I haven't posted my bar reports for several months - mostly because I stopped going due to lack of interest in the product. I headed out to the local sports bar to catch WMXX and see how the crowd reacted.
If a match wasn't mentioned, its because I didn't notice a crowd reaction.
The bar was packed. SRO. During past PPVs, they charged you $5 to get in and then handed you a coupon for $5 off food. The coupon was good for that nite only. Tonite, there was no fee to get in.
Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar: Crowd was very up for this match. Everyone loved Goldberg. One guy was telling his wife: "this is THE match! We can leave after this is over!" Crowd poppped fairly big for when Goldberg got the pin. Everyone immediately wanted to see Goldberg and Austin get into it. Some even complained that Goldberg vs Austin should've headlined this PPV. Crowd popped big again for Austin stunning Goldberg. Some people filed out of the bar after this match was over.
Undertaker vs Kane: Big pop for Undertakers entrance. Crowd was into the old school stuff.
Eddy Guerrero vs Kurt Angle: Well, this surprised me, but Eddy is OVER! I definitely for the "nWo" vibe coming from the crowd with Eddy. Like Hall and Nash, Eddy seems to be that "bad guy" the crowd loves to cheer. Very interesting. Big pop for the frogsplash as they expected a pin out of that, but were disappointed. Fairly big pop for Eddy using the ropes to pin Angle.
HHH vs HBK vs Chris Benoit: If there is ONE wrestling t-shirt I see at EVERY PPV bar report, its a HHH shirt. This time around, HHH was the ONLY shirt I saw, worn by a few people. Benoit got an ok pop for winning the title, but nothing major.
My opinions about this product remain pretty much unchanged. To this day, I do not understand why the industry stopped doing what made it successful in the mid 1990s. The formula was simple:
1. establish a small group of maybe 3-5 superstars. 2. these superstars do NOT wrestle each other. 3. pick one matchup as your "signature matchup" for your major annual PPV. 4. tease the matchup during the course of the year. 5. develop other stars in the undercard to replace your top 3-5 as they get old/leave/retire.
WCW used this formula to drop the hammer on the WWF for years. They built up Sting and Hogan. Then they teased and teased the matchup for Starrcade. Meanwhile, Kevin Nash and Goldberg waited in the wings.
What ruined WCW was bringing in Russo, who immediately hotshotted the title around on everyone and gave you all the matchups that should have been saved. Suddenly, there were no new matchups to offer. There was no anticpation. It was all recycling the old matches. People tuned out.
Vince continues to do the same stupid thing to his own product. He saves NO major matchups for later. He makes Jericho champ, and then has him feud with all the other major superstars in three consecutive PPVs. Saved nothing. He brings in the nWo, and immediately gives you Rock vs Hogan and then blows up the credibility of the group. Saved nothing.
If I look at WWEs roster right now, there is not ONE matchup that I haven't seen before. THAT is FAR and AWAY their biggest problem. There is ZERO anticipation. There is no way to tease fans to tune in to see something NEW. Its already all been seen.
And what blows me away the most was that this formula was working ... and they just go away from it for no reason.
So, Chris Benoit is champ. Ok, that is something new. But really, there isn't any matchup I can think of between him and someone else that jumps out as "ooh, I haven't seen THAT before!" Heck, Benoit wrestled Rock as soon as he jumped from WCW. There's another bad move.
I don't believe this product can recover until they discard the "recycled" feel of it. And right now, that will take years of proper booking.
The difference between me and Vince, illustrated by a hypothetical example of signing Sting tommorrow:
ME: I sign Sting and tell him, "Look, I'm not asking you to wrestle much. In fact, the point is to not have you wrestle except against some mid-carders. I'm gonna TEASE matchups between you and the other big guns. This will give fans time to spread the word you are in WWE and will build anticipation for WM21 which is headlined by Sting vs Rock. Maybe I'll even tease Sting vs Austin for a later WM like 22, but I could easily go in another direction depending on his health. Hopefully by then, another superstar has emerged to help build up the roster of 3-5 waiting to tease and headline."
VINCE: "Ok, we'll whip up an instafeud between you and Rock and we'll have you fight in the midcard on Backlash. Maybe the ratings will get a slight bump for that. After that, I'll have you fight Austin next PPV in some watered-down match because he's kinda out of shape and not healthy. That should give two minor PPVs a small boost! Well, that's if the fans even know you were signed by us by then. But who cares! I'm booking by the seat of my pants and this never fails, right?"
The bottom line (ha) is that you KNEW the buzz was in the air for Hogan vs Rock. Why? Because it was something LONG anticipated but NEVER SEEN before. THAT is the lifeblood of this industry. The ability to build up to those precious matchups, to tease those precious matchups. Not to piss them away on Backlashes and leave yourself with a recycled, ho-hum roster.
I tend to agree, but it's not as easy as you think it is.
As it is, WWE has four hours a week to fill of television shows that need a strong rating. They also have *TWELVE* PPVs a year where, as much as they need to think long-term, they are still looking for a good buyrate. For example, you can only keep so many guys separate for Wrestlemania dream matches or else the other 11 PPVs of the year will look like total filler. It's understandable if they wanted to keep, say, Rock and Sting separate, but that would mean other PPVs would have to give away matchups like Sting vs Orton or Sting vs Jericho.
And anyway, sometimes the circumstances surrounding certain matchups change so drastically that it still seems fresh. Take Benoit/Rock for example. At the time, Benoit was an up-and-coming midcard heel and Rock was on top of the WWF. If today, they had the world champion Benoit go up against a heel Hollywood Rock, the aura of the match would be totally different. Imagine if they pushed Edge to the top like planned, and they had an Edge/Guerrero matchup? That match would have a totally different feel than SS'02, only because the circumstances have changed.
I thought in November they were building up to a 'dream match' between Austin and Jericho. I didn't even realize they had a match at No Way Out, because the feud and match were pretty forgettable. If they had continued that tension between the two until March, it still would feel like a fresh matchup. WWE, with so much time to fill, has to do as best they can to satisfy the customer week-to-week and build up matchups. If you're looking for a year's buildup of Savage/Hogan like the good old days, it just cannot happen like that. I think they've done a pretty good job for six months building up the Mania card, with Lesnar/Goldberg, Orton/Foley, and even...Taker/Kane. Yes, that match still seemed fresh, only because the circumstances have changed. It wasn't until midway through the match that I realized these are the same two men who fought each other dozens of times in 97-98.
I never said the execution was easy. In fact, one of the complaints about the buildup to Sting vs Hogan was that at times it felt like filler. But in the end, it worked. The teasing drew ratings. But we saw the same thing with Hogan vs Andre. That was teased for several months as well. That also led to a major bout and huge ratings.
How was Andre vs Hogan teased? Well, it started with Andre getting on a hot streak and winning some big matches. Hogan was there to congratulate him and celebrate with him. Then Hogan took it a step too far and started taking over the interviews that were meant for Andre. I remember Andre winning a match where he was awarded one of those HUGE trophies, and Hogan went into "glory hog" mode and just stole Okerlund away and talked about himself. Andre started getting a little annoyed. Finally, Andre just got mad, threw his hands in the air in disgust, and walked away. Wouldn't talk to Hogan. Hogan was like, "What wrong?" He tried to make up. They did. Then Hogan did it again. Now Andre was really mad. Hogan again apologized. This time, it wasn't enough. Then came the shocker: Andre aligned with Heenan. Hogan was stunned, but still tried to talk sense into Andre. Then Andre started viciously attacking Hogan and others as he established a heel personna. Hogan kept holding back, kept holding out hope Andre would regain his senses. Then finally, after another vicious attack, Hogan had enough and was ready to fight Andre. That led to WMIII.
All of that took about a year. See, it can be done. Just takes good writing. Its not easy, but when properly executed, it sucks the fans all in. The fans were watching this feud unfold and thinking to themselves, "OH man I hope there is a fight! I can't wait to see these two titans go at it!"
<< If you're looking for a year's buildup of Savage/Hogan like the good old days, it just cannot happen like that.>>
That's EXACTLY the type of thinking that is killing this product, imho. Its not easy to script a feud that gets drawn out over a year. Just because its not easy doesn't mean its not essential. This is where I have been harping that they might want to bring in someone who writes for a regular television series to help give them ideas on how to fill in time. That doesn't mean endless vignettes, but possibly it could bring fresh reasons why people hate each other but won't fight right away.
"That's EXACTLY the type of thinking that is killing this product, imho. Its not easy to script a feud that gets drawn out over a year. Just because its not easy doesn't mean its not essential. This is where I have been harping that they might want to bring in someone who writes for a regular television series to help give them ideas on how to fill in time. That doesn't mean endless vignettes, but possibly it could bring fresh reasons why people hate each other but won't fight right away."
Except most of the shit in wrestling now is written by people who HAVE spent time writing regular TV series. That's been one of the fed's hiring requirements for awhile now.
It's a tricky situation, because whilst television-style writing would lead to hotter payoffs (think of the rasslin' equivalent of the first Ross/Rachel kiss, for instance-boy would THAT pop a buyrate), most TV writers probably couldn't give a crap about the mechanics of wrestling and want to write things their way. It's probably not helped by McMahon's Crash TV agenda-although that finaly seems to have died thanks to the Katie Vick debacle-but the fact remains that TV-style writing probably does more harm than good for what is really one of the most uniquely styled products on the box today.
The other issue with that theory is that, as much as many-including myself-wish that the business was less rushed these days, it has been changed irrevocably since the later 80s/early 90s. The fans have become trained to expect instant gratification, which would be a mighty hard medicine to ween them off of, and which could lead to damaging the core audience they're maintaining right now.
I do like your proposals, and I think there's something in them, but the change needed is probably to massive for either the company or the fans to weather. Of course, the issue is kind of moot now, seeing as the fed have literally exhausted all possibilities of bringing in outside "legends" for one last run.
[ The other issue with that theory is that, as much as many-including myself-wish that the business was less rushed these days, it has been changed irrevocably since the later 80s/early 90s. The fans have become trained to expect instant gratification ]
Whether you refuse to believe it or not, it's the truth. How can a business go from three/four PPVs a year and a limited amount of television exposure to fourteen PPVs a year and around eight hours a week of national TV? It has become an entertainment form of instant gratification, much like mainstream Hollywood is nowadays. I wish it weren't the case just as much as you, but it is. The sheer logistics of it guaranteed it.
kokolums2, I know it is something you refuse to believe, but it's the state of society these days, not just wrestling.
There are signs of it in most everything these days, ESPECIALLY with technology progressing the way it does. Who wants to have their film developed when you can get a digital camera and see your pictures immediately. Who wants to wait when you can have a cell phone and call someone at anytime, anywhere? Who wants to wait for anything, when you can drive through for food, prescriptions, etc. Who wants to sit through a slow building movie or television show with depth and character development, when you can have the payoff now now now?
Sorry, but our society is an instant gratification society. And it's much tougher than just changing peoples' attitudes about wrestling, it's changing peoples' attitudes about everything.
No. I've heard that excuse for several years. I think its just an excuse. Vince doesn't want to put in the effort and hard work to develop a long storyline. So he takes the easy way out, says its "impossible" and goes for the quick fix everytime.
I think Vince has lost the fire.
I never have and never will buy into the belief that people have shorter attention spans. I don't buy into the belief that this is an instant gratification society. I think that is the battlecry of a promoter that doesn't care.
I mean, really. Long story arcs weren't a problem in 1996. What changed between 1996 and 2004 to make the entire audience suddenly lose their attention span? Did space aliens come down and suck on everyone's brains or something? Its just an incredibly lame excuse based on NO facts whatsoever.
C'mon man, this being wilfully ignorant and you know it. You can't just ignore an argument when its place din front of your theory, and you can't pretend like 1998 and it's Crash TV philosophy never took place. It did, it was responsible for the biggest boom since the 80s and, just like Rock'n'Wrestling changed the biz forever, so did this. The fans would get pissed-off with waiting and waiting and waiting for a match being teased for four months, let alone a year.
If you guys are correct, then we should see evidence of this in the ratings. The nWo was a long, drawn out teased story arc. Same for the Vince vs Austin story arc. According to the theory that fans do not want such things, the nWo angle should have been a dismal ratings failure. Furthermore, as the industry moved towards shorter and shorter storyline and instafeuds, as we have seen over the past 3 years, the ratings should have boomed to record heights.
Instead, the ratings show that the exact OPPOSITE has occured.
I did it completely mindboggling that people would took at the hard data and conclude that fans do NOT want long story arcs. Everything points in the other direction.
What happening to pro wrestling reminds me a lot of what happened to Doctor Who during its final years. The ratings kept falling and falling and instead of trying to fix the problem, they insisted what they were doing was correct. Finally the plug was pulled.
I think it's pretty clear the WWE is slowly but surely reverting back to long term, slow-burn feuds. Look at Christian/Jericho and Orton/Foley. It buildup was LONG compared to what we usually get and really worked well for the Mania matches. And they weren't even the blow-offs!
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