There are a lot of ways to present professional wrestling. If you look back at the territory days, you can see all kinds of styles, many of which barely resembled each other. The same thing is true today and that will always be the case. For every WWE, there is an AEW and for every Ring of Honor, there is a CZW. It offers all kinds of options, many of which are more successful than others. Today we’re going to look at two distinct moments and see why they both work, at least in theory.
Earlier this weekend, AEW presented Double Or Nothing, featuring the Stadium Stampede main event. This match was, in a word, completely freaking insane with a man changing gimmicks while being drowned, a bell being run over someone’s head, a two count being challenged, a bar fight, a horse, and a one hundred yard rolling northern lights suplex, plus all kinds of other pure absurdity.
That is about as far from Dory Funk Jr. vs. Jack Brisco for the NWA World Title as you can get. What once was two guys in trunks has now turned into a spectacle inside an empty football stadium where one of the biggest names of all time elbowed a football mascot. The match was something designed to be all about entertaining and very little about violence, hatred, or even technical skill. In other words, it was something that went against every tradition that you could imagine in wrestling.
This is a little bit different:
And it was FUN. I had a great time watching this spectacle and laughed rather heartily more than once. It did exactly what it was supposed to do and was one of the most memorable things I’ve seen in years. That’s one of the more negative reviews you’ll see of the match, which certainly had its audience and got all kinds of praise from a lot of fans. It’s not something that would work every week, but for a one off special treat, it was an amazing showcase of the creativity and the outside of the box thinking that is so often lacking in modern wrestling.
Now that being said, I can completely understand why it is not going to be everyone’s favorite thing. If you didn’t know a lot of the references coming into the match, so much of this was nonsense and people having fun instead of trying to have a fight with someone they can’t stand. That is a completely fair criticism as there were so many segments of the match that went completely beyond the realm of anything logical or realistic. It’s not going to be for everyone and I’m not going to complain if someone didn’t like what they were doing.
For the other example, we’re going both to the other side of the spectrum and back in time. Twenty four years ago today, WCW Monday Nitro was running Macon, Georgia. During a match between low level wrestlers the Mauler and Steve Doll, a man came through the crowd and jumped the barricade. Clad in a sleeveless vest and jeans, he went on to talk about how everyone knew who he was but no one knew why he was here. The other thing no one knew was how big this was about to be.
The man’s name was Scott Hall, better known as Razor Ramon from the WWF. Hall had wrestled in the WWF only a few weeks before (his last match with the WWF had been a week earlier at a live event) and was a big star in the company. But here he was, dressed in street clothes and invading the other show. More names would follow and a new era began both in WCW as well as in professional wrestling in general. To say it made a big splash would be a major understatement and a lot of money was made in a hurry off the whole thing.
You know who he is:
Unlike the Stadium Stampede, this story was built around realism. WWF wrestlers were invading WCW and their caharacters were dropped. These were just the regular people coming over, beating up the WCW wrestlers and talking about taking over. This felt much more true to life and it wasn’t clear where things were going. It was an interesting story and something that helped power Monday Nitro over Monday Night Raw for over a year and a half. It wasn’t something that people had seen before and it got people’s attention in a hurry.
That’s where we get to the interesting point: that last statement is true of both the Stadium Stampede and Hall jumping the barricade. The underlying principle was the same, even if the presentation was all over the place. Much like the Stadium Stampede’s series of moments where you had to know a lot of the backstory (What is a Matt Fact? Why is Hangman Page walking away from the match to have a drink?), Hall jumping the barricade requires a history if its own (Who is this guy? Why are fans freaking out that the Diamond Stud and Oz are here?).
What matters here though is you have two stories that entertained fans in two completely different ways. While it’s way too early to see where the Stadium Stampede goes in terms of financial success, it is pretty clear that these cinematic style matches are not going away anytime soon. That may or may not be to your liking, but it is clear that there is a market for them or at least a reason for them to be taking place.
You can call it a revolution or even an evolution of the business, but the underlying theme is that it is memorable. The same is true of Hall and later Kevin Nash coming over to WCW. It gave fans a sense of wanting to know what was coming next, albeit in different ways. Hall and Nash was the kind of thing where you wanted to see what was coming the following week, but the Stadium Stampede is a case where you might want to watch the people week to week to see how we get to the next big all star song and dance extravaganza that took several minds to put together.
Maybe this is where it goes:
What matters is that it’s entertainment. Both ideas were considered brand new and completely out of the box at the time. One is considered a classic and another is some kind of insanity that no one has ever seen before. I am in no way saying that the Stadium Stampede is going to be the next New World Order, but it is something that has people talking and is going to get a lot of eyes on Dynamite. That was the case with Monday Nitro, which was about the same age as Dynamite when the angle started (Dynamite has aired 37 episodes before the match. Hall debuted on the 37th Monday Nitro.) and both shows needed it.
No matter who you ask in wrestling, there are going to be fans who don’t like something big and new. That is the case with a lot of people and it always will be. There is nothing wrong with being hesitant about something new, but at some point you need Hulk Hogan to blow up everything about wrestling or Steve Austin to Stun every authority figure in the company.
These two stories may seem very different on paper but at the end of the day, the point is the same: trying something new and seeing where you can go with it. The NWO is well remembered, though it played a major role in bringing WCW down. Maybe that is the case with AEW as well, but it has people talking and interested, which is kind of the point.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books. Get the latest and greatest in professional wrestling news by signing up for our daily email newsletter. Just look below for “GET EXCLUSIVE UPDATES” to sign up. Thank you for reading!