Having been away for a few weeks and after no one showed any signs they missed me I have returned. Instead of picking on one main subject I thought I would write about several I have thought about recently.
1) WWE know what is wrong with their shows which is why heels say it: If you pay attention to WWE TV you will notice that they are often harsh critics of their own product. The problem is the only people that ever say anything negative that rings true is the annoying heels. R-Truth, CM Punk, John Morrison, The Miz and of course Michael Cole all say things that are spot on about the product like it is all about Cena and Orton, no young guys get a real chance, the Divas suck (ha ha) and a lot of guys don’t have great in ring skills or can’t talk. Because it is a heel that either no one likes or has no credibility that is saying it it gets dismissed and the point becomes invalid. I call it indoctrination or propaghanda. WWE want fans particularly the younger ones to think that everything that is wrong with the shows is actually right and that by criticizing the shows you too are a loser. In some ways that is a smart business decision but on the other hand it shows that at least someone backstage knows what the problems are and instead of dealing with them they just rebrand them as positives and hope no one says anything.
2) Over The Limit Is Cursed: Don’t believe me? When the name debuted a year ago some people thought it was too much like Over The Edge which was the name of the PPV Owen Hart died at. Well getting passed that, at that PPV Orton got injured AGAIN at the hands of Edge (One of five real injuries that night) and Batista got hurt so much during his match he came down to the ring next night in a wheel chair and quit the company (storyline obviously). Fast forward a year and the poster boy for OTL ’10 (Edge) had to quit a month before OTL’11 so he didn’t legitimately end up in a wheel chair. Added to that just days before the driving themed PPV one of wrestling’s genuine legends died in a car crash. It is easy to say all those things were just coincidence and you are probably right but still, maybe they should change the name.
3) Ring Of Honour will never succeed the way people want it to: I havn’t been keeping up with what is going on in the internet wrestling world lately but I gather ROH has been sold and people are excited. On this I’m going to claim almost total ignorance so if I sound completely stupid blame it on that. I don’t know who it was sold to, if some sort of tv deal is in the works or what sort of investment is planned. What I do know is for a while at least fans have been talking about this being the moment ROH really starts to grow and some even going so far as to say it could one day rival TNA or even WWE.
Lets face facts…
ROH for all intense and purpose is a small time promotion and has a cult following. Now I say that with nothing but the greatest respect for all those that work there and a lot of those that have previously. There are many aspects to running a wrestling promotion and many factors that decide why some succeed, some fail and some just manage to survive. Something we should all be able to agree on is ROH has always gotten by on its niche appeal. That appeal may have grown in its lifetime and may continue to steadily but overall there is a limit to those that want to watch or pay for it. Something that dedicated wrestling fans need to accept is that for a company to truly take off and succeed they have to attract the mainstream casual fans and without that that promotion will never be more than well….a ROH type promotion.
If WrestleMania achieved anything this year it was to show just how much of a gap there was between wrestling fans. Some are totally on the side of spectacle and entertainment. Others are sick of that and are far more interested in the wrestling aspect. I maintain that the two are not mutually exclusive and that the true legends of wrestling were capable of combining the two. No matter how you feel about it the facts remain the same. To compete with WWE you need to have a decent amount of the sports entertainment side of things which pretty much goes against the whole ROH philosophy. Now you could easily turn around to me and say that there are lots of fans out there that want to see a more wrestling focused product and once they see what ROH has to offer the company will grow. That is true but it will never get to the size where it could compete.
For ROH to grow and compete with WWE or even TNA it will have to do what TNA did which is try and hook in new fans by changing its product to fit in with what is over with casual (WWE) fans. By doing that ROH will stop being the ROH its fans know and love. It will turn into what TNA is, a product that doesn’t really please its hardcore fanbase much anymore and certainly doesn’t please anyone else.
And even if it showed signs of competing WWE would easily destroy it.
Side Note:It does really depress me how popular TNA is here in the UK but until I’m put in charge there is nothing I can do.
4) WWE is built too much towards casual fans which could go bad quickly: Now this is obviously something we all know. There is no escaping it and to be fair it has been the case throughout wrestling’s history. The problem is just how much emphasis is put on what casual fans want and how prepared or unprepared WWE is for when little Johnny starts getting bored and changes the channel.
Now we all have a good idea why WCW folded. We have all read the books and the stories, watched the shoot interveiws and heard the podcasts. Even now the main players in that story still argue over just who it was that made the stupid decision that caused the house of cards to collapse. The thing that never really gets said though (not outright at least), the reason why the fans lesft in their millions and have never been seen since is simple. They were mostly casual fans.
How can that be said with any degree of certainty? Because everything about the boom period of WCW, the whole Bischoff and much later towards the end Russo philosophy, the whole “Controversey creates cash” mantra was designed to appeal to a casual fan base and for a while it did. Hell, the thing was pretty much just another attraction at Universal Studios.
Decent story telling of any kind is all about keeping the audiences attention both in the short term and in the long term and it is an art form. WCW became more and more about the short term because that was what worked for a brief period during the 90’s. Short sharp shocks are what people wanted every week they tuned in. The problem is that when that is done for too long, when the short term goes on long term things falls apart. With all due respect, casual fans are like magpies to a degree. They follow what is the latest shiny popular thing untill something else that shines better comes along. And even they can get bored of the same old thing being put in front of them. What characterized WCW:
Titles that meant little if anything.
Over booked matches/matches not starting or finishing.
Too much interference.
The same exact people having the same exact matches.
The same guys on top never moving with the guys below stuck in their designated spot.
People breaking up and getting together with little notice or reason.
Stipulations that meant nothing.
Every show feeling exactly the same in so much as it bore no relation to what came before it and would have little if anything to do with what came after it.
This is exactly what WWE has become. The difference is WCW had no idea how to get out of that mindset and change when it was needed. WWF/E have always managed to adapt to changing moods and trends and hopefully will be able to when the time comes.
5) No one is bigger than WWE: I mention this because I know lots of fans are sick or Orton and Cena being on top and the way guys like Miz, Del Rio, Christian, Morrison, Ziggler, Barrett get treated.
Something Kurt Angle said once about the difference between TNA and WWE right now is that TNA want to have global stars that are bigger than the company in order to help bring attention to both wrestling and in particular TNA.
A hard as it is to believe WWE don’t want anyone to be a huge mainstream star in that way.
Part of the reason guys are booked how they are and kept in spots they are better than, why WWE owns their names and everything about them, why they all have to go to develpomental to learn to wrestle the same way and cut the same promos is so no one can stand out and take off without WWE say so. They even have the guys that could cross over appear in their own crappy movies partly for that reason. WWE want to control every aspect of wrestling possible. If someone did what Hogan/Austin/Rock did then WWE wouldn’t be in control of what that person did or said and that person wouldn’t need WWE anymore. In Orton and Cena they have found two guys that are very over but are also loyal/smart enough to not push their luck and try and garner any real mainstream success. No matter what they do the fact they are a ‘WWE Superstar’ comes above all else and that is how it will remain. So until fans get bored of Cena and Orton don’t expect anyone to seriously step into and challenge the established main event order.
6)The E is for Experience: For a while now it has been clear that the audiences at WWE live shows spend long periods not really into anything going on in front of them. It is easy to say that the product is so crap that even the people that pay to see it think it sucks and there is almost certainly an element of truth to that. I on the other hand think there is a different issue which is the fan base are both mostly casual fans but also thanks to many years of kayfabe being broken and the rise of internet sites and social networks the fans are too cynical and smart . They are smasual fans (I’m sure it’s a word).
Long ago in the simpler times when wrestling was huge and everyone was into it, men and women across all demographics would tune in and no matter how much controversey there was and how much kayfabe was broken, fans were willing to see past that and suspend disbelief. They loved wrestling and being a part of it. Now when you watch the fans the attitude has shifted somewhat. When fans used to see a wrestler they liked they cheered and when there was one they hated they booed regardless who was meant to be face or heel. When wrestlers were near by all the fans would get up and be like ” Holy shit it’s Shawn Michaels…..I hope you get you ass kicked pretty boy!” or ” WHOOOOO Stone Cold, kick his ass!” Things like that rarely happen to that degree anymore. When wrestlers leave the ring and go near the crowd far too often the fans, that paid to go and even have the t-shirt just kind of sit back and regard what is going on in front of them as some kind of exhibit and are much more ” Hey look an actual WWE Superstar” like they are at the zoo or back in Universal watching WCW. Often when the camera is on the crowd you can see people visibly embarassed not just because they are on tv but because they are at a WWE show live. It is though WWE has become a parody of itself and people of a certain age are in on the joke but not in a fun way. I blame WWE for depersonalising the whole experience for fans. Added to that WWE are trying to mix an old school mentality to a newer modern product and it is a mess.
WWE now sells itself as just an experience. That is why so many tv shows and even PPV’s like WrestleMania are glorified house shows. They have the exact same format every week regardless. Matches don’t matter anymore. All the fans want is to see guys like Cena, Orton,Kofi, Rey come out, hit their signature, win and leave and then go home and say they went, so WWE gives it to them. They don’t want long feuds where they have to tune in every week. They don’t care about a story being told in the match as opposed to simple three minute vignettes.
The problem is now WWE are giving less and less time to guys the fans might not really like but would if they saw them. That and younger fans aren’t ever going to get educated about wrestling or its history because they have no reason to do so. They will hear the names of guys like Bret, Shawn, Austin, Flair and Steamboat. They will even cheer when those guys show up. But why would you go and look back at those guys matches when you aren’t ever going to see them, have no idea what they did and are told little or nothing about why you should find out what made them great. WWE has an huge chunk of wrestling’s history which it will only release when it feels like it and even then only older fans will buy it. I only buy the best ofs and career sets but I doubt any John Cena fan cares about the career of Shawn Michaels or history of WCW or NWA. The worrying thing is the product by anyones standards is so forgetable that in fifteen years time John Cena fans aren’t likely to talk about one of his matches or a PPV he headlined in the way all of us talk about the wrestlers we saw growing up and that is kind of sad.