5 Things We're Begging to See Changed in Pro Wrestling

I've followed pro wrestling forever. I cut my writing teeth on years of wrestling satire under the most nonsensical pen name ever. I trained to wrestle and got so good at it I now referee two -- sometimes three -- shows a year. Cracked runs a wrestling article? Chances are I'm involved in one form or 10.

So when I say wrestling is so fucked, I mean it. No industry loses hundreds of millions of dollars in one day without major issues. One of the biggest is that, for a show that's planned ahead of time, the people in charge of planning it absolutely suck at their jobs. For the past decade-plus, pro wrestling writers have made their product seem stupid, shallow, confusing, sub-juvenile, and horrifically, blatantly fake. And it'll stay that way until they fix problems like ...

#5. They've Rendered Championships Completely Meaningless

World Wrestling Entertainment

While dramatic, heated rivalries are always entertaining and welcome, the main focus of a wrestling show should always be the wrestlers striving for, winning, and defending championships. Used to be, the people writing the shows made damn sure being champion was sold as a huge deal. They were a badge of honor, evidence the wrestler was among the very best in their industry. Also, winning one meant gobs of money, since wrestling is a job and wrestlers don't work for free.

Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images
Five bucks to sloppily bump around an old VFW, sure. But not FREE.

This hasn't happened in roughly forever, and the product looks stupider for it. Look, just because wrestling championships are handed out by committee doesn't mean the people writing the shows should act like they are. Vince Russo, a writer during the WWEFGHIJK's '90s boom, openly referred to and treated championships as meaningless props that exist only to drive storylines. Unfortunately, the only worthwhile story he could dream up was "oily man hangs shiny buckle above dick, is pleased with the shiny."

World Wrestling Entertainment
Or, in some sad cases, is pleased with the spinny.

This attitude has sadly both survived and thrived to the point where being champion now means nothing. World champions are often secondary stars unless the one guy the company likes best holds the belt. Secondary champions are booked as losers who blow 90 percent of their matches (conveniently, 90 percent of their matches are non-title, like how the Super Bowl counts only once a decade). And, perhaps worst of all, becoming champ is painted as a regular part of the workday, no more important than bathing in baby oil and pouring a big bowl of painkillers for breakfast. It turns the typical wrestler into a slacking cubicle dweller with no interest in promotions, bonuses, raises, or Employee of the Period of Time awards.

AVAVA/iStock/Getty Images
"You can keep your 'incentives.' I'll just clack copy all day, go home, watch Jeopardy,
and never guess the questions."

Wrestler has nothing to do? Writers can't think of anything interesting? Belt 'em! That'll shut 'em up for a few weeks. Or worse, just slap a belt on whothefuckever (such as Hornswoggle, my beautiful banner model) because somebody thought it'd be funny. You know what else is funny? That belt doesn't exist anymore. Giving it to him was such a putrid idea, WWE completely abandoned the title mere weeks later.

Furthermore, when somebody loses their belt, the switch needs actual buildup, and to be treated as a planet-shattering development. In 1988, Hulk Hogan lost the world title to Andre the Giant after four years on top and over a year of feuding with the big drunk. The switch, and its ensuing controversy, was the top story for months. In 2013, CM Punk dropped the same title to John "the Dwayne" Rockson after 434 days -- the longest reign since Hogan's -- and it happened simply because the Rock showed up one night and literally said, "I'm the Rock and I've had one match in eight years, but I get a title shot because I'm the Rock. And I'm a movie star."

Walden Media
Brahma Bull gives you wings.

The actual title change was a near-complete afterthought, immediately overshadowed by "movie star." A movie star who left two months later to make more movies.

#4. They Write Terrible Dialogue and Force It Upon the Wrestlers

World Wrestling Entertainment

Here's a dirty little secret today's wrestling writers probably didn't brag about over Thanksgiving dinner -- 95 percent of their "writing" is awful dialogue and is 100 percent unnecessary.

World Wrestling Entertainment

That's one page of a real Monday Night Raw script -- note its extreme wordiness and despair. The ideal wrestling script focuses on character development, conflicts, storyline progression, and who fucking wins the matches. Not "say these words and try not to sound like preschoolers stumbling through Shakespeare."

The problem is, many wrestling writers once worked on soap operas, reality TV, terrible movies -- in short, not wrestling. Thus, they look at sweaty grapplers as just another set of actors -- which they are, just not the kind Mr. and Mrs. Fired-From-Days-of-Our-Lives want. In their world, if Seinfeld can deliver a gut-busting Junior Mints joke, and if Bryan Cranston can orate an intensely dramatic monologue about drug life, why couldn't Roman Reigns do the same?

World Wrestling Entertainment
"I just figured my smoldering glare and Fabio hair would be all the delivery I needed."

It's because Roman Reigns, like most wrestlers, is not trained to memorize dialogue and recite it believably (to the point where he's now taking acting courses to learn how to growl effectively). That's why, whenever they try, it sounds wooden, forced, and fake. And who outside of robot-wielding space janitors wants to watch any of those things?

Wrestling writing works only when the dialogue goes. Write the basic story, and let the wrestlers act it out in their own way. Their language might be raw, they might stumble over words, and half of it might make zero goddamn sense, but I guarantee audiences will take that over smooth, organized, perfectly enunciated pseudo-rage anytime.

World Wrestling Entertainment
"I wish to alert you, inferior opponent of mine, that you are to lose tonight to myself. If this bothers you, I suggest
finding a way to deal with it, as your defeat is surely inevitable. Snort."

Roddy Piper is one of the greatest talkers ever, and half his shit was pure gibberish. Hulk Hogan's speeches were 80 percent DUDE BROTHER BRAH, 10 percent catchphrases, and 10 percent rambling about food chains and the multiverse, and he revolutionized the damn industry. And today, Bray Wyatt -- a Deep South cult leader character who might literally be a demon -- drafts his own rambling, cryptic, nonsensical speeches every week. And they're awesome. If some failed Amazing Race scribe gave Bray pre-prepared Brayish lines to spit, his character would die out quicker than the residents of Jonestown.

World Wrestling Entertainment
There'd be so many sheep puns, fans would beg concession stands to serve them cyanide Kool-Aid.

Imagine every wrestler with the freedom to do that (Bray's one of the few allowed to). A whole roster making their characters work their own way, driving storylines with their own words and actions, would be far more real (and far less painful) than watching them struggle to remember exactly what some wannabe penman said they're supposed to say to the guy they hate with a burning, frothing passion.

#3. They Have No Idea How Basic Storytelling Works

Eric IsselTe/Hemera/Getty Images

Now, let's pretend these writers actually listen to me (someone has to eventually) and immediately cease scripting dialogue. There are still a few categories that need massive improvement -- namely, all of them.

They simply have no idea how to craft a basic story. Half the new characters they create start nowhere, go nowhere, and stay nowhere, much like how Gollum nonchalantly called the One Ring "pretty" once and then sulked in the background until it came time to burn in Mount Doom. Established wrestlers change personalities constantly and without warning, rarely with any explanation beyond, "I don't have to explain anything to you people!"

World Wrestling Entertainment
"Hey, what if we broke up one of the coolest, most popular, and most successful groups in years?"
"Why the fuck would we do that?"
"Ah'unno."
"... my God, you're a genius."

Women have it even worse (finally, reality in wrestling). Rare is the lady who gets any character beyond "mean girl," "happy girl," or "slutty girl," switching between the three even more rapidly and inexplicably than the men do.

World Wrestling Entertainment
Sometimes, while stretching their creativity to its absolute maximum, they script "crazy girl."

And storyline continuity is more extinct than the goddamn mammoth. Characters have their pasts retconned, rebooted, and outright ignored more than superheroes do, because the story that week is more important than bullshit from years, months, weeks, or days ago.

World Wrestling Entertainment
Last week, they hated each other. In two weeks, they'll hate each other again. But tonight? Magic.

The list of storylines and angles that bad writers started and then abandoned the second they lost interest is longer and more depressing than anything BuzzFeed could ever hope to publish. Imagine if I, totally out of the blue, just ended this column halfway through and started up on a completely unrelated ...

... subject. How hackish would that be? But that's standard operating procedure in the rasslin' world. If as a writer you insist on telling good, compelling stories (and actually finishing them), you'll likely find yourself meekly crawling back to the soap opera world within weeks.

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Jason Iannone

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