“Ahh the 90’s… I hated it when I was in it, but I love it now that it’s gone.”
― Allison B. Levine
I turned 44 years old on Sunday, and can honestly say that I look back fondly on my life… even some of the hard times. In every journey, we must endure, so we can appreciate.
It was also around this same time that professional wrestling ‘came of age’, as well. After an era of cartoon characters and kid-oriented programming, the children of the 80’s had matured and wanted a more grown up product.
But perhaps my favorite time ever was the period when I graduated high school, went to college, and fell in love for the first time. The 90’s were certainly a transformative decade – one that seemingly started out hair metal, morphed into grunge, and ended up hip hop.
Enter two young visionaries named Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman. As the leaders of WCW and ECW, respectively, who shook up professional wrestling forever. The way we viewed it, the way we covered it, and the way we talked about it, all changed… thanks largely to a couple of creative guys who wanted to send a shock to the system.
In short, they provided two distinctly different alternatives, both of which forced Vince McMahon to change with the times. The result was the biggest era of televised wrestling in history.
So, maybe that’s why nothing compares to the 90’s. Just like the culture itself at the time, it was an amalgamation of everything: The most extreme of extremes, mixed with garishness and glamour. From the Pulp Fiction of Philly, all the way to a sprinkling of Hollywood glitz down in Atlanta, there was a little something for everyone.
It must have been this same type of 90’s nostalgia that led Vince McMahon to entrust his former rivals with the process of saving his two biggest TV properies. WWE is at a crossroads right now, and they’re looking for anything to get the the fans fired up again.
And there are some pretty heavy odds stacked against them. It’s a very different planet today. Just like the music world at the end of the last century, things have been turned upside down. There’s no way of telling right now if Bischoff and Heyman even have enough juice left in the tank to turn this thing around.
Right now, WWE is like leftover glam rock, and it’s being replaced by a simpler, grittier sound, with Cody Rhodes acting as the Kurt Cobain of today’s wrestling industry. AEW has rallied fans who want to rage against the machine, and have shown they can sell out shows without completely selling out their art. Meanwhile, McMahon and company are shamelessly heading to places like Saudi Arabia for the next dollar.
At this point, anything has to be better than what the folks in Stamford have been producing lately, so most of the everyday people out there have high hopes for this new configuration.
And rightfully so: Bischoff is a natural fit to work with the executives at FOX to make a smooth transition to network television, given his time with Time Warner. And Heyman is not only one of WWE’s most recognizable characters, he already has great firsthand knowledge of the roster. In two very different and unique ways, McMahon has mined the graveyard and somehow come up with fresh bodies. Now, it’s time to decide if he wants to back off, and let them have the green light.
It’s widely-known that the WWE CEO has been constantly changing things on the fly, and because of that, the shows’ storyline arcs have been known to jump around quite a bit. So, no one’s really sure if Vinny will allow Heyman and Bischoff to regulate things and bring some normalcy to the creative process, or if he will continue to sabotage everything.
Hopefully, these two established figureheads will be given the opportunity to flash their former greatness. In a perfect world, that will lead to the overall product improving. But if McMahon continues to meddle, Heyman and Bischoff will be destined for the same frustrations that every other WWE writer and producer has been experiencing lately.
So, while we can hope for a revival of the 90’s, it’s certainly a huge risk for the promotion’s overall direction – not to mention the potential egg on their face in terms of public relations. If this experiment turns out to be another titanic failure, WWE will look foolish for trying to re-create the past.
And in the end, the biggest loser will be the fans.