WWF stopped being cool in 2001
by, 11-20-2011 at 07:27 PM (5008 Views)
I have read a few blogs in the last few days that really have shed some realisation on what wwe, and wrestling really is today. It is entertainment, as it always has been.
Rated_R(ob)KO and THE_CRIPPLER in particular have written really great blogs that reflect reflect what the wwe is about right now. CRIPPLER about the overall state of wwe and where they are/already have been moving in with their PG direction, and R(ob)KO alluding to the more primary concerns of wwe.
What I am writing about is something completely different. This may be hard for some of you to take, whilst some of you may be thinking "Duh". WWE isn't cool anymore. In fact, it hasn't been cool since it was called the WWF.
In the 80's/early 90's, WWF managed to make itself relevant. Guys like Randy Savage or Roddy Piper or Jesse "The Body" Ventura were able to appear in the celebrity field on regular occasions and not look out of place. Not just these guys, but many in the company.
Naturally, numero uno was Hulk Hogan. Absolutely everyone knew Hulk Hogan. He was the man who put wrestling on the map.
For the 80's, Hulk Hogan, and therefore by association all of wrestling (particularly WWF) was cool. It wasn't particularly cool with adults, but the kids loved it. The 80's was an era that we may look back on with contempt at times, but it truly was a creative time in all things. Movies were arguably at their peak. Cartoon show's, marketed for kids were definitely at their peak with gems like Transformers and Turtles to name a few. The WWF in "the golden" era was a cartoon in itself, and every kid on the globe who followed it had all their favourite characters.
Around 1992 things started to change in a big way for the World Wrestling Federation. A lot of the big personalities that dominated the era started to fade away, with the steroid investigation playing a predeominant role in this. Hulk Hogan was embroiled in the steroid trial particularly and had to get away for a while. His brief return when winning the title at WrestleMania 9 was merely a cameo. Million Dollar Man, though still very over and decent at working in the ring, had participated less and less as the years went on. Macho Man followed, Ultimate Warrior disappeared, Legion of Doom and many others were no longer WWF superstars anymore in a very short space of time. The company had to rebuild.
When Bret Hart became champion, the company changed. Hart had been a well received character in the golden era who sort of became like an underdog you could root for when he beat Flair for the strap. But by the toga special that was WrestleMania 9, amidst too many changes, the company lost it's appeal and the casual fan's started dropping off.
Wrestling was still somewhat relevant, don't get me wrong (check out Bret Hart's appearance on the Simpson's) but it was a new generation, as it had been coined. Those who stuck around however were agruably treated to the best time in wrestling there has ever been.
In 1994 - 1996 WWF was mightily entertaining. At the time it may have seemed completely "passe" but for those who stuck around witnessed the evolution of a business. Not being able to rely on real star power anymore caused WWF to really concentrate on the art of the business. Sure the horrible gimmicks outweighed the good ones by about 99:1 but there was a focus on the competitive side like never before, in WWF at least. A willingness to put on an Ironman match as the main event at WrestleMania 12 a case in point.
In 1996 however, wrestling became cool again. Hulk Hogan, universally known as a good guy and still fondly remembered as "that wrestler", turned heel. Nothing gets the world's media in a spin like a fall from grace of a once godlike figure. And though staged, Hulk Hogan was back in the news for turning his backs on all his fans.
WcW was everywhere. The nWo storyline was huge criticallly and commercially for the organisation and they were now number 1 after years of being "the one that's not WWF". People appearing on talkshows and movies once again, celebrities wanting a piece of the action again. While WcW was basking in it's new found glory, the players at Titan Towers were pushing the envelope.
Nirvana was the biggest breakthrough band of the 1990's. Not just for what they did, but the whole generation that they inspired. People wanted edgy music, movies and television. The 80's were long moved on from and instead of ET we had Independence Day. People no longer went to see happy, inspiring films. People wanted to see films were everything got fucked up and people overcame the odds. And they wanted to see this progression happen in wrestling as well.
Paul Heyman and Todd Gordon's ECW opened up a new kind of wrestling. Vince McMahon's WWF just tweaked it with a whole lot of precious finance. The Attitude era was built on the back of one figurehead, the incomparable Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Stone Cold was not your usual superhero. In fact, what made him different from the past superhero's was that he was a damn real person. After falling behind WcW, Vince McMahon rebuilt the WWF from scratch slowly and came up with a whole new kind of monster in sports entertainment.
The acquisition of Mike Tyson was key.
Mike Tyson was box office. He was more box office than he was even during the peak of his fighting career because of his bizarre persona in and out of the ring, and was in light of the infamous ear biting incident with Holyfield. Vince decided to have his crown jewel in Stone Cold go face to face with Tyson. Not in a wrestling aspect, but a rivalry aspect. All fan's of sport or just in general news were intrigued to see Tyson in WWF. And seeing him spar with Stone Cold Steve Austin gave them a glimpse of wrestling's new superstar.
Many stayed with the product after Tyson left after WrestleMania 14. People were enamoured with the Stone Cold persona. What they were in for was a whole new beginning. The Stone Cold character became a force. His character was the everyday man doing what everybody wanted to do, and that was stick it to the boss.
The angle is the single biggest success in wrestling history. This was the biggest boom ever. Wrestling was cool once again, but this time not with the kids, but with a generation that was significantly more adult.
The bubble of the nWo burst big time and painfully took a long time for those in charge ot realise it. WcW were never the same again. WWF was making waves. It was again in pop culture. Stone Cold's stardust rubbed onto many of his peers, Undertaker was revitalised, Kane was a legitimate draw, The Rock stood out on his own, Mankind was the lovable goof of the whole thing and Degeneration X were a perfect stable to reflect this landscape. Hell In A Cell between Mankind and Undertaker gave the Attitude Era it's defining moment and made the casual fan stay, and drew back some of the former ones like myself.
For a few years things were perfect again. Merchandise flew off the stands, crowd participation was at an all time high and WWF stars appeared in various other media outlets.
In 2001, things changed however. By 2001 people had dropped off rapidly. Viewership was still healthy but alot of people had enough of the wrestling fad due to storylines like Vince McMahon having Undertaker abduct his daughter, Triple H "marrying" an unconscious and kayfabe drugged up Stephanie McMahon in Vegas, and Big Boss Man towing Big Show's coffin around during a funeral. I enjoyed the skits but you can understand people thinking wrestling was pretty stupid.
After the attitude era business was still good. The time had been such a success that the fallout had been easy to transition into. WWF no longer had competition anymore so that was a plus. Even when The Rock and Stone Cold were still active members of the roster wrestling had lost it's cool factor.
It has been 10 years now since the Attitude era ended. A huge portion of fan's look back fondly on the old days and pine. Wrestling officially fizzled out in 2001 from public consciousness, with the exception of some of the more unflattering real occurences with superstars.
Like 1993-1996 in WWF, WWE is going through a difficult time, at least in cultural relevance. But like 1993-1996, maybe the current WWE is pretty exciting in terms of what it could be. Who knows? I say, just sit back and enjoy it, for you are still here.