So there I was, thinking greater thoughts than such meager intellects as populate the 'scene' could hope to comprehend without the help of a Ron Popeil informercial and Ross Perot to draw diagrams on cardboard, when an idea finally stuck me... This one:
Question: How does the WWe solve the stagnancy of it's product without any competition to steal from?
Answer: Create its own competition.
Now, you might say, 'But Bobo, hasn't the WWe squandered every opportunity ever afforded them to do precisely that?' And you'd be right. But bear with me, I promise to explain it to you.
In order to succeed, one must first identify where others have failed - and then avoid doing what they did at all costs.
Sounds easy, right? Because it is. Now, when you consider the other promotions WWe absorbed like some big lighted box from the Star Trek, and the fate that befell the stars of same while in 'the big time', you can't help but see a pattern. Well, I can't - but like I said, I'll explain it to you...
ECW was noted for having the most hardcore, vicious, ruthless, psychotically enraged bunch of tough-as-nails bastards to ever go through a ring. When these same people were brought into WWe - they were summarily squashed by every swinging dick in the WWe locker room. This is considered evidence that Vince enjoys 'hazing', which is to say to make stars he didn't personally create into complete pansies and sad jokes of their former glory. The Taz/Sable 'feud'; which I consider the full on nadir of the orange-and-black-attack, is but the latest in a long tradition of taking a wrestler's 'image' and stuffing it into a hole in the desert. The more 'badass' a wrestler is known to be, the worse he is enfeebled in 'the big time', simply for the sake of Vince's Ego - which demands that 'his' guys must always be better than 'those' guys, facts notwithstanding. To so doggedly devalue known moneymaking assets defies all concept of business acumen, which - following logic - leaves only one thing: Self-aggrandizement.
WCW was also in competition with the WWe, and when he eventually acquired it - did he clean house? Did he remove all the dead-weight and sloppy bullshit that killed the company to the point he could buy it for a song? No. Did he infuse it with much needed cash and operate it as a second arm of a 'sports-entertainment empire'? No. What did he do? He put it on a shelf and left it there until the fans of that promotion either 'came aboard' the 'only game in town', or didn't. Most of us didn't, as you can see by the static numbers the only game in town draws from the ratings... In the salad days of the Monday Night Wars, wrestling as entertainment drew numbers. Big numbers. Collectively, wrestling was always over a 10 point draw from those little ratings boxes. This was usually a 6:4 split on average, depending on who was winning. That's a remarkably large amount of people, in the ballpark of ten million based on the available data. Currently, this audience has dwindled to below what was once the 'loser share of the pie' with an occasional spike into 'losing not quite as badly' level. When they were finally allowed into 'the big time', the stars of WCW were similarly hazed and brought low, to the disgust of what fans did come aboard - which pretty much made them walk away en masse. Again, Vince completely devalued what was considered an 'asset', which is anathema to 'business'. He didn't allow any of the 'enemy' talent to 'go over', and this made them look weak and pithy against 'his guys'.
For the slow class, since it's obviously bad for business - it must be personal. There is no third motivation in a commercial endeavor. It's either for money or a chubbie. Got it? Spiffy. Moving right along....
Therefore, since those glowing examples of ego-nomics attest rather plainly that he won't allow anyone he didn't 'make' to 'make it' in 'his show', we are left with only one option: Make another show. No, I don't mean in the 'brand-split' sense, either. I mean old-school... Here's how.
Invent a ficticious promotion - in this case, let's call it 'Slam Bang Wrestling'. Now, you get yourself some of those TV writers and actors, and you build an action-packed show in a wrestling setting. No, I don't mean 'Learning the Ropes', either. Don't interrupt again. In this show, you have the fresh-faced young hopeful (for the chicks to watch, too) trying to 'make a name for himself' in the dog-eat-dog world of carnie. In the mix, you throw in the shady promotor, the love interest, the old has-been as either a 'trainer' for the hopeful or as the 'enemy' (or both), and sprinkle in judicious amounts of supporting characters (friends and allies to the hopeful, or thugs and goons doing the dirty work of the enemy) to this dynamic.
That's right, folks. Make a show that's a direct parody of wrestling itself, with wrestling. Hold the TV show tapings in various cities all over the world, with 'cards' that advance the plot of said show. Even charge the locals admission for additional revenue. You can use 'actual' talent to draw people to these local shows, and mix the 'TV matches' into the card real sneaky like. Backstage skits? None. Those are taped in advance, generally to forward the plot. Have the youngster get a pep-talk from a friend, then go 'cheer him on' from the sidelines - only to have the poor bastard get massacred by the enemy wrestler's number one goon. Have the youngster finally get a date with the love interest, and then have the party ruined by him getting a call to be a last-minute replacement for a guy that's injured. Have him struggle with the temptations of drugs and matrats and fame and excess - yet persevere and do what's right in the face of adversity. Hell, if you wanna be extra-cheap, you can mask the 'real' wrestlers, so as not to damage their 'identity' in the 'real' ring. You might have to get them a SAG/AFTRA card, but at least you won't have to teach them how to bump, right?
And the important part - KEEP THEM SEPARATE. No 'guest starring' ANYONE from the 'big ring' on the show, EVER. The point of 'diversifying' is to appeal to a totally different audience than you're already supplying. An audience with access to dough, and impressed by the sort of stuff we usually take for granted.
In case you haven't put two and two together yet, I mean a kid's show. Statistically, the great majority of kids love larger than life characters doing impossible feats for noble reasons in bright costumes. Power Rangers, anyone? Superhero comics? Kids love this shit. You don't need any of that expensive pyro and flashy sci-fi effects, either. A good, meticulously choreographed match with actors works just as well as any other worked match in the business - and sometimes even better. In fact, I defy anyone to name a 'wrestler' that's measure for measure as 'over' as any of the 'action stars' out there. Let's compare: Lou Thesz, for instance, was a giant star in wrestling. Arguably the greatest wrestler of all time, even. However, that acclaim is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the people that STILL consider Bruce Lee the greatest of all time, PERIOD. Internationally speaking, does anyone think Triple H is a bigger star than Jackie Chan? Does anyone in their right mind think Torrie Wilson could 'take' Cynthia Rothrock or Michelle Yeoh? Right, then.
Bluntly, any half-decent kung fu movie has ten times the action of a stellar wrestling show, and kids love action. The kung fu movie, of course, is a 'work' to we 'smarts', but let's be honest... Does anyone NOT think someone like Bolo Yeung or Jet Li couldn't whip a whole ton of ass main eventing in the wrestling scene? And why? Because, while the 'Hollywood' part of their careers has them in 'staged' fights, the bottom line is that those fights are staged to showcase REAL skills. Verisimilitude sells. And if you doubt me, compare the amount of 'martial arts schools' to the 'pro wrestling schools'... "You can learn how to fight" is over "You can learn how to bump" by a thousand to one, minimum. Why do you think these 'wrestling superstars' don't trot over to UFC/Pride and 'prove themselves', hmmm?
This is not a coincidence.
This is economics.
Let's take this further, shall we? There's an old saying that goes: The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world. In other words, if you can hook 'em young and make them happy, they STAY hooked. Doubt me? Don't you know any better by now?
Consider those comic books again. When do most people get into comics? Correct, when they're kids. The funny thing is, those kids grow up into people who STILL like Batman and Superman and Spiderman and the X-Men. That's a lot of fans for people that 'do not exist', don't you think? Quick, name a Batman movie that LOST money... Trick question, friend. None of them lost money. Sure, that fourth one with Mr.Freeze sucked goats and cost 110 million to make - and only made 107.2 million in the US, which would make you think you had me; but you'd be forgetting the additional 130 million it made 'internationally', and the 58 million it made in rentals. That's why I have a column, kids. Attention to detail. And you know what? Most Batman fans are willing to forgive/ignore that 'bad' one if the guys working on Batman 5 make it up to them... We call that 'brand loyalty' in business schools.
More importantly, consider when most of us marks got into wrestling... Correct, when we were kids. That's all I'm suggesting, folks. Make something to hook the kids of today, so that you'll have fans tomorrow. What the WWe has now is not for kids. Parents find it fucking appalling, and if they have any speck of decency won't let their kids near it. Let's not get into it being on late on schoolnights for the nonce, okay? Personally, I find it appalling that a show containing such horrific things as goes on in WWe is even on the air. No, I'm not one of those PTC people either. I'm just a guy that wonders who in the FUCK could possibly think necrophilia, sexual harrassment, alcoholism, racism, and attacking the handicapped is ENTERTAINING to BEGIN WITH. Vince says it's us.
I say he can shove that up his ass.
You're welcome. See you SOON.