Bring Back Vignettes

As a long time wrestling fan, I have always been in love with the characters presented in pro-wrestling, be it WWF, WCW, WCCW, Mid-South, etc… but one thing that those companies always did well, until WWE’s recent history, is introduce wrestlers to their audience. However, this art seems to be lost in the present day.

Firstly, we should note that WWE is the major game in town anymore, and has the vast majority of fan attention. As a grown man with a full-time job, side hustles, and relationships to maintain, I cannot give 5 hours of my attention to the companies weekly programming, nor to the NXT content that is produced weekly. I keep up on it by reading news and results and watching when I can, and one thing that has stuck in my craw is the lack of pumping up new main roster wrestlers or personalities, and I blame this on the way that WWE, and most likely Triple H, view NXT.

NXT is well regarded by hardcore wrestling fans for it’s logical storytelling, fleshed out characters, and great in-ring action, but those same fans often fail to acknowledge that NXT is a niche product, only presented to the less than 2 million subscribers of WWE Network, many of whom, such as myself, don’t view it. This is an issue, as it is the formative, minor league arm of WWE, but many within the company view it as a brand on par with their Raw and Smackdown shows, which is very misguided.

It is this thought process that leads the company to doing no more than having these NXT wrestlers show up on the main roster, expecting most fans to know who they are, know their journey and backstory, and be excited for their arrival. This is lunacy

For years, WWE introduced new personalities through the use of vignettes that would play for weeks or even months, building up anticipation for a wrestler’s debut while also explaining their character and adding depth. Think of the classic vignettes to build up Ted DiBiase, Mr. Perfect, Razor Ramon, Goldust, Val Venis, Kurt Angle, and even Nathan Jones. Before these characters ever stepped foot in the ring, fans knew who they were, what to expect, and even their heel/face alignment.

The current model of having generic music played while a strange individual walks out onto the main roster stage to cheers from neck beards and indifference from everyone else is a far cry from what we used to get. It is not the fault of the wrestlers, but is definitely an issue with management who decide to just throw these performers into the fray without any proper build up or exposure to their wider audience. It can be simply remedied by filming some vignettes and promos at the performance center, but it’s been years or this same issue and nothing has changed.

REVIEW: In Your House III: Triple Header

REVIEW: In Your House III

Here we are, perhaps the nadir of the WWF as both a business and a creative enterprise, in the fall of 1995. Naturally, Vince McMahon’s main competition, WCW led by Eric Bischoff, had just started Monday Nitro, going head to head with Monday Night RAW and beginning the Monday Night Wars and the last great era of professional wrestling in the United States.

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Review: In Your House: Final Four

February 16th, 1997

 We are back into the Retro-Reviews, and this one is a doozy of a show, packed with tons of backstory, excitement, and my favorite thing in wrestling—the winds of change!

Going back to Survivor Series 1996, Sid beat Shawn Michaels and finally killed one of the worst babyface title runs in company history, and Bret Hart defeated Steve Austin in a virtual #1 contenders match. In the lead up to the December and January PPVs, these four men interacted with each other weekly, all straddled the lines of face and heel, and they were eventually joined by Vader and the Undertaker as men who all vied, and had claims to, the World Wrestling Federation Title. How did this all happen and culminate?


REVIEW: This Tuesday in Texas

REVIEW: This Tuesday in Texas

December 3rd, 1991

 Here we are in very late 1991, at a total curiosity of a show for the World Wrestling Federation. This show was a weekday PPV, a test by WWF to see how the market reacted to a non-weekend, non-Survivor Series Pay Per View— the answer was “not well” — and we wouldn’t see the promotion attempt it again until the mid-2000s. It takes place about a week after the 1991 edition of Survivor Series, where The Undertaker, with the help of Ric Flair, defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title.

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Review: Unforgiven 1999

A lot of people have written and talked about the Attitude era of WWF as some sort of monolithic 4-year period, but savvy viewers will realize that there are chapters to its story.

Chapter 1: Wrestlemania 13 through Survivor Series 1997

Chapter 2: The dark period between Survivor Series 1997 and Wrestlemania 14, when WWF was still losing the ratings war to WCW, but Steve Austin was ascending.

Chapter 3: Wrestlemania 14 through Fully Loaded 1999, the Austin/McMahon feud.

Chapter 4: Summerslam 1999 through No Mercy 2000, when the in-ring product improved immensely, and Chris Kreski contributed coherent storylines.

Chapter 5: The home stretch of amazing PPV’s and angles from Survivor Series 2000 through Wrestlemania 17. Continue reading “Review: Unforgiven 1999”

REVIEW: In Your House 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies

I was recently approached about contributing some reviews of older shows available on the WWE network, and I jumped at the chance because I love my old wrestling. Oddly enough, the show I’m going to talk about today—In Your House 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies, from April of 1996— took place when I was not watching wrestling at all. In the early 90’s my favorites were Randy Savage, Jake Roberts, and I had my Ted DiBiase wrestling buddy, but by the mid 90’s I was into sports, and wrestling fell by the wayside until late 1996 with the emergence of Sycho Sid and Steve Austin, as well as the NWO.

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Where Does This Past WrestleMania Fit?

Hardcore wrestling fans like to treat WrestleMania as a Super Bowl of sorts, and that includes ranking the shows by their greatness and going back to watch certain matches or moments as football fans relive highlights like John Elway’s helicopter spin or Santonio Holmes miraculous 4th Quarter grab. So where does this past WrestleMania, the 34th installment, fit in historically and what moments stick out?

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WrestleMania, The Showcase of Variety

With the inception of the WWE Network, wrestling fans now have decades of wrestling content at their fingertips, so of course my brothers and I have been doing the natural thing: watching every WCW Pay Per View from the beginning of the Monday Night Wars in the fall of 1995. Thus far we have reached World War III in November of 1998, and journey has, thus far, been amazingly entertaining.

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I Want Action

As long time wrestling fans, there are certain tropes, storytelling mechanisms, and match layouts that we pick up on over time. These aspects of wrestling either become second nature to a fan (the heat segment and hot tag in tag team matches), or they become a maddening sights and sounds that make our blood boil (the way competitors in ladder matches climb the ladder as if it’s the Bataan Death March), and I’d like to discuss one today that has become prevalent in modern WWE multi-man matches.

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