Chris King is shedding light on the subject of reviews and statistics over just the plain joy of pro wrestling.
In 2019, everyone’s focus including mine is solely based around star ratings or statistics on a match it’s no longer about what level of storytelling did the actors convey. There are millions of websites that grade each event critiquing everything a performer does from the way they enter an arena all the way to the manner in which they win or lose said match.
Bleacher Report is my guilty pleasure to read the grades and influence my reaction to certain storylines or matches. This is a terrible disease that we’ve spread all over the world and then, in turn, we ourselves become a wrestling critic and ruin the fun and enjoyment. It doesn’t help that every five minutes there’s a hot topic news story uploaded to social media with someone’s opinion on anything and then all of a sudden a match or a storyline is viewed in a negative light. So, what am I even talking about exactly? It’s pretty simple. Why can we not just watch a wrestling match and purely enjoy the story being told to us by the performers?
In the 1990s WWE had some of the biggest stars in the business such as Hulk Hogan, The Macho Man Randy Savage, and a plethora of others. These megastars would bring in thousands of wrestling fans to watch them perform. The audience would be completely captivated by their larger than life personalities and watch in awe whether they won or not. Nobody was concerned with what rating their match garnished they were just happy to be in the presence of magic.
I remember receiving a VHS tape of WrestleMania XII for my birthday and watching Shawn Michaels challenge Bret Hart for the WWF Championship in the infamous Ironman Match. I watched in amazement as “The Heartbreak Kid” descended from the heavens on a harness flying through the crowd making his Iconic entrance. What followed was sixty minutes of fantastic five-star wrestling between the babyface and the heel champion. I can still hear the boos when the match ended in a draw. Then Gorilla Monsoon restarted the match and HBK landed two Sweet Chin Music’s to win the title. Who could ever forget Vince McMahon’s iconic “The boyhood dream has come true” catchphrase.
Nobody was grading the match back then and I may be wrong but there was no Dave Meltzer star rating if there was I didn’t know about it. The WWE Universe didn’t go home that night and critique the performers over every little thing. They just paid their hard-earned money to go watch a great story unfold as their hero won the gold.
In today’s wrestling world, there is so much emphasis placed on comparing promotions and different matches to add up to a certain expectation that we’ve placed on ourselves. It’s as ludicrous as someone trying to compare the Iconic first-ever TLC Match between The Hardy Boyz, Edge & Christian, and The Dudley Boyz to the NXT North American Championship Ladder Match at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans. You can’t do that because it’s in a completely different time and a different story. Yet, we still do it. I’ll give you another perfect example and it’s absolutely baffling.
At this year’s Hell in a Cell match between the Universal Champion Seth Rollins and “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt when the match ended due to referee stoppage almost immediately the WWE Universe compared it to the Iconic Hell in a Cell Match between The Undertaker and Mick Foley at the 1996 King of the Ring. Stating that Foley still continued the match even after being thrown off the cell and through the announce table.
So because one man decided to cause his own body an unimaginable amount of pain then Bray Wyatt should do the same? There’s even a rumor going around that the original finish had Wyatt being thrown off the cell and that would have caused the no contest. People would still be complaining and comparing it to Foley.
Folks I’m preaching to the choir here I make the same mistakes every week I watch an insane amount of wrestling and then I compare matches and grade them in my head. I take away the pure childlike joy from myself. I remember watching NXT TakeOver: Toronto’s main event essentially a Three Stages of Hell Match between the NXT Champion Adam Cole and Johnny Gargano. I thoroughly enjoyed the match including the Asylum match at the end feeling that their story was over and it was awesome. Afterward, I went and read bleacher report and read how they criticized the match and compared it to previous takeover main events claiming it didn’t live up to those.
How terrible is it that now we are critiquing takeover main events? Something so amazing that has only lasted for six years is under the same microscope to be scrutinized in every way possible. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why can’t we just get back to enjoying wrestling simply for the story two performers tell inside the squared circle?
I’ve actually been starting to this very recently while I’m watching 205 Live and NXT. Every week I do a recap of the high-flying cruiserweights who have been criminally mistreated from the jump. I feel so bad for them when the show starts it’s typically dead silent and how hard of a job is it for the two performers to not only wake up the dead crowd but also produce a great match?
That’s why it’s so easy for these incredibly-gifted superstars to have terrific matches because nobody expects anything from them. Most of the WWE Universe has already labeled them as unimportant because of how poorly WWE has handled the brand. But I have to tell you that I’ve seen much more enjoyable content in one hour over five hours on Raw and Friday Night SmackDown. It’s also reignited my passion for pro wrestling.
Perhaps, if we all stopped grading and comparing wrestling content and simply enjoy the story being told maybe we could stop complaining so damn much. Why don’t we all try to do that? I implore whoever is reading this to do this next week. Whether you watch WWE, AEW, ROH, TNA, NJPW, or simply all of the above just sit back and get lost in the art of storytelling and let the joy we used to have returned to us.