About ten days ago, I had started writing a post on RAW, as well as NXT. Nothing about what I was writing was coming together for me, though, so I scrapped the piece and took a break from my laptop. I went to the wedding of two dear friends of mine. I saw Dashboard Confessional and Third Eye Blind play an outdoor arena on the ocean in the pouring rain instead of watching Money in the Bank. Life just kept going.
In the year since I created the Lady J persona, I have been attempting to toe the line between fan and analyst. Anyone who follows me on twitter knows I am a passionate person who is prone to fits of all-caps ranting about the product while watching a live show. Anyone who follows this blog knows I take a lot of time to do research, to listen to podcasts and read other articles, and keep myself educated about “The Business”. It is often difficult for me to find balance between these two things.
I watched the Money in the Bank PPV on Monday afternoon, took a break for dinner, and then watched Monday Night RAW. I must say I wasn’t terribly impressed with either of these shows, though it did end on a high note for me when Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman returned to TV. It’s hard not to become frustrated as a fan. But isn’t that the point? Your “guy” isn’t always going to win. Your “guy” has to be beat down, so that when he rises up, it is triumphant. I think the Royal Rumble is a perfect illustration of how the fan base responds to quick ascents in this business.
On Paul Heyman’s DVD Ladies and Gentlemen, My Name is Paul Heyman, he talks about interacting backstage with younger talent, who have yet to become jaded by experience and what he can take from their perspective as newer individuals to the pro-wrestling/sports entertainment business. I am sure those young people are also taking away from their interactions with him the wisdom of his years in this business as well. There is no greater recipe for success than a happy marriage between experience and innovation. This business, which has been built on time-honored traditions, now exists in a world where the audience is smarter, and the competition on TV is not other comparable products, but rather television programming in general. Being an individual who understands both the contemporary broadcasting industry, and the traditional wrestling industry is where the dollar signs are.
It’s not easy for me to check my “fan” tendencies when watching a WWE program. When I returned to the product in 2013, it was as an escape from what was going on in my family, as my Mom’s condition battling Alzheimer’s Disease deteriorated. I became sucked in, and when RAW or SmackDown was on, I wasn’t thinking about anything else. As I became more and more interested in what was going on behind the curtain, trying to apply what I’d learned through writing and theatre training, I realized how hard it is to relegate the fan in me to the back burner and try to view the product with an educated eye. I tried to watch, read, or listen to anything I could that was being presented by individuals with decades of experience in the business, and marry in with what I knew myself about live performance and story writing.
All of this came to a head last night. I started at 8pm EST, watching the hour-long Tough Enough preview that aired on the WWE Network to introduce the audience to the 13 participants. It was a well put-together program, not only giving us insight into the contestants, but also into the perspective of the coaches and why those 13 people were chosen, as well as what personal obstacles they would have to overcome. I followed that up with an episode of The Steve Austin Show podcast, and The Ross Report podcast, both of whom took a significant amount of time to reflect on the passing of the American Dream, Dusty Rhodes.
I won’t get into memorializing Dusty, if for no other reason than I’m not sure I could make it through writing about him without breaking down into tears. They’ve shown the same video package on the PPV, Monday’s episode of RAW and all over the Network, and I still cry every time. What I think was most important about what Austin and JR had to say about Dusty, besides all of his accolades, his promos, his style, the kind of father he was…the thing that stood out to me was how he had dedicated his life to the industry. Even after his in-ring career was over, he began to work with the next generation. None of the tweets or blog posts about Dusty were more moving than those posted by the kids down in NXT, who were being supported, tested, encouraged, and pushed by Dusty. What a gift for them to have him as a resource as they begin their careers in WWE.
As I listened to Austin and JR (who, in particular, I love to hear break down matches and booking on The Ross Report) talk about what Dusty offered to the younger generation, my thoughts wandered to the crop of contestants on Tough Enough, who will never work with him. And then I thought, as I often do, how lucky they are that wrestlers are offered so many opportunities to get into the business today. As someone who knows her body could never withstand the demands of an in-ring career (nor have I ever aspired to have such a career) I know there are no clear paths for a writer in professional wrestling. There are no camps, no reality shows, no schools. There is only the individual, blessed with whatever talents they may possesses, and the product. That is why I continue to struggle each week to balance out the fan with the writer and the analyst. I remember every time I get excited about a story line, whether I am thrilled or furious, that the story is successful, because the only thing in professional wrestling that is poison is silence. I continue to study those whose careers I admire, and try to break down story lines and promos to understand the method behind the madness. Dusty is known for his brilliant promos – an art form many say was inherently a part of him – but one can sit and watch his “Hard Times” promo and see the things that made it connect with fans besides his natural charisma. There was a cadence, a rhythm to the way he spoke, a natural and sometimes barely noticeable rhyme scheme that made his words easy to remember and repeat. It’s these things that I try to write down, do remember, and hopefully use in the future, should an opportunity ever present itself.
Some WWE fans just want to be fans. They live their lives, raise their families, and remain loyal from their seats in the 12th row or on their couches. Some fans hope to one day be the guy with the belt. I am a pro-wrestling and sports entertainment fan who one day hopes to be Dusty Rhodes – not the Dusty with the Bionic Elbow, or the one in the polka dots, but the man sitting in promo class, helping to develop the next generation of talent. The Dusty with the book, the guy giving Steve Austin a chance in WCW. So that’s what I’m going to keep working towards, that’s what this blog is all about. Nothing worth having has ever been easy, but that’s what makes it special. One day, I’ll get there. But until then, that’s my American Dream.