The old territorial system was PERFECT for a young performer’s development. If you sucked one place, go to another. Learn, change and improve. Get it right for the long term.
That can’t be done anymore. Can't repackage. Fans remember.
Case in point: Wade Barrett.
Wade Barrett is a solid wrestler. Relatively young. Great as the leader of Nexus. Died like a dog as a member of The Corre. (BTW, why was “Corre” misspelled? Did I miss something?) Dislocated his elbow. Was off TV. Came back as an underground bare-knuckle fighter.
We’ve seen Barrett on NXT. He’s been on WWE TV proper since 2010. Not once during that time did we have any clue that he was an underground bare-knuckle fighter. It seems like that skill could have been useful within the context of WWE.
Fans are supposed to buy into this repackaging of Barrett. It’s been well done. But it doesn’t compute. It’s still, obviously, THE SAME GUY.
Ironically, Barrett actually was a bare-knuckle boxer prior to becoming a wrestler. Why didn’t WWE build on that from the get-go?
It’s like pushing Tensai as Japanese. He used to be Prince Albert, A-Train, etc. Everybody saw that, and CAN’T UN-SEE IT. Context lingers.
The lesson is: When you package a talent, you’ve got to BE SURE. Right or wrong, it LIVES FOREVER.
Maybe Barrett can successfully morph into what WWE wants him to be. I hope so. He’s a legit talent. His previous character was a bad-ass. Not that radically different. Steve Austin made a sideways move when he went from “Stunning” to “Stone Cold.” That was more about opportunity than it was repackaging. (The Ringmaster? Hit delete. Lucky for Steve.)
Maybe it’s time to bring back the mask. Not lucha-style. But the old-fashioned masked guy. Bob Remus went from Super Destroyer Mk II to Sgt. Slaughter, and nobody noticed. John Minton went from Executioner No. 2 to Big John Studd, and nobody noticed.
Bill Eadie went the other way in spectacular fashion. In the Mid-Atlantic territory, he briefly wrestled as Bolo Mongol, a Mongolian brawler who never talked. Overnight, he donned a mask and became Masked Superstar, a scientific heel who was extremely erudite and eloquent. Even hardcore Mid-Atlantic fans never figured it out.
BTW, is Barrett’s new character loosely based on the 2001 movie “Snatch”? If so, that follows WWE’s usual timeline. Be a decade or so late. You’d hate to be current. John Cena debuted as a white rapper, 10 years after the phenomenon, and he was the WRONG ONE - Vanilla Ice, not Eminem.
Impact is suing WWE over an ex-employee who went to Stamford and allegedly used confidential contract information to help get Impact performers to jump to WWE. WWE is not currently hiring any ex-Impact employees by way of not aiding Impact’s lawsuit.
Some people are SCREWED.
Employment options are very limited in North American wrestling: Just WWE, Impact, Ring of Honor and independent shows. Making a decent living is hardly guaranteed.
Now, Impact performers whose contracts expire CAN’T GO TO WWE, or even use WWE as leverage. Matt Morgan was forced to re-up with Impact. No choice. Ric Flair, who left Impact on bad terms, was once a lock to go to WWE as a manager. Not now. Can’t go back to Impact, either. Don’t be surprised if Devon (Dudley) returns to Impact on the cheap because he’s got no place else to go, not even as a trainer or agent. Alex Shelley is working for New Japan. He was a safe bet to sign with WWE before this lawsuit got traction.
It’s a small group, but the lawsuit and WWE’s subsequent reaction has greatly limited their employment potential and earning power. I’m assuming Morgan got much less from Impact than he might have if WWE was an option. Maybe I’m overestimating Impact’s collective brainpan and its representatives’ negotiating skills.
It SUCKS. Wrestling, as a business, is DRYING UP. WWE performers, as noted in a previous column, are badly underpaid, getting just 10-15% of the company’s total revenue. Some people make good money with Impact. Most don’t. Everyone else is just scratching.
It might actually be a good move financially to leave a promotion, work indies, and run a meth lab. Anybody thinking of doing that?
I got offered $300 to do a shoot tape. I think stories like this are worth more:
A top-level WWE diva first sought work with WCW but declined a job offer when sex with the producer doing the hiring was clearly made a condition of employment. I actually heard the producer crudely make his demand. The interview was held just feet away behind a curtain. One of the most famous performers of his era joined me in listening.
Want me to name names on this, and a whole bunch of other stories? Bidding starts at $5K.
UPDATE: By way of response to several comments, tweets and emails, if Barrett's bare-knuckle fighting past had been mentioned before, I don't remember it. If it was done, it was merely in passing and certainly not part of his gimmick. Now, suddenly, it's UP FRONT. Why not before?
UPDATE #2: Jeez, I forgot Ryback was Skip Sheffield. Now THAT's repackaging. And higher dosage. FEED. ME. MORE.