I found it easier to respond by numbering your points.
1) The term "mock".
Mock is a completely appropriate word when describing the competitive aspects of Poetry Slam. While it does not serve everyone's approach or agenda that enters into a slam, it certainly stands to describe Slam's core function, which is to not take the competitive aspects seriously - by design - and instead focus on the ludicrous exercise of judging art in a public space.
If you want to make a real competition out of judging poetry, there are a dozen ways to do so that better serve THAT purpose than poetry slams. But this isn't Slam's purpose. If you want that to be Slam's purpose, then you've been slamming for the wrong reasons. Please do not construe my flippant remark regarding the picking of educated judges as the only way in which poetry slams are different from an actual poetry competition meant to determine the best craftsman in the pile. If this were even remotely close to Slam's purpose we'd have instituted a number of hoops before anyone ever spent a dime on their host hotel rooms or team registration. Slam isn't Mortal Kombat; it's Pro-Am golf. That someone who plays too many video games comes to a slam and wants it to be MK in their mind is their problem, not Slam's. One of the beauties of Slam is that it doesn't care what you bring to it; it's going to do what it wants anyway. it is big enough to absorb all of our agendas so long as we don't break the rules.
While I cannot dictate to you how you should approach Slam, I can tell you when you are expecting something from it that it was not meant to deliver, and prove it over and over again. But suggesting that Slam is a real competition because there is an element of the Slam community that comes to it with that mindset is like saying we should treat Monopoly like it's genuine real estate because there are a couple of homeowners playing it.
(Also, anyone who is offended as an artist by the use of the term "mock" in front of "poetry slam" - meaning anyone who is offended that their art is somehow being tainted by the use of the term - is missing the point and should stick to publishing or literary contests...in which their work will also be arbitrarily judged.)
2) What Slam was is still what it is.
I don't remember getting a memo whenever we supposedly changed from being a big poetry party that had numbers in a bar (or 6-8 of them) to a big poetry competition that had numbers in a bar, and I'm one of the people who have been around and in the right places long enough to get such a message. Hell, I would have been the one delivering it I would think.
Slam is a tool. You can use the tool to build a competition, sure, but that's not what NPS and WOWps and iWPS are, not really. We have just as easily built community. We have also built awareness. We have built palette. We have built economy. We have built art constructs. We have built change. The LAST thing we've built was an actual competition.
3) Slam has lots of jobs, not just "screwing The Man".
Here you not only narrow the historical goals of Slam too much, you narrow down its potential as well. In your world view of Slam it needs to tighten up its competitive aspects and that will get it a larger audience. Problem is, the Slam isn't here to tell you who the best poet is. That people keep reading into the results of slams that we have somehow determined the best poet in the room, for the week, out of hundreds of poets is pretty ridiculous...and that's the point.
Marc Smith dislikes when we talk about his creation in its competitive aspects alone. To him, Poetry Slam isn't just the competition; it's the SHOW. So bring on the music acts and push the stage envelope and let poetry find a way to still be a poetry in the circus that is the sum total of the Poetry Slam essentially, make the competition a small part of what the circus brings to your town. To some extent we have circumvented that idea, though we try to retain its points by sticking to the original rules and adding stuff to the events that has nothing to do with scores. It's not the free-for-all that Marc envisioned (and still exercises every week in Chicago in its purest form) but it's what we could do democratically without stomping all over its point. understand, that's not evolution...that's a concession. Having stuff like a big time clock that buzzed loudly and had big lights on it at the end of 3 minutes wasn't to help the competition, it was to make the competition look ludicrous. That the clock was cast away showed that the competition took over to some extent, that the show was not more important than the competition. While i would have voted the clock away because it's just not that pretty, i understood why it was important and why it needed to be ridiculous and audacious. Unfortunately, people started thinking, "The clock interferes with my POETRY" and the whole product of bringing a show to an audience that wasn't made up of poets was lost. Slam has made a number of those types of concessions over the years. Again, this is not evolution.
4) What winners walk away with is still consolation, not career defining.
This assumes the most grievous error of all in Poetry Slam: that the winners of poetry slams are the best poets participating in poetry slams. I mean, really? REALLY? If you want to start naming names then you start, but at the end of the day do you really feel this is what's happening? Do you think that five judges is enough to determine that? Shouldn't POETS have some say in that? I've known judges at some national competitions, all three of them. Trust me: these are not people largely schooled in poetry. Hell, the best poet in the room doesn't always win in my coffee house slam, and that judging ratio is at lot closer to "room normal."
And what of the careers of these winners you speak of? I can think of a number of winners that haven't exactly parlayed their win into anything resembling a sustaining poetry career. Also, I can think of PLENTY of poets who didn't win national titles that made/make more than our winners ever did or will. This doesn't mean PSi should pay more in prize money. It means if you want to get paid doing this you need to come up with a better plan than trying to win a competition against 300 other poets at NPS, or 70 of them at iWPS/WOWps. Trying to build a career off of slam winnings is like trying to pay your rent every month in a casino.
You mention cash prizes as a point at which slam became more than a mock competition. Really? It cost over $2000 to send a team to most nationals. it will cost many teams around $3000 in Cambridge this year. We aren't giving a team a reward so much as we are defraying their costs. And the indie competitions aren't head and shoulders over their expenses either. This isn't wrong when you consider what the goal of the slam is. There are lots of ways to make money with your poetry. Chasing a national slam title is the dumbest way of them all. You'd make more money faster in a week of decent gigs - while better establishing a career as a poet, mind you - than spending your money to get to these events. That's like the worst investment advice ever.
5) Accredited process?
LOL. No really, this phrase made me laugh out loud.
I don't even know what you mean by this. Do you mean that because you're a poet certified through PSi that somehow that makes the winning of a slam more competitive? PSi doesn't care about your competitive aspects, I'm sorry. That's why the SlamMasters get to determine the rules. You know, the people on the ground making Slam happen in every corner of the country or world, who actually get to put their hands on Slam on an ongoing basis, who direct it on the ground, influencing real poets' lives and art. You can't even get the majority of THAT body to agree that it's a competition. Why? Because most of us get that it's not supposed to be that deep.
6) Slam does not evolve.
POETRY evolves. PEOPLE evolve. Slam is still doing the same thing it's always done. Slam is still reaching out to and for bigger audiences every year. I don't know what you mean by "better" audiences. Whatever it is I probably wouldn't like it. In any event, I think it is dangerous and flat-out wrong to color people who think slam isn't a competition, real or otherwise, as if they're over the hill or missing out on what Slam is "becoming." That is akin to suggesting that people should stop making family trees because, you know, we're way past those folks. Legacy isn't just there to act as a book of historical records for new poets to stand on while reaching for the sword-in-the-books trophy. Legacy also tells us why we're here doing this thing in this place in these ways. What comes to Slam has every right to evolve. I believe it is the hope of people who made Slam what it is that poets who come after them will evolve and take poetry to new places on and off the page and the stage...but that they use the tenets of Slam to do it, not change the tenets of Slam to fit their needs.
7) The only thing holding back poets and poetry is poets.
Not thinking of Slam as a competition first and foremost isn't holding back anybody. Bad poetry is holding back pets. Laziness is holding back poets. Unoriginal work is holding back poets. A lack in diversity of message and performance is holding back poets. Not publishing is holding back poets. In essence, poets are holding back poets. Slam ain't got shit to do with that.