Disagreeing with Madden
by Kevin Kelly
I enjoy WZ’s own Mark Madden but I disagree with Mark about the WWE misusing Punk’s promo in terms of storyline build. I think the WWE intentionally cut the legs out from CM Punk’s promo by replaying it on Raw. If they squashed it and burned the tape, it makes Punk’s words stronger and lets folks think he got over on the WWE. By replaying it, it shows that the WWE is in control of Punk and his words because something so taboo would never be replayed.
I agree with Mark that they left money on the table and we both agree this is about control. They let Punk have his moment and get his jollies at their expense but at the end of the day, Daddy Vince is in control. Maximizing the draw of the match with Cena and Punk is second to the issue of who’s in charge.
Follow-up on “Foreign Objects”
Got tons of heat from readers last week and yes, Andre the Giant is a household name. All of you who wrote Andre were completely correct. But he was never the leader of the industry, like Hogan, Rock and Austin but he definitely is a household name.
This argument was about much more than Andre and one email caught my eye. With his permission, I reprint, minus his name and email address. Then, my response, his follow-up to continue the conversation and one last reply from me… it’s a long read but I enjoyed the debate and I hope you do to.
I'm disappointed with the views you stated in this piece. The reason I'm disappointed is that someone whose announcing I've enjoyed so much and who was a nice guy when I saw you in Atlanta, shaking my hand and many other fans hands that paid you a compliment, could be so narrow minded.
The biggest problem with your assessment is that it takes an American company to push a wrestler to make them a household name. So it's down to the American company in question (currently only the WWE is capable of creating a household name). It's entirely down to them and how they push people. You talked about conditioning. Just as Japanese fans are currently used to thinking that announcing for WWE must be done in English, any fans anywhere can change their minds on these things and think that someone is a star if the WWE pushes them accordingly.
No American company has tried to push a non American star as hard as the household names you mentioned, with the exception of Bret Hart. Bret is a huge name around the world, at least as big a name as Savage was, which proves you wrong and shows that when you do push a non American hard you can get them over as a household name.
When an American company pushes another foreigner as hard as Bret and the other Americans they push so hard in an attempt to get them over (because they've done that with many other Americans who haven't been household names) and those people don't get over, then you will have a point. Currently your point is wrong because no one has ever tried to push a non American (again with the exception of Bret) to those levels.
Your opinion comes across as someone who has either travelled very little, or hasn't bothered to get to know much about the countries he's visited. Frankly it smacks of an attitude that America is superior to other countries and that America's citizens think so. I have not found this to be the case on my many visits to America and I have many American friends who don't act or think that way. I think you are doing the people of America a great disservice by acting as if America is the only important country in the world. There are people reading your article who may not know any better and really think that's how many Americans feel.
On the golf side of things, Seve and Greg Norman are absolutely household names with casual fans around the world, including America. I know this through my American friends, most of whom are not golf fans. The fact that you didn't need to mention Seve's surname speaks volumes for how much of a household name he is. Rory McIlroy likely won't become as famous as Tiger Woods. Neither will the vast majority, if not all, Americans. That has nothing to do with nationality and everything to do with personality.
On the tennis side of things, tennis is hugely popular around the world. There may be a dip in interest in America, but that's just America. There is the rest of the world too. Federer and Nadal are household names around the world. Borg most certainly didn't need anyone else to get him over. He got himself over with his own style, doing it at Wimbledon on the grandest stage of them all.
Your point about a sport needing to be popular in the US to be popular around the world and to have a boom is nonsense. The most popular sport in the world is soccer. The most lucrative sport in the world is soccer. It does this without being popular in America.
I urge you to post a new article apologizing for this one and acknowledging that your points are proved wrong, as above. Post an article that apologizes for giving the impression that the rest of the world is solely dependent on America and one that doesn't fail to think through its point, failing to realize that foreign stars haven't been pushed in the same way as American stars in wrestling.
It's great to have this debate and the main reason why I wrote such a strong opinion piece. I stand by what I wrote because it's accurate. The US drives the world's economy (although China and India are rapidly gaining) and wrestling, golf and tennis all are indicators. All three are on their ass right now with slumping ratings in the US, a decline in purses/events (the Euro PGA is in a deep slump) and part of that can be attributed to the lack of a strong American personality at the top. I loved Norman and hoped Seve would always choke but I am a golf fan. Seve didn't drive the bus of the sport in the US. Nicklaus and Watson did. When Norman and Faldo were on top of golf, ratings dipped in the US, as Jack and Tom got older and then Tiger came along and it exploded. Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Like it or not, a megastar from the US can make everything bigger globally. Tiger was a global phenom. He put more eyes on the TV sets around the world and then turned them into box office. Even if he didn't play every event, the casual fan has top-of mind awareness of any sport or activity because of an overwhelming personality at the top. Sergio Garcia could have been at that level but he never won the big one. In tennis, John McEnroe was the best heel ever and was the perfect foil for Borg. Borg vs Guillermo Vilas was great tennis but wouldn't have pushed Borg to the level of global stardom he enjoyed and the sport wouldn't have exploded the way it did. Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Hogan/Rock/Austin were global stars. In wrestling, a US company drives the global engine and casual American fans (the audience WWE covets) never have accepted (not sure if that's the right word) any great wrestler with an accent. I know it sounds terrible but it's true. I think the main reason for this is the ear. Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Look at music. Singers from England, South America or Timbuktu, for that matter, sound the same to the ear if they sing in English. Listen to any song sung in English and it's impossible to tell where the singer comes from. No accents, nothing to distract the ear. Having studied language and its impact on message retention, it's a strange phenomenon. The brain processes the message with filters that develop as children. Native spoken language to the listener improves message retention. For example, music (sung in Spanish) is more popular in Spanish-speaking countries or with natives wherever they live. But a Spanish-only singer would never become a household name around the world if he doesn't sing in English because singing in English sounds the same, no matter what English-speaking country you live in. Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Soccer is globally popular without the US but do fans cheer the jersey or the player? I wonder if in soccer, the club is bigger than the star. Would you agree? Beckham did nothing to help soccer in the US but he is a huge star. As great as Landon Donovan is, soccer has little if any traction in the US. Tiger made golf more popular globally and Tiger is a bigger star globally than David Beckham. Pele was close in that regard, as he grew the sport in the US, but once he left, soccer died in the US. Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Team sports like soccer and American football don't necessarily apply to my point because wrestling, golf and tennis are individual sports. Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨This is a great conversation to have over a beer because it is pure debate and I meant no disrespect to you or anyone around the world. I learned a lot from your email and I appreciate you writing to me. Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Thanks! Kevin
His response back…
Hi Kevin,Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Many thanks for your response. I really appreciate it, because you didn't just take the time to reply or say thank you (although of course you did do so), you took real time to go into detail and actually discuss the issues. I think something along the lines of what you wrote below would have made a much better article than the one you wrote, because it explains things a lot better and doesn't leave things open to misinterpretation. I have American friends who have distanced themselves from your original comments because they feel they could be taken the wrong way. For full disclosure I'm from England, by the way. Going through your points below, there are some I agree with and some I disagree with. It's a shame that we can't do this over a beer actually. So, taking them one at a time ... The US absolutely drives the world's economy and it's also the most influential country in the world. Are wrestling, golf and tennis indicators of that? I'm not sure. I accept that golf is in a slump, but I don't think tennis is globally, even though it is in the US. I think prize money is pretty high in tennis, although I could be wrong and if you have some evidence to correct me there, please do so. Wrestling certainly is an indicator as you said. One of my American friends is 60 and has seen a lot of wrestling in his time. His theory is that wrestling will never have another boom period due to all the competing things for children nowadays. With all the games and technology and competitors like UFC, kids these days don't have time to be wrestling fans. With fewer people getting into wrestling that doesn't bode well for its future. I think he's right and that even if the next Austin or Rock came around today it wouldn't cause another boom. A megastar from the US absolutely can make everything bigger globally, I agree. Casual American fans wouldn't have accepted any great wrestler with an accent. I disagree strongly here. You yourself mentioned Bret Hart who is definitely a household name in America as well as around the world. If you have a cartoon on the Simpsons, especially years after you retired, then you have to be a household name in America. Although he isn't quite on the same level, Roddy Piper is a household name too. So we can see some guys with accents, albeit Canadian, having had some success. My biggest contention with this point is that I don't think you can say casual fans wouldn't accept such a guy, because we just don't know. It hasn't really been tried. WWE could definitely have done some things better over the years and pushed other people more and got more out of them. Luck, timing and the quality of push have a lot to do with how things turn out. Who's to say what could have happened for sure? Or what could happen in the future? If I see foreigners getting a sustained main event push and not getting over then I will agree, but we haven't seen that. Your point about music is an interesting one. I agree that it's easier because of the lack of an accent when singing. But would the stars have stayed popular if the American public was reluctant to embrace talent from oversees, once they found out what country they were from? I don't think so. Nowadays with the internet and the video medium there are videos and interviews with the music stars and everyone knows what country they're from straight away, yet bands like Coldplay can still be hugely successful in America and around the world. That tells me that the country the person is from doesn't matter that much. I think it's all how things are presented and the WWE's problem is packaging foreigners as evil foreigners and saddling them with one dimensional gimmicks far too often. You make a good point about soccer being popular as a team sport more than an individual one. That's definitely true. There are players who transcend the sport, such as Pele, Maradona and nowadays Messi. Beckham has been a huge global superstar for years, despite not being on the level of the aforementioned players, although he was great in his day. I don't think Tiger is a bigger star globally than Beckham because golf is definitely less popular than soccer globally. A bigger star in the US, absolutely, but not around the world. It's close though. Your point about team games not correlating to wrestling so much is a good one anyway. Thanks Wrestlezone Reader
I swear… this is the end. My follow-up to his reply…
“Thanks again... one quick thing...
You wrote "(b)ut would the stars have stayed popular if the American public was reluctant to embrace talent from oversees, once they found out what country they were from?”
It's the ear and not the eye that retains the memory... I can't remember what it's called exactly but it's the reason why radio advertising is much more effective than television. (KK - It’s called “auditory memory”) So the wrestler could be from the moon but if he "sounded" familiar or comfortable to the ear of the audience member, they would embrace him.
I wrote this article to start debate like we've had and the rest of my thoughts will go up later this week. I decided to write part 2 and email you the response because I respect how you wrote to me. I've been getting lots of heat (part of the reason I wrote it) but I'm largely ignoring the death threats and feces hurling.”
So, that’s my conversation with one fan regarding this issue. I love taking a stance to generate debate. I don’t mind being proven wrong (as I was with Andre the Giant) and appreciate each one of you who wrote me. Yes, even the feces throwers.
Twitter @realkevinkelly and email me as always: