The Ringside Sermon: The Evolving Industry
What is this? Has C-Nub gone smark? Is C-Nub sinking to the level of the common fourteen year old columnist, is he too stringing up the banner of the Wrestlers Wrestler, is he in some way or another wishing that the WWE would push the smaller, more talented guys over the larger, more impressive looking guys?
No, I am not. In fact, I am going with a completely, polar opposite approach that is going to earn me the scorn and ridicule of some of my so-called colleagues. I am not going to name names, I am not going to level fingers and get petty. I am going to say, flat out, that I think people who are saying that Chris Benoit should still be champion; that Chris Benoit should at least be challenging for the belt on PPV’s… People who think it’s a crime that Benoit is wrestling down the card are idiots. I think these people are arrogant to the point of being worthy of the WWE’s utter hatred. These are the people who, at a fundamental core of their status in the IWC are just bloody dumb.
It’s a hard line to take.
But I will explain;
It isn’t unusual to want to see something, to have a favorite aspect of the program; It becomes a problem, however, when someone assumes that their favorite is the very best for business, that what they would book were they in charge would make the most money.
That they could be a better Vince McMahon.
Vince McMahon is doing what’s best for business; a business that everyone says is cyclical in nature. Wrestling has been around since the late eighteen hundreds, and it flourished during the great depression as a carnival attraction.
They were, essentially, American Gypsies, evolved Gypsies.
And they learned something about people; In those days, a main event super-star would be of interest to a particular crowd got such a degree of time, and no then his popularity would wane. In the days when the business was territorial, a guy would work four to six months in one territory, and move on. If he was good, he’d be a tag-champ or a repeated challenger. If he was a main event level guy, he got a run with the title, and he stayed a little longer, and he drew big money.
But he would eventually lose, and leave town to move on to make big money somewhere else, all the very best guys did it. Hulk Hogan did it, Ric Flair did it, Terry Funk did it, Mick Foley did it, even the guys in the NWA work for different promotions at different levels all the time.
And a champion would reign for a year, sometimes more, and be dominant, he would be the guy who was always holding the belt, and he would be, basically the best guy in the company. Ric Flair was that guy in the NWA, he held the title all the time for years, he was great, he made everyone he wrestled look good. He’s a legend today for that reason. The Rock did it, when he was a heel especially. He put all the faces over, he was over too, beating The Rock meant something, it still means something. Steve Austin did it, as a face. So did Hulk Hogan, so did Harley Race, and the Undertaker… The guys that everyone lists as the best, the guys that people in the business respect as the top guys.
The wrestler’s wrestlers.
And EVEN these guys had to be cycled out of action every now and then to be kept fresh. The Rock and Austin were both in and out with injuries, Ric Flair worked all over the country for years, but when he went national, he was off the air for three and six month periods every year or so.
Hulk Hogan passed the torch to a bunch of guys, a bunch of times. He won it back eventually, but he often stayed out of the main event for a while. The fact that he later insisted on being on TV all the time hurt his popularity with smart fans.
Everyone great was off the air for a while.
While, now the business has gone national, and has been for a long time. Vince saw what happened to WCW with Hogan and his power-politics, he saw how having the same thing at the top of the business killed it. But he was now seeing that the was presenting his business as a product, because Vince is evolving as a business man, he’s getting smarter as he mellows. Vince sees that he has to change more than his top attractions now that he’s national, he’s got to change his product. Like Disney has, to remain successful, like Playboy had to as it evolved, like Microsoft has done, like McDonalds is trying to do to start making money again, Vince is reinventing his business.
He has to cater to a market place that will find something interesting for only so long, and then change, he has to change to continue to be attractive to his demographic, eighteen to thirty year old males.
Guys who’s interests change ALL THE TIME.
So Vince has done some things, he went with Hogan for a while, and then he changed his guys, and went with Michaels and Hart, which wasn’t as great for business, whether the matches were good or not. That was a down period, because that wasn’t what the majority wanted to see.
Then Vince hit it big with guys like Austin, guys who, to a certain degree, were more real, they had more of a dark side, and they had edge. They were meaner, more adult, and people got to buy into a business for the quality of its drama and characters.
Well, the interest in that kind of character is fading once again, and Vince may be trying to go to a direction that was worked once before.
And I think it’s a good idea.
I don’t mean to say that I’m sure it will work, I’m not, but I think it warrants a try. The WWE has been in a stable slump for a while now, and only recently, with the re-introduction of simpler, less real characters, has business begun to start to improve. People no longer want to be as stimulated, TV is getting too smart, with shows like CSI, Law and Order, House, ER, Six Feet Under, Dead Like Me, The Sopranos, Twenty Four take people who really want to think, (even the discovery channel), stuff like Survivor, Friends, Scrubs, South Park, The Simpsons, Family Guy, and in Canada the GREAT show Corner Gas take people who want to see something funny, whether it’s funny clever or funny-stupid (believe it or not, South Park is very Clever… Family Guy isn’t, but it’s still funny. Simpsons is both.)
The least tapped market right now is people who want to “not think” as they watch something. People who want to really just relax, and enjoy something on a purely visceral level. (Isn’t that a fantastic word?)
I consider myself to be a highly intelligent person, whether it’s hubris or a realistic assessment of my person is open to debate. But I know that I certainly enjoy a completely thoughtless experience from time to time. It’s not a bad thing, and it does not reflect on your person, as you can enjoy something while being, on a whole, dissimilar to it.
I love stupid action and comedy. I think Ong-Bak is the most spectacular film I’ve seen this year, I like Family Guy. I think I’m a smart guy, I like clever comedy like Corner Gas and South Park, and I enjoy CSI a lot, and watch it fairly frequently. I’m a geek, I like to watch Star Trek from time to time. I am all of these things, as most people are, and I am not made of entirely of any singular one.
And I like wrestling.
Am I stupid for not liking wrestling?
Am I stupid if I do like wrestling?
Of course not.
Would I be stupid if I thought either of the two traits above were stupid, and that any person possessing them was thus wholly an idiot?
Well yeah, that would be stupid.
Which is why I resent people who refuse to accept that it might be a good idea to move Chris Benoit a little bit down the card.
Complicated stuff, I know, and I apologize if I’ve failed to explain something sufficiently. If anyone isn’t completely sure of what I mean, copy the whole paragraph and e-mail it to me, my e-mail address is email@example.com.
With that said, look at how we feel about things, look at JBL, who is at this moment the most hated man in the E-Community.
He’s over in the arenas. He gets a big heel pop?
Was he deserving of the title belt when he won? Many people say no. Most people say no, and they hold that against him today. He didn’t meet THEIR standards.
Well, it’s not you’re company. You’d resent anyone who openly stated somewhere that they thought you were wrong with how you were running the company that your family had built from the ground up? Think about how resentful you would be towards a whole community that seemed to support the preachers of this notion? Never mind that you’re worth hundreds of millions of dollars, never mind that you’re top guys make Rock Star money. Never mind the fact that you spent a few years on the cutting edge of pop-culture, drawing huge numbers of fans, never mind that you are as successful a company on paper, objectively, as the New York Yankees.
JBL is making money, yeah, he is. Even better, he’s actually raising the over-all prestige of the WWE Championship, a belt that hasn’t meant much in the minds of many fans for a while now. The World Heavyweight Title means a lot more than the WWE Championship, but JBL is raising the value of that belt.
He has one job;
To lose at WrestleMania…
The top guys are evolving; Triple H, who used to have a wife, a home, and all sorts of things, is now once again an upper crust guy. He’s a guy who throws great parties, he gets girls, etc etc etc. It’s a simpler character, he’s evolved. The Undertaker used to be married, he used to have a ranch, he used to be “real”. Now he’s the “Deadman” again. He’s one of the most over guys there. JBL has a cabinet, which is ridiculous, and he’s over. He’s a wealthy republican stereotype, and it’s getting him heat. Randy Orton is pretty and a “Third Generation Superstar”, John Cena is just a rapper, Batista is just an animal… These are the guys getting all the big pops now, these are the guys that people want to see on a whole.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
There’s nothing saying we can’t enjoy it.
The business model is changing.
And it’s not like they’re screwing Chris Benoit or Jericho over.
These guys still get lots of air time, they’re on TV, either putting the young guys over in” Upsets”, meaning matches that don’t make them look bad (Benoit didn’t look bad losing to Batista clean, twice in a month), or feuding with some of the increasingly popular heels. Eugene is getting over, he’s being treated with respect by the company, he’s entertaining and fun. John Cena is adult, sure, but he’s still simple fun. Batista is impressive, he’s not a bad worker, he’s got the Charisma, but he’s not a character full of depth and history.
Edge is still getting a big push, even though, Christian is on TV all the time, he’s always booked to look good, he’s routinely called upon to hold the Intercontinental Championship so that a good guy can look good by beating him. That’s a good position within the company, that’s an important job, something you have to be able to do well. Triple H makes everyone he wrestles look good, always has. He’ll put anyone he can as over as he can, from Scott Steiner a couple years ago (he really tried to look scared, he tried to make Steiner look like a legitimate threat), to Gilberg back in the McMahon Helmsly era… (I have no idea how to spell Helmsly, if I got it wrong, please don’t send me an e-mail telling me, it’s not really important to my point, and I do this for free, so I can’t afford fact-checkers.)
JBL is doing the same thing. It’s not as if he’s deciding that he’s going to hold the title, he’s doing his job as best he can, and whether idiots like it or not, he’s doing it better than anyone has in a while. He’s a credible champion, he’s a great heel character. He’s not the best worker on the card, but that’s not what people are paying money to see, that’s not what makes a championship valuable.
Do you see my point?
The guys you like aren’t being held down, they’re on TV every week, they get matches and air time, they make money and you get to see them a lot. But the guys who are going to be making the most money have to be at the top of the card, that’s just business, that’s how you stay successful, or retain that level of success. It’s not a bad idea, it could turn out to be very profitable. Then again, it might not, but I think it’s worth the attempt.
Keep in mind, to fans who simply enjoy the smaller, quicker guys, the guys who work longer, more fluid matches, the real workers… There are alternatives. You don’t have to be a computer whiz to find Ring of Honor tapes, it’s out there for you to buy and download. It’s good for business for Ring of Honor if you download their stuff, it gains them exposure, and it makes you more likely to buy one of their tapes. You have to know what Ring of Honor is to go and find it, and giving away their best stuff, that makes them look really good.
TNA is available in most cities, FOX News is a pretty widely available channel… Keeping in mind that they’re losing money right now, mostly because they’re trying to push Jarrett as a legendary champion… You can get Japanese stuff, there’s a whole wrestling channel, ESPN classic Canada airs old “Classic Wrestling” from the NWA and AWA territories. None of these things are as successful as Vince, though, so if you look at it that way, it’s very obvious that people online are simply giving themselves way too much credit.
So, in the end, my point is this:
Shut up, and let the man work! He’s the multi-millionaire, he has hundreds of millions of dollars, and you don’t.
Just watch it, and if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.
PEACE AND LOVE
I will also respond to hate mail, but I would prefer well though out expressions of opinions differing to mine that I would be willing to discuss with readers willing to take the time.
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