Joe Babinsack on shooters in wrestling and emotion in wrestling

Short Notes today… wanted to cover a few topics:
I’ve been reading Jonathan Snowden’s Shooters: The Toughest Men in Professional Wrestling … actually, been reading it for some time, and then got caught up in Neal Stepheson’s Anathema.
There’s a parallel here, but no use getting into literary criticism.
While I enjoy the historic recaps of guys like Muldoon, Jenkins and Hackenschmidt, and I’m equally fascinated by the blurring of what is now known as professional wrestling and what is now known as Mixed Martial Arts, there’s something about the book that is awkward. It’s touted as the “Toughest Men”, but there’s no listing involved.
Instead, it’s a historical piece, which is detailed and Snowden’s MMA creds are impeccable, but how is “Toughest” defined in terms of professional wrestling? Sure, Brock Lesnar is tough, and Kurt Angle is an Olympic Gold medalist who broke his neck and still prevailed, which is tough, but are we talking reputation, accomplishments or what?
I do look forward to Wigan, to early MMA stuff, to notable names and historical pieces. It’s just slogging along at this point, though.
The blurring of professional wrestling and MMA is always fascinating, but it remains a point of great humor to me that the same people who are quick to castigate any pro wrestling fan for treading on MMA territory are responding how to one of their midst writing a book that fully blurs the subject.
Dave provides some insight about HHH’s take on professional wrestling in last week’s Observer, and the use of “emotions” seems to be important in HHH’s mind.
Which it is in my mind, in regards to the concept of professional wrestling.
What glares at me is the inability of the Creative types in the WWE to engage my emotion as a fan, and instead stoke the emotions of “The Family”. HHH and Stephanie taking umbrage at Paul Heyman’s inclusion of their children is quite the emotional subject.
However, it’s a point, a fact, a storyline that was never truly raised, and thus cannot capture the emotions of the fans watching, can it?
I find it amusing that the WWE calls itself entertainment, hires Hollywood types, compares itself to TV series, and yet blows a concept that wouldn’t be so fumbled in the hands of TV writers for a TV show, nor so fumbled with a professional wrestling mind trying to stoke the emotions of its fans.
Do you think [insert hit TV show here] would drop a big reveal of a family relationship, then immediately use that as a dramatic point, and expect an immediate payoff?
Me neither.
Will someone please break the current mold of expectations and format and matchmaking and concepts of what mainstream professional wrestling is today?
I have a few suggestions. Maybe I’ll tell the billionaire what they are someday.
I’ll have a full blown review of ROH’s Unity soon, especially in time for the awesome matchup of Kevin Steen vs Eddie Kingston and the whole CHIKARA / Ring of Honor situation which has been criticized as being rather lackluster.
I have to agree.
This match should provide a lot of opportunities for ROH to stoke up the emotions and do a full bore CHIKARA feud. Would ROH do something crazy like give Kingston the belt? Yeah, I doubt it, but that would be interesting on many levels, not the least of which would show that the Company truly hates and fears Kevin Steen.
Having Steen do something to get that belt back, while ROH suddenly realizes that it got the Championship off the devil, just to give it to someone who may not be a nightmare, but really hates the Company as well, would be an interesting dynamic.
It would also raise eyebrows and raise the stature of CHIKARA, which seems to be Gabe Sapolsky’s problem with ROH’s handling of the ‘crossover’ situation.
(Hey, when you talk CHIKARA, you talk in comic book lingo!)
Kingston vs Steen…. there’s a ton of potential there, regardless.
TNA… for years, that was a bad thing to me. Now, Austin Aries is Champ, they’re bringing in some indie names, and there seems to be some direction and a heck of a lot of better will.
Too bad Hogan and Bischoff just had to get their kids involved.
Too bad TNA couldn’t do a side deal with ROH instead of mindlessly disrupting and taking away a Tag Team Champion and then …. well, doing what TNA does best, and not using talent on its roster.
There I go again.
The big suggestion for either TNA or ROH would be this: work deals with the top Indie names, get some of these guys national exposure, get some of the big pro wrestling fan bases in places like Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Los Angeles to watch the show to see their favorites, and start building up a home promotion fanbase that is more inclusive.
Creating goodwill among the solid and growing ‘regional’ promotions may not bring immediate return, but both TNA and ROH need to be expanding their fan base. Getting WWE castoffs hasn’t worked in ten years. Building from the ‘grassroots’ of localized fans might just be a different take, and one that once showed promise – TNA’s early attempts to work with Florida promotions got them buys.
If TNA or ROH would work with (insert promotional name here), then they may see a few hundred locals buy a PPV or iPPV that they wouldn’t otherwise. If there’s a sense that either promotion respects other talents, names those promotions and truly provides opportunities, it might create a level of interest, a level of trust, and a rising level of fans – as well as a truer sense of a World promotion.
Just talking crazy, but I’m told I’m pretty good at that.
I’d talk about creating a new World Champion based on those Indie Promotions participating, but that would be really crazy.
What’s funny to me is that in an industry where things can be created out of thin air, and almost every conceivable tradition of the sport is trampled on – all the while watching so many people mindlessly follow the mainstream – there’s no sense of actually creating situations, Champions or storylines with a mindset of creation emotion, creating matchups or protecting and setting up big feuds.
Is it just me, or are fans more emotional about defending the mainstream than they are about 99% of the storylines, wrestlers and skits that are on display?

Who is the strongest of these Hall of Fame candidates?


What do you believe is the second most popular promotion right now in the U.S?