Hey, since I am just getting back from Memphis, I thought I would pull the strap down and drop the fist in one of the more inane memes in wrestling fandom: "the professional wrestling business has always been and always will be cyclical."
This is wrong on so many levels.
1) And most obviously – the professional wrestling business has not "always been cyclical" because, it has not "always been". It might be 100 years old, at best, the territory system more like 70 years old, and it died out; the modern wrestling era is not quite 30 years old; it’s been around a decade since the end of the Attitude era, which is gone. It’s not anything like saying sunspots or the precession of the equinoxes are cyclical, but people say it with same decree of certainty.
2) At best, people make statistical generalizations based on maybe two data points and call that a trend. It’s not. The professional wrestling business may be down for good. I don’t know, and neither does anyone else.
3) Game changers. For years, a certain segment of the audience thought wrestling was not staged. Like professional magicians when they show how their tricks work, once pro wrestling broke kayfabe it may have been only a matter of time before they lost audience, or, were left with the only segment of the population who still believes – kids. Another game changer is MMA. Why watch staged violence when you can see the real thing, particularly one that has learned a lot from wrestling as to how to stage events?
4) Divergence of audience tastes. When Austin caught fire, virtually everyone liked him. These days, that is virtually impossible, because adult men like certain wrestlers (in general, there are exceptions) while women & children like other wrestlers (like John Cena). People who say "no one likes John Cena" aren’t listening to over half the audience, apparently because of the higher pitch if their voices. Women and kids like the more traditional baby faces, guys like cool heels, and that may not change, or it may, I don’t know.
The upshot is, wrestling had a few cycles during it’s brief history as we know it (it has existed in barely related forms for ages, if one wants to go there), but there have been one-time changes that may have changed that business for ever (breaking kayfabe and MMA) and changes in tastes that have made a universal baby face character hard to achieve anymore. It’s very possible that the only cycle we will see from now on is one where WWE reaches Impact Wrestling levels of cultural irrelevance.
Couldn’t have said it better.