In addition to being the producer and general idea man for the Nothing to Prove Podcast, I have been training and working as a referee in the Southwest. This does require training, from watching endless amounts of footage, to studying the rules and when/how they apply, to getting into the wrestling ring at the local wrestling school for training. I made sure to attend the most recent session that Dom Vitalli ran at this facility. The following will not flow together perfectly as not all the ideas work together as a whole, but they did lead me from one thought to the next. Also, keep in mind, this was written to generalize a purpose, as there are always exceptions.
During a particular drill, Dom stopped the class to work on a particular item with a certain student. After two or three attempts, Dom pointed out something very small and simple to this student. They reran it and I could see the light bulb go off in this kid’s head. This particular issue was not only resolved, but markedly improved. During a break, this student and I discussed that moment briefly, and how amazing that something so small can make all the difference in the world. In another drill, this student punched a female trainee in the face and learned that earlier lesson all over again, but with a different, and completely unexpected, result. As Dom said, it was awesome.
If you’re worried, the female trainee hung in there and finished out the training session, she’s fine.
At another point during training, Dom had asked the class if they knew who Ricky Morton was. About four students didn’t know. Dom has shared his thoughts on this moment elsewhere, as well as his opinion on how important it is to know the history and culture of wrestling. I’m 38 and roughly a year in. As far as age goes, Dom is not that far behind me. Dom held that discussion about Ricky Morton as I looked at the faces in the training class. I think it’s safe to say the average age of the students in there was 25, though it is likely lower. This puts the average year of their birth in 1992.
If they’re lucky, their parents, or older siblings, were watching wrestling. At best, they’ll remember the creation of the NWO, but most likely, their earliest wrestling memory would be from the middle of the Monday Night Wars. Again, that’s if they were lucky. It seems more likely that they would start remembering wrestling no earlier in life than 10 years old. This would be 2002 for these students. They simply have a lot more history to catch up on at this point. It’s easily a decade’s worth of more content they have to, or should come to know.
The other thing I noticed about this class is that they were raised during an entirely different technological age. We all agree that the internet changed the world. I think I was 16 the first time I ever used the internet, and that was on a dial-up modem and AOL (America On Line). I had already established my identity in the real world before encountering the internet. This class, however, grew up ON the internet. They incorporate their online identity into their real life identity. They receive a sense of validation through getting likes, retweets, shares, comments and so on. I think it is reasonable to say that this has made being online a performance, as the individual relies on the audience (whomever it may be online at the time) for feed back in all of it’s forms.
When Dom discusses the “new school” wrestlers, he uses phrases like “they’re are trying to go viral”. Jim Cornette, and plenty of others, express this same thought, but in their own way. There are plenty of implications involved, but I think something critically important is being missed here. The “old school” performed for the paying audience, where as the “new school” is performing for the internet.
I think that is the core issue at play now; which audience are we performing for? By performing for the internet, the New School unavoidably exposes the business and breaks every wall known that built wrestling up to where it was once, whereas performing for the paying audience keeps things much closer to the chest and maintains the legitimacy of wrestling.
I’d like to end this by asking The New School a simple question: what happens to a building when you knock all of the walls down?