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The Difference between Wrestling and Sports Entertainment
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By Paul Herzog

As a long-time (as long as its existed, anyway) reader and contributor here at WrestlingClassics.com, I've heard a lot of discussion about the good ol' days, the glory days, the whatever-you-wish-to-call-them days. Most people tend to agree…after all, this is Wrestling Classics. The SportsEntertainment.com page would probably get some different opinions on the topic. I've been trying to figure out exactly Sports Entertainment is recently, and what makes it different than professional wrestling. After all, it seems that most of us like the latter, but have varying opinions about the former..

My initial theory read something like this: In professional wrestling, the important thing is who wins and who loses. In Sports Entertainment, the important thing is what happens next.

The 3/20 episode of Raw helped me bring this into focus a little bit more. Going into the show, we were building toward a three-way match for the WWF title as the main event at WrestleMania. As professional wrestling goes, each week, each show presented new actions into light, designed to interest fans in the match and give them an interest in who won and who lost. Do you think Stephanie McMahon is sexy in those leather skirts and tight sweaters, and that HHH is cool, and he should retain the belt? Do you think Big Show is such a monster, and that HHH and The Rock hate each other too much, and that Shane McMahon is a boy genius, and that he'll come out with the title? Or that Rock is the People's Champ, and that Stephanie and Shane are spoiled punk kids, and HHH is a jerk, and with Vince McMahon in his corner, there's no way he can lose? That's professional wrestling. The build doesn't have to take a long time, although in this case HHH and Rock have hated each other for months, with Big Show in the mix since the Royal Rumble. All the events along the way don't have to be logical. But there is a means to an end, with someone's hand raised and belt around their waist. That's professional wrestling, and despite what some naysayers think, the WWF does quite a bit of this.

But they're also in the Sports Entertainment industry. In the world of Sports Entertainment, the champ and the contenders are secondary to the swerve at the end of the show. Instead of building to the PPV, Linda McMahon delivered the message that we were jumping off horses in mid-stream, and adding a fourth player to the mix. Why? Because there is this overpowering need in the Sports Entertainment world to provide a big bang every time out, to constantly twist and turn until the very last second. Give the fans as many "what happens next?" moments as possible. The build to the PPV be damned. The logic and previous angles be damned. Any sense of anticipation some fans might have had be damned.

Cactus Jack will now make the PPV main event a four-way. A lot of Cactus Jack fans are very happy to hear that news. After all he's sacrificed and accomplished, I think it's great that l;pppppppp+__-SAZZZZZZZZZ gets something back with a main event on the biggest PPV in the business. But it doesn't make any sense. Cactus has been beaten cleanly by HHH on the last two PPVs. He doesn't have any heat with the Rock; they kissed and made up and teamed up several times. There's no history at all with Cactus and Big Show. If Mick said that he wanted to stay retired, and Undertaker's torn pectoral muscle was as good as new, would we be seeing a HHH v. Rock v. Big Show v. Undertaker match? Probably, because in the world of Sports Entertainment, three weeks worth of stability is approximately 20 days too long.

Anything negative written or said about the WWF in the past couple of years has to be prefaced with a very big "but". The disclaimer is that they've been so successful, drawn such good money, and indeed, done so many things right that it's tough to argue with their methods. But personally, I miss the days when there were faces and heels, and you knew who you liked and who you didn't. A match with two good guys exchanging holds and breaking clean on the ropes could be fun to watch. A match with two heels pounding each other and brawling on the floor can also be fun. Lots of things are just fun. What makes professional wrestling special is the heat, when you can't help but invest some of yourself. When you really want your favorite to overcome the odds, win the title, defeat his archrival, send the bad guy home with his tail between his legs, extract a measure of revenge for some previous dastardly deed.

What we have now is a time when entrance music and catch-phrases regularly get bigger reactions than the wrestler himself. Everybody, heels and faces alike, have a T-shirt and autographed photos for sale. If a woman steps in the ring, it's fine to put her through a table, because she probably deserved it. And the majority of people sitting in the over 1,000,000 households that will order WrestleMania will be happy no matter who comes out with the belt, cause they just want to know what's gonna happen.

That's Sports Entertainment.

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@worldnet.att.net.

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