With the announcement that Mr. McMahon will be returning to Raw this week, it got me thinking. What is the role of an owner? I mean, the premise is that he’s coming in to review the job of Raw’s GM John Laurinaitis. Well, that’s his on air role. John Laurinaitis is actually an executive with WWE who used to serve as Executive Vice President of Talent Relations. Again we have an example of an executive with an on air role. So we have owners and executives playing prominent roles in the scripted male soap opera that entertains us each and every week. But who does that really benefit? Let’s look at it from a few different angles – no pun intended.
When it comes to the big boys, the rules have always been different. Ever since having the business passed down (actually purchased) from his father, Vince McMahon Jr. has found a way to make sure we don’t forget what he looks like. Whether it be his trademark announcing to his short stint as wrestling’s Johnny Carson on TNT to his vintage muscle shirted entrance in a steel cage match, Vince McMahon Jr. has played an integral part of WWE programming. But it’s not an example of a billionaire simply feeding his ego – although I’m sure his ego has a hearty appetite. Vince Jr. is responsible for taking wrestling to the next level. What was once a regional form of entertainment thought to be geared towards…well…let’s just say those that are easily amused by this type of entertainment was pushed into mainstream society. It was now “cool” to be a wrestling fan. And had the original Wrestlemania been a failure, Vince would have wound up in the poorhouse – setting wrestling back thirty years. So I guess you can give him a pass for giving himself a prominent role in WWE programming. He’s earned it.
TNA…or Impact…or whatever they are calling themselves now are another company that deserves a pass. With Dixie Carter’s money and Jeff Jarrett’s business acumen, developing another “national” wrestling company to compete against the WWE machine was risky. It took a lot of guts – and I’m sure many sleepless nights – to bring Impact from a minor inconvenience to a major player in professional wrestling. Whether you like the product or not, it looks like it’s here to stay. And again in true Vince-like fashion, Jeff Jarrett was the #1 star, focal point and six-time Heavyweight Champion. While not as clearly deserved as with Vince McMahon, I guess I can give a pass to a guy who took the risks that Jeff Jarrett did.
So it seems like he who pays the bills gives himself top billing and everyone’s happy. Right? Well, not always. In the case of Impact, Jeff Jarrett was still a top professional wrestler in his prime. So it was easy to see him as “King of the Mountain” for the time he served. And in the case of the WWE, you have to admit that whether he’s there for an announcement, a skit or a match, Vince always brings ratings. And he’s out again before he has a chance to get stale.
But what about the “Third World” of professional wrestling – the indys? With hundreds of independent wrestling promotions out there, what’s the rule….or edict, if you will? This is difficult to assess. There are so many factors – is the owner a wrestler; do they run regularly; is there enough talent on the roster; is money a factor – it makes it impossible to make a blanket statement that cover them all. So how do we help to define guidelines that may help to assure the success of the ever-important indy scene? Well, while our society provides us with Twelve Steps, Ten Commandments and Seven Deadly Sins to guide us along, so too shall the pro wrestling Crucial Three. So what is the Crucial Three? The Crucial Three are three rules that independent wrestling owners can use to make sure the best interest of the promotion is put first.
#1. Work it in slowly: If an owner leaves the first show as the champion, it sends a clear message to the fans. That message is, “I’ve always wanted to be a wrestling champion, so I bought a company and did it”. Take some time…develop your character. Wait 6-12 months before capturing the title. It gives you more credibility and gives the fans time to develop relationships and feelings towards your roster.
#2. Go with the grain; not against it: Let’s face it. At some point in our lives, all of us wrestling fans wanted to come through the curtain – our music blaring throughout the arena – and have 50,000 fans cheering for us at the top of their lungs. But we don’t all have the charisma of Hulk Hogan. And no matter how hard we try, a square peg will not fit into a round hole. If people like you, take the “pop” be their hero. If not, the wrestling world needs heels too. Trying to be the hero in that instance will only confuse the situation and the fans. Go with what works!
#3. Booking is a full time job: If we’ve learned nothing from Vince Russo (three times) and Kevin Nash during the collapse of WCW, trying to book matches objectively in the best interest of the company is difficult to maintain when you decide to write a role for yourself. Seeing Vince Russo on TV every week is like watching a martial arts movie without the subtitles. Sure, you’ll still watch it, but you have no idea what the hell is going on. And who can forget Kevin’s great decision to book none other than himself to defeat Goldberg for the WCW title…as well as his first loss. The Goldberg train was now derailed; never to get on track again. And all of this was because objectivity is lost when you write the script and star in the movie. So let your booker (or matchmaker, if you will) develop your program and get it where it needs to be. And, in retrospect, keep the booker behind the curtain where his focus will be on developing new and exciting programs, and he won’t spend too much time making himself the next Vince Russo (for the purposes of this article, that’s a bad thing).
I know what you’re saying, “I bought this promotion, and I’ll be damned if I’ll let anybody tell me what I can and cannot do with it”. Hey, I understand. In many businesses today, minority partners have little or no say in the day to day operations where their investment sits. And you’re right……you have the right to run it the way you want to run it. I’m just trying to give you a little perspective from someone that’s worn many hats on the independent scene. It’s important that the indy’s continue to succeed and thrive in the world of the big two (well, one and Impact).
So know your role…define it and live it. We’re counting on you to keep us entertained, surprise us and rekindle the days of yore when we were kids on Saturday morning. Somewhere up there Frankie Williams is looking down on us – make him proud!