I was and wasn’t joking about the previous post. Yes, I think it’s funny that WWE is completely erasing the word “wrestling” from the nomenclature. But I mostly think it’s amusing because they aren’t really replacing it with anything. “entertainment” is a complete nonstarter. It simply doesn’t mean anything. So I think I’ve got something, and I’m going to use it as the new name of the blog. If we’re going to rename wrestling, let’s at least give it a superior name. I’m actually completely with WWE on this decision. As a term to describe a business to people, “wrestling” is beneath contempt. We forget because we’re fans, but wrestling isn’t very respected. If you listen to the podcast, you’ll notice that comes up a lot. It’s a topic I’ve thought about and discussed in great detail. But since “entertainment” is ludicrous, let’s work with something better. Aggressive Art is superior for a couple of reasons. For one, it encompasses wrestling without reducing the term to mean just wrestling. A particularly violent ballet would fit under the umbrella. Transgressive fiction, protest art, and criminal couture would also fit as examples. It sounds appropriately counter-culture, but also lofty. It alludes to catharsis, chaos, and the base form of animal communication, but also dares to be studied, published, worked on. Secondly, it completely erases sport from the equation. There is nothing so statistical about this: you are here to watch a staged thing, and you can see it right there in the title. “sports entertainment” has always stuck in my throat as an ugly pairing. It doesn’t sound nice, it doesn’t make sense, and it falls apart under any analysis. Aggressive Art still eludes to an athletic tone (surely one can only be so successful at aggression without some hard tissue), but without the hangups of professional sport. It wouldn’t make any sense to cover Aggressive Art next to Baseball; you’d much more likely see a report next to the newest fringe play. When I thought about it, I immediately thought back to 2002, during the rebranding campaign from WWF to WWE. Along with the name change came a new catchphrase: Vince McMahon encouraged his roster to act with “ruthless aggression.” This coincidentally led to the debut of John Cena, Randy Orton, and Brock Lensnar. All three of them are still affecting the landscape of wrestling (of course, Lesnar has revolutionized in a completely different way that doesn’t apply to this argument). I remember really liking the concept. I can’t help but think they wanted to keep it going too. Over the next week or so, The Footnotes of Wrestling will become Aggressive Art. The tone of the blog will change as well, expanding to art I feel fits within the definition, something I’ve been wanting to do but always stopped myself, since this stuff wasn’t “wrestling.” But wrestling isn’t wrestling anymore. It’s something better. It will both complement WWE’s new direction, and offer a contrast to their lack of a real new term. It will also make more sense in regards to Fair to Flair, which is in itself is growing in a really great direction. I don’t like being redundant, reductive, or replaceable. This will make sure I won’t be.
Theatrical Language VS Carny Language
This is a topic I’ve been ruminating on for a long time, but this week Stephen T. Stone of Grapple Kingdom asked me for some advice about his writing style, and the topic again came up: what kind of language pattern is best to describe pro wrestling? The typical pattern is generally agreed that carny insider terms (blading, faces, heels, shoots, angles, etc) are acceptable and largely understood by wrestling fans.
I’m sure I’ve done it unintentionally (it’s really hard to unlearn a language pattern), but I try my best to not use these terms on my blog. Instead, I lift from theatrical language patterns (bleeding, good guys, bad guys, breaking character, stories/narratives, etc). I do this for two reasons: First, I believe wrestling is a vast and misunderstood art form, and by using theatrical language patterns instead of carny ones, I believe I’m helping illustrate that argument. Secondly, I think theatrical language is far superior, expresses more, and is easier to read by anyone other than hardcore wrestling fans.
So, this is the advice I gave Stephen. At first, he defended the language, citing that he wanted “smarks” to enjoy his site. But I explained to him that “smarks” aren’t actually anything, and they’ll read good writing the same way anyone else would. I believe he’s done a great service in eliminating almost all of the carny language from his posts, and his writing quality has improved.
Here’s an example from his latest Raw review:
Randy Orton, having arrived in his private tour bus, was set to take on Rey Mysterio in a “WrestleMania Flashback” match, which went back to their WrestleMania 22 match (too bad TNA has Kurt Angle locked into a contract, or they could have made it a full “Flashback”—and a lot more entertaining). Once the match was in full swing and Orton was gaining an advantage, the last remaining member of the New Nexus, CM Punk, went on the offensive; Punk, who was standing right outside Orton’s bus, told him he was going to pay a visit to his wife. An enraged Orton left the ring and ran to the back, but before he could check on his wife, Punk clipped his knee with a well-placed shot from a wrench. Orton’s wife (who looks a little different since the last time we saw her) could do nothing but watch from inside the bus as Punk taunted both of them, promising that Orton would not be punting anybody in the head at WrestleMania, unlike what had happened to the rest of the New Nexus over the past few weeks.
I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with the quality of the recap. It’s readable, keeps you engaged whether you’ve seen the show or not, and doesn’t distract itself with insider terms. Someone who has never seen wrestling before can pretty much get by on this.
Compare that with a paragraph from a month ago:
Thus, when it came time for Cena and Miz to face off against WWE Tag Team Champions Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel, Miz wasted little time getting into Cena’s head…by winning the titles. The surprise victory was followed up by a direct rematch between the two teams, and a Skull-Crushing Finale to Cena gave The Corre the titles back. The reasoning behind this particular move is understandable, as it gives Miz a clear advantage in what will be a month-long game of oneupsmanship between him and Cena. However, it should not have been done for two reasons: the “strange bedfellows” schtick has been done to death in recent years, and the hotshot title reigns do nothing but devalue the “Penny Belts” even more than they already were before these matches. Not only does this say more about the tag team division in WWE than anything or anyone else can, it simply reeks of “emergency” booking, where Creative was basically scrambling for ideas of how to get the Miz/Cena feud started up.
There are at least three terms in that paragraph a new fan would simply not understand. What’s a hotshot reign? How are Cena and Miz “strange bedfellows” (a cliché, but still)? What is “emergency” booking, and how did this scene reek of it?
One might point out that there is sort of a comfort in insider language. You feel like a tighter part of a supposed community if you use it. But the advantages whither really quickly: not only does the “community” of “smark” fans not only not appreciate the terms (as they take them for granted), but it can turn off fans who find the terms confusing, insulting, derivative, or, worst, lazy.
Why the worked-shoot is irrelevant
One of The Miz’s calling cards for his championship run is the lack of respect he has received. But all of these three stories have included shoot feeling elements. They don’t feel that way however. They feel natural.
Robert’s hit the mark (har) on one point in this piece but run right into another, perhaps inadvertently. He makes a great point that WWE’s brushes with reality to promote drama are far more effective and well-produced than TNA’s. But he also makes a great point that I’m not even sure he knows he made: the entire idea of a shoot doesn’t really exist when it comes to the Miz. The Miz claims he’s been criticized by people inside and outside the industry. They say he’s a reality TV show guy. They say all sorts of things. But he’ll show them, he says. This is the narrative of The Miz, and this is viewed as “shoot”-like because it’s the truth. But the character “The Miz” actually came from reality TV. Mike has always wanted to play “The Miz” and win the WWE title. Unlike Shawn Michaels’ “boyhood dream” thing, there is actual footage of Mike proclaiming this, long before he ever worked for WWE. The Miz is a character, but everything about it is very real. You can say the same thing about John Cena as well.
They aren’t characters so much as they are personifications of themselves in real life. Which is why “shoots” don’t work for them, because they can’t break character. When Miz talks about respect, he really means it, even if he’s amping it up for entertainment’s sake. When John Cena talks about wrestling being all he has in life, he’s likely telling the truth. They can’t “shoot” because they were never lying (or rather, acting) in the first place.
This is illustrated starkly by a guy like Sting, who can “shoot” all he wants but nobody believes him (even when he plays “Steve Borden” in TNA), because he’s all character. This all leads to something I’ve been slowly trying to point out on the blog. The vernacular of the insider wrestling fan is beginning to erode. Works. Shoots. Work-shoots. They are happening less and less in the way we’re accustomed, and it’ll soon become apparent that the only people who bother to use this language are the folks who have been around for way, way too long.
A case of never letting the source spoil a good story
You might think this doesn’t have to do with wrestling, but it has everything to do with wrestling journalism, and journalism in general:
Why don’t journalists link to primary sources? Whether it’s a press release, an academic journal article, a formal report or perhaps (if everyone’s feeling brave) the full transcript of an interview, the primary source contains more information for interested readers, it shows your working, and it allows people to check whether what you wrote was true. Perhaps linking to primary sources would just be too embarrassing.
…. But more than anything, because linking to sources is such an easy thing to do and the motivations for avoiding links are so dubious, I’ve detected myself using a new rule of thumb: if you don’t link to primary sources, I just don’t trust you.
Fair to Flair: Two guys rolling around in their underwear by any other name
“You made wrestling a dirty word, Vince. A dirty word.” - Paul Heyman, throwing his hat at Vince McMahon, late 2001.
Is it a tad ridiculous that WWE contact Ross about his wording, calling World Wrestling Entertainment a wrestling company? Of course it is. But let’s talk about this, because there’s a larger issue at hand here, as well as some fascinating nomenclature. Can one entirely re-brand a concept?
I saw a few folks in the TWC looking to see my opinion on the story from yesterday. Here it is.
This is Sports Entertainment: Are we getting excited for Wrestlemania?
Of course you are. We’ve certainly given you enough reasons. I mean, come on, The Rock? The Rock was great enough that I could come out of my coma and absolutely nobody commented because OMFG it’s The Rock. Cena and Miz? Hello, what a build. We’ve turned Miz into a killer so fast nobody’s even talking about how he hasn’t won a match without interference in four months. Alberto Del Rio? Yeah, he’s money. Just you wait. Snooki? She’s on the cover of Rolling Stone. Youth. Market. Tapped.
What? A post from Fake Vince? We haven’t seen him since he chased off General Adnan at the Summerslam.
The curse of the TNA Heavyweight Title
TNA has been around since 2002, but they didn’t actually get their own belt until 2007. When I first suggested that the TNA belt was cursed, I did so around the time TNA stopped using the NWA title. I was right, but the argument wasn’t concrete. When I first proposed the theory that everyone who held the title became evil, I had overlooked the reigns by AJ Styles and Christian (and, I guess, Rhino). But when Kurt Angle hoisted the new TNA Title above his head at Slammiversary 2007 and clocked Samoa Joe in a brash act of unsportsmanlike behaviour (really, the moment he turned evil), I knew I had something. I just didn’t know how right I would be.
Wrestlespective: WrestleMania’s Main Events No. 9: Hart v. Yokozuna (and Hogan, too)
Wrestlespective Radio continues its series of 26 podcasts in 26 days covering the final matches of the first 26 WrestleManias. Jason Mann and K Sawyer Paul talk about Bret Hart v. Yokozuna at WrestleMania 9 and Hulk Hogan obnoxiously swooping in to save the day.
Download this episode of…
listen all the way through to hear my theory that Wrestlemania 9 was actually a bizarro wcw show. Also, the Bret hart tight theory.
I might have too many theories.
"There’s a kind of cruel justice about it. I mean, to commit the crime of the century, a man naturally wants to face the challenge of the century."
"It’s been my experience, General, that there is little advantage to winning if one wins too easily."
-The Great Race
Juror #2: It’s hard to put into words. I just think he’s guilty. I thought it was obvious from the word, ‘Go’. Nobody proved otherwise.
Juror #8: Nobody has to prove otherwise. The burden of proof is on the prosecution. The defendant doesn’t even have to open his mouth.
-12 Angry Men
Reaction was the true alternative
There are three major complaints about the way TNA does television: their TV matches don’t last very long, their stories are often too rushed to make any sense, and their climatic moments are often on free TV, making their PPVs seem underwhelming (even though that’s where the good TNA wrestling matches are). If the TV show was Reaction instead of Impact, all three of those problems would (in theory) be solved.
Part two of my three-part essay on the current state of TNA Wrestling.
Fair to Flair: The profession of professional wrestler
In 1996, the WWF did a story about Shawn Michaels’ “boyhood dream.” Regardless of his characters’ shenanigans before January ’96, his new plateau was that he had always wanted to win the world championship. Let’s forget for a second that before he was positioned to win the title he never once…
I originally wrote this in 2008. I updated it for Fair to Flair. I think it’s a pretty good ponder.
Fair to Flair: Come see the broken man: Kurt Angle—the noir hero of TNA Wrestling
This is the first article in a series where I’ll be talking about TNA Wrestling in a way I don’t believe anyone has before. My basis for this argument stems from a series of realizations I’ve had while on my self-imposed negligence of TNA Impact:
- TNA Wrestling creates a televised product that upsets many wrestling fans.
- There is no way TNA doesn’t know this.
- There is no way they are making these programming, writing, and producing decisions by accident. They are, in fact, on a daily basis, making these decisions.
- The people who make up the TNA writing staff are not stupid people. They are perhaps not communicating their true intentions to the public, but that doesn’t make them stupid. Dismissing them as such ignores the real problem: there is a disconnect between what viewers want out of TNA and what TNA delivers.
- We reject TNA Wrestling on a number of levels, but mostly on the level that TNA’s writing doesn’t make any sense. But they’ve been delivering on this level for years. There has never been a time when TNA writing has made sense to us. God knows if they felt they were doing something wrong, they would have changed something. But they haven’t. In fact, they’ve gone farther into the opposite direction than what fans appear to want.
- Perhaps we’re looking at it wrong.
I came to this conclusion through viewing three aspects of TNA: Kurt Angle’s deteriorated character, the trial and cancellation of Reaction, and Jeff Hardy’s creative decisions. This week, I’m going to focus on Kurt, because I feel his story is the strongest they’ve told, but probably the least obvious.
This is probably the best thing I’ve written in a while.
Fair to Flair Show No. 1: Introducing Ourselves
It’s the debut of the Fair to Flair Show! In this podcast, Jason Mann, K Sawyer Paul, Razor, and Mitch talk about their goals for the new website, being serious but not humorless, WWE revisionist history, our excitement level heading into WrestleMania 27, what wrestling is doing better than ever before, Kelly Kelly defending the World title, fans being offended by the Jeff and Karen Jarrett storyline and Michael Cole’s references to Jerry Lawler’s mother, and much more.
Click here to listen to the Fair to Flair Show.
Click here to subscribe to the show via Feedburner RSS. (We’ll be up on iTunes soon).
The first Fair to Flair Podcast with all four of us on board, give it a listen!