Most fans are familiar with the story of World Championship Wrestling- from its origins as a southern-based territory to its rise to the top of the wrestling mountaintop to its sudden fall, being eventually purchased by the WWE and essentially put out of business. The biggest criticism of WCW and the usual go-to explanation for its demise, with the benefit of hindsight as well, is paraphrased that WCW “was a TV company that had a wrestling show.” The WWF, on the other hand, “was a wrestling company with a TV show.” Vince McMahon owned and operated the WWE, using his own money to do so. WCW was operated by executive directors and presidents, while being financed by Ted Turner. Turner wanted to own a wrestling company because, well, he liked wrestling and wanted it on his television networks. It didn’t pay the bills, and for most of its existence WCW ran in the red, but Turner was a fan and enjoyed having wrestling in his portfolio. The WWE, on the other hand, WAS McMahon’s portfolio. It was and is his life blood. It’s his job. It’s his legacy. It’s his everything. And most feel that this is exactly why Vince ultimately won “the war.” He had no other choice but to win.
But we are now seventeen years removed from WWE buying its competition. There was no “war” to fight anymore. So naturally the way the WWE did business was bound to change and evolve eventually.
There is an accepted sentiment in wrestling that nothing is truly original. Everything has been done before. Every character storyline, and match finish is derivative of something we have seen previously, usually multiple times over multiple eras and decades. The same holds true today. Despite what hardcore fans, internet “experts” or even TV ratings might suggest, the WWE as a company is seeing success on a scale never achieved before. While I’m not discounting some of the legitimate gripes that some of the fan base rightfully has, the bottom line is that revenue streams, from TV network deals, advertising, and stock prices, are soaring at all-time highs. However, the strategy with which this has been done has, like most things in wrestling, been seen before. The WWE has made a mint utilizing, and perhaps perfecting, the principles once executed against them by its chief rival- WCW.
The Monday Night War really came to be because of the number one directive that WCW began to operate under- get the highest TV ratings you can. This has been confirmed by the man in charge of executing that directive at the time, Eric Bischoff, on his latest podcast. This was the reason we got matches such as Hogan vs Goldberg on free TV. It was in order to pop a big rating on television for Turner broadcasting. Nitro turned the tide in their favor in the mid 90’s by putting things usually reserved only for paying customers- main event matches, high profile feud blow offs, storyline progression or culmination- on broadcast cable television for all to see and enjoy. Remember, they were a TV company with a wrestling show. Nitro was a cog in the Turner machine. The purpose of Monday Night Nitro, and then later further evidenced by the creation of Thunder as well, was to supply content for TNT (and later TBS) that would score a large Nielson rating, thus attracting more eyeballs, advertisers, and exposure to the Turner network. Pay-per-view buys, merchandise sales, even house show attendance, was secondary. Icing on the cake.
Are we not seeing the same business model from the WWE right now?
Look at what is being given away on free TV on the regular. First time, “money” matches- AJ Styles vs Daniel Bryan for just one recent example. Titles are changing hands. Superstars debut or make triumphant, surprise returns. Why? Well, the FOX Network just gave them two billion reasons why, and NBC/USA a billion more.
Furthermore, this is what happens when the “wrestling company with a TV show” becomes its own TV company. When is the last time you even heard the term “pay per view” uttered on Raw or Smackdown? “Call your local cable company” has been replaced with “Get you first month of the WWE Network for free!” They don’t need to pay licensing fees for their big events to be promoted, carried and broadcast. They can do that themselves. Monthly pay-per-view events are now reduced to basically WWE Network Specials, and are usually filled with a card of matches that we’ve already seen on Raw or Smackdown in the previous weeks, save for maybe a special stipulation here or there. Feuds rarely come to a close. Storylines rarely meet a conclusion. Why give away the best stuff for ten dollars a month? More eyes will be watching the payoff on television than they would on the Network anyway. And those that do pay each month for the Network? Just icing on the cake.
House shows? Icing.
The WWE has changed the landscape of the wrestling business several times over. It took wresting national. Then it bought its competition- all of its competition. And now, though no one would ever admit it, WWE is using the same principles that once almost put them out of business to their ultimate benefit. The emphasis is being placed on television now more than ever, even more so than during the Monday Night War. The ratings aren’t as high, but the content is much more lucrative.
The biggest difference is that the WWE owns its own production and then sells its product to the masses. WCW had to cater its content to the TV company that owned them, for better or worse. But give credit where credit is due- the decision by WCW to focus on delivering its best efforts on television as opposed to pay-per-view or other mediums was great foresight, and forced the WWE to change course and ultimately is what brought them to the position they are in today. When all is said and done, maybe the true legacy of WCW, even for all its faults, is that it was actually a bit ahead of its time.
WWE is no doubt blazing the trail in the wrestling industry today. But maybe the WWE owes WCW just a bit of credit for lighting the way.
The Good, Bad and Ugly SmackDown Live (2/19/19)
Bobby gives us the Good, Bad and Ugly of SmackDown following Elimination Chamber!
Bobby gives us the Good, Bad and Ugly of SmackDown following Elimination Chamber!
Raw was okay. That’s it. NXT did their usual stellar job but the show had some major flaws. It’s nothing major and overall Raw was Good and more than got the job done. The whole roster both NXT and WWE Raw and SmackDown have been going full steam and ready for this WrestleMania which speaking personally feels very special this year for some reason.
Here comes the money! Shane took to business hyping the NXT call ups, when Miz interrupted and apologized to his partner. Shane O Mac and Miz can work the hell out of a crowd and bring a ton of emotions every single time! Sometimes things get crazy and not everything clicks especially when high risk is involved which messes these guys up every single match. They still continue to show up every show and put in work. We haven’t seen their best stuff yet. The Usos when they get loose out go wild and leave it all out there. All legit vets that can work and will be present in the some fashion at WrestleMania. It went a little bit slow and long but it was from the heart which WWE fans respect. Uso’s joined and taunted McMiz to a rematch in a mocking fashion. Fastlane Rematch for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships. Good by a heartbeat, the match Fastlane hopefully will be better than the last one.
Andrade w/ Zelina Vega vs. Aleister Black
SD Live whipped out the big guns in this one! Holy talent! No need to build up this match, it is Good the way it is. As usual we had talent showcasing kicks, strikes and high risk. That is these guys comfort zone and it shows. The NXT crew has only made things better as they always do. Being used in the NXT personas has been a great way to keep them prominent and seemingly safe from being buried on the main roster. Andrade was a huge NXT Star himself at one time and him and Black are a perfect blend. Zelina Vega is a pleasant addition to Andrade every match as well and always finds a way to get involved effectively. However before she could get involved in this one, Aleister Black hits “Black Mass” for the win. Solid, clean match with two very talented Superstars.
“DIY” Ciampa and Gargano (NXT and NXT NA Champions) vs. The Bar Shamus and Cesaro
The promo of Cesaro talking trash and The Bar laughing and belittling DIY was entertaining and very effective. Good little hype promo. This is a solid contrast of teams. All four are extremely intense and physical. DIY has all the speed and the little bit of crazy that helps when you need it. The Bar is all precision, pain and power. Really stiff match here, a lot of punishment on both sides. It was fantastic though as NXT Talent continues to show up ready to rock out! The Bar had this match on ice but out Ciampa got the blind tag and an over the top “roll up” on the “Swiss Superman” for the upset victory. Awesome Match!
Non-Title Match- (SmackDown Women’s Champion) Asuka vs. Mandy Rose
Mandy Rose wanted to fulfill Asuka’s Challenge. Mandy Rose with her sidekick Sonya Deville came down and Mandy Rose faced the Champ. Out of the blue, Lacey Evans came out distracting everyone. Sonya Deville stood in her way and turned her around. Mandy Rose looked great in there and working with someone as Good as Asuka is a big thing for her. Asuka is amazing and is a strong person to have that title. Mandy Rose hit a vicious knee on the outside and later played an eye injury getting a cheap roll up for the win and pinned the SmackDown Women’s Champion in this non-title match.
Ricochet vs. Eric Young w/ Sanity)
Another very effective mix of talent here. Eric Young who isn’t seen enough being as Good as he is, facing the best of the best, Ricochet. This is a potential blockbuster. Honestly though considering who was working here, this was a pretty slow match at times. Looked sharp though but not the usual speed of these two. Finally after Eric Young had controlled the whole match, Ricochet started moving. Eric Young got busted open and Ricochet continued his assault. Ricochet took down the whole Sanity crew flying through the air. Ricochet maintained and hit his “630” Splash for the win! Okay match, and with Ricochet, far from being a Bad one.
Kofi Kingston, AJ Styles and Jeff Hardy vs. Daniel Bryan (C), Randy Orton and Samoa Joe
Bryan, Orton and Joe, make Sanity look like a Boy Scout troop. The heels isolated Jeff Hardy and took turns beating him down. Rapid tags and effective offense kept them in control until Kofi Kingston got the tag and came in hot. All hell broke loose, Kofi got slammed onto an announce table, with fighting all around. Once things got back in the ring, AJ Styles got the tag from a beaten Kofi and AJ killed it but took some punishment as well. Kofi came in again and shined! Kofi went on to hit a “trouble in paradise” and pin the Champ, Daniel Bryan for the impressive victory.
Shane O’ Mac then announced that Kofi Kingston will be getting a title shot at Fastlane against Daniel Bryan. Well-deserved and well done!
BAD and UGLY- No and No.
Nothing is perfect but SmackDown was Good. There were a few blah spots and times where it could have been better overall, but it was a solid show. It was entertaining and continued the party on the Road to WrestleMania.
NXT is the next one on the agenda and never soon enough. But we seemingly have had NXT action all week so far which has been a huge success. The audience wins all around with the addition of NXT talent to Raw and SmackDown. What will that mean for NXT now though? Well I would say it will only make everyone else there even hungrier to shine. Looking forward to seeing what’s next! Read the next Good, Bad and Ugly!
Cook: Don’t Hate Lafayette Because They Don’t Know #DIY
Steve Cook chimes in on the controversy surrounding the WWE Monday Night Raw crowd from Lafayette.
Anybody that knows me well knows that I’ve always been a huge baseball fan. It was the first sport I fell in love with as a kid and has been part of my life as far back as I can remember. I read pretty much anything I could about the history of it. I might be a Cincinnati Reds supporter, but I also have a good appreciation for most of baseball history.
That’s why I was excited when the New York Yankees came to town in 2011. The Yankees don’t come to Cincinnati very often. In fact, it was only the second series they’d played in Cincinnati since interleague play started in 1997. Whether you like the Yankees or not, it’s hard not to be impressed with their tradition of success. Their twenty-seven World Series championships are sixteen more than any other team has. Names like Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle & countless others give the Yankees a tradition that’s unparalleled.
Aura & Mystique on the road
Even in 2011 the Yankees had some all-time greats on their roster. Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous Hall of Famer this year. Derek Jeter will follow him into the HOF in 2020. Alex Rodriguez…well, that vote’s going to be interesting. He’s got the numbers! Heck, Bartolo Colon was on that team, and his HOF vote will also be interesting if he ever retires.
I was lucky to get off of work and get a ticket to a Wednesday afternoon game. The stadium was packed & stacked, as fans in the area knew that the Yankees wouldn’t be back in Cincinnati for several years. Unfortunately for the fans & myself, Jeter was on the disabled list so he wouldn’t be playing. Nobody’s fault, these things happen. We would have expected A-Rod to play, but a rainout the night before resulted in Wednesday being a previously unscheduled doubleheader, and Yankee manager Joe Giradi opted to give Rodriguez the day game off.
Lineup card subject to change
Playing third base for the Yankees instead was the immortal Ramiro Pena. He played 23 games in 2011 and went 4 for 40 for a batting average of .100. He had one home run, four RI & scored five runs. If you’re one of those advanced stats guys, he had a WAR of -0.8 for the season. In all fairness, this & 2012 were his least productive seasons in MLB. He managed to play 50 games in 2013 & 81 games in 2014 for the Atlanta Braves & wrapped up his MLB career in 2016 with the San Francisco Giants. From what Wikipedia tells me, he’s currently playing in the Mexican League.
Jeter’s replacement ended up accomplishing a bit more. Eduardo Nunez played 127 games for last season’s World Champion Boston Red Sox. He was also an All-Star in 2016, though I think that was due to the fact that every team has to have an All-Star & the Minnesota Twins didn’t have a ton of candidates. We also got to see Rivera close out the game, so it’s not like we missed out on everybody of historical importance. And yes, Jorge Posada was there playing first base and hit a home run. Any Yankee fan reading this will yell at me if I don’t mention Posada.
Core 4, baby
At this point you’re probably wondering why in the the world I’ve spent all this time writing about a random June 2011 Yankees/Reds game. In the big picture, that game wasn’t too terribly important. A ton of baseball games aren’t. The game came to my mind early Tuesday morning while I was catching up on Twitter’s reaction to Monday’s Raw episode.
Mostly, people were mad at the crowd. This week’s Raw was notable for being the main roster debut of four NXT Superstars. (NXT wrestlers are called Superstars too, right?) Ricochet, Aleister Black, Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa all wrestled on Monday night’s show in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Triple H did the big introduction at the beginning of the show, we got videos with Michael Cole yelling buzzwords, and the four men got to take part in matches. Which is more than some of the last crop of NXT call-ups can say. Ricochet got to do some flips. Black got to beat up Elias. Gargano & Ciampa got to randomly re-form their tag team.
It was fine, if a wee bit random. I would have expected NXT fans to be happy that some of their favorites were on Raw-wait, no, I wouldn’t have expected that at all because NXT fans want their favorites to stay in Full Sail forever. WWE will mis-use them on the main roster, you see. So I was a little surprised that wasn’t the main thing that Internet wrestling fans were complaining about.
No, it was the crowd.
The Raw crowd didn’t make enough noise for these debuting talents. They should have been out of their seats for Ricochet & Black like they were Austin & Rock in 1998. And of course the fans should have gone crazy for DIY vs. The Revival because it’s great tag team wrestling.
Listen, I’m with you guys as far as the talent of these guys goes. I’m hip to the NXT jazz. I’ve been watching & reviewing lately, If I was in that crowd, I would have been cheering & rooting all of those guys on. The thing is…I’m not in the majority of wrestling fans. Far from it. I’m a wrestling nerd that consumes way too many hours of my day with watching wrestling & writing my opinions about it. From what I can tell, a lot of the people I saw whining & moaning about that crowd do the same thing that I do. We’re obsessed with wrestling & analyze everything way too much because that’s what we enjoy doing.
Not everybody does that.
Sometimes we lose touch with the fact that not everybody is like us. There are plenty of wrestling fans that don’t spend every day obsessing over the gossip or watching every single show they can get access to. I know WWE fans that don’t get WWE Network. There are even WWE Network subscribers that don’t watch NXT. I’m not going to get all hot & bothered & mad at people that don’t watch NXT for not going crazy over NXT call-ups. I might wonder why Baron Corbin gets a louder reaction than any of them, and I might think that reflects poorly on their taste, but at the same time, I realize that it’s because Baron Corbin’s been on TV long enough to establish a persona.
To the casual wrestling fan, Ricochet & Aleister Black are like random guys filling in for Derek Jeter & Alex Rodriguez. Hopefully their careers turn out a little bit better, but just like I wasn’t excited to see Ramiro Pena back in 2011 at Great American Ballpark, Lafayette wasn’t excited to see Aleister Black. You can’t fault paying wrestling fans for not watching all the shows, unless you’re just looking to lord your knowledge over everybody else.
Most of those fans at Raw didn’t have any idea what a Johnny Gargolye or a Tomato Chomper was. Hopefully they’ll get the chance to find out, and hopefully they’ll appreciate them as much as we do. Until then, give Lafayette a break. Don’t get mad at them because they paid to see WWE Superstars & got NXT ones instead.