Ever since WWE was floated on the stock market during the Attitude Era the company has slowly become more and more corporate and 'professional'.
From a policy that says every 'entertainer' must wear a suit for public appearances, to eliminating the word 'wrestling' from the company vocabulary, to tie-ins with the likes of Komen and Be A Star, WWE has slowly eroded that essential rock 'n' roll aspect of pro wrestling.
Back in the day, was Ric Flair corporate? No, he would talk about taking your girl to space mountain and he would, reportedly, back up his claims on the road. Would 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin appear in character in an ill-fitting suit? Nope. Shorts and an 'Austin 3:16' t-shirt, thank you. Wrestlers would drink, swear and not be beholden to the company image whilst out in public.
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The change started with the infamous Plane Ride From Hell. On the flight home from a tour of Europe in 2002, all hell broke loose whilst the plane was in flight.
Mr. Perfect, Curt Hennig, goaded his friend Brock Lesnar into an amateur wrestling match in the aisle, with the two crashing into the emergency exit. At this point the two were forcibly separated.
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Dustin Runnels- aka Goldust - was allegedly serenading his then ex-wife Terri. He only stopped when Jim Ross told him to cut it out. Goldust had serious heat backstage because of this and would be released a year later.
Michael Hayes poked and prodded JBL's head, where he had bladed the night before, to such a degree that Layfield punched out the former Freebird, and spent the rest of the flight unconscious.
Someone (rumoured to be X-Pac) subsequently cut off Hayes' beloved hair in retribution whilst he was unconscious. Hayes told the story in his Hall of Fame speech this past month, actually.
Plane Ride From Hell indeed. But has the company gone too far in the opposite direction now?
Whilst this kind of behaviour is clearly unacceptable, and the work that WWE does with kids is laudable, I would like to see the rock and roll aspect of wrestling return.
But I shouldn't have to praise someone for not wearing a suit. Vince McMahon has built an amazing business empire, but to ask his wrestlers to act like businessmen is plain wrong.
A balance needs to be found, where wrestlers can be themselves and not have the pressure of upholding the company image.
To those who love it, wrestling is absolutely high art when it's done well. But those that don't care about, or just don't like, wrestling think they know that wrestlers are all 'ne'er-do-well's' in any case.
This just creates a sterile atmosphere of suits and approved company language. It's the kind of atmosphere that leads to people not speaking up for themselves and their station, and people like Titus O'Neill getting suspended for lightly tugging Vince's arm for 60 days.
And that’s a bad thing, surely?
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