First of all, let me describe to you what an internet wrestling fan(IWF) is by my definition. An IWF goes on the wrestling websites at least three times a week, thinks that Vince Russo killed WCW, thinks Paul Heyman is a genius and ECW is the greatest thing ever, loves cruiserweights and X-Division guys, loves Japanese wrestling, and takes whatever Wade Keller and Dave Meltzer say as gospel. Now we could debate what an IWF is, but for arguments sake, let’s just say that the demographic I just described exists and it does represent a percentage of the pie chart. I would say about a third of IWF’s show the aforementioned characteristics. Let’s not contest this point because I think it would be a waste of time. For the purposes of this article, I’m talking about this stereotypical smart mark.
How do I know that they don’t know what a good match is? Answer: the rating system. Most of these fans don’t have any clue what a four star match is. I was at a TNA TV taping a couple of years ago and this Ring of Honor kid had a tryout match with some other X-Division guy. He was doing a Bruiser Brody rip-off gimmick complete with the boots, the “Husp, Husp” and had the “hold your wrist out in the upside down karate chop” thing working. And he weighed about 150 lbs. I’m at the monitor with I believe Harris and Storm and I’m like,”let’s see how long these guys sell.” Well, they have about a five minute match with every ridiculous high spot you can imagine and they sold every spot for literally almost exactly eight seconds, no more than ten tops. The thing was that this guy was supposedly having four star matches on the internet. If that’s the type of matches that he’d been doing than he’d never had a four star match in his life.
So as I started paying attention to the X-Division guys, I started noticing that everyone was following the “8 second rule.” Do your spot, sell it for 8 seconds, do another high spot, sell it for eight seconds. All the while, I’m reading on the internet how great these guys are and how they’re being underutilized. I’m reading on the internet how these crazy high fliers in Ring of Honor need to be signed. I watch them and most of them are using the 8 second rule. I’m thinking, “Does anybody have a clue what a good match is?”
When I was booking WCW, I attended a focus group. There were 12 mainstream male wrestling fans – ages 18 to 38 – in a room being posed questions by a moderator while myself and about 4 other people from marketing were behind a two way mirror. Two of them were IWF’s. We could see them, they couldn’t see us, and they’re being asked questions like, “Who’s your favorite wrestler?” Goldberg, Austin, Rock, Sting, Outsiders they answer. “How often do you watch the shows?” Almost all of them watched the shows. “How often do you watch a ppv?” Every month. “How many times have you rented a ppv?” Zero. Wait – what was that? ZERO? How could that be? I call the moderator behind the glass and tell him to ask where they watch them. Answer: friends’ houses, illegal black box, and bars. I’m like “that is unbelievable”. We’re writing four hours of TV a week to sell a ppv that nobody buys, but everybody sees. What a great business plan. And we wonder why WCW went out of business.
So the guy asks them if they liked the cruiserweights. “Nope”. What do you mean “nope”? Nobody likes the cruiserweights?? I find that hard to believe. Why not? The consensus was that they’re too small and they looked fake. I wanted to come out from behind the two way mirror and smack them. OF COURSE IT’S FAKE! IT’S WRESTLING! I mean smaller boxers have entertaining fights and such, why does their size matter. But then other things are coming out of this group like, “I know wrestling’s fake, but Goldberg, man, I don’t know. I think he’s real.” Good Lord. Goldberg’s got wrestling fans thinking things are getting real again. Wow!
So I’m pretty much surmising that the reason they think the matches look fake is because they’re not doing anything to make it look real. Goldberg’s smashing people with three devastating moves and the match is over. Cruiserweights are smashing each other with 7 different moves and they’re selling for eight seconds. But all the while, I’m reading on the internet how great their matches are. News Flash! All of the guys I know in the business are reading the internet. Just hoping and praying that they get “4 stars.”
The problem with this is that this mindset of work that has been created infects the industry, because people believe what they read. That’s marketing 101. People are more inclined to believe something when they read it. So you’ve got a whole bunch of up ‘n comers coming into the business and everyone’s killing themselves and selling for eight seconds and none of them are getting over because mainstream fans think it looks fake.
Here’s some advice: LEARN HOW TO SELL! Instead of watching Japanese wrestling tapes where matches start with two guys standing in front of each other trading forearms to the head. Watch the main events of every WWE ppv you can get your hands on. Watch Austin, Rock, Angle, and HHH work each other and watch how long they sell. One of the main problems with the smaller guys is that they’re given a specific amount of time to wrestle and they try to fit all their high spots in, but they don’t figure in how long they should be selling. They end up selling everything for eight seconds and then the match is over. However, the IWF’s are still putting them over and they’re not changing a thing. I say those matches would be just as good if they took out a third of the high spots and selling the moves that they do more. Make the moves look like they hurt. If you don’t, it just comes across as scripted acrobatics.
Now I don’t want people to think that I don’t know that Bret and Austin had a four star match. Or that Benoit/Angle was four stars or most of the matches that are generally accepted as great matches are what they are…great matches. My rant is against the subliminal education that is happening via the internet, where IWF’s and the workers themselves are reading and watching guys that can’t sell and being told that these guys know how to work, when the reality is that it’s creating a style that’s hurting the business.
Now, of course there are guys that are great and have a clue, like AJ and Samoa Joe. It’s just that I’m worried that in this computer age we live in that a bad message is spread so fast that it’s hard to find a cure. As long as the internet creates a forum where guys can be told whether they’re good or not, and that message is held as gospel, even when they’re not, then you can make an argument that the internet is hurting the business.
That’s just my opinion. I may be wrong.
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