If like me, you grew up with one foot in the madness of 80’s and the other in the confusion of the 90’s, your pop culture references doubtlessly include many commercial jingles, great one-liners from ham-fisted action flicks, and pro-wrestling. The latter was a huge influence on me as a child despite the fact that I was not particularly sporty or physically inclined. I loved the pageantry of wrestling, the roaring crowds, the colorful characters, the incredible cheese-factor.
Above all other aspects, I loved the storytelling in wrestling, although that fact was not clear to me at first. Behind all the flash, muscle-flexing, shouting and pyrotechnics wrestling depended for decades on a very pure and simple storytelling mechanism; good guy vs bad guy. They took this one very fundamental dynamic and managed to find almost endless ways of re-hashing it week-after-week to the great enjoyment of many.
Strangely, wrestling, like cinema has served as the entertainment industry’s social barometer over its long history; like cinema wrestling has thrived on incorporating the trends of its day, the pop culture, the gimmicks. The same way that Coppola’s The Conversation was archived in the Smithsonian for being a historically relevant film that perfectly encapsulated the rise of the audiophile in the context of Cold War paranoia, wrestling’s avatar for America, Hulk Hogan, would often be billed against whatever kind of villain inhabited the conscience of the nation at that specific period. His battles were supposed to be our battles. Promoters like Vince MacMahon and Eric Bischoff understood that like any form of relevant entertainment the product had to reflect the values, concerns, and dreams of the day.
I don’t watch wrestling anymore, haven’t for many years now. Today it has lost much of its luster for a variety of reasons. Some claim that they have lost the ability to make new stars or to tell compelling stories in the ring as well is around it. Many have complained of the industry’s over-reliance on nostalgia acts and publicity stunts, fans lament that it has turned into bland reality-tv fodder, made worse by the fact that its artificiality has been exposed in the process.
Some would say that Hollywood has stumbled in a very similar fashion.