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Pro Wrestling – Sick or Dying?

The current wrestling scene is definitely declining and not only in the United States, which is most obvious to us fans in North America, but in Japan, Mexico, and Europe. Americanization has killed a number of companies and it appears that it may consume the WWF, who mastered it. Though people can blame this decline on a number of things from the decline in workmanship to the lack of alternative product.

If you listen to the veterans of yesteryear, they are often very critical of today's product. It was not even fifteen years ago that well-worked matches took precedent over all other styles. Perhaps the last leg of top-notch old school workers came along in the mid-80s with Bret Hart, Curt Hennig, and Terry Taylor. All three have wrestled into the new millennium, but have been or were unable to show their wares. While the lack of great workers in the United States is grossly obvious, in other countries things are different.

Each country has its signature style, but there are always variations of it. In Mexico, Lucha Libre is the thing, but they have adapted the styles of Japan and the US. In Japan, strong style is it, but garbage wrestling and lucharesu is also prevalent in smaller markets. The United States, namely the WWF, has in many ways done the opposite, while using watered-down current trends here and there. Vince MacMahon took his act all over the nation in the 80s, which was unheard of at the time. Hot areas like Texas, Florida, Minnesota, Mid-South, and the Mid-Atlantic were challenged and ultimately failed. These territories had many things the WWF did not want: bloodbaths, long epics, wild brawls, and often wrestlers calling the shots. In more recent years, indies emerged by opposing the WWF's family-oriented product with sex, violence, and foul language. After a while, the WWF adapted these and the rest is history.

Mexico has become Americanized in many ways, but like any wrestling market, highspots have more importance and matwork has depreciated in value. AAA changed things in the mid-90s with this approach, along with using WWF-style angles. Now they have a serious lack of young talent and the more traditionalist CMLL has taken over again. Unfortunately, they really mainly on solid veterans and only have a handful of rising stars. Financially, Lucha Libre has never been very lucrative, unless someone is a top star and draw, who can call their own shots.

Japan's economy has hit rougher waters and the wrestling world has suffered. Instead of the big two as there was throughout the 90s has been replaced by three promotions, none of which being as profitable as New Japan was or as entertaining as All Japan. The stars of those days are broken down for the most part and many of the future stars have not been elevated as well as they could've been. As for paychecks, gaijins do not have the open door they used to have because the native vs. foreigner dynamic has been downplayed.

Europe was the first great market for wrestling in the early 1900s and was always able to business to a greater or lesser extent up through the 1970s. It was at this time, Britain really had some good talent produced that was able to bring the scientific and/or hard-hitting style and become stars abroad. Now Europe continues to be an interesting place, where WWF can go and do good business, but its native companies are not as successful as they were twenty-thirty years ago.

I blame it on a lack of niche marketing, which Japan does well, though those companies' appeal fluctuates over time. When one company, like the WWF, tries to do it all, everything suffers. Even national products like the former WCW and ECW did not try to attempt this. They just did what the WWF could not, whether it is more violent stunts, cruiserweight action, or copying Japan. When you watch a specific company, you want to see a nice variety, but not hit-and-miss as the WWF always is.

Territories worked because they gave the people in the area exactly what they wanted and no other company could offer that to them. Watts and Mid-South/UWF offered great angles, attention to detail, and solid wrestling. Fritz Von Erich had his boys and hot heels bringing in big houses and ratings. Memphis had unique storylines and very hot crowds. Georgia and Mid-Atlantic had just wonderfully worked matches between big names. AWA had a big reliance on veterans and in fact the biggest star of the era – Hulk Hogan. Though those are only six promotions, the continent was covered with them.

Indies are now forced to challenge the WWF, which they can not realistically do. WWF "wrestling" is wrestling according to the majority of the fans. As time passes, the wrestling of the 70s and 80s becomes ancient history and harder for promoters to look back to. Wrestling as we (assuming you were a fan of) knew it is dead and buried and a resurrection seems impossible. Companies need a hot product to elevate young talent and the aforementioned promotions of today are struggling. A young rising star or a great angle is essential and time will see if we see either.

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