Why Professional Wrestling Is Struggling In Today’s Culture

Professional wrestling has been a cultural staple in the United States, particularly in the South and Mid-Western parts of the country, for decades. Being a 90’s baby and the son of a huge professional wrestling fan, I grew up watching wrestling during what I believe to be the best time in the history of the sport. During a significant part of my childhood, wrestling was everything to me. I idolized the wrestlers. I collected the action figures (to this day, I still have literally hundreds of them boxed up in my garage). I proudly wore my replica championship belts. I watched WWE programming religiously. Wrestling was my greatest childhood passion.

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However, wrestling gradually began to lose its appeal to myself and many other fans. At the time, I blamed my loss of interest on my discovery that the outcome of the matches were scripted and the departure of some of my favorite wrestlers from the sport. My recently rekindled love of wrestling has led me to reconsider this. I believe that a cultural shift and the industry’s attempts to keep up with said shift are more to blame than anything else.

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Wrestling was arguably never more popular than it was in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The sport was at its peak during the “Monday Night Wars”. The Wars were actually a competition between the country’s two top wrestling promotions, World Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Entertainment (then known as the World Wrestling Federation) for superiority over one another. The Monday Night Wars led to the beginning of the Attitude Era in the WWF. The borderline vulgar, often profanity-ridden, and violent storylines that came from the Attitude Era are some of the most entertaining content ever created by a wrestling promotion. Not only were the storylines great, but the characters were iconic and the viewer could really identify with them to an extent. Who didn’t want to give their boss the finger and pound beers like Stone Cold Steve Austin? Who didn’t want to have the charisma and swagger of The Rock? Who didn’t want to be as rebellious and controversial as the D-Generation X faction? No other point in wrestling history could even hold a candle to the Attitude Era.

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However, the sport took a drastic decline in the years following. After the demise of WCW, World Wrestling Entertainment stood as the only major player left in the world of professional wrestling. This led to a noticeable decline in quality. The crude, bloody action sport that wrestling was gradually declined into a series of watered-down matches between mostly goofy, generic characters. The change was undeniable. Ratings and house show numbers have fallen dramatically in recent years. These loses cant be blamed completely on the decline in quality, however. Even the less violent matches between the lower card wrestlers during the Attitude Era were great. So what is the issue?

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I personally believe that much of the problem is the change in culture in the last two decades. Ultimately, political correctness is a good thing. Simply put, it basically promotes common courtesy and respect being expanded to everyone regardless of who they are. It makes the community a better place. But, wrestling is not about that. Wrestling was so great during the Attitude Era because it provided viewers with an escape from all social norms. Fans could live vicariously through the wresters and experience things that are not plausible in the real world. As WWE became more mainstream and family friendly,    it strayed further and further away from what made it so great. While trying to move in a safer and more commercially acceptable direction is commendable, this alienates a vast percentage of the sport’s core fan base. The proof is in the numbers. The sport just isn’t the same.

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With that being said, it is important to note that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. That light comes in the form of  a man named Paul Levesque. Better known by his in-ring name Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Triple H), Levesque was a focal point of the Attitude Era. As a member and eventual leader of, the D-Generation X faction, Triple H played a key role in some of the Era’s most controversial moments. Levesque is also the son-in-law of WWE owner Vince McMahon. Many believe that Helmsley will eventually take over the company. This could lead to an instant resurgence of the things that made pro wrestling the cultural icon it is today.

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Only time will tell if WWE will return to its attitude-filled roots, but the future of the sport is certainly bright. Regardless of all of the flaws in the current WWE product I mentioned above, the current roster is arguably more athletically talented than ever before. With the right kind of help from the creative team, the wrestling promotion could easily return to its former glory. While the Attitude Era deeply contrasts what political correct culture is about, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Professional wrestling is scripted and predetermined. It is done for the sake of entertainment. Entertainment needs to continue to push boundaries. The world of professional wrestling can do that by bringing back what made it so edgy and exciting, despite pressure to conform to social pressure. While it does not need to turn to the gory, uber-violent, and often outright offensive content of a promotion like Extreme Championship Wrestling, WWE  does need to recapture some of the grit it exhibited during the Attitude Era. This kind of sports entertainment could succeed, and even thrive, in todays culture. It is time to bring the attitude back to professional wrestling and that’s the bottom line…….

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Twitter: @ BigRedAFerg

Reviews Through A Friend: Talking Heads’ Remain in Light

Let me start off by saying that reviewing music is by no means my strong suit. While I did write an article about Drake last week, I consider myself to be uniquely qualified to do that because of how big a fan of his I am. I can talk politics, sneakers, and Attitude-Era professional wrestling with the best of them, but the intricacies of music are not something I fancy myself to be an expert on. However, for the sake of Mid-American Culture and the Reviews Through A Friend series, here is my attempt at it.

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Remain in Light is one of the more interesting albums I have ever heard. By interesting, I’m not entirely sure if I mean genuinely intriguing or downright weird. In all likelihood, it’s probably a little bit of both. Apple Music has the album listed under the “pop” category. I’m glad they managed to stick some sort of label on it because I have no idea what to call it.

In my opinion, the album has three standout tracks: Once In a Lifetime, The Great Curve, and The Overload. Each of these songs has a respective quirk that drew me to each. I am a fan of slam poetry. Talking Heads front-man David Byrne uses a vocal style toward the midway point of Once In a Lifetime that reminds me of the cadence one would use when delivering slam poetry and I really enjoyed hearing it. The Great Curve is the most lyrically interesting song on the album. The Overload, the album’s closing number, features a darker tone than the rest of the album I found this sound to be particularly appealing. I wish the whole album had this darker vibe.

Overall, I found the album to be quite an interesting listen. I will be perfectly honest. At first, I was not a fan of the album. After the first couple of songs, I thought I was going to hate it. It was so different from anything I normally listen to that I was simply put off by it. Even after I discovered the three tracks discussed above that I particularly enjoyed, I was not crazy about the album. however, I found myself re-listening to it in the days following my initial listen and soon I found myself beginning to enjoy it more and more. I really liked the psychedelic vibes and the unique musical qualities. I would rank the album as a 6.5-7/10 and would certainly recommend it to someone looking to experience a new, unique kind of music that they have probably never been exposed to before.

Make sure to check out the other posts in our Reviews Through A Friend series and to give our Weekly Waves playlist a listen. Thanks for reading!

Twitter: @ BigRedAFerg

Local Music Highlight: Nashville Edition

Hello followers of Mid-American Culture, I’m Wes Stephens and this is my first post here on the site. It will be a music highlight of a hot, new artist who has some new music coming out soon. I hope you guys thoroughly enjoy it and if you don’t then that’s okay too, either way comment and let me know. Anyways let’s get into it…

Continue reading “Local Music Highlight: Nashville Edition”

The Moral Dilemma Created by H&M and So Many Others

We are living in a time of great social change. Almost undoubtedly, America is a more tolerant, progressive place than ever before. It is now easier than ever than it has ever been to speak out about injustices such as racism and sexual misconduct. Inevitably, it has led to many prominent individuals, businesses, and institutions being put on blast by the general public for offenses such as these. While one would be hard pressed to find anyone who believes that increased sexual assault awareness and greater pressure for racial acceptance are bad things, they do create, in some capacity, a moral dilemma in almost everyone. I consistently find myself asking,  “Do the reprehensible actions of these people make it wrong to appreciate and enjoy the things they create?”

The most recent example that I can cite, as of writing this article, is the retailer H&M. For anyone who is unaware of the situation, H&M was selling a children’s hoodie with the phrase “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” on the chest. On the surface, this seems innocent enough. I, myself, was frequently called “monkey” as a child by some of the adults in my life. However, further context reveals a much darker side to the story. The child modeling the hoodie is black. In contrast, a white child could be seen found modeling a different sweatshirt, reading “Mangrove Jungle Survival Expert.” The staggeringly different portrayal of these children is clearly problematic. Musical artists The Weeknd and G-Eazy, both collaborative partners of H&M, have both cut ties with the brand following the incident. Countless individuals have called for a boycott of the brand. But is that the right thing to do? Possibly. However, the moral issue is much bigger, and expands far beyond the fashion industry and H&M.

Picture this: You are at a party. Ignition (remix) comes on. Naturally, mamas are rolling their bodies and every man in there is wishin’. This reaction is to be expected because the song is absolutely iconic. Unfortunately, something else must be considered. Ignition (remix) is a song by R. Kelly. R. Kelly has been accused of sexual misconduct (including behavior directed at minors) on numerous occasions. Does this take away from the cultural value of the art he creates? Should his music be vigorously boycotted?

Another scenario: You’re browsing through Netflix, looking for a new series to watch. You stumble upon House of Cards. The intense political drama hooks you immediately. Frank Underwood’s corrupt rise to power is one of the greatest examples of storytelling ever to be put on television. But then you realize the unfortunate reality. Series lead Kevin Spacey allegedly committed heinous sexual acts against a young boy. It is also alleged that he harassed male workers on the set of House of Cards. Do Spacey’s reprehensible acts mean that the sensational story of House of Cards shouldn’t be seen? Do the things he did invalidate the cultural phenomenon that the show was?

These are all incredibly difficult questions. I certainly don’t have a good enough answer. Like most, I find the actions discussed in this article to be repulsive. But, R. Kelly still makes wonderful music. He has been selling out arenas for over twenty years. Clearly, I am an immense fan of House of Cards and it is loved by a vast number of people. H&M still makes affordable, trendy clothing worn by millions, including myself. The moral dilemma created within millions, including me and many of you reading this, has been a cause of conflict for decades. Cultural icons of yesterday and today, as well as the icons of tomorrow, have done bad things. Obviously, opinions have been formed on all of them. However, even those who have the strongest opinions on these matters seem to be at least slightly hypocritical. Many of us struggle to identify where to draw the line between art that is to be appreciated and things that we find morally repulsive.

Ultimately, it is up to each individual to decide what they will and won’t watch, listen to, buy, etc. Additionally, it is on them to decide why they will or won’t do these things. It is also their responsibility to recognize the hypocrisy in blasting one problematic entity while simultaneously supporting another. The problems cited addressed in this piece are just a few out of many. They will almost certainly be an issue which plagues popular culture for a long time moving forward. H&M is not the problem; nor is R. Kelly,  Kevin Spacey, or any other individual. They are merely symptoms of a culture that has condoned these types of problems for far too long. While what H&M did is unacceptable, do not forget to target the culture as a whole if you are going to target them.

 

 

Photo sources:

https://www.chron.com/life/article/H-M-apologizes-for-ad-of-black-child-wearing-12485941.php

https://genius.com/R-kelly-ignition-remix-lyrics

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/30/entertainment/kevin-spacey-allegations-anthony-rapp/index.html

 

 

 

 

 

Embracing A Stranger Culture

A look at how a popular Netflix show has altered public perception of a game that has been played for decades.

Stranger Things: Embracing a Stranger Culture

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In 2016 we had a phenomenon of “nerd culture” and nostalgia hit us like a ton of bricks when Stranger Things was released on Netflix. It was an immediate hit among people of all ages, young people were drawn in by the story of kids tracking down the bad man and saving the day like in the old sci-fi movies that came out in the 80’s and 90’s, and the show also appealed to people who were the age of the stars in ’84, the year the show is set. The show focuses on a group of kids who are trying to rescue their friend from another dimension that was found by an evil scientist and defeat an evil monster from said dimension

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While the show is an insanely good example of excellent writing and the Duffer Bros have killed it with their story. That is not going to be the focus of this short article. At the beginning and end of the first season of Stranger Things, we see the main characters playing Dungeons & Dragons, a game that was incredibly popular among the more nerdy groups of kids in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Since then, the game stayed pretty far away from popular culture, bar a few episodes of Community which also had an eclectic and somewhat nerdy point of view on the pen and paper tabletop game.

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Now, with this new phenomenal show, Stranger Things, we have a group of “nerdy” kids playing a nerdy game at the beginning. However, through the course of the season, ideas, terminology, and even strategy from this nerdy game were incorporated into the very real and present danger that was plaguing Hawkins, Indiana (the inconspicuous town where the gate to the other dimension is created). New life was breathed into this game because of the series. And people across the country who aren’t “nerds” began to have a newfound interest in this “nerdy” game of Dungeons & Dragons.

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At Lipscomb University in Nashville, I know of at least 5 groups of people who have begun to play Dungeons & Dragons drawing inspiration from the Demogorgon and other references to the game that are included in Stranger Things or Community. And in South Point, Ohio the hobby store is sold out of Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbooks.

Original D&D Manual.jpgWhile many still aren’t on board with the game or don’t see the appeal, there are a lot of people who used to see it as just a thing for nerds but have gained interest after it was seen in a new way and related to the dangers that the characters faced in Stranger Things. As the show continues and the references to D&D are present like they were in Stranger Things 2 (The Second Season of Stranger Things), I believe that the previously “nerdy and unpopular” game, Dungeons & Dragons will begin to lose it’s “nerdy” label and might eventually become a part of popular culture.

Sawyer C. Stephens