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Jim Cornette’s philosophy on pro wrestling is hindering its growth

Cornette’s ideas are based on an older understanding of what wrestling was and an inability to understand what it has become.

While Jim Cornette is a fairly small part of the wrestling community, is a polarizing one. He is extremely vulgar and shrouds himself in a shock-jock persona — to put it simply, he enjoys “triggering snowflakes.” He is well known for making off-handed, casually racist jokes and snide, sexist remarks, something I do want to address in the near future. But today I wish to focus on Cornette’s views on wrestling itself — what exactly they are, how they fit into today’s dialogue about pro wrestling, and why is it not helping anyone.

So what does he think of the modern state of pro wrestling? Well, for one, he doesn’t believe it should be called “pro wrestling” anymore. For Jim, that term has a very specific definition: a staged competition made to look as believable as possible where the audience is unaware that it is fake. The key here being that it needs to be as realistic as possible because the audience needs to actually believe it is a real sport.

To quote Jim:

“Once everyone had it beaten into them that this was all a work, there’s really no reason to do this. There is no reason for professional wrestling to happen other than if you are trying to convince people who are skeptical. If you are playing it straight and trying to present a contest, that is the reason for professional wrestling. It doesn’t make sense any other way, to be honest”.

For Jim, the main driving force of wrestling is that there should as little suspension of disbelief as possible. In fact, the very purpose of pro wrestling is to legitimately work people, to trick them into believing it is a real sport. Whenever he talks about wrestling nowadays though, there is sincere confusion as to why people like it.

“The whole concept of professional wrestling was two guys are going to have a fight, they’re going to work it…. so you believe that they are really fighting, and you’re going to buy a ticket to see who is going to f*cking win because you care. All of that is gone… I do not see why we have professional wrestling today. I don’t see why anybody f*cking does it or why anybody f*cking watches it…. now that that is gone, I don’t know why there is a wrestling industry, I don’t know why anyone would want to be a wrestler, I don’t know know anyone wants to buy tickets to see wrestling, I don’t see why any of this is happening.

He thinks that anyone who goes to see wrestling nowadays is stupid. In this rant (linked at its start) he tries to explain why people who believed and bought into pro wrestling back in the day were not stupid, and the ones who buy tickets today for something they know is staged are the actual idiots (for what it’s worth I don’t think either groups were stupid, just working with the information they had available to them). Cornette’s opinion devolves down into the basic, most common argument made against pro wrestling that I hear from people: “it’s fake, why do you watch it?” An argument which every person on the internet has addressed (I’ve even briefly touched on it). The typical response is, in short, wrestling is fake, but so are plays and movies and TV shows. Wrestling has become theater, it’s not a sport.

Picture from Chikara Wrestling. If you have never watched it, do yourself a favor and go YouTube it now. It is hilarious. And something Jim absolutely hates.

Jim often counters the argument “it’s ok for people to know it’s fake because you can enjoy it as theater” by claiming “you can’t enjoy a magician if you know their secret” as if there is a 1 to 1 correlation here. Which, there isn’t… like, at all. Wrestlers are less like magicians and much more like actors or performers at Cirque du Solei — I may know how most wrestling moves are done, but I sure can’t do them myself. What interests me is seeing those moves done well and done in such a way that tells a story I can lose myself in.

For Jim’s analogy to even sort of work, magicians would have to not only never reveal their secrets, but tell people every day that they were really performing actual magic and actively hurl insults at anyone who dare expose any of their secrets.

But that is what Jim does. He deems anyone as doing anything which portrays wrestling as fake as terrible and hurting the industry. Yet, he also acknowledges that there is no going back at this point, and that you cannot “put the taste paste back in the tube” when it comes to making people believe kayfabe. So, for Jim, pro wrestling is now dead (since everyone knows it isn’t real) and there should be no attempt to adjust accordingly, no evolution or attempt to readjust.

Now… I don’t know Jim personally, but my suspicion is that he doesn’t actually have too coherent of an overall view when it comes to modern wrestling. He just knows he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t want to try to understand it, and he’s going to make sure everyone knows just how mad he is about it. There is very little actual discernment in his reviews of matches, simply unbridled anger.

For instance, Jim’s recent review of Nick vs Fenix from the November 20th episode of AEW Dynamite is a good example (If I linked a longer review we would be here all day) of him just not just misunderstanding modern wrestling, but seemingly making some bad faith points as well, purposefully ignoring things. He mostly complains about the style — I understand if the Young Bucks and the Lucha Bros aren’t your cup of tea, but rather than it being a preference thing, his rationale is based on what he deems an objective truth that you need absolute realism in wrestling.

A superkick from Fenix. Cornette is not a fan of the kicks which are super, preferring instead kicks which are decent or mediocre at best.

He then goes on to claim there is no story in the match and no nuance because there was no clear face and no clear heel. He seems to be mad that the wrestlers didn’t have the nuance of a morality play.

The truth was there was a self-contained story within the match itself of Fenix not needing to rely on his partner while Nick Jackson does. The match also fits into the overall narrative of The Elite slowly spiraling downwards as they go from cocksure superstars to a group in turmoil. But again, Jim either ignored that or is too blinded by his own bias and only sees what he wants to. He himself has said that not every match needs a story. But it’s obvious he doesn’t care about looking at this from a point of view where he tries to understand something, and instead goes into things with his mind already made up.

Now, all this being said, you may ask, why does this matter? He’s just another Grandpa Simpson yelling at clouds. Unfortunately, Jim Cornette is a constant in the wrestling community. He has a fair amount of YouTube followers, he appears on Vice documentaries, and will occasionally pop up in promotions. Furthermore, he is not alone in this opinion. A vocal subsection of the wrestling community have similar views to Cornette and usually rally behind him.

If Cornette had his way, wrestling would be completely dead — after all, you can’t un-kill kayfabe. He’s not able to fool anyone, and if he can’t do that, then he doesn’t want anyone to enjoy it. I don’t think that Cornette will win this fight whatsoever, but he does hamper wrestling’s necessary evolution from pseudo-sport to being able to realize its full potential as a unique and interesting medium for telling stories.

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