Let’s Talk About Cinematic Wrestling

WrestleMania 36

This is an opinionated piece about cinematic wrestling, all views are that of the author and not Last Word On Pro Wrestling

Cinematic wrestling is the new craze in wrestling.  Following WWE’s controversial Boneyard and Firefly Funhouse matches we have seen IMPACT! Wrestling and All Elite Wrestling dabble in the more cinematic style of wrestling.  Some people love it and others like me do not.  Let’s talk a little bit about cinematic wrestling and where I stand on it.

Emphasizes The Weaknesses Of Wrestling

Professional wrestling is inherently a very strange medium of entertainment.  Grudges are settled in a match where you pin your opponent for three seconds even if said opponent attempts to murder you at some point.  People will run in on a match and force a DQ 30 minutes into a match rather than y’know at the start(!) and people cut promos on one another in the same ring even if they supposedly hate one another.  It’s all pretty ridiculous but it works, the energy and investment of the fans, the shocked faces, the loud cheers or boos, it all comes together to make something totally unbelievable work.  These cinematic matches only serve to emphasize the worst aspects of wrestling, any actual wrestling looks like a poorly done fight scene from an action movie.

One needs only look at the end of the Johnny Gargano vs Tomaso Ciampa match to see how poor this can be.  The over the top monologue from Candice LaRae, the swerve heel turn, Ciampa saying “I’m sorry, it’s over” it all looked like something out of a poorly acted soap opera, it bordered on unwatchable at times.  In a normal capacity, this turn could’ve been a well-executed and shocking turn, instead it served to sour the ending of many people’s favorite NXT feud of all time.

Only Works In Certain Settings

Cinematic Wrestling
Credit: Lucha Underground, El Rey Network

Lucha Underground built their entire brand around a very cinematic presentation with over the top characters and cinematic angles aplenty, it was shot like a TV drama show built around an underground fighting rig.  The Final Deletion to some extent also worked because Hardy managed to build up a lore throughout the match and it was established that the match was taking place in a very different setting to the rest of IMPACT!.  When it comes to Lucha Underground they could get away with anything their universal kayfabe was that they existed in a fantasy land with Dario Cueto stirring the pot between dragons, monsters, hunters, time travelers and everything in between.

In WWE we’re meant to believe that the competitors are human, that they feel pain like we would, that they can get injured like we do.  For them to have The Fiend who can supposedly get inside John Cena’s psyche and take him on a mental trip through his insecurities and break him from the inside on the same show as The Miz is just ridiculous.  If The Fiend can get inside his opponent’s minds why does he ever lose? why would he even lift a finger?  Some people can suspend their disbelief and honestly more power to them I hope they enjoy what they’re seeing but to me this stretches things too far.

You Can’t Have Both

My main takeaway is that you either have to embrace the weirdness of the cinematic match or don’t do it at all.  Take Money In The Bank for example, we went from Bayley working over Tamina’s knee which she sold like a regular person, to King Corbin THROWING PEOPLE OFF THE ROOF OF A BUILDING!!  Are we just supposed to believe that Rey Mysterio and Aleister Black are dead? and if they ARE supposed to be dead why isn’t anyone doing anything about it? How are kids supposed to react to seeing their heroes murdered like this? If it turns out that Black and Mysterio survived, which it likely will, then is that not just telling your audience that what you do is fake?

Honestly I have no issue with them killing people or throwing them off roofs but you can’t have that and someone selling their knee like death on the same show.  You can either go all-in on the cinematics and craziness or you stay away from it altogether.

Is It Already Overdone/ How Will Crowds Respond

This is a twofer but both are valid questions.  Cinematic wrestling is fine for a show that’s televised only and doesn’t have any fans in attendance, once fans start being allowed back in venues will they be happy to pay a ticket to see half of a show live and watch the rest on a screen? That crowd at the Manhattan Centre for RAW 25 can probably answer that one for you

At the end of the day if these matches are a rarity then most of us can stomach them.  If AEW does the one crazy street fight and doesn’t touch this style again then their attempt will be looked back on fondly.  The issue is with WWE/NXT where we are seeing more and more of these cinematic matches and they’re generating less buzz as time goes on.  People will always like what’s new and what’s different, heck I’ve watched and enjoyed a match where a woman wrestled a giant inflatable panda, but if everything is wacky and different then nothing is different and in the end, it will all just blend together just ook at the original ECW for example, there’s only so many balcony dives you can do before the audience is desensitized to them and you have to get more and more creative/dangerous.  To me that’s the real issue here, if WWE did the Boneyard match and Funhouse match and left it there it’d fine but they seem to believe there’s a hunger out there for this content and look set to continue producing it with the results being less positive with each passing iteration.

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