Wrestling Society X: One of the shortest-lived wrestling shows ever to hit television…but why?
How’s it going, readers?
Seeing as how World Wrestling Entertainment has been slowly but surely trying to pull itself back together over the past couple of months following a decidedly disappointing WrestleMania 32, I finally felt the gumption to discuss something that I’ve wanted to ever since I first started talking about wrestling on this blog back on June 12, 2012. This particular topic is important to me in that it relates to a time when I was starting to become a wrestling fan again after several years of having not watched much of it. You see, after the McMahon family had bought out World Championship Wrestling in the March of 2001 and Extreme Championship Wrestling went bankrupt a mere month later, my interest in the art form died down quite a bit. Call it petty, but with all due honesty, one of the great things about the late 1990s and the year 2000 as far as wrestling was concerned was the variety that we fans had right then and there to watch on television. I remember the World Wrestling Federation, first and foremost, for having a wide assortment of larger-than-life personalities for its audience to invest its collective self in, from its main attractions like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Mankind, and Triple H to mid-card acts like Too Cool and Rikishi, the Godfather, D’Lo Brown, the Lethal Weapon Steve Blackman, the Hardy Boyz, Edge & Christian, and so forth down the line. Essentially, if you were a wrestler in the WWF during the Attitude Era and were somehow not “over” with the crowd in one way or another, either a) you were being woefully misused, which was admittedly true for a small portion of the roster at the time, or b) there was something about you personally that just wasn’t clicking with the fans. On a similar note, ECW had owner Paul Heyman at the helm putting his creative genius to the test as he determined how to make the most out of his employees’ best attributes and presented his audience with a product that, in its own intense and decidedly profound way, deeply affected the industry as we now know it with its own trademark style of wrestling. Even WCW could put on an entertaining show with the likes of such talents as Sting, [Bill] Goldberg, Diamond Dallas Page, Booker T, “The Total Package” Lex Luger, the Four Horsemen, the many talented high-flyers from its Cruiserweight Division, and (before the angle had grown completely out of proportion) the New World Order prior to the year 2000, when the company’s eventual demise became all too apparent for the masses to bear. There was something for everyone during those days as far as taste in characters, wrestling styles, storylines, and match stipulations were concerned, and though the overall edgier tone of each of these three federations wasn’t quite as safe for kids as the previous era had been, it was nonetheless a breath of fresh air all the same for the rest of us.
Fast forward to the spring of ’01, though, and the landscape changed for the worse, as I’d just mentioned. With WCW and ECW out of business, the WWF/WWE had become the only game in town, as far as mainstream wrestling went, and the past decade-and-a-half or so has seen many wrestling products, shows and full-fledged organizations alike, come and go with varying degrees of fanfare for their arrival and/or departure. I could try to include David B. McLane’s Women of Wrestling to this list as one of them, although WOW had actually hit the scene in the September of 2000 during the waning months of the war between the WWF and its competitors and closed its doors on March 3, 2001—exactly twenty-three days before Vince McMahon’s on-air announcement of his purchase of WCW. I can, however, include the likes of Total Nonstop Action/Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and Lucha Underground as well as several independent federations such as Shimmer, Shine, Pro Wrestling Guerilla, EVOLVE, Dragon Gate USA, Chick Fight, Women Superstars Uncensored, Chikara Pro, and Kaiju Big Battel, just to name a handful. I can also name the likes of such shows as Lucha Libre USA, the Urban Wrestling Federation, Johnny Cafarella’s two sleazy GLOW knockoffs CRUSH and Wrestlicious, and the topic of this specific editorial, Wrestling Society X. Now, chances are that if you were an active wrestling fan during when this program made its debut on MTV and was subsequently pulled from the network within the midst of its one and only season, you were able to see it for yourself and witness it in all its out-of-control, unrestrained glory, much to either your amazement or your utter dismay. You see, WSX has quite a reputation amongst diehard wrestling fans as being one of the worst wrestling shows ever to hit the airwaves on account of its deliberate tailoring for the MTV crowd (as well as 18- to 24-year-old males in general) by Big Vision Entertainment, the same production firm that served as a parent company for the even more notorious Xtreme Pro Wrestling from 2008 to 2012. All the same, there have been wrestling fans who have openly admitted to liking WSX for its absurd, tongue-in-cheek representation of the art and have managed to enjoy it in spite of its many flaws. Derek Burgan of F4WOnline.com has proven to be one such individual, seeing as he once boldly proclaimed the following:
“WSX will join Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, Firefly, and other TV greats in the pantheon of shows Americans were too stupid to ‘get.’”
Prepare to step into the Bunker for a look back at one of the most bizarre wrestling programs you may ever see…
As for my own opinion on Wrestling Society X, I think it’d be easier for me to tell you by breaking things down one point at a time. After all, while there have been many things that had gone wrong with the show that even its fans can’t deny, there were also aspects of it that I felt it did well for which many reviewers at the time didn’t give it enough credit, whether such people were blinded by their own arrogance, ignorance, and/or immature disdain at the product or they simply couldn’t see the good because WSX’s faults were just too thick for them to look past. Without further ado, then, let’s take a closer look at this oft-ridiculed project and see what Big Vision did right and wrong with it so that current and future wrestling promoters alike can learn from its example.
1. Theme and Roster
Behind the scenes with the roster and crew of Wrestling Society X
In a manner similar to Lucha Underground, Wrestling Society X took several key players from the independent circuit at the time (as well as its one and only homegrown wrestler, Youth Suicide, and a handful of XPW veterans) and pitted them against one another in a sort of kayfabe underground fight club held within an “abandoned warehouse” known as “the Bunker.” Unlike LU, however, the show had never officially established there to be any particular authority figure commissioning these matches to take place, and before each episode, the audience would be treated to a brief performance by a certain music act such as Black Label Society, Three 6 Mafia, Pitbull, Sparta, and Good Charlotte. If you ask me, I could have done without these mini-concerts, mainly because they took away so much precious time away from the rest of the show, which could (and should) have gone towards the matches and angles for each episode. Besides, not to sound uppity, but as a wrestling fan, I tune in to wrestling shows to see wrestling, not some rock band or rapper trying to work up the crowd with its/his/her latest or greatest track. Then again, the “M” in “MTV” does stand for “music,” so…at least it made the show a little more fitting for the network, I suppose. One thing that I’ll always defend when it comes to WSX, however, would be its roster. Sure, the wrestlers may not have had much in terms of mainstream name recognition at the time, save for the likes of Vampiro, “6-Pac” Sean Waltman, and—even though these two only appeared in the first episode—ECW icons New Jack and Justin Credible. Their talent, however, is something only the most unforgiving (any, more times than not, hypocritical) wrestling fan could deny. Thankfully, then, several of them were able to move on in their careers beyond WSX to gain recognition in other promotions, from Tyler Black of the tag team Doing It for Her and Matt Sydal becoming Seth Rollins and Evan Bourne, respectively, in WWE to Joey Ryan, Matt Cross, El Mesias (a.k.a. Ricky Banderas), and Jack Evans all paying characters in LU. Likewise, Jimmy Jacobs, the other half of D.I.F.H., and Colt Cabana, the man behind the mask of WSX’s resident old school grappler, Matt Classic, have long been considered two of the most well-remembered alumni of Ring of Honor, where Tyler Black also spent a portion of his wrestling career before his Seth Rollins days. Heck, even Vampiro is active in the wrestling world today as Lucha Undergound’s color commentator and the “master” of one of LU’s more beloved personalities, Pentagon, Jr. Good for them, if you ask me, because as far as I’m concerned, they all deserve at least something following this show’s untimely end and shouldn’t be held accountable for WSX’s more negative aspects. Trust me when I say, however, that we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Matt Classic: WSX veteran who’s also appeared in Chikara Pro, amongst various other independent wrestling promotions
In addition to the wrestlers’ talent was the fact that every single one of them had a character with tag teams—of which there were as few as eight and as many as ten, depending on who’s counting—sharing a common theme between each member, which is one of the biggest issues that professional wrestling has faced for years in recent times. Better yet is how most of these wrestlers were allowed to basically play themselves, save for a few tweaks in their original personas to fit the narrative that Big Vision Entertainment was trying to tell with them. Such “tweaks” include Tyler Black and Jimmy Jacobs personifying the two extremes of stereotypical emo behavior and Scorpio Sky being an award-carrying braggart convinced of his own greatness who ironically won only one of his matches during WSX’s existence…and against a jobber, no less. In one respect, Big Vision was wise to allow this process in that it helped establish these wrestlers’ identity with viewers who had yet to become familiar with them while encouraging fans who did know who they were to tune in and find out what their stay in the Bunker had in store for them during a given week. Similarly, better-known wrestlers like 6-Pac and Vampiro were allowed to keep whatever identity they once had in whatever major federation (WWF/E, WCW, ECW, etc.) they were once a part of in an effort to draw in lapsed fans from the late ‘90s. Even those characters who were specifically created for the WSX product stood apart from the rest of the pack and had a purpose that wasn’t based solely on comedic appeal. Matt Classic fit this bill to a T in that his mission in WSX was to teach its more acrobatic wrestlers (of which there were many) the values and principles of old school wrestling firsthand and show them that there was more to the sport than just wowing the fans with crazy, oftentimes death-defying aerial maneuvers. On the other hand, some of the exaggerated characters were a little too goofy, off-putting, or otherwise over-the-top for even me to appreciate. Joey “Magnum” Ryan’s shtick with his trusty bottle of baby oil and constant wardrobe malfunctions, in particular, really got old fast, regardless of how well they fit his gimmick. On a similar note was the name of the Bunker’s resident top heel. Seriously…“Ricky Banderas?” I’m sorry, but if there’s a joke behind that name, it’s long escaped me. Regardless, everyone was able to stand out from everyone else on the roster, thus making them all more memorable as participants in this short-lived project.
What exactly is Shimmer alumnus and WSX backstage interviewer Lacey staring at that might have her looking so disturbed?
Also on WSX’s payroll were Shimmer alumnus Lacey as the program’s backstage interviewer and co-host of WSXtra, WSX’s Internet-based recap show, as well as commentators Kris Kloss and Bret Ernst. Of these three, Lacey was undeniably the best at performing her duties in interviewing the members of the active roster and following up on the goings-on they’d been dealing with in the Bunker, from their feuds with certain other wrestlers to winning and losing streaks and even various rumors involving them (i.e., Matt Sydal’s friction-laced relationship with his valet/kayfabe girlfriend Lizzie Valentine). Sure, it was all pretty much standard stuff, and she’s far better known for her wrestling ability in the independent scene, but considering what little time she’d eventually spend in that role, I say she did a good job. As far as Kloss and Ernst as WSX’s commentators are concerned, though…meh…I’ve heard worse, I guess. I know Kloss has a very negative reputation amongst wrestling fans that dates as far back as his days as XPW’s play-by-play guy for more or less being a poor man’s Joey Styles, but truth be told, I’ve never watched nearly as much of that promotion to find that out for myself. As for his work here, I could take him or leave him, although his commentary never commanded my attention the way Jim Ross or good ol’ Joey could back in the day. Cliché for me to say, I know, but it’s the truth, and quite frankly, I don’t know which aspect of his commentary style got to me the most: his apparent inability to pitch his volume at key moments during the matches he called, his occasional tendency to call certain moves by the wrong name (i.e., calling a top-rope clothesline a “high cross body” and a moonsault a shooting star press), his penchant for saying “Oh my goodness!” enough times per match to encourage viewers to partake in a drinking game, or his frequent bickering with his broadcast partner Ernst. Speaking of Bret Ernst, though the guy was far from the worst color commentator I’ve ever heard in pro wrestling history, he nonetheless could have definitely benefitted from a refresher course in pro wrestling history—and from an improvisation course as well—before signing on with WSX. I know MTV wanted Big Vision to recruit a wisecracker for the role and that Ernst was apparently the best guy they could find, what with how successful he’s been in his career as a standup comedian, but trust me when I say that anyone who’d watched WWF Raw Is War back in 1997 could have easily told the guy that the original D-Generation X consisted of Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Chyna. X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws wouldn’t have come into the faction until later on, thus making that particular miscall one that I’m sure Ernst will never live down. Of course, I also remember his constant bad habit of contradicting either himself or the in-ring action upon which he and Kloss were commentating. One particular botch I remember him making was during the WSX Championship match between Vampiro and Ricky Banderas from episode eight where he assumed that the barbwire-laced coffin Banderas had brought with him to slam Vampiro into wouldn’t explode, only to take back what he’d said when the coffin did explode upon Banderas putting Vampiro through it and say that he’d meant to say the opposite. Aside from all that, he was…okay, I guess…not terrible by any stretch, but not exactly outstanding, either.
WSX commentators Kris “Oh My Goodness!” Kloss and Bret Ernst
I’ll say this, though: If Kloss and Ernst were the only two commentators for WSX, I could have handled that well enough, flaws and all. Adding the weekly musical guest(s) to the commentary table, however, was murder, seeing as the guests rarely—if ever—said anything worth a damn to whatever story the wrestlers were trying to tell in the ring and more likely than not would distract Kloss and Ernst from doing their job. If anything, their comments usually took away from the matches and in-ring segments, especially moments that were meant to have a crucial effect upon the WSX story. Clipse on commentary during episode four certainly didn’t bring any benefits to the advent of Ricky Banderas, I’ll tell you that much…but I digress. Moving on…
“The Most Hated Man in Professional Wrestling,” WSX ring announcer Fabian Kaelin on WSXtra episodes 1 and 10: What could this physical transformation be hinting at?
Finally, there was ring announcer Fabian Kaelin, the “Most Hated Man in Professional Wrestling,” according to the WSX DVD set’s own inside cover—named so because of his ring announcing on the show, which was so loud and heavily animated that I’m surprised he was able to keep his voice at all for when he co-hosted WSXtra alongside Lacey. Truly, if there was anyone on the WSX payroll who represented the heart and spirit of the show more than anybody else, it’d have been him based on his bold and unapologetically in-your-face onscreen mannerisms. Such was much to the distaste of most wrestling fans who openly admitted to seeing the program, but not me, believe it or not. In fact, I myself would have found it interesting if things unfolded during the course of the show to reveal that he was actually the onscreen “commissioner”—the ringleader, if you will—of the one-ringed circus known as the WSX Bunker who organized the matches for the sake of his own insane sense of entertainment. That way, he could have been a kind of authority figure similar to what Dario Cueto is in Lucha Underground, thus giving the fans a genuine reason to hate him as a character to coincide with their contempt towards his ring announcing. If nothing else, there had been a couple of instances in which he could have very easily fit that role, the first being his announcement in the final episode of WSXtra of an upcoming tag team tournament in the second season that obviously never came to be. The second and decidedly more indicative incident was his calling for a time limit draw at the ten-minute mark during the Jack Evans-Human Tornado match from episode nine, complete with him nodding and smiling sinisterly at the two competitors as the crowd booed his announcement and protested with a “Let them finish!” chant. He also had this thing going on as the show progressed when he would change his appearance bit by bit until he loosely resembled Alex, the villainous protagonist from Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange, walking stick and all. This gradual transformation served as an indication that there had to have been more to him than had originally met the eye, which thus makes me even more disappointed that season two had never come to be, else fans would have very well gotten a glimpse at how far the guy’s transformation/evolution would have gone. All that being said, then, Fabian didn’t bother me nearly as much as he did most everybody else, and I honestly believe that he definitely had more purpose being in the Bunker than I think most people have given him credit for.
A “shocking” turn of events during The Filth and The Fury’s tag team match against the Trailer Park Boyz as Teddy Hart “electrocutes” “Spider” Nate Webb
One of the biggest problems plaguing Wrestling Society X was its thirty-minute timeslot opposite the second half of WWE’s reincarnation of ECW on Sci-Fi. For one thing, running directly up against WWE programming in and of itself has proven to cause problems for any alternative brand of wrestling in the past, save for during the oft-reminisced Monday Night Wars, when WCW Nitro had managed to beat WWF Raw for eighty-four consecutive weeks in the ratings. Even worse, in my opinion, was WSX’s paltry weekly runtime, as half an hour is never enough time for any contemporary wrestling show to provide proper development for its characters and angles or to show its audience the kind of quality matches they rightfully expect. Not only that, but viewers could have received even more wrestling matches per week with a properly booked hour-long show than they did with what they’d received at the time. Sure, the company would try to make up for such a deficiency with their Internet show, but considering that WSXtra was more or less WSX’s equivalent to WWF/WWE’s Metal and Jakked from back in the day (i.e., a recap show with bonus wrestling matches to boot), such an effort only offered so much consolation. Even worse was the fact that both the main show and WSXtra would showcase events that would lead into the next episode of the other show, which only made it almost obligatory for viewers to watch both shows in order to get the full scope of the WSX product—assuming, of course, that they wanted to see the product’s angles developed in full—and further begged for an explanation as to why the main show was only thirty minutes long to begin with. After all, what sense did it make for Big Vision to make their intended audience watch one program on television, lead them into tuning in to another program on the Internet, have them watch that program, lead them back to watching the next episode of their televised program, and continue the cycle until the end of the season when simply having them watch one full hour of their product on TV each week would have been much simpler and therefore much more logical? This is particularly true in the instance that their most recent televised episode would later make its way onto MTV’s website later on anyhow, and fans could simply hear recaps of each episode via the Internet (blog posts, 411Mania.com articles, podcasts, YouTube videos, etc.) anyway, thus rendering the whole practice pointless. In fact, the more I think about this whole situation, the more convinced I am of the possibility that WSX was originally meant to be an hour long in the first place, yet MTV—out of obliviousness to the needs of a successful wrestling program—only gave them their half-hour time slot in hopes that that would be enough with which Big Vision could work to put their show together…only to be decidedly wrong in the end.
WSX Championship match between Vampiro and “6-Pac” Sean Waltman: Proof of how things can LITERALLY blow up in your face if you’re not prepared to win in the Bunker
Then again, if there was another, more distinct reason as to why WSX eventually became one of the most hated wrestling shows of its day, I could sum it up in three simple words: style over substance. To be more specific, I could also use the words “spectacle over psychology,” considering just how many of the matches relied on explosions and electrocutions, among other special effects, in order to give them a shamelessly raucous feel and thus make them more appealing to the minds of the demographic that Big Vision wanted to attract. Sadly, this approach only backfired on them in that these effects were obviously just one big gimmick that actually made the matches in which they occurred come off as hokey and unbelievable as far as kayfabe went. The program’s choppy editing didn’t do the matches much justice, either, seeing as what the producers presented their TV audiences with lacked so much fluidity and was thus so discordant for the average human eyeball to watch that I wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d read or heard complaints from viewers about whatever headaches or even seizures they’d suffered either while or from watching WSX. It wasn’t as if the editors were trying solely to hide whatever botches had taken place during these matches, either, as I’ve been told was (and, more likely than not, still is) the case for Lucha Underground. After all, as I’d mentioned earlier, MTV only gave Big Vision Entertainment thirty minutes a week to showcase their product—with commercial breaks and musical performances included, by the way—meaning that their televised matches were doomed to be only partially shown within the show’s final format. Just think how great it would have been, though, for instance, to have been able to witness the program’s inaugural match between Matt Sydal and Jack Evans in its entirety as opposed to having it reduced to a fraction of the time and with so many annoying jump cuts occurring the whole while. Whether the match ultimately would have proven to be an amazing show of athleticism that also told a compelling story or little more than the same type of glorified spotfest that many wrestling fans have complained about in not-too-distant times may be one thing. One can only imagine, on the other hand, just what had to have been lying on the cutting room floor as far as WSX’s broadcasted matches went that would have helped makes them even more memorable than they already were…and in a good way at that.
One moment “The Anarchist” Arik Cannon’s connecting with us, the next he’s not. Protip for filming a wrestling promo: Pick a format/angle and stick with it!
Worse yet, this same overdone editing also ruined its fair share of backstage segments and in-ring promos by showing fans only part of what the talents onscreen had said or done. The first episode is most notably indicative of that, seeing as fans were treated to four different promos involving wrestlers who were bound to participate in the WSX Rumble later that evening for a shot at the Wrestling Society X Championship. Justin Credible, Chris Hamrick, New Jack, Teddy Hart, Joey “Kaos” Munos—all were shown backstage either cutting promos or involved in segments with other wrestlers concerning their participation in the match to come, and yet, we only got to see/hear snippets of what they had to say to try and get an idea of who they were and what they were about as far as their respective niches in WSX were concerned. I certainly would have loved to hear the entirety of Justin and Teddy’s pre-match promos, that’s for sure—all the better to find out what they stood for as competitors and what they hoped to receive by winning the battle royal in addition to contendership for the belt. The same goes for Kaos and his very chopped-up segment with his tag team partner, Aaron “Jesus” Aguilera, as viewers were only given the slightest idea that he’d be the one to enter the battle royal, judging from the words that the two halves of Los Pochos Guapos were exchanging. As for Hamrick and New Jack, I can’t help but wonder what the former man had said to have upset the latter? Seriously, the whole matter struck me as being quite vague, and the fact that the segment had been cut down to a mere few seconds only made me wonder just what Big Vision had cut out to make it fit into the episode’s final draft. Such is probably the biggest example of this nuisance, but if I had to choose one more to illustrate my point, I’d direct people’s attention towards “The Anarchist” Arik Cannon’s promo from WSXtra episode six concerning his intent to avenge himself against the Cartel for interfering in his debut match against Delikado, beating him down, and humiliating him by giving his head a “cement” bath. Arik’s unconvincing promo-cutting at the time aside, I couldn’t help but feel annoyed at the constant shift of viewpoint from the front to the side of his clearly unaffected face, seeing as I felt that the editing was keeping him from connecting with me as a viewer. Honestly, it felt to me as though he were trying to tell me directly one moment about his disappointment with himself for not being prepared for the Cartel to assault him, only for the POV to shift and make me feel as though he was sharing his story with someone off screen—even though it was obvious he was still talking directly into the first camera. Now, granted, this hasn’t been the only time in which TV shows have used this tactic for one reason or another, including programs on PBS, of all things. Regardless, such a shift of focus has always proven to me to be rather jarring and, in a way, insulting—almost as if the editor doesn’t trust the people at home watching to have a long enough collective attention span to pay attention to the host or other presenter as he/she is trying to connect with them. Heck, there have even been commercials that have pulled this stunt, and it hasn’t proven to be any less irritating with them as it has with full-fledged programs. For Big Vision to apply this kind of formatting to their own show, therefore, was inexcusable, regardless of which network was broadcasting WSX at the time.
Hey, at least SOME of them look excited to see things go down in the squared circle.
To further detract from the authenticity of the show’s presentation were the piped-in crowd effects that would play throughout every match and in-ring segment. Sure, I could tell that Big Vision was trying to elevate the excitement surrounding these segments, but really, these effects—just like the electrocutions and explosions—only made matters come off as campy and unrealistic, specifically considering just how few audience members actually were in attendance at each of WSX’s TV tapings. Sure, WWE and TNA both have been guilty of doing similar garbage on their television shows, such as piping in cheers and turning off microphones on booing crowds for the sake of wrestlers whom they want to get over with the fans yet aren’t. Then again, WSX’s crowd effects were so much harder to ignore not only because of how they played constantly throughout the course of the show, but also because of how apparent neither the original set for the WSX Bunker from the show’s premiere (taped February 10, 2006) nor the set that Big Vision used for the rest of the season (taped November 11-16, 2006) were exactly fashioned to house enough fans to make such noise begin with. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not necessarily trashing either design in this regard. If nothing else, at least they both did what they could to emulate the interior of the abandoned warehouse within which the program was supposed to take place. Truth be told, if I had to choose which design I preferred, I would have to say the second one, only because I think the red ring ropes showed up much better on screen than the first ring’s dull blue ropes did—especially within the second setup’s dimmed lighting, which added more to the program’s overall atmosphere than I think certain viewers realized. Of course, one thing that I question wholeheartedly about the crowd was the fact that they were all plants rather than paying customers. Granted, I understand the idea that MTV and Big Vision would want its live studio audience to come to the Bunker and show some enthusiasm in support of the wrestlers and the product as a whole, but…really? Paying people to come see their show? I’m sorry, but I just think it would have made far more sense for them as a business to have their audience in attendance pay to see them live. At least that way, they would have had a decent word-of-mouth source of support for their product and would have been making money rather than spending even more of it, thus making the show that much less expensive to broadcast on a regular basis. I mean, what was the purpose of them literally hiring their crowd in attendance? Damage control in case real fans would somehow defecate all over their product the same way so many wrestling fans did (and still do, believe it or not) on the Internet via their podcasts, forum posts, YouTube videos, and blog entries? Because if that was the case, then maybe—just maybe—I could see Big Vision’s point. However, I think that if WSX’s overall production didn’t leave quite as much to be desired, such a problem wouldn’t have been as serious to deal with as it had turned out to be. Having said just that, I’m pretty sure you all can guess how I also feel about the program’s occasionally faulty (i.e., wavering) sound quality, especially in conjunction with the wrestlers’ entrance themes and Fabian’s ring announcing, and the unnecessary use of shaky cam during an on-screen explosion or electrocution or during the performance of an particularly impactful maneuver by one wrestler against another. I’m pretty sure “Vicious” Vic Grimes didn’t find it necessary flattering when the camera would shake whenever he would collide with an opponent who was lying in the turnbuckle, dive onto them with an aerial maneuver, or have a foe slam him into the canvas.
To think, too, that Kevin Dunn would eventually start using shaky cam as a great way to spice up the action on WWE Raw in recent years, albeit with a little less frequency as here on WSX. Note to WWE production staff: If such a trick didn’t help this short-lived wrestling brand as far as in-ring storytelling went, what made you think that it was a good idea for you to add it to your own company’s production?
Lucha Libre USA Masked Warriors: An MTV2 wrestling presentation that succeeded in quite a few ways that WSX didn’t–including an televised introductory special
One final thing that I would like to mention about Wrestling Society X’s presentation concerns something that I wish they would have done before they even aired their first episode, regardless of how minor it may have seemed at the time. You see, three years and some months later in the summer of 2010, Lucha Libre USA: Masked Warriors debuted on MTV2 with a brief documentary called Behind the Mask that gave viewers a look into the promotion’s content. Having aired on MTV2 and once available for viewing on MTV’s website, this special briefly explained lucha libre’s history in Mexico to prospective fans as well as introduced to them a handful of the wrestlers who were scheduled to participate in the show, such as Marco Corleone, Lizmark, Jr., LA Park, and R.J. Brewer. From what I remember, reviewers received this short special pretty well and found it that much easier to invest themselves into the overall product than they ever could have with WSX the way MTV had shown it. The fact that MTV actually allowed LLUSA to put on the show they themselves wanted to put on rather than make them cater things specifically to “their” audience only made the matter sweeter for that promotion, too, and allowed them to enjoy two seasons on MTV2 rather than just one. I seriously doubt, though, that they would have even garnered that second season, had the network not allowed them to establish trust with their fans via BtM first—particularly considering what had gone down with WSX three-and-a-half years earlier. Now, granted, such a warm-up special wouldn’t have magically improved the WSX brand by itself, as the bookers, production crew, and onscreen talent would still have had to do their part in making the show itself amazing. However, for the sake of setting the scene in the name of good storytelling, I think an “Episode Zero” would have been very interesting, even if the show itself had indeed been allowed to air for a full hour each week and could thus flesh out angles and characters more thoroughly than it actually did. If nothing else, it more likely than not would have explained to fans what Wrestling Society X was all about, who all the wrestlers (or even just the main ones) were, what the rules were for both standard matches and whatever stipulation matches there would be in future episodes, and so forth, and all in the name of drawing potential fans to the product. This could have especially worked considering the notion that Big Vision Entertainment recognized each performer’s accomplishments in other federations, both on their original, now defunct website (WSX.mtv.com) and on the air, as they could take their time to explain what competing inside the Bunker meant to each wrestler. I myself could definitely see such an episode work in the instance that WSX were at all to deviate from the standard wrestling show format and instead be a televised docudrama of sorts that revolved around a fictitious wrestling promotion…you know, kind of what like Lucha Underground is nowadays.
3. Wrestling and Booking Issues
WSXtra Episode 7, Scorpio Sky vs. Youth Suicide: One of the few WSX matches where psychology actually came into play
After having pointed out as many flaws in Wrestling Society X’s final product as I have, I’m pretty sure some of you are wondering if the wrestling was at least any good, to which I say…sure…as far as athleticism was concerned. After all, as I’ve mentioned earlier, the one aspect of the product that I’ll always defend no matter what is the talent of the wrestlers, and I can say with confidence that if there was anyone responsible for making this heavily loathed product at all tolerable to anyone, they’d be the ones. Without question, these participants made the most out of what material the bookers had given them for the sake of putting on matches that were meant to be fun and exciting. Sadly, the bookers could only give ten minutes at most to each of these exhibitions, save for certain gimmick matches (which I’ll explain soon enough) or bouts in which the WSX Championship was on the line. Even the matches that were filmed for WSXtra weren’t booked to last any longer than this time limit, although considering that these particular exhibitions at least didn’t involve any unnecessary pyro or electrocutions, one could still say that they were better than most of the televised matches on account of this virtue alone. Viewers still had to put up with those pain-in-the-neck crowd effects, unfortunately, and while there may not have been as much material cut out of these matches as there had been the televised bouts, even they still had their fair share of those annoying-as-all-hell jump cuts. Also, remember what I’d said about the WSX philosophy being “spectacle over psychology?” Well, aside from the special effects that I’d mentioned earlier, many of the show’s matches also revolved around the insane high-flying prowess of many of its performers. Sure, this whole premise may sound fast-paced and as such an absolute thrill to witness, but in reality, the bookers merely spoiled the fans with such flash and did little to balance things out by steadily building these matches up towards these high spots. Such storytelling would have helped to make these high spots feel special and thus worthy of the fans’ praise, which—as even the most casual amongst wrestling fans knows—has long been the thing that makes wrestling so compelling. To be fair, there was the occasional match or two that involved this kind of psychology, such as the WSXtra match between Youth Suicide and Scorpio Sky in which Scorpio took advantage of a particularly nasty fall Youth had taken two weeks prior on television by focusing his attacks on Youth’s back. Sadly, matches like these were few and far between, and most of the storytelling that took place during WSX’s exhibitions came in obviously booked spots (e.g., various “hardcore” “stunts” that I intend to talk about later on) and in individual instances in character portrayal. The miscommunication between the easily distracted lady lover Aaron Aguilera and the hapless Kaos, the polar personality clash between the gentle Jimmy Jacobs and the furious Tyler Black, the groove-happy stud Human Tornado being fazed but never damaged after taking a shot to his “Balls of Steel,” stereotypically snotty debutante Lizzy Valentine being the key to both her cocky “preppy” boyfriend Matt Sydal’s success and his failure as a competitor in the Bunker—all of these are examples of the kind of storytelling that WSX leaned more towards. Personally, as much as the lack of in-ring psychology disappointed me, I can respect this kind of dedication towards characterization, even if such character development nevertheless wasn’t as calculated and conscientious as it otherwise could have been, had the bookers taken greater and more careful strides with it. Similarly, I can just as easily see where one can hate this kind of thing, judging from the kind of characterization each performer received on the show, regardless of how closely each gimmick matched whatever gimmick(s) he/she had prior to signing up with the WSX brand.
The most anyone ever saw of T.J. Perkins as Puma on television as a wrestler for Wrestling Society X. To think, too, that this spot was meant for ROH’s very own Delirious!
Additionally, Wrestling Society X had a number of stipulation matches that either came onto the scene simply for the sake of a cheap thrill or were simply too ridiculous for their own good—oftentimes both. For one thing, just as TNA had been guilty of having gimmick matches on iMPACT! for the sole sake of an easy ratings pop during the late 2000s, WSX was guilty of having certain stipulation matches take place for the sole sake of having them. The WSX Rumble is most definitely one such match, especially considering the fact that it took place as the second match and main event of the very first episode. Quite frankly, I didn’t mind the idea or purpose of the match itself or even the specific rules that the participants had to follow during it. After all, if one can understand how a King of the Mountain match goes in TNA, then one can definitely follow the principles of a WSX Rumble, as it simply starts off like a standard ten-person version of WWE’s own Royal Rumble. Then, when the tenth competitor enters the fray, the bout becomes a ladder match, and whoever climbs a ladder to the top and grabs either of the two contracts that have been suspended beforehand above the ring earns himself/herself a shot at the WSX Championship. Fair enough, in my opinion…if only the participants had been built up beforehand as credible contenders for the belt. As I’ve mentioned earlier, however, the ten men in this match were hardly even built up as characters, period—most notably considering that this match was on the show’s debut episode. Never mind New Jack, Chris Hamrick, Kaos, Teddy Hart, and Justin Credible, either, as Alkatrazz, Puma (a.k.a. T.J. “Manik” Perkins from Lucha Libre USA and TNA), Youth Suicide, and even Vampiro and 6-Pac hadn’t even been introduced on the show until they’d come out to take part in this event. Worse yet for Puma was how he didn’t even get a chance to show off his talents on television, seeing as Vampiro had eliminated him from the match almost as soon as he’d entered the ring, and the whole spot had been edited in such a way so that it looked as if it’d taken place during a commercial break. On a similar note, as if battle royals as a general rule aren’t chaotic enough as a match type, the inclusion of foreign objects only made this event even more of a car crash. In one respect were the props that the ring crew had set up just outside the ring through/into which competitors could throw their opponents, from the standard-issue table to an electric box full of “live” wires and a small steel cage rigged with explosives—all the more to, predictably enough, heighten the spectacle of the whole affair, regardless of whether or not the match really needed it. On the other hand, though, were the weapons that were used in this match, from the guitar that New Jack ended up smashing over the head of referee Danny “Monchichi” Ramirez a la Jeff Jarrett and “Honky Tonk Man” Wade Farris to the bucket of thumbtacks that Youth Suicide had brought down to the ring, only to have Vampiro powerbomb him onto the very same thumbtacks he’d deliberately spilled in the middle of the ring. Throw in WSX’s trademark over-the-top editing, and you have one of the most downright anarchic matches ever to be broadcasted on national television…for better and for worse, depending on how you choose to look at it.
Lil’ Cholo of the Cartel tries to submerge Aaron “Jesus” Aguilera into a tank of “vicious” piranhas in WSX’s Piranha Tank Death Match from the unaired series finale.
Then again, the WSX Rumble was only the first of a solid handful of gimmick matches that Wrestling Society X had showcased, for later on in episode three would come a TLC (Tables, Ladders, and Cervezas) match in which Los Pochos Guapos would unite and try to avenge the abuse that Kaos had been suffering at the hands of Luke Hawx and Alkatrazz. The bout was what anyone would expect: a death match in which tables, ladders, and beer bottles were available as weapons. However, it was the only one the two tag teams had ever had against each other, and just as with the WSX Rumble, this bout received very little buildup prior to when it took place. On a like note was the double main event of WSX’s season (and series) finale: a Piranha Tank Death Match between LPG and Delikado and Lil’ Cholo of the Cartel and an Exploding Cage Time Bomb death match between The Filth and The Fury and Team Dragon Gate—both booked to mark the end of the program’s only season and provide a logical yet premature conclusion to each angle, both of which only lasted two matches total. Yes, the Cartel had a thing for marking beaten-down opponents of theirs with dead fish, and Team Dragon Gate’s chances of becoming the top tag team in the Bunker figuratively “blew up” in their faces prior to the arrival of their new manager Sakoda. Even so, both LPG’s feud with the Cartel and Team Dragon Gate’s vengeful retribution against all to whom they’d lost could have carried on for at least one more match each before coming to a decisive close. Alas, episode ten of WSX apparently had to end with these two gimmick matches to ensure that Wrestling Society X went out with a bang instead of a whimper. Thankfully, at least the Exploding Cage Time Bomb Death Match was fun and very well performed by Teddy Hart, “M-Dogg 20” Matt Cross, Genki Horiguchi, and Masato Yoshino…up until Sakoda just had to force his way into the cage and interfere on Team Dragon Gate’s part with the help of his trusty flare gun. To think, too, that the whole purpose of Sakoda “reprogramming” Horiguchi and Yoshino was to make them unstoppable on their own rather than to help them win on account of him lending them an unfair advantage! As for the Piranha Tank Death Match…well…if nothing else, at least the bookers get points for originality for coming up with it. I mean, outside of WSX, the only wrestling promotion I know of to have something remotely close to this kind of match would be Big Japan Pro Wrestling (BJW). Unfortunately, because the Cartel always traveled as a full pack, for the most part, one could pretty much see Kaos and Aguilera’s loss to Delikado and Lil’ Cholo coming from a mile away, what with faction manager El Jefe and team muscle Mongol being right there to help the two workhorses earn yet another cheap win for the record—and without the referee even trying to ban them from ringside on top of that! Besides, even if the odds were completely even, the very premise of the match is actually quite tedious in that in order to win, one team must completely submerge a member of the opposing team into the piranhas’ tank and cover the tank with a lid for a three count. I’m sorry, but in order to accomplish such a goal, one would have to rely on a reliable tag team partner or otherwise be really, really quick in shoving one’s opponent into the tank, finding the tank’s lid, and covering the doggone thing for three whole seconds. Plus, considering just how infamously dangerous piranhas are, what with their strong jaws, finely serrated teeth, and notorious aggression, why would anyone want to participate in or even be a spectator for such a potentially lethal match for real? Come to think of it, even if the piranhas were fake (the only way to ensure the safety of such a match), such fakeness would only draw further ridicule from those who dislike professional wrestling on account of its scripted nature, thus proving the ridiculousness of such a gimmick beyond the shadow of a doubt.
“M-Dogg 20” Matt Cross ends up taking it in the backside during the Exploding Cage Time Bomb Death Match between The Filth and The Fury and Team Dragon Gate.
Come to think of it, Wrestling Society X didn’t even need special gimmick matches to find a way to work in a few “hardcore” spots into its in-ring product, as there were plenty of times in which the action went out of the ring and/or foreign objects came into play. The WSX Rumble, after all, was far from the only time in which tables came onto the scene, as I do remember The Filth and The Fury’s televised match against the Trailer Park Boyz in which Teddy Hart electrocuted “Spider” Nate Webb, set him up on a table, and sent him through it with his signature corkscrew senton bomb, the Open Hart Surgery. I also remember a WSXtra match between Keepin’ It Gangsta and Luke Hawx & Alkatrazz in which Ruckus set up KIG’s “diamond”-encrusted ladder in the middle of the ring, climbed to the top, and came crashing down upon Hawx, who’d been set up on a table that was every bit as “blinged out” as KIG’s ladder. There were also the use of exploding lightbulbs, shattered disco balls, and of course, Sakoda’s trusty flare gun. Then…there was the fireball that Ricky Banderas threw into Vampiro’s face when he made his debut on episode four. Now, granted, fireballs weren’t anything new to pro wrestling, even back then. Just look at what went on during the Undertaker’s 1996 feud with Mankind in the WWF, various instances in Jerry “The King” Lawler’s USWA career, and even Hollywood Hogan’s match against The Warrior at WCW’s Halloween Havoc 1998 for some examples in which fireballs came (or almost came) into play. Even so, this particular incident has gone down in the books as being the event that sealed WSX’s fate, as MTV officials saw the spot as being unfit to air on the network. I can’t really say that I blame them, to be honest, especially seeing as the thing singed Vampiro’s hair. Furthermore, we can all discuss parental responsibility regarding kids and the media here all we want to, but to put it quite bluntly, if I myself were running a major television network, cable or otherwise, I wouldn’t want to suffer any backlash from angry parents whose kids were wowed at the sight of one man setting another on fire and felt the need to replicate the act themselves. Kind of makes me wonder just how necessary it was for Sakoda to have carried around that stupid flare gun shortly afterwards, I must say. On the other hand, I do think that with the existence of a proper line of communication between Big Vision and MTV, the whole crisis could have easily been averted in the first place. To think, too, that there still were other mistakes that the booking team had made, such as wrestlers who were supposed to be babyfaces performing heelish actions like nailing opponents in the groin and ambushing heels either post-match or during the heels’ matches against other babyfaces, illegal men entering the ring during tag team matches and being open to eat a pinfall from the opposing team, and people who weren’t even supposed to be in the match at all entering the ring right in front of the ref’s eyes to help out their man without causing a DQ! After this whole fireball debacle, however, talking about any further booking backfires is practically pointless—especially considering that MTV had pulled WSX episode four from its scheduled air date on February 20, 2007 and aired an edited version of it a week later on February 27. Afterwards came Big Vision’s March 2 announcement that MTV had cancelled the program and that episodes five through nine would be aired on March 13 as a two-and-a-half-hour-long season finale of sorts, leaving the true season finale, episode ten, to be a DVD exclusive. From there, the rest, as they say, is history.
Ricky Banderas prepares to throw a fireball into the face of Vampiro and unwittingly bring about the death of Wrestling Society X as it has been recorded.
Finally, if there was one thing that honestly disappointed me about Wrestling Society X’s in-ring product, it’d be the lack of variation in wrestling styles that the show put on display. After all, in spite of the talent of the wrestlers Big Vision had already acquired for the show, it seemed to me even then that they could have done something to mix things up and not rely as much on high flyers as they did. I know this may sound quite minor, if not outright petty, but inasmuch as every single one of their tag teams had at least one high flyer in it and how its “X-Division”-esque division was easily one of the more heavily featured acts on the show, it would have been nice to see a little something different thrown in every now and then for a change of pace. Some solid chain wrestling would have definitely given viewers just that, for one thing, as even ECW had been a place for the likes of Joe and Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, Perry Saturn, Lance Storm, Peter “Taz” Senerchia, and the nowadays infamous Chris Benoit to showcase their technical mastery. Yes, a good number of the high flyers could very well have proven to be as good on the mat as they were in the acrobatics department, and I sincerely believe that it would have benefitted the product as a whole if the bookers would have allowed them to showcase their mat skills to an equal degree as their high-flying abilities for the sake of proving that there was more to them than simply being high spot artists. That being said, for WSX to have had such wrestlers as Nigel McGuinness, Bryan Danielson, Chris Hero, Austin Aries, and Kevin Steen—men who were not only relevant at the time and working outside of WWE and TNA, but who were likewise known for their solid technical wrestling skills—could have really benefitted them. Not only that, but these five men in particular could have also held their own when it came to developing strong characters for themselves. Just ask anyone who has seen their work in Ring of Honor or, in the case of Danielson as Daniel Bryan and Steen as Kevin Owens, as active members of WWE’s roster. Aries, too, had made quite a name for himself in TNA before he left as both a wrestler and a character, and even in spite of the terrible booking that went into his TNA persona Desmond Wolfe, McGuinness had earned for himself the respect of the company’s fan base during his tenure. Of course, as much as I can go on and on about this particular topic, I also can’t help but wonder as to just how the larger wrestlers who were already on the WSX roster would have been used outside of tag team action. Seriously, what would have happened if, say, Keepin’ It Gangsta, Luke Hawx and Alkatrazz, or Los Pochos Guapos would have broken up and their respective members would have gone on to become singles stars? Ruckus, Hawx, and Kaos would have very well joined the high flyers’ division, no doubt, but what about Babi Slymm, Alkatrazz, and Aaron Aguilera? How long would it have taken the bookers to have built any of them up to become credible contenders for the WSX Championship? What about Vic Grimes, Arik Cannon, Youth Suicide, and even Matt Classic and Mongol? Would there have been a midcard title for the likes of them to earn later on during WSX’s existence in the same vein as WCW’s U.S. Championship or TNA’s Legends/Global/Television Championship? That, for what it’s worth, I would like to know.
What Irritated Me Most about Wrestling Society X
Random Guy as Furious WSX Detractor: “GRRRRR!!!!! I hate this Wrestling Society X! It’s so stupid! It’s crap! It’s killing my brain cells as we speak! Who would DARE bring this unholy spawn of all that is wrong with the world upon us wrestling fans!? WHO?! TELL ME!!!RRRRRAAAAARRRRGH!!!!!!!!!”
Leonardo DiCaprio as Me: “Ugh…bitch, puh-LEASE! Shut! UP!”
Having said all I have about Wrestling Society X, I know that I’ve painted myself out to be one of those wrestling fans whom Derek Burgan claimed once upon a time to be “too stupid to ‘get’” the show. The reality is, though, that that’s not the case at all, as I do recognize what Big Vision Entertainment was trying to offer folks: a badass yet light-hearted and all-around insanely fun wrestling program that didn’t take itself very seriously and tried its damnedest to stand out from the competition. To be quite honest, I definitely wanted WSX to succeed, even if only for there to be an alternative to WWE and TNA on the mainstream scene and as such another place where up-and-coming stars in the industry could get a chance to shine. Sadly, though, it clearly didn’t, and on account of its own many faults at that, which ultimately made it come off as something that its creators had slapped together haphazardly with the volume turned up several hundred decibels on the consequential insanity. We’ll never know, either, what would have become of this production, had the two parties in charge had a better idea of what they both wanted to achieve and would have cooperated more closely with each other in hopes of making their goal both mutual and a reality. After all, while a lot of WSX fans understandably blame MTV for not showing Big Vision Entertainment the support they deserved in order to produce a program that wrestling fans—and, for that matter, even non-wrestling fans—would have found far easier to watch and support week after week, the truth remains that Big Vision has itself to blame as well for not keeping its head on straight, in the game, and out from between MTV’s corporate posterior. Not only that, but let’s face it: The company tried so hard to appeal to its target audience with WSX that it unwittingly yet ultimately alienated many a wrestling fan and as such cheated themselves out of what could have been some reliable word-of-mouth support via message boards, podcasts, blogs, video forums, and possibly even various sources outside of the Internet. Simply reviewing the ratings that the show received from its MTV debut on can show just that, seeing as their January 30, 2007 premiere netted them a solid 1.0 rating, which eventually dropped off to 0.7 the next week and never elevated beyond that point. This rating eventually sank to a 0.3 on their ninth and final broadcasted episode during the tail end of the show’s five-episode “season finale” on March 13. Needless to say, Big Vision itself ended up calling this entire run WSX’s “First (and Last) Season” and has vowed to never renew the brand, which is a promise that the company has kept to this very day. Even if wrestling fans had a collective change of heart regarding this absolutely off-the-wall take on their beloved art, bought the WSX DVD set in droves upon its initial release, petitioned Big Vision to bring the series back (albeit on a different network, more likely than not), and otherwise set out on a campaign to revive this much-maligned program, I’m convinced that Kevin Kleinrock and company would have stood their ground and left the brand buried six feet underground within the secure confines of Vampiro’s exploding coffin. Perhaps it’s all for the better, as one would argue, although I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who still speculate as to what would have happened to WSX, had Big Vision and MTV actually cooperated to present us with it in a different light. What if the show had aired for a full hour rather than a measly half-hour? What if they’d actually built their wrestlers up properly throughout the course of the show and relied on actual in-ring psychology instead of straight-up, nonstop, in-your-face strings of high spots? What if they’d eased up with all the unnecessary special effects and actually let their wrestlers do their thing with paying fans cheering them on instead of paid plants and a sound machine? I could go on and on with these questions, but I think you all get my point.
In fact, the only thing that really got under my skin when it came to Wrestling Society X had nothing to do with the brand itself, but rather with the backlash—no, scratch that…the hatred—it received. After all, disliking anything and being able to talk rationally about what makes you dislike it is one thing. Flat-out going off on a rage-induced tirade over it, on the other hand, is something else altogether, and much to my exasperation, I’d heard and read so much of the latter upon becoming familiar with WSX that it quite frankly made me feel mortified to be a wrestling fan myself on account of sharing a label with such indignant, melodramatic, ill-tempered brats. Now, look…we all come across things in life that upset us, especially when those things involve the hobbies and interests we love. Even so, is losing our cool over these things—specifically things as minor as television shows—really the best way to handle our disgruntlement? Was WSX in particular that personally offensive to certain wrestling fans that they had to curse and scream about it on their weekly podcasts like out-of-control kindergarteners? Were the show’s flaws really so severe that they merited once-prominent adult members of the so-called “YouTube Wrestling Community” to post videos of themselves going on nearly six-minute-long tantrums about how “ugh…disgusting” they felt the show was, failing to elaborate on certain points that they brought up (e.g., why the commentary was subpar), pounding the desks in front of them like rabid apes, hyperventilating over minor nuances like tag team names and wrestler-valet pairings as if even they were serious defects, and ending it all by whining about the headaches they just gave themselves and how they wanted their “mommies” to make the pain stop? I personally don’t think so, but that’s what I heard and saw shortly after WSX made it to air, and even then, I found myself wondering just how seriously I was supposed to take these jackasses and how they were ever able to garner any subscription base at all from anyone if the behavior they’d displayed was the norm that their audiences had come to expect from them. However, the detractors who annoyed me the most were those who went as far as to insult the talent, especially those who acted as if the wrestlers themselves were the ones responsible for making the product lackluster simply on account of their “indie wrestler” status. Sure, some wrestlers with indie circuit experience may have trouble with cutting promos, portraying characters, and even telling a story in the ring, but that criticism doesn’t apply to all of them and thus shouldn’t be used as a blanket judgment against everyone from the independent scene. Besides, homegrown talent from the major promotions can be just as prone to these three faults, even after undergoing developmental training, and for the record, WWE and especially TNA have used indie talent in the past and continue to do so today with said talent more often than not managing to get themselves over with the crowd to some extent in some way. The same can be said about Ring of Honor, which still mostly uses names from the independent circuit and has pretty much been an independent federation itself for the first six to seven years of its existence, and while they aren’t by any means the biggest wrestling promotion on the planet, even outside of WWE, they’ve still maintained some buzz around them for quite some time. The whole notion, therefore, that independent wrestlers “can’t draw flies” isn’t always true. If anything, it’s more of a matter of a) the platform upon which a given talent can prove his/her worth in the industry and b) the talent and the promotion’s management and bookers meeting each other halfway so that the talent is able to get over with the crowd and in turn draw eyes to and make money for the promotion. Regardless, in WSX’s case, the material that the bookers had given their wrestlers to work with wasn’t necessarily as tidy, polished, or meaningful as it could or should have been, and the show’s production was every bit as rough, thus making matters worse for it and its wrestlers. That being said, even if the performers were at all accountable for WSX’s failure, they were at most the least likely to blame and didn’t do anything wrong aside from what most other wrestlers would have been able to do with Kleinrock and crew’s booking.
“You wanna talk? Fine. Let’s talk…but check your temper at the door, you little twerp! GOT THAT!?”
To sum things up, I have no qualms with people disliking Wrestling Society X per say. We all have our opinions, after all, and no wrestling promotion is for everyone. Heck, most of this editorial has been me basically listing the program’s issues, according to my own point of view, and quite frankly, I doubt I’ve covered every single last one of them. Basically, my beef is with just how vehement and even mindless WSX’s detractors have been in terms of criticizing it because at the end of the day, it was still a wrestling show that thankfully remains in DVD form as well as online in various video forum uploads for others to observe and even enjoy at their discretion. Besides, believe it or not, this program was able to attract favorable attention from other wrestling fans for daring to be different and fun with what little it had as a TV production and with a roster that most full-fledged wrestling promotions would kill for and an idea that, at its core, wasn’t theoretically bad (i.e., the whole underground fight club theme). If anything, it was the execution of said idea that left much to be desired, and I’m sure that if wrestling fans could find it in them to approach the issue calmly and collectively, they could not only discover the program’s true mistakes, but also figure out how to present WSX in such a way so that it would appeal to an even greater audience than it ultimately did. Trust me. I’ve actually seen worse wrestling shows in my day than WSX—shows that I’m sure others would not shy away from showering with every bit as much derision as this program has received in the past nine-plus years. I’ve certainly given Wrestlicious a tongue-lashing back in the day, that’s for sure. Guess what, though: Even Wrestlicious I can critique candidly and honestly without caving in to my disdain, going off the deep end, and pointing my “finger of blame” at the wrong people. All that in consideration, everybody, feel free to like what you like and dislike what you dislike. Just be sure to point out the actual issues of what you dislike, though, should you feel the need to openly talk about it, and don’t scream out about how much of a “disgrace” it would be if, say, WWE or some other major promotion was to extend an invitation to the talents from the show you’re not fond of and give them a chance to earn a spot on its own roster. Trust me…if the WSX detractors who were knocking the show’s talent saw these people perform in a promotion that they actually approved of, they wouldn’t have been so quick to verbally urinate on them as they had. Remember…it’s not always where you’ve been prior to making it to the big leagues, but what you do once you’ve made it and where you go soon afterwards.
All things considered, I don’t look back at Wrestling Society X as being the unholy atrocity that so many “smarks” claim it to be. If anything, I see it as simply a heaping mass of wasted potential that died almost as quickly as it had been born, which I find to be a crying shame more than anything else. Heaven knows just how much I, like so many others, ponder over where it would have gone and how it would have evolved, had it only aimed to attract an audience that would have done it more justice than whom its parent company and the network it was on were hoping to win over. Yes, I know that wrestling fans in the 21st century have proven many a time to be fickle, immature, impatient, and disgustingly demanding, and it may seem impossible to please them, what with how often and how loudly they’ve complained about the wrestling industry over the past fifteen years and how much they keep doing so today. Not only that, but if ever the legendary words of John Lydgate about being able to please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time ever rung true, they certainly have never rung any truer than with today’s wrestling audience. Trust me, though, when I say that if you manage to produce a wrestling show that pleases most of them on a consistent basis, then you’re definitely doing something right, as their endorsement of your product will surely bring you even more fans over time. Unfortunately, while WSX was still a fun show to watch for those who approached it with a sense of humor, its numerous flaws still prevented it from truly being the great—if not, in fact, amazing—product that it could have been. The thing, too, is that some wrestling enthusiasts speculate that it would have been much better off debuting during the late 1990s to early 2000s when professional wrestling was at its peak. One could even argue that if MTV really wanted to capitalize on the pro wrestling craze, they were much better off giving ECW a home when TNN (nowadays known as Spike) took their program off the air on October 6, 2000. Heck, one can even speculate as to whether or not it would have benefitted WWF/E if good ol’ Vinny Mac would have founded a promotion similar to WSX in 2000 (minus the obvious MTV “flair,” of course) instead of dumping millions into the XFL, given this new brand over to his son Shane, and have him run it independently from the main WWF/E brand. I, however, am of the opinion that Big Vision Entertainment simply should have been smarter when it came to developing and producing WSX. The show could still have had the same swagger and jocosity that had set it apart from the other wrestling programs on TV at the time, but toned down some so as to not seem quite as desperate and pandering as it did and so as to make room for more thought to be put towards in-ring psychology, character building, and plot/angle development. There was no need for excessive pyrotechnics, dubbed-in sound effects, insane gimmick matches brought in for a cheap ratings boost, or even plants when it came to this brand making a name for itself. All it needed was better, more consistent production values and a solid to fantastic in-ring product to support the whole “underground” theme for which they were going. They had the talent to pull off the latter part of this equation, too, had they just let said talent step on out to the ring and do what they did best. It also would have helped, as I’ve said before, if MTV worked more closely with them and gave them the support they needed to put on the high-quality wrestling show that WSX deserved to be. After all, as any fan knows, the pro wrestling industry is at its best when there’s competition, and believe me when I say that even today, WWE could use some strong competition to keep it on its toes, what with TNA reportedly being in dire financial straits, Ring of Honor not having shown as much growth in recent years as it could have, Global Force Wrestling not having lived up to their promise over the past couple of years, and even Lucha Underground—the closest thing to what WSX could have been, had it survived at least up until 2008—is only in its second year on the El Rey Network. Alas, WSX never became anything of the sort and instead is just one of countless wrestling productions to have risen and fallen between the spring of ’01 to now in hopes of becoming the alternative for which fans of the art have been craving.
Rest in peace, Wrestling Society X, and on behalf of those who wanted to see you live up to your potential, thank you for the memories.
On an unrelated note, I also want to take this moment to commemorate yesterday, May 23, 2016 being the seventeenth anniversary of the untimely passing of Owen James Hart, one of the most talented and beloved pro wrestlers of his day. Rest in peace, Owen. Fans worldwide will forever miss you.
RIP Owen James Hart (May 7, 1965-May 23, 1999): Thank you for the memories, Owen. May your legacy live on for all time.
Such are my thoughts and Wrestling Society X—a topic that I’d been meaning to cover on this blog of mine for some time now. I know it’s been a long read, but that you all for taking the time to stop by and give it a look. Feel free to stop by next time I post something new, and in the meantime, don’t be afraid to check out my author pages at Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk if you haven’t already. Until then, thanks again for your support, and happy reading!
Dustin M. Weber
Wrestling Society X (c) 2007 Big Vision Entertainment. Additional materials used in this article are as follows:
WSX Bunker w/Pyro, WSX Fireball Incident, and WSX Wasted logo: Wrestling Society X: A Wasted Opportunity by Jason at AminoApps.com
Matt Classic: ChikaraPro.com
Lucha Libre USA logo: (c) 2010-2014 Lucha Libre USA, LTD
Angry Man image: CBSNews.com
Leonardo DiCaprio Wolf of Wall Street: (c) 2013 Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures
Indie Wrestling Matters pic: Pinterest.com
Colin Mochrie (Whose Line Is It Anyway?): (c) 2013-2016 Hat Trick Productions, Warner Bros. Television, Angst Productions, and Warner Horizon Television
Owen Hart pic: OnlineWorldofWrestling.com
All opinions expressed within the above document, however, are solely those of the author himself.