On the October 21st edition of AEW Dynamite, Chris Jericho and MJF turned the pro wrestling world upside down with one of the most unique segments done in recent memory. In the vignette, teased the previous week, the pair sat down for a steak dinner (dubbed #LeDinnerDebonair). The segment started with Jericho and MJF trying to one-up the other by changing their order and ended with them singing a parody version of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.’s “Me and My Shadow”.
— All Elite Wrestling on TNT (@AEWonTNT) October 22, 2020
While the creative vignette got its fair share of praise from fans and those in the business alike, many reacted negatively. Some called it “corny” and “embarrassing”. Others pointed out that AEW promised to be “sports based” and was disappointed by the over-the-top comedy.
Welp. So much for sports based wrestling. This now is just tnt’s version of wwe.
— Santo 🇲🇽 (@HectorSant0) October 22, 2020
One of the most beloved eras of wrestling was the Attitude Era, which took place during the mid-to-late nineties. Many fans have begged for its return, clamoring for more edgy and unpredictable content. Pro wrestling fans, like anyone, want to feel emotionally invested in the product, They recall moments such as the Stone Cold/McMahon feud and the intense matches between the Undertaker and Kane. They wish for the return of something similar. However, if pro wrestling fans were to remove their rose-tented glasses of nostalgia, they would remember that in between these hair raising moments, the comedic relief was at large and widely accepted.
One example of this can be found on an episode of Monday Night Raw that took place on September 27, 1999. This was the famous “This is Your Life, Rock” segment featuring Mick Foley and The Rock. Foley, believing it was Rock’s birthday, tried to surprise him by bringing in some “characters” from The Great One’s past. When the plan backfired, Foley revealed a clown to sing “Happy Birthday” to his tag-team partner. However, it wasn’t Rock’s birthday after all and he gave both the clown and Foley a Rock Bottom. This segment pulled a whopping 8.39 rating, one of the largest in the show’s history.
So what happened? Why did pro wrestling fans react positively to comedic angles back then, yet object them now? It is not only the younger viewers who reject these segments now, many who were alive during the eighties and nineties that watched and enjoyed them in real time hate today’s comedy as well.
One might say the answer is because of two things: one, the birth of social media. Two, people, pro wrestling fans in particular, don’t allow themselves to enjoy things anymore.
During the golden age of kayfabe, the audience believed in the reality of the characters and performers. We believed Steve Austin hated his boss. We took it personally when Hulk Hogan turned his back on everyone and joined the NWO. Today, kayfabe is dead. The curtain between backstage dealings and the audience has been ripped down. Not only can you find leaked stories and predictions on what is going to happen on future shows, wrestlers and performers themselves often break character on their own social media platforms and in sit-down interviews.
This has also lead to other forms of media such as reactive podcasts. On these shows, fans listen to either peers or talents react to the product and express their opinion on it. While there is nothing wrong with these shows (I watch them myself), they do begin to train one’s brain on how they may perceive the product. Fans today no longer watch to enjoy themselves and be entertained. They watch to over-analyze and react on social media.
“Fans today no longer watch to enjoy themselves and be entertained. They watch to over-analyze and react on social media.”
While it is good that everyone wants to be emotionally invested in the product they are consuming, comedic relief has a place as well. No one can sit and watch Saving Private Ryan on repeat. At one point, people want to have a good time and watch Grown Ups as well.
Chris Jericho and MJF’s #LeDinnerDebonair was over-the-top, corny, and silly. It was also enjoyable and extremely entertaining. If we all ease up on scrutinizing the product, we may just enjoy pro wrestling like we did in the golden days.
— Maxwell Jacob Friedman™️ (@The_MJF) October 22, 2020