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.

meeee

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.

 attitude

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.

rock austin

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?

BayleyAsuka.jpg

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.

bad

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.

triple h.jpg

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…….

steve.png

Twitter: @ BigRedAFerg

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

Bad Man.jpg

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

Demogorgon

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.

Community D&D

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.

Stranger D&D.jpg

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

 

The Definitive Top 20 Spongebob Squarepants Episodes: Part II (10-1)

Ahoy, mateys! In case you missed my last article, I started counting down my top 20 Spongebob episodes, and you can check out 20-11 here. Today I’m gonna finish off the list and reveal my top 10 episodes. So, let’s dive right in!

Screen Shot 2017-12-19 at 5.06.20 PM

Continue reading “The Definitive Top 20 Spongebob Squarepants Episodes: Part II (10-1)”

The Definitive Top 20 Spongebob Squarepants Episodes: Part 1 (20-11)

At last, folks, this is the big one. Most people in my age range, that being the late teens to early 20s, were enraptured by Spongebob. I’d be willing to bet that in any high school classroom or on any college campus, if you uttered a Spongebob quote, people would rapidly utter subsequent quotes, ultimately reaching the point of a chain reaction of references to our childhoods. And this chain reaction would quickly reach critical mass.

Screen Shot 2017-12-19 at 5.06.20 PM

What I’m trying to say here is this: Spongebob is something held nearly and dearly to our hearts. Many of us can recite episodes essentially from start to finish without a second thought, and many of the hilarious moments peppered throughout the series are burned into our brains and will probably never escape. What does this all mean? Well, it means that ranking 20 episodes is going to be incredibly difficult. Will legendary episodes be left off? Probably. Will some episodes you weren’t too big on show up? Maybe. But, one thing is for certain: if you grew up watching Spongebob, some of your favorite cartoon moments will be highlighted in this list. Be forewarned: I’m personally partial to Season 1, so early episodes are gonna be abound. So, are ya ready kids? Here are my top 20-11 Spongebob episodes.

Continue reading “The Definitive Top 20 Spongebob Squarepants Episodes: Part 1 (20-11)”