Category Archives: Wrestling

Is WWE trying to make every dime?

I was thinking for the last few weeks about whether or not WWE is trying to make every dime possible or would they rather make less money because it is more important for them to be WWE (if that makes sense). There are things that WWE does that I believe costs the company money, but that is not really my question. The question is are they willingly doing things (or not doing things) that will cost them money because as I said, it is more important for them to do things their way than it is to make every dime? I can’t really think of anything obvious-but I have some ideas. I’ll give three for now and I may come back to this if I think of more.

  1. Turning Roman Reigns Heel: I am not sure that they think this will make the company money. At the same time, I absolutely will buy into an argument that they would rather make less money to have Reigns as the face of the company than make more money with someone who does not have the Reigns look. With that said, I cannot say for sure that WWE believes that a Reigns heel turn will move the needle and honestly I’m not sure either. I think there is a good chance that Reigns will get booed (which is ideal for a heel), but I am not sure it will increase any metrics.
  2. Bringing C.M Punk Back: This is a non-starter because of the lawsuit with the WWE doctor and because Punk does not want to come back. It will probably be years (if ever) before we can say that WWE is costing itself money because they refuse to bring back Punk because it is not an option right now.
  3. Even-Steven Booking: This is the one I am most interested in. One could make the argument that WWE will be better off if they protected more than 1-2 percent of the roster. WWE may think that by having wrestlers trade wins back and forth they are actually protecting the midcard and they may think that it is a necessary consequence of all the television they produce (including PPV’s/Network specials. More to the heart of the question, WWE may think that having too many wrestlers booked strongly gives them (the wrestlers) leverage that WWE feels that they cannot afford. The answer to that dilemma is just to keep 90-95 percent booked equally-even if it means a money drawing star does not break out.

A.J Styles=Jake McKinnon

I used to watch Another World (a soap opera on NBC) and my favorite character was Jake McKinnon. After Another World was cancelled, I was very pleased to find out that not only was Tom Eplin (the actor who played Jake) going to As the World Turns-but the character was moving to As the World Turns. I started watching ATWT to follow Jake’s character and I got hooked on the show even after Jake was killed off. I watched the show just about every day until it was cancelled in 2010.

Jake McKinnon is to As the World Turns what A.J Styles was/is to New Japan for me. I always used to skip the audio and the parts of the newsletter when Meltzer used to talk or write about New Japan…until A.J Styles got there. I enjoyed his work in TNA and ROH so I wanted to know how he was doing. There is one difference, I did not start watching New Japan when A.J got there, but I started following it. I became intrigued by what this Bullet Club thing was and while I did not watch it, I always made sure I knew what was going on. I actually did not start watching New Japan until A.J Styles left. The only A.J Styles match in New Japan I have seen was his match with Nakamura at WrestleKingdom. Now I watch New Japan regularly because A.J being there got me to become interested in the product and just reading and hearing about the Bullet Club and Naito and Okada and many other aspects of the promotion made me very interested so I had some background going in. Now I have NJPW World and I am very pleased with the membership (even though I wish it was easier to navigate) and am excited about the big events coming up.

I am a big fan of NJPW. I am not sure I enjoy it more than WWE, it’s close. Even though I never saw A.J’s work in NJPW (or 99 percent of it anyway), I am very glad that he ended up in the promotion. I look forward to seeing some of A.J Styles’ work there and more importantly NJPW going forward.

I Feel Like…

I should do a correct PWTorch entry every day. There are so many things that they get factually wrong. I admit that I am someone who remembers a lot and I watch the WWE Network often and Wade Keller and Bruce Mitchell don’t. Moreover, the things they do not remember are not that important for analysis of today (or the past in many cases)-but still…

For instance, I believe that Bruce Mitchell (who I am a fan of) said that Vince Russo booked the Bagwell turn in July 0f 1998 (which was a big deal or could have been because after the neck injury-Bagwell had babyface potential). Russo wasn’t booking WCW until late 1999.

Wade Keller often speaks about how Edge and Christian were just stunt guys and Edge did not really get a chance to talk until the Matt Hardy situation. Edge and Christian talked just about every week in 2000 once they turned heel. What Keller said is factually wrong.

I have a PWtorch.com subscription so if I committed to it-I could probably do a correction article every day.

As far as the Torch goes, I want to talk about this more another time-but I would say it is worth the money. If you are only willing to pay for one between the Torch and the Observer-I would still say that latter. Meltzer has too much information-both historically and in terms of today’s wrestling.

Working Backwards

This next fundamental belief is something that is more for analysts than it is for promoters because the latter should know what they are doing, but they should still adjust to this belief.

Fundamental Belief: Analysts and stakeholders should work to find out why things get over or don’t get over after the fact.

This belief goes to one of my annoyances when I listen to podcasts or read articles and forum posts online. There is too much discussion of why something that is not over should be over and even worse there is discussion of why something is over should not be over. If something is over, people should learn from it-not question it. We can question how long it will last (is it a fad) and we can question why fans are cheering something that historically they wouldn’t (which I don’t really like because I believe fans can do whatever they want), but the best and most objective analysis is when people try to understand why something is over instead of fighting against the reality that it is over.

One thing that I should say is that fans don’t have to be objective because they are fans. In other words, if the Young Bucks are really over and a person does not like them for whatever reason-then that is their  prerogative. At the same time,  any analysis that has the vibe of “I don’t like this so it should be like this” is flawed analysis. Personally speaking, I am much more likely to tune out a person whose posts about wrestling are all about personal taste as opposed to what the majority wants. I am more forgiving when it comes to match quality, but even then when wrestlers give fans what they want (without taking unnecessary risks) and it gets bashed because of nuances that most of those fans do not see-then the fans doing the bashing make the mistake of making themselves the “center of the universe.”

As far as working backwards specifically goes, because all kinds of wrestlers get over, my philosophy is figure out who is over and who is not…and then figure out why. Thinking about it the other way is a sign of arrogance and stubbornness that taints analysis. The one caveat is that promoters should not throw out just anything and hope that a few things stick-there does need to be a plan. The key for the promoters is to adjust when the plan does not work or more to the point when there is something good going on that is not planned. No matter what perspective (booker or fan), wrestling discussion is best when we are trying to figure out why something is working or not working, instead of dismissing the reality.

UFC and Pro Wrestling

Yesterday (9/27/16), John Cena, the Miz and Connor McGregor all cut notable promos (all notable because they were praised heavily by observers). There is a bit of a disagreement on Twitter because Dave Meltzer said that Cena was not in the same league as McGregor as a promo which led to another instance of wrestling fans being upset with Meltzer for two things: one for dismissing Cena’s promo (which he probably had not seen when he made the comment) and secondly for comparing wrestling to MMA (UFC in particular)

I usually agree with Meltzer about wrestling business simply because he is the person who analyzes it how it should be analyzed which is metrics, I truly believe that he is probably the most objective analyst in wrestling (and is still likely the most well-sourced) which is why I pay for the observer every month. The problem here is that I think that we are well past the point where MMA and wrestling can be compared. WWE did it to themselves, but the framework has been damaged to the point…let me put it this way, while I love Talking Smack-Cena’s promo should have been on Smackdown where the largest audience can see it. What I am saying is that the best promos in WWE are not on WWE television, they are on the Network or the website. It’s not just the promos either, WWE does not take the idea of selling fights as seriously as it should (and that is an understatement). Meltzer asked when Cena drew 1.5 million PPV buys on multiple occasions, Cena’s promos are not always great (even though they have been for the last year)-but he does not have a chance with the way WWE is structured (and that was before the Network). No one does.

UFC (or MMA) and pro wrestling are not the same thing. WWE (and other promotions) can learn a lot from MMA…and maybe if they were more similar WWE would be better off. It’s just that the comparison makes less sense as time goes on.

 

Repeat Complaint (PWTorch)

I hesitate to talk about this again, but Wade Keller and Travis Bryant have really annoyed me by telling fans that they are wrong for liking who they like. The best responses in wrestling are organic. I don’t think that people cheering for heels like A.J Styles or Kevin Owens are necessarily trying to prove how smart they are. There is a chance that those fans just like them. There are reasons to boo heels that you like, but it is not a necessity. More importantly, to me it doesn’t put the company in the best position to draw money and ratings because it is a fake response.

If I was psychic and knew that every fan was simply playing along with the storyline, I would be disappointed because I want to know how fans really feel. Let the promotion adjust, not the fans. I am not saying I like heels getting cheered, I’m saying it’s fine either way as long as it is a passionate and organic (there’s that word again) response. If someone is not emotionally invested in the characters or the storylines, who cares how they respond? The last thing I want are fans who are robots.

Keller actually said that people have always known that wrestling was a “show” and people still booed heels. To me that means you have to look at what changed, since it wasn’t the knowledge of the fans (generally speaking, the volume of knowledge has obviously changed), then it must be the product not getting people to react appropriately. I should make an aside (that is not really an aside) here, I am more into the economics (think Brandon Howard) than I am into crowd reaction. The crowd reaction is a signal that something is wrong (considering that many of their metrics are down), but it is possible to have a hot product without crowd reactions in line with face-heel dynamics. I love listening to engaged crowds, but the specific reaction doesn’t bother me either way.

Going back to crowd reaction-Dash and Dawson are perfect examples of two heels that get the desired reaction because the goal is to get people to forget it is a show. Booing the heel because he is a heel and to “honor him” is recognizing that is a show which means it is a flawed reaction. Keller says that people should have fun booing the heel. My answer to that is wrestling is supposed to be fun so I am sure that the fans (for the most part) who go to arenas are “having fun” cheering the people that they like. Organic and visceral is what I care about. It should also be what promotions care about.

 

 

 

Fundamental Belief #2

Fundamental Belief#2: Whatever Works

I am a big believer in if something is effective in terms of getting crowd reaction, drawing ratings or drawing money-then it’s good. As I have said in previous posts, I don’t have that much in the way of personal preferences except that I like things that work. In other words, while it may seem that my perspective is too objective for someone who is not a paid wrestling analyst nor someone who has a financial interest in any wrestling company, it is just as subjective as the point of view of someone who “doesn’t care about business.”

With the above in mind, the goal of a company should not be to please “FAN X”, it should be to please as many fans as possible. I see way too much analysis (or that passes for analysis) that suggest that a company “should” do something because it would please that fan. A fan could like whatever he or she chooses to like whether or not it is good for the company’s business, because a company’s business is not a fan’s business (unless the fan has stock in WWE). At the same time, being critical of something that is effective because you “don’t like it” is a flawed opinion and is certainly not credible analysis. With that said-if a fan or fans like something that is not working or doesn’t seem to be working-that fan is (obviously) under no obligation to like it less because it isn’t making a great deal of money. People should enjoy whatever they like…but they should not be overly critical if a direction that is not working changes.

Examples to the point that I am making include the Attitude Era, Goldberg, this year’s Wrestlemania, John Cena, WCW in 1992, the Young Bucks and even NXT to a degree (one of those things is not like the other).

It’s interesting that people bemoan how much the Attitude Era has been romanticized because from what I see people are very critical of the Attitude Era because the wrestling was not as good as other eras, it was too raunchy, babyfaces were too “edgy” and the storylines were too “wacky”. The problem with that analysis is that it worked. Is wrestling suffering now because people in charge use that as a reference for how the shows are today? I believe so…but I also think that it is the promoters’ fault and the wrestlers’ fault (to some degree) for not figuring out what people want now that is different than what people wanted in the Attitude Era. In other words, the Attitude Era was great for its time because it drew big audiences. The problem with wrestling is what I just wrote, which is that promotions are not doing a good enough job to find out what this audience wants. As an aside, I think it is a matter of tapping into society like WWE did in its 1980’s and late 1990’s (along with 2000 and early 2001), but don’t ask me about today’s society-I spent Friday night watching Law and Order reruns.

On the other hand, I see a great deal of praise for WCW 1992 which was not as successful, but it had and still has critical appeal. The people who praise WCW in 1992 are not wrong, because no one is wrong to enjoy whatever it is that they enjoy. My argument is much less about not praising things that do not have commercial appeal and more about giving credit to things that do have commercial appeal. My favorite era of wrestling was WWE 1997 because of the Hart Foundation storyline. WWE lost in the ratings every week in 1997-including the heart (no pun intended) of a storyline which prominently featured by favorite wrestler of all time (Bret Hart) in a story that entertained me greatly. I don’t like it less because it did not do the numbers that the Attitude Era did. I still watch the Hart Foundation segments from those Raws regularly (on the WWE Network), but I’m not talking about enjoyment…I’m talking about what a company should do based on what they are striving for and companies are (or should be) striving for fan engagement at a very high level.