Are we all enjoying WWE Network?
I know I sure am. Six weeks into its existence and I haven’t even begun to grow bored with it yet. Virtually every 1993 Monday Night Raw is available, most ECW episodes from 1994, every PPV under Vince McMahon’s lock-and-key can be watched, and WrestleMania XXX was there to be relived the day after the event.
Exploring every nook and cranny of the WWE Network map with a grapple-mark’s wanderlust, the section I love most, being a thirty-year-old male fogey who still actively buys CDs (“Digital downloads?! In my day….”), is the Old School folder.
After a steady diet of WWE’s glitzed-up, high-tech, billion-watts-of-light, jillion-watts-of-salesmanship-and-huckstering production for years and years on Raw and pay-per-view, it’s fun to just turn the lights down, install some low-key announcing from Gorilla Monsoon and whoever else, and just take the sense of urgency out of the action, no commercial breaks to be in bondage to.
I have more appreciation for these kinds of broadcasts after attending a house sh–err, ‘live event’ a year ago in Atlantic City. Characters that were just tiresome on television, such as The Miz, Alberto Del Rio, and Jack Swagger, were unencumbered by the live show format, and just impressively worked up a storm. In fact, the pre-intermission match pitted Miz, Del Rio, and Chris Jericho against Swagger, Wade Barrett, and Fandango, and I dare say it’s one of the greatest matches I’ve ever seen live. Without a half-baked script and rigid timing cues, they could just, you know, wrestle.
As much as I love Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall (maybe in part because I once won big on a penny slot at Caesar’s down the block), there exists a magic to seeing a WWE event at historic Madison Square Garden in New York City. Even when Raw emanates from there today, and MSG’s distinguished features are cloaked under the gaudy lighting, the New York attitude shines through, spurring the performers into a different state of mind. The WWE Tree’s roots are firmly planted in New York City, and it’s a raucous homecoming any time they work within the hallowed halls.
Even if the Madison Square Garden shows on the Network aren’t always five-star quality, they’re eye-catching visuals. You see the stars, ranging from Hogan to Flair to Hart to Backlund to Slaughter, and you hear the unmistakable Noo Yawk roars and catcalls, but the image of it taking place in sobering darkness gives it a special feel.
Sadly, Garden house shows stopped being recorded and broadcast on the MSG Network in 1992 (save for a one-night revival in March 1997), and MSG events in general have petered out. What was once a monthly occurrence through the early 1990s became quarterly-annual by the mid-2000s. In fact, there have only been ten Garden shows since the start of 2010, and just one in 2013 alone.
While the novelty of wrestling in ‘the world’s most famous arena’ took a backseat to the constant trek of global branding for WWE, I think there’s still an audience out there that would love to see a ‘classic’ Madison Square Garden show, one without the now-standard production values that televised events are afforded.
If fans will pop for Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Sgt. Slaughter playing with glorified Legos at WrestleMania, and excitement abounds for the episodes of “Old School Raw” (“There’s going to be metal guardrails again! Those are tremendous!”), then why not go REALLY old school, and put together a classic Madison Square Garden event?
A quick check of the calendar indicates that the company will be swinging through the Garden on Saturday night, July 12. There’s no PPV for eight days afterward, so it’s possible that WWE could throw together a story-centric event with a couple of long matches (maybe even a twenty minute draw, remember those?) with lesser-pushed talents. Then Cody Rhodes can tell young whippersnappers one day, “Sandow and I, we had 20,000 people screaming from the rafters on down, as we went to a twenty-minute broadway. He potatoed me pretty good, but the rush from the people kept me going well into my comeback.”
Rhodes will then pause to sip from his flask.
Of course, since such an occasion would invoke fond memories from the yesterday-clutching generation, this would be a good spot to stick in few Garden legends. After all, WWE’s never hesitated to hit Sgt. Slaughter’s number on their speed dial, have they? You’re telling me that Slaughter, Duggan, and Backlund destroying 3MB in Madison Square Garden wouldn’t be harmless fun?
Naturally, this would be broadcast on WWE Network, since they’re getting a lot better at preventing bandwidth and usage lag (even though the PlayStation 3 version of the Hall of Fame ended nine minutes behind the WWE.com version). Hearing a more subdued Michael Cole introducing himself and JBL at ringside, at a wooden table, would be surreal enough, just as disarming as hearing him and his colleague speak more freely, without plugging the App or talking over each other.
Also, red, white, and blue ropes, with blue ringposts. Do the right thing.
Furthermore (to use Jack Tunney’s favorite word), when a wrestler’s theme song hits, he can’t make his entrance for 30-45 seconds. The song has to build up a bit, and we have to see the wrestler walking through the main hallway of the Garden, loosening his arms and neck in stride, before stepping out of the curtain. It’s the Madison Square Garden way.
Finally, no disrespect to Justin Roberts, but give him the night off, and put good old Howard Finkel in that bow tie once more. Let him introduce Daniel Bryan for his pre-intermission title defense, along with everyone else.
As if I didn’t watch the Network enough as it is.
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.
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