Wednesday , 22 October 2014
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Wrestling Reflections: The Hand of Time and Its Inherent Effect Upon Perception

Steve Austin

Let’s be honest here, everyone has a favorite wrestler. The longer you’ve been a fan, the more likely it is that the favorite no longer actively competes. I don’t mean this to be stating the obvious by that. Instead, what I mean is that fans usually flock to the earliest stars they see.

For example, those who began watching in the Attitude Era would generally be inclined to be fans of guys like Austin, Rock, or Foley before Cena, Orton, or Punk. I personally can tell you I’m a huge fan of Cena and always have been because he was the reason I started watching wrestling.

As a fan who has only been watching for a decade now, I can tell you that I don’t fully understand the impact of guys like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. Despite watching back countless hours of video from all different eras of wrestling, I still can’t claim to fully understand any era before the year of 2002.

How many fans watching wrestling today once watched Hulkamania run wild? How many even saw the NWO explode onto the scene back in 1996? The percentage of wrestling fans is miniscule at best, and this creates a huge discrepancy in how fans see the past stars of the WWE.

This is no more prevalent a fact than today when more than ever the stars of the past are being seen in many guest roles in WWE and TNA. A few are even working complete part time schedules as challengers in WWE most notably the Rock.

What does all this overexposure to past stars mean to fans today who can barely understand what these guys did in the past? Does the exposure now create a false sense of apprehension toward these stars or possibly even cause false appreciation? It all is a bit confusing how limited knowledge and experience can affect one’s perceptions.

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About Kevin Berge

Wrestle Enigma's voted Writer Of The Year two years running. I am writing to prove a point. The day I stop writing is the day I realize I have nothing more to say, and I don't believe that day will ever come.
  • Judas Thundersteel

    AH! This is why I wanted to come back to WE. Ready to get the thought juices pumping, I must say that this is rather interesting. I’ve been a fan for 7 years, and the guys who were on top in WWE at the time were Cena, Undertaker, HHH, Edge, Randall Orton, and Shawn Michaels. So most of those guys immediately become favorites of mine. Then came newer faces like CM Punk, Cody Rhodes, Daniel Bryan, that would become current favorites now. As a smarter fan, men like Bryan and Punk are now my all time favorites. There is an effect created by time and how a fan grows up in wrestling. I consider my later years better as I knew more in trying to label a favorite. Returning veterans such as Chris Jericho and Christian wind up as immediate favorites as well. There would then be the disappearance of the original favorites. HHH’s active wrestling days ended in 2010, Shawn Michaels retired, Undertaker’s active wrestling days ended in 2010 as well. Edge retired, Jericho left to expand his entertainment capabilities. This forced me to adopt new favorites and create a stronger connection with whoever is doing well in current times. There are then those like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan who do well in current times, but have an extra something to make me value them in a lifetime as all time favorites.

    The other side is The Rock and Lesnar. Before their returns, I never saw them on live TV/PPV, not during my time as a fan. This meant going on Youtube, watching the WWE DVDs, whatever source possible, to learn myself of such names. This would be, I guess, a third person perspective. It’s this perspective that risks a disconnect, as I don’t have such names on my top ten of all time, yet value whatever work they put in the past. When it comes to the present, I tend to be hasty because of spotlight stealing and such. In the end, I try not to be too biased, and the business aspect is the strongest reason, even on a personal note, it’s not the best. Then there are guys I grew up on that were full timers, that became part timers. The disconnect is smaller, but there. A great example is Undertaker. If the man were to retire officially, now, I would be okay about it. If not, there are those lingering, negative thoughts of him still going. Even though he’s the guy that got me into wrestling in the first place. The past is past, I prefer the here, now, and the future. So, I’ve latched onto Antonio Cesaro, Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett, and favor them currently to the point that I get negative thoughts when a part timer gets the upper hand on them. Makes me do a “grrrr.”

    1.) On the overexposure topic, the top offender to me is Hulk Hogan. My disdain for the guy has grown for the past couple of months (again) because of his heightened role on TV. To the point that it’s plagued a favorite of mine, Bully Ray. I’m sorry, but thinking about Ray as a face, inside Hulk’s butthole (figure of speech you pervert), makes me mad. What the hell are they doing to this guy. Yes he’s over still, yes he’s still solid and entertaining in the ring, but man, I felt like someone I love, died. The outside wrestling stuff on Hogan doesn’t help either, such as him claiming he had a 50 million dollar contract to wrestle Cena at Wrestlemania 25. That screams “bullshit” to me. There’s obviously the facts and statistics of Hulk’s name in the 80s, and 90s, as they are undeniable. However, it doesn’t take precedence over the overwhelmingly negative opinion of him. Besides, he resembles the part timer I mentioned as one that has a disconnect with me. Flair is a very interesting choice. While Flair had a prominent wrestling role on TV when I started watching wrestling, there’s been a turnaround since his “official” retirement in 2008. Having an on screen role is fine, currently he’s made a couple appearances, which is even better. However, with TNA, he had too much of a footing there, and even wrestled there for crying out loud. It got tiresome of course. Flair used as a manager seems to be a widely talked about idea, though he essentially was one in Evolution, so it’s basically been done before. I’d be okay with that, and I’d trust WWE not to blow that. However, the best for him is to keep making occasional on screen appearances, and help backstage, as well as appear on DVDs and media content, whatever, outside of the weekly wrestling programming. Overexposure of these kind of names is worse than the much maligned overexposure of say, John Cena.

    2.) I don’t feel I invested in this thought process. I take things “day by day” or “week by week” in wrestling ways. I’m more capable of comparing this week’s TVs to last week’s or the week before, rather than eras, to say which is better, and the current one doesn’t live up to it. The best thing is to take the best aspects of each era, and just live with it. Dwelling in comparison distorts the views of today. I don’t even like the comparisons of Dolph Ziggler to Shawn Michaels. For Ziggler to receive that comparison can be see as a compliment to Dolph, but also a detriment. How about just “the first Dolph Ziggler” rather than the next HBK? Jim Ross said this before, in comparing the current era with the Attitude Era, the athletes here are much more advanced. Based on that alone, and smarter fans liking in ring ability most, you’d think they’d be praised over past times. Bryan and Punk for example have more of a hybrid style, Austin Aries is one of the most complete wrestlers I’ve ever seen, guys are more fit, health is generally better. As for this slide in particular, I do consider Punk to be a new legend, a new entrant to that “greatest of all time” debating. By his own admission, he’s done everything but main event a Wrestlemania (which I pray is this year), and establishing a legacy in nearly 2 years. I don’t want to measure the guy against Austin or Rock and say the latter guys are untouchable, it’s not fair. By preference, I like Punk more than those two guys, as just my opinion, Punk’s a better total package guy, and I don’t care to count the facts and stats, and dollars.

    3.) I don’t know if Hogan can be excused for his image tarnishing. I can look at his older days and admit that he was the top guy in the 80s, and one of the top guys in 90s. Okay, legend, hall of famer, took wrestling to a higher level. While the years of him being a total embarrassment in the public eye are very short compared to his active wrestling days, the quality of tarnishing the guy is done is too monumental for me to look over. That’s just me, I didn’t grow up in his era, so I’m not the best guy to ask. Flair was a more total package wrestler than Hogan, as well as a big attraction at the time. So his image tarnishing will not leave as negative an impact on his legacy. Besides, I notice more Hogan bashing than Flair bashing, as the former messed himself up a lot more in the public eye. True, it can be argued that a cardinal sin is committed by trashing such guys, thinking on who they are now, and not back then. However, I think one’s image now can be too strong to yield to the older times. Cena though will be an exception, at least in my opinion. At the very least, his public image has been kept clean and shiny. Rock and Austin’s image has kept strong. The latter though had a very rough 2002, and made a turnaround to maintain a well respected career. Shawn Michaels’ first half of his career in WWE was wrought with bad attitude that got worse towards the end of it. Then he changed and has overshadowed those harsh times. So it’s possible for an image to be immortalized despite troubling times now or in the past, but there are doubts. Once again, my doubts on Hogan.

    Oh man, I feel so good after reading this article and commenting. Awesome material that provokes the mind. The conclusion seems to be that there has to be a two side effort: one by the fans, and one by the wrestlers themselves. It makes sense, and current examples can be used where one side needs to do better, whichever side it is. Rock and Brock are not hurting my perception of them as great hands. Rock in particular though, should watch on who he beats up, hehehe…

    • Kevin Berge

      Finally got the chance to read your whole comment and appreciate your thoughts on all this. I also have to thank you for the praise.

  • SiD

    Bravo, dude, fucking excellent piece. I have an English exam tomorrow, so I’ve read this around five times now.

    • Kevin Berge

      Thanks, man, appreciate that.

      • SiD


  • Ryan Frye

    Awesome article, Kevin. Really interesting way to think about these part-timers coming in and how it could change how they’re viewed.

    I don’t really know what to say beyond this, but I just wanted to make sure you get a comment, lol.

    • Kevin Berge

      Haha, thanks, Ryan.

  • Jacob: Botches & 8s

    My brain hurts…

    • Kevin Berge

      That can’t be healthy. You get that checked up on.