WWE | Pro Wrestling

What’s a Fresh Matchup? Thanks to WWE, We’ll Never Know

Chikara will crown its first ever top singles Champion on November 13 of this year, the conclusion of a 12-wrestler round robin tournament known as the 12 Large Summit (named in honor of the late Larry Sweeney). The final will pit Mike Quackenbush, the promotion’s co-founder, auteur, booker and most famous homegrown wrestler, against Eddie Kingston, probably the most popular good guy in the promotion.

In the last three years, not counting battle royales or cibernetico-level tag matches, whenever they were in the same match, they were teammates. So naturally, this fresh match is going to garner a lot of positive attention, right?

Well, it has, but at the same time, there has been a vocal contingent of fans who are decrying this matchup because it’s not fresh enough or because it’s not showcasing someone “new”. As someone who’s looking at this as a meeting between the two biggest names in Chikara, a WrestleMania-caliber match for that promotion even, I can’t see that. If these two men have faced off one-on-one in the promotion, it was a long time ago. They both win a lot of matches, way more than they lose, but I figured since it was in a promotion where they have 20 shows a year tops rather than the 250+ televised shows WWE has (and even more if one counts house shows), they’re not overexposed. Still, the backlash is there, and for that, I do blame WWE.

Wait, blaming WWE for the “problem” of a niche indie promotion? Surely, I jest, but it’s true. WWE has conditioned fans that the same is bad and that new stars have to be built at all times or else the narrative is a failure. It hasn’t been intentional on their part, but the company has had a tendency to run the same main events with the same people on top without any change, and it has driven fans mad. Furthermore, it’s made fans feel that when companies that aren’t WWE try to do something that doesn’t pass the smell test that they need to react in the same way.

It wasn’t always like this. Then again, WWE hasn’t always had 12-13 pay-per-views and weekly first run-television sometimes in excess of 5 hours. When the workload was lighter, they didn’t have as much of a problem keeping matchups like Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage fresh and viable for a year. In a year back then, there were three or four pay-per-views and no TV shows that had first-run priority matches. When the expansion to one PPV a month happened, RAW wasn’t the RAW we know it yet, and furthermore, the PPVs they added, the In Your House series, were meant to be two-hour shots where they experimented with different main events. One IYH was headlined by Shawn Michaels and Diesel taking on Yokozuna and Owen Hart in a triple jeopardy match. IYH is also where guys who didn’t always rate big time title matches got shots at the title. This included Steve Austin between WrestleManias 13 and 14, Mankind before he got elevated to the top and Davey Boy Smith.

Things changed in 2000. Steve Austin and Undertaker were out hurt. Mick Foley had just retired. Kurt Angle wasn’t ready for prime time yet, and for whatever reason, Big Show wasn’t really an attractive option for a solo PPV headline spot. The options for WWE had become limited, and they ran in some form The Rock against Triple H for the Championship at five of the next six events. By the end of that run, Austin was almost ready to come back, Undertaker had returned, Angle was elevated and Chris Benoit entered the main event picture. There was room for some spicing up of the main event scene, but the template here was set.

Over the next decade, they’d run several feuds into the ground, most notably recently Randy Orton vs. John Cena and even more recently, Orton against Christian. Furthermore, they went on too long when there were guys in the wings waiting to get shots at the top title or top feud. With thirteen PPVs, there are more than enough chances to get guys chances to wrestle, but there have been numerous long stretches of time WWE has consistently shown no faith in guys other than those who’ve already been elevated.

Because of that, we get stretches where Cena, Orton or anyone else in the top spots have gotten ridiculous winning streaks with no losses. While Hogan winning all the time was palatable because we’d only see him win four times a year and then maybe a couple more times on house shows. In the era of television though, the WWE elite win every week. While there needs to be a clear demarcation between main event and otherwise, if someone wins all the time, then it becomes boring to some fans.

The combination of repeat matches and repetitive winners among the elite over the last decade has made fans very anxious, and that anxiety, coupled with Impact Wrestling’s utter refusal to push anyone who wasn’t already made in WWE, WCW or ECW, has jaded a group of wrestling fans to the point where I’m sure nothing short of constant flux would be acceptable. It’s crazy. It’s spread to the indies. For those who aren’t in the know, both Quack and Kingston win a lot of matches, enough to the point where if an enterprising soul would compile their win/loss records, they’d both look pretty similar to that of John Cena or Triple H in WWE. While they haven’t faced off against each other at all outside of massive multiplayer matches, their perceived dominance has rankled some of the more longtime fans of Chikara.

Obviously, comparing WWE to Chikara without any context whatsoever, yes, both wrestlers win a disproportionate amount of matches and maybe they do need to “put other people over” if we’re looking only at soulless winning percentages. But that word “context” is just so pesky, isn’t it? Using it, we find out Chikara is more like the WWF of old in that it has a limited amount of available dates where guys wrestle. Plus, the booking is a million times better, and whenever Kingston or Quack win matches, they make their opponents look like a million bucks. The biggest bit of context is that this Grand Championship is brand new, so wouldn’t it stand to make sense that the promotion would use its two biggest stars to contend for it? I thought so.

The sad part is that if WWE (and Impact) didn’t condition fans to hate status quo and to demand constant change, I doubt the backlash to this match would be all that great. Wrestling fans who’ve remained fans have been conditioned to be fickle and hypercritical about these kinds of things, and I think it sucks when these kinds of criticisms are applied to companies who don’t deserve it. WWE deserves the criticism, but Chikara? They may be the one company in America that deserves it least. I hope that fans realize this before they start griping that this dream match headlines Chikara’s first foray into iPPV.

Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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