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Seinfeld Is Unfunny / Pro Wrestling
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The short version: You pioneer a match concept, wrestling style, finishing move, storyline, character gimmick, etc., on a big stage in professional wrestling, you become iconic for it. Then other people come along and do that same thing better than you, and sooner or later it becomes routine for people to do it better than you, and the fans who came along with the better versions all around them see you one day and start thinking you're not that special because they see better all the time…all the while underestimating the fact that you made this thing get big in the first place.


The long version? See below.

  • Going back to at least 1937, the steel cage match was once promoted as being among the most dangerous matches one could participate in that could shorten a wrestler's career. It seems relatively tame compared to later variations done by Dusty Rhodes, the Memphis territories, Hell in a Cell, War Games, the Elimination Chamber, CZW's Cage Of Death, etc.
  • Accidentally invented by either Jake Roberts or Rick Rude, the DDT was once a devastating maneuver but it is now a standard move so watching an older match end with one stretches fan's willingness to suspend disbelief.
    • Ditto for moves like the Powerbomb, Superplex, Stampeder (running power slam), and — going back even further — the Thesz Press.
      • Several wrestlers who do use old school moves as finishers have their moves hyped up as "special", such as JBL's "Clothesline from Hell', Kevin Nash's Jackknife Powerbomb or Raven's Evenflow DDT.
    • Watching old AWA matches, moves like the clothesline and dropkick were also match enders back in the day.
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  • The Tiger Mask vs. the Dynamite Kid series in the early '80s seems slow-paced and short by modern standards. At the time, those matches more or less established the notion of "high-flying" wrestlers.
  • Back in the 1980s, even title matches were considerably shorter than they are today (Hulk Hogan's famous victory over The Iron Sheik, for example, was barely five minutes long!) and were filmed in long shot, making you feel that you were actually in the arena, thus causing the novelty of watching a wrestling match at home on TV to come off as rather pointless. Add in the general lack of music, pyrotechnics, and so forth, and modern-day fans might think they're watching a Stylistic Suck!
    • This isn't universally true; Hogan title matches were short, but there were many long matches in the early days (especially at the arena shows). One of the WWWF (now WWE)'s early huge gates was a Shea Stadium show headlined by a rare babyface vs. babyface match. Bruno Sammartino and Pedro Morales went to a 75-minute draw. Also most television matches weren't filmed at the arena (WWWF was a rarity in that regard), but rather at local television studios, and featured quite a bit of camera play. Most of the "so forth" associated with modern TV wrestling was actually invented by the Von Erich Family in Dallas. In 1982.
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  • Unless they go back and watch the 1980s stuff first, today's fans may never truly appreciate how game-changing a figure The Undertaker was. Debuting in 1990 right on the heels of a decade in which pro wrestling's style had been almost without exception family-friendly, colorful, and even corny, the sight of a seven-foot-tall, pale-skinned mute all in black who sought not only to defeat his opponents but to kill them (along with Paul Bearer and the "Dark Side" ring entrance theme, which was a lot more minimalist and less elegiac in the beginning, and thus creepier) was genuinely terrifying. Newer fans who may remember 'Taker as a blues-loving biker in the early 2000s might have a hard time picturing 'Taker's original image.
  • The 1992 Royal Rumble. While old school wrestling fans often consider it the best rumble for its ingenious and revolutionary booking of Ric Flair, these days, someone is booked to survive for almost the entire duration of the match in pretty much every single Rumble, and the match suffers from a notable lack of spots that modern day wrestling fans would expect.
  • The ladder match became big to audiences in the 50 states at WrestleMania X. It was very exciting and revolutionary for its time. Fans from the same region who grew up watching TLC matches may find this match boring. (Of course, Canada, the UK and others had been seeing ladder matches for nearly two decades by that point and may have already come to that conclusion).
  • Fans of WWE's Ruthless Aggression Era got used to seeing main-event wrestlers - Eddie Guerrero, Edge, CM Punk - who don't have muscles on top of muscles. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels paved the way for all of them. Nether were small men by any means (both 6-foot-1 and light heavyweights, which is still bigger than most American males), but they were frequently dwarfed by other "main event" opponents more often than not. It's hard to appreciate just how much of a big deal it was for Hart to become a three-time WWE Champion and then for Michaels to become the second (after Hulk Hogan) back-to-back Royal Rumble Match winner (and from the first-entrant position one of those times, no less!) and to defeat Hart clean for the WWE Championship in one of the longest WrestleMania matches ever at WrestleMania XII. Hard to believe now, but there was a time when people actually doubted the "Heart Break Kid."
    • And even this is nothing new. Smaller wrestlers have always had a more difficult time getting over in the US. Antonino Rocca and Bob Backlund were the exceptions rather than the rule. The only difference is the WWF took the big/muscular wrestler concept Up to Eleven by encouraging 'roided freaks so the difference between the bigger and smaller wrestlers was now that much more distinct.
  • The Montreal Screwjob, and the fierce personal/professional rivalry between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels that led to it. Nowadays (in large part due to the decline of kayfabe, something the Screwjob played a heavy role in) title belts are mostly seen as props, and the idea of a legitimate rivalry over one would seem ludicrous. At the time, almost all WWF Champions had been the company's top baby face, and had held their belts for considerable lengths of time.
    • This event jumpstarted the WWF's Attitude Era and led to all sorts of norms being thrown out the window. Examples include Degeneration X's antics, the fact that near nudity was on display, and the continued battle between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon.
      • In fact, it was Vince McMahon that appeared to change the outcome of Bret Hart's final WWF match when the alleged finish was to be a disqualification. So naturally, Vince was the one to be the evil boss.
    • Perhaps the wrestler that defined the era was Mick Foley as he singlehandedly created the entire WWF hard-core division.
  • Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka famous splashing of Don Muraco from the top of a cage. An iconic Moment of Awesome for wrestling in 1983 and for years afterward. Several wrestlers note it as the moment that inspired them to get into the business. By today's standards, it looks like just another highspot.
  • Also common among lucha libre and cruiserweight wrestlers. As the style becomes more popular, more wrestles add more flippy stuff.
  • Speaking of the '96 Bash at the Beach, that show featured the now legendary "third man of the Outsiders" angle. (It was Hulk Hogan.) Watching that match today, in retrospect, you can see the supposed shocking swerve coming a mile away. This is probably because TNA now stages similar last-minute betrayals on a more or less regular basis.
  • Sabu these days is known more for screwing up his moves all the time despite nearly every major wrestling show from 1996 to 2012 copying them, often without credit.
  • The famous King of the Ring 1998 Hell in a Cell between the Undertaker and Mankind. Some fans conditioned to high-risk matches post-2000 view it as a two-bump spotfest, which would be missing the point of why it's famous. This was a time before TLC, et al. had opened up the WWE to potentially life-risking maneuvers, so a wrestler being thrown off the Cell through the announcer's table was truly mind-blowing (Shawn Michaels did a similar spot in the very first HIAC, but he was dangling off the cage and had a lot more control over where he was going). With that bump, it was assumed (correctly) that Mick Foley had done great harm to his body, which had Jim Ross apologizing that the match was being called off, only for Foley to get back up and continue, which culminated with Foley taking another breath-catching (unplanned!) bump through the cage (with a chair falling on Foley's face, knocking out his tooth). And yet he continued, with Jim Ross voicing legitimate concern to Foley's well-being and pleading for the match to end. The match was no longer a traditional bout, but a spectacular peek at what a wrestler was willing to put himself through for the entertainment of the fans, something that has been dulled away years later by other matches aping a formula that was born out of almost inhuman pain tolerance.
    • Even in The Attitude Era, few wrestlers would go to the insane lengths that Mick Foley was willing to go sell a match. The concept has been used up and most wrestlers won't make use of the cage in such ways anymore.This only serves to demonstrate how legendary Foley was.
  • The brawling-based "Main Event" style used by WWE. While trite and cliche now, and though its origins can be traced back to Bruiser Brody's then innovative style in the 70s, when WWE first began really using it in 1998 - primarily to cover for "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's neck injury - it was seen as revolutionary for allowing the sub-par wrestlers to have fast-paced, action-packed matches that the likes of smaller, more agile wrestlers like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels managed in early years.
  • Sable gets put down for being a Faux Action Girl (she had it written into her contract that she couldn't take front bumps at all for fear of damaging her implants, and she didn't bump much at all) and not as tough as today's Divas, as well as being, by all accounts, a Nice Character, Mean Actor who just used wrestling to get famous. Well, you have to understand that when she made her debut in WWE in the mid-1990s, the women's division had almost completely disappeared and it was rare to see females doing anything in the ring. The most famous Diva pre-Attitude Era, Sunny, was a manager who hardly wrestled at all. Sable also was a pioneer in proving that female wrestlers could be both blonde sex symbols and physical powerhouses. Jacqueline was WWE's first choice for new champion too, but Sable was popular enough for them to change their minds.
  • The New World Order was a breath of fresh air in an industry that had previously been dominated with cheesy storylines and cartoonish supermen and kickstarted a second wrestling boom that was even bigger than the previous one. As wrestling fans got older, pro wrestling's fakeness became widely accepted and peoples' tastes began to change, the nWo was revolutionary because it felt very realistic and edgy. So realistic that a few locals called 911 during one of their beat downs because they believed it was a real assault! However, every heel faction that has appeared in wrestling since has ripped off the nWo in some form or fashion, so it can be difficult for modern wrestling fans to see why the black and white clad street thugs who trashed the environment, beat up their adversaries and spray painted their bodies became so popular. By the time 2002 rolled around, the nWo was revived in the WWE, but fans weren't interested and it quickly died off.
  • Trish Stratus was a huge success story during her career — WWE had brought in Sable as a valet in 1996 and she had a brief run with the revived WWE Women's Title before her ego took over and she made herself Persona Non Grata, but Trish herself was the first (in WWE at least) to develop onscreen from an eye candy valet with patchy mic skills to a charismatic star who is now regarded as one of the best female wrestlers in North America. Between 2005 and 2014 at least 60% of the women's division in WWE (and some of TNA's roster too) were made up of former models brought in and trained to wrestle in the hopes of replicating Trish's success, and nearly all of them failed to even get a fraction of Trish's popularity.
  • At the time of her debut in WWE, Lita's style of wrestling was very innovative for American female wrestlers at the time as moves such as headscissors, hurricanranas, and moonsaults were barely used by women in WWE (there were plenty of high-flying women in Japan, though). These days (see the Trish example above) due to having to work extremely short matches all the time, the models brought in by WWE often learned flashy moves like hurricanranas to make their matches appear more exciting and cover up their lack of wrestling ability. If the models are former gymnasts this can work fine and they eventually develop into competent wrestlers (Eve Torres, Kelly Kelly) or they can just come across as sloppy spot monkeys (Ashley Massaro). When watching a WWE divas match, if a girl is doing only flashy moves and throwing weak punches and clotheslines then she hasn't been wrestling that long. If there's proper groundwork and chain work in there, she's a lot more experienced. These days moves such as moonsaults and hurricanranas are more staples of women's wrestling these days than men's in WWE at least due to the retirement of the Cruiserweight division.
  • This effect can also taint angles, gimmicks or gimmick matches, that have since been copied or recycled as per the seven year rule, or simply because those events have lost the context for what made them work so well at the time. Austin joining forces with Vince McMahon at Wrestlemania X-7 is far less of a shocking moment for viewers who are used to that kind of Shocking Swerve happening all the time in wrestling. And some of the baby faces of the '80s would likely be considered bland and without personality by modern standards, because clean-cut good guys were hugely popular in the '80s, whereas these days that's the sign of a Jobber with no gimmick.
  • Compared to most of today's Divas, the in-ring efforts of Stacy Keibler look pretty unimpressive. But she was a graduate, along with her friend Torrie Wilson, of WCW's famously grueling "Power Plant", and she helped pave the way for slightly-built women to be taken seriously as wrestlers. Kelly Kelly and the Bella Twins are arguably her Spiritual Successors.
  • Speaking of the Divas wrestling, the way the division was from late 2001 until mid 2004 was hugely groundbreaking. American women's wrestling had not been as competitive or hard-hitting since the early 90s. For the first time in WWE in ages, women who could wrestle (and wrestle well) were being given competitive matches, storylines, characters and feuds. By the late 2000s there were a whole slew of all-female promotions, SHIMMER and WSU being the first in the 50 states to find longevity, that enabled women wrestlers to shine in an unironic way. These promotions considered healthy alternatives to WWE's Divas actually owe much of their existence to the success of the division in the days of Trish Stratus and Lita. Sure, the promoters of SHIMMER may have been building off of earlier independent efforts, such as ChickFight or Volcano Girls but aside from the wrestlers and fans at said events hardly anyone else involved with SHIMMER knew that until after the fact. So a lot of the 2000s to 10s WWE matches pale in comparison to what the SHIMMER women do, but those WWE matches were also what convinced American crowds that women could go just as hard as the men. In the case of the fans, the general drop of quality WWE's women's matches actually pushed them to search for alternatives, as the knowledge better could be done was still fresh in their minds.
  • Many women wrestlers active between 1995-2001 in the USA are often dismissed, while shows popular in 2002, such as Women's Extreme Wrestling, are derided as "smut" or such by fans who didn't know the rarity of seeing a woman in a good match for those 6-7 years. Dial up internet, no pay pals, no DVD sets, staple independent events not existing (no ChickFight, ect). Some wrestlers from this period eventually got more recognition in WWF's more serious women's division, SHIMMER, WSU and such but just how significant they were to the survival of women's wrestling in the country is usually lost on viewers when they find their earlier efforts online or on DVD. April Hunter is sometimes accused of "accomplishing nothing" or has fans insisting her presence added nothing to events but at a time there was a fan movement to get her hired by the WWF.note 
  • German Stampede, wXw, Aja Kong's ARSION, AJW, Zero 1 and the like sending personal invitations to rookie indie wrestlers wrestling in front of crowds of two dozen in boondocks of the USA seems a little strange with the establishment of Ring of Honor, TNA, Chikara and so on but for a time, between the WWF's general isolationism and the financial mismanagement of WCW and ECW causing them to go under, that was among the only ways to get American talent. In vindication, Samoa Joe, Cheerleader Melissa, Sara Del Rey, Amazing Kong, Frankie Kazarian, London and Kendrick and many others would go on to be great but Low Ki and Bryan Danielson were still derided for "wrestling in gyms in front of 40 people" on WWE contest show NXT, where it was insisted they were only popular with internet nerds and would "sink and drown in the big leagues" even though they were light years ahead of everyone else on the show (many of whom had also wrestled in "minor leagues" without becoming popular with the so called internet nerds).
  • Another involving Low Ki and Samoa Joe that ROH itself admitted was their fight without honor. While it is still a good match, fans were still used to seeing strict enforcement regarding the Code of Honor, so two wrestlers simply not shaking hands was always a big deal, and wrestlers not having to fear dismissal due to disqualification very intriguing. Latter fights happened during the times the code was no longer enforced or done away with entirely for every match and thus were much more violent.
  • Addressed in this article with regards to Candice Michelle. Similar to Trish Stratus, WWE had buried its women's division and released most of its actual wrestlers. They brought in various models to be characters on TV and there were very few active wrestlers left. Candice was one such model that put in the work to improve her wrestling. Critics and fans were heaping praise on her for it. Watching her matches back now makes her come across as rather average in the ring but back in 2007, fans were shocked that a Diva Search contestant could evolve into a competent wrestler. This became old hat one year on as the article points out - Michelle McCool, Layla, Kelly Kelly, Maryse (and eventually Eve Torres who came along a little later) had also progressed in the ring and were outperforming Candice greatly.
  • Ric Flair. For anyone born after about 1980, Flair was the ancient, balding goof who could barely wrestle and would just chest-chop and eye-poke his opponents the whole match before finally slapping on the figure-four leglock at the end (which he almost never actually won a match with). Unless they grew up on WCW and saw all his battles with Sting and the second incarnation of the Horsemen. Even in WWE, Flair managed to pull off classics every now and then. He fought Triple H in a brutal cage match at the 2005 Taboo Tuesday, and Edge in a TLC match for the World Title on Raw. Completely subverted during his retirement match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24 when Flair suddenly seemed to wind back the clock twenty years and busted out moves that he hadn't used in decades.
    • One note about Flair, he was great on the mic, which is a talent most wrestlers must have to succeed. Before Flair, most wrestlers were expected to do their work in the ring.
  • Zack Ryder was best known as one of the first wrestlers to ever get a push solely by riding through internet popularity. Nowadays, the "Ryder Revolution" hardly stands out as Daniel Bryan evoked this to a much greater extent two years later.
  • Three MB. A trio of clowny heels? Funny and a gem to watch at the time. In this new day of wrestling? It comes off as rather lame.
  • Degeneration-X is this, arguably. When they first hit the scene in 97 with their chants of "Suck it!" and loads of sexual innuendo, it was quite cutting edge and racy at the time. Soon after came pimps, pornstars incest, necrophilia, live sex shows etc etc etc, the group, particularly the first incarnation, come off as pretty tame and some might not realize how revolutionary they were.
  • With Wrestlemania now being held exclusively in large stadiums, WM3 at the Pontiac Silverdome may not seem like as much a big deal today as it was back then.

Alternative Title(s): Professional Wrestling