The Cornette vs. Meltzer Debate... and the Key Issue They Missed
By Big Red Machine
From July 16, 2017
Last month Dave Meltzer and Jim Cornette engaged in a much-publicized debate over the merits of "modern" professional wrestling- or, more specifically, the "high spots mixed with comedy" style that first gained traction in PWG at the beginning of this decade and has since invaded pretty much every indy promotion of note that there is. The debate was doomed to constantly go around in circles forever, in part because of Cornette's inability to admit that Dave's comment that attendance is up does seem to invalidate Cornette's arguments that such things are "killing the business," though Dave did himself no favors with many of his arguments, either, many of which (particularly the idea that this style is responsible for the increase in ticket sales) are easily debunakble (quite frankly, the idea that every PWG match is a different style of match is ridiculous, and doubly so since Hero left). The most telling moment, to me, came when, after Dave went on and on defending PWG (and others) for this new style because that's what the people want and things have changed now and it's a new way of doing things, Dave joined with Cornette in completely bashing Lucha Underground for doing things like killing characters off and having time travel and magical powers and so on and so forth. How is it that Dave can easily say that the flips and comedy style is "just a different style" and yet not understand that LU is just another way to use pro wrestling to tell stories?
Dave Meltzer has been the target of some ire over the past few years (including by this author) for apparent hypocrisy in his reviews and analysis of promotions he admits to very much enjoying (specifically New Japan and PWG) as compares to WWE or TNA (or others), where Dave will excuse- or at least turn a blind eye to until pressed about it- things that happen in PWG or New Japan that he would absolutely criticize WWE or TNA for (and the "turning a blind eye" thing can certainly be applied to the "business and buzz" part of his coverage of ROH over the past year as well, especially as compared to TNA). I bring up these accusations against Dave because I think they will help illustrate the metaphor that best sums up this conversation for me, which in turn will help show what I think the real failing of this debate between Dave and Corny was:
Essentially what happened is that by condemning PWG, Cornette called Dave's girlfriend a bimbo, simply because she has bleached blonde hair and big fake boobs and she's an idiot, and Dave is defending her by saying that "everyone likes big fake boobs nowadays and being vapid is part of her charm." What Cornette never asked was "what happened to the good old days when we liked natural women who you could have a conversation with? Why did our standard of beauty change? Are we comfortable with that change?"
What is pro wrestling in 2017? What do we want it to be? Is it a place where performers come to "express themselves" by showing me whatever they can do, ranging from acrobatics to grappling to comedy, to selling, to head drops? Or is it a theater where the wrestlers go out there to try to tell stories- following the directions of the director and the booker? Is it a How I Met Your Mother, where there are some real issues faced, but everything is peppered with comedy? Or is it Game of Thrones, where things are almost always deadly serious? Is it a place where we fans go to try to lose ourselves in the show? Or is it a place where we go to chant "SUCK IT!" "TOO SWEET!" "TEN!" and "FIGHT FOREVER!" and, as Michael Cole always tells us "to have fun" at these shows by using our Freedom of Speech? These are decisions that will have to be made by wrestlers, promoters, and bookers, and then by us, the fans, with our wallets. Jim Cornette himself once compared Vince's "sports entertainment" and his preferred "professional wrestling" styles to chocolate and vanilla ice cream. He said that he liked chocolate ice cream and hated vanilla, but had learned to live with the existence of vanilla ice cream, so long as no one made him eat it or got any of it in his beloved chocolate ice cream. Until people start making those decisions and we learn which promotions are going to me more oriented towards which ends of the various spectra- which are going to be chocolate and which are going to be the vanilla to stay away from if we don't like it- there are going to be a lot of annoyed people, both inside the industry and outside of it, over the state of what they see being called "professional wrestling."