                     

No comments:

Post a Comment