Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta strode purposefully into the business offices of Impact Wrestling at the behest of Panda Energy tycoon Bob Carter.
The purpose: To apply the principles of Moneyball to professional wrestling, thus producing a viable business model. Finally.
DePodesta set up his laptop. Beane unloaded the charisma. The Moneyball duo rated wrestlers on a series of specific categories. The objective: To get rid of the overpriced and promote the undervalued.
DePodesta began outlining the categories:
*Drawing power (measured by buyrates and TV ratings relevant to each wrestler’s position on the card and within one year’s context).
*Contractual flexibility (dates available, pro-rated salary per date, recent injury history).
At this point, Hulk Hogan broke in:
“Hold it right there, baseball dudes! What about crowd pops? What about being over? What about when the Hulkster flexes the 24-inch pythons?”
Beane looked at DePodesta, who responded, “Mr. … Bollea, is it? My information shows spectators don’t pay admission to Impact’s TV tapings, nor to the pay-per-views in Orlando. Given that these people don’t pay, how is their reaction relevant?”
Added Beane, “It’s like giving a bum a free sandwich. Of course he’s gonna cheer. He just got a free sandwich. And he’s gonna cheer McDonald’s the loudest. It’s a brand name. But the brand name isn’t making us money.”
Hogan, absolutely nonplussed, continued, “And another thing, brother. The Hulkster is Impact. Impact is the Hulkster. Isn’t it logical to say that ALL Impact merchandise sales can be traced to me?”
DePodesta shuffled through his iPad, then said, “It’s not surprising you’d say that, Mr. Bollea. My information shows that during your tenure with World Championship Wrestling, the cut you got from all nWo-branded merchandise was so high, the company actually lost money on each T-shirt sold.”
Interjected Beane, “That’s something the New York Yankees can afford to do for A-Rod. This ain’t the New York Yankees, and you ain’t A-Rod.”
Vince Russo interrupted: “What about creative? How does Moneyball reflect on what I do?”
Said DePodesta, “I was getting to that, Mr. Russo. We have devised a system that will correlate gaps in product logic to ratings drops, not just from segment to segment, but from week to week. We believe storylines that contradict, or don’t make sense, not only cause viewers to change channels, but to pursue alternate viewing in subsequent weeks.”
Russo shouted down DePodesta, regarding him as one might a drooling mental patient: “IT’S ONLY WRESTLING! You know that, right? IT’S ONLY WRESTLING! Our viewers aren’t that smart! There’s no stats, or scores, or OPS, or DEA, or PMRC! IT’S ONLY WRESTLING! Anyway, what do you mean, ‘Gaps in product logic’?”
Responded Beane, “Well, for starters – one week Traci Brooks is married to Kazarian, the next week she’s f***ing Eric Bischoff to get a job, the next week she’s married to Kazarian again. I guess Kazarian doesn’t watch Impact. He got cuckolded on national cable TV, but he never sold it, not once.”
Snapped Russo, “You wanna nail Traci? I can get her down here right now.”
Beane: “No, thanks.”
Russo: “How about Karen Jarrett?”
Beane: “The line’s too long.”
Jeff Hardy burst into the room: “Did somebody mention lines?”
The meeting continued through the day. At one point, Beane said, “Look, here’s one concept that’s not revolutionary: Don’t spend more than you take in. We let Jason Giambi go. You guys signed Hulk Hogan. Difference is, your Giambi stopped hitting home runs over a decade ago.”
With eyes glazed, Hogan said, “Totally not following you, dude.”
Three days later, Impact called a press conference to introduce their new COO: Former Oakland A’s manager Art Howe.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM, Pittsburgh, PA (105.9). Check out his web page at WXDX.com. Contact Mark by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. MARK NOW HAS TWITTER: FOLLOW HIM @MARKMADDENX.