Professional wrestling is a storyteller’s medium.
Case in point: I spent my middle school years running a fictional wrestling federation on the internet, writing out extensive recaps of fictionalized wrestling events complete with matches, promos, and everything else in between. Using a combination of real WWE wrestlers and characters of my own making, I saw the world of professional wrestling as a place to explore my creativity (and, given the length of many of these pieces, teach myself how to type). None of these documents have survived, at least as far as I am aware, but I remember one particular pay-per-view I wrote was something like 70 pages long, an early sign of my long-winded nature.
This notion of fantasy storytelling remains quite common within the space of professional wrestling, enabled by programs such as Extreme Warfare and often influenced by frustration with the WWE and other available products. Extreme Warfare has no actual wrestling, instead putting the user in control of who wins, who fights whom, and how much time is given over to promos, etc. The user becomes the “booker,” the person responsible for deciding which stories to tell, which wrestlers to push or bury, and what kind of product they will sell to their virtual audiences. For any wrestling fan who has been frustrated with a booking decision (which is likely every wrestling fan in existence), fictional federations and simulators were a way to take over the role of storyteller and imagine a more satisfying narrative experience.
Earlier this week, one particular booking decision (which is airing tonight on WWE Smackdown) set off a firestorm of controversy within a subsection of professional wrestling viewers, and one of those viewers has taken an honestly fascinating step. Jeff Katz, a Hollywood producer, has started a Kickstarter campaign to create a tightly-serialized wrestling program that eschews the 52-week model of the WWE entirely. Specifically comparing it to shows like Dexter and The Wire, Katz is arguing that what wrestling needs isn’t just better decision-making, but an entirely different storytelling model which offers a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Katz has given the project 90 days to raise $100,000, and I find this whole idea to be incredibly fascinating. However, I’m not sure that Katz has provided any clear image of just what this “Wrestling Revolution” might look like. While he throws around a lot of comparisons that would excite fans of serious drama, and suggests that is what the WWE would be if it were written by Shawn Ryan, I have my doubts about whether professional wrestling is conducive to the kinds of stories he is imagining (and which I imagined back when I was a teenager).