Tag Archives: Wrestling Fan

Pro Wrestling is My Best Friend (Example 1)

I moved to Lynchburg from New York this Spring for financial reasons. I moved in with my cousin. A week into the move, I realized that it was not going to work out. I ended up getting a $200 advance from a client and ordered two bus tickets (one from Lynchburg to Richmond and one from Richmond to New York). When I got to Richmond, there was a 30 minute wait for the bus to New York. I was not sure what to do with all of that time, especially since I could not go far. I decided to listen to music. I ended up listening to the same song for 30 minutes and the song was…

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How to Fix 50/50 booking…if they insist

50/50 booking is going to be a constant theme of this blog because it may be the biggest problem that WWE has in terms of getting people over. Also, knowing their patterns makes things more predictable than they should be. I would say this, I think it works better in other promotions than in WWE, because the only issue with 50/50 booking in promotions like NJPW and ROH is that it makes things predictable, but in WWE it not only creates predictability, it makes it difficult for people to get over.

With the above in mind, if 50/50 booking is going to be a reality, then there are two things that WWE could do to make it easier to digest for those in the audience who do see it as a problem.

The first is acknowledge the parity. Acknowledging the parity has to be more than “anything can happen in WWE.” It has to be treated like a sport where it is outright said that the wrestlers’ records are relatively even for the most part. I see why they would not approach things in the manner I just suggested, but at this point it is almost insulting the intelligence of the audience not to discuss the reality that 90 percent of the company is around the .500 mark (at least it seems that way). I do not always agree with Wade Keller, but one thing he often preaches that I do agree with is that companies should “own their booking”. If they want to book 50/50, then they should address it just like any other sports announcer would address parity in a league where there is obviously parity.

The second one is a bit more difficult to explain in terms of reasoning. I’ll start by saying that one thing I feel wrestling promotions should avoid (for the most part), is giving people a reason to remember that this is a “show.” When people talk about that, they usually talk about wrestlers “laying their stuff in” or not writing or producing a “hokey” segment. I agree with those sentiments. I would expand it and say that when a promotion does a match one week and then does the same match the next week…there needs to be a storyline reason for it. If Wrestler A beats Wrestler B on November 1, if there is a rematch on November 8…give us a reason. Even if that reason is on the company’s website or YouTube page. When you don’t give a reason, it makes some members of the audience think…”oh, they just want to give Wrestler B his or her win back.”

If you don’t want to give a storyline reason, go back to what I wrote in the above paragraph, just have the announcers say that the management of the show in question wanted to see if last week was a fluke or that the promotion believes that there is parity, so one match does not prove that one is better than the other and the next match is to make sure. Of course that does not explain why there would not be a third match, but this post is to make 50/50 booking work. I think it’s a poor way to book, but there are ways to make it manageable.

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.

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.

My Own PWP

 

 

There is a feature on the “Wrestling with Words” website titled “Pro Wrestling Punditry” where a wrestling fan of some regard and esteem is asked 10 questions about his (or her) wrestling fandom. I figured that since I am probably a long way of being interviewed for the site, that I would use my platform to answer the question.

Question1: How old are you?

Answer: I turned 35 in January

Question2:  When did you first start watching wrestling?

Answer: I don’t remember a specific time. My younger brother was a big fan. I used to look at the television when he was watching and remember being scared of Kamala. This must have been around 1986 and so every time Kamala came on, I ran into the other room. In fact, Kamala was the reason that I hated wrestling when I was first introduced to it because I was scared he would come on every time my brother had it on. I don’t know how I got over my fear, but eventually I did sometime in 1986 (so I was five years old) and have been watching ever since with no breaks. Once I started we watched WWF Superstars, Wrestling Challenge and the AWA. My relatives in Lynchburg, Virginia had cable and we did not (we lived/live in Brooklyn, New York) so we were really excited to watch the World Championship Wrestling show on TBS every summer and winter when we visited (we did not get cable until 1995).

Question3: When do you recall first thinking critically about wrestling?

Answer: I think this happened in stages (warning: I don’t know how I can keep this answer short). I always knew that it was a show because I have a relative who wrestled in the Southeast and my uncle was a fan so my brother and I knew it was a show well before we were even 10 years old. As far as match quality went, there was a big part of me that liked the NWA better than the WWF because the match quality of the former even though I had more access to the latter. Moreover, I always liked technical wrestling which is why I had the favorites that I had (more on that later). When it comes to thinking critically about match quality, I think even now that I don’t look at what works as deeply as those on the prowrestlingonly.com board. I just know what I like.

    My critical thinking about wrestling is more about booking than match quality. I started with that when I was around 12-13 years old. This is where my stages of thinking critically really took shape because even though I thought about booking a great deal, my first inclination was to think about it from my perspective. I remember once in 2003 (so I was 22), someone did a recap of Raw for the Wrestling Observer website and criticized WWE giving away the WM 19 rematch between Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho on Raw. He said that it was entertaining, but “wrestling is not about entertainment, it is about drawing money.” I was taken aback by that statement-“wrestling is not about entertainment? Isn’t that exactly what it is about? “Then I started getting the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and the more I read and heard Dave Meltzer…the more I began seeing wrestling as a business more than art. Right now, when I think about booking-I think about how it can increase, decrease or keep interest (i.e.: draw money). In fact generally speaking, I am most entertained by wrestling that works. When I say wrestling that works, I am talking about drawing money, drawing ratings and getting good crowd reactions. I never think about wrestling based on my personal preferences anymore, which is kind of weird for two reasons. The first is because wrestling is my favorite form of entertainment and secondly while I am relatively positive about the products that I watch-I am still critical. It’s just that if something works…I’ll put it this way if the Roman Reigns push was working-I would not be saying “push Cesaro” even if I like his work better than Reigns because the fans getting behind Reigns would be entertaining because it is always fun seeing a crowd engaged. I should also note that a big part of my analysis of any promotion is considering how it could do what it wants to do the right way. For instance, if WWE is going to take the approach it takes to its product, I want to figure out how they can make that approach work as opposed to living in the proverbial “fantasy world” where the company overhauls the way it promotes.

Question4: What is your favorite promotion of all time?

Answer: Despite what I said above-it’s WWE. Like I said, I grew up in the Northeast and my only regular access to wrestling was WWE. Moreover, my two favorite years watching wrestling was mostly because of WWE (even though I had cable by then and was watching WCW regularly). I always get defensive (even if it is in my own head) when people criticize WWE heavily and say it sucks. Let me change that a little, I get defensive when people suggest that anyone who watches WWE is an idiot and that Raw is the worst show on television (not just wrestling). I think that is a bit overboard…

    Also my favorite wrestlers of all-time are from WWE. I would say with the exception of Ric Flair, the other 9 of my top 10 favorite wrestlers of all time had their biggest success in WWE (notwithstanding what they did in other organizations or the independent scene). WWE encompasses a lot about what I like in wrestling. I like the music, I like the Titantron, I like the pageantry of Wrestlemania and now that the in-ring is very good-there is little not to like in the macro (it’s the specifics in how it is presented which is problematic).

   I should say that I am a huge fan of Jim Crockett promotions and WCW from 1995-early 1999. I like the serious/sports like approach to wrestling that the NWA had and I was/am a big fan of the New World Order.

Question5: Who is your favorite wrestler of all-time?

Answer: Bret Hart. As I said earlier, I was a big fan of technical wrestling growing up and Bret Hart was the master of that type of wrestling. I also enjoyed his heel run immensely (more on that below). In fact when Bret turned heel, it was the first time I ever rooted for the heel because I wanted to stay loyal to him. I used to appreciate heels, but I could not bring myself to root for them until Bret turned and reunited the Hart Foundation. As an aside, when I hear Hart Foundation-I think 1997, not 1987 even though I was a fan during both time periods.

      On the favorite wrestler discussion, there are two things that will draw me to a wrestler-tremendous in-ring skills or a personality similar to mine. Bret was my favorite in-ring worker so he was my favorite of all-time. At the same time, I am drawn to anti-heroes like Steve Austin, CM Punk, Eddie Kingston and the Undertaker. With that said, I am also a huge fan of “traditional babyfaces” such as Ricky Steamboat, Bayley and Sami Zayn…it just depends. Daniel Bryan was my favorite wrestler before he retired and while I appreciate the fact that he is seemingly a great person, honestly he was my favorite because I enjoyed watching his matches the most.

Question6: What is your favorite era of wrestling?

Answer: The Monday Night War. The reason I say that is because WWE 1997 and WWE 2000 are my two favorite years as a fan. Moreover, I am a fan of invasion angles done correctly and the New World Order was the best American invasion angle in history. I like the in-ring of the pre and post Monday Night War era better than the in-ring of the Monday Night War, but as you can see from my earlier answers a lot of the Monday Night War appealed to what I like as a fan. For instance, I think the fact that a pimp and a porn star (and a porn star whose treatment of women was questionable) were babyfaces is hilarious. I like the Godfather and Val Venis, but I was never huge fans of either (in comparison to others)-I just think about the fact that they were heroes and I chuckle. It’s too strange not to be funny. Those two are just small examples as to why I thought the Monday Night War/Attitude Era was so appealing. With that said, 1998 and 1999 were not my favorite years-even though I actually like the Wolfpac and was a fan of Goldberg’s streak.

     I like what is going on now because I like the in-ring product and I watch more wrestling now because I have WWE Network, I watch ROH every week, I have my ways of catching some New Japan, I do random searches on YouTube and watch some obscure stuff and I even enjoy TNA. I actually think the next 5-10 years could be my favorite era if the creative and star making processes of the companies that I watch become consistently good because the talent is there and the exposure is just going to become more prevalent.

      Question7: What is your favorite style of wrestling?

Answer: This again goes to several earlier answers. For the most part, I like what I like. In other words, I am not looking for a certain style of wrestling. At the same time, Bret Hart is my favorite wrestler of all-time primarily because of his in-ring work and to that end I would say that I like technical wrestling. I remember a message board poster who I have great respect for asking “what is technical wrestling?” I actually think that poster was right, but I would say that technical wrestling is whatever is pushed by announcers as technical wrestling (or at least has been, that term is not used often anymore). I would say that technical wrestling is what Bret Hart, Daniel Bryan, Ricky Steamboat, William Regal and Ric Flair did.

     As far as spotfests go, I am not opposed to them-I am more worried about how it affects the wrestlers’ health than I am my personal enjoyment. In other words, I can enjoy a match where there is a lot of as Steve Corino would say “crash and burn” if I was not worried about the health of the wrestlers. It’s not my favorite style, but the style in and of itself is not an inherent turnoff. My least favorite style is probably the walk and brawl…but those can be entertaining as well.

One more thing…I love watching the Young Bucks (I wanted to put this somewhere).

Question8: What are the elements that make up a talented pro wrestler?

Answer: This is tough because all wrestlers are talented in their own way. Some are big, some are highly athletic, some are technically sound and some are very strong. I don’t look for “talent” in terms of physical attributes or natural ability as much as I look for how the wrestlers use that ability. I would say that Dave Meltzer can be overly complimentary of someone who is a great athlete because I don’t equate that with great wrestling or being a great wrestler. This is not acrobatics, this is wrestling.

Question9: What is most important to you when it comes to spending time with a pro wrestling product?

Answer: Two things: access and context. I am single and I freelance…in other words I have a lot of time to watch wrestling. If I can access the content, then I am likely to watch it. When it comes to context, I really need to understand what is going on. For instance, I do not watch every New Japan show-but I always know what is going on so that when I do watch I have the context needed to appreciate it.  Actually New Japan goes to access as well, New Japan World is too annoying to sign up for so I have not as of yet. As far as older wrestling such as the Network or YouTube clips-I rarely watch entire matches. I watch more for moments that will make me smile and/or big angles. Most of the time, it is just because I have a few minutes to watch something and/or I am reminded of an angle and just want to watch it again. Honestly, there are other times where I just need to use or leverage wrestling just to get out of my own life like when (hypothetically speaking) I am crushing on a waitress who is flirting with her co-worker. To mess with the wording of this particular question, wrestling itself is very important to my life. It is by far my favorite form of entertainment so going back full circle, I will spend time with just about any pro wrestling that is accessible, but I am too set in my ways/routine to watch anything where I don’t have context.

Question10: What major changes do you see in the pro wrestling landscape 10 years from now?

Answer: Well, I think technology is going to be a big part of change. I am not sure where wrestling is going to fit in as a weekly cable television show. At the same time, I do not believe that WWE (and maybe they will be the only company) will be forced into a television situation that will compromise their business. Indeed, they may not make the same amount of money in television rights fees-but the only way that Raw and Smackdown will be network exclusive shows is if it makes financial sense for WWE. Other than that, I think that WWE will still be on television, but I am not ruling out that everything in WWE will be on the network. I’m just not entirely sure.

I think other companies are going to leverage technology to increase their visibility…I mean even more than they do know. I do not know about television because I am not sure how any of the secondary companies are going to convince television executives (major stations) that they deserve a prime time slot without a major star or stars and lesser production values. I still think that wrestling will be successful because I have a feeling that promoters are going to super serve the hardcore fans in a way that will draw those fans in to major events. In other words, what we see now is just going to increase with knowledge as to what ardent fans desire. Perhaps another way to say it is that the loyalty of wrestling fans to wrestling in combination with more delivery methods is going to help wrestling survive. The thing is I do not know that it will thrive unless these companies find a way to create major stars.

I also should say that while the in-ring style may slow down because of injuries, in-ring work is going to become the most important aspect of wrestling. In other words, the big draws (such as they will be) are going to be the best wrestlers or the best wrestling events. Charisma is still going to be important, in terms of separating the mechanics from the stars-but the thing that is going to draw the hardcore fans I discussed above is a product that they know is going to deliver quality in-ring action.

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.

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.