It was a frosty January morning when I heard the news. Today was the day of the WWE Royal Rumble. It was like someone had opened the floodgates and the memories of the good old days came flooding back. My memories are of the WWF Attitude era of wrestling (1995-2001), the era before that damn panda forced them change the F to an E. The day wrestling changed from a Federation to Entertainment, the Attitude era was brought to an end. The show became more family orientated and my interest waned. Because frankly, if these guys weren’t going to attack each other with a weapon wrapped in barbed wire every week, I don’t know why should waste my time.
Things were much edgier back then and more was put on the line when they stepped into that ring. Back then the “please do not try this at home” warning was an unbreakable commandment, whereas nowadays, it seems more like a suggestion. That being said, it’s a good idea to leave it to the professionals and not try it at home.
Nothing epitomizes the era more than the King of the Ring “Hell in a Cell” match between Mankind and The Undertaker. For those who do not know, a hell in a cell match has a 16ft high roofed steel cage that is lowered over the ring and ringside area. But this match didn’t start off in the cell, it started 16ft above the ring on the cell. But within 66 seconds, Mankind was thrown from the roof and through an announcer’s table at ringside and it seemed as good as over.
I vividly remember watching this fight and my mum deriding it, telling me how fake it is. I knew this was entertainment, but fake was not the right word. Whatever you think, a man had just fallen 16ft to the ground below in the name of entertainment and a lot of people in the business were worried they had witnessed the end of a career. Unbelievably, the fight went on and they questionably returned to the roof of the cell where Mankind was thrown through the cell roof and into the ring below. The first fall dislocated his shoulder but after the second, Mark Callaway (The Undertaker) genuinely thought he may have killed him. The owner Vince McMahon even made Foley promise to never do anything like that again following the match.
When I watched wrestling, I was a kid and it was aimed at adults and this showed. Today, wrestling is aimed at families with kids and it shows. I will give full credit to the WWE as I have seen some of the work that they do with kids and the community and it is beyond outstanding. But the edge wrestling once had has been rounded off so thoroughly that you would stand a better chance of cutting yourself on a balloon. It is now a family show and the action has become an afterthought as all the focus is now on these wacky characters and the insane storylines they have. I couldn’t even stomach staying up for the main event I was so bored.
I used to find wrestling special. These athletes would often go through hell in the name of entertainment, and maybe in today’s society, that is a questionable thing to enjoy. But it was special. I stayed up late to watch these icons like Undertaker, Mankind, Brett Hart and Shawn Michaels beat seven shades of grey matter out of each other. We all know if you start to incorporate more shades of grey, things get a bit kinkier and that would not be suitable for wrestling.
The pay-per-view events like the Royal Rumble or Wrestlemania used to be serious highlights on the calendar. There was only four or five of these events in a year, but now there are now twelve. These events used to be the showcase for the culmination of feuds, allowing stories to climax at a big event. But now there is an event every month, there is no time to build any really compelling drama.
I’ll be honest, watching the Royal Rumble this year made me a little depressed. For me, it has changed for the worse. Once scary characters like Kane are now put into silly comedic tag teams doing “humorous” skits. The action has diminished so much you sometimes struggle to see it. And female wrestlers now seem to be chosen solely for their looks and revealing outfits instead of their physical ability. There was a time when you had female wrestlers like Chyna who could bench press half of the roster or Lita who was capable of unbelievable aerial acrobatics. With a few exceptions the stars of wrestling today just don’t seem to shine so bright.
With such a focus on the younger market, there will be no way back for at least a generation. But the Attitude era is over and that was my era as a fan. Like with many things, you think what you grew up with was the best. But in my case, I know it was. I will just have to stick to my box sets for now.
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