17th Apr2020

Opinionated: Cinematic Wrestling – This Shouldn’t Happen Often

by Chris Cummings


We all know what a strange time this is right now, and for anybody who has watched any professional wrestling shows since the pandemic began, you’ll know just how strange that is too. No fans. Minimal crew and performers at one time. It’s arguable that these folks should even be doing this right now, but putting that aside, we saw WWE bring three Cinematic wrestling “matches” in the past couple of weeks, something very unique from what we’re used to in the company.

We’ve seen versions of cinematic wrestling before, with the more famous modern examples being the “Deletion” bouts from the mind of Matt Hardy during his “Broken” work in both IMPACT! and WWE. We’ll likely see more from him now he’s in AEW. WWE have done it before, too, with Hardy, but also with the Goldust vs. Roddy Piper Hollywood Backlot Brawl from WrestleMania 12 back in 1996. Sure, it wasn’t EXACTLY like the cinematic wrestling we see now, with the pop culture meta tone to much of it, but it was still done in a cinematic action-movie manner.

Now, though, WWE were kind of forced into a creative mindset, forced to do something different with their WrestleMania show this year, due to there being no fans in attendance. What we saw was a Boneyard match between The Undertaker and AJ Styles, and a Firefly Funhouse match between John Cena and Bray Wyatt/The Fiend. Both of these “matches” were so weird, so out of the blue and so different that it was hard not to be entertained by them. Using cinematic camera shots, film style edits, musical scores, sound effects, stages and locations that looked like sets from films and performances of a much more theatrical movie nature, these battles showed a fresh new take on wrestling, a take that removed the need for live fans. I’m still not entirely sold on the premise of cinematic wrestling. I like to see guys wrestling in a wrestling ring, with fans at ringside and announcers calling the match. It’s why I watch wrestling. Still… these two creations were very interesting to watch, compelling and a bunch of fun.

The problem here is that many people did really enjoy these matches, and it will likely result in WWE (and others) doing more of them. The more we see of cinematic wrestling, the less unique or fresh it will feel, and the issues that are there will become much clearer for people to see. The concept will drown in over-exposure and people will tire of it. It will become silly, stale and unpopular quickly, in my view.

Sure, there’s a lot to enjoy about seeing The Undertaker throwing AJ Styles off a roof and onto a pile of wooden detritus. Sure, there’s something hilarious about seeing John Cena pumping iron while being referred to as “Johnny Largemeat”. This is fun stuff, and I liked it in many ways, but I hope that WWE don’t over-do it. I hope other companies don’t over-do it. This has to be kept to a minimum. There still, surely, has to be some sense of realism and escapism with pro-wrestling. I know these guys don’t really hate each other and they’re not trying to hospitalise one another, but I would still like to feel like there’s a threat and be able to expel my disbelief for a while. The cinematic stuff, as fun as it is in extreme moderation, doesn’t allow that to happen so much.

Anyway… as we continue in this pandemic I believe we’ll see more of this type of wrestling programming, and I understand the need for it right now. Going forward, however, I’m in the belief that it should only happen once in a while when it means something and has a reason to be occurring. What do you think? Are you a fan of the cinematic wrestling style, or do you prefer for things to remain as they have been for decades?


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