RBTR – Nostalgia

Mitchell Gadd

Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of Reading Between The Ropes. As a nostalgic man, I often pine for things of the past. I consider myself a traditionalist, and very much an old school wrestling fan. There are often instances where I look back at old videos of Gorilla Monsoon calling a match where somebody has been nailed “right on the kisser”, or seeing a wrestler “all bent outta shape” with a great fondness that is quickly followed by a sigh of depression at what lies before me in the present. However, whether you realise it or not, there is a bit of nostalgia in us all… as wrestling fans, and as people.

While I may not be one of them, there are many fans that consider the ‘attitude’ era as being the “golden days” of wrestling. Certainly, if you judge things solely on ratings and numbers then you couldn’t argue with such a statement. I’m sure we’ve all heard fellow fans pine for the days of the ‘attitude’ era to return, or at least television like it.

During the dying days of WCW, fans would think back to the “glory days” of the initial nWo run, when Nitro was kicking Raw’s ass in the ratings week after week. Eric Bischoff assembled the best roster ever imaginable to a promoter, with the best workers from Japan, Mexico and America at his disposal. Considering what was presenting to them in 2001, WCW fans could be forgiven for wishing they were still in 1996/97.

Yet nostalgia isn’t always a feeling to pine for something that was once great when it comes to wrestling. There are many fans that miss having the option to switch off Raw and turn on Nitro. The same fans that berated WCW’s laughable television shows in its dying days are the sometimes the same fans that wish for WCW to still be on air, even if it meant in its shambolic latter stages. Many fans I have spoken to just wish WCW was still around, willing to excuse it of its flaws for simply a chance to witness it once more.

Yes, it seems time does make things greater. The ‘attitude’ era saw the birth of a hand, PPVs with 9, 10, sometimes 11 matches on, secondary main event matches of The Rock vs. Mark Henry, a Vince McMahon Royal Rumble win and championship reign, Hell in a Kennel matches, and countless other moments of pure wrestlecrap that, if witnessed today, would leave many fans up in arms, and crying out for change.

Yet, despite all of the obvious instances of garbage stated above, fans still want to return to such a period. Indeed, I think what draws most to the ‘attitude’ era is not necessarily the matches, or even many of the storylines, but, moreso, the capacity to deliver a moment that transcends time. Joe Pritchett’s column of the same name highlighted fans’ desires to witness moments that live long in the memory. Yes, the ‘attitude’ era had its flaws, but even as someone who believes it to be an over-rated period of time, I still concede that its penchant to deliver a telling moment that fans watching could take away with them and store in their memories for years to come was second to none.

The return of D-X is yet another reminder that fans simply cannot get enough of the past. Unlike memories of latter day WCW, however, but more in keeping with those who long for the ‘attitude’ era, or even a Gorilla Monsoon play-by-play, the nostalgic factor with D-X is built upon a great fondness towards its previous incarnation. Yet nostalgic memories of D-X are held in such high regard by many fans that they fail to realise that a call for the return of their favourite degenerates is merely a call to be disappointed.

The nWo is a perfect example of things that sometimes need to just be left alone. Fans pined for the old days when the nWo ran roughshod over WCW, wishing those days would return. Calls for an nWo reformation were heard, and answered in the affirmative, only for the results to leave many fans feeling let-down.

However, to be nostalgic is a very natural trait. Fans who watched the Star Wars prequels are often heard murmuring their malcontent at its deficiencies; the very same fans that couldn’t wait for the prequels to be released. The expectations were so great on the part of some fans that there was only ever going to be one reaction to the later releases of George Lucas’s franchise.

We’ve all heard the saying “sequels suck.” Scream 2 was famous for its self-reflexivity in the way it looked at iself as a movie, and even referred to its predecessor as a film. While looking at other inferior sequels, it showed its awareness of the pitfalls of rehashing something for a second, or even third helping. The famous Cat Stevens song warns that “The first cut is the deepest”, but it has a deeper (excuse the pun) meaning than simply a flesh wound. The impact, emotion, and impression of the first of anything is most significant. It seems that in movies, the first movie of any series is usually considered the best. If it were worth creating a sequel of such a film, then that in itself is an admission that the first was considered a success, meaning the chances are that there is only one way to go from there.

I am jetting off to Corfu tomorrow, longing for the kind of experience I had the last time I went to Greece. Nostalgia. It’s only natural to have a memory that you wish to recall more than others in a moment of need or reflection Yet, not all instances of nostalgia instantly mean that we wish for a resurrection of a past experience. Perhaps we simply… want to remember it. There may be those that are nostalgic about Degeneration-X, but never wanted to see the group reform for fear of the inevitable let-down that follows any attempt to resurrect the past.

While watching Austin douse beer over the Mcmahons and The Rock, there may have been many that thought of it as great TV, but how many could say with conviction that we were witnessing something that would become almost a rubber stamp image of that period? With the exception of perhaps the Eddie and Benoit Wrestlemania XX hug, its difficult to know just what image or memory of a certain era will transcend time and become a truly nostalgic mark-out moment. There are those that hated the Mcmahon-Helmsley era, or the Angle-HHH-Stephanie love triangle. However, as time passed, more and more people talk about the year 2000 as being HHH’s peak, with some of the most gripping storylines in recent times. Much like most holidays I go on, I’m sure I’ll live out my holiday without believing one moment to be a truly memory defining moment, yet as time passes, I know I will find something positive to remember it by and long for at a later date. I enjoyed the walks on the rocks with my father as he told me stories of mythical Greek heroes the last time I visited Greece, but I never thought at the time that they would become etched in my memory as a truly nostalgic moment that I would constantly wish to revisit.

Indeed, much like time is a healer, time seems to make things better. Perhaps, unwillingly, we will witness a moment in 2006 that wrestling fans will look back on in a few years time as a golden moment of that era; something to truly define that moment in time. A snapshot, if you will.

While there is nothing wrong with being nostalgic, perhaps there is a danger that revisiting the past so much stops us from progressing with the future. There are those that subscribe to the belief that in order to explore new ground, you must tread on old first, but with the wrestling business, I’m not so sure I agree. The negative reception towards the television a reformed DX has given us should not come as a surprise to anyone. The very nature of nostalgia helps time form a very positive image of the past, yet in doing so we may set ourselves up for a fall. Resurrecting things once considered great renders them prone to disappointing us, tarnishing its legacy and leaving us more depressed than ecstatic.

The next time you call for a return of your favourite gimmick, angle, or stable, remember that there are reasons that they initially came to an end, and that if something was that great in the past, then the chances are, it will never live up to its heightened former glory. By all means, be nostalgic, but, in doing so, be aware that it’s simply best to remember something fondly, rather than try and rehash the past.

So, for those of you who liked this column, save it, or remember it, because there will be no sequel.

Until next time,

Mitchell L. Gadd

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