Randy Savage, WWE’s PG Wrestling, and the Attitude Era
Randy Savage, WWE’s PG Wrestling, and the Attitude Era
WWE: Attitude Era
I’ve been trying to hype this site little by little, by taking part in discussions in the comment fields of the posts on popular WWE Facebook pages. It hasn’t been too successful, and I think I may have lost some intelligence as a result. A lot of WWE fans seem to be hell-bent on reliving the so-called glory days of the ‘attitude era,’ a term used to describe the view years of trash-TV many of us grew up on in the late 90s to early 00s. Of course you’ve got the ones who claim to be ‘old school’ fans, but consider D-Generation X to be ‘old school wrestling.’ I’d hardly like to even call Randy Savage old school, and his time was about 7-8 years prior.
Back to “The Attitude Era.” You know, the same era that brought the McMahons $50 million they blew on their failed attempt at a spot in the US Senate. The same era that made them even more than that $50 million, and made them enough money to even be able to be prosperous after failing to get an alternative football league off the ground past a single season. The same era that the McMahons seem to be ashamed of being associated with; an era that bridged the gap between WWF, the pro-wrestling company and WWE the multimedia juggernaut, specializing in ‘sports entertainment.’
Gone are the days of ‘bra and panties matches’ and beer baths on weekly television broadcasts, and the fans are up in arms about it. I for one am glad.
Now, let me first tell you that I became a fan of professional wrestling in the late 90s. 1998, to be exact. I used to rush home from school every Tuesday to watch taped episodes of WCW Monday Nitro from the night before. Sometimes, I’d be lucky enough to watch it live, and one of my fondest memories to this day, still, is Bill Goldberg pinning Hulk Hogan for the world title, live on Nitro in Atlanta, Georgia. I followed WWF, too, but not as closely. A lot of the programming either bored me or was too off the wall for me to enjoy, and it didn’t have as much appeal as WCW. At least in my opinion at the time.
Slowly, that changed, however. All of my favorites began to ‘jump ship’ and show up on WWF’s programming. This was an exciting time, as a kid, because it truly felt like anything could happen. This was a time of disgruntled employees leaving to hopefully seek better opportunity in the rival promotion, but I didn’t realize that at the time. I loved WCW, but I loved following my favorites even more.
This being said, I’ll also say that I never got a pay-per-view. I can’t recall ever being amped up for a WWF event, but there were a few WCW shows I was really excited to see on VHS, thanks to a friend with a “hotbox.” I do recall seeing WrestleMania 2000 through that method, though, and it did feel like a big deal.
I think the reason WCW appealed to me more was that I liked WRESTLING. I knew from day one it was ‘fake,’ and I was OK with that. If anything, I liked it because I knew these guys could make it believable without really getting hurt–for the most part. I never liked the hardcore stuff, and I was more likely to cringe than cheer when I’d see a hard chairshot to the head. A part of me knew that that was more real than fake. People asked me why I liked ‘that fake stuff,’ and I’d always say, ‘well why would I want to see someone beat someone up for real? That would be pretty sick.’ Given the slang of today, I should point out that I didn’t mean ‘awesome’ when I said ‘sick.’
I followed WWF straight through its transition to WWE, because it was all that was left to watch after WCW closed. Eventually, I got bored. Life happened, high school happened, and I outgrew wrestling without realizing it. A few years later, I felt nostalgic and decided to get back into it. Two thousand bootleg DVDs later (I kid you not) I was a bigger fan than ever before, and a walking tome of wrestling knowledge of past and present.
My interest slowed down again, however, as the ‘PG’ era began. I initially thought that the problem was a lack of middle fingers and profanity, but it isn’t that simple. I recently watched WWE’s Randy Savage collection, and had an epiphany.
Randy Savage & Miss Elizabeth
Rewind to the 1980s. Randy Savage reveals his groundbreaking female manager, Miss Elizabeth. One of wrestling’s greatest long-running storylines begins. A storyline that lived on straight through to the days of the New World Order, where it slowly died and was forgotten. Call it a soap opera, call it corny, call it lame. But I call it the example that proves every fan wrong. The Randy Savage & Miss Elizabeth duo was very family friendly, but was appealing to fans of every age. There was little to no blood in Randy Savage’s matches, no unprotected chair shots, and no middle fingers. There was nothing that would make a parent embarrassed to be watching with their children, and there was nothing that would embarrass children, should an adult walk in.
Scripting, Kayfabe, and why PG Content is NOT Killing Wrestling
Many say that a problem with current wrestling is its scripted nature. Well, Randy Savage’s matches were phenomenal, yet he had a reputation for being very anal about scripting his matches move-for-move. Scripting is OK. What’s not OK is having the scripting done by people who lack a good mind for the wrestling business. Not allowing performers to improvise and perform organically, both in the ring and on the microphone, is killing wrestling. It’s perfectly fine to have a family friendly product, but when your wrestlers are actors reciting lines, it loses its believability, and the so-called suspension of belief required is thrown right out of the window. We are in the Age of the Internet, not the Age of Orton. Kayfabe is dead, and the suspension of belief is more important than ever. The stars need to be good enough to convince the fans–who know it’s fake–that it’s a compelling enough battle to warrant buying a pay-per-view. When you rely on spots rather than words, it has a greater chance of becoming repetitive. There are more different ways to uniquely cut promos that are all pretty much the same, but different enough to stand out than there are ways to punt someone in the head or execute an ‘RKO.’
The Miss Elizabeth example can also be used to point out that there are barely any managers anymore. Guys like Jim Cornette, Jimmy Hart, and Bobby Heenan were CRUCIAL for utilizing the wrestlers who were solid performers but might not have been the best on the microphone. Savage was the opposite. He was SO GOOD on the microphone that he got himself a manager communicated visually rather than through speech. The look on her face on any given day spoke a thousand words, so she never had to say anything. After all, Savage talked enough for both of them.
Blood is not the answer. T&A is not the answer. Chairs are definitely not the answer.
Basic storytelling and freedom is the answer. If you think otherwise, you’re entitled to that opinion, but you’ve either forgotten or never knew what wrestling truly was meant to be. I’m not saying that anything other than the days of Bruno Sammartino is garbage. What I’m saying is there are basic fundamentals of wrestling that we have strayed way too far from, and we need to gradually return to that. WWE’s emphasis is on production and a bottom line; quantity over quality. It’s a business, and I understand that. But your business will lose its customer base if you don’t return to an emphasis on quality.
It seems now that their emphasis has shifted towards Linda McMahon running for senate, with their livelihood, professional wrestling, pushed aside. What a disgrace. It’s amazing how my opinions can do a 180 overnight after a few actions by World Wrestling Entertainment in their quest for world domination. (Well, a quest for domination of a single seat in the United States Senate.) It’s been said that the switch to PG programming was a public relations move to ready Linda McMahon for politics. In addition, their ‘Stand Up for WWE’ campaign was another way to corral their fans into the polling stations, and it’s sickening. But I will leave that for another article.
Linda McMahon has lost, and many think we will see the return of the ‘attitude era.’ Wrong, and I’m tired of hearing about it. You may think that things are terrible, and I do too. But is it really terrible? Fans from the 80s probably thought the 90s content was horrible. We, as products of the 90s, think the late 00s, early 10s product is horrible. What will current fans think in ten or twenty years? “Man, I miss old school wrestling with John Cena and Randy Orton.”
WWE isn’t in the dire straits you think they are.
WWE is doing great right now. Whether we all like it or not, they get solid ratings, for a show that’s been on for so damn long. Merchandise sales are still pretty high, and their output of old-school DVDs and memorabilia is increasing, leading to even more sales from nostalgic 80s and 90s fans. We may think it’s all garbage, but there’s a generation out there who absolutely LOVES it. However, that being said, the WWE they are growing to love is not really ‘wrestling’ in a traditional sense. It shares the fundamentals of good versus evil, champions, flashy characters, and ‘finishing manuevers,’ but even those are becoming more and more watered down.
Before anyone asks, TNA has tons of problems themselves, so it’s not just WWE. But if WWE doesn’t start trying, real soon, they may have to start defending their spot as the number one sports entertainment promotion in the world, once again. When the “CENAtion” matures and a lot of their favorite stars head to Floridian refuge for a lighter schedule and a safer future, TNA just might start gaining ground.