“ Yes, we sell out…every seat in the house, every time we play, anywhere we play.” – Jason Newsted answering fans who claimed Metallica had “sold out.”
It’s funny how in this world success can make people hate you. This is pretty evident in the NASCAR circuit and the music industry, especially. Poor individuals take flack for success left and right. “YOU SOLD OUT!” roars from former “fans” that supported you on the climb up. I can imagine how these individuals feel. They can take it on the chin and fire back like Jason Newsted; or they’ve had enough and have their manager warn people ahead of time that any heckling will result in ejection from a meet and greet tent; ala Jeff Gordon when he was on top of NASCAR.
Enter the world of professional wrestling and the same prejudice to success exists. Main Eventers are accused of having 3 moves and immature gimmicks. Often this makes it way into the ring itself, The Rock being one in particular to mock another gimmick on the mic. But what makes pro-wrestling special is this prejudice exists on a Promotional level.
Apparently, everyone hates the WWE.
Well, most everyone with an alleged opinion on the pro-wrestling industry seems to. I never hear anything positive from them on the product. Fans more so than anyone else.
Riddle me this, Fanboy: Why do you still watch it? It’s obvious you do because you know everything about the storylines and the matches. Better yet, if you are an independent worker slamming the “E,” why do you strive to be part of it? Because if you are good enough that’s your stop at the top on this ride. Start out as a wrestler, end up a Superstar.
I have grown witnessing the evolution of the WWE from it’s roots as the World Wide Wrestling Federation to the WWF to the WWE. I remember the first time I watched it on TV when I was probably 9 or 10 years old and my Dad was shouting “Tommy! It’s Sgt Slaughter!“ I came running to living room. This was BH (Before Hogan). 1976 or so.
I don’t know if it’s a strive to be different, like saying THE WWE SUCKS makes you cool. I don’t think it does. I think it makes you sound somewhat ignorant. I can understand why you might feel this way. There was a time when Metallica was an underground band. Then they grew in popularity. They also got older. They broadened their musical horizons, experimented. They became main stream and suddenly it wasn’t cool to like Metallica anymore. The anti-establishment became the establishment. The WWE has grown to be the top of the ring post. And “purists” react to the product as if it spread leprosy.
Does the WWE always provide a quality product? No. I would be a fool to say otherwise as I have also been extremely vocal about crappy storylines and miss-bookings in the past. Yet I still mark out and cheer for The Rock when he’s in a ring or even on the Big Screen. And so does most anyone else. You cannot judge an entire product on it’s misfires, especially with the WWE. I love how a failed story line or gimmick will simply disappear and never be mentioned again. It’s the age old adage of not admitting to your mistakes and pretending they don’t exist that allows the WWE to avoid calamity when this doesn’t work. And this works 95.5% of the time. Ask Fake Diesel and Faux Razor Ramon about the 4.5%.
Does it consistently provide a quality product? Yes. Week after week. The production values for WWE programming are on par or superior to that of other sports. Plus the WWE has, without fail, acquired top quality in ring talent through the decades. You could say their drafting skills would make any NFL GM jealous.
RAW is the longest running program in cable history. It is also the highest rated cable program. Something must be working right for this to happen. This certainly wasn’t facilitated by providing a sub par product to the masses.
The WWE is running around 70 live broadcast shows a year. Some gimmicks are going to fail, some story lines are going to flop. Not everything gets over. Sometimes the crowd reacts in a manner you did not expect, now this story has to change. The bottom line is shit happens and the WWE has shown the resilience to bounce back from this and stay on top; unlike other promotions that have been absorbed by a larger federation or just waylaid to the point they had to close down. This was no more evident during the WCW war.
We all know the story, a movie in the making to be sure. WCW promoter Eric Bischoff obtained a blank check from Ted Turner to make WCW the number 1 wrestling promotion and bury the then WWF. He won the beginning of the war, stealing much of the marquee WWF talent. WWF fired back, missing the literal mark with the previously mentioned “clones” of defecting talent, yet hitting it on the head by growing an “Attitude.” He sealed the deal by letting Mick Foley jump off a cage. WCW made a major misfire by handing their championship belt to B-Movie actor. A Stone Cold Stunner and a People’s Elbow later . . . Vince McMahon was on TBS for the first time since the failed TBS/WWF broadcasting venture in the 80′s.
Many accuse the WWE of burying up and coming talent. Yes, they do. Everyone does. This practice is as rampant throughout the wrestling industry as promotional prejudice. You see it from the independents on up. Promotions with egotistical and narcissistic owners. Over-paid, insecure and aging “talent.” By contrast, the WWE has utilized this for seasoning their talent. It’s one of the secrets they have and it used to build a character up to get them over. They literally pay their dues. Does it always work? No. We’ve already established this is not a perfect world and sometimes this practice flops, as with any other.
I recall when Daniel Bryan (Danielson) came back to the WWE after his untimely and unnecessary firing. He got the initial push most wrestlers receive when entering the WWE . . . then became the jobber of the week. He got buried and went from being “The Best in the World” on the indy circuit to the little guy getting squished by the big guy. Time passed. He grew that beard, he started acting crazy and proving to people that being “The Best in the World” means working at it constantly. Nooooo? Yessss!!!
Finally, there is one major component of the WWE equation that separates it from the rest of the pack that no one can argue. I don’t think I need to say but two words:
Marketing and merchandising.
Don’t think all of this stops at the top. Promotional bigotry exists in the bush leagues, too. Recently a “back yard” promotion in Upstate New York booked a show mocking East Coast powerhouse Squared Circle Wrestling. In turn, I’ll be the first to admit that some show names for 2CW are pretty good digs at the WWE. At least 2CW management is creative and does it with a smirk.
If we have any opinion of the WWE it should be that of a guide, a model to success. Fans that understand this are enlightened and truly know what is quality and what is David Arquette holding up a championship belt in the ring.
Promotions that have done so are also successful, like Ring of Honor and particularly the previously mentioned 2CW. The latter was created after the promotion’s future management watched a WWE PPV and said to each other: “We can do this, but better.” Their marketing and merchandising is creative and very lucrative to the promotion. They’ve also followed the WWE standard of booking consistent talent, the best available on the independent scene. They certainly up to their slogan of wrestling being “the entertainment.”
Token Tom Clark is the former host of the 2CWFancast, a podcast dedicated to PWI's 2011 and 2012 Independent Wrestling Promotion of the Year, Squared Circle Wrestling. A life-long pro wrestling enthusiast and ringside smart mark, Tom's geekness extends to reaches generally reserved for the involuntarily celibate. He prefers either of the Battlestar Galacticas to Star Trek OR Star Wars and has a Supergirl thing. All that AND he plays Magic the Gathering... poorly.
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