I realized I am Don Draper from Mad Men. Let me explain. So I just started watching Mad Men in accordance with my intentional or unintentional habit of only watching certain popular shows long after they’re over. And ad man Don Draper in Season 1 is a guy that is haunted by his buried past and determined to run from it. And since 2004, I’ve been running from a huge part of my past: pro wrestling.
Even to this very day, I identify as a “former” wrestling fan. Which is kind of odd because for a so-called former fan, boy, I still watch a lot of wrestling. I rewatch matches from my time and even watch some more modern ones that I missed when I quit watching wrestling after like Wrestlemania 20 (which I attended). I just can’t seem to break my cycle of cycling on back to wrestling now and then in my hobby life. I shouldn’t be surprised, because whether it’s films or comic books or any other childhood-born hobbies I might have, I always come back home to them as well.
But wrestling is a little different. There’s always new good films and good comic books out there, there’s always enough darts flying to land a bullseye. But I really don’t feel there’s always good or worthy wrestling to watch anymore. Outside of Japan, it feels like there is bit of a North American drought.
You see, I watched pro wrestling or “sports entertainment” for the actual wrestling moreso than even the entertainment parts. I was and am the artsy fartsy type that watches hour-long Japanese matches where you can’t understand what anyone is saying and production-valueless indie promotion matches. Only when I was a kid or a teen did I really love the more simple style of 80s wrestling that was punches, kicks, bodyslams, and clotheslines (though I still love this era of wrestling for what it was, mind you, I’m very nostalgic). Like all things, wrestling evolved as wrestlers competed with each other to make bigger or niche names for themselves. It evolved beyond big bulky slow wrestlers simply bodyslamming each other around the squared circle to the brave new world of complex and fast-paced and acrobatic high-flying matches full of increasingly innovative and diverse move sets. As I grew older, I became more and more enamored and obsessed with what the industry terms “workrate” or the in-ring performance as judged by skill, effort, and diverse innovation. I’m one of those people that looks to find “the art” in my hobbies for some reason.
Unlike films and comics, the wrestling market changes more drastically more frequently, in my opinion at least. What I mean is promotions and wrestlers come and go in a flash sometimes. New or small promotions die due to lack of profit (often driven in part by a lack of a TV contract) or lack of talent while the weekly nationally televised titan, the WWE, always manages to survive and poaches burgeoning talent and then often makes that acquired exclusive talent conform to their less interesting and less innovative ways. WWE didn’t always neuter talent I’d say, but injuries, age, politics, financial considerations, and simple (Vince McMahon) narrowmindedness have definitely always tended, over time, to put the WWE on the more boring conservative track. And WWE can afford to ride that track because of its dominant hard-won control of the coveted North American wrestling market.
What I wrote above is an absurdly lengthy prelude to why I am really writing this article, which is to share my version, my narrative of wrestling history. Not THE history of pro wrestling. No, that’s been done to death I’m sure by wrestling journalists and historians, you can find that on Wikipedia (which I cite a bit because they did such a great job!), but something more personal, more subjective, something colored by my preferences and biases and my experience of wrestling history. Call it Wrestling History . . . X.
On the 1950s – 1970s
Where to begin? Let’s start with the wrestling world before my time, before 1980. How shall I describe it? In a word: boring. See, if I were just being objective and informative, I would not have just typed that provocative and contentious bit of unfiltered candidness. But I have watched some pre-1980s matches and they’re everything that could be boring about 1980s wrestling just . . even more boring.
The 1950s – 1970s era was indeed an era of televised wrestling (no, the WWF or WWE did not invent televised wrestling). And television itself is cited as part of the problem with this “Golden Age” era. Wikipedia put it well: “Wrestling’s competitiveness was degraded by television . . .The New York wrestling office soon became dominant, as it refused to use competitive wrestlers, and instead focused on attracting televised entertainment.” In other words, entertainment’s priority over workrate or wrestling talent started in 1950s, started before the Vincent K. McMahons of the world, and of course deeply influenced the New York McMahons (starting with Vince’s grandfather Roderick, also known as Jess McMahon).
Wrestlers who had the motif and credibility of more plain professional boxers gradually gave way to more outrageous charismatic wrestlers like Gorgeous George. Rough tough charismatic Italian-American Bruno Sammartino was the WWWF star of the 1960s and 1970s. I don’t want to talk too much about this era, but it is important context for the trajectory of pro wrestling, the WWF/WWE, and wrestling’s eternal tension between the wrestling and the entertainment.
Now yes, I do favor the wrestling end of the wrestling entertainment spectrum, but I’ve loved the entertainment end too. I was a card carrying Hulkamaniac who consumed WWF’s Coliseum Home Videos, TV shows, and many PPVs. And I am a veteran of the Monday Night Wars (between Attitude-era WWF and nWo-focused WCW). One could argue that wrestling might never have ended up a seemingly eternal fixture of national television without the entertainment aspect. Maybe that’s always been where the money is at? I don’t know. Maybe that’s a chicken-or-the-egg question or maybe it’s a false dichotomy.
I guess my final word on the 1950s through the 1970s era, of course considering that I’d likely appreciate the era more if I lived it and watched it more, was that the wrestling in those decades was simpler and slower. And the entertainment wasn’t nearly as entertaining, not nearly as colorful and charismatic and dramatic as the 1980s. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Everything must start somewhere. And I think, as mentioned briefly before, that wrestling as we know it today was a gradual evolving outgrowth of the simple, plain, more realistic world of professional boxing. Vince’s grandfather was a boxing promoter mind you before the McMahons transitioned to pro wrestling. Today’s North American wrestling was I think the child of the very old European carnival/circus tradition and 20th century America’s more rugged yet plain popular boxing tradition.
On the 1980s
I was born in the early 1980s and, like most wrestling fans it feels like, that’s where the lifelong love affair with wrestling started, in one’s childhood. For me, the 1980s era of wrestling really lasted until like 1992 or 1993, until Monday Night Raw started or Hogan left for WCW. I just don’t feel 1989 WWF is much different from, say, 1991 WWF. This kind of carryover is observed all the time in other areas of history and studies of years, decades, centuries, and eras/phases/generations. Things don’t just uniformly turn on and off, our trends and cultures sometimes forget what year or decade it is.
And some might fairly argue about when the 1980s era of wrestling started as well. I’m sure some might point to January 1984 when Hogan won his first WWF Championship. But I won’t go there, I’m fine with starting in 1980 for better or for worse. But it is true that Hulk Hogan, who debuted in 1979, (and of course Vincent K. McMahon) does drive and kickstart this era largely, even before that landmark 1984 victory over The Iron Shiek in Madison Square Garden. Ambitious young Vincent K. McMahon purchased his father’s promotion in 1982. And 1983 proved a momentous year as Wikipedia correctly observes:
“On November 24, 1983, Ric Flair [won] the NWA World Heavyweight Championship at [Starrcade], which inaugurated Flair’s golden era and [showed] that a major [wrestling] event could earn significant income across many locations. On December 23, 1983, WWF signed Hogan to return after appearing in Rocky III in 1982 and developing a babyface gimmick in [Verne Gagne’s] AWA.”
A triple threat match of regional business competition emerged between large promotions in the northeast (WWF), the midwest (AWA), and the south (NWA). Vince McMahon’s increased access to wider-audience television via New York basically brought fortune to the WWF at the expense of all the other promotions in the country. Emboldened by some success, Vince broke the unspoken territorial non-aggression pact between the rival promotions and started doing shows all over the country. Over time, Vince started buying up other promotions, often after some of their top talent had already found greener (i.e. $$$) pastures with him. Genius cross promotion led MTV to broadcast the first live WWF event on cable television in 1984. And The Incredible Hulk Hogan’s fanbase grew and grew with a CBS cartoon series, a cover of Sports Illustrated, Wrestlemanias, countless WWF televised shows, WWF VHS tapes, etc. Professional wrestling grew synonymous with the WWF.
It was a grand time. The WWF was colorful, comical, hypermasculine (well, except for the Adorable Adrian Adonis), larger than life, and integrated into various U.S. media. The 1980s was truly the comic book style era of wrestling. And I was the kid who loved Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and Saturday morning cartoons, so the WWF seemed tailor made for kids like me. Adults watched their soaps during the day and I watched my soap, the WWF, during the night (and during the daytime on weekends). And my squared circle soap opera had as many betrayals, love triangles, and evil twins (see: referee Earl Hebner) as what the adults were watching.
And being newly exposed to pro wrestling and lacking worldly sophistication and taste in all areas of life, I had little or no conception of “workrate” or the actual wrestling part and art of wrestling. All the wrestlers back then seemed to have the same workrate, the same level of skill or lack thereof. They were all basically as big and slow and simple as each other. There was no lightning-fast, high-flying Rey Mysterio to get a kid thinking about how limited Hulk Hogan was in comparison. No Chris Benoit or Kurt Angle to show a kid how intense and technical pro wrestling could be. Sure, some wrestlers were better than others, like Macho Man or Ricky Steamboat or Dynamite Kid, but not enough to have a kid like me dwell on it much or much view those wrestlers as a special subset of the rest. And what wrestlers like Hogan or Andre lacked in in-ring performance they made up for with dramatic charisma and entertainment, and again, I was just a dumb kid looking to be entertained.
Canadian wrestler Bret Hart started me down a slow path that would change my relationship with wrestling. Tag teamer Bret’s singles match career gained steam starting in 1988 when he turned face (into a good guy instead of a villain). Bret Hart’s long gradual evolution from a green old school style to a more varied and more intense proficient high workrate style was I think the first faint hint of or exposure to the art of pro wrestling for me. If I had had the ability to watch Ric Flair or Ricky Steamboat in their golden NWA years, I’d maybe highlight them too. Bret is like this quintessential bridge with one foot planted in the simplistic 80s and the other in the higher quality innovative wrestling of the 90s. Bret grew to do a little bit of everything in terms of in-ring performance and do it all very well. The excellence of execution Bret was rightfully called.
Bret was like a faster, more intense, and more high-risk version of Ric Flair. Both Bret and Owen Hart (and even Shawn Michaels) definitely feel like precursors or forerunners to the next generation of talent like Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero, Jushin Liger, etc. The Dynamite Kid of course was the truest forerunner to Chris Benoit (who started his career very young in 1985), but it would have been rather difficult for me to watch, remember, or appreciate Dynamite’s true unfiltered talent against, for example, Tiger Mask in Japan in 1983, so I never would fully know how high Dynamite’s talent was until my adult years. As I told my one friend recently, the lightning-fast acrobatic high-flying Dynamite Kid was like the first North American Rey Mysterio-type lightweight wrestler. He was a pioneer way ahead of his time in terms of style of wrestling, but Dynamite spent most of his North American nationally televised career as a tag teamer (partnered with the talented British Bulldog) and then steroids, drug abuse, and injuries cut his career tragically short.
On the 1990s
The WWE outgrew the 1980s (many historians apparently end the WWE 80s boom in 1991) and I outgrew the wrestling world of 1980s. From child to teen to adult, you change a bit as a person. I changed enough that I stopped watching wrestling altogether in 1993 or 1994. No matter what the WWF did I might have inevitably quit wrestling then (in favor of video games and other hobbies), but I think part of it was that the WWF did not work hard enough to evolve and be different enough to keep kids and teens interested. The in-ring and creative stagnation just had fans like me tapping out. A lot my friends stopped watching around then and many fans did not return until the WWF was more adult-oriented in 1998 (the Attitude Era).
Cable TV media mogul Ted Turner came to own WCW (an offshoot of the NWA). In 1995, WCW launched Monday Nitro to compete head-to-head with Vince and WWF Raw. Nitro brought WCW to a much wider audience, which proved to help many wrestling viewers also give the WWF a second chance. And that was a chance the WWF did not squander. The PG once-family friendly WWF transitioned into a more teen/adult-oriented rude and crude promotion (in the vein of a smaller Philly wrestling promotion named Extreme Championship Wrestling) headlined by the beer-swilling brawler Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin became the new Hogan for McMahon and the WWF would go on to win the cable TV ratings war with Turner’s WCW and eventually purchase WCW in 2001.
And like the 1980s, Vince McMahon mostly accomplished his new round of success without the pesky art of pro wrestling, without really innovative talented workrate guys doing really great enduring artistic matches. Vince (somewhat understandably) ran the principled veteran Bret Hart out of the WWF in the fall of 1997. The increasingly talented Shawn Michaels retired for years (so not permanently) in early 1998 due to back injuries. And one of wrestling’s great burgeoning in-ring talents, the aforementioned Stone Cold Steve Austin, became for three years an extremely untalented boring brawler after Owen Hart piledrove his neck into the mat in a match at the 1997 Summerslam. On one hand, it was some undeniable bad luck, but on the other, Vince certainly didn’t try much after this streak of bad luck to bring in any special in-ring talent to replace what he lost. The masses seemed fine with all the punch-and-kick brawling and ECW-style “hardcore” matches the WWF was doing and so Vince was fine with it as well.
So, I have to return back to the topic of WCW. Because WCW is where my love of technical wrestling, high-flying wrestling, the art of wrestling really progressed or began in earnest. I started watching WCW in 1997 I’d say, a year or so after the Hulk Hogan turned heel/villain (which was huge) and formed the popular renegade faction the nWo in WCW. WCW was different and entertaining enough, but I especially took notice of some undercard wrestlers like Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, and others. This was like the first time you were seeing lucha libre (Mexican style wrestling) and lightweight wrestling on American television, so I was caught off guard seeing such different styles of wrestling mixed with the old school style. And Canadian Hart-family-trained wrestler Chris Benoit had this unique mixed style of technical/submission wrestling, great selling, fast intensity, and some high-flying maneuvers like his trademark flying headbutt stolen from the Dynamite Kid. He was the definition of high workrate, a wrestler that wrestled every match like it was a Wrestlemania main event even when his opponent didn’t try so hard or just couldn’t keep up. Benoit gave 120% effort every night. I immediately grew to admire this tough laconic hard-working wrestler and waited anxiously each show for his match.
My fellow Americans started talking about the WWF more and more, it was becoming “cool” to watch the WWF again, particularly for us high school teens. And eventually I got hooked in more, but at first I wasn’t so enamored with 1998 WWF like everyone else. There were no wrestlers like Benoit, Mysterio, or even mediocre Jericho in the WWF. The matches were very bland and uninteresting; the WWF was lucky its crowds were loud to fool viewers into thinking the wrestling wasn’t so bad. And I hated the WWF’s main star Steve Austin. He seemed like a fraud to me. His endless brawling and bleeding did nothing for me and his Texas redneck gimmick didn’t help. And since I didn’t really watch the WWF in 1996 or 1997, I had no idea that Austin used to be very talented. I didn’t know he was so badly injured that he was forced to stick with brawling. I did not know that he understandably did not desire to take a year off at the very height of his career, when Vince needed him the most, to have surgery and recover.
So I think I watched WCW more for the wrestling and watched WWF purely for the mindless entertainment of The Rock, Mankind, The Undertaker, etc. It was the Monday Night War and you’d literally flip back and forth between WCW Nitro and WWF Raw, maybe when one was having a commercial break or just being boring. WCW and WWF knew wrestling fans were channel surfing, so they did their damnedest to try to jingle shiny keys before your eyes to keep you from hitting that dreaded channel button.
1999 and 2000 WWF was very entertaining (WCW was failing badly in that area by then), but the WWF continued to feature to no actual wrestling talent or artistic merit. The Undertaker, The Rock, Austin, Triple H…none had much in-ring talent in my eyes. But Chis Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio continued to hold my interest in WCW. And when WCW failed to recognize and promote Benoit, Guerrero, and Malenko, they shockingly jumped ship to the WWF. And that, that moment in 2000, is when things changed for me, when WCW basically became dead to me. My core of WCW, all the guys I really watched there, had effectively left for the WWF. What was left at WCW were now only the old school diminished WWF has-beens like Hogan, Kevin Hash, Bret, etc.
On my last era, circa 2001 through 2004
My last era of regular wrestling viewership started, in my opinion only, in 2001 (even mid or late 2001) when WCW and ECW were purchased by the WWF and ended in mid 2004 (though, looking back now, I wish I had kept watching for a few years more). But why do I start this era in 2001? Well, when Benoit and Guerrero jumped to the WWF in 2000 they (especially Eddie Guerrero) were hobbled a bit by injuries (and addictions and domestic problems) and constrained a bit by the WWF-imposed style and focus on shorter dramatic entertainment (i.e. often shorter less technical matches with ruined endings involving cheating or other wrestlers or managers getting involved). More or less, the WWF just wasn’t ready for them, wasn’t ready to accommodate their talent and approach to wrestling. Benoit for example had virtually no worthy opponents in 2000, but he did manage to make The Rock look more credible as a wrestler in a series of matches.
But in late 2000, Stone Cold Steve Austin returns from neck fusion surgery and he wrestles one little Raw match against Benoit, and I realize that this is a new Steve Austin. He was noticeably leaner and faster, more technical, a better seller, etc. Steve Austin kind of stunned me with his returned talent. In the second half of 2001, Benoit himself returns from neck surgery. Eddie returns from some drug/marital time off and he’s ever ambitious. And a newer wrestler who started his career in 1999, 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle, in 2001 had achieved Benoit-Guerrero-level ring talent, which was and still is insane to me considering just how fast he became so good. 1999 Kurt Angle matches were pretty terrible, which of course made perfect sense since he was brand spanking new to the business and trained solely by the “who cares about the wrestling?” WWF. Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero and other top talent (like Owen Hart actually) were trained by the freaking globe, by Japan, by Mexico, Canada, Germany, etc. If you really wanted to become a respected in-ring performer, you really had to work a sustained period in and be trained by the Japanese wrestling circuit. 2000 or 2001 was when I think I got introduced to Japanese wrestling (puroesu) and started catching up on all the great 90s Japanese matches I had missed.
So 2001 WWF started to become a place to watch the art of wrestling. And not just in the undercard (like in WCW), but in more main event-level matches. Gradually in some cases, some talented WCW and ECW guys came into the WWF after the acquisitions. For example, Rob Van Dam and Tajiri, of ECW, proved to be talented diverse workers; they started to shed some of their monotonous “hardcore” ways over time. WCW’s very talented high-flyer luchador Rey Mysterio comes to WWF in mid 2002. It was really interesting to watch the WWF grow into true wrestling talent. True wrestling talent/art and top entertainment talent are the best of both worlds in my opinion, and now, WWF had finally literally acquired both (except for the more homegrown Stone Cold and Kurt Angle).
In 2002, the WWF (now the WWE) did this silly “brand extension” (really a brand division) whereby the Raw and Smackdown shows would be separate brands (like the NFL’s AFC and NFC) and have separate rosters. It was a supremely nonsensical, unnecessary, and frustratingly limiting idea, but I think the only positive that came out of it was that Paul Heyman (who is one of my favorite non-wrestlers in wrestling history), who once led ECW as promoter, was basically given the Smackdown show, which was on the brink of cancellation by UPN. Vince was focused on Raw like he always was, so it seems that he basically delegated the rescue of Smackdown to Heyman, who was a wise and respected veteran in the industry. Heyman’s rescue plan of attack was to morph Smackdown into a more wrestling-heavy show alternative to Raw. To achieve that, Benoit, Mysterio, Angle, Guerrero, Edge, etc all moved to Smackdown.
And my god did it work. 2002-2003 WWE was briefly superior to the Japanese wrestling scene, which had hit a rare period of stagnation via ideological corruption from MMA’s popularity and financial, injury, and age problems. A Bleacher Report article described this Smackdown era well: “Talent fed off talent, drive fed off drive.” Bleacher Report identified the “Smackdown Six” (Angle, Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Edge, Mysterio, and Chavo Guerrero), but I instead go with the Smackdown Five (minus mediocre Chavo). They rocked my television with good, very good, or all-time great matches every week; as Eddie Guerrero remarked in his autobiography, “each week saw at least one four-star [out of five] matches.” And now, via the underground wrestling VHS/DVD tape trading scene, I was watching older Japanese matches and starting to watch independent wrestling (indie wrestling promotions), so I was all in on the art and innovation of pro wrestling. Over 10 or so years, wrestlers like Bret Hart, Chris Benoit, and Kurt Angle had very gradually fully opened my eyes to what I now truly loved about wrestling as an adult, my paradise of what wrestling ideally should be.
I came to realize that wrestling was about more than North American promotions like WWF/WWE, WCW, or ECW, about more than North American wrestlers as well. Japan’s role in shaping wrestling history became clearer and clearer. Japan shaped Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and others, which made them attractive to ECW and WCW in the first place, which in turn would influence the WWF/WWE. Realizing Japan’s role in the talent pipeline helped me notice that the independent wrestling scene in the early 2000s was increasingly starting to also shape wrestling history as a talent pipeline.
But before I continue about the indie wrestling scene, I have to return WWE’s early 2000s and why I stopped watching then. I shouldn’t have stopped watching when I did around August 2004, after the Cinderella-reign of first-time heavyweight champion Chris Benoit ended against the unimpressive Randy Orton at Summerslam, but I think I felt that the 2002-2003 quality streak was being diluted and slowly betrayed and killed off. Triple H, Batista, Orton….the talent was starting to suck as Vince’s tired vision appeared to expand out again and infect Smackdown and Smackdown stars once Smackdown had averted cancellation. Austin retired in 2003, the entertaining Rock was in Hollywood. It just felt like the big, slow, simplistic wrestlers were taking over too much again.
I wish I could say it was Eddie Guerrero’s sudden death in 2005 or Benoit’s murder-suicide in 2007 that ended my watching of this early 2000s era. But no, it was this perfect storm of me seeing burgeoning indie talent in a small promotion called Ring of Honor (ROH) and also Jeff Jarrett’s WCW-ish promotion called Total Nonstop Action (NWA-TNA) and then me noticing the backwards slide of WWE. I also had school and other hobbies pulling me away, but I noticed what I noticed about the WWE and I just wasn’t content to continue on. Again, I should have stayed watching until 2007 or maybe 2010, because I did end up missing out on many great matches by Benoit, Guerrero, Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, a returned Shawn Michaels, and others. The good stuff I missed was few and very far between certainly, and I can be impatient, but good stuff nonetheless.
That burgeoning indie talent I mentioned was AJ Styles, Bryan Danielson (later: Daniel Bryan), Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, and Low Ki. They were my Indie Five so to speak and wherever they wrestled, and they wrestled in basically every promotion except the main WWE in the 2000s, they wrestled memorable matches. If WWE had acquired any or all of them in 2004 or so, I very likely would have remained a WWE viewer. I wondered at the time how they were not ending up the WWE. Vince McMahon made some overtures for some of them in the 2000s, but money, TNA, and other reasons unknown to me to this very day seemed to keep them from the promised land.
Considering what WWE would eventually end up doing with AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Daniel Bryan (in my opinion best known as Bryan Danielson) when they did sign them in the 2010s, maybe I should be very happy WWE didn’t get them in the 2000s. WWE really neutered them, watered them down in the 2010s. AJ flew less, slowed down, and was given a new finisher. Danielson wasn’t allowed to use his main indie submission finisher The Cattle Mutilation in the WWE (though he ended up using it sparingly over a long period time). Samoa Joe was, well, just acquired past his prime. I think even in 2004 I sometimes wished Benoit and Kurt Angle would leave WWE so they could have better opponents in ROH and TNA, like my Indie Five. After I stopped watching wrestling, Kurt, due to addiction issues, did leave the WWE for TNA and eventually I would see some dream matches against most of my Indie Five guys despite Angle’s diminished speed.
I now think of myself as retired from active wrestling watching. Vince’s shift back to PG rated and politically correct television and his largely “who cares about the art of wrestling?” ways ensures I’m unlikely to come out of WWE retirement. But I still watch wrestling. I watch the old matches, even some of the best 2010s WWE matches. And I catch some of the top Japanese matches from New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). So it’s an odd retirement for me from a hobby I loved and still love.
It’s funny how the cycles never seem to end. There is a new generation of talent out there now in Canadian wrestler Kenny Omega (who is with a promotion called AEW), English wrestler Will Ospreay (in Japan and the indie scene), and many NJPW wrestlers. But this current talent generation is currently sadly more dispersed than the prior ones, their best matches seem all behind them now (so maybe now the WWE will swoop in, buy up, and ruin their last best years). Vince McMahon, as ever, continues to doom the real talent he possesses to an eternal hell of no worthy opponents. He suppresses their talent and doesn’t share them with other talent-filled smaller promotions. The wrestling always suffers and stagnates while Vince’s silly circus show goes on. That’s the history of wrestling.