Reality From Ringside #17
June 16, 2009
By: Doug Lackey of WrestleView.com
For the past handful of years, WWE has been priding itself on its history and the power of numbers. With each pay-per-view event that rolls along, Jim Ross and others wax philosophically on past events and title histories in order to paint a deeper picture behind the matches we are to enjoy. ?Extreme Rules? was no exception.
?Extreme Rules? was a statistician's dream event. The magnitude of telling statistics that came from the event was truly remarkable. From my early morning cup of coffee and sudoku puzzle, to my day job as a professional salesman assessing profit margins and inventory analyses, I deal with numbers on a near 24/7 basis. So you can imagine my sheer delight from this pay-per-view event. While some numbers were truly remarkable and noteworthy, there were many that truly tell us the status of WWE and the respect that they hold towards the art form they display combined with the over-the-top melodramatics.
9 ? The number of times Chris Jericho has held the Intercontinental Title
This is beyond doubt an astonishing achievement, but also a sobering reality. Jericho won his first Intercontinental Title nearly ten years ago in the weirdest of fashions: A joint reign with Chyna (Embarrassing but true). The list of champions he has surpassed to obtain the title maybe short but is a who's who of world champions: Chris Benoit (twice defeated), Rob Van Dam (twice defeated), Christian, and Jeff Hardy. In fact, the closest performer to Jericho's nine title reigns is Rob Van Dam with six; No one is even remotely close to this mind-blowing feat.
The sobering reality to this statistic: Remember how Ric Flair has always been insulted about being a 16-time World Champion? He has lost the title 17 times. While it is tremendously flattering that Chris Jericho has won an unprecedented ninth Intercontinental Title, his longest reign as a champion has been three months. Hell, he once lost the title on the very same night he won it! (10-27-2003, Fayetteville, NC, ?Monday Night Raw?)
Even Shelton Benjamin, a three-time Intercontinental Champion, has held it for a longer combined amount of time than Jericho. Check the numbers out at WWE.com's title history page and do the math.
So while it is outstanding to see Chris Jericho holding a title he should be accustomed to, we should all be accustomed to him losing this strap within three months? sad but true. Speaking of titles? after ?Extreme Rules? concluded?
10 ? The number of pay-per-view events that have passed since a Tag Team Championship Match has been part of the televised card.
Behind the (original) WWE Title, the Tag Team Titles have the richest history within the organization. Established in 1957, these titles were considered just as relevant and coveted with just as much prestige. From gimmick teams to superstar-like tandems, they have been held by the greatest in all of professional wrestling. Where has its luster gone?
With Wrestlemania 25 come and gone, the echoes still rise from those of professional wrestling enthusiasts and purists: Why wasn?t the Tag Team Title unification match televised? Why was a contest so historically relevant within the company pushed to the side, to promote Kid Rock? The shine of the belts has now been replaced by rust.
If we end up having a full calendar year passing without a Tag Team Title contest scheduled on a pay-per-view card, should we still regard them as viable? Would all those great matches that took place, with the basis on the capture of these titles, be for naught? The Legion of Doom. Demolition. The Dudley Boys. The Steiner Brothers. The New Age Outlaws. How many more teams do I need to list to make these titles feel respected and significant?
I am not asking for a team of main event superstars, nor am I asking for a gimmicky team brought about for the sole purpose of winning the titles. I am only asking for engaging competition and the heightening of tension for their acquisition. It can be achieved with very little effort by WWE's creative writing team? but alas, I know I?m asking for a lot from them. Their imaginations are just running rampant with more storyline ideas for ?Miss Wrestlemania? and the uber-competitive women's divisions on both of their programs.
While we?re on the topic of WWE's creative writing team, that brings us to the most disheartening and frightening statistic of all that came from ?Extreme Rules??
48 ? The number of occurrences where a legitimate wrestling maneuver was spoken of throughout the entirety of ?Extreme Rules?
Before I dive into this disturbing number, I need to define what I consider a ?legitimate wrestling maneuver?. Dropkick? Legit. Spinning Elbow? Not legit. Backbreaker, in all of its infinitesimal variations and modifications? Legit. Finishing maneuvers and flaunting punches like ?Five Knuckle Shuffle?? Not legit.
While viewing ?Extreme Rules?, I decided to tally these utterances of professional wrestling purity. During the ECW Title match called by Matt Striker and Josh Matthews, only once was a maneuver stated? DDT. Sure, it may be Tommy Dreamer's finisher, but it was never given a flashy name. With Jim Ross and Todd Grisham calling the No Holds Barred Intercontinental Title match between Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio, fifteen wrestling moves and holds were accounted for. In fact, Ross and Grisham were attributed to most of these calls throughout the pay-per-view, Ross pointing most of them out to no shock.
Three hours of wrestling action, only 48 wrestling moves and holds? Amazing, isn?t it? Seems that Joey Styles? worked shoot and accusations from three years ago are obnoxiously becoming apparent. There is so much that can be said about this number, but I will only talk about the revelations that would dawn on people like you and me, the professional wrestling traditionalist and enthusiast.
This number is the prime example of the downfall of the view of professional wrestling as an art form? a craft? a science. Due to this lack of mention, all of the realism of the action and suspense is taken out of the ring and substituted with constant reminders of the competitors? characters and personalities, patronizingly reminding us of why they decided to end their conflict in this manor. The 'sports? has been reduced to nothing, shadowed menacingly by the ?entertainment?.
I cannot think of another global profession where the view of the public towards said profession is more completely opposite than a professional wrestler. In Japan, Canada, and many other countries spanning the globe, professional wrestlers are respected and honored for the sacrifices they endure in and out of the ring. Admiration follows them for the craft and skill they put on display for all the audience to behold.
In the United States however, the professional wrestler is viewed as nothing more than a circus act? shouting incoherencies into microphones with testosterone boiling over inside their vocal chords. Characterizations and personalities are produced to invoke a reaction from the crowd, showing how little faith they have in actually showing physical prowess inside the ring.
Which brings us back to the haunting number of 48; this numbing statistic is further corroboration to this organization's view of the professional wrestler as more of a character actor and less of an athlete. Which of these two occupational requirements do you think takes the longest to achieve with the most determination? In turn, which aspect would be rewarded with an amount of admiration and respect that would equal that of the determination and perseverance they put into achieving their goals?
There is no way that WWE will ever stray from their current method of announcing from ringside. It's ironic though, a company that is so rich in history that loves to flaunt and exploit its most celebrated matches and performers have strayed so far from it that it has become a completely different organization all together. Cherishing its legacies, traditions, and memorable contests? harkening us back to how great their federation once was? then suddenly, we wake up. WWE's announcers and creative writing staff have dumped a cold bucket of patronization and condescension over our heads.
Alas, like I?ve said in previous columns, no matter how angry or bitter we get regarding Vince's product? we still watch.
Until next time, mouth-breathers!