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8/10 Thoughts on the following...Bookers!


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Guest teke184

Shamelessly stealing from Loss, but with a twist.

 

Bill Watts

Fritz Von Erich

Jerry Lawler

Dutch Mantell

Jim Cornette

Bill Watts-

 

Good, very solid booker. I won't call him a genius because he had a tendency to run certain things into the ground, although he DID have the flexibility to accept criticism and try things he's never done before.

 

The big example of this is going from all big guys in 1983 to pushing the Rock And Rolls, the Midnight Express, and Terry Taylor in 1984 and drawing huge money as a result.

 

 

Fritz Von Erich-

 

Had basically one great feud, the Von Erichs vs. the Freebirds, and ran it into the ground.

 

He also would do Stupid Promoter Tricks like faking a heart attack and doing massive post-mortem exploitation of sons David and Mike.

 

If he'd been open to change, or able to deal with his sons' problems, he'd have been successful for longer.

 

 

 

Jerry Lawler- Not a spectacular booker but certainly able to go with the flow of things and invent new wrestler gimmicks and gimmick matches.

 

His ability to promote in Memphis from the early 80s until roughly 1997, as well as being the top star, was incredible from a longevity standpoint considering the last old-school continental-US territories outside of the Memphis and the Jarrett-owned USWA (World Class) died by 1990.

 

 

Dutch Mantell- He was able to draw huge money in Puerto Rico as a booker and was able to do so as well in Florida after Dusty left for Mid-Atlantic, but his most recent run in TNA gives one some pause.

 

Dutch seems to be very into old-school brawling, which isn't necessarily what TNA's fanbase wants and the company had some problems as a result, both with fans and with wrestlers who lost their pushes.

 

 

 

Jim Cornette-

 

Excellent booker in the old-school style used in Memphis, Smokey Mountain, OVW, etc. He had some serious problems when booking the modern WWE in 1996 and 1997, leading to the Russo era. (To be fair, you get stressed when Jake The Snake is supposed to be an associate booker / road agent and he keeps disappearing on you, which hurts your job performance.)

 

Of any booker today, Cornette would be my choice to open up a new territory because he knows how to build up new talent and hide their weaknesses, as he'd taken some limited guys and made them big stars in OVW by doing things just right.

 

Example- Batista wasn't much of a wrestler in 2000 and 2001 but, as a big guy tattooed like a demon out of Hell, Cornette gave him a huge big-man push as Leviathan, the Demon From The Deep, and had him be a nearly unstoppable force.

 

The WWE wasn't able to get Batista over in this fashion until late 2003 and did it almost by accident, as they were trying, and failing, to get Randy Orton over and ended up getting Batista over by mistake because they didn't book him to look like a douchebag as many other non-Trips wrestlers are portrayed.

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I've been watching the hell out of some Mid South/UWF stuff and being compared to Watts in that era is a complement.

 

Not everything he tried worked, but from 84 to 86 he had some solid results. I was impressed how he booked Jim Duggan, for example. Character wise he was pretty much the same Hacksaw we saw in the WWF, yet in Mid South he wasn't portrayed as an idiot. It was almost surreal seeing Hacksaw cut pretty much the same promos that would be viewed as goofy a year later and come off as the lovable (if not somewhat simple) top babyface. It really showed what Vince missed out on by relegating him to a comedy act.

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Bill Watts - Probably my very favorite booker ever. I think what I liked most about Watts was his ability to realize when something wasn't working and go in a different direction. He wasn't the type that was so stubborn that he'd stay with something because that's what *he* preferred -- he booked for his audience over himself. I liked the emphasis on hate with matches that played to the strengths of the performers. I'm not sure some of his tactics would work today though, as one of his strongest weapons in his position was fear. He could make someone like Kamala or Dusty Rhodes go out and have a ***+ match just by making it known that he wouldn't tolerate anyone half-assing on his shows. Top guys were credible ass-kickers and I've never seen a Mid South match with a poor layout at all. Time in WCW wasn't that great, but I think he felt he had to tear down some aspects of WCW before he could build them back up. When I read that really in-depth interview he did just after being fired in '93 (which I'll find and post eventually), he sounded like he definitely had the right idea. Wrestlers I think he could help meet their full potential include Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero, Sid Vicious, Bill Goldberg, Diamond Dallas Page, Bret Hart, Steve Austin and Chris Jericho. Now some of those guys *did* meet their full potential, but I think they all would have been fantastic under Watts because of what his style emphasizes and what he tends to bring out of people. He also had a way of appealing to female fans without alienating his core male fanbase that I don't think WWE quite understands today. Some of his ideas are a little dated, but he was never afraid to admit defeat, which makes him extremely rare.

 

Fritz Von Erich - I think the talent carried WCCW more than the actual booking, as he booked more on nepotism than anyone. I think WCCW had more good-great trios and eight man tags than any American promotion in the 80s. Basically had one great idea and ran it into the ground, and was unable to build up new talent after the top guys he had ran their course. I also think he booked the NWA champ to look like a putz anytime they were in the territory, which pissed me off.

 

Jerry Lawler - I don't know what parts of Memphis history were his booking and which ones aren't, but I do enjoy that vision of wrestling tremendously. It's not perfect, but I don't know that any style encompasses everything good about wrestling anyway. I like the emphasis on heat, and no one does cheap heat as well as Memphis. Lawler had a lot of longevity on top, but my big problem with Memphis is that if anyone ever would have come in and gotten over huge on the level of a Lawler or Dundee, I'm not sure they would have been pushed as the new ace.

 

Dutch Mantell - Not familiar enough to really say.

 

Jim Cornette - Really like his vision of what wrestling should be. He's basically the bastard stepchild of Memphis and Mid South.

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My favorite Bill Watts moment was when he had that job with the WWF for like a second, and he ran into HBK who was pissed that Watts punished him for being late to a show back when he was a Mid South jobber.

 

 

Watts replied "well, were you late for the next show?" and HBK answered no, and Watts came back with "well I guess it worked then, didn't it?"

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Bill Watts: His story's sad to think about, he went from having shows in the Superdome to selling Amway products for Jesus. It wasn't even his fault his company went bust either, the area he promoted in had an economic disaster and suddenly everything went poof. Watts was probably the best motivator in wrestling. It's amazing seeing guys that did jack shit in every other promotion suddenly tearing shit up for Watts. Guys like Rick Steiner, One Man Gang, Jim Duggan all showed why the Big Two were so quick to snap them up.

 

Fritz Von Erich: I think saying he had one angle and drove it into the ground kind of sells him short. All his feuds involved his sons, yeah, but the Von Erichs-Freebirds stuff was pretty early in the territory's run. The Kevin/Kerry vs Chris Adams/Gino Hernandez matches were pretty good, and I dug the feud that Kevin had with Al Perez over the WCCW title. It's also worth mentioning that he was doing stuff like music videos before Vince was.

 

Jerry Lawler: You know, they really missed the boat with the Lawler Hates ECW angle by not mentioning that Lawler was doing "hardcore" about 20 years before Paul Heyman bounced his first check. The only real knock I have against him is that he always had to be the champion wherever he goes. It's kind of ridiculous to look at the title history of the USWA and see Lawler winning and losing the belt 30 times, sometimes every week.

 

Dutch Mantell: He does a good job keeping up the traditions of Memphis style, but he wears out his welcome too fast to make a long lasting impact.

 

Jim Cornette: Probably one of the most brilliant wrestling minds alive today. I'd say it was mind boggling how he was marginalized by the WWE, but it really isn't. Only they would put him in a position to fail rather than tap into some of his vast knowledge and love of the business.

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Guest teke184

Bill Watts: His story's sad to think about, he went from having shows in the Superdome to selling Amway products for Jesus. It wasn't even his fault his company went bust either, the area he promoted in had an economic disaster and suddenly everything went poof. Watts was probably the best motivator in wrestling. It's amazing seeing guys that did jack shit in every other promotion suddenly tearing shit up for Watts. Guys like Rick Steiner, One Man Gang, Jim Duggan all showed why the Big Two were so quick to snap them up.

 

Watts' troubles weren't limited to Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma going to shit because of the oil prices going bust...

 

The costs of expanding Mid-South into the UWF, including transportation costs going through the roof and house show attendance declining on average compared to their home area, also took its toll. The fact that the UWF's timeslots in some cities were in, shall we say, less than prime spots in the lineup didn't help them much either. (IIRC, they were on at 2 or 3 in the morning in Seattle or some other large city.)

 

 

Watts' business was also in a downswing after the Midnights and Rock And Rolls left, which some like Ted Dibiase have blamed on booker Bill Dundee hot-shotting angles left and right, which made it hard to keep that pace in the long-term and continue fan interest at constant levels.

 

Watts also blames booker Ken Mantell for some of the problems, as he's made comments about how much of a thief Mantell is although he never went into much detail. (Hopefully Bill's book will shed some light on this.)

 

 

 

Watts also had some long-term problems based on talent raids, as New Orleans never drew as well once JYD left for the WWF. He couldn't recapture lightning in a bottle no matter how much he tried by pushing other black babyfaces hard.

 

Considering that New Orleans was probably the 3rd largest city in his territory and held massive shows at the Superdome, that took a VERY large chunk out of his bottom line.

 

 

 

 

As for Watts and motivation, he could motivate some people but he was also VERY good at covering up someone's weaknesses, which is as important, if not moreso, than motivation.

 

Cornette learned a lot during his year in Mid-South, as his meticulous note-taking about the finishes they did each night, as well as keeping track of where each city in the territory fell within the TV rotation, made him a booker-in-training in only his second year in the business.

 

 

To explain the TV bit more fully, Mid-South's TV was on a "bicycle", which meant that the tapes would start out in A cities, then be sent to B cities when they were done, then to C cities and so on.

 

Cornette's notes helped them figure out each night where they were in their program with the Rock And Roll Express, as night 1 might be in a town that had just seen them beat the Rock And Rolls, while night 2 might be in a town that had just seen the Rock And Rolls beat them.

 

This level of detail helped them keep straight where they were in a particular program despite the fact that they were driving from New Orleans to Oklahoma City to Houston to Shreveport and so forth on a weekly basis and were dog-tired.

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