I just finished watching 'Unforgiven', a WWE pay-per-view, and though a lot of the matches featured some exceptional wrestling exchanges (and some amazing stunts) a lot of the action was less than engrossing. It wasn't until the skill was combined with good storytelling that it really started to suck me in. It's one thing to have two guys going head to head exchanging some blows, but you know it's all planned so it takes a little of the excitement away. However, when the two start to tell a story between them and give some real emotional motivation to the moves, it makes it much easier for the viewers to suspend their disbelief and forget that they're watching a scripted show, they can get emotionally involved.
Magic is just the same. How many times do we see incredibly skilled magicians performing and we just don't care. Sure, it's easier to create drama between two adversaries in the squared circle, but surely conflict and emotion can be conjured up by a magician who also puts some thought into his or her presentation as well.
With the WWE, I'm impressed by some of the moves they pull off, but if two men are in the ring fighting I want to know why. Is it for a championship? Is there a feud going on? Has one just stolen the other's girlfriend? These are story elements that cause the viewer to get emotionally involved in the match. It transforms the match for a display of skill into a piece of theatre.
When magicians finally realise just how crucial this is to their art form too, maybe we'll see magic move up a rung on the showbiz ladder. The more we respect our audiences, the more they're going to respect our magic.