The Ivy League: Twenty Years
Posted on 05.06.2015 by Poison Ivy
I keep typing that as if it’ll change meanings. Twenty fucking years.
(Merritt has allowed me one F-bomb in this piece to prove that I’m me. Thanks, Uncle Chad.)
It’s been twenty years since I first stepped foot into an arena… on the other side of the guardrails. Twenty years since my role went from spectator to participant. Twenty years since I first swung a big wooden stick at someone’s head.
It was the CSWA, at the height of its power and popularity. The names you knew were Hornet, GUNS. Mike Randalls, JT Tyler, Tsunami, Alexander Karelin, and anyone with the last name Windham. Midgets, Muppets, and Poop Jokes were all the rage, and we were waffling between the Ultratitle and the Ironman of Champions being the two big events.
Tiny blonde girls with no track record in the industry, who also didn’t strip for buyrates were low on everyone’s priority list.
I went to the ring. I yelled at referees. I interfered in matches. I wrote columns much like this, only much angrier.
Look at professional wrestling before I debuted, and in the twenty years since. Women used to fall into one (or both, Teri) of two categories – they stayed put in the corner and smiled while wearing a glittery dress, or they slutted it up to try and distract their keepers’ opponents.
Twenty years later, the obnoxious, outspoken woman who refuses to be silenced, who isn’t afraid of being criticized or disagreed with, who is fearless about getting into the ring against anyone in any circumstance and standing her ground: it’s almost quaint. It’s almost a caricature these days, and any company who doesn’t have the “token badass woman” on the payroll is behind the times.
Twenty years later, the Heroes have become the Villains. Wrestling companies are now being run by men and women who were wrestlers and fans, who became obsessed with being ‘cool’ have decided to base their entire identity around ‘If you don’t cheat, you’re a nerd person and we encourage boos.’ These faux – renegades don’t understand the concept of integrity, and they remain a punchline to those of us who know better.
We’re more divided than ever. That comes with expansion, that’s unavoidable. Twenty years ago, there were perhaps three global wrestling promotions, supported by dozens of regionals and independents. Twenty years later, there are upwards of forty companies that can boast a national scale at the very least, if not global recognition. Company pride is a good thing. Allowing company pride to prevent interpromotional cooperation and supercard events is a bad thing.
Who’s the greatest wrestler in the world? Twenty years ago, that was almost a no-brainer. You could say Hornet. You could say Mike Randalls. You could say Joey Melton. You could say probably six other names and not be laughed out of the room. There would never be a consensus, but there were always a realistic number of contenders.
Twenty years later, ego and jealousy has turned this into a can-you-top-this game of chicken. It seems like the understanding that a strong top wrestler is the key to long term success and survival. I didn’t always agree with Hornet and his actions, but twenty years ago I understood the importance that he played in keeping the CSWA ahead of the curve.
Today? Virtually every wrestler who has been the NFW World Champion since NFW 2.0 began has left the company immediately after losing the Championship, and that’s just one company’s example.
I don’t want this to sound like a curmudgeonly old manager railing against the youth of today and about how the industry is dying and how the sport was better in my day. And while I know for a fact that Eli Flair could dust off his boots, get a job tomorrow, be in the Main Event a week from yesterday, and any company’s World Champion before the fourth of July, based on intensity, personality, stubbornness and outright guts, it wouldn’t be best for business. We were fortunate enough to have our moment at the exact right time, when the audience and Team Extreme were in the same place. But we weren’t the right people to carry a company twenty years ago, or even ten – and we wouldn’t be right now.
I’m going to be forty one years old this year. I’m a wife and a mother, and a small business owner and a professional writer and editor, and public speaker. In the past twenty years I’ve managed one man to more than sixty professional Championships and several others to a varying number. I’ve worked with the veterans and the rookies, and I’ve always tried to help each of them maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. I’ve written hundreds of columns like this one, I’ve commentated, I’ve been The Boss, and I’ve been The Scapegoat.
More than that, I’ve been able to see the love and passion of talented athletes from the arena floor.
Have I mellowed in the past two decades? My family would probably disagree with the idea. Maybe I have; maybe I’ve gotten soft. Or maybe, and I’d like to think this is the case – I’ve learned when something isn’t my fight. Competition, confrontation, and controversy are all good for business because they draw people to the arena, but it’s best left to those who are actively involved.
I could sit here and write about Lee Best’s crumbling High Octane empire.
I could sit here and fan the rumor mill about discontent in the Legacy of Champions locker room.
I could sit here and speculate on the odds that Castor Strife against Jack Harmen will ever happen.
I could sit here and wax poetic about the machinations of another Ultratitle tournament.
But I won’t. These topics are best left for the wrestlers and personalities still in the game: the ones who can tell a story that will bring the fans to the arena and cause them to rise to their feet. These topics are best left to the next generation: the ones to whom this industry now belongs.
What’s past is prologue; we’re in a new chapter.
It’s up to each of you to pick up the pen and prove your worth.
Twenty years ago, I shouldn’t have succeeded in this industry.
Here’s to the next twenty years.
This is Ivy.