The wrestling industry has changed a great deal over the past 30 years. From the way the product is presented and delivered, Professional Wrestling has been transformed from what it was to what it is. We can sit and debate until we are blue in the face about the “how’s and why’s” and whether this is good or that is bad but we can’t ignore change.
However, this is, was and always will be a star-driven industry. Wrestling isn’t a product or a service. It’s entertainment. And the stars are in control of themselves. While wrestlers are positioned by those in charge, they can affect their own brand negatively, more so than any booker or writer can.
Why is John Cena the top guy in wrestling? Many reasons but one big reason is because he never does anything to injure his own star power. Of course, WWE creative has given him some bad advice over his run and has put him in some tough spots (Super Cena, goofy promos, etc.) But has John Cena ever done anything stupid on his own?
Several years ago, his divorce went public but that wasn’t his fault… maybe he shouldn’t have gotten married or handled things differently in the marriage, yes, but that’s not the debate. The point is, Cena didn’t go to TMZ or spill his guts on Twitter. While his “brand” was dinged, John Cena was still a star.
And that’s the key. Cena is a star because he cares for and maintains his image. Just like he goes to the gym, John Cena actively works to make sure his fans continue to perceive him as a star. He controls the things he can control and then the rest is left up to WWE. In spite of some of their actions, the WWE continues to keep Cena strong enough to be the number one man in Professional Wrestling today.
And that’s what fans want, too. Fans want larger-than-life stars that they can get behind, support and live vicariously through. Fans don’t want just some dude playing “wrestler”.
At every ROH Tryout Camp that we run, I speak about the ills of social media and how devastating it can be to a wrestler’s image and drawing power. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can ruin careers. Why? Because if fans see one image in the ring or on TV and then another online that conflicts with that image, fans will begin to question what they see. Fans choose to buy or not to buy tickets to see wrestling based upon that question. Is this worth my time and money? When a consumer questions a purchase, the product is in trouble.
While wrestling is not a good or service, it is a consumable product and there is competition in the marketplace for mind share and wallet share. Fans want to trust in the brand. Why is Apple the brand that it is today? Fans trust the Apple product to work, but that’s a given. What they are buying is the brand. Apple shapes their products and marketing to portray the image they have crafted. There is no question in Apple fans’ minds that they have to have the newest iPhone. Once fans can take or leave Apple, they’ll be in trouble.
Fans want to believe… I always knew what wrestling was when I was a kid but I was an obsessive fan regardless.
Nowadays, Professional Wrestlers are more in control than they think. Since fans want to believe, why put out messages via Facebook or Twitter that run in conflict to the image portrayed on TV or in the ring? If you are a badass in the ring, why would you talk about family, kittens, walks on the beach, etc. on Twitter?
To Professional Wrestlers reading this, don’t portray yourselves as just some dude. When you come through the curtain, be larger-than-life. When you are in the ring, make every movement in sync with the image you want to portray. Outside the ring, keep that in mind as well.
Don’t blame Vince McMahon for the fact that indy shows everywhere are filled with “dudes” wrestling other “dudes” in front of lots of empty chairs.
Randy Savage used to show up for TV well before anyone else and he got dressed right away. He was always the “Macho Man”. Randy carefully crafted his image and protected it. Fans wanted the “Macho Man”. Would they have wanted Randy Poffo? It would have been neat at first but once the novelty wore off, so would the appeal.
It’s better to not tweet than to send out something on Twitter that hurts your brand. I’m not even talking about controversial issues, which should always be avoided. I’m talking about using social media and your “real” life. If you’re just some dude on Twitter, then fans will perceive you that way all the time.
While my soapbox is well-worn, this issue is critical to Professional Wrestling’s future. Those of us in the industry are in control of it and it is imperative to know this is what fans want.
What else do fans want? Let me know via Twitter @RealKevinKelly