One note before I begin... the next post in the Submissions series and quick review of both the last couple of months in NAPW and FUSE are in the queue. Also, for the moment, I'm putting a freeze on guest commentaries. Unless I ask for them, don't send them in for the time being. I'd like to reclaim the blog as my own :)
Through all the discussions I've had on this blog and in the eW folders on the many eW hubs that I visit, I don't think I've laid out my complete ideal on how I think eW should be in any single post. Seeing that several of you misguidedly think I'm some kind of authority on this hobby, I might as well lay it all out in one huge post.
I have to admit that this was spurred on by a few threads at PTC that have really gotten the masses out there discussing some basic tenets in the hobby, be it by accident or on purpose.
The Non-Pants Ben Puts Forth Discussion on the Supernatural
And now, here goes nothing!
The most basic question you can ask of anything you're trying to find out about is (in this case, eW), "What is eW?" To me, eW is a fantasy roleplaying game where people handle wrestlers and either vie to win matches or tell stories involving wrestling (ie, running angles) in the ring. This is either done competitively (RP/matchwriting feds) or cooperatively (angle feds).
Once you define eW, you can then start to embellish upon that definition with details, and the most important detail, the detail that everything in any hub where this hobby is central rests upon... how do go about doing eW? What are the mechanics by which you vie to win matches or run angles? The answer to that... you write. You write RPs, you write matches, you write segments, posts on message boards. Everything in this hobby is predicated on word processing (since pen and paper are long since antiquated for our purposes :P). This begs the question "So wait, is this a wrestling hobby or a writing one?" Unfortunately, the answer is not completely either. Much like in any other walk of life, there is no black or white, no right or wrong. Everything's all blurred up.
However, to me, the hobby SHOULD be closer to the wrestling hobby than it should be to the writing hobby answer, and if I were to give a complete answer to what eW is all about, I'd say it's a hobby where people write about wrestling, where the wrestling is central and the writing is the medium by which you express that main focus. I feel that anything you write for this hobby, be it a roleplay, match, segment or whatever, should have some kind of focus on wrestling. Anything that doesn't have at least a tangential focus on wrestling is useless and shouldn't be counted towards anything, no matter how good the writing is. You can't pass a course on Chaucer by writing essays about Shakespeare, so why should you be able to excel in a wrestling-based hobby by writing Mafia-based stories?
This is not to say that every piece of writing has to be an in-ring or a backstage at the arena. That's not to say that the only bit of character development you can do is your character as a strictly wrestling based character. I believe that any bit of character development, no matter the situation, is good character development as long as it ties back into his character in the ring/arena. I am a huge believer in the power of the gimmick, and while hardcore members of the IWC (that's Internet wrestling community for those not in the know :p) frowned upon the days when the WWF ran wrestling clowns and garbage men, I think those kinds of characters are highly entertaining in the hands of gifted handlers. However, I believe any character, no matter what their gimmick is, should tie everything back into wrestling at the end of the day; it should be made clear that they're a wrestler in conjunction with being a trash man, clown, Mafioso, vampire, cave hulk or whatever.
Matches and segments for the most part don't have those topicality issues. You'd have to really try to make a wrestling match non-wrestling related. These bugaboos usually pertain to RPs. RPs what separates the hobby from the real life "sport" it emulates. Because the roleplays are used to determine the winner in a competitive environment, eW is more shoot than the real thing. Because there's a competition between RPs to win the match, I feel that the RPs should be confrontational in nature. Roleplays act as a character's "offense" in the match (since that's what he/she uses to win), so it should be natural that they attack the opponent, focus on the match and put angles involved in the match over. This is not to say they need to specifically be in wrestling promo format, since truly creative writers can make anything work within their style. However, I do think in-match RPs should be more about building heat than developing character. I believe that should be saved for segments and off-card RPs.
The reason for this is that I firmly believe that this isn't a hobby you can do solo. You need interaction with other people, whether it's through promo wars or segments. The former is why I much prefer the "old-school" style of wrestling promo RPing (the term trash-talk, when used by certain people, to me carries such a negative connotation, so I refrain from using it) with no RP limits with insurance against unnecessary stacking and sandbagging in place. I feel it's more organic for matches, and it nutures debating and persuasive writing skills, which are far harder to develop, in my view, than regular, expository creative writing. Storyline RPs have a place to develop character, and they nurture the creative writing side, which, don't get me wrong, I still feel is very important for any handler to be able to do.
As for segments and speaking of interaction, segments should be geared towards interaction, either by building heat through wrestling promos/in-rings, or by literal interaction through two or more characters. Introspective character building should be saved for off-card RPs. I personally don't need to see your character seething in his locker room about his inability to act in a certain situation on the actual write-up. I need to see action, advancement, interaction. Interaction is the basis of this hobby seeing man vs. man is the basis of the sport from which the hobby is derived.
Onto that man vs. man competition, ie matches, I tend to be a lot more critical on matches than any other piece of writing in eW, mainly because in my view, it's a lot harder to read a match than it is to read a segment or a promo. Firstly, I think that matches are much better to read if they're done with no block text prose, narrative or anything other than full PBP style. I have read matches in the "A1E" style (mostly declarative/non-flowery narrative with lines from announcers peppered in) and in the angle-fed style (all really flowery narrative) that I've enjoyed, but for the most part, the matches I've really connected with have been matches in feds such as EPW and NFW, feds where the full-PBP style is utilized. I like this style so much because I feel that it's the best way to break up the action, the best way that you can get everything in the match. If everything's written in block text, you can miss stuff, and at least I tend to skim because the blocks of text are so hard to digest.
But do matches always have to get written out? I feel that's not always the case. I feel that on PPVs, matches should always take precedence and should always get written out, but on free TV, angle advancement is paramount (unless you run an e-version of ROH). Therefore, it's okay to shortform free TV matches, at least in RP scenarios. In angle feds though, since there is no RPing required, (ie, the handlers' responsibility is matchwriting and not RPing), every match should be written out. No matter what the situation though, matchwriting should be kept as short and sweet as possible by the given parameters. A curtain-jerker featuring two debutants should not be given the same length as a World Championship match on your "WrestleMania." Discretion should always be used, and if you feel like a match is running too long and it's getting harder to write, it probably is too long and you should stop.
Now that I've covered all those points, it's time for my final point. Everything in the hobby I feel should be left up to the discretion of the handler. That means everything I just said could be thrown out the window :). I've verily enjoyed things that have been well-written yet have flown in the face of everything that I feel eW should stand for. eW means to some people something a lot looser or a lot stricter than what I've laid out. It's all subjective, and though there are things out there that I think are an abomination to eW or are just masturbatory fan-fiction masquerading as eW... if the writer is happy with that contribution to the hobby, then let them keep doing it, as long as they're not committing The Cardinal Sins. However, those same people who are doing things that I or anyone else may deem "offensive" should also not get into a tizzy whhen their interpretation of the hobby is criticized. It works both ways.
So yeah, those are my core beliefs on the hobby. If you feel like I've missed anything, feel free to address them in comments. :)