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Evolution of the business


IronSheik
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I remember watching Wrestling with Shadows on VHS in the late 90s and buying into "the wrestling business has changed, there are no longer good guys or bad guys, it's all shades of grey" hook line and sinker.

But looking back, that was just clever window dressing. The reality was there were still clearly defined heels and babyfaces and all heels pretty much won by classic wrestling cheating, and all babyfaces displayed classic wrestling babyface characteristics when you boiled it down (despite wearing black trunks and swearing). 

So my question is - at it's core, ultimately, does the wrestling business ever truly evolve beyond babyfaces vs heels / good vs evil story telling? 

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25 minutes ago, IronSheik said:

So my question is - at it's core, ultimately, does the wrestling business ever truly evolve beyond babyfaces vs heels / good vs evil story telling? 

At its core, that's where the best stories come from. But I would actually say it's incredibly difficult and rare to get a pure babyface these days.

I think at one point only Johnny Gargano was being one in the big leagues that I was watching. He was the last genuine pure guy out there. Everyone else was dipping into that grey area and that's because it's actually really damn hard to tread that genuine good guy line in this day and age and make it believable.

 

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24 minutes ago, IronSheik said:

So my question is - at it's core, ultimately, does the wrestling business ever truly evolve beyond babyfaces vs heels / good vs evil story telling? 

No. It can't. And it shouldn't. Even the best told story in wrestling should come down to a simple and basic story of good vs evil. It's not Succession or Mad Men or *insert any other prestige television drama*. Wrestling by its very nature has limits because every story no matter what needs to be featured around and geared towards matches taking place in front of a live crowd. Almost every wrestling story that gets too complicated or has multiple "shades of grey" characters never works.

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Pro wrestling has been presented as just two people settling  a sporting rivalry/competing for wins & titles without “goodie vs baddie” booking in many promotions in several countries over the last fifty years or so, so it’s rather a moot question in terms of “evolution.”

Unless by “the business” you meant “WWE.”

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Face and heel don't have to map exactly on to "goodie" and "baddy", but it tends to work better that way. 

Someone said the difference is that a face moves forward while a heel moves backward, or a face speeds up while the heel slows down. In most wrestling storytelling, that works best as goody vs baddy.

In any sporting event - especially combat sports - you draw people in by either giving them a feeling of living vicariously through someone else's success, or by giving them someone they'd pay to see get beaten up. Wrestling is relatively unique in that it can continuously offer you both at the same time, even if it's wrapped up in a hundred different packages. 

Where wrestling tends to lose its way is when it thinks it can tell stories above and beyond that premise - and I honestly believe it can, but only when it doesn't lose sight of the fact that the pay off has to come from the satisfaction of seeing someone win or lose a wrestling match.

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A question no-one ever seems to ask the proponents of, “shades of grey,” is why they feel the need to evolve beyond babyfaces and heels in the first place. All the best fiction in the world, whatever the medium, has protagonists and antagonists. Pro-wrestling shouldn’t be any different.

The problem with pro-wrestling is that it’s been so badly written for so long, with paper-thin, one-note characters, that you end up with idiots like Russo and Cody thinking they’re automatically revolutionising the business by muddying the waters and putting out confusing, inconsistent shite. You aren’t a genius by having a guy kiss babies one week and then set a motherfucker on fire the next. It speaks for how much rubbish pro-wresting has pumped out for decades that guys can write something beyond, “good guy wears a backwards cap,” and then wank themselves dry at how clever they think they are.

The real evolution of the business is in creating complex, interesting characters that connect in new, exciting ways ,whilst still giving you people to root for and root against. By all means, it’s an added bonus if people can interpret characters and story beats differently and perhaps side with characters that others might not, but just trying to blur the lines for the sake of it? Get to fuck.

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I'd argue that the huge decline in the business came about when Vince opted to abandon good v bad guys. In its essence wrestling is about one person you like going against some horrible bastard w something at stake. Many companies are drawing flies nowadays and I believe one of the last examples of heel v face was austin v mcmahon which was a massive draw. If I don't care who wins or loses there is little point me watching. 

I am not saying cheesy, goody goody faces, just that I have to think the person is relatable and care about their story. The best matches and stories were, for me, when some dastardly heel got his comeuppance in the end. Austin didn't act like a face but he was because people were on the journey w him. 

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6 hours ago, Supremo said:

A question no-one ever seems to ask the proponents of, “shades of grey,” is why they feel the need to evolve beyond babyfaces and heels in the first place. All the best fiction in the world, whatever the medium, has protagonists and antagonists. Pro-wrestling shouldn’t be any different.

The problem with pro-wrestling is that it’s been so badly written for so long, with paper-thin, one-note characters, that you end up with idiots like Russo and Cody thinking they’re automatically revolutionising the business by muddying the waters and putting out confusing, inconsistent shite. You aren’t a genius by having a guy kiss babies one week and then set a motherfucker on fire the next. It speaks for how much rubbish pro-wresting has pumped out for decades that guys can write something beyond, “good guy wears a backwards cap,” and then wank themselves dry at how clever they think they are.

The real evolution of the business is in creating complex, interesting characters that connect in new, exciting ways ,whilst still giving you people to root for and root against. By all means, it’s an added bonus if people can interpret characters and story beats differently and perhaps side with characters that others might not, but just trying to blur the lines for the sake of it? Get to fuck.

THIS! 

 

I often wonder why you would want to veer away from a formula that has worked in all storytelling forms for centuries. Wrestling is hardly Oscar winning acting with complex character arcs etc. It's two people beating each other up. Less is sometimes more. 

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7 hours ago, air_raid said:

Pro wrestling has been presented as just two people settling  a sporting rivalry/competing for wins & titles without “goodie vs baddie” booking in many promotions in several countries over the last fifty years or so, so it’s rather a moot question in terms of “evolution.”

Unless by “the business” you meant “WWE.”

I'm ignorant to anything outside of the US in the past fifty years. So other federations around the globe just have a more reality based athlete v athlete approach? Does that draw big box office sales? 

As someone else said, I'd have just naturally assumed protagonist Vs  antagonist would capture the paying public's imagination more than competitor Vs competitor with minimal polarity. Interesting if different cultures succeed with other styles of presentation.  

 

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1 hour ago, Michael_3165 said:

Austin didn't act like a face but he was because people were on the journey w him. 

I'd argue he did act like a face once they went with the audience and switched him. Albeit his attitude and language was definitely not typical for a babyface.

He won clean every week like a babyface with his finish. He only got beaten (rarely) if he was fucked over by a heel or heels. He had a moral compass (remember him coming to the aid of Stephanie McMahon and JR saying something along the lines of "Austin doesn't have loyalty to the McMahons but he's doing what's right" which is classic babyface behaviour) and he had positive traits like a babyface such as bravery, honesty, drank beer, stood up to bullies / corrupt authority.

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2 hours ago, Michael_3165 said:

I'd argue that the huge decline in the business came about when Vince opted to abandon good v bad guys. In its essence wrestling is about one person you like going against some horrible bastard w something at stake. Many companies are drawing flies nowadays

WWE are posting record profits and that’s the mark of success. Business isn’t on the decline, it’s in the ascendancy. The thing that’s evolved in wrestling is Vince, that’s why he’s the most successful promoter in history. 

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Yeah, WWE is a mul-tie-media company really. 

Live event ticket sales have been on decline but they're creaming it with TV deals, licencing, subscription models, Middle East bumper pay deals and other such like.

Can't help but feel the decline of live ticket sales will eventually come home to roost unless its addressed though as that's the core product.

Edited by IronSheik
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