Over the past year, I was involved in a whirlwind relationship with a former interest of mine. It came back into my life with a new coat of paint, won me over, then left me feeling empty when things got rough and awkward. No, I’m not talking about a fling or an entanglement with a woman. I’m talking about professional wrestling and how it won me back, only to lose me yet again.
When AEW officially came onto the scene a little over a year ago, I was ready to give it a chance. I mean, there have been multiple organizations that’ve come and gone, each one claiming to be different than WWE. Just in my life, there was ECW, TNA/IMPACT, ROH, MCW, NJPW’s American expansion and countless others. Some of these are near and dear to me, others I gave up on before it was cool. AEW offered something different. They had sports entertainment, but it wasn’t overly “PG.” On the inverse, it was violent and visceral, but not to the point you had to peek at it with one hand over your face the whole time. It was the closest to the Attitude Era I could get without the late 1990s edginess-just-for-edginess’-sake theatrics. Sure, Marko Stunt is a thing but he’s not contesting for top titles like, say, James Ellsworth was. Because of AEW, I started watching WWE again. I’ve never been the “one brand” type of guy, so I’d watch NXT or RAW and still watch Dynamite and Dark.
But between COVID-19, racial unrest and the #SpeakingOut movement, wrestling lost its luster to me once again. This time, I’m unsure that AEW or any organization can bring it back.
First, empty arena matches don’t have the same energy. You can put any number of developmental talents into the arena and it still lacks some of the vibe. Wrestling needs energy and efforts to force it don’t always work out the way they should. I’d prefer if organizations took some time off to revamp, recoup, and revitalize themselves. I know that’s not exactly viable because of TV deals, but it’d be nice to give wrestlers a bit of a vacation to just not have to steal the show every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday.
Secondly, a new person will be revealed to be a vile POS every other day. Wrestling has been full of creepy folks since its inception. That much, we’re not going to argue. With social media, it feels like it’s more because it’s more accessible. Wrestling news sites and rumor pages will post about, for example, J*** Ry** because it’ll get views. Plus it is news, as bad as it is. We would always hear rumors. Various organizations became (in)famous for them. These days, with people more accessible to vouch for these stories, judgment is swift and the number of possible other situations rise even more swiftly. On the flip side of that, you’ll have people ready to discredit a victim because they’re coming out against someone a fan may like. It’s like “damn the evidence, damn the people who are coming out. I like when XYZ does their finisher so it can’t be true.” We should believe victims, but that’s another topic for another day.
On top of all the empty energy and the sexual deviancy, the amount of Black and brown top-tier talent has always been an issue for me in wrestling. Yes, you’ll have Kofi Kingston going for the title every so often. You’ve got Keith Lee as the NXT Champion. SCU still exists as a top tag team in AEW. But, in 2020, that isn’t enough for me to continuously tune in. No, I don’t want people elevated just because they’re Black. I don’t like handouts, nor do I like title runs that just feel like an organization is throwing its minority viewers a bone. I want Black and other POC talents to be elevated because they’ve shown they can do what needs to be done. Private Party is still green, but they’ve shown they can hold their own. Bianca Belair is a proven commodity and could be a top star in WWE. Keith Lee had amazing matches in WWE and elsewhere. Nyla Rose has shown she’s ready to learn more and be the best she can be (teaming her with Vickie Guerrero is a chef’s kiss for heel heat). But I feel that, if a Black star doesn’t instantly connect with TV audiences (or “live” audiences), they’ll be used as the reason why we don’t get more Black stars.
Not everyone is Dwayne Johnson. I don’t want them to be. I just want more people who look like me to be given a chance to run with the ball for more than a month or two.
Compounded, these three issues have made me fall out of love with wrestling again. Maybe things will change in the future. For now, I think I’ve watched my last Shooting Star Press.