You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.
Dinosaurs used to roam the earth and they’re extinct. Whenever I hear someone claim to be ‘old school’ I have to ask myself what that really means these days when it pertains to pro wrestling.
I remember the old school guys I broke in around. Guys like The Iron Sheik, The Funks, Harley Race, Roddy Piper, Bob Armstrong, Ole Anderson, Johnny Valentine, Mr. Wrestling II, Ernie Ladd, Bill Watts, Paul Boesch, Jose Lothario, and Mark Lewin. Those were the “old school” guys who started working the moment they walked in the building…
I guess they were old school because they had been around a helluva lot longer than I had and understood how to play the game. Back then the boys protected the business. Sure, there’s been plenty of exposes’ over the years but most veterans and fans came back with the old adage “For those who believe, no explanation is needed. For those who don’t, no explanation will do.”
When The American Dream made an impassioned plea on RAW so old school it was new again, something clicked with me…
WWE is Sports Entertainment and proud of it. They are an Entertainment company. Wrestling just happens to be one aspect or division of their company. I love old school wrestling and believability but in today’s market it comes down to what character/persona is going to resonate and make people buy their product. Kind of like it was years ago, only on a grander scale.
I told myself I was done getting in the ring, but somehow I keep getting drawn back in. I still love professional wrestling. I’m sure I’ll be a fan forever. I watch for different reasons these days and keep in contact with a few friends and acquaintances.
One of the issues that seem to be a reoccurring theme is that wrestling “just isn’t the same. Not like the old days. It’s not as ‘fun’ anymore.” I hear it from some of the boys and the fans that come to these wonderful venues down south…
Trying to explain that change is inevitable and growth is optional is futile. WWE isn’t playing for the 40-50 year olds… There’s that younger demographic that can relate to the larger than life yet real personalities on TV that capture one’s imagination. They’re more likely to buy the cool gimmicks and merch at the table or on the website. It doesn’t matter if you know a wristlock from a wristwatch. Can you get enough people interested in buying a ticket to watch you perform and buy your tee-shirts, hats, action figures and numerous other items WWE produces?
The old school guys protected the business with all their heart. I watched a YouTube video of Bob Roop stretching and roughing up some guy who wanted to be a “rassler.” Eddie Graham let him come down to the Tampa Sportatorium, get in the ring with Roop and he gets tortured in the process. That’s the way things were done back then. If you wanted in the wrestling business, chances are some veteran(s) was going to stretch you and torture you to see if you “really wanted this…”
These days, everybody thinks they’re smart to what’s happening. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone tell me they “could flip and fly just like those guys on TV” only to find out they blew up in two minutes after locking up and walking in the ring.
I agree with learning to respect the business. But the business continues to change. It is going through a transitional phase right now. It may take a few years to get back to another “peak.”
I do find it interesting that someone like Dusty Rhodes can come back and while the majority of younger fans never had the opportunity to see The Dream in his prime, the crowd reaction was infectious. Sure he’s a Hall of Famer and Cody and Dustin’s dad. But he’s much more than that…
He’s old school.
That means he believes what he’s saying and doing from the minute he walks into the building. Even backstage, in catering, sitting around reminiscing or giving advice, Virgil Runnels IS the American Dream. He understands perception.
Dream told me one time he was a Shaman… yeah, right!
SHAMAN: A person who acts as intermediary between the natural and supernatural worlds using magic to cure illness, foretell the future, control spiritual forces, etc.
Hmmm…. I thought the reaction he got and the confrontation with Stephanie McMahon was pretty real and to the point. The connection, the passion and believability in his promo was magical in the sense that maybe, just maybe came flowing out supernaturally.
Maybe that’s a little strong for some. But for those that remember the chills and emotion they felt when The American Dream, The Nature Boy, Terry Funk, The Hot Rod, The Hulkster, Stone Cold, The Rock and so many more “dinosaurs” told you what they were going to do, it was magical. And maybe it was a little “supernatural” in how they made a generation believe what they were doing was real to THEM and made US feel we were riding the wave with them…
I’m an old school guy. I know we can’t have the same style of matches like we had 20-30 years ago. Times change. But one thing that will never change is passion. It takes a special person to make people feel the same passion inside and connect.
WWE is smart to keep returning to the “Shamans” of the business. There’s not many left. They better grab them and their knowledge while they can. There’s a lot more we could learn from dinosaurs…
Thanks for reading.