Started From the Bottom

by Steve Carr

Digital technology has transformed the way the world works. For example, when I grew up, wrestling was synonymous with Saturday morning cereal. Today, the WWE network provides unlimited access to the product.

The sheer pace of change makes it difficult to keep up to date, even among the best and brightest.

I’m teaching a graduate course in our seminary on how churches need to adapt to the transitioning culture. One of the textbooks I’m using is To Change The World by James D. Hunter. Published in 2010, it’s well-written and deeply analyzes how culture continues to transform.

In last week’s assigned reading, the author included several propositional statements about culture, such as “Culture is a resource and, as such, is a form of power,” and “Culture is generated within networks.” Yet one of the propositions caught my eye (even though I overlooked it in previous readings). It stated,

“Cultures change from the top down, rarely if ever from the bottom up.”

This textbook was published in 2010. That’s not that long ago. Although that might have been true, then, I can’t see it now.

Right about the same time this book was written, Daniel Bryan began to emerge in the WWE. His recent retirement has shown that he was the definitive outsider; he’s a quirky. Look at the pantheon of wrestling greats and he’s the odd man out. But his ascendency to immortality was not top down. It was the WWE fans who made Bryan into an icon, transforming his “no” chant into a “yes” that, in time, permeated popular culture.

It's this bottom-up, fan-based movement that is causing Vince McMahon and the company today. The preconceived notion of wrestling hero is no longer spoon fed by WWE, but must be affirmed by the fanbase. No matter how talented Roman Reigns is, no matter how much he “looks” the part, he can’t handle the mic and the fans aren’t buying it. Why do you think at this week's Raw, Triple H, the ultimate heel, was pushed by fans to continue his bloody assault of Reigns? For the WWE to escape it’s current funk, they’re going to have to listen to the chatter on Twitter and Reddit to determine plot lines.

But this is what makes professional wrestling interesting: how do you keep a more nuanced fanbase coming back for more? Although I'm definitely interested, bringing Shane McMahon back into the storyline reeks of desperation and still doesn't solve the issue.

Today, culture can definitely start from the bottom up.

And that's why Dean Ambrose is the next big thing.