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Wrestling is now a Rock Concert
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By Paul Herzog

There's a by-product of the latest TV boom in the wrestling business, and it involves the opportunity to see your favorite stars in person. It's the same mentality that drives lines for book signings, mall appearances, memorabilia shows, and dozens of other show-biz gatherings. We want to identify with the people we see in the TV, at the movies, on the radio.

It hit me a couple weeks ago watching Raw, when the New Age Outlaws came out to defend their tag titles against...well, I don't remember, since none of their other tag teams have even a passing knowledge of the term "over." The music started, and the arena went nuts. "Road Dog" Brian Armstrong did his "Tag Team Champions of the Woo-orld!" carnival barker routine, and the crowd shouted along with every word. But during the match, 18,000 people sat on their hands, regardless of whether the champs were delivering or taking the punishment. The fans weren't there to see the champs defend the titles, or lose the titles, or even to go to a double count-out. They were they to yell "Tag Team Champions of the Woo-oorld!"

Most bands out there don't sound any better when you see them perform a concert than they do on the CD. The sound isn't as good, the perform isn't as clean, and with a few exceptions, the spectacle put on isn't worth the ticket price and service charges you pay.

So why go? It's to see their heroes do in person what they've only done through a 2-dimensional medium. In that context, entrance music and finishing moves become far more important to the presentation of a wrestling show than who wins and who loses, and maybe even more important than the booking of a solid angle and well-executed interviews. The Diamond Cutter is "Layla," the Rock Bottom is "Freebird," and Ric Flair's backhand chops to the chest are the time-honored Chuck Berry covers in every band's repetoire.

Interviews don't threaten an enemy or advance a story, as much as get the audience to cheer you, like a band's frontman yelling "Hello, Cleveland!" to prompt the applause. Wrestling has evolved from sport, to sports entertainment, to a rock concert

Is it a good thing? I don't think so. I like wrestling. I like the martial arts related to wrestling, I like Greco-Roman, I like the freestyle amateurs, and I've spent over 20 years being a fan of the professional genre.

I like suplexes, body slams, high spots, false finishes and a perfectly executed sunset flip for a pinfall. But judging by the house shows I sit in, the TV tapings I've attended, and all of the broadcasts every week, I believe I'm in the minority. And then, what happens to the business when it stops being cool to yell "Suck It" or cheer every time Steve Austin says "ass?"

Every boom period is followed by a bust. The current boom in professional wrestling is built almost solely on personalities, and the promotion that is prepared to deal with that when the bandwagon fans jump elsewhere will come out on top, boom or bust.

Until next time, watch out for flying chairs...

Paul Herzog has spent far too many hours as a columnist for various Internet sources, and the Wrestling Lariat newsletter, over the past six years. He is a systems engineer at Tellabs in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and is lucky to have a wife that likes the wrestling business, too. He can be reached at grapsfan@aol.com.

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1998 Wrestling Classics: Frank Dusek, Mark Nulty
1998 Design: Jan Herod
Created: October 1998