Monday, September 6, 2010

And he said: Let There Be Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist...And There Was.

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi

Six months ago, I was the Content Director of a pretty solid (many would disagree) pro wrestling website known as The Wrestling Daily. I made a decision to walk away from that operation (a decision I stand by to this day) after what could be described loosely as a falling out with the people I founded the website with. It was something stronger than a falling out; Chernobyl, Hurricane Katrina and the Valdez oil spill come to mind when I think of how TWD ended.

I left TWD a tired, frustrated and exhausted young man that had put damn near all of his creative energy into the endeavor for its duration. In the days following the collapse, I spent quite a lot of time examining what the hell happened and what lessons could be taken from the whole ordeal.

Dave Meltzer, the king of this particular genre of journalism, set a high standard with a level of passion that is frankly difficult for even the most obsessed professional wrestling fans to match, and a dedication to his craft that is quite honestly admirable. I may not agree with Meltzer on some of his viewpoints, but I can tell you that I respect the man; he’s made himself quite a nice living covering this pro wrestling thing, and his success has created a “community” of people that would love to make their own living talking about something as fun as professional wrestling.

Making a living covering pro wrestling isn’t exactly easy, which was something I found out six months ago. I never had any illusions about it being easy in the first place, but I had no idea that it would be that hard. I gained a real understanding of the sort of hours Meltzer had to put into his empire to make it not only viable, but wildly successful. The four of us invested as much of our energy and time into TWD as we possibly could, and even that wasn’t enough. Make no mistake about it; many of the pro wrestling websites that a number of you read are citing Meltzer and his Observer as a source for a reason. Meltzer had a vision and virtually made his vision his life; that made him the man and the Observer the standard.

This is not an article about Dave Meltzer, however, and there is a reason that I bring him up, and it certainly has nothing to do with publicity; he doesn’t need me for that. In the six months since the end of The Wrestling Daily, I’ve made a lot of changes in my life personally and professionally. I’ve lost over 75 lbs, I’ve taken on two jobs that pay me fairly well, I’ve moved with my wife to a place of our very own, and I have adopted what can basically be described as a “Straight Edge” lifestyle. I set aside time each and every single week to read the newspaper and a book of my choosing (presently I’m reading Americana by Don DeLillo, if anyone is interested), and maintain a blog.

I lead a pretty disciplined lifestyle these days, a drastic change over the sort of lifestyle I had roughly a year ago when TWD was founded by three guys with an awful lot of energy and passion, but not a terribly detailed blueprint and virtually zero experience. Despite the newfound discipline in my life, one thing hasn’t changed; I still love professional wrestling.

Go ahead; heckle me for me loving something "fake." While you are at it, heckle anyone that’s ever watched an episode of House, read Crime and Punishment, attended Cats, played Modern Warfare or farmed on Facebook. No, this reply doesn’t limit itself to the examples listed, it applies to any and all examples of any sort of fictional entertainment you could possibly think of, especially Jersey Shore (I expect an angry letter from Mike Cranwell).

Even with all of the changes in my life, I still find time for professional wrestling and still enjoy a great discussion about it. I miss having that outlet, a place where real, thoughtful discussion about professional wrestling can occur. The Internet is littered with websites that engage in ESPN-like small talk on professional wrestling…you know, the sort of websites that fill space with arbitrary lists in an attempt to generate cheap discussion (*cough* small talk *cough), book fantasy cards that demonstrate the way they would book things (a completely useless practice that people who don’t have the balls to pursue professional wrestling engage in), and fill their news pages with dozens of news blurbs that are derived from the news blurbs of other websites.

It frustrates me that there is no place on the Internet where someone can just log on and simply be a fan of professional wrestling. It burns me that so many websites do nothing but feed the stereotype of professional wrestling fans having IQ’s equivalent to ceramic tile. It angers me that so many websites use professional wrestling as a sideshow attraction and a method to earn a few extra hits. It infuriates me that everywhere you go to read up on professional wrestling, you’re bombarded with spoilers and unfounded rumors (some of which are nothing more than the workers working the marks).

Enter: Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist

I don’t remember exactly when this occurred, but I placed a phone call while driving home in the rain one evening to a man that I hadn’t spoken with for sometime. That phone call led to another individual I hadn't spoken with in a while sending me an e-mail. That individual then followed up with a phone call. That discussion led to a brainstorm….and that brainstorm was Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist.

But what is Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist? In the words of one of my PWZ colleagues, “Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist celebrates the spirit and essence of our favorite sport and spectacle. As lifelong enthusiasts and aficionados, we regard pro wrestling as a transcendent form of theatrical entertainment that reflects the dominant themes and attitudes of our time. PWZ blends analysis, opinion and humor to convey our appreciation for wrestling as both art and entertainment.”

PWZ is going to be a mostly (e-mail me at holtleblanc@yahoo.com for more details), open website that offers the passionate fans of professional wrestling an opportunity to exercise their freedom of speech on professional wrestling of any kind or sort. We’re giving you the opportunity to say what you’ve got to say in a thoughtful manner on professional wrestling. There are a few standards that need to be met (no unnecessary cursing and slurs of any sort, you must edit your own work or we won’t post it, and we’d like it to at least be about a page long), but otherwise you’ve got free reign to discuss anything under the professional wrestling sun, whether it’s history, the present, the future, Lucha libre, an indy promotion or Puro, It’s all fair game…all. You won’t get any interference from us.

There will, of course, also be our writing as well. But who, you’re probably asking, is the “our,” or rather who are the mystery guys that have joined me in making this project possible? A couple of old friends…

Enter: Mike Bessler and Adam Testa.

We’ve had our differences and arguments, some of them quite intense as you might know. To all those who worked with and frequented TWD, I apologize for the fact that we were not able to make that endeavor work and that our collective inexperience contributed to a disastrous meltdown. I recognize that those of you who worked with us busted your ass to make that place go, and frankly I believe your voice and intellectual contributions deserve the chance to be seen publicly.

I have no aims, and neither do Adam and Mike, to try and make a living out of this. If it so happens that this makes a lot of money, so be it. If it were to make a lot of money, I’d like to donate proceeds to a worthy cause (think the All Children’s Hospital in Tampa, The Moffitt Cancer center in Tampa, or St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital). Frankly, we just want a no strings attached outlet for professional wrestling fans on the Internet, one that is completely different from standard professional wrestling website. I don’t want to be the next Dave Meltzer, nor do any of us, but we do want to build a sort of pro wrestling coffee shop-esque think tank, or at least that’s the vision I have in my head.

There are some out there that are likely going to be shocked, even maybe angered, dismayed or disappointed, that I’ve chosen to form this “alliance” with Mike and Adam in another Internet endeavor. There are others who might be concerned that three of the people that ran TWD are running another website, and that doom is soon to follow. There will be some that feel that this is nothing more than an attempt at capturing or re-capturing whatever TWD may have been.

Some of you may have valid reasons for feeling that way, and I’ll be honest with you…we blew it. Bessler, Testa, Ray Bogusz and I…we all blew it. Between the four of us, we couldn’t make it work. Regardless of whatever philosophies or ideologies we have, we failed. Mistakes were made and in hindsight, after many hours of thought, I have a fairly strong grasp on how it all unraveled and why certain things happened the way that they did….and the lessons have been learned.

TWD is dead…it’s gone and buried and the final chapter on that has been written….it failed. What’s done is done and the past is what it is, but I see no reason that we cannot move on and merely be passionate fans of professional wrestling…no politics, no strings attached, no business motivated decisions or anything of the sort.

We’re not here to create a site in our own image…PWZ will be whatever all of US collectively make of it, and there are no ideological limitations. What better way to start than by rebuilding the burnt bridges of the past?

-Jason Le Blanc


With respect to the events of the past, there are any number of clich├ęs and euphemisms that we might easily apply: It’s water under the bridge; there’s no use crying over spilled milk; it’s better to have loved and lost…blah, blah, blah. The fact is, we had a good thing going for a while but there were a few things that just weren’t working. I think we all wish things would have turned out differently and I am sure each one of us would handle some things quite differently if we could do it over again. For my part, I sure wish I hadn’t disappointed the people who really enjoyed what we were doing. But learning from mistakes and moving forward is far more productive than wishing the days away. So that’s what PWZ is all about for us.

This probably sounds hokey but Jason and I have had a real “synergy” from the very first time we ever connected. I asked him to borrow one of his catch phrases for something I was working on and from there we were trading ideas and “riffing” at every available opportunity. Adam and I haven’t worked together as long but we have genuine respect and appreciation for each other and that goes a long way, for sure. We’ve learned a lot about what works for us, both as individuals and collectively. Moreover, we’re at a place where we can put it all together and offer some insight and creativity that’s unique, interesting and entertaining.

Some philosophers and logicians have famously struggled with the “zeitgeist,” viewing the very concept with contempt and distain. To some, it’s a threatening reality that the world around us evolves through time, in line with the lessons of history and the realities of the present. PWZ embraces the “spirit of the times” and applies this very spirit to our celebration of our favorite spectacle. Whether it’s “old school” territory shows, Japanese Puro, hardcore and extreme, or even the dreaded “sports entertainment,” it’s all pro wrestling and it’s all good to us.

-Mike Bessler

"The birth of Pro Wrestling Zeitgeist represents a true milestone in the history of the United States, ranked somewhere between the passing of the 19th Amendment and the impeachment of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich," Testa said.

"Wait, that's not true at all," he continued. "Don't quote me on that. Use that line instead: 'It is with great honor and privilege that I welcome everyone to this newfound home of the best mix of professional wrestling and sarcasm that you'll find on the Internet.' Yeah, that sounds much better."

Testa brings countless years of professional journalism experience (okay, fine, it's only been three) to PWZ. During the day, and often night, Testa works as a reporter at The Southern Illinoisan newspaper in Carbondale, Ill., where he writes about things like juggalos and politicians (as if there's a difference).

Testa also writes for The Wrestling Press, a digital professional wrestling magazine based of the United Kingdom, and previously served as the marketing director for some other website that's name escapes him at the moment.

True to his journalistic nature, Testa simply refuses to reveal the identity of the Zeitgeist. No amount of pressure can force him to reveal this information. (Hint: Trying offering him a Klondike bar.)

"In all seriousness, I'm excited to get the band back together," Testa said.

"Seriously, I owe a debt of gratitude to the Zeitgeist for reuniting Mike, Jason and I under one banner once again. This is almost as exciting as when Kevin Nash and Sean Waltman tried to reunite with Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff back in... oh wait, that was this year, wasn't it? Crap."

-Adam Testa


Stay tuned to this blog for further updates.