Recently on The Steve Austin Show, WWE Hall Of Famer Steve Austin caught up with fellow WWE 'Attitude Era' Superstar Al Snow. Among other things, Snow talked about whether the professional wrestling business has really changed, whether kayfabe is in fact dead, and what young talents can learn from the broken brilliance of WWE Monday Night RAW's Matt Hardy.
According to Snow, WWE dictates the style in professional wrestling today. The six-time WWE Hardcore Champion disagrees with the common refrain that pro wrestling has changed and instead views the idea as an excuse or justification for weak psychology or poor execution.
"The style now is dictated by WWE." Snow continued, "everybody kind of now adopts and follows that style. Psychologically, everybody is making the same mistake and that is they've gotten so far away from the very simple concept of what we are actually selling. Everybody gives you the old, 'oh, wrestling has changed' [line] and I couldn't disagree more because that's bulls--t. Excuse me. But because they tell you it [has] changed, and they use it as an excuse or justification for lazy psychology or lackadaisical work. They think 'working' is your physical ability or athletic ability when that has nothing to do with it."
In Snow's estimation, the genre has always been about making the audience feel like it is an actual competition and that the outcome matters. Moreover, Snow averred that pro wrestlers nowadays forget that they are supposed to look like they are trying to win.
"Give the audience what they paid to believe, which is that it's a real competition, that the outcome has gravity to it, that the guys are prizefighters no different than a boxer or an MMA fighter in that they actually try to win, not just put on a physical performance. And the wrestlers worldwide have gotten so far away from that concept that makes you wonder."
Snow argued that pro wrestling is still presented as a competition with a referee and titles at stake and despite the high premium placed on physical performances now, talent still care whether they win or lose.
"'Oh, the business has changed,'" Snow mocked. "Well, if it [has] changed and it's just about the physical performance, why do we have referees and why do we still have championship matches? It just doesn't make [any] sense! Why do the wrestlers themselves get upset? If it's just about your physical performance, why do you care if you lose? I mean, they'll get pissed and [Austin] know[s] that!"
On the subject of kayfabe being dead, Snow seemed to be of the opinion that the wrestlers have stopped putting the effort into staying in character and gave the example of 'Broken' Matt Hardy, saying that it has done so well because that level of commitment is what the wrestleverse wants to see.
"Everybody gets kayfabe wrong too. They think, 'well, kayfabe's dead.' It's only dead because you killed it! That's why Matt Hardy got over so well when he did his 'broken' thing in TNA was because he never broke character. He never gave the audience anything other than what he sold them. He sold them a 'Broken' Matt Hardy every time he was in public. That's what you saw, a 'Broken' Matt Hardy. You didn't see a 'Broken' Matt Hardy on TV and now he's Matt Hardy on a podcast with Steve Austin - he's totally out of character and he's just Matt, just having a conversation with Steve and they're two buds kicking it back. He was still 'Broken' Matt Hardy and that's what that audience wants."
With respect to Hardy, Snow suggested that the 'broken' or 'woken' character is a great example of the importance of having a definable and easily explainable persona.
"I tell guys all the time," Snow said, "you have to have a definable character that the audience can sit and turn to their friends and family and go, 'you've got to watch this show - this guy, he's A, B, C, D, E.' If they can't describe you in a sentence or less, to their friends and family, then it [doesn't] matter how good you are physically, it doesn't matter how athletically gifted you are. You can't generate heat, which is the interest, that desire to watch you, and then pay [for] a ticket, pay money, to see you wrestle. You need that character that they can relate to because they can't physically relate to what we do in the ring. But now, and that was the thing, I think, with Matt. For years, he was solid. He was always kind of just in the background with Jeff, but you couldn't define him. You couldn't turn to somebody and go, 'there's this guy, Matt Hardy, and he's A, B, C, D, E.' But now, you can turn to them and say, 'wow, there's this guy - he's crazy! He talks with this weird accent. His hair's all messed up.' And you describe this guy, that now a person who casually watches wrestling goes, 'alright, I'll check this guy out' because now you're interested."
Open up a Steveweiser here. If you use any of the quotes from this article, please credit The Steve Austin Show with an H/T to WrestlingINC for the transcription.
Source: The Steve Austin Show