The Irresistible Force
Bob Schrader is a long-time WWE fan who has attended 11 WrestleManias. Bob grew up in the New York area and became fascinated with WWE in the mid-80s. From the brutality of Roddy Piper smashing a coconut on Jimmy Snuka's head, to the train wreck beauty of the "Land of 1000 Dances" music video off the Wrestling Album, Schrader has witnessed many moments in the history of WWE. After getting hundreds of submissions, Bob was chosen by WWE.com Senior Managing Editor Michael Cole to become the first-ever "WWE. com -- Fan Columnist". Check back every Thursday for a new column from Bob.
The CW Network finally cancelled Gilmore Girls this week as a restless nation tried to cope. At least that's the impression I get based on the amount of press the departing "Girls of Gilmore" have received. Seriously, Jimmy Carter can be chased by a wild boar into an active volcano, and it won't receive this much attention. I didn't know about the demise of Gilmore Girls until I went on Entertainment Weekly's Web site and checked out the new fall schedule for The CW Network.
On the site, I saw there were no Gilmore Girls, but there was something else. On Friday night, something called "Wrestling." Not SmackDown or "The show that has been carrying The CW Network and before that UPN for the past eight years." Nope. Simply "wrestling."
This development really isn't surprising. In a few months, September is going to roll around, and all the fall preview issues are going to hit the stands -- Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide being the most prominent. The odds of one writing anything other than the obligatory "CW counters with wrestling on Friday night" is about as likely as seeing William Shakespeare's Othello starring The Great Khali.
There's been more ink devoted to whatever doomed show USA Network trots out to follow Raw, than Raw itself has had, or will ever receive. It's only been one of the top-rated shows on cable since 1993, but so what? FX has Kyra Sedgwick!
This happens every year, and every year it seriously irks me. Why does the entertainment industry in general stick their noses up at wrestling? WrestleMania just took place in front of 80,000 people and might sell one million pay-per-view buys, yet Hollywood could care LESS. The only time wrestling is even acknowledged is when Donald Trump's hair is in jeopardy.
This is actually an amazing phenomenon. Because good or bad, wrestling or "sports-entertainment," has evolved considerably in the last 20 years, and yet the media coverage from an entertainment standpoint hasn't. Entertainment Weekly is going to have its summer television preview issue any week now, and instead of highlighting the fact that Randy Orton is looking to forge an identity and finally unlock his potential by picking a fight with one of the most respected men in the industry, or how Edge shocked everyone by essentially stealing the World Heavyweight Championship on SmackDown, there's going to be nothing mentioned of the approximately 12 weeks of all new original summer programming WWE has to offer. And on the slight chance that there is, it'll no doubt be of the "two guys in their underwear rolling around hitting each other with chairs" variety.
This isn't about getting a lousy blurb in an entertainment magazine. It's bigger than that. Wrestling has come out of the Stone Age, yet the perception of it from those "on the outside" hasn't. Why is that? Well I've narrowed it down to two possibilities:
1. They don't get it.
I remember going to a baseball game in the mid-90s when all of a sudden the sound system starts playing "Macarena." Next thing I know, the entire stadium gets up and starts doing this intimate dance routine. At the time, I had never heard of the Macarena and thought everyone in the stadium had been brainwashed. I thought aliens came down and aired some signal over the network airwaves to get humans to be their slaves, and this was the sign it was working. Thank goodness I was in my basement reading my latest WWE Magazine about TL Hopper, and wasn't affected.
Seeing people do the Macarena in perfect unison while never having heard of it is what the people in the entertainment media business must feel if they ever happen to come across WWE. It's somewhat scary not being in the know, and sometimes rather than finding out, like the "Macarena Incident," it's better to curl into a fetal position and pretend it doesn't exist.
2. They don't want to get it.
Remember when that first ECW aired and for some reason, there was a zombie? Well, consider every other entertainment show like a zombie. Jack Bauer of 24? Zombie. Grey's Anatomy? Grey's Zombies. Hannah Montana? Hannah Mon-zombie. I know you get it, but it's damn fun typing the word zombie. Anyway, the point is, in a sea of zombies, WWE is like the barbed wire badass bus, looking to ram its way to safety. It's different. It doesn't operate under the Hollywood system. It's not produced on a soundstage, and its studio audience consists of 10,000 people every week. There are no second, third or fourth takes, and you can't just hold an open casting call and find the next adversary for John Cena. And yet there it is, every year, performing in the ratings, never in danger of being cancelled while "quality" shows like Arrested Development are. I think there is some resentment there. I think most of Hollywood sees the numbers WWE gets and would rather bemoan the fact that a show like The Knights of Prosperity couldn't find an audience, than marvel at the fact that WWE has, and has for quite some time.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the entertainment media should be lavishing WWE with praise. There has been a LOT of craptacular things that have come across my TV screen over the years courtesy of Raw, SmackDown and ECW. Let's just say WWE is not going to be putting out The Best of the Master Lock Challenge DVD with audio commentary by Chris Masters anytime soon. The point is WWE deserves SOME kind of recognition as a pop culture entity. Want to know why it seems you can't watch WWE without being besieged with ads, spots and promos for all things WWE? Because WWE is the only one who does it. And that's a shame. Because positive or negative, WWE deserves an occasional sidebar story in TV Guide. It deserves to have the actual name of its show mentioned in Entertainment Weekly. WWE isn't going anywhere anytime soon. And through highs and lows, peaks and valleys, it's always going to be on your TV in some form or fashion as it has been for years. The entertainment media needs to know WWE is here, and it's here to stay… unlike say Gilmore Girls.