Tag Archives: Pro Wrestling

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.

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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.

My New Japan Experience-Part 1 (The Positives)

I started watching New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) this year. I have seen some of the wrestlers when they worked ROH PPV and television, but this is the first year I have started watching it regularly. This post will be some personal positives and negatives

Positives

  1. Naito: Naito is the person who I want to be in my real life. I love his character. I wonder if turning him babyface would ruin him. He seems to be a strong merchandise draw just being a heel.
  2. Kenny Omega: Omega is probably the key to New Japan expansion. I do think NJPW needs an English-speaking wrestler to be at the forefront if the company wants to gain any traction in the United States. Obviously a better television deal is more important and it’s certainly possible that NJPW can get one without Omega (because he is certainly not a mainstream star even by wrestling standards), but Omega will certainly help live events and other ways for New Japan to make it’s mark in America.
  3. Depth: New Japan has a lot of wrestlers and even if many of them have had matches with each other before, there are still fresh match-ups and personally speaking even the old matches are new to me.
  4. Titles: I know many people think there are too many titles in New Japan. My philosophy is that if each title has its own identity, I will readily accept as many titles as the promotion wants to have. Another reason I like the titles is because New Japan is based in groups. To me (again personal opinion obviously), people should not align with each other long-term if in theory they are fighting for the same title. For instance Chaos would not be the same if there was no Never Openweight Title because you would have two major single titles for Goto, Ishii and Okada to fight over-the third title limits the conflict.
  5. The matches: I enjoy them…not much else to say. Okada and Omega was epic. Obviously an argument could be made that it’s overrated, especially if you look at it from the Meltzer scale of six stars-but I don’t want to get into that. I’ll just say that when the match was over, I could not think of a match I ever enjoyed more. One could make another argument that the big matches try too hard to be epic (self-conscious epic is what some call them), I understand that but I have really enjoyed the most touted NJPW matches including Shibita-Ishii, Okada-Omega, Elgin-Naito, Tanahashi-Dragon Lee and others.

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.

How much money do I spend on wrestling?

If this blog were more popular, I would have a poll and ask readers how much money they spend on wrestling per month. With that in mind, if we take away merchandise (I buy t-shirts or other merchandise that “speak to me”-I’ll actually list that one day), I spent more than $50 per month.

 

$10 for WWE Network

$10 for PWTorch

$10 for Wrestling Observer

$7 for ROH Ringside Membership

$8 for New Japan World

$7.50 for Prowrestling.net

 

For a freelance writer (which I am) who may go a while without any assignments, $50 is a lot, but I could not imagine going without any of the above memberships or subscriptions. I do not go to wrestling shows. I could say that my cable bill is part of the money I spend on wrestling, but I have cable (or DISH to be more specific) for more than just wrestling. With that said, I am not sure I would pay for DISH or any cable/satellite if it was not for wrestling so it certainly could be included, which would make it $150 per month (I watch just enough non-wrestling television that I won’t for the sake of this article).

 

As far as order of importance (since I’m here)

  1. WWE Network
  2. Wrestling Observer
  3. PWTorch (because of Todd Martin and Bruce Mitchell)
  4. New Japan World
  5. net
  6. ROH Ringside membership (it’s last because I can follow ROH easily with the free membership. I only have a subscription because I get discounts on Pay per Views and there are times where I want to watch the ROH show early in the week)

 

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.