Guest Post: 2017 In Review: We're All Heels Now

Friend of the site Ron Felten gives us his thoughts on 2017 in wrestling -- mainly the WWE -- and voices his frustration at the product and our ability to keep coming back. And offers up a little bit of hope. If you like what he says, follow him on Twitter -- @ronfelten. We are hoping to hear more from him soon: 

I used to sincerely and naively say in response to questions about how I was doing that things could always be worse. Now, I’m not so sure.

I suppose I still mostly believe that sentiment when it comes to “real life,” but what about with regard to pro wrestling? (And is there even a difference anymore?)

Sure, there’s a lot to celebrate about what’s currently occurring in the squared circle. New Japan is amazing. I thoroughly enjoy Lucha Underground. And Ring of Honor, when I manage to find it between acne cream infomercials and Green Acres reruns, is usually pretty entertaining.

But what about that slobbering elephant in the room that just took a wet shit in the corner: WWE?

For many of us, right or wrong, WWE is the standard by which we evaluate the state of wrestling in general; it is, after all, that definitely-not-perfect-but-somewhat-tolerable-and-readily-available combination of wrestling and comedy and drama that bred that awful, godforsaken term “sports entertainment.” (I’m more embarrassed to admit I watch “sports entertainment” than “wrestling,” so this branding still perplexes me, as “sports entertainment” makes it sound like we’re all trying to fool ourselves.)

Anyway, what’s going on in the WWE? How’s 2017 been?

Luckily, my memory is a bit hazy; the details, as unremarkable as I trust they were, have slipped from my mind like women from the clutches of Donald Trump’s KFC-greased sausage fingers.

I’ve watched a lot of WWE this year, so you’d think I’d have a lot to reflect on.

Not so much.

What do I remember? A lot of Jinder Mahal. Brock would show up once in a while. Austin Aries was here and then he wasn’t. Luke Harper is now dressed like a confused Juggalo (yes, I know that term is redundant). Dolph is doing Dolph things. American Alpha was inexplicably split up, and then each member was given a new partner that strongly resembled the last. Because of course. Hmm. Let’s see. Shane sweat a lot. Oh, and there’s a new Honky Tonk Man.

There was, we were told, a Women’s Revolution. Yet on the year’s final episode of Smackdown, the former Divas—in this case, Naomi and Ruby Riott, whose name is now spelled with two Ts because, I assume, the alliteration wasn’t already cartoonish enough—were given somewhere in the ballpark of one (1) minute in the ring to do their thing. Holy hell. Cover your heads, folks; that glass ceiling is going to shatter any second now. If we’re lucky, the pieces will fall with extreme force directly into our throats.

Speaking of the women, reports say that Vince has all but given up on Bayley. But we all could have guessed that was going to happen. The bigger surprise: WWE “Creative” has, almost impressively, found a way to make Sasha Banks boring.

And Finn Balor is boring now, too. That’s another thing I remember happening, though I wish I didn’t.

But, hey, it’s not all bad. Down in NXT, Johnny Wrestling is the new number one contender. But don’t get your hopes up, friends. Apply the brakes. There’s a swerve ahead. Even if he wins the title and is eventually called up to the Show, Gargano will surely be cast off to 205 Live, where dreams and talent go to be quietly ignored like a barely tolerated stepchild. Until, that is, people like Neville wise up and hit the bricks.

This is a roundabout (and, yes, very cynical) way of saying that WWE loves withholding. It’s a form of abuse. It really is. Vince seems to thoroughly enjoy pissing off the very people who have supported his company and paid for his tacky suits for the last few decades: us.

But this is the new normal, isn’t it? And what’s the downside for Vince? We still watch. We still subscribe to The Network. And he can exert minimum effort and not worry about “trying” or “continuity” or “common goddamn sense.” We are masochists of the highest and most pathetic order, begging sir for another.

If this last year has revealed anything to me about myself, adult wrestling fans, and our country more generally, it’s that we’re all a bunch of whimpering, drooling gluttons for punishment.

We’re all heels now. But not admirable heels like the Iron Sheik, who was tough and determined and entertaining. No. We’re sad and weak (I believe the historically accurate term is “chickenshits”), and we swore in a new president this year who is the biggest and most cowardly heel of all. Chickenshittiest, if you will. But he puffs out his chest, and I guess that’s the difference. I don’t know anymore.

And like we keep watching the WWE, we keep reading the Dotard’s Twitter feed. We, the weak heels, keep feeding the ostensibly strong heels, i.e. the Trumps and the Vinces. What does this say about us? Do we want to know? Of course not. We are too frightened.

Oh, and the WWE’s version of Nakamura hasn’t been nearly as entertaining or generally as good as he was in Japan. Why? Because screw you, says Vince. And we say OK and Thank You.

Earlier this year, I attended NXT Takeover Chicago. It was a decent show with a few good matches. My friends and I drank not an insignificant number of Lime-a-Ritas so things would seem more entertaining than they actually were and, after the show, we roamed around the building wearing our Asuka masks like a pack of disoriented, poisoned rats, and we stumbled by chance on Frank the Clown’s suite. Remember Frank the Clown? No? You shouldn’t. He’s also a whiny heel. Anyway, we invited ourselves into his suite until I, for one, was bored to tears by the “conversation.”

Editor's note: This guy? Holy shit. 
After we left, we found a group of unkept teenagers loitering in the parking lot. They are aspiring wrestlers, they said. Dear god. Save us all.

One of my friends and I said we were starting our own promotion in the Chicago area. This was no more than half-true, as we had batted around a few ideas earlier in the evening for outlandish show concepts. We asked the teenagers to cut improvised promos for us. A sort of impromptu audition. They were, of course, awful. But they—and I mean the teenagers, not the promos—were also sincere.

Somehow inspired by these soon-to-be Best Buy and Arby’s employees, my friend and I have kept talking about this maybe-to-be promotion. We have a hold on a venue and are planning to put on our first show late in 2018.

Out of all the banal horrors that 2017 brought us, both in and out of the wrestling ring, an idea was born.

Listen, I’m not saying our wrestling promotion idea is a good one. It could very well crash and burn or, even worse, it could survive and fester and stink. In the event that the latter possibility comes to be, we’ll just cash out and become WWE writers. Our failure will be evidence enough of our qualifications.

Unlike Vince, however, we’ll be able to say we tried.

I know I seem angry. And I am, a little. But just wait until Cena wins the Rumble next month.

You ain’t seen nothing yet.

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