WRESTLING’S LAST STAND


After WWE bought and absorbed (read: folded) WCW in 2001, WCW’s less-expensive talent came to WWE. A WCW “invasion” of WWE was botched, mostly because, well… “Where the ***k is Goldberg?”

The explanation that he was too expensive didn’t fly.

A WCW wrestler named Johnny Swinger was asked to cut an interview upon arriving in WWE. His producer was Stephanie McMahon, the boss’ daughter.

WWE scripts interviews word-for-word. Wrestlers have to memorize, then recite. It makes every interview sound like it comes from the same voice.

Swinger did his interview. He memorized and recited just fine. But, upon watching the tape, McMahon said, “I don’t believe a word you said.”

Replied Swinger: “That’s because they’re not my words.”

Swinger was right. But he got fired.

Therein lies the problem.

In a de facto monopoly, what’s wrong is too often right. WWE’s interviews are 95 percent ***t. But that’s the way WWE does them.

All Elite Wrestling doesn’t. Wrestlers get bullet points (and minimally so) before doing promos. That makes the voice unique, and gives performers a chance to build their character.

That’s the least any performer deserves: A chance to succeed or fail on his/her own merits.

AEW debuted in Las Vegas Saturday with its “Double or Nothing” PPV.

It was brilliant. The highlight: Cody Rhodes vs. Dustin Rhodes. Brother vs. brother doesn’t often work, but this did. Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega was great, and featured the exclamation point of Jon Moxley (fka Dean Ambrose) doing a post-match run-in.

The interview method is just a microcosm.

But it’s good to see “our way” and “the right way” intersecting. That’s not the only time that’s happened, or will happen, with AEW.

WWE has a lot of great performers. But its creative process is beyond stale. Most of its TV is barely watchable. Ratings continue to dip.

AEW begins weekly live TV on TNT this fall. AEW is wrestling’s last stand. If AEW fails, the wrong way will be the right way in perpetuity. If AEW succeeds, WWE might be forced to take a better path. That’s what WCW did to WWE in the mid-‘90s.

Here’s hoping AEW can do it for wrestling fans, for the sake of the industry, and for Johnny Swinger.

Swinger was a marginal performer. But had been allowed to use his own words, who knows what might have happened?

Meantime, I’m going to watch AEW and wait for The Revival to show up with Arn Anderson. #BigPop

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