With the future of El Generico suddenly one of the biggest talking points in indie wrestling, I can’t help but think about the shift we’ve seen in the last few years with regard to WWE and their perception of independent talent. The much-talked about indie stigma that radiates off performers with tenures in ROH and elsewhere – the presumption that they don’t know how to work ‘the right way’ or at all – was a WWE hallmark and source for much outrage online for years. This view of independent wrestlers isn’t exclusively theirs of course, as certain fans have also taken to writing off guys who they perceive as inherently small time. Being “too indie” to make it has been a blanket statement on some of the most hopeful talents in recent years, and it was always quite frustrating to hear. While there is undoubtedly a lot of under-trained, heel/face schizophrenics with more flips than sense on the indie scene, it’s also the home of some of the most entertaining and hardest working competitors in the world today.
As 2013 rolls on, I think we’ll see more and more hot properties from the “minor leagues” get scooped up by both TNA and WWE, because it seems ideologies have changed and those in power are more open minded than ever.
TNA has always had something of an open mind with regard to acquisitions from the independent scene. Even as they grew out of their own embryonic indie stages and became a prime-time television entity; several top indie stars were able to make the jump and become TNA regulars with varying degrees of success. While you might lament certain twists and turns his career took, there’s no denying that Samoa Joe has shined with the promotion – making up one half of TNA’s most financially successful matches. With the ascension of Austin Aries in 2012, it’s clear that the company has no problem picking up a potential star with little-to-no ‘big time’ experience and seeing where it takes them.
Famously, or perhaps infamously, WWE has been less open-minded, with a track-record of failures when it comes to making the most of independent talent. Depending on who you ask, it’s often down to self-fulfilling prophecy booking, where talent that is presumed unable to get itself over, is then put in a position to not get over, which therefore proves WWE is right, and everyone else’s philosophy on wrestling is wrong.
There’s been a noticeable shift in recent years though, which has seen the indie stigma abruptly worn away thanks to some of the scene’s most gifted performers overachieving on wrestling’s biggest stage. Following the slow-but-steady acceptance of smaller wrestlers thanks to the likes of Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio, the success of prominent indie stars has seemingly had even the harshest and most powerful critics second guessing their preconceived notions. CM Punk was famously written off as someone who couldn’t work by company officials, who viewed the WWE Champion of 400+ days as an internet darling not worth his weight in kick-pads.
Generico is not your traditional WWE character in terms of look or wrestling style. But should that matter?
Like those held back by the size-issue in years past, the internet’s favourite sons were able to prove their doubters wrong through sheer determination, unmatched talent and, to be honest, a little bit of luck. It’s all well and good acting like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan’s talent would ALWAYS shine through and there was never a chance they would have been prematurely cut; but that’s a glass-half-full fantasy that just isn’t realistic when talking about modern WWE. Sources such as Dave Lagana, who worked in WWE at the time, have noted several instances of Punk coming within a greasy hair of being cut, only to be saved at the last second by one or two very vocal defenders, cashing in their last favour to see the guy get one more chance. But getting that last chance means nothing if you don’t have the ability to back it up. CM Punk more than delivered every time he was given the ball, and even a few times when he wasn’t, and he didn’t rely on message board posts or twitter meltdowns from angry fans when it came to telling management what they had with him – he just showed them. It became impossible to ignore, until we arrived at where we are today. The longest reigning WWE Champion in 25 years feuding with The Rock. And it didn’t matter that he had a swelled ego based on “five star matches” in front of 300 people. It didn’t matter that he was a short, skinny-fat loud-mouth, who didn’t tick even one of WWE’s boxes in the looks department.
Likewise, Daniel Bryan proved his worth not by pointing to a star rating or a ticket advance for a show in an armory on the easy coast, but by going out and proving that he could go with the best of them and connect with a mainstream audience, despite the notion that mainstream audiences aren’t interested in short, pale workhorses.
As bizarre as it might seem, because they certainly have written off a number of talented performers who were not “their own”, there’s almost a twisted logic to WWE’s bias and harsh standards. The cream truly did rise to the top, and as much as we might bemoan their treatment of certain potential stars, two of the biggest underground heroes of wrestling overcame every roadblock to become trusted company assets.
To bring this back around to Generico; the key here is to never say never. If it is announced that he has made the jump, only time will tell what that actually means. When rumours surfaced of WWE’s interest in him a few months ago, I did see a number of people saying he wouldn’t stand a chance there. Not their style of in ring work. Not their type of character. Too skinny. Too pale. Too silly. Too this. Too that. This was frustrating for a number of reasons, not least of which was the fact that this was all said about CM Punk seven years ago. There has never been a better time to be ‘too’ anything in wrestling. I don’t want to sound like Punk and Bryan completely changed the business and a guy like Generico is going to have an easy ride, but right now is as good a time as any for him.
He is one of the most undeniably entertaining wrestlers in the world, and he has the tools to make it. If you’re reading this site, I hope by 2013 you’d agree that being an indie guy is something a performer can wear proudly, and is not a stigma to be shaken off before setting off for the promise land.
Barry is a 21 year old journalism student with a passion for all things wrestling. Like many, it was a childhood interest that never really went away, and in fact only grew as time went on. After becoming more and more disinterested in the 'mainstream' wrestling shows, Barry decided to give independents a chance just a few years ago, after many years of buzz and hype. It was initially CHIKARA Pro that made him a fan, but since then Barry has become an avid follower of PWG, Dragon Gate, ROH, CHIKARA, and many, many more.
We are a collection of fans who just decided to start a website. We all have our favorite INDY promotion, but we also want to bring more attention to those indies you may not have heard of and may enjoy.