Tales from the Jugular

Be Careful What You Wish For--Expanding Boundaries

By: Eric Compton
Published: Saturday, November 29, 2003
Be Careful What You Wish For...

Recently my wife and I had the pleasure of going out and having ourselves a nice breakfast with some friends of ours. The subject of wrestling was brought up and I was asked which wrestling program I preferred these days. My wife had spoken highly of my vast wrestling knowledge (or so called knowledge) to our friends and they were curious which wrestling programs I cared for.

I explained that yes, at one time I was a huge wrestling junkie but I had since given up the sport. I told them that now, wrestling had lost all direction. It was so far over the top that it had removed itself from what it once was....wrestling for sheer family entertainment. That really got me thinking that afternoon of how closely the demise of wrestling in the USA and the demise of quality metal compare. The two simply go hand in hand. Follow me here....

As an only child growing up in a neighborhood with no other children my age, 80s and 90s wrestling superstars became my best friends. There was nothing like a Saturday night of NWA wrestling. My parents allowed me to go in my room, crank up the volume, and for those two hours submerge myself in good, clean family entertainment. Pro wrestlers such as Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Sting, Barry Windham, and Arn Anderson portrayed good vs evil characters on the battlefield canvas known as the squared circle.

Through the 80s and early 90s, wrestling was wrestling. There was no backstage skits, foul language, nudity, gore, or pointless storylines. It was simply wrestler vs wrestler, doing combinations of body slams, body presses, headlocks, dropkicks, and every other form of mat styled wrestling. I could be watching it with 30 year olds, 16 year olds, and even 5 year olds. It was good honest fun.

But I was wishing for something more.

A wrestling organization called ECW formed in the 90s, and soon I had grown to love their alternative form of wrestling entertainment. They mixed extreme violence, blood, and profanity in an unusual twist on what we had watched for over a decade. As I was growing older, ECW appealed to me. It seemed more adult oriented than good vs evil. It had a certain spark.

That spark seemed to fade over the years however. Big name wrestling companies like WCW (formerly NWA) and WWF figured out how to get more adults watching their TV programs. They decided to use the same tactics that made ECW successful. Suddenly, without warning, we had no alternative. Families had no wrestling programs to watch on Saturday nights. It had all turned into "raw" and crude Monday night TV that was on par with Jerry Springer and Ricki Lake. ECW went out of business and WWF bought every wrestling connection on the planet.

Smaller organizations such as XPW and CZW carried on the same ECW lifestyle, with even more violence and gore than its influences. Wrestling suddenly found itself missing the biggest ingredient....wrestling. It had turned into a soap opera, with sexual overtones, partial nudity, toilet bowl humor, and a foul mouthed cast of characters that would shame the devil. Wrestling was no longer true and honest, and I moved on, keeping a nice place in my heart for those lovable 80s and 90s wrestling superstars that were heroes to children and role models for adults. Good clean wrestling ended for me.

Heavy metal has taken the same path unfortunately. As I was growing up (I got a late start, growing up for me was high school), I loved bands like Maiden, Priest, and Savatage. They were heavy metal heroes, with melodic guitars, smooth operatic vocals, and a huge dose of pure musical talent. Life was great. Then it all decided to change.

About the time that my TV changed from WCW to ECW, true heavy metal changed to dirty, garage noise ala grunge. That particular music style seemed to last forever (some would say it hasn't died). Grunge took the place of hard rock and heavy metal. Nirvana and Pearl Jam replaced metal gods Priest and Maiden. The mainstream left metal. Mostly all of the underground metal stayed where it was, but the big names seemed to disappear.

I started to wish for something more.

The petitions started spreading, the online ballots were cast, and Headbanger's Ball resurfaced on MTV. For years I begged for the show to come back to MTV. For years I begged for good heavy music to finally find its way back. I dreamed of the day when I could turn on MTV and see videos for Iced Earth, Blind Guardian, Grave Digger, Rage, and Jag Panzer. I even went so far with my wishing to ask for heavy metal to come back to the mainstream. I wanted to buy heavy music at the mall. I wanted heavier material on the radio. I sit back and waited for heavier bands like Gamma Ray, Overkill, and Iced Earth to become household names.

Now, 2003 is almost over, and my wishes have come true. Is it everything I asked for? Well..yes. Is this really a good thing....certainly not.

As I type this, a black metal band called Dimmu Borgir is on Headbanger's Ball. I never would have dreamed that this band would be the type of heavy music they had in store for me. I've seen videos for Superjoint Ritual, Korn, Devil Driver, and Lamb Of God so far. This is totally out of scope with my vision of what heavy music on MTV would be. Beyond television, I have my hairdresser telling me how good Arch Enemy is. I have my co-workers telling me how great Disturbed and Kid Rock are. My friends and peers rave about bands like Cattle Decapitation and Dying Fetus. I wished for heavy music and now I'm paying the price.

This is not what I had in mind. I had hoped for the glory days of US and German metal. I wanted to see bands in the same style as Helloween and Accept emerge and become highlighted on radio and television. Instead, I'm getting black and death metal force-fed to me. Rap-core is the main ingredient for every motion picture soundtrack. Heavy music has totally lost its focus, becoming a septic tank of hate filled screams, downtuned guitars, and blast beats. It has gone completely over the top, its totally out of control, its...shall I say "extreme"?

Heavy metal in the US has fallen into the same trap as pro wrestling. It's lost the drive and focus of what it was meant to be. It has wandered from the straight path and found itself in the middle of the wrong crowd. WWF (now called WWE...totally different rant) doesn't have clean-cut storylines anymore. I can't even tell you the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. It's no longer good vs evil. It's no longer about wrestling. Its a dirty, garbage ridden dump that no longer cares who is watching. If they can go over the top just far enough, they may make the late night talk shows.

Heavy metal is in the same dumpster right now. Extreme black metal bands are being pushed to the forefront. Elementary school humor is the focal point for sick, talentless bands like Deicide and Six Feet Under. Perverted visions are being shared by fans of Cradle Of Filth and Cannibal Corpse, this time on a much larger scale. This is what America had in mind as the answer to my wishes.

There is no reason for bands like Dying Fetus, Cattle Decapitation, Dimmu Borgir, and Cradle Of Filth to be the highlight of heavy music in America. It seems that the audience has demanded more and more. It really should have been enough with bands like Slayer and Overkill, keeping the brutality at a nice reasonable pace.

With wrestling of old, it should have been enough to see guys like Raven and Tommy Dreamer battle for ring supremacy through traditional holds and throws. Instead the audience, including me, wanted to see Raven and Dreamer battle in bloody barbwire matches. We wanted it over the top and extreme. We tried to push the envelope so far that it fell over the edge. Now with metal in America we have death metal growls as the preferred vocal choice, corpse paint has replaced KISS makeup, and metal's educating lyrics have been replaced with satanic, blood stained humor that pokes fun at God, Christ, and the world that we live in. Enough is Enough. When do we stop and say its gone too far?

So let me end by simply saying this.

My wishes for a more adult oriented wrestling program has destroyed the very sport for me.

My wishes for more heavier music has ruined the ideals I had in mind for mainstream exposure of metal.

Let this be a lesson to you. Be careful what you wish for....

[Other Maximum Metal Columns]

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