AEW manager and producer Arn Anderson spoke about the recent criticisms made by The Undertaker about today’s wrestling product being soft on the latest edition of his ARN podcast. The Enforcer breaks down the key differences between the two eras, including how talent’s mentality has completely changed. Highlights are below.
Thoughts on the Undertaker’s comments about today’s product being soft:
“Not being a talent and being in a backstage capacity running the talent and taking care of the talent and taking care of the towns – looking after the company, but yet looking after the talent. I’ve seen every side of it you can see of the evolution of this business of the last 38 years. When I first started in the business, there was no such thing as wrestling school. There was no such thing as having a conversation about the match prior to. You would walk in a new territory and not know a soul. It was hard to get information, and back in those days, it was very competitive. There weren’t that many wrestling jobs, and there were probably over 15 territories. But the crew was not as big as it is now. You didn’t have guys in a territory that didn’t wrestle every night. Everybody that worked there worked every night, so you didn’t have leftovers and you didn’t have guys if somebody got hurt, you had somebody to put in that situation. We didn’t have the company provide athletic tape. We didn’t have the company provide doctors or trainers or any of those things. Certainly not meals. You arrived at the arena, you brought your gear, and you brought everything you needed to work. If you wanted to have a bottled water in the back, you better bring it because nobody was gonna provide it. The medical care back then, we were a bunch of crackpot chiropractors adjusting each other. And you traveled together no matter what because it was the only way you could save money. Four guys would get in one guy’s car and he would charge four or five cents a mile, and he would drive his car to the town. The next week, the next guy would, and you would pay him. It was one of those deals where if you got hurt, you still better figure out a way to tape it up and get to the ring. It didn’t matter that they didn’t have a four-star match, but it did matter that you made the effort to get there and do something. People did not miss towns in those days because if you missed a town, it was a major conversation. If you missed two, there was probably no conversation. You were gone. The business was completely different.”
How today’s era handles drug testing and injuries as compared to the older ones:
“I think it’s a good thing we have drug testing and medical crew there at the arenas at all times. You have everybody looking at, ‘Hey, that was a bad bump and think that could be a concussion. Better shut it down here.’ I think the care of the athletes is better. That, I agree with. Certainly, the fact that we’re working our way towards everybody having insurance that walks to the ring. It’s definitely a good thing because in the old days, if you blew your ACL out or had a broken leg, buddy, you didn’t get paid. Not one dime. If you were a guy that wasn’t positioned right, that guy was suddenly out of a job. That got pretty scary. It was the nature of the business, and you didn’t get paid unless you worked. I love the fact that there are guaranteed contracts. I think the guys should have guaranteed contracts. They go out and put themselves on the line and they do something, especially in today’s’ world, guys and ladies take risks. They get hurt more often than before. Part of that mentality is because back when I started, if you got hurt, your family was screwed. You didn’t have a job, and you weren’t getting paid. The evolution of the business now has bigger bumps and more dangerous bumps. There’s a lot of risk out there.”
Breaks down the differences in mentality between the two eras:
“I don’t know if pampered is the right word. Maybe it is, who am I to say? But they’re definitely taken care of. Back in my day, the fact is, some guys were taking pills and some guys were smoking pot and some guys were drinking. It was up to each guy to determine when you did it and how much you did it. Today has been taken over by video games. It’s a lot safer for the talent. These guys are a lot more management because they live clean and they eat clean, and there’s not the drug abuse issues and a lot of alcohol issues with the talent. Video games has replaced it. But back in the day, here’s the reality – everybody could work. You weren’t giving guys that had no experience of even little experience – when you looked around the locker room, everybody in the locker room could work because they had to have a job. That was the difference then and now. They’re taught over time instead of walking in the door with experience, and it puts a lot of pressure on the young guys who have never even thought about being a wrestler until somebody said, ‘Hey, you wanna be a wrestler? You’ve got a great look.’ Back in the day, it was your life, and that’s the difference in the mentality.”
(H/T and transcribed by 411 Mania)