Tag Archives: crowd reaction

Fundamental Beliefs About Wrestling-Separating People From Their Money

 

When Daniel Bryan retired, he said that he was worried about wanting to do so much that he ends up doing nothing. That is how I feel about this blog. I have so much to say about wrestling, but because the blog is not widely read (to say the least yet), I also want whatever I write to be evergreen at least until/if it gets popular. Moreover, I have a job as a freelance writer which means not only am I in a situation where I make fewer posts than I would like, I am also in a situation where I have plans for a framework for a series of posts and I can’t do that either because when I do write it is because I am inspired by something that is different than the framework.

That long introduction aside-one of the things that I want to try is a discussion on my fundamental beliefs about wrestling. I usually write a lot so I can’t discuss more than one in any post, but I thought anyone who reads this blog should know what I believe about wrestling and how it shapes my opinions.

Fundamental Belief #1-The Art is in the Take

Bruce Mitchell and Mark Madden have both said this in recent podcasts and it has always been my approach to analyzing wrestling which is the most important thing in wrestling is making people pay to see something. It’s not in having a “great match” (although that is very important to the experience and can be important in terms of making people come back). There is an art to manipulating crowd reaction, but it is more important to get the people in the building.

Television is interesting in that it is dependent on the situation. Certainly television is the gateway to everything for every promotion. For WWE its important in and of itself because not only is it a way to promote the WWE network, it also is a way to create stars that people want to pay to see on house shows and stars who people want to buy merchandise of. Moreover, the ratings are also important when it comes to a future television deal (at least it seems important now, it is hard to say what will happen with cable television by the time WWE’s cable deal is up). For TNA, ratings are everything because it is a television product. Without knowing what (if any reward) TNA gets for higher ratings, it is the only metric it can be judged by. Television is important for ROH, but it is probably less important for them in terms of numbers…I’m not even sure how ROH measures its television audience. ROH is more about house shows and they seem to be doing well there. The point of this discussion is to make it clear that no matter what the most important metric or metrics are for a company, the most important thing is to get people to want to either pay to see something or to watch something on free television.

When I say the art is in the take, I am essentially saying that anything else is subjective things that people can disagree on. I am also saying that pro wrestling is a business and ultimately it doesn’t matter what any individual fan likes. I love reading message board posts and columns discussing what makes a match great or a match bad or a match overrated-especially when I respect the opinion of the writer. At the same time, it is just that…an opinion. There are objective measurements that can tell us the success of a wrestling promotion at a given time and doing well in those objective measurements is the best reflection of the art because (as I just said) everything else is subjective. I might think John Cena versus CM Punk from Money in the Bank 2011 was the best match in five years, someone else might think it was the third best match of that show…neither of us is right and more to the point the reason for the angle and the match was to draw interest so that should be the judge of its success.

One thing that is objective, but can be overrated is crowd reaction. I am not saying that crowd reaction is not important. I think I said this on an earlier post, but crowd reaction is very, very, very, very important-but there are people who get great crowd reactions who don’t move numbers like those who get lesser and/or mixed crowd reactions. Certainly, there are mitigating factors like who gets pushed in a way that the casual fan would go out of their way to go see them or buy their merchandise. With that said, ultimately I want the guy that gets people to watch or to pay their money as opposed to the guy that a certain type of fan chants loudly for. To coin a phrase, everything else is conversation.

 

 

 

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Positive or Negative

I would say that as a wrestling fan that I am a positive fan. I find reasons to enjoy the show. The biggest reason for that is there is no wrestler that I actively dislike. I do like some more than others and I like some much more than others. At the same time, I can become invested in any act that is used properly or that I find entertaining. In other words, there is no wrestler that is inherently a waste of my time just by his or her appearance.  That mentality is about 80 percent of the reason why I enjoy wrestling more often than not.

I mentioned in my last post that I think business before personal enjoyment when I discuss wrestling, but that doesn’t mean that in act that is designed to draw that doesn’t or isn’t designed to draw doesn’t entertain me. Steve Austin’s heel run in 2001 was a big business mistake, but I still enjoyed his matches and promos. I should have put this in the last post, but if fits here…I can enjoy Austin’s heel run at the moment and in retrospect and still acknowledge that (at least in hindsight) should not have been done. What I am saying is that I am inclined to like things that draw interest, but I also like things just because I like them.

I watch Raw, Smackdown, Impact, NXT, ROH television every week. I also watch every WWE and ROH PPV and I’ve always looked forward to the shows because wrestling is my favorite form of entertainment by far so I am not nearly as hard on the shows as most people are. That is not to say that I think every show is good. In fact, I wouldn’t call most Raws “good”, but I don’t think they are as bad as most people say. I also am a huge fan of ROH and NXT and enjoy the weekly shows just as much or more than either program’s biggest fans.

I could sum up this post by saying-I smile a lot when I am watching wrestling. I’m not going to put over that trite WWE saying, but if I am smiling and/or otherwise engaged in wrestling a good deal of the time-it means that I am a positive wrestling fan. Final note, I wonder what most fans who say this wrestler or this program or this company “sucks” would say in response to this question.

By the way, you can take this all with the proverbial grain of salt because I liked Elizabeth Rohm as Serena Southerlyn…I think that makes me an “easy fan”

 

 

Follow-up on last post-Crowd Reaction

Someone put it well on Reddit-“Booing and cheering should be a visceral reaction. If you’re thinking about it, then you’re circumventing the process.” I would say compromising the process. I want to make it clear that my point is that fans can cheer, boo or do neither with and to whomever they want. If fans want to “appreciate” heels that they like by booing them-then that’s fine. My argument is that the visceral reaction is better.

A heel getting booed because a fan thinks that is what he or she is “supposed to do” is like a pitcher being 6-3 with a 2.75 ERA, but with bad peripherals. It’s good to be 6-3, but walks, strikeouts and home runs allowed are a better indicator of future performance. It’s nice to get heel heat (i.e.: boos), but that isn’t necessarily indicator of future performance and/or more to the point interest in the character. It is an indicator of the character’s ability to generate interest if the boos are for the right reasons.

I am not saying that crowd reaction is not important, it is important because it should be an indicator of who a promotion should push. I am saying boos and cheers that come from fans “playing along” is not the same as boos and cheers that come because crowds are emotionally invested. Those reactions are the important ones. That is why I believe that fans should react however they want-because that is what the promotion can work with in order to go forward with how and if they push a wrestler.

Should Wrestling Fans Play Along?

I was going to do my first few posts reviewing wrestling websites and memberships (I am a member of wrestlingobserver.com, pwtorch and Prowrestling.net), but something is bothering me about some wrestling journalists and fans. That is this idea that fans at the arena have an obligation to “play along” with the storylines and/or characters. I heard Wade Keller say multiple times that the new smart fan is one that plays along, which means cheering the babyfaces and especially booing the heels even if you like them. I read Zack Zimmerman’s NXT report one week in which he for all intents and purposes called the fans that were cheering Kevin Owens idiots for not giving Owens the heel heat that he wanted. Moreover, I read all of the time people who hate the “this is awesome fans.” Before going any further-I should make a few things clear.

  1. I think that crowd reaction is very important, but it can be overrated to a degree. I enjoy fans going crazy as much as anyone else. Crowd reaction is a key to making things better or worse than they really are, but the key is drawing interest. For instance, it would be silly to say that John Cena isn’t doing his job because he gets booed by a certain percentage of the fans when Cena has drawn so much money.
  2. I wish that the promotions would create storylines and characters that would get live crowds invested more than “this is awesome” suggests that they are. At the same time, if “this is awesome” the best we can do as a result of the inconsistency of the writing and booking of the promotions in the last decade and a half-then I will take “this is awesome” and I certainly don’t blame the fans. If someone is upset that a promotion can’t get people engaged in who wins and loses-then that’s on the promotion.
  3. There are five levels of reaction that wrestlers can get. I will use Kevin Owens an example.
  1. “Hey, Kevin Owens. I don’t like him. He is a liar and a psychopath that uses his family to do bad things. He also turned on his friend Sami Zayn, I like Sami. Boo this man.
  2. “Hey, Kevin Owens. I like him. I know his history in other promotions and I respect what he has done. I know he is playing a bad guy, but I appreciate him-so I am going to cheer him. Or, I know he is playing a role, but I actually like that role. I like Owens because I like bad guys. Or, I like Owens because he is a bad a$$. Cheer this man.
  3. “Hey, Kevin Owens. I like him, but I know he is trying to get booed so…boo this man.”
  4. “Hey, Kevin Owens. I like him, but more importantly than that-most of these people are cheering John Cena (or Sami Zayn or Finn Balor). I am going to cheer Owens just to be different.”
  5. “Hey, Kevin Owens. Who cares?”

There are those that believe 1 and 3 are the best reactions for a heel. I think that 1 and 2 are the best reactions that a heel can get because they come from investment in the character and/or storyline and not from thinking too hard about giving a reaction. It is “I see, I react” and that to me is the best reaction. There are those that believe 3 is better than 4. The only difference between 3 and 4 is that no one can poll the crowd and ask why they are booing the heel so the heel can assume that he is doing a great job getting heat-when all the crowd is doing is playing along.

I want to make it known that I am not saying that 3 and 4 are “bad reactions”, the entire point of this post is that the fans can do whatever they want (when it comes to cheering and booing), but ultimately someone in a prominent position has a job that goes beyond getting booed. Kevin Owens secondary job is to get booed. His main job is to draw interest and even though today’s wrestling is more about the brand than any one wrestler-an effective main event wrestler can still move numbers positively. 1 and 2 is a better indicator of future business than 3 and 4. If fans played along we may not have Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, The Rock and many more wrestlers that were getting cheered as heels.

The heel should try to get booed, but there is also something to be said for getting booed for what he or she did last week, last month and for the last six months. I wrote on Twitter once that the best heel reactions are the ones that don’t have to be worked for during the show. In other words, it is a reaction that is based on the heel character drawing a visceral, organic and emotional response. I certainly disagree with any idea that fans should react a certain way. Wrestling should be a fun distraction, but sports are a fun distraction that can also elicit an emotional response. The best responses are the ones that come without thinking about playing a role-whether that role is trying to be different from the rank and file fans or playing along.