DEBUT COLUMN: The Problem With Realism

Mike Killam

The Problem with Realism
by Mike Killam

The IWC has been begging for more realistic storylines for years, while they simultaneously flog guys like Abyss and Kane for their unbelievable gimmicks. They also praise TNA for doing something WWE would never do: listen to them. But let’s put aside the fact that WWE has managed to become the most successful wrestling business in the history of the western world without pandering to the 14 people who actually watch the Hardy Show, and focus on TNA’s application of “realism” in their product.

TNA is currently running an angle where the owner of the company was tricked out of her position by Hulk Hogan and Eric Bishchoff by signing a contract  that she thought would get rid of the monster Abyss. Now Dixie Carter has taken Hogan and Company to court and is threatening to take back her seat on top of TNA wrestling. Apparently the current faction that has been calling the shots for months now believes that if they can secure all of the championships on the show, they may be able to use it as some sort of leverage in their court case.

To quote the announcer’s before Genesis: “the titles equal power.” I believe that they were going for realism when they put together this program. But if that’s the case I have to sincerely question if the TNA writing staff (read: Vince Russo) actually understands how life works.

First of all, if the owner of a company is stupid enough to give away her livelihood to Hulk Hogan by signing a contract she never read, a court of law would never even consider giving it back to her. Contracts are legally binding, and there’s a reason you read them before signing. If you don’t, it’s your own damn fault. But even Carter’s stupidity isn’t enough to steer the realism train off course. But to claim that somehow having all the TNA Championships on your team of merry men gives you some sort of leverage against a court of law just takes the train off the tracks and into a ditch, killing all the IWC passengers  aboard instantly…

Professional wrestling is not about realism. It cannot succeed based on realistic gimmicks and programs alone. You still need talent, and most importantly a reason to keep the fans coming in. Realism will not make me turn the TV to Spike every Thursday night. WWE may be stuck in a system as repetitive as John Cena’s fabulous five, but they have capitalized on a huge fan base. It’s a business, and like it or not, the kids are watching the product.

Kids don’t care about realism; they just want to see larger-than-life heros beating the crap out of big, bad, evil meanies. But TNA is focused on bringing in adults and older teenagers clamoring for more violence in their lives. They don’t care about programming for youngsters, and that’s their prerogative. But I firmly believe that in order to become a successful wrestling company, you have to be clever enough to find the largest, most emergent market, and draw the hell out of it. And that’s the reason why ECW eventually collapsed, and TNA will never be successful: they’re still trying to market sex and violence to a crowd of adults who are too busy playing God of War and watching Dexter. The same crowd that Hulk Hogan and Ricky Steamboat drew from 30 years ago. But that crowd is all grown up, saturated, and have kids of their own. Kids that they want to introduce to a product that meant so much to them while they were still trying in vain to grow facial hair. Kids they wouldn’t mind buying a John Cena t-shirt or mabe even a few wrestling PPVs.

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