The Work Of Wrestling
Professional wrestling is an art. The Work of Wrestling podcast is dedicated to exploring that simple truth. Produced & hosted by Tim Kail.
info_outline WOW - EP194 - Never Ashes 01/13/2020
WOW - EP194 - Never Ashes This week Work Of Wrestling host, Tim Kail, unleashes his pent up response to CM Punk's "Return". Other topics include: David Starr vs Jordan Devlin for the OTT Championship Effective modern symbolism in pro-wrestling WWE Backstage and how it won't exist a year from now How pro-wrestling (and Tim) have moved on from CM Punk Tim's renewed desire to live "the art life" and find purpose through writing & podcasting And much more! Click here to watch Starr vs Devlin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lurEXADlboY&feature=youtu.be Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling Thanks for listening! Return next week for a Royal Rumble preview!
info_outline Here's How AEW Can Change Wrestling (If It Really Wants To) 01/11/2020
Here's How AEW Can Change Wrestling (If It Really Wants To) Kenny Omega, Matt & Nick Jackson, Brandi & Cody of AEW AEW's second Dynamite of the year featured back-to-back-to-back segments with The Nightmare Collective, The Dark Order, and The Butcher, The Bunny, & The Blade. Short The Librarians joining in to shush an already silent crowd, it watched like a parade of wrestling's worst instincts. Bad timing, awkward delivery, flubbed reveals, cheap attire, hokey gimmicks, authority figures, unclear motivations, and labored narrative reasoning. As this played out, a word slowly came into focus in my consciousness, floating in the dark like bright balloon letters, “MESS!” The Nightmare Collective Interrupts Riho vs Kris Statlander So eager for AEW to fulfill its potential, I've been giving the promotion the benefit of the doubt since I first saw The Creepers crawl on stage. I've been rationalizing the promotion’s mixed messaging, the existence of pre-shows on five-hour pay-per-views, Dynamite’s spotty audio, Dynamite’s WWE-influenced visual language, Dynamite’s WWE-influenced structure, and Dynamite’s general inability to focus on a single wrestler or group with perceptible momentum (Darby Allin, Riho, PAC, Jon Moxley, The Inner Circle). “It’s a new promotion,” I’ve told myself, “give it time.” After the latest episode, Dynamite has had enough time. It must no longer be viewed through "the benefit of the doubt" and, instead, constructively critiqued like any other prime-time television show. I can’t ignore the show’s creative and aesthetic stumbles in an effort to convince myself it’s WWE's antidote, especially when I experienced WWE's antidote, in vivid detail, at Wrestle Kingdom 14. Swearing off Dynamite after one especially bad episode is unrealistic, of course. Proclamations of changing channels and cancelling networks rarely stick because professional wrestling, itself, is fundamentally good. No matter what promotion produces pro-wrestling, it's inevitably going to create something worthwhile because pro-wrestling is a reliably effective art form. I know I'll continue tuning in, and I know I'll enjoy something along the way, but I'll be doing so with a proper understanding of the show's purpose. After three months of dedicated viewership, I see through the alluring fantasy of AEW (that it will save wrestling) to a less exciting reality. Cody, EVP and performer in AEW The word “MESS!” has less to do with the aforementioned unsuccessful segments and more to do with the mind that produced them. The fact that such segments were greenlit in the same stroke as genuinely enjoyable segments is revealing. Dynamite lacks a unifying narrative principle. There is no clear foundation upon which the show’s fictional world is built. As a result, the company's characters, stories, and production values fluctuate wildly from week to week, segment to segment, dependent entirely upon the quality of act being featured. Sound familiar? This inconsistency has been generously defended as “something for everyone”. In theory, that’s a noble pursuit given the variety of wrestling styles and tastes today. In practice…well…it’s not actually in practice. Does “something for everyone” explain AEW’s audio troubles, antiquated gimmicks, inability to book women, and a host of other persistent troubles? The more I watch Dynamite, the less I see a “pro-wrestling buffet” and the more I see a television show struggling to "get things right". When we take all of Dynamite’s positives and negatives into consideration, it becomes apparent that AEW is motivated by something simpler than “changing wrestling” or “offering something for everyone”. Dynamite, in its simplest form, is a show for wrestlers who don’t want to work at WWE. If it has any recognizable unifying principle, it's that. Jon Moxley and Chris Jericho in AEW A desire to not work at WWE doesn’t automatically translate to better, more original television, though. One must still be good at producing TV. More importantly, a promotion’s perspective on professional wrestling must be fundamentally different from Vince McMahon’s if it sincerely wishes to produce something different from Vince McMahon. If the differences are, “Wrestlers should have creative control of their characters, wrestlers should be able to cut bullet-point promos, matches should have finishes more often than not, top-guys shouldn’t need to be big & tall, house-show circuits should be abandoned, Championships should matter,” then you’re going to end up with a different shade of the same color. You may enjoy that shade more, but it’s on the same part of the spectrum. When a promotion doesn’t share WWE’s creative guidelines but it does share WWE’s perspective on pro-wrestling, the result is nothing more than slight alterations to Sports Entertainment's incessant formulas. When a promotion does have a fundamentally different perspective on pro-wrestling, it creates something truly different. "Different" doesn't necessarily mean "good", though. Again, the production team, the booker, and the wrestlers all need to be exceptional at their jobs to produce something equal parts fresh & laudable. But, when pro-wrestling is in good hands and it's built from a different point of view from McMahon's, it can be remarkable. Tetsuya Naito wins the IWGP Intercontinental & Heavyweight Championships at Wrestle Kingdom 14 When pro-wrestling is in unproven hands and it's built with the same point of view as McMahon, it can be hit or miss, but it's not going to change anything. Just look to the closing segment of this week’s Dynamite (a hit). Jon Moxley baited and switched Chris Jericho in a closing promo segment where he had to choose whether or not he’d join a heel faction. Sure…Moxley’s name was Moxley, not Ambrose. Jericho was Le Champion, not Y2J. Improvisational flourishes dotted the scene, reminding us how charming both men are, and what they can achieve when they don't have to answer to a team of beleaguered writers. But apart from the real-world guidelines informing the scene, what was intrinsically AEW about it? Jon Moxley announces that he has "joined" The Inner Circle. Unless you knew you were watching Dynamite in 2020, you’d be forgiven for confusing it for Raw in 2017. It even looks the same. One could argue that Dynamite doesn’t need to be fundamentally different from WWE, or that its alterations to the Sports Entertainment formula are enough. That's fine, but it means AEW's EVPs and owner should start accurately describing their product as a WWE-Thought-Experiment. One could also argue that “backstage segments”, “contract signings”, “closing promo segments”, etc. are all “just pro-wrestling!” Maybe. Or maybe pro-wrestling is an art and arts are malleable, reflecting the needs of the audience and the depth of the artists serving them. Maybe pro-wrestling has been so dominated by one mind for so long that it’s hard for others to see beyond it. Maybe the poor taste and bad decision-making of that one mind has created others who inadvertently share his taste and decision-making style...despite their best intentions. Wrestling fans didn’t turn to AEW to watch a less scripted version of Vince McMahon’s idea of wrestling. Wrestling fans turn to other promotions to cleanse their souls, to see what Vince McMahon has ignored, discarded, or overlooked. That’s the appeal of performers like Riho, Darby Allin, Jon Moxley, and Orange Cassidy. Fans know such characters can't exist in WWE, because Vince McMahon won't allow it. Fans also immediately recognize the talent of these performers (otherwise they wouldn't cheer with such passion) and they want to watch a promotion that shares their intuition, foresight, and enthusiasm. The process by which we’ve fallen in love with AEW's greatest prospects is different than enjoying a less-scripted version of RAW. It’s a process of true discovery wherein the show isn't just, "As good as you knew it could be". Instead it's, "Better than you ever imagined." Rather than rely upon Sports Entertainment’s proven formulas, AEW could rely on the enduring power of discovery. Instead of asking, “What if Vince McMahon gave us what we actually wanted?” AEW could ask, “What does professional wrestling want to become?” I promise you...the answer to the latter question is more interesting, and it will give AEW the foundation it needs. Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling
info_outline AEW Can Do Better Than The Dark Order 01/08/2020
AEW Can Do Better Than The Dark Order The Dark Order Of AEW "We're going to offer a sports-centric product that focuses on the athletes and work." With this statement, in May of 2019, Tony Khan set my expectations of All Elite Wrestling. I wish I had interpreted that statement as broadly as possible rather than immediately invest in the deeper implications of "sports-centric". It set an impossible-to-meet expectation, ensuring dissatisfaction. So frustrated with WWE and so excited by the prospect of a new promotion destined to be its antidote, it wasn't hard to imagine Dynamite would be everything I ever wanted it to be. All I heard was "sports-centric" and my eager imagination filled in the blanks. That was my mistake, not Khan's nor AEW's. To be fair to frustrated WWE-fans, though, the phrase "sports-centric" is a dog whistle that roughly translates, "Gone are the days of Sports Entertainment bullocks! No hokey crap! AEW is going be serious and respect pro-wrestling!" I'm not suggesting Tony Khan didn't mean what he said. Nor do I think his promotion should be forever judged according to what it isn't. I simply recognize, especially after watching the latest Dark Order YouTube video, that I have a very different understanding of “sports-centric". It turns out AEW is a lot like all other pro-wrestling (which is by no means the end of the world and, in hindsight, unsurprising). It has strengths, it has weaknesses, sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s bad…and sometimes you hope no one knows you watch it. The Dark Order falls into the latter category for me. It's a little bit Right To Censor, a little bit Straight Edge Society, a little bit Wyatt Family, and a lot of what professional wrestling doesn't need anymore. They’re a dated, cheesy, black-leather-clad collection of heels who, while not supernatural, move to the lame rhythm of supernatural-wrestling. They’re not helped by the existence of The Butcher, The Bunny, & The Blade and The Nightmare Collective (Brandi, Awesome Kong, a mysterious bald man, et al), two other AEW factions who fit the same description: they wear black, they threaten people but it's not clear why, cut off hair, climb out of "hell" (the center of the ring), and their aesthetic is stuck somewhere between early aughts softcore porn and goth Attitude Era. While The Dark Order's soft reboot as a cult of jobber-incels was inspired, it continues to manifest as goofy skits, cheap-looking costumes, and creative paradoxes (things that should matter on weekly prime-time television). Ignoring aesthetics, and considering only Dark Order's narrative trajectory, we're meant to trust AEW's creative process. We’re not supposed to feel "been there, done that". We're meant to be sincerely teased by The Dark Order, and curious about their true intentions. We're not supposed to watch it ironically, and yet I fear that's going to become the only way fans end up enjoying it (a cynical process AEW must avoid). Not only is it difficult to be teased and curious about something painfully familiar, it's difficult to place once’s faith in a process that, in Dark Order’s case, hasn’t yielded positive results. AEW's unwillingness to give up on The Dark Order is certainly admirable. The attempt to ground them in reality and flesh out their identity via vignettes offered a brief glimmer of hope. Then, on December 18th, they came out from behind the comfort of their vignettes to close an episode of Dynamite. Seeing and hearing them, in the flesh, was a blistering reminder of how inherently antiquated their gimmick is. The promotion's heart may be in the right place, but the promotion's head is making all the same bad sports-entertainment decisions. And that’s where my real concern lies. Before long, the company’s admirable unwillingness to give up on The Dark Order will read as stubbornness. You will like this whether you like it or not, pal! Pro-wrestling fans have had enough of that. If a promotion (especially one that regards itself as "The Alternative") doesn't sincerely consider audience reactions or, worse yet, doesn't comprehend why fans reject an act and then, worse still, quadruples-down on a creative gambit purely out of spite, it's not delivering on a promise for which there is no room for interpretation: to be entertaining. Modern wrestling fans don’t need Dynamite to be everything they specifically want it to be. Not even me, a regular live Dynamite-viewer who has enjoyed more episodes than he hasn’t. Modern wrestling fans just need wrestling to be good. The same way other television is good. What does that mean? It means not grading wrestling on its cooky curve, allowing for cheap nonsense as a result of lowered expectations. It means gradually removing those parts of pro-wrestling that embarrass us: gimmicks, angles, aesthetics, tones, philosophies, policies, and concepts best left to the past. When I see an act like The Dark Order, in 2020, it confounds me. I know the minds who created it have seen the same wrestling I have. And yet, because the act persists, it doesn't seem like those minds also know where it's all going. Short of taking their story in an increasingly meta-direction that gets out ahead of their demise, wherein the Dark Order is revealed to be an example of "terrible-creative" perpetrated on wrestling fans by a rouge EVP, Dark Order will not exist in another year. They're an experiment fans will one day reminisce about with wry “What were they thinking?” grins on their faces. And that's okay. The Dark Order is one iteration of a particular group of performers who will eventually find their way. I’m not suggesting AEW immediately erase The Dark Order and pretend the group never existed. I’m only suggesting AEW accept it and move on when The Dark Order fails. If the promotion truly wants to be an alternative it will embrace the audience's unmitigated rejection of an angle, a gimmick, a policy, or a business decision. And it will do so as quickly as it embraces praise for unscripted promos, win/loss records, and two-hour run-times. Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling
info_outline WOW - EP193 - Wrestle Kingdom 14 (Night Two) Review 01/06/2020
WOW - EP193 - Wrestle Kingdom 14 (Night Two) Review Work Of Wrestling starts The New Year with New Japan! In part two of the 5th anniversary episode of WOW, host Tim Kail critiques the second night of Wrestle Kingdom 14. Topics include: Jushin Thunder Liger and the bond all wrestling fans share A plot hole in a tag match featuring "illegal cups" New Japan's camera work The tangly genius of Zach Saber Jr. and Sanada The unexpected outcome of Juice Robinson vs John Moxley for the IWGP United States Championship What was missing from Kenta vs Goto (if anything) The brilliance of Kota Ibushi's performance The ever-reliable vile charm of Chris Jericho Yet another epic main event between Naito and Okada to crown the first ever double-champion The night one review is available now, as well! Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling Join Tim next week for an all new episode!
info_outline WOW - EP192 - Wrestle Kingdom 14 (Night One) Review 01/06/2020
WOW - EP192 - Wrestle Kingdom 14 (Night One) Review Work Of Wrestling starts The New Year with New Japan! In this 5th anniversary episode of WOW, host Tim Kail critiques the first night of Wrestle Kingdom 14. Topics include: How helpful New Japan's commentary is, particularly with regard to the history of Jushin Thunder Liger Kenta being the strongest member of Bullet Club The likability of Juice Robinson The joy of New Japan Moxley (and why Tim is just going to have to accept Moxley's attire choices) The athletic majesty of Will Osprey How a fan's metric for judging "best wrestler in the world" is informed by what style is presently popular The clearly defined characters of Naito and White The way Okada and Ibushi told a story almost entirely through facial expressions And much more! Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling. The #NJWK14 Night Two review is available now! And join Tim next week for another new episode!
info_outline WOW - EP191 - TLC Review Holiday Special! 12/16/2019
WOW - EP191 - TLC Review Holiday Special! Work Of Wrestling returns for a Holiday Special review of TLC! First, host Tim Kail shares his thoughts on pro-wrestling in 2019, from AEW to WWE to New Japan. Then, he dissects every match on the main TLC ppv card. Topics include: The joy of watching wrestlers you can trust to deliver A detailed analysis of Alestair Black vs Buddy Murphy, and why it was the match of the night Why does the WWE not want a finish between The Viking Raiders and The O.C. especially when it clearly doesn't care about either team? Why Baron Corbin going the in-ring route of Randy Orton is not a good idea. The days when good-guys were bound by a common morality, and interceded on the behalf of the innocent. A detailed analysis of Firefly Funhouse Bray Wyatt and the good & bad of his match with Miz Asking: "Who is this Rusev/Lashley match even for?" The hits & misses of the main event, something feeling "off", and how a bunch of wrestlers fighting in a pile doesn't do much for The Royal Rumble. Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling Read Tim's latest article and find out why he's embraced "watching wrestling as a critic": http://workofwrestling.com/how-to-watch-wrestling-in-2019 Enjoy the rest of your year, one & all! Catch you in 2020!
info_outline Watching Wrestling As A Fan (Not A Critic) In 2019 12/09/2019
Watching Wrestling As A Fan (Not A Critic) In 2019 Rusev, Lana, and Bobby Lashley on Monday Night Raw Since the middle of October, I’ve been watching wrestling as a fan. Not a critic. No podcasts, Facebook posts, or articles on the subject. Just occasional Tweets, some of which get deleted as quickly as they’re unleashed because the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” plays in my mind afterward. And while I do have some nice things to say, they’re so few and lacking in passion that I’m not inclined to say them. What I’ve discovered in watching WWE and AEW “as a fan” the past few months (the way wrestling’s staunchest defenders would have me watch), is that wrestling television just isn’t very…good. Not “good” in the way I’d judge any other weekly television show, at least. Jon Moxley in AEW This will come as no shock to most longtime WWE fans. AEW fans are likelier to bristle at this idea because Dynamite is more watchable, fun, good-spirited, and consistently entertaining than RAW or SmackDown. But, after the initial glow of the first few weeks faded, I started watching Dynamite as yet another wrestling show plagued with its own set of nonsensical problems. Because I so desperately want to love every episode, when Dynamite fails, it stings tenfold. I’ve certainly not given up hope. It's so new and I'm happy to give it time to iron out some of its kinks...I just wish those kinks were new. As a wrestling fan, I just never know if I’m going to get an amazing tag match between The Young Bucks and The Lucha Brothers or an overlong, goofy skit that I struggle to literally hear. The end result is a dissatisfying experience, which is no different than what I get when I watch “that other place”. Speaking of “that other place”, I always know exactly what I’m getting on RAW & SmackDown: the same creative stagnation and systemic failures, interrupted by brief flashes of hope that are just as quickly extinguished by yet another terrible booking decision. The Fiend in WWE So, after watching wrestling like a fan for a few months, I’ve come away asking, “How is this any better?” If anything, it's been worse. And this is coming from someone who WWE & AEW actually caters to - not someone who they claim to cater to and don’t. Perhaps this is just wrestling, I often wonder. Perhaps wrestling inherently doesn’t lend itself to the kind of consistent quality I can easily find on HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime and, most recently, Disney Plus. Perhaps due to wrestling’s hodgepodge construction - a blend of improve, skit, theater, and athletics - it will inevitably be hit & miss within the confines of any television presentation, be it one or five hours long. Perhaps the only way wrestling can ever be “actually good” is when viewed in its natural habitat: live at the theater, gymnasium, studio, or arena. Clever as that explanation seems, I’m inclined to think it’s an excuse born out of years of unnecessarily terrible television. We want to like wrestling, after all. It makes sense that we would stretch our brains into a pretzel to make it "okay" to like it. The idea that in order to fully enjoy wrestling we have to fundamentally redefine our evaluation of “good” and grade wrestling on its very own little curve is, itself, disrespectful to the art. It’s true that we evaluate artistic mediums according to their particular set of principles and established structures, in addition to a broader understanding of “quality”. For example, you don’t judge a Taylor Swift song according to what makes for a good episode of Law & Order. Music and television are different mediums and present different aesthetic considerations. But both may achieve their desired emotional responses using the tools of their respective mediums, and so both may be judged as “good” or “effective”. But does that mean I’m supposed to judge pro-wrestling with an understanding that hokey shit is a part of pro-wrestling? That’s the implication of grading weekly wrestling shows on their very own little curves. The Librarians in AEW It’s okay if it’s sometimes stupid and bad because wrestling is inherently sometimes stupid and bad. While some reading this may respond with an enthusiastic, “Yes!”, I’m still not there, even after years of watching as both fan and critic. A part of me still believes wrestling can be good in the same way other shows are good. I can’t think my way to a state of mind where the illogic, self-congratulatory idiocy, and sexism of the Lana/Rusev/Lashley angle isn’t profoundly unwatchable television. This is what accounts for my persistent hesitation in admitting I’m a wrestling fan to anyone (notice I used the word “admit”). When I see Lashley and Lana locking lips on stage or Kenny Omega lifting tiny weights or I hear Lawler’s problematic cracks on commentary or I can’t even hear Chris Jericho or I’m told to follow a wrestler on Twitter to really get a sense of their gimmick, I’m just embarrassed. I’m embarrassed by wrestling’s low opinion of itself and, by extension, wrestling’s low opinion of me. I don’t believe I should have to make peace with the fact that WWE and AEW are allowed to be objectively poor from time to time, so that I’m then able to have a subjectively pleasant experience. This is not the same realistic philosophy as, “Everyone has a bad week from time to time”. This is the unrealistic philosophy that wrestling somehow exists outside every logical metric for evaluating art. I also wonder, why is this such a widespread view? Vince McMahon of WWE Wrestling is erroneously slotted into the “it’s so bad it’s good” sub-genre of entertainment. This is one of the many reasons it doesn't evolve. I’d be more inclined to accept the idea that wrestling is “so bad it’s good” if it was actually good at being “so bad it’s good”. But, more often than not, weekly wrestling shows are just plain bad - as in fundamentally not entertaining in any capacity. Further preventing wrestling’s ability to successfully attain the status of “so bad it’s good”, is how often it's “so good it’s good!” Wrestling fans are forced to frame each moment of a wrestling show in their mind according to a set of values that justifies its existence. If a segment is stupid...well that's just the stupid segment tonight. If a segment is great...that's the make-good for that stupid segment earlier. While wrestling fans are more than capable of navigating this ever-winding quality-dynamic, I contend it puts undue strain on their fandom. There is no: I'm sitting down to watch wrestling because it's good and I like it and this is going to satisfy me from start to finish. The medium, as reflected by those in charge of it, very much wants to have its trashy cake and its gourmet cake and eat them simultaneously. And it expects fans to just be okay with that - to allow for it and even defend it. This is reflected in every weekly show’s inability to strike a consistent tone or level of quality. This is also reflected in a fanbase of diverging perspectives: some of whom genuinely enjoy the hokey bullocks and believe its intrinsic to the art, some of whom suffer through the hokey bullocks so as to get to the goods, and some of whom represent a mix of the two. Then there are all those people (the majority of wrestling fans) who just aren’t watching because they’re tired of being embarrassed. Cody "smashes" a throne with a sledge hammer in AEW This is what I’ve learned over the past few months of watching wrestling "the way I’m meant to”: it’s actually less fun. Watching as a fan, at thirty-three, makes it even more difficult to justify watching when wrestling so rarely respects my intelligence and my emotional investments. So, for me, in 2019 and presumably beyond, the only way to consistently watch weekly wrestling television…is as a critic. Watching as a critic allows us to supplement the lack of weekly wrestling’s creativity with our own. It allows us to engage our mind on any level, in a way the shows naturally do not (or can’t for longer than a few weeks). We’re free to fantasy book, deconstruct angles, and offer our takes with a wider community. This allows us to connect with…anything. Ideally, it wouldn’t be this way, but wrestling has created these circumstances by failing to deliver what fans need. Consider the end of the quality-spectrum that successfully slots into the “so bad it’s good” sub-genre (E! celebrity docu-series, reality TV competitions, Bravo franchises, CW teen-melodramas, etc). All of these shows actually deliver their promised experiences. Even if such shows are graded on their own curve, they consistently offer a unified fanbase exactly what that fanbase seeks. Wrestling does not do this. Real Housewives fans don't threaten to #CancelTheNetwork when an episode doesn't deliver. They just discuss what happened on the episode...because it did deliver. When TV gives the audience what they want, it doesn't leave room for doubt. It doesn't result in social media campaigns or outrage - it just inspires fun dialogue and good ratings. SmackDown's new set after transitioning to Fox The wrestling medium has not considered the affect of its “sometimes wrestling is just stupid” ethos. It’s considered even less how that concept is at odds with its other deeply held belief, “Don’t disrespect wrestling by calling it fake.” Wrestling has failed to reconcile these contradictory philosophies, all the while failing to realize which perspective is more beneficial to its longterm health. The idea that “sometimes wrestling is just stupid” is rooted in the past. It’s rooted in wrestling’s insecurity, a holdover from a bygone era when wrestlers had to ("for a shoot") beat up a fan who challenged the legitimacy of their “sport”. It’s a perspective that’s completely out of step with an entertainment landscape offering instantly accessible excellence and highly personalized experiences that satisfy diverse audiences. "Sometimes wrestling is just stupid" also assumes that wrestling fans believe in kayfabe. We don’t. So when wrestling is just stupid, it’s not as though we think it's an accident. Pro-wrestling would be wise to consider that, to question the value of “popping the boys”. If it doesn’t, it risks playing to a house of empty seats.
info_outline WOW - EP190 - Season Finale 10/14/2019
WOW - EP190 - Season Finale The 2019 season of Work Of Wrestling podcast comes to a close in fitting fashion, with host Tim Kail examining this fascinating year of wrestling, and then taking a deep dive into SmackDown's move to Fox and AEW's second episode of Dynamite.
info_outline WOW - EP188 - John Macy 09/30/2019
WOW - EP188 - John Macy Work Of Wrestling host Tim Kail is joined by his old friend John Macy to discuss the forthcoming exciting week in professional wrestling! Topics include: The significance of SmackDown moving to Fox and what it might mean for RAW's status as "The A Show" What WWE can learn from the Marvel Cinematic Universe Jon Moxley and CM Punk being two sides of the same coin, with Moxley's contributions to pro-wrestling being judged more favorably by history Women's Wrestling, and how to ensure WWE doesn't use the main event of WrestleMania 35 as window dressing What John's looking for from AEW as he heads into Dynamite with a clean slate and a pure point of view Why The Fiend may turn out to be WWE's greatest card to play in this game of wrestling with AEW And much more! Music by Ben Holland whose album "In Use Day And Night" is available on iTunes. Visit http://ben-holland.co.uk for more details and follow Ben on Twitter @BenBenHolland. Follow WorkOfWrestling on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling
info_outline WOW - EP187 - Rob Bennett 09/23/2019
WOW - EP187 - Rob Bennett Work Of Wrestling host Tim Kail is joined by his friend Rob Bennett to discuss all things modern pro-wrestling. Topics include: Rob & Tim's WrestleMania adventure in April - how they prepared and their advice for fellow fans Jon Moxley's podcast with Chris Jericho Moxley's performance in New Japan AEW's connections to WCW The impending "Wednesday Night Wars" NXT's bright future The Fiend and "The New Kayfabe" How to write The Universal Title off television Is it possible to create something genuinely new? And much more! Music by Ben Holland whose album "In Use Day And Night" is available on iTunes. Visit http://ben-holland.co.uk for more details and follow Ben on Twitter @BenBenHolland. Follow WorkOfWrestling on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling
info_outline WOW - EP186 - Clash Of Champions Review 09/16/2019
WOW - EP186 - Clash Of Champions Review Work Of Wrestling host Tim Kail reviews Clash of Champions! Topics include: Why it was a mistake to move the King of the Ring finale to RAW What made the Braullins team-up unique and contrived at the same time Why Bayley running for her life was perfect How The Revival finally got to be The Revival on the main roster The problematic potpourri that is Sonya & Mandy vs Alexa and Nikki Miz & Shinsuke putting on a better match than they ever needed to Sasha Banks oddly earning sympathy WWE's mixed messages Why Kofi vs Orton must never happen again Roman Reigns' perfect power bomb sell Why Strowman needs to be preserved How the main event's finish made both wrestlers look weak Why Tim still doesn't have faith in WWE's booking of The Fiend, even though he's starting to have faith in the character. Music by Ben Holland whose album "In Use Day And Night" is available on iTunes. Visit http://ben-holland.co.uk for more details and follow Ben on Twitter @BenBenHolland. Follow WorkOfWrestling on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling
info_outline WOW - EP183 - Ospreay vs Ricochet Revisited 08/26/2019
WOW - EP183 - Ospreay vs Ricochet Revisited Work Of Wrestling host Tim Kail takes a trip down recent memory lane to revisit the stellar New Japan match Ospreay vs Ricochet. Only this time he's bringing along Granny Franny for a fresh, upbeat perspective. Tim & his mom discuss what's so special about the match, why it's so entertaining & effective, and why it's every bit as worthy of praise as any hyper-realistic portrayal of pro-wrestling. Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling
info_outline WOW - EP181 - King Of The Ring Preview 08/17/2019
WOW - EP181 - King Of The Ring Preview WWE just released the brackets for the forthcoming King of the Ring Tournament and it has Tim hyped! In a bonus, surprise episode he previews the brackets, picks his winners, fantasy-books angles, and makes a new star, all within WWE's already established narrative framework. Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling
info_outline WOW - EP179 - NXT Take Over Toronto Review 08/12/2019
WOW - EP179 - NXT Take Over Toronto Review It's Summer Slam weekend! But before we get to Summer Slam, let's talk NXT Take Over Toronto! Tim goes into detail about every match and segment, starting with a quick explanation of why the opening vignette for this Take Over was a cut above the rest. Then he talks Street Profits vs Undisputed Era, why the Profits (unlike most NXT Talent) actually have a shot of "getting over" on the main roster. Then it's time to breakdown that breakneck-pace of the excellent Candice LaRae vs Io Sharai - a hard-hitting, nonstop bout that shows the NXT Women's Division is in safe-keeping. Then The Ultimate Bro crashes the party with a flurry of knees, fists, and finishers to Killian Dane and a collection of security guards. In the penultimate match for the NXT Women's Championship, things don't quite click. Why is that? Tim endeavors to find an answer, while still praising the finish of the match. And, last but certainly not least, Tim goes over a remarkable main event in Johnny Gargano vs Adam Cole in a two out of three falls match for the NXT Championship. Note: If you're wondering where the Summer Slam review is...don't worry! It's coming later today! Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling
info_outline WOW - EP177 - Art Finds A Way 07/22/2019
WOW - EP177 - Art Finds A Way Tim Kail returns to cover a number of topics, starting with current pro-wrestling news and then moving into more conceptual & philosophical ideas about art. He shares his thoughts on Colt Cabana ending Art Of Wrestling and his invaluable contributions to pro-wrestling and podcasting, why Twitter can be so harmful and why the user must take responsibility for how they engage with others, whether or not CM Punk should return, Heyman & Bischoff taking over Raw & Smackdown and whether or not Summer Slam needs a bigger main event than Rollins vs Lesnar, and Jon Moxley's brilliant performances in New Japan Pro-Wrestling's epic G1 Climax. Then Tim shifts to AEW's corporate-family approach to narrative structure (that is not too dissimilar from another promotion that needn't be named), and he ends with an explanation of why pro-wrestling is bigger and better than any one promotion - what that means with regard to art, and why it gives him solace. Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling
info_outline WOW - EP176 - Extreme Rules 2019 Review 07/15/2019
WOW - EP176 - Extreme Rules 2019 Review After a busy wrestling weekend Work Of Wrestling host Tim Kail found time to review Extreme Rules! Tim covers every match from Taker showing he's still got it to Becky Lynch being used as an emotional story-prop, and everything in between. Other topics include backstage camerawork, a weirdly tepid crowd despite an enjoyable show with several good matches, the beauty of Ricochet, the potential of Paul Heyman taking over RAW, and why WWE needs to make this next phase of the Brock Lesnar/Rollins feud far more interesting than their Mania build if it's going to work as a Summer Slam main event. Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling
info_outline WOW - EP175 - Fight For The Fallen Review 07/15/2019
WOW - EP175 - Fight For The Fallen Review Tim Kail is back to review another AEW event, and much like Fyter Fest it brings out the best (and worst) of his arts analysis approach to pro-wrestling. Why are heels so much more competent and capable than babyfaces nowadays? What is AEW's identity, and does the phrase "sports-centric" genuinely apply? What makes Jericho so relentless great, and why should he be the first ever AEW Champion? All these questions are answered, in addition to detailed analysis of each match, commentary, character & world building, promos, and a stellar main event. Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling.
info_outline WOW - EP174 - #Fyterfest 07/01/2019
WOW - EP174 - #Fyterfest Tim Kail watched #Fyterfest, had an intense reaction to it, and fired up the microphones to record a passionate, detailed review of the show. What does "sports-focused" professional wrestling actually mean? Is it just an emphasis on rules, or is it a larger philosophical approach to pro-wrestling that informs the overall aesthetic of a promotion? Is pro-wrestling destined to always contain "goofy sh%*", and if that's the case, what's the real difference between AEW and WWE? Which matches worked, which didn't, the validity or lack thereof of unprotected chair shots, video game references, and, finally, the majesty of Jon Moxley. Tim covers all of it and more, sharing some revelations about the nature of WWE vs indy-wrestling along the way. Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and visit www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling.
info_outline WOW - EP173 - Into The Light 06/24/2019
WOW - EP173 - Into The Light Tim Kail returns to tell a story about failure, more specifically what he regards as his biggest failure with The Work Of Wrestling podcast (with an intermission featuring insightful comments from writer Barry Hess). Tim opens up about some of the mistakes he's made on the show, what he's learned, the struggle to stay motivated after achieving a dream, and how those lessons will inform the way he produces the podcast in the future. Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and Facebook at www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling to stay up to date on the latest articles and podcast episodes.
info_outline WOW - EP172 - Just A Number 06/17/2019
WOW - EP172 - Just A Number Why are wrestling fans so cavalier and mean when discussing age? Are wrestlers unfairly judged by their age even if they're still contributing? Work Of Wrestling host Tim Kail tries to figure this out and encourages fellow fans (and his future self) to discuss age in a more constructive way. Tim also explains how Jon Moxley reignited his excitement for wrestling, and why he's embracing the enthusiasm for AEW. Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and Facebook at www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling
info_outline WOW - EP171 - Lessons Learned 06/10/2019
WOW - EP171 - Lessons Learned Tim Kail answers your questions this week about WWE reacting to AEW, the lessons WWE can learn from talents willingly leaving the main roster, whether or not WWE will ever create "new stars", his thoughts on the 24/7 title, who his favorite Batman is, who are the most underrated/overrated wrestlers, and what he suspects may be a "work". Read Tim's latest article WWE Is The Big Leagues But That Doesn't Matter Anymore here:http://workofwrestling.com/wwe-is-the-big-leagues-but-that-doesnt-matter-anymore Follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling and Twitter @WorkOfWrestling.
info_outline WWE Is The Big Leagues, But That Doesn't Matter Anymore 06/05/2019
WWE Is The Big Leagues, But That Doesn't Matter Anymore During my formative years, I never watched WCW. Today, that's something I regret. It represents a blind spot in my pro-wrestling fandom. The main reason I didn't watch WCW was because it just didn't seem to be as good as WWE. Not necessarily in terms of wrestling - unfortunately, I never gave it enough of a chance to judge its wrestling. But, when it came to production value and tone, it seemed obvious it wasn't on WWE's level. That perception was reinforced, for better or worse, by the WWE and its top superstars. For years, the company hammered home the point that even if it didn't always win the ratings war, it always won the quality war. That sense of higher production value, greater depth of characterization, and "legitimacy" gave WWE a cachet WCW lacked. Even during the company's dark times, it was viewed as The Big Leagues, according to legends like Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret Hart. That idea, in part, helped sustain WWE, drawing some of the art's greatest talents and inspiring some of the company's greatest angles. While there was another promotion for wrestlers should they get fired or frustrated, leaving WWE was tantamount to punching a one-way ticket to mediocrity. Even throughout my twenties, during some of the WWE's most creatively bankrupt periods, I still maintained this belief. Then, into my thirties, even with the increased popularization and accessibility of indy promotions like New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Lucha Underground, I remained steadfast in my conviction that WWE was, overall, the superior product. And just so the point is clear; by "superior product" I do not mean the booking or writing was better in WWE than those other promotions. I mean that WWE exuded a vibe of superiority that, on the surface, was easy to believe. The company's status as The Big Leagues Of Sports Entertainment successfully conveyed the idea that such status contains inherent value. As a wrestling fan indoctrinated into the medium by WWE, it's difficult to renounce that belief-system. While it's difficult to renounce, it's never been easier to question. With the recent departure of Dean Ambrose, the insight he's provided into WWE's creative process, and the rise of AEW, it's become hard to maintain my faith in WWE's inherent superiority. The cachet just isn't there anymore. Why? The company remains atop its throne in Stamford, dictating the direction of mass-produced pro-wrestling, but the consistently poor quality of its product undermines its Big League status. The significance of being "The Best", despite some shortcomings (like low ratings) is only effective if it's actually true. While it's true WWE is still "the biggest", that's simply not more important than producing the best television in an entertainment era of endless streaming options, let alone an era of instantly accessible indy wrestling promotions. When I turn on RAW and SmackDown, or I watch one of the company's many pay-per-views, I see nothing that indicates superiority (save individual wrestlers who break their bodies for little in return). What I see is stagnation. And when I look online to check the pulse of the audience, I see utter resignation, total frustration, or determined delusion. It's even worse for the live crowd, whose responses are tepid. I know this firsthand, because I sat among them in the rafters of MetLife Stadium for WrestleMania. While we cheered and sang and found joy in each other (and a couple matches), by the end we were left depleted, wondering what we'd seen and whether or not it was worth it. Some of us didn't even make it home because WWE broke the New Jersey transit system (how's that for putting smiles on faces?). The practical experience of being a WWE-fan, diehard and casual alike, is harder than ever. The fans I saw, in person, and the reactions I read, online, are not of the "obnoxious, perpetually dissatisfied smart mark" variety. These are human beings who are tired. Their frustration is rooted in the fact that they want to love WWE, and they know WWE could be great. These are wrestling fans who've seen enough six-man tag matches and fifteen minute promos to last a lifetime. These are fans who have cracked WWE's code just by watching the show every week. The code is: Don't get too excited about anything, because it will be ruined. While nothing Dean Ambrose, now Jon Moxley, said in his interviews with Chris Jericho and Wade Keller came as a surprise, it was a necessary reminder that there's a tangible reason fans are so dissatisfied. Listening to Moxley carefully describe WWE's creative process (especially with Jericho), as we see that creative process manifest on weekly WWE television, makes it even harder to believe in WWE's Big League superiority. Even if WWE is "more important" than other promotions, that doesn't make it good. What use is "being important" if it doesn't result in something of value? And that question points to why a talent like Jon Moxley is happy to leave WWE. Moxley's testimony is so useful because he's not bitter. CM Punk's comparable testimony on The Art of Wrestling podcast in 2013 was an effective first step in dispelling WWE's Big League allure. It was just as insightful as Moxley's, but it was delivered through the prism of an individual's anger and resentment. That anger and resentment was earned (given his experience) but anger and resentment are less convincing than clarity and hope. Punk could be dismissed by detractors as a bitter wrestler grinding his axe. Moxley, who calmly worked through the remainder of his contract without causing trouble, explained his reasons for leaving through the prism of gratitude and excitement. That's why it's such a compelling story that can't be as easily dismissed. Moxley's story, paired with the rise of AEW, represents a turning point in professional wrestling. These stories are two necessary sides of the same coin (one dark, one light) working in concert to dismantle what has become a destructive mythology. WWE is not the shining city on the hill. It is no longer the place that promises superior creative and superior production despite low ratings. Instead, it promises low ratings, scripted promos, brass rings, and, worst of all...pooper scoopers. Given those circumstances, what value does Big League status hold? It has become a Big League, literally, of its own, with increasingly empty seats and fewer reasons to watch. If a wrestler values creative freedom, the right to self-determine, and a more humane travel-schedule, why would they even consider going to WWE? If a fan values their intelligence, their need to be entertained, and their time, why would they keep watching WWE television? The answers have already been given. Wrestlers are looking elsewhere and they are finding success. Fans are looking elsewhere and they are finding entertainment. Soon, with the launch of AEW on TNT this Fall, more and more wrestlers & fans will have even more incentive to jump WWE's ship. Those who already have may find new, dry land. A few years ago, I would have ended this article with: "If WWE isn't careful they're at risk of losing their cachet, that much-needed sense of Big League superiority they've worked so hard to build". Today, I can't write that because they weren't careful, and they've already lost it. Regardless of whatever AEW or indy-wrestling becomes, WWE will remain the land of fifteen minute scripted promos, awkward backstage segments, dubious political affiliations, questionable business practices, fifty-fifty booking, interchangeable gimmicks, frustrated fans, and creative stagnation. That is, of course, unless it decides to change. For now, the company's reality has replaced its old mythology, and the only viable solution for a disillusioned wrestling fan is to believe in something new. Like The Work of Wrestling Facebook and Follow on Twitter
info_outline WOW - EP170 - A Way Forward 06/03/2019
WOW - EP170 - A Way Forward Tim Kail fires up the mics for the first time since Mania to sit down with you and discuss the post-Mania season, the need to respect other people's interests, how awesome the Jon Moxley/Jericho interview was, why he has no hope for WWE but is totally at peace with that, why a leaner roster would benefit WWE (and the whole of wrestling), the value of good constructive criticism, Cody Rhodes smashing a Triple H throne, and what he'd like to see from AEW in the future. It's a fun, lighthearted episode that becomes increasingly passionate as it progresses. Follow on facebook at www.facebook.com/theworkofwrestling and visit www.workofwrestling.com Thanks for listening!
info_outline The Trouble With WWE's Opening Segments 05/12/2019
The Trouble With WWE's Opening Segments - INTRODUCTION - Pattern recognition goes hand-in-hand with being a WWE fan. After years of consistent viewing, it’s easy to spot the various formulas, cliches, tropes, and unwritten “rules” of any WWE broadcast. One of the more obvious formulas plays out in "opening segments": a character enters, cuts a promo, and then another character interrupts to cut their own promo, and then another character interrupts to cut yet another promo, and on and on it goes until, finally, an authority figure books a match. The dialogue and interuptions are often transparently manufactured, stilted, and unnatural, each performer attempting to hit their marks, convey their identities, connect with the crowd, and lay the path for the show’s main narratives. The audience's pops during such segments have become increasingly muted in recent weeks. The interruptions are meant to be a surprise, but they’re not because fans know the interruptions are inevitable. Also, it’s not difficult to anticipate who may interrupt given there are a limited number of recurring fueds. The element of surprise, which is partially the intent, is entirely absent. If the interruptions were completely random (which they sometimes are) the surprise wouldn’t read as excitement. It would read as confusion (as it often does). "Why would they come out now?" is not a good feeling. Neither is, “Ugh, c’mon, let’s get this fifteen minute promo over with”. Yet these are the two most consistent emotional responses to such segments. While this formula certainly isn’t the primary cause of RAW & SmackDown’s low ratings, it’s worth examining whether or not it’s an effective formula, and how it might negatively affect the entire broadcasts. - WRESTLER INTERRUPTED - First, let's consider the believability of an opening segment's structure. The conceit of such scenes suggests RAW, a three-hour, choreographed, heavily edited television show on a major network goes to air at 8:00 pm without its card already booked (and I'm not talking about the real-life “last minute adjustments" McMahon is known for; I'm saying we're supposed to believe it's possible RAW doesn't have a first and last match booked…at all…that the show starts and Vince McMahon and the USA Network really don’t know what’s going to happen). We're not supposed to think about this paradox. And yes, many of us don't, either due to conditioning or indifference, but that doesn’t mean the illogic of these scenes doesn't affect our viewing experience. A ridiculous fallacy sets the tone for the night. How does that not have negative, often unforeseeable consequences on the quality of the overall show? This structure leads to a sense of randomness that contributes to confusion, not the playful sense that "anything can happen". The intent is to capitalize on the idea of "being live" and imbue the broadcast with intensity and intrigue. One of the many reasons such scenes fail to achieve that end is because so many other segments and matches are transparently "booked" (i.e. other portions of Vince McMahon's show have been meticulously planned out...so why wouldn't his first and last match?). The sense of liveliness is interrupted not only by the contradiction of scripted backstage segments that come later, it’s interrupted by the stiff delivery of superstars in the moment. We watch wrestlers challenge and insult each other, and then Vince McMahon books the show "on the spot", but it's written and performed in such a predetermined fashion that it's impossible for it to feel spontaneous. Such scenes serve as a roadblock between the audience and the ultimate purpose of the show. We know where it’s going (a match), and yet we’re forced to watch this obligatory promo-interruption loop, the wrestlers seemingly incapable of injecting any personality into the scene for fear of being reprimanded if they go off-script. It’s like listening to a song that doesn’t have a melody - it’s just a series of notes in isolation. Then, later in the night, other scenes, like Bray Wyatt’s Firefly Funhouse, operate according to an entirely different set of conceptual rules. All of these competing ideas and forms manifest as a disjointed experience, with a wildly fluctuating level of taste, quality, and focus throughout. There is no single, unifying understanding of what RAW or SmackDown actually...are. Is it a sports broadcast? A variety show? A scripted drama? An improvisational comedy? I know the WWE's answer to that question is an enthusiastic, "All of the above!" ”All of the above”, in terms of an audience’s lived experience, equates to none of the above. By being so many different things simultaneously, without any easily comprehended narrative foundation holding it all together, WWE often fails to execute even one of its genres effectively. And why would it be otherwise? A movie can't be a song, a song can't be a play, and a play can't be a video game. They’re just fundamentally different mediums. They interact with and inform each other. One can adapt the other, but that requires a radical reinterpretation of the source material, which is different than simply shoving two different mediums together. If film, music, theatre, and video games were Frankensteined into a single medium, it would be overwhelming and unintelligible. And that’s exactly what the WWE often is today; overwhelming and unintelligible. - WRESTLING, LIKE LIFE, FINDS A WAY - The company's reach so far exceeds its grasp that it places undue burden on itself and its talent. In attempting to consolidate disparate forms into this new medium dubbed "Sports Entertainment", not only does WWE struggle to define itself, it allows itself to reside in the limbo of mediocrity, incapable of doing a single thing well on a consistent basis. The company's creative equity is stretched thin, across contradictory concepts and misinterpretations of pro-wrestling's value, hence why the vast majority of its programming is unenjoyable for the majority of the year. Yes, WWE makes gobs of money. Yes, WWE produces great, memorable moments. But those truths are not evidence to the contrary of this critique. Those truths do not prove Vince McMahon is a genius. Those truths are evidence of how good professional wrestling is as a medium. Even when bad acting and bad writing and bad taste are tacked onto the pro-wrestling medium like rotting appendages, it still finds a way to succeed. It’s a testament to the medium’s inherent goodness that it’s managed to succeed despite the low expectations that have historically informed its mass production. The typical school of thought is that pro-wrestling isn't worthy of deep consideration, that it's okay for it to be scattershot, conceptually inconsistent, and kind of stupid. That thinking, which informs the way RAW & SDLive are booked, has its source in human insecurity, not within the soul of pro-wrestling as a form. Pro-wrestling is good and worthy. It will find its way to success despite whoever disrespects it (even if the person disrespecting it runs the show). It can overcome the dullness of an opening segment, but it shouldn’t have to endure that hurdle in the first place. Having identified some of the problems with opening segments, let's now think through a solution. - THE McMAHON PROBLEM - Let's start by asking, is there any value left in attempting to make RAW & SDLive appear as though they are booked on the spot? Does that story still resonate with an audience in 2019? An argument could be made that if WWE simply had a few genuinely popular superstars (as in superstars who are also significant outside the wrestling community bubble) this familiar format would succeed despite its logical inconsistencies. Also, familiarity tends to be a good thing on weekly television produced for a mass audience. And, keep in mind, the talent roster has been trained to think and perform in this way, and making an adjustment, at this point, might be a learning curve too steep and costly. The most convincing argument in favor of the formula is the simplest: it's not like wrestlers are actually trying to defeat each other - it's all not real, so what's the big deal with Vince McMahon pretending he's booking the show as it's happening? Isn't he just participating in the same theatrics as everyone else? These arguments ultimately amount to, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Whether or not it's broken is a matter of opinion, but all-time low ratings (especially on the verge of SDLive's transition to FOX), constant fan frustration, and muted audience responses do not lend themselves to positive interpretations. Fans are too hip to the repetitive construct, and the dialogue is too bad and too difficult for wrestlers to remember for these opening segments to ever be effective. Like so many aspects of WWE television, opening segments are a relic of a bygone era that thrived pre-social media, pre-internet, during a time when improvisation and experimentation were encouraged. It worked for a simpler audience in a simpler time, where the boundary between wrestling and reality was more convincingly upheld. These scenes only serve to shine a massive spotlight on all of the company's creative weaknesses, and increase the boredom and cynicism of the community. And that's why the best solution is to remove them altogether. Much like backstage segments (which are also conceptual paradoxes) opening segments just don't help the WWE tell its stories. They no longer inspire the excitement they're meant to, they no longer effectively lay an episode's narrative foundation (as evidenced most recently by Mr. McMahon’s confounding, quickly broken “Wild Card” rule), and they no longer spotlight the uniqueness of a superstar's personality (since everyone is saying and doing the same thing in the same way thanks to their script). But the ineffectiveness of opening segments is a relatively small part of the problem. The larger problem is the perspective that informs them. That perspective maintains a distinction between a real-world WWE and a fictional WWE. The real-world WWE is represented by the real-world McMahon Family (father Vince, son Shane, daughter Stephanie, son-in-law Triple H), and the fictional WWE is represented by exaggerated versions of that same family. That basic concept, which has always been inherently odd, just doesn't work in today's world, especially when fans have so often seen these people as their real-world selves in kayfabe-breaking interviews. The distinction between the real people and their characters has become entirely arbitrary, an obligatory acknowledgment of "the way we've always done things". Does it really makes sense, in 2019, for Vince McMahon to continue having fake, on-screen bookers (GMs, Commissioners, etc) who serve as his proxy? From a philanthropic perspective, why would any of these people ever want to play an evil version of themselves, even if it's transparent they're playing a character? And before you remind me that Vince McMahon is doing his own on-screen booking these days, I’m including the Mr. McMahon character as one of Vince McMahon's needless proxies. Fans don't need to see a fake version of the show getting made…on the show, as they're watching it. It's literally a waste of time. That process just delays any possible gratification. Why isn’t the show just ready-made the moment we tune-in? While RAW and SmackDown officially start at 8:00, they don’t actually start until around 8:30. That thirty minute prologue, a cartoonish simulation of match-booking, serves only to eat up time (and maybe that’s the only practical purpose such segments serve anymore). - ANOTHER WAY a.k.a. THE NEW KAYFABE - A show that gets to the goods right away doesn’t rely on wrestlers to do a job they're incapable of doing. Commentary is WWE's pre-installed mechanism for conveying information about the evening's match card. Kicking the show off like any other sports broadcast with a straightforward, "Here's what you can expect tonight, folks!", assisted by graphics, stats, and "Superstar Strengths & Weaknesses", would go a long way in making television viewers feel comfortable and intrigued. Such an introduction also alleviates wrestlers of the burden of condensing their value into catchphrases and ill-fitting dialogue in overlong, bad theatre. The mythology of a wrestler would be built by what they did in the ring, what they occasionally said (naturally) on the mic, and what commentary told us about them. Beginning a show with a match, a brawl, or a shocking revelation would go a long way in engaging the live crowd immediately. And engaging the live crowd is paramount in making the show appear exciting and important for television viewers. You cannot have one without the other. To add variety, and avoid the broadcast becoming nothing but a series of matches, interviewers could track down superstars before and after their matches at various locations throughout the arena, including ring-side and the entrance ramp. The questions asked could be simple and direct, and the answers could be simple and direct. The dreaded third hour of RAW could be broken into a half-hour pre-show and a half-hour post-show. This would drastically cut down on the need to script dialogue, thus saving time and resources. These pre and post shows could broadcast live, in-studio, out of Stamford, CT, (adding a sense of scope and greater variety to the experience) and feature beloved veteran wrestlers as pundits. These sports-like pre/post-shows could spotlight the most interesting match-ups and rivalries, and provide deeper context for stories without needing to rely on television writers who don’t have a background in sports or pro-wrestling. Never, at any point, would McMahon even need to step out onstage in the world I've described. But, whenever he did, it would be special. The world I’ve described is one that speaks for itself, and offers its own natural, reliable, familiar structure, promising never-ending stories. It’s straightforward, realistic, bealivable, PG without lacking depth, and relevant to a wider audience. What I’ve described represents the logical next step pro-wrestling wants to take; in fact, it wanted to take that step a decade ago. Playing pretend just isn't working anymore. What will work is the the removal of the last vestige of The Old Kayfabe in favor of creating The New Kayfabe, a form of fiction that’s convincing because it eliminates as many perceptible contrivances as possible (that includes the McMahon family as "bad guys on TV"). The world I’ve described isn’t devoid of fun or entertainment simply because it’s authentic and takes itself seriously; it’s a concrete sports-perspective built around the inherent craziness of wrestlers. Pro-wrestling, done this way, is able to explore the kind of chaos and enthusiasm that’s frowned upon in legitimate sport. That’s how it sets itself apart. It can do what other sports can’t. Imagine watching a press conference or interview that is indistinguishable from anything you’ve seen on ESPN, but (because it’s wrestling) it explodes into an over-the-top brawl. Rather than mine the pits of sitcom and sketch, WWE should examine the myriad ways legitimate sports create drama and engage modern audiences. What is wrestling’s version of “bases loaded, two outs, bottom of the ninth” or a “relief pitcher” or a “bench-clearing brawl” or a “bad call” that results in an argument between a manager and an umpire? These scenarios are all incredibly dramatic, and they come from one sport (please do not read the above metaphor, take it literally, and turn it into a baseball gimmick). Consider all the other dramatic scenarios inherent in every other sport, informed by that sport’s unique conceit, rule-set, and athletic demands. Pro-wrestling already captures some of the drama in amateur wrestling, boxing, and gymnastics. It does this rather easily because, like those sports, it’s a physical activity that operates under comperable conditions. This is why a good wrestling match is the best pro-wrestling can do; it's within reach by nature of what it is. If the medium is interested in incorporating more genres into its DNA, it would have more success reinterpreting the drama of other sports than reimagining pro-wrestling as a variety show. Straining to be a scripted-drama-sketch-comedy-improvisation-athletic-movie-extravaganza has run its course, and it's time to get back to basics, back to what pro-wrestling really is. The drama, structure, and seriousness of legitimate sport can serve as WWE's guide into the future. Why? Pro-wrestling is closer to Baseball, Football, Soccer et.al. than it is to Saturday Night Live. Vince McMahon, it would seem, strongly disagrees with that notion. He’s safe in disagreeing because there is abundant evidence that his perspective is successful. Thing is...it’s easier to be successful when yours is the only perspective. If anything needs to change, that's where pro-wrestling should start.