Jim Cornette Fiddles While Pro Wrestling Burns

Brian Damage

One of the most brutally honest, outspoken and controversial personalities in the history of professional wrestling Jim Cornette is at it again. Recently Cornette made the bold statement that “Pro Wrestling is dead.”  The science and the art of professional wrestling no longer exists. The ruination coming from years of Hulk Hogan, Vince Russo, ECW and the Kliq. The days of Dick Murdoch, the Midnight Express, the Four Horsemen and Ricky Steamboat are long gone. Psychology replaced by bikinis, logic replaced by curse words…tag team wrestling extinct, managers a forgotten breed….everything recreated by a corporate model of “Sports Entertainment.”

Is he correct? Is pro wrestling really dead? I’ve read many forums where opinions range from he is 100% correct to he’s just a bitter man who doesn’t “get it” anymore. Where do you stand? Who do you agree with more? Let’s review…

Is Cornette just “bitter” when he says that wrestlers no longer have a variety of different places to learn their craft? Aside from Japan and Mexico, the Indie scene is not as robust as it once was. Ring of Honor. Dragon Gate and some others may be an option, but certainly not in the days of the territories. Is Cornette just bitter when he says tag team wrestling no longer exists? At one point, tag team wrestling was just as common as a singles match. Teams stayed together for years, such as the Rock n Roll Express, Midnight Express, The Road Warriors, The Fantastics, The Fabulous Ones, Midnight Rockers, The Wild Samoans etc….They were all successful because they worked and traveled together for years. They developed chemistry and knowing what moves their partner was going to do…before they executed them. Today it does seem MOST teams are just put together to further a storyline or help develop an individual wrestler. While there are some legitimate teams still around like the Usos,….the days of tag teams IS DOA…for now.

Is Cornette off base by saying managing is a lost art? There was an era where to legitimize yourself as a true heel you had a manager to talk or interfere in a match on your behalf. Some of the greatest personalities were managers whether it be Freddie Blassie, Bobby Heenan, Jimmy Hart, Gary Hart, Skandor Akbar, JJ Dillon or Jim Cornette himself….managers were vital to a heel’s success. To further prove Cornette’s philosophy look no further how Paul Heyman and Zeb Colter have done wonders for guys like Brock Lesnar, Curtis Axel and Antonio Cesaro. They add an extra layer of hatred and credibility to a performer.

With all that said, is Jim Cornette 100% right in saying that wrestlers are just handed a gimmick at the door and nobody develops their own character any more? Yes it is true, the WWE in particular will change a wrestler’s name for trademarking purposes and will give them an outline of what they envision their character to be. However, the most successful wrestlers are still the ones who take that manufactured character and make it their own. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, Dolph Ziggler, The New Age Outlaws, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker and Triple H are all wrestlers handed a character and later infused themselves into it and took off. The names may be different, but their personalities are the same.

Do you agree when he says that Sports Entertainment is a parody of pro wrestling much like Dave Chapelle’s Rick James impersonation? The name is just that…a name…I don’t prefer it, but it’s all that it is….wrestling is a huge part of what the WWE does…without it…there would be no films, Total Divas reality shows, red carpet appearances…there would be no WWE. Fans often get a bad rap for buying into the WWE’s corporate vision of Sports entertainment, but there is no hiding the “this is awesome” chants on a live pay per view or RAW when Daniel Bryan wrestles Seth Rollins, CM Punk vs Curtis Axel or Alberto Del Rio vs Christian. Wrestling still matters to us.

A lot of the blame is put on the internet wrestling community for reading spoilers, blogging, tweeting, Facebooking…whatever. The fact is a majority of the free world has some sort of internet access. It’s just technology and if you don’t evolve with the times, you will find yourself left in the dust…like so many of the stubborn promoters of the territorial days. Cornette has said that people don’t believe wrestling is real anymore…True, but that doesn’t mean a hard worked match is not appreciated or enjoyed. There are still millions who enjoy Christmas with the knowledge that *SPOILER ALERT* Santa Claus is not real.

So is professional wrestling dead? It depends how you choose to view it. It has evolved and is ever changing much like the world we live in. The thing that is dead isn’t so much wrestling, but the territories, some of the old school carny philosophies of those promoters…etc. Try telling the guys and gals who are grinding day in and day out like Damian Gibbs, Kevin Steen, Mike Bennett, Ivelisse Velez and countless others if wrestling is dead. It’s not dead, just changed and in wrestling everything is cyclical. What was hot years ago, may be hot again. Passion is important in keeping this product alive and I’ve seen countless in the indies who have that passion. The same passion that Arn Anderson, Nick Bockwinkle, Dick Slater, Ray Stevens and many of yesterday’s legends had. Is wrestling burning like Rome did in the Ancient times? Perhaps, but Rome to this day still exists.

2 thoughts on “Jim Cornette Fiddles While Pro Wrestling Burns

  1. The business isn’t dead, but it is in critical condition. Cornette is spot on with many of his points; it’s all about stunting a wrestler’s growth, never letting them develop a solid, believable character–it’s all bland compared to the personalities we saw in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Women do not seem to have a proper place in the sport, regrettably, although it is improving a bit. The elimination of managers is a sad one–there were so many great ones n the past, like a Bobby Heenan, like a Grand Wizard, like a JJ Dillion, but apart from Paul Heyman, you don’t really see that anymore –even Heyman refers to himself as a representative.

    It gets hard to have a believable product these days because staff members of ROH, WWE, TNA and others seem to be so quick to either talk to someone in the internet community or they out things themselves. Kayfabe died a miserable death long ago, and wrestling is poorer for it,

    Yet it is not dead, not when other independent promotions still exist. Maybe the quality is lacking in a few of those associations, but at the very least, there are alternatives to what plain ol’ WWE offers, and to what screwup TNA has. The spirit is definitely there.

    And still, we see countless talented performers like Antonio Cesaro wallowing in the mediocre mire because WWE can’t decide what to do with him. The loss of big-scale organizations like the AWA and WCW hurt guys like him, because had he been wrestling back in the 1980’s, if WWE wasn’t gonna give him a fair shake, he could just high tail it to those places, still get paid decently well, and make a good name for himself, possibly be a world champ in the process. Say what you will about TNA, but they were the ones that finally gave Drew McIntyre a real shot at stability, making him world champ in the process and helping to level his carer in a more positive manner a bit. Getting lost in the WWE dervish is often a death knell in a promising stars career—Joe Hennig and Jake Hager come to mind (get a push at first, only to have it yanked away from them and subsequently turn them into jobbers). There really is no storytelling in a match, little nuances are void and null, and for a wrestler to be memorable in WWE, they have to go off script and take a chance against the big machine–look at what happened when CM Punk and Daniel Bryan evolved beyond what the McMahon hierarchy had for them–they thrived in spit of their company.

    I really hope the sport can get turned around a bit. Yes, I know that as times change, the sport does too, but sometimes change isn’t always for the better


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