Author Archives: Mustafa Samiullah

About Mustafa Samiullah

First things first-I am an INFJ-http://www.personalitypage.com/INFJ.html (very accurate as it relates to me). 1. My younger brother and I are best friends-he is the only person in my life that I truly "need" 2. I am a huge wrestling fan 3. I'm very politically incorrect (think Archie Bunker-except black and educated) 4. I enjoy sleeping 5. I look and feel much younger than I am. 6.I'm more politically conservative than anyone I know. 7. I enjoy wearing clothes (usually shirts) that get people's attention 8. I also don't mind dressing up (as much as I may protest it). 10. I hate the Yankees 11. You can search for me on Google 12. I'm tougher than most people would think. 13. I never want to leave New York 14. I dislike seafood. 15. I never worry that I'm going to end up alone-my career comes first. 16. I have a very good sense of humor 17. I also have a dry sense of humor 18. I am a walking contradiction 19. I don't drink 20. I don't smoke 21. I'm probably the most decent person that I know-I'm not a saint, but when you strip away all of the specifics, at my core I am a good person. 22. I think it is safer to be serious when meeting new people, but I honestly prefer to be silly and goofy-because I am. 23. #22 notwithstanding, I enjoy intelligent conversations as well, because I am...intelligent that is. 24. I get along really well with females. Fictional characters whose personality I'm closest to include CM Punk, Steve Austin, Lennie Briscoe, Steve Urkel, Archie Bunker, Pacey Witter, Dylan McKay, Brandon Walsh (yes Brandon and Dylan-and I'm obviously not talking about looks), Randy Orton, and Eddie Kingston. Besides that-if you want adjectives to describe me, I will give you some that people have used about me: smart, high-maintenance, sarcastic, funny, good-hearted, and more than one person has said that they have never met anyone like me. I don't try to be different, I just embrace the fact that I am.

The Shield

I am fine with the Shield getting back together. In fact, I have actively called for it for over a year now. I do not have a strong opinion on how long they should be together, except I think that it should be for a while. Put it this way, if they go through with Reigns-Lesnar for Wrestlemania..I still think that Reigns should be aligned with the Shield when that match happens. There are those who feel that WWE is going back to the Shield because they are desperate for Roman Reigns to be cheered. There are those that feel that WWE is  going back to the Shield because they need something for the Fall with Cena gone and Lesnar of course still only working limited dates. Both of those things may be true, but it is still a good idea to put them back together for several reasons.

  1. They are better together than apart: I can certainly imagine (of course I don’t know) that Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns want to be more than the “Shield guys.” Perhaps internally, they wish they could do something that has nothing to do with the other members so that they could be seen for who they are as individuals. There is nothing wrong with having that thought, but they are better together. Part of that is because WWE has made creative and booking mistakes with all three of them as individuals. At the same time, just from watching the television…those three should be connected and they are better together than apart.
  2. They broke up too soon: The Shield had been popular for most of its run, even when they were heels. With that in mind, their babyface run was technically only three months and they were together for a year and a half. As readers of this blog know, I am all about what makes the most money. The Shield in theory should sell a great deal of merchandise. Hopefully they will help the ratings (either by increasing them or keeping them steady with tough competition during the Fall), attendance and Network subscriptions. They could probably do everything (maybe even the merchandise included) as heels, but they should certainly help things as babyfaces (especially merchandise). WWE needs to take advantage of the fact that people like seeing these three together.
  3. WWE needs something. As noted earlier, Lesnar is of course part-time and Cena may not be back for a long while. The Shield is the one thing that WWE has that can get people interested until the Royal Rumble season. One thing though, everyone involved have to work to keep the momentum going. The reason I say that is because I think the Shield can be a difference maker business wise, but only if creative is behind it and they figure out how to leverage people’s excitement to create a buzz beyond the first week or so. With that said, I also think that it is a good thing even if it does not increase business because I believe the people that are watching will enjoy the show more with those three together than they would apart.
  4. If: If WWE does decide to turn Reigns heel (which I should say I do not feel strongly about, but before the Shield reunion it would have gotten my vote), then he has backup and when the time comes opponents. Actually I can think of more compelling three man teams on the babyface side than on the heel side, but obviously the Shield should not be heels now…if ever.
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Merchandise and the Calculated Risk

Is merchandise the best way to tell who is a draw in wrestling now? One thing that I will say is that I do believe it gets underrated by people who think Wrestler X should turn heel just because they are stale in those people’s opinions or  because “Wrestler X would make a great heel.”

The television rights fees are fixed and while WWE wants to stay the same or get higher ratings because they are going into negotiations for a new television deal, turning someone heel who is making money through merchandise is risky because the money is already there (for the television deal). The company has to replace that money somehow. I do not believe in turning someone because they will probably get booed….that means nothing in comparison to actually drawing money.

Yes, turning a person heel can potentially draw higher ratings which can be then leveraged for a comparable or maybe even a better television deal in the next negotiations. Yes, turning a person heel can help with network subscriptions. Yes, turning a person heel can help boost attendance. Yes, turning a person heel can lead to a program with a babyface who may do even better merchandise numbers. The key word is “can.” When someone is doing well in merchandise sales (someone like Enzo Amore or  New Day), then it is a calculated risk to turn them. The reason why Amore and the New Day stand out for the merchandise sales is because they are better than average. I don’t know if they are better than average for anyone on the card or for their spot on the card, but people would not be talking about anyone’s merchandise sales unless they were strong.  If they are strong, then it is making the company money and I would have a hard time messing with that.  If a company does make a change, they better be right.

A few things here. First of all, ideally the goal would be to catch something before it gets stale. At the same time, stale is a subjective and intangible measurement. When there is television every week, people are more likely to say something is stale…that does not mean the masses feel the same way. Even if many people feel an act is stale, that still may not be a good enough reason to take an entity that is making X amount of money on merchandise sales and making that X/2 or X/3 or X/10 by turning that entity heel.

Secondly, yes heels sell merchandise, but it seems to me that most of the heels that sell strong merchandise do so because they started as heels…not people who turn heel…at least in WWE.  I have no problem with “cool heels”, they could probably make more money in today’s climate than traditional heels. At the same time WWE markets to children and they script the wrestlers to say things that will make people think twice about buying their merchandise. Actually I want to stop there because that is a different discussion entirely.

Thirdly, I am not saying never turn anyone heel and I am not saying that anyone who has strong merchandise sales should not turn heel. I am saying if it is better than average for their spot on the card…there really should be a plan to make that money back before turning the person heel. The plan could be having a really strong storyline that would get people willing to go to the arenas or buy the Network. The plan could be to have someone else on the roster (whether they are going directly against the new heel or not) doing strong merchandise sales because they are going to get a bigger push. The specifics of the plan are less important than the idea of the plan drawing money to replace the money you are losing.

I am against turning someone because of potential crowd reaction (the heel may get booed) because crowd reaction is secondary to making money and going back to the beginning of this post…we may have reached the point where the only way that wrestlers in WWE can make a difference is buy selling a t-shirt.

One last thing…I have no problem wearing wrestling shirts in public. At the same time, it is a hangup for people who are big wrestling fans so it is better if wrestling shirts do not look like wrestling shirts…that is hardly profound, but I thought I would bring it up.

Babyfaces do not have to be good guys

When I say what is in the title, I do not mean universally. In fact, my point is not that babyfaces should not be good guys or heroes. It’s fine if they are. I just do not think they have to be good guys. I would say the idea should be to present babyfaces as good guys most of the time.

For instance, if I was starting a promotion from scratch, I do not think I would have anti-heroes. At the same time, if a heel got cheered to the point where I would have to turn him, I would keep the aspects of the heel that got cheered…even if those qualities are not heroic. As I have said before, I am much more reactive to crowd responses than proactive. When I say that, I mean that I do not look at something that is over and find reasons it should not be. Because of that I am much more willing to accept the fact that audiences just connect with some performers/acts no matter what they do. Besides, I do think there is a negative to being overly good, especially if it leads to preachy promos.

Keller and Meltzer

I have been a member of the Wrestling Observer and Pro Wrestling Torch websites/newsletters for years (at least eight years for each one). I don’t know if familiarity breeds contempt or I just notice things as I get older. There are some annoying things (to me) that both of them do, they are obviously not deal breakers…but I wish they would not do them. I already discussed one of them with Meltzer, but I will mention it again here. First I will start with Keller.

My biggest problem with Wade Keller is that he criticizes like he has never made a mistake. He is pretentious, a bit arrogant and the biggest nit-picker ever when it comes to wrestling. If he says” amateur hour” one more time about WWE production, I may actually cancel my subscription. Seriously, shut up. It’s not about you and your obsessive hang-ups.

The thing is when it comes to what he actually says…for the most part I agree with him. There should be a reason for cameras in backstage skits. There should be attention to detail in other aspects of the shows (not just production). At the same time, being so heavy-handed is a turn-off. Moreover, if I corrected all of the mistakes that he made…he would probably block my membership (and he is always plugging his membership), because he does not seem to like criticism too much, but he is always willing to dish it out. I think his flaws (not being a historian, being too WWE-centric, having a bad memory) are way more important (to me) than WWE production issues that do not really affect the quality of the show.  The worst part is his constant complaining about trivial (in the context of wrestling) matters actually makes WWE sympathetic…they are doing the wrong thing, but I can name several aspects of the Torch and Keller himself that are unprofessional.

As an aside, One thing that I will admit is I am not a fan of rants about wrestling. There are people who are entertained when a podcaster and/or YouTube host just goes off on a rant about something in wrestling…they do nothing for me. I just wanted to mention that so you understand my perspective.

Also if Keller was as funny as he thinks he is, he should quit the Torch and become a standup comic. I do not like how he curtails and hijacks discussions for lame jokes that aren’t worth stopping the flow of conversation.

As far as Meltzer goes, as noted in one of my last posts…I do not like how he casually gives away spoilers. The Zack Sabre Jr-Tanahashi match from G1 is a prime example, especially because he just blurted out the finish as it was happening and most people who were going to watch the show on New Japan World (or through other means) were not up at that hour watching it live. My point is at least give people time to watch the show if you are going to give away spoilers. I think 24 hours after a show airs is appropriate. When it comes to taped shows, just give a warning. The people who do not care about spoilers won’t mind the two seconds that it takes to give a spoiler warning and the people who do care know to turn out.

Meltzer also probably should not use his own star ratings as a way to make an argument that he feels is objective.

I have mixed feelings about Meltzer’s tangents. The positive is that he has so much information that it is cool for him to take something like (for example) a segment on Raw and use that to begin another conversation. At the same time, he struggles with talking at times so it could just make the discussion longer than it needs to be.

I wonder…

what the Intercontinental title match at Wrestle Kingdom is going to be. I will assume that Tanahashi is still the IC champion.

I thought about Tanahashi versus Minoru Suzuki. There are a few problems with that match. Number one, it is unlikely to be the classic match people expect from Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom. Also if that is the Intercontinental title match, then Suzuki would be coming off losing the Never Openweight Championship…meaning he would not be coming in as strong as one would like going into the second biggest match on the biggest card of the year. I like the match. It’s fresh and I am a fan of Suzuki, but there are issues to work out.

Michael Elgin? It would certainly be a fun match. I am unsure of Elgin’s contract status and it would not be ideal to have such a big match with an obvious conclusion. As an aside, I only believe in obvious conclusions to matches when the setup is a popular face is going to beat a hated heel (and even then unpredictability is not necessarily bad). Elgin versus Tanahashi would be a match that is most likely built on near falls and it certainly does not look like it would be a morality play so I would want Elgin signed long-term so I could buy into those near falls.

Juice Robinson? I would be interested in that. It would be fun. I could see Tanahashi playing subtle heel to get Robinson over.

Kenny Omega? I don’t see it with Omega being U.S champion right now.

Ibushi? I think this happens in November and my guess is its just Tanahashi getting his win back from the G-1

Evil? It would be a rematch of the New Japan Cup in April….I like the idea.

Sanada? See above except it’s not a rematch of the New Japan Cup. That would be fun. It is time for NJPW to get more people into that top mix at a show like WrestleKingdom. The problem is second biggest match and I’m not sure that they can get Sanada there before January.

 

 

Old Essay on Drug Use In Wrestling

Recently Eddie Fatu, who was known as Umaga in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) passed away from a heart attack at the young age of 36. Fatu is one of many along the long lines of wrestlers that have died before the age of 60 and many of them died before the age of 50. This is a problem that only reached mainstream proportions when Chris Benoit killed his wife and seven year old son back in 2007. The Benoit story was a big part of the news cycle for several weeks, but even then the sensationalism of a man that is a television star killing his family was the main reason why the story was such a big deal. There should certainly be more focus on why wrestlers like Benoit, Fatu, and Eddie Guerrero are dying. Guerrero’s death was certainly drug related and there is speculation that the deaths of Benoit and Fatu are linked to drugs, whether it be steroids, painkillers or both. One could imagine the uproar that would be taking place if football players, baseball players or basketball players were dropping dead before the age of 50 at a regular rate. There have been many theories/ideas that have been brought up about what companies like WWE and Total-Nonstop Action (TNA) can do to prevent more deaths like the ones mentioned above. Both companies already have drug testing for its athletes, but there should be more done.

One thing that those in charge of WWE and TNA could do to prevent wrestler’s deaths is to have regulated independent drug testing. This will prevent people that follow the wrestling business from speculating that certain wrestlers are not suspended because of their rank in the company. While there have been suspensions because of what WWE calls wellness policy violations (WWE, 2009). There is still the prevailing thought that there are those that are protected if they are “main event guys”. Having independent drug testing that does not involve doctors that are hired by the company and can therefore be influenced by the company will be not only good public relations for WWE and TNA; it will also protect wrestlers that may not otherwise be punished because of the company’s desire to make sure the most important wrestlers work every show possible. The key here is to make sure that the wrestler’s best interests long-term are being looked at. This situation is different from baseball in some respects in that when people discuss the need for baseball to have independent drug testing, the prevailing thought is that the record books need to protected and the health of the players is often seen as secondary. On the other hand when it comes to drug testing in wrestling, the health of the wrestlers is seen as more important and what the drugs do for the wrestlers is seen as secondary (but still important, especially when it comes to steroids).

The problem is that the idea of having independent drug testing is that for the most part independent drug testing is from an athletic commission. Testing from athletic commissions cost money. For example, the Nevada athletic commission charges $278.40 (MMA weekly, 2009) for each athlete they test. At an average edition of Monday Night Raw, up to 32 wrestlers can be tested. (WWE, 2009) If the show was taped in Nevada, it would cost almost $9,000 to test every wrestler. It can be argued that it is financially inefficient to spend $9,000 for drug testing, when the company itself already has drug testing. The only things that independent testing would do for WWE or TNA tangibly is give them good PR. The fact is that there is drug testing and there have been suspensions, so it is tough to tell a wrestling company to spend money without accusing them of favoritism. That’s not to mention the money that wrestling companies spend on things like lights, pyrotechnics, setting up the ring and other expenses that the company takes on. In other words why would a company spend money on something that they feel that they have under control? With all of that said, it is still a good idea, because human nature suggests that a company under no pressure to publicly address what happens on drug tests, other than suspensions (which in actuality is the choice of the company) may be drawn to making sure that the stars that the fans most pay to see are there . With an athletic commission making sure that everything is done with no bias, it is much more likely that a wrestler will get help and that’s what is the most important thing.

Something else that should be addressed to solve the problem of wrestler’s deaths, especially when it comes to WWE is the schedule. A look at the WWE website shows that there are about (WWE, 2009) 200-240 dates a year that WWE wrestlers work. Because of that wrestlers are forced to decide on what to do to get rid of the inevitable pain that occurs from working such a difficult schedule. If you look at the Four Horsemen DVD, you can see Ric Flair and Tully Blanchard talk about wrestlers working 365 days a year. So if you look at it that way, things have certainly changed in the last 25 years. From looking at the live events section of the WWE website, you can see that wrestlers never work on Wednesdays and Thursdays, they also rarely work the weekend of Pay per Views. At the same time, different things are expected from wrestlers in 2009, then they were in 1989. In other words the style is more physically demanding than it was 20 years ago. With that in mind, wrestlers (as anyone else would) are going to try to do things to numb the pain. Many times wrestlers are going to take painkillers to try to stop the pain and keep going for the next show. The problem is that people get addicted to a painkiller, that’s what happened to wrestler Shane Douglas (thefranchisefansite, 2009) in 2005. In actuality, 2005 is when Douglas checked himself into rehab for an addiction to painkillers. There has also been speculation that Fatu’s death is also related to pain pills (Pwtorch, 2009). There are several measures in regards to schedule that WWE could take (TNA’s wrestlers don’t work as many live events). One thing that the company can do is to give wrestlers scheduled time off once or twice a year. The specifics are not as important as making sure that every wrestler on the roster has a total of 8-12 weeks off in a year. That will allow the body to heal much more effectively and because a wrestler is not worried about pain on a daily basis, he or she won’t be as reliant on pain pills. Another benefit of time off is that wrestlers will have more time to spend with their families and have some kind of an idea of what having a real life is like. Even with the reduced schedule, wrestlers still spend more than half of their time away from home. Obviously this is something that can potentially cause problems within a family. Having wrestlers spend more time at home has more of an intangible positive effect on the performers, while the lack of necessity for painkillers because of more time off is a more tangible effect (ie: not having enough time at home is not going to be on anyone’s autopsy). Wade Keller of the Pro Wrestling Torch has been advocating wrestlers having more time off for years. He has stated that the schedule “plays with people’s lives.” Because of the increasing importance of Pay per Views and television revenue to the bottom line of wrestling companies, even from a purely financial standpoint, it may be better to cut back on non-televised live events. At the end of the day, having wrestlers feel as if they don’t need painkillers just to get through the week may put not only the wrestlers, but the company itself in a much better position long term.

The argument against giving wrestlers more time off would probably be the company saying that WWE going without someone like John Cena for three months is not financially responsible, especially since WWE is a public company and they have to answer to their shareholders. If live events and Pay per Views are down because top drawing cards are missing from shows without the excuse of injury, it is not just costing Vince McMahon money, but it is also costly for people that have invested in the company. Something else that would be argued is that the non-televised live event business, while not nearly as important as it once was, would be basically irrelevant if several performers were taking off for 4-6 weeks at a time (even if it is only one main event talent and several undercard wrestlers, it would still have a negative effect). The number one issue that may be taken with a potential plan to give wrestlers more time off is that the schedule of WWE wrestlers is lighter than it has ever been. Someone defending WWE may ask the question “how much lighter do we have to make the schedule without hurting our bottom line?” That is another strike against mandatory time off that is valid. A fourth strike against it may be that wrestlers will be worse off if they have nowhere to be (ie: work) and have to spend weeks at a time at home. Not only could wrestlers get into trouble, but they could also gain weight that will take weeks to lose. The worst case scenario being that a wrestler that is known for being in shape returns from his hiatus 20 pounds overweight, which either leads to him being off for a longer period of time or appearing in front of crowds and television audiences out of shape.

A third action that WWE could take to prevent wrestlers from dying early in life is to have wrestlers evaluated psychologically in order to see how they are handling the strenuous road schedule as well as the fact that they are in pain and have to constantly keep in shape. In sports like football and baseball, there are sports psychologists that are sometimes called upon by teams or individual players because of a specific incident that needs to be addressed. An example may be a pitcher seeking out help because he can’t find the strike zone for a month or a second basemen who for some reason can’t throw the ball to first base. Because the life of a wrestler has different demands and even someone that superficially appears to be handling the life and the lifestyle may be struggling internally, there should be someone with professional training going on the road with pro wrestlers just in case the wrestler needs to talk to someone. Who knows what would have happened if Chris Benoit had someone to talk to about his paranoia and his marital concerns? More relevant to today, who knows who needs someone to talk to that is keeping his problems hidden inside because he or she feels alone. As alluded to before, while it would be easier to just have the wrestler seek out professional help or have the company seek out said help after an incident occurs that scares the company, because the life of a wrestler is not only dangerous, but often times a life of solitude (ie: being away from family), it is good to have the chance to talk to someone that can truly help you and that has experience dealing with athletes. A doctor will know the direction to take a conversation that may take place with a wrestler that is worried about not looking as good as someone else does that is competing for a top spot in the same company. The one caveat to this idea is that unless a wrestler is in imminent danger of hurting himself or someone else, the doctor cannot do too much with the information that he/she is given. For example if a wrestler talks about taking two more pain pills than prescribed in a day, can the doctor say anything to the company about that? What if a wrestler admits to using steroids, can the doctor bring that information to the company before a round of drug testing? While those are interesting questions, the most important thing is prevention. The prevention of steroids, painkillers and overcompensation for variables that may allow for wrestling to be easier in the short-term are all things that can possibly be provided by doctors.

Wrestling companies would probably say the same thing against psychiatrists that they would say against independent drug testing. It would cost money to hire a doctor or doctors to travel full-time with the company. WWE and TNA would both publicly say that they have open doors and that any talent that has an issue with how they are being used or not having enough time with their family can step up and talk to front office management and have their concerns listened to. The companies may also argue that there is no guarantee that wrestlers would even confide in a psychologist. It would not be financially responsible to hire someone that is not going to be used, when they can always wait for a situation to hire a psychiatrist when it is deemed important and said psychiatrist or therapist will be used.

WWE and TNA as the two major wrestling companies in the United States have an obligation to their talent to look into any avenues that they can to make sure that in 20 years we aren’t talking about this generation’s group of athletes in the same vein as we do the wrestling “heroes” of the 1980’s. Independent drug testing, a lighter schedule and traveling therapists are just three of those avenues and while there are financial considerations that would make all three of them tougher on the pocketbooks of those in control of these companies (and in WWE’s case stockholders), the main focus of any company should be the well-being of their employees.

Speaking of Spoilers

My one criticism of Dave Meltzer’s work is that how casually he gives away spoilers. I am a big fan of Meltzer in general, but his arrogance and stubborness when it comes to giving away spoilers is disappointing. He is right when he says it is news. At the same time, a spoiler warning is not that hard to give to listeners or readers of his newsletter. It feels as if because he does not care about spoilers, no one else should.

In his defense, multiple times Meltzer has said if listeners (or readers) do not want spoilers…they should not listen to him. I do not think that is good enough, but it is something.