Eli Drake is known for his top-notch mic skills that match his in-ring ability. The former Impact World Champion recently spoke to Andy Malnoske of Wrestling Inc. and discussed why fans preferring in-ring performance over character work is hurting the wrestling business.
It’s no surprise that Drake’s favorite thing about wrestling when he was growing up was the wrestlers who excelled on the mic. Drake said he was influenced by his older brothers who also enjoyed the talking more than the wrestling.
“My favorite part of wrestling was always the guys who could talk. My litmus test in a sense is my brothers, actually,” Drake said. “My brothers always watched wrestling with me as a kid as I was growing up, but when I got into high school and they were in their 20’s, they kind of fell away a little bit until the Attitude Era came in, and at that point they’d say, ‘The best part’s the talking.’ And they were kind of right, like to me, the talking was always the best part, the wrestling was almost secondary.”
Drake continued to say that he was more enamored with the storytelling aspect of the wrestling business than anything else. Nowadays, Drake feels that wrestlers are sacrificing character work and instead focusing solely on in-ring performance. He sees this as a big problem in the industry.
“Like you have to be able to tell a good story. I didn’t care about a Dean Malenko; I’m sorry, Dean, I actually like you, you’re a nice guy personally, amazing worker in the ring, but it’s just boring if you can’t tell me a story? But if you can say something memorable and give me memorable moments, that’s something,” he said. “So my favorite part of the industry was always the drama, the trash-talk, all that kind of stuff. And if you can throw in hard-hitting action on the back end of that, that’s amazing. But to rely only on that action and to not be able to bring it with any kind of character or anything like that, which I think is a plague in this business right now, sorry just speaking the truth, I think we’re doing the business a disservice and I think we’re doing the fans a disservice.”
Drake believes the reason the industry is failing to attract casual fans goes back to the lack of charismatic characters. He said promotions should put more focus into developing stories and characters if they hope to grow their general audiences.
“I think that’s why you look at a RAW or SmackDown live audience where they can’t fill the arenas or even the TV audiences where they can’t fill the hard camera side, Impact, [I can say the same]. I will say Ring of Honor is doing well, but they’re in their own niche group. They’re able to sell out Madison Square Garden, but they can’t do that every week, that’s a once-a-year-thing, that’s a WrestleMania-type thing,” he said. “And that’s a testament to the business changing to where that niche group likes Cirque du Soleil stunts and dangerous moves and stuff like that. But the general audience, if you want to grow your audience you need to tell stories, you need to have characters, and that’s how you bring them in. That’s my favorite part of the business.”
You can watch the full interview in the video above.