For those who may not be familiar, ‘crash TV’ refers to television programs that intentionally showcase controversial, disturbing, or horrifying content, as defined by the Collins English dictionary. A prime example of crash TV is ‘The Jerry Springer Show.’ In the realm of professional wrestling, ‘wrestling crash TV’ encompasses all the elements of regular crash TV, but within the context of a wrestling show.
The heyday of wrestling crash TV occurred in the late ’90s during the ‘Wednesday Night Wars‘ between WWE (then WWF) and the now-defunct, WCW. Both promotions went to great lengths to win the ratings battle, often resorting to shocking and extreme tactics. Ultimately, WWE emerged victorious and solidified its position as the dominant force in the wrestling industry.
Vince Russo & The Attitude Era
One individual who played a pivotal role in the transition from the family-friendly shows of the ‘New Generation Era’ to the chaotic WWE shows of the ‘Attitude Era‘ was Vince Russo. His name is synonymous with wrestling crash TV, and his influence on this style remains indelible in the history of wrestling. Even years later, Russo attempted to infuse elements of crash TV into TNA wrestling (now IMPACT). But the experiment was met with significant failure, the repercussions of which continue to affect the promotion today.
One of the primary drawbacks of wrestling crash TV is its short-sightedness. While it can initially attract viewers with its controversial and over-the-top content, it fails to retain a long-term audience. Viewership tends to dwindle as audiences become desensitized to the constant shock value, and eventually, they may cease watching or change the channel. This style of wrestling TV demands a continuous stream of controversial moments and frequent ‘jumping the shark’ incidents, ultimately numbing the audience’s senses and diminishing their engagement.
It Won’t Work Today
The second major issue is that this style of wrestling TV often shifts the focus away from the core essence of wrestling—the matches themselves. Wrestling crash TV places heavy emphasis on backstage segments and promos, which can lead to shorter matches that do not adequately deliver the intended payoff to the audience. Matches have historically been the cornerstone of professional wrestling, and diverting attention from them undermines the essence of the sport.
Attempting to replicate this style in today’s wrestling landscape is a formidable challenge. Wrestling crash TV belongs to the cultural milieu of the late ’90s and early 2000s. Cultural norms and sensitivities have evolved significantly since then. Many of the controversial segments and storylines that were acceptable in that era would face severe backlash from sponsors and advocacy groups if attempted today. This style no longer aligns with the values and expectations of contemporary television and the wrestling industry.
Wrestling fans have also shifted their expectations. While they still appreciate creative and entertaining backstage segments and promos, their primary desire is to witness high-quality wrestling inside the ring. The modern wrestling audience places a premium on in-ring action, marking a departure from the era of crash TV. The Attitude Era, once nostalgic, is no longer seen as a realistic return to the screens, as today’s fans are more focused on the in-ring product rather than shock value.
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