Saturday, October 2, 2010

Lessons Pro Wrestling Should Take From MMA

During the days of the Attitude/nWo era, it was possible to watch 14 hours of wrestling on TV per week. And you wanted more. You’d get up on Saturday morning to watch the TBS show and if the Braves interrupted your Saturday nights, you were inconsolable. (Why do you think I became a Phillies fan?) Now there’s about 8 hours that I wouldn’t watch with somebody else’s eyes. Where does my money go nowadays? It goes to local independent wrestling shows and the UFC. I say the UFC because most other forms of MMA I get with Showtime or Fox Sports. (But Strikeforce is a great motivation for me to keep Showtime.)

And I get it. MMA is not pro wrestling. The two are two entirely different things. I am not telling pro wrestling to start doing MMA. That would be a disaster and has been before. But there are some elements that wrestling companies should take from the MMA world.

1. Build-ups. Wrestling always seems to be building up to a pay-per-view. I would like to watch Smackdown! but the moment I start I’m bombarded with PPV build-up. One of my favorite shows of all-time was The Shield. When I watched The Shield, not every episode sounded like I had to wait for “the big event.” The same wrestlers are always wrestling. There’s never any rest. When John Cena fights, you know you’re going to see him the next month. When a WWE wrestler used to appear on Pay-Per-View, it used to be special.

How would I fix it?

WWE seems to think that their individual wrestlers are draws. I think they need to take the perspective that their company is the draw. Let’s split up who appears on what PPV. Give Undertaker-Kane a PPV where they’re the main event. Then give Randy Orton a main event. Then give John Cena a main event. Putting every one on PPV all the time is nothing more than burnout. Newsflash, WWE! Nobody is buying your PPV’s because they’re too expensive and there’s nothing special about them. Rather than make your people the draw, make your brand the draw, like UFC’s is.

2. “Entertainment” Not all entertainment is bad. There are some things I’ve loved, some of them quite bad: Torrie Wilson/Al Wilson/Dawn Marie, Perry Saturn on the double date with Dean Malenko & Terri Runnels, the Kane-Lita wedding. And, as Vince Russo is so quick to point out, the “This is Your Life” segment with Rock & Foley is the highest rated segment ever. I’m not saying no more segments. But look at how UFC & Strikeforce set up their matches before. UFC, guy with a dark screen behind them. Strikeforce showing the people striking, giving us background of their lives with the grainy background. WWE, TNA, you CAN be better. You make the best video packes around. You’ve had people like Kurt Angle, Dwayne Johnson, Stone Cold. Think of what you could do with a Mr. Anderson, John Cena, CM Punk. Do you think if you tried a UFC-style interview, that we might not hate John Cena so much?

How would I fix it?

The WWE has this deep-seated fear of doing wrestling. UFC never seems to lose their focus, nor does Strikeforce. UFC’s show to create the next superstar would never resort to playing musical chairs. It’s based purely on the fighting. WWE, why don’t you have all your guys in the same house with a match at the end of every episode? This is not hard. You can make up your own endings. If I want to watch musical chairs, I can go to elementary schools and watch them play that.

I’m sure there are others. I’d like to see more logic at play, less PG content from WWE and I’d like things to “mean something” again.

But Paul Bearer still “rises from the dead” after being buried alive in cement BY the Undertaker. TNA still has contests where wrestlers can get a briefcase that fires them and yet the wrestlers still compete in them. WWE still has a PG product even though the women still dress in outfits that would make Katy Perry’s Sesame Street outfit blush. And I’d like the sledgehammer go back to being something that put you out for months. Maybe these are pipe dreams.

Would they bring me back with this? Probably not. While they had “hot lesbian action” and nercophilia, I discovered shows on Monday night. I turned to Medium one night and fell in love. Now NBC has given us the great lineup of Chuck, Flash Forward The Event & Chase. And Fox has House & Lie to Me. Right now, I wouldn’t give up either of those nights to watch Raw.  And Thursday nights, with TNA taking on NBC’s night of comedy, Fringe & Grey’s Anatomy (That’s my wife’s show. I promise.), they don’t get my viewership either. But I’d watch Smackdown! and the late NXT but it just can’t captivate my time. And this coming from the person who stopped watching Friends and ER because of WCW’s Thursday Night Thunder. Big two, you need to make a change.

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