‘The Wrestling Hipster’ is a column dedicated to a deeper, enlightened perspective on professional wrestling for people who think having an opinion about pro wrestling makes you deeper and enlightened. If you’re one of those people who reads the italicized disclaimer, the headline is unnecessarily confrontational on purpose to make people who don’t read italicized disclaimers mad. Do not take his seriously, but obey every word I type.
So here’s the problem I’m having.
Not enough people are watching and talking about NXT. It’s on WWE Network now and that helps a little, but it doesn’t get as many views as Legends House. Most wrestling fans would rather see something familiar doing nothing (i.e. Rowdy Roddy Piper trying to order takeout) than something unfamiliar doing EVERYTHING. In the first installment of The Wrestling Hipster, I’m gonna pull down my The Shield scarf and charcoal cabbie hat long enough to give you five reasons why watching NXT makes you better than other wrestling fans, and yes, I own a scarf with The Shield logo on it. And yes, I’m still going to Believe In The Shield, I don’t care what you’ve heard.
If you aren’t familiar with NXT at ALL, two things:
– It is WWE’s “developmental territory.” The minor leagues, basically. Guys are here before they’re on Raw or Smackdown usually, practicing and refining characters and seeing what works.
– Come on, man, get your shit together.
Here are the five reasons why you should be watching it. Scoff scoff.
1. It lets you like the guys everybody likes before everybody likes them.
How you want to deal with that is up to you. You can go the (very cool) snotty route of, “heh, oh, you like The Wyatt Family? I was watching back when Eli Cottonwood was Bray’s follower.” You get to condescend people who think Emma’s wacky arm dance is “funny” because you know its origins … you know how Emma started as a heel and was so naturally clumsy that they had to roll with it, and her physical awkwardness turned her into an unlikely fan favorite. But yeah, go ahead and cheer for her because she has another character’s snake puppet on her arm, that’s fine.
The other way you can deal with it is … well, having somebody cool to like before it becomes consensus. Aside from snooty bragging rights or whatever you’re just getting to the good stuff first, so instead of waiting for The Shield to debut and get a big TLC match where they kill themselves, you’ve had a year of Seth Rollins as NXT Champion and Dean Ambrose as a crazy pissed-off guy trading knee strikes with William Regal. You get Roman Reigns back when his name was “Leakee.” HIS NAME WAS LEAKY. It’s not pronounced like leaky but DUDE HIS NAME WAS LEAKY AND HE BASICALLY DRESSED LIKE A HULA DANCER.
This isn’t gonna stop happening. Everything cool now is gonna come directly from this show. Sami Zayn, Tyler Breeze, Aiden English, Enzo Amore … these are all guys with something stupid great to offer and you should know about it. Or at least know enough about it to fake it in conversation.
2. It gives you the social high ground.
On Raw, the Divas matches are usually the “bathroom break” match. I’m not throwing shade at them. Paige came up from NXT and is working hard to change the way people see women’s wrestling, but she’s still only got three minutes against Tamina Snuka or whatever and has a long way to go. They position women’s matches in a place to give people a break, like after the Undertaker loses to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. It’s not fair to them, really, but WWE’s conditioned crowds to be a certain way, and guess what? WWE ain’t great to women.
NXT is great to women. WWE’s still mostly hiring Hawaiian Tropic models and people they’ve jacked off to on YouTube, but those cats are being trained by Sara Del Rey, the most bulletproof North American female professional wrestler of the last 20 years. It’s making a difference, and NXT has built their shows accordingly … now instead a women’s match being a “break,” it’s a feature. It’s athletic, beautiful “Divas” beating each others’ asses and quite often stealing the show. They’re treated like competitors on a wrestling show, and not like cheerleaders and stupid girlfriends.
What does this mean for The Wrestling Hipster? It gives you the social high ground. It puts you on The Right Side Of History. When you watch Raw and your casual fan friend starts in about how the Divas match is when he’s gonna go pee, chastise him and give him the last 15 weeks of NXT as homework. “SASHA BANKS VS. BAYLEY IS 2014’S BEST PURE HEEL VS. FACE MATCH,” you can scream, PBR-spittle flying. “WOMEN ARE GOOD AT THINGS TOO, YOU JUST HAVE TO STOP BEING SO STUPID ABOUT THEM BEING IT.”
Note: it’s pretty depressing that “women are equals” is a hipster point of view, but there are at least five dudes angrily scrolling down now to call me a pussy white knight in the comments section of an already pretty pro-decent-humanity blog.
3. It’s only an hour long.
Look, I love wrestling. I watch it all the time. I write about it on the Internet. Even I can’t sit through three hours of Raw sometimes. I certainly can’t watch three hours of Raw and follow it up with two hours of Smackdown, which is just Raw Nobody Watches. Something happens in the first 10 minutes of Raw and they show it in MOMENTS AGO replay 15 more times. It’s agony.
NXT is an hour long. You get in, you get the good stuff, you get out. You don’t get tired of characters quickly because you aren’t forced to see them do the same thing for the same amount of time every week. That’s what Game Of Thrones does, isn’t it? Introduce a character, give them about 20 minutes of screen time over an entire season and watch them become the most popular character on the show. NXT will give you Bayley, then not give you Bayley for a week or two. Then, when Bayley shows up, you’re EXCITED TO SEE BAYLEY. How crazy is that? Managing our expectations and not beating us to death with what they think we want to see.
An hour of wrestling works. You get the rest of your day. Don’t undervalue that.
4. Characters that should be bad guys are good guys because they’re good at what they do.
On Raw, a character can show up acting weird and the best case scenario is “get off my TV” heat. Maybe “you’re gay” heat. I don’t know how people work. On NXT, a character can show up acting weird and be EMBRACED, because the crowd is smart enough to see that person being good at their job and play along. A character like Tyler Breeze or Aiden English will get booed for what they do in the ring, but be cheered for all the reasons you’d normally boo someone. Aiden English is singing and getting roses thrown at him? Cheers. Tyler Breeze is a model who takes too many selfies? Cheers. At NXT, the true babyfaces are the people trying the hardest and being the most talented. It’s like Ayn Rand is booking the show.
It’s the closest thing you have to an independent wrestling show in the WWE Universe. It’s your local wrestling show with the most talented wrestlers you can imagine and a (used-to-be) billion dollar company production team. It’s perfect. You get the intimacy and the “smarts” of a crowd of happy regulars contrasted with the professionalism and presentation of a big leagues wrestling show. What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you watching this?
5. WWE wants you to like it.
And now, the big one.
A couple of years ago, CM Punk sat down on the Raw stage and spoke candidly about what was wrong with WWE. It was revolutionary, and made people like Jim Rome think wrestling was real. “WWE sucks and the anti-authority people know why” became the opinion du jour again, bigger than it’d been since Stone Cold Steve Austin was filling cars with cement. Punk became a marketed, manipulative character built around sheeping in the kids who thought they were “too cool” to like the John Cenas and Randy Ortons.
Here’s the thing, though … anti-authority became the norm. The only way to be NORMCORE about wrestling is to be chill with authority, understand that the company putting on the wrestling show is the reason you get the wrestling show at all and reject the people who think they’re better than you, i.e. the ones who think what you love is somehow wrong and needs to be changed. The people who love Punk are the people who loved Jeff Hardy. It stops being “here’s why I like him” and becomes “SHUT UP I LIKE HIM NO MATTER WHAT.” That’s hive mind. That’s groupthink. Whim over reason. That’s the opposite of what you should be doing. And I know best, I’m a wrestling hipster.
So here’s what you do: notice the totally-cool-with-authority things WWE is doing well … the charities, the mass of information and entertainment available on the network and the magical developmental territory run by wrestling geniuses like Sara Del Rey and Dusty Rhodes. Support those things. When Daniel Bryan and John Cena are talking about how nobody’s bigger than the WWE Championship and complain nonstop to get what they want? That’s the majority of the crowd. Entitled, not willing to try hard.
That’s how you can be counter culture, folks. Observe, understand, and try hard. Go the extra mile to watch a show and discover characters you don’t already love. Learn to love new things. Try the new. The old shit is tired, man. I know you love Rock Bottoms and Pedigrees but it’s time to move the hell on. Love Red Arrows and Helluva Kicks. It’s fun. It doesn’t hurt so much, and you get independent wrestling street cred without having to drive to a show 10 minutes from your house.
Or like I said, just watch Raw and pretend these things.