In the pantheon of great wrestling siblings, you can always start with the Graham Brothers, the Brisco Brothers, the Funk Brothers, the Anderson Brothers. Conspicuously absent are the Lehman Brothers. But in this economic turmoil in which we find ourselves it seems that Bear Stearns is more relevant to wrestling than Big Bear Collie ever was.
The popular economic axiom that a rising tide lifts all boats has been replaced by the panicked cries of, â<80><9c>Man overboard!â<80> And wrestling has been subsumed in the whirling eddy that is the Great American Crash â<80>~08.
Wrestling, if there is any logic to the world, should be recession proof. Its hardly an expensive use of disposable income (at least when compared to a tank-full of gas) and it is, after all, the ultimate in escapism for a weary world. I mean its good vs. evil with girls in bikinis all given voice by Michael Cole. Well, two out of three ainâ<80><99>t bad (but that third one is gad-awful).
But, alas, wrestling is taking a hit. (Although Chris Cash assured me there would be no math – hereâ<80><99>s the math):
The ratings for Raw are down7% year-to-year for the third quarter of 2008 from a 3.39 to a 3.15. The WWE pay-per-view buy rates are down 14% for the same period. The numbers are roughly the same for TNA.
Neither company is in any danger of going under or anything close. But the trend is undeniably downward. Comparatively, wrestling is still at a 52-year high. For wrestling – its hot. But its not wrestling, remember? Its sports entertainment. And for sports entertainment, its not hot.
The NFL numbers are down slightly. College football (all hail the king!) is doing great. NASCAR is on a slide that is more related to the product than the economy but neither is helping the other. The NBA is just wrapping up pre-season and Mike Tenay tells me they still play something called â<80><9c>hockey.â<80> I have no idea.
So sports entertainment overall is stuck in a rut. Not an inescapable rut – but a rut nonetheless. As every two-bit, uneducated, cable news, financial â<80><9c>expertâ<80> (*cough* JBL *cough*) will tell you – all business is cyclical. Clothing stores, restaurants, amusement parks, and the like endure valley months and celebrate peak months. Other businesses (Kevin Trudeau, roller derby, investment banking) hit rock bottom and start digging. Wrestling has long been the former and I have no doubt it remains firmly in that ledger column.
What next? Do the WWE and TNA just ride out the storm and wait for the next rising tide? Do they bleed money thinking the next big thing (not him) is just around the proverbial corner? Do they get bought out by the Chinese in a hostile takeover that makes a Frankensteiner look like a kiss on the cheek? That is the question.
Since we are taught never to identify a problem without offering a solution, hereâ<80><99>s mine: cut back. This economy is not going to be back to normal for at least 18 months (maybe not even then). If ratings and buy rates (in other words, revenue) continue to trend downward, the only way to stay afloat is to cut spending. Both companies have WAY more talent than they need. Freeing up talent could add an influx into the indy market and reduce costs for the big two. This talent could then get much more work than they are being offered now due strictly to this arcane little rule they have about a television hour having only 60 â<80><9c>minutes.â<80> They need ringwork to get better to keep the big two in business in five years and the big two need to trim costs. Easy.
The spanner in the works is this: Would the WWE and/or TNA be so paranoid about cutting talent (so as not to let the other do something with them) that they would sacrifice their long-term future for their short-term ego? Cut off their collective nose to spite their babyface, as it were?
Lets hope not. I could never get into roller derby anyway.