Aggressive Art

I was and wasn’t joking about the previous post. Yes, I think it’s funny that WWE is completely erasing the word “wrestling” from the nomenclature. But I mostly think it’s amusing because they aren’t really replacing it with anything. “entertainment” is a complete nonstarter. It simply doesn’t mean anything. So I think I’ve got something, and I’m going to use it as the new name of the blog.  If we’re going to rename wrestling, let’s at least give it a superior name. I’m actually completely with WWE on this decision. As a term to describe a business to people, “wrestling” is beneath contempt. We forget because we’re fans, but wrestling isn’t very respected. If you listen to the podcast,  you’ll notice that comes up a lot. It’s a topic I’ve thought about and discussed in great detail. But since “entertainment” is ludicrous, let’s work with something better. Aggressive Art is superior for a couple of reasons. For one, it encompasses wrestling without reducing the term to mean just wrestling. A particularly violent ballet would fit under the umbrella. Transgressive fiction, protest art, and criminal couture would also fit as examples. It sounds appropriately counter-culture, but also lofty. It alludes to catharsis, chaos, and the base form of animal communication, but also dares to be studied, published, worked on. Secondly, it completely erases sport from the equation. There is nothing so statistical about this: you are here to watch a staged thing, and you can see it right there in the title. “sports entertainment” has always stuck in my throat as an ugly pairing. It doesn’t sound nice, it doesn’t make sense, and it falls apart under any analysis. Aggressive Art still eludes to an athletic tone (surely one can only be so successful at aggression without some hard tissue), but without the hangups of professional sport. It wouldn’t make any sense to cover Aggressive Art next to Baseball; you’d much more likely see a report next to the newest fringe play.  When I thought about it, I immediately thought back to 2002, during the rebranding campaign from WWF to WWE. Along with the name change came a new catchphrase: Vince McMahon encouraged his roster to act with “ruthless aggression.” This coincidentally led to the debut of John Cena, Randy Orton, and Brock Lensnar. All three of them are still affecting the landscape of wrestling (of course, Lesnar has revolutionized in a completely different way that doesn’t apply to this argument). I remember really liking the concept. I can’t help but think they wanted to keep it going too.  Over the next week or so,  The Footnotes of Wrestling will become Aggressive Art. The tone of the blog will change as well, expanding to art I feel fits within the definition, something I’ve been wanting to do but always stopped myself, since this stuff wasn’t “wrestling.” But wrestling isn’t wrestling anymore. It’s something better. It will both complement WWE’s new direction, and offer a contrast to their lack of a real new term. It will also make more sense in regards to Fair to Flair, which is in itself is growing in a really great direction. I don’t like being redundant, reductive, or replaceable. This will make sure I won’t be.

Theatrical Language VS Carny Language

This is a topic I’ve been ruminating on for a long time, but this week Stephen T. Stone of Grapple Kingdom asked me for some advice about his writing style, and the topic again came up: what kind of language pattern is best to describe pro wrestling? The typical pattern is generally agreed that carny insider terms (blading, faces, heels, shoots, angles, etc) are acceptable and largely understood by wrestling fans.

I’m sure I’ve done it unintentionally (it’s really hard to unlearn a language pattern), but I try my best to not use these terms on my blog. Instead, I lift from theatrical language patterns (bleeding, good guys, bad guys, breaking character, stories/narratives, etc). I do this for two reasons: First, I believe wrestling is a vast and misunderstood art form, and by using theatrical language patterns instead of carny ones, I believe I’m helping illustrate that argument. Secondly, I think theatrical language is far superior, expresses more, and is easier to read by anyone other than hardcore wrestling fans.

So, this is the advice I gave Stephen. At first, he defended the language, citing that he wanted “smarks” to enjoy his site. But I explained to him that “smarks” aren’t actually anything, and they’ll read good writing the same way anyone else would. I believe he’s done a great service in eliminating almost all of the carny language from his posts, and his writing quality has improved.

Here’s an example from his latest Raw review:

Randy Orton, having arrived in his private tour bus, was set to take on Rey Mysterio in a “WrestleMania Flashback” match, which went back to their WrestleMania 22 match (too bad TNA has Kurt Angle locked into a contract, or they could have made it a full “Flashback”—and a lot more entertaining). Once the match was in full swing and Orton was gaining an advantage, the last remaining member of the New Nexus, CM Punk, went on the offensive; Punk, who was standing right outside Orton’s bus, told him he was going to pay a visit to his wife. An enraged Orton left the ring and ran to the back, but before he could check on his wife, Punk clipped his knee with a well-placed shot from a wrench. Orton’s wife (who looks a little different since the last time we saw her) could do nothing but watch from inside the bus as Punk taunted both of them, promising that Orton would not be punting anybody in the head at WrestleMania, unlike what had happened to the rest of the New Nexus over the past few weeks.

I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with the quality of the recap. It’s readable, keeps you engaged whether you’ve seen the show or not, and doesn’t distract itself with insider terms. Someone who has never seen wrestling before can pretty much get by on this.

Compare that with a paragraph from a month ago:

Thus, when it came time for Cena and Miz to face off against WWE Tag Team Champions Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel, Miz wasted little time getting into Cena’s head…by winning the titles. The surprise victory was followed up by a direct rematch between the two teams, and a Skull-Crushing Finale to Cena gave The Corre the titles back. The reasoning behind this particular move is understandable, as it gives Miz a clear advantage in what will be a month-long game of oneupsmanship between him and Cena. However, it should not have been done for two reasons: the “strange bedfellows” schtick has been done to death in recent years, and the hotshot title reigns do nothing but devalue the “Penny Belts” even more than they already were before these matches. Not only does this say more about the tag team division in WWE than anything or anyone else can, it simply reeks of “emergency” booking, where Creative was basically scrambling for ideas of how to get the Miz/Cena feud started up.

There are at least three terms in that paragraph a new fan would simply not understand. What’s a hotshot reign? How are Cena and Miz “strange bedfellows” (a cliché, but still)? What is “emergency” booking, and how did this scene reek of it?

One might point out that there is sort of a comfort in insider language. You feel like a tighter part of a supposed community if you use it. But the advantages whither really quickly: not only does the “community” of “smark” fans not only not appreciate the terms (as they take them for granted), but it can turn off fans who find the terms confusing, insulting, derivative, or, worst, lazy.

Why the worked-shoot is irrelevant

Why the worked-shoot is irrelevant

A case of never letting the source spoil a good story

A case of never letting the source spoil a good story

Fair to Flair: Two guys rolling around in their underwear by any other name

Fair to Flair: Two guys rolling around in their underwear by any other name

This is Sports Entertainment: Are we getting excited for Wrestlemania?

This is Sports Entertainment: Are we getting excited for Wrestlemania?

The curse of the TNA Heavyweight Title

The curse of the TNA Heavyweight Title

Wrestlespective: WrestleMania’s Main Events No. 9: Hart v. Yokozuna (and Hogan, too)

Wrestlespective: WrestleMania’s Main Events No. 9: Hart v. Yokozuna (and Hogan, too)

Reaction was the true alternative

Reaction was the true alternative

Fair to Flair: The profession of professional wrestler

Fair to Flair: The profession of professional wrestler