By Kevin Kelly
The Long Term Future of Wrestling After the Big Weekend in Atlanta
By Kevin Kelly
You know what would have helped WrestleMania? A signature win… that career-defining moment that elevates someone to the next level. Last Sunday’s event had none of that…
The biggest story for me from this weekend is the multiple reports that Vince can’t make up his mind. Word was everything was up for discussion, on the table and in a state of flux. So what you wind up with is… nothing. A great Taker-HHH match surrounded by a substantial fart.
Same thing can happen at any UFC event as well… not all of them are magic. But when you’ve got so many good matchups you can rely on, Dana White knows it’ll just be a matter of time before something else clicks. That’s what happens when you have a deep talent roster.
Vince was confident when he told us all in the production meeting that Mankind was going to beat the Rock that night to become WWE Champion. He laid out the whole narrative and that was how it went down. Mick gets the signature win, WCW kills themselves by burying Foley’s win next Monday and business was red hot. That’s what you get with Vince confident in his decision-making.
So, why is Vince unsure? Well, when Mick won the belt, he beat the Rock, had Stone Cold providing interference, joined in by Hunter, X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws. Seven top guys, just for one segment. When you’ve got a stacked lineup like this, you write names on a page, tell them what you want and sit back and relax.
Today, Vince has a lineup of good talent but is anyone at the level of Rock, Austin or even Mick Foley? Cena is a tremendous star but half the crowd hates him. Orton is money but I don’t think Randy likes being liked. He’d like to do bad things to good people… He’s Jake Roberts, not Stone Cold.
The rest of the roster? Lots of good athletes… nice enough guys but who is strong enough to get CM Punk over so he gets to the next level? Punk’s Twitter war with Stone Cold gave me hope and it may not be finished yet. But facts are facts… Years of lean Talent Development, unfortunate short-term departures and an ignorant creative team that helped drive away good wrestlers has left cupboards bare with little hope for immediate turnaround.
The reason why WrestleMania 27 was just “eh”? Bad decisions in 2003 forward…
While WWE had their big event of the year, ROH was in midtown Atlanta at Center Stage, with shows on Friday and Saturday. Wrestling fans from all over the world watched the matches and the feedback has been just about unanimously positive. In 2010, ROH lost a sizeable chunk of their upper-tier roster but they have confidently reloaded, relying on the correct instincts of smart wrestling people. Instead of sinking in 2011, ROH had one of their most-viewed weekends in their history.
So what’s the difference between the WWE and ROH? Simply put, it’s the decision-makers and the decision-making process. With Triple H now taking over the talent development in the WWE, will he have the freedom to make the right decisions? I believe he can sit with Vince and tell him what to do. Vince respects Hunter as much as he ever respected Pat Patterson. That can work but will others muddy the water?
The smart wrestling folks present new talent to ROH owner Cary Silken, he asks good questions but ultimately, Cary trusts the people he’s put in those positions to make the right decisions. That’s how it works best in wrestling. Free of agendas, talent development feeds the best coal into the engine. Watch it heat up! Throw stone and sand into the fire and it will leave everyone cold.
When the WWE was on the road back in 1996, 1997 and 1998, Jim Ross, Bruce Prichard and Jim Cornette brought the best to the table for consideration by Vince McMahon. Recommendations by Jerry Brisco, Bret Hart and others helped as well. Not every talent signing worked but Austin, Ken Shamrock, the Hardy’s, Ron Simmons, Mick Foley, Edge, Christian, Val Venis and many others did work.
Smart wrestling minds put the right combinations together on paper… mix in some good luck and voila! Magic is made…
The key is “smart wrestling minds”.
By the way, this sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus is as close as many of you will ever get to a WWE creative meeting… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3v0I4OQi7CQ
Total fiction? Perhaps, but it’s scary close to the real thing.
Michael Cole has lots of heat. Nuclear Heat. But the best finish at WrestleMania would have been Cole pinned clean in the middle, stretchered out and then off TV for months. Tapes start to play, highlighting his desire to return, apologies about. Maybe, eventually, with forgiveness, he returns to promptly throw a fireball in Lawler’s face. OK, in the PG-era, that might not fly but how could they think the crummy finish they came up with would help anyone?
But the best part is fans got to hear JR at ‘Mania and everyone loved it. Wrestling announcing is about skilled storytelling. Announcers that simply shout out move names do nothing for anyone because it’s not the move; it’s the reason behind the move and the result of the move. When announcers tell stories, they engage the audience. I thought Dave Prazak and I told some great stories during “Honor Takes Center Stage”, weaving in storytelling with heat-of-the-moment emotions.
But the audience must connect with the matches… who is fighting and what are they fighting about. Clear goals and easy-to-digest concepts. Why are they rivals? It’s what works in all sports and wrestling is no different. Has the WWE noticed that soap operas are going the way of dial-up? Long-time iconic shows like “Guiding Light” and “As The World Turns” bit the dust in the last twelve months. Fans want reality TV…
Sports is reality TV. MMA is reality TV. Good pro wrestling is reality TV.
It’s not “Kentucky Fried Chicken” anymore but KFC still sells greasy chicken.
So what’s the future for the WWE?
Thoughts? Questions? Twitter me @realkevinkelly or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org