Back to Black
I am happy that Seth Rollins has found success at WWE. Truly I am. He's probably making more dough now than he did as "Tyler Black," even as world champion at ROH, which itself must have been a big step above his take for shows at Full Impact Pro, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, or even specialty promotions like Cyberfights and MTV's Wrestling Society X. I think he's finally reached a point in his career, which hit its 10-year anniversary this year, when more fans know him as "Seth" than as "Tyler."
I like to believe that, in ways I cannot perceive, he's reaching new heights in ring artistry at WWE. However, I catch glimpses of him at WWE (and, before that, its developmental promotion Florida Championship Wrestling) and cringe. I may just be seeing the wrong stuff--quite likely since I rarely watch--or maybe I don't understand what "good wrestling" is, but what I have seen looks like joyless clowning, with all the heart and soul of an episode of The Price Is Right. Last December I saw Rollins live, along with his Shield cronies Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose (both talented wrestlers also), and felt heartsick, almost to the point of wanting to throw up, especially since I had paid over $300 for good seats for me and my friends.*
Yeah, I miss the old Tyler Black, the guy who cornily and self-importantly rhapsodized about love and the meaning of life on MySpace (that far back: sad testament of the times when I'm nostalgic for the superior social interaction on the old MySpace)--and performed riveting, muscular dramas in American Legion halls, watchable on YouTube and nowhere else. Back then he was a wrestling god--or if "god" is too grandiose, he was at least charismatic, inexhaustible, and sensuous. It was impossible for me to watch him in the ring back then and not feel the man's love of wrestling, his own magnificent body, and the crowd's cheers and catcalls, the air permeated with the smell of beer belches and stale popcorn. God, I loved that guy. I miss him. I hope that, behind the black SWAT vest, that guy still exists--happy for the extra pocket money these days, definitely, but yearning for a wrestling match that's more chills and thrills than sparkle and dazzle.
*In January that bad taste was washed from my mouth by a benefit show at Northern Durham High School, right in my backyard--mind-blowing excitement from beginning to end, hosted by OMEGA Wrestling, a small North Carolina promotion. The $15 ticket stub is still on my refrigerator as a memento of perhaps the best wrestling show I've seen--neck and neck with the ROH show my friends took me to for my 60th birthday.