Author: Alfonso Siman
We as humans are affected by nostalgia. It’s fun to reminisce about the past, the “good old days”, relive good memories and now more than never entertainment enterprises are realizing they can cash in on nostalgia.
We see it in a multitude of ways: remakes and spin off of classic movies or series, franchises of video games coming back from the dead and content that never dies just to keep catering to an aging audience.
Nostalgia is a two-blade knife, depending on how you use delivered it can be satisfying or dreadful, may I even say cringy. Everybody loves the Mandalorian because it’s a story that hasn’t been told in the Star Wars Universe, therefore nostalgia is used like a medium to get to us interested in a new story. Without messing with the memories of what we knew about the core story, the new product is well received But if we take let’s say the return of Goldberg to a WWE ring, the mechanics change a little. Goldberg’s comeback was built on the hype of his WCW undefeated streak but was the thing that went wrong very fast. When you pit a nostalgia act against a prospect and exciting new act in The Fiend, we as fans, receive it with a bit of pushback. We think about the long run and what is beneficial for the company, making people resent nostalgia because it does not let us move forward.
We all want to relive certain eras of our life, that’s why we keep buying NWO or AUSTIN 3:16 shirts, we want to remember those days, and we wish we can relieve them. In 2020, when Edge shocked the WWE Universe with a surprise entrance in the Men’s Royal Rumble. The entire wrestling world screamed in joy because we knew how good he once was and instead of seeing it as a nostalgic act, we salivate as the prospect of all the dream matches that were supposedly stolen from us. Edge has done an excellent job with his new Heel character. He is even going to the lengths of changing his iconic entrance music to give notice to the fans that this version of Edge is a new one, something very different of what we have experienced in the past.
We all want to hear that glass breaking at ́Mania even if we only see two middle fingers, a stomp and a stunner. That kind of nostalgia should be harmless because they are telling a short story with a successful payoff. KO is going above and beyond to make his feud with Austin one of the most interesting things to look forward to at Night 1. KO is making us care enough because he knows the hype levels for his segment are pretty damn high, but people are really just expecting that a feel good moment powered by nostalgia.
Almost all wrestling promotions derive strong influence from nostalgic sentiments, and it’s normal because every product relies on the core fans to build a successful company. The loyal relationship needs to be respected, but it’s important to understand that there is a balance wrestling need to follow to avoid getting stuck in the past. Nonetheless, I have found another use for nostalgia, something more than a pop… I have found nostalgia as a tool to teach.
Let me explain, my girlfriend didn’t care about wrestling until she met me. In the beginning everything was about the grandiose move sets and explaining basic feuds but recently the more we watch, the more I feel like I need to explain things to her to feel that she is understanding the whole picture. It has been said that history is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies, and in that couldn’t be truer in wrestling.
During the AEW feud of MJF and CM Punk, I was hypnotized by the mix of reality and storytelling, but what really caught my eye were the callbacks, those little piece of the story that only a few of us know about because of our love for wrestling. Punk’s character provides a logical selling point: He’s a wrestling fan who just happens to be a wrestler. He’s one of us, so he takes us on a journey that he believes we are going to love if we love wrestling the same way as he does. Let’s hope he can manage to find the equilibrium needed to keep being relevant and not just being a guy that only used his old catchphrases and style of matches to be relevant. To progress into the future is to learn that the business must always look forward and never try to live off what the business had already accomplished.
That’s why that feud with MJF is so tasteful to the viewer, old and new. When we analyze the objective of the feud, we get a little glimpse of Punk’s past, dealing with a completey new character in Maxwell Jacob Friedman. We are transported to the first iteration of CM Punk that caught the wrestling world’s eye with promos, sequences of moves during a match, special finishers, music, and blood. This allows us to revisit how the character we fell in love with to be.
Everybody loves a good origin story, but not only that, it lets a character like MJF have fun and be stretched as far as making the audience feel empathetic for a scumbag heel.
With the purchase of ROH, AEW will be able to tell Origins stories, tie in the character development and in general tell better stories. We should get awesome video packages that will be fuelled with nostalgia and that will make us care about what we are seeing on screen.
Nostalgia will continue to reign supreme in the world of wrestling.
Let’s hope that the creatives of the world of wrestling can manage to walk the tight line of nostalgia and address new themes, characters without getting stuck in the past. We as fans shall receive new storylines, new characters and new ways of telling a story with open arms. Because in the end it doesn’t matter if it fails or not because wrestling is taking the audience on a journey. Sometimes it works, others it doesn’t, but it’s better to be adventurous and work without the safety net called nostalgia to help the business moving forward.
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Photo Credit: WWE