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How Classic Wrestling can Help in 2020

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  • How Classic Wrestling can Help in 2020

    Several months ago, I decided to venture through the classic material on the WWE Network, concentrating on 1984-1985 WWF. This meant TNT really, and then eventually it got me to WrestleMania, Saturday Night’s Main Event, and then Prime Time Wrestling. Once I got to late 1986, I stumbled on some pirated options for getting SuperStars, Wrestling Challenge, and even broadcasts in local markets of shows at MSG, Philadelphia Spectrum, Toronto Maple Leaf Gardens, Boston Gardens...etc. Basically, it’s been glorious to watch a more detailed version of WWF from before I was watching. I might have rented VHS cassettes of this era, but I wasn’t living it at the time, and the full weekly storytelling is much more enjoyable than watching angle recaps before a PPV confrontation.


    The point is that I’m seeing so many things I wish wrestling would incorporate today. Not just WWE, but all promotions. And I’m betting many here are also watching classic wrestling during this interesting time in our lives.


    So I plan on updating this thread with random things I’ve noticed that should be brought back, and invite others to also consider what they may be watching, or have watched in the past, and suggest how today’s wrestling landscape can incorporate these ideas for the better.



    First one I want to mention is just how well WWF back then told stories. I’m not discussing the quality of the stories, but how they told the story in many different ways. For example, I just finished WrestleMania 3, which had plenty of memorable angles and feuds. I never realized how nuanced and subtle a lot of the build for Andre vs Hogan was. I know one of the Coliseum VHSs I watched as a kid was Hogan on a boat talking about the angle from start to finish, but I forgot a lot of the little pieces that don’t get shown anywhere on the network today.


    Mainly, the angle started with Andre kayfabe being suspended due to no-showing events. There was a big push from Bobby Heenan, since Andre was feuding with his Family of Stuff and Bundy. In reality Andre was working in Japan and filming Princess Bride. He still showed up on WWF, but the kayfabe was alive that he was suspended, so the joke was that the Giant Machine character from Japan was a mysterious Japanese wrestler who also was 7’4”and 500… It was pure WWF sports entertainment, and Heenan’s frustration was hilarious.


    That brings me to a side idea: more masked wrestlers. It doesn’t have to be lucha wrestlers only, but if Riddick Moss is struggling to find a spot on TV, put him under the hood, and have him put over someone needing to look dominant like Bobby Lashley. Do this with any NXT talent who hasn’t really been TV discovered yet. Pay someone already under contract instead of bringing in pay per appearance jobbers.


    Back to Andre, he suddenly shows up without the mask, and we find out there was a hearing with Jack Tunney, and the suspension was lifted. But the way it was told was in pieces and slowly. First, Jesse Ventura interviewed Tunney about the suspension being lifted, and we learned Andre wasn’t even at the hearing. Then the next week we learned Heenan was at the hearing. Then we saw Gorilla interacting with Heenan on Prime Time Wrestling and Wrestling Challenge, with Bobby deflecting from inquiries. It was never beaten over our head, nor was it the prime focus of any show. They spent much more time updating us on Ricky Steamboat’s recovery from his larynx injury than Andre and Heenan stuff. It might have been the main focus of the upcoming WrestleMania monster event, but it was very slowly developing on TV.


    Eventually they did the Piper’s Pit segments that often get recapped, but watching the segments in full, Andre was an amazing actor. The subtlety was also impressive, especially compared with today’s methods. The first trophy given was to Hogan, who got a great video that included a few moments with Andre, such as when the Giant poured champagne over Hulk’s head when he beat the Sheik for the WWF title. As Hogan gave one of his standard Hulkamaniac thanking promos, Andre arrived unexpectedly to an ovation. He was given a chance to speak, spoke the part we see every time this feud is brought up: “three years to be champion… is a long time.” In all the recaps I’ve ever seen, they cut to the next week when Andre received his trophy. But live, he stood there smiling awkwardly after making that comment, turned to Hogan awkwardly, Piper tried to get Andre to say more, but he ignored Roddy, eventually stuck his hand out to shake Hulk’s hand all while smiling but Hogan reacted like Andre was squeezing his hand menacingly, and then walked off the set to leave Piper and Hogan to celebrate.






    The next week, Andre gets his own trophy, and Piper sets everything up beautifully, saying to Andre “I’m sure you have some things to say to your many many fans”. Andre smiles, waves awkwardly, says he only has one thing to say, but that’s when Hulk comes out to celebrate with and for Andre. Hogan takes over with his gratitude and praise of Andre, but it comes off as him stealing the spotlight from Andre, until the Giant walks off the set without another wave or word.


    The rest of the story has been recapped enough and there aren’t that many details that get missed. But I love how slowly they let this story burn until the infamous Andre heel turn. There’s the contract signing that is often forgotten, and is a great touch, but doesn’t add much to getting us to WrestleMania.


    The slow and steady way Andre was brought back to the picture, how Heenan’s involvement was odd for good reason for most of it, until the Pit when Andre challenged Hulk… it was beautiful. It showed respect to the audience to grasp a lot of the small details, and took its time getting us to the heel turn of all heel turns.


    I wish wrestling had this sort of patience today.



    Any examples of classic wrestling that would help make today’s wrestling even better?

    Last edited by PEN15v2; 05-15-2020, 01:43 PM.

  • #2
    I've got a lot of thoughts on this, but quickly from my phone, I'd like to see some masked guys who aren't luchas.

    Bring back the idea of a big dude in a plain black mask as "The Destroyer" or "The Crusher" or something.

    He doesn't have to be a top heel, unless he gets there, but for a guy you don't have a lot of plans for, being an upper middle of the card heel heater for a manager's stable would be someone that the future main event babyfaces have to go through on the way to the top.

    I'd also like to see more gimmicks that aren't necessarily the be all and end all of a one note character. Big Bubba was Cornette's bodyguard, and he was impervious to pain, as an example.

    I'd also like to see more people adhere to kayfabe outside of TV. MJF does it really well and manages to walk the line. Roman and Braun were in a blood feud on TV, but posting selfies together.

    I'd also like more violence. That doesn't mean blood and hardcore, but give me a heel the seems like he's legitimately trying to hurt his opponent. Rollins trying to take Rey's eye out is a good example.


    https://youtu.be/CuiN0s2cLEI
    Check out this COVID era pro wrestling show I just produced.

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    • #3
      More managers with stables would be a good start to get there.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Team Farrell View Post
        I've got a lot of thoughts on this, but quickly from my phone, I'd like to see some masked guys who aren't luchas.

        Bring back the idea of a big dude in a plain black mask as "The Destroyer" or "The Crusher" or something.

        He doesn't have to be a top heel, unless he gets there, but for a guy you don't have a lot of plans for, being an upper middle of the card heel heater for a manager's stable would be someone that the future main event babyfaces have to go through on the way to the top.

        I'd also like to see more gimmicks that aren't necessarily the be all and end all of a one note character. Big Bubba was Cornette's bodyguard, and he was impervious to pain, as an example.

        I'd also like to see more people adhere to kayfabe outside of TV. MJF does it really well and manages to walk the line. Roman and Braun were in a blood feud on TV, but posting selfies together.

        I'd also like more violence. That doesn't mean blood and hardcore, but give me a heel the seems like he's legitimately trying to hurt his opponent. Rollins trying to take Rey's eye out is a good example.
        The Crusher/Destroyer idea would be great. I know NWA has the Question Mark in a similar style, but he's not a mysterious large wrestling bruiser. It's not quite the same. It's too late to switch gears with Lars Sullivan and all the scandals involving him, but someone like that would have benefited from a masked promotion to the main roster. I'm sure NXT has other larger guys who likely won't be stars, but make for physically imposing opponents.

        This would also extend the careers of these people. AX of Demolition was in WWF for years before he was in the team, but no one knew Bill Eadie because he was under a mask as Masked Superstar, and one of the Machines in the year before debuting with Smash. Throw a mask on Kona Reeves! His gimmick didn't work, but he's not a complete waste of a roster spot, and isn't physically noticeable or unique that it would be a major issue for him to suddenly be The Masked Avenger, and competing in NXT under a mask. And now might be the best time to do it, as without fans you wouldn't have people chanting "Kona" at him like they did Husky Harris to Bray Wyatt, or Moondog to the original Smash of Demolition. Then, when that run is tired, take the mask off and try Kona in some other gimmick without the mask. It might not work, but you double your chances of getting something to click without ruining the career of someone you've put years into training.

        Another example is Matt Borne. Wore a mask later in his career as Doink to rejuvenate him. If you come up with a strong enough gimmick, someone who hasn't panned out in terms of character can still succeed if they are a good worker.


        As for violence, I think the key to that is cut back on the tropes that became standard fortoday, but were rare in the past. Shooting someone into the outside corner ring post for example. It's a normal bump today, but that's not a hollow aluminum pole. That's a solid steel post, and if I ran into that face first, I'd likely be out cold. Today, it's a bump, and back into the ring for the next choreographed sequence. Announce table bumps, stairs bumps...etc. cut back on those. When Spears threw the chair shot to Cody, it had a major impact because it was so long since we saw a mainstream head chairshot. The injury added to it and likely made it worse overall, but it was still a big moment because wrestling had calmed down on these acts of violence.


        Here's a new one: call the DQ more often. This isn't a return of the DQ ending, but rather there's too much that would have been a DQ in 1987 that is allowed today. These attacks into the ring steps should be an end of the match, and not just an outside bump. So next time it happens, have the ref call the DQ. It'll upset some people, but if you let that trend continue, it will reverse some of the common nature of these attacks, and then the violence will stand out more often.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by PEN15v2 View Post
          This would also extend the careers of these people. AX of Demolition was in WWF for years before he was in the team, but no one knew Bill Eadie because he was under a mask as Masked Superstar, and one of the Machines in the year before debuting with Smash. Throw a mask on Kona Reeves! His gimmick didn't work, but he's not a complete waste of a roster spot, and isn't physically noticeable or unique that it would be a major issue for him to suddenly be The Masked Avenger, and competing in NXT under a mask. And now might be the best time to do it, as without fans you wouldn't have people chanting "Kona" at him like they did Husky Harris to Bray Wyatt, or Moondog to the original Smash of Demolition. Then, when that run is tired, take the mask off and try Kona in some other gimmick without the mask. It might not work, but you double your chances of getting something to click without ruining the career of someone you've put years into training.
          I feel like there's this assumption, and maybe it exists in the higher ups in WWE, that the audience is so in tune that you can't lie to them about wrestlers and you only really get one gimmick. But I don't think that's true at all.

          There were smart fans in the 90s that knew Kane wasn't really Undertaker's brother. But they were willing to accept the lie, and even allow themselves to believe it to an extent, because it was a good story. There were jerks that chanted Husky Harris at Bray Wyatt for a while, but he bought so strongly in to his new gimmick and was so good at it that eventually those people either quit it or were drowned out.

          The beauty of NXT is that the fans of NXT seem to be really forgiving and willing to support people trying to make it. So if you've got someone on the main roster who's floundering, you can pretty easily take them off TV for a few months, change their look, and redebut them under a new name and gimmick on NXT and the fans, in general, will get behind it if it's good.

          Here's a new one: call the DQ more often. This isn't a return of the DQ ending, but rather there's too much that would have been a DQ in 1987 that is allowed today. These attacks into the ring steps should be an end of the match, and not just an outside bump. So next time it happens, have the ref call the DQ. It'll upset some people, but if you let that trend continue, it will reverse some of the common nature of these attacks, and then the violence will stand out more often.
          I really like this. There's legitimacy to a DQ ending, and it's not inherently a bad thing or a "non finish" like so many people see it as. A DQ adds a certain amount of believably, and give your referees authority. And calling the DQ lets the heel cheat behind the ref's back for heat.

          I think that a DQ should be called if a weapon is brought in to the ring. A ref in a real sport wouldn't wait until a chair was swung. If Tony Ferguson's corner had slid a steel chair into the cage last week when he was in trouble, the referee wouldn't have waited until someone used it and told them not to in order to call a DQ.

          There's also something to be said for taking a pay per view and structuring it more like a traditional pro wrestling show. Moreso when there's fans there to react to things, but I like the traditional lay out and it works more often than it doesn't.

          I understand that the Meltzers of the world, and even Jim Ross, prefer decisive winner and losers on PPV and the majority of matches should have that, but traditionally earlier on the card a match or two would end with a roll-up of some sort, and a title match might end in a countout, a babyface might catch a heel with a finish out of nowhere without making a comeback, etc. It's all in service of the main event and getting the crowd to buy in to the main event. If one or two undercard matches end with a roll-up, and you have a DQ or countout that make sense, and there's a match where the babyface catches the heel, it naturally leads to people buying more into those things in the main event. They've already seen it happen before, so they know that it might again. And the super smart fans know that "they would do that", so they are even likely to bite.

          That last millisecond nine count roll back under the bottom rope only really means anything if the fans have seen that not everyone makes the count. If everyone makes the count at nine, it's diminishing returns. The heel cheating to get heat matters even more if heels can actually get caught and disqualified for doing something similar. That "outta nowhere" shot, or the hope spot roll-up is something that could actually end the match for the babyface if they see that it actually happens from time to time.
          Last edited by Team Farrell; 05-17-2020, 01:59 PM.


          https://youtu.be/CuiN0s2cLEI
          Check out this COVID era pro wrestling show I just produced.

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          • #6
            Last night's NXT ended in a DQ. It was a very good match, best of the night, but the reviews I'm seeing are complaints about the DQ ending. I feel modern fans are so spoiled with clean finishes, but don't put 2 and 2 together when also complaining about 50/50 booking. DQs and Count Outs happened in the 80s much more often to extend angles without anyone suffering a clean loss. Most major title changes were overbooked in an effort to protect everyone. I just watched Ricky Steamboat lose to Honky Tonk Man, and it involved Jimmy Hart getting on the apron, a megaphone in the ring, a roll up, Honky holding onto the rope, and getting the pinfall. It was amazing because Ricky didn't lose any credibility due to the screwy ending, Honky looked like a cheap SOB, and the match ended with you wanting the rematch immediately.

            I know that wasn't a DQ ending, but DQ and CountOut endings offer the same possibilities. I'm not saying it's the same people everytime, but it feels like the same people who complain that wrestling doesn't have long term story telling also complain that they wanted a clean finish between Io and Rhea, and not comprehending the purpose is to make both look credible in taking Charlotte's NXT title away. I am not saying WWE is telling a perfect story, but a clean finish would have been a major hurdle to keep either woman in the title mix. So Charlotte attacked mid-match to get the DQ. The one flaw in this scenario is that I feel Charlotte attacking Io doesn't make much sense, and it's the predictable road to the triple threat. I like the 3 way idea (pun intended), but wish they could explain why Charlotte would attack someone mid-match.

            I got sidetracked, but I am trying to say that DQ, CO, or screwy endings have a purpose to build excitement to the final battle and likely clean finish. And COACH is absolutely right that these endings currently don't hold a lot of water because it's always the same - interference. Charlotte getting DQed for using a foreign object vs Io a couple of weeks back felt fresh in comparison. I love heels getting desperate and losing control. It is a subtle way of saying Io can defeat Charlotte, but the queen got desperate. It also keeps Charlotte looking dangerous, and you want the next match.

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            • #7
              I think that a lot of people don't see a DQ as a "real" finish. Like, they want the entertainment of a pinfall or submission -- while, as you said, lamenting 50/50 booking -- and can't possibly fathom entertainment value in an alternate kind of finish.

              And the finish isn't the be all and end all. The "this finish was bad" thing I think stems from Maltzer and the like who would comment on finishes in their ratings and deduct points for what they saw as a "bad" or "the wrong" finish.

              But the finish for last night's main event is the epitome of a good, story advancing finish. The finish should put heat on Charlotte. There was a good match, she denied the fans a finish. That should get heat on Charlotte, and the smartest of smart fans should recognize it, but instead it gets heat on the company for not booking a finish they'd like to see.

              It's part of a big problem today. The only heat on heels seems to be "go away, get off my screen", meanwhile the booker gets heat for booking the heel to deprive fans because they didn't get exactly what they wanted as they wanted it.


              https://youtu.be/CuiN0s2cLEI
              Check out this COVID era pro wrestling show I just produced.

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              • #8
                Classic wrestling would help in almost every way going if you could get fans to stop fantasy booking shit for 5 minutes.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by For the love of Terry Funk View Post
                  Classic wrestling would help in almost every way going if you could get fans to stop fantasy booking shit for 5 minutes.
                  I accuse Powder of this constantly, but when a fan decides what is the best way for a story to take place, they are only hurting themselves because there is literally an infinite amount of possibilities. But once you determine what you feel is the best one, these fans will brush off any other ideas, even if it's good and caught them off guard. Not enough online fans watch and let the story take place.

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                  • #10
                    I don't think that's specific to wrestling, though. Blockbuster movies, book series, fucking Game of Thrones.

                    If things don't go the way individual fans, or worse, the hivemind of fandom, has decided in their heads then it's a failure.


                    https://youtu.be/CuiN0s2cLEI
                    Check out this COVID era pro wrestling show I just produced.

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                    • #11
                      I am not part of any online group the way I am with wrestling. Horror sites I visit, and read comments from, but it's rare I notice complaints to the level I see from IWC. I think the difference is those forms of media are in movies, whereas wrestling is weekly (or several times weekly with WWE), with several matches and stories at the same time. So it just feels like an augmented amount of complaints and negativity.

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                      • #12
                        But, I mean, look at Star Wars. The most vocal group hated the last two movies because it wasn't what they'd spent 30 years building up in their minds.

                        Rise of Skywalker was the first Star Wars movie my girlfriend watched all of and she loved it so much she became obsessed. We've seen it four times and watched all eight previous movies in a week over Christmas. She didn't have an entire story built up in her mind of what she wanted to see. She went in blind, and it's one of her favourite movies.

                        I haven't watch GoT, but apparently the most vocal parts of the fanbase decided they're better at telling stories than the writers and their way was better.

                        I think it's a bit of a symptom of the society we live in. Half of my YouTube feed is videos breaking down movies, or "how I would have booked" wrestling videos. The internet has made us all so analytic of our media rather than just trying to have fun with it. The problem is that the most vocal part of many fanbases take that to the extreme. They assume their version of what they'd do is right, and better than any other story (and there's often a hivemind that agrees with them) and anything less or different is awful. Unfortunately, they're the most vocal.


                        https://youtu.be/CuiN0s2cLEI
                        Check out this COVID era pro wrestling show I just produced.

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                        • #13
                          I have heard this about Star Wars, and I'll take your word for it, but I can't say I've seen any sign of it since I'm not a fan.

                          But, social media about politics is the same. Ultra critical, everyone thinks they have the right answers...etc.



                          EDIT
                          Watching Raw on delay, and MVPs current worth reminds of the 80s era manager, where Johnny Valiant, Jimmy Hart, and Bobby Heenan would talk a huge game, but take bumps.

                          It's a smart way to use older talent who can talk, but can't really go week after week.
                          Last edited by PEN15v2; 05-26-2020, 12:00 AM.

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                          • #14
                            News Updates and Pre Recorded Interviews
                            Watching WWF 1987, instead of tired recaps from the announcers booth, Gorilla or Vince would say "let's go the Update with Craig DeGeorge," and DeGeorge would cover a story going on that isn't on that week's show. With the build to Backlash this Sunday, I feel it would be a nice change of pace if instead of Michael Cole using his scripted preamble about Jeff Hardy and Sheamus, he instead said "Let's go to Renee Young with this special report about the Jeff Hardy saga." Renee could be at her kickoff show desk used from full arenas, and cut to and from recaps, interviews with both men, and hype up the Sunday bout without the need of them appearing in the ring.

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                            • #15
                              I think that's a great idea!

                              I noticed it watching WrestleMania 8 the other day, they had typical promos from Flair and Savage and Sid, but rather than a manic Hulk Hogan "brother, brother, brother" promo, they threw to a pre-recorded interview with Vince and Hulk about the "rumors" that if Hulk lost he'd retire.


                              https://youtu.be/CuiN0s2cLEI
                              Check out this COVID era pro wrestling show I just produced.

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