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GREAT Meltzer article from 2001


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Hacked from HTQ at TSM, who I've asked to post here, but hasn't surfaced yet. This is a great read.

 

The World Wrestling Federation needs to, now, commission a study of why they and wrestling in general are losing the over-30 audience so rapidly. This goes against the company thought process, because despite what may be said publicly, the company's target age group and strongest demo per capita is Males 12-24. However, the age group that is losing interest in wrestling the fastest is those over the age of 30, who make up the vast majority television viewership for most programs (average viewership age of most network hit shows is early 40s), and are traditionally the most loyal fans.

 

When wrestling peaked in late 1998 and early 1999, there were just under six million viewers over the age of 30 watching every Monday night. At that point, WWF was winning the ratings, but within that age group, WCW had a slight lead and it was still a dogfight for that group as late as 2000. WCW always skewed older (the average WCW viewer for Nitro and Thunder ranged between 35 and 39, older for the more traditional WCW Saturday night until it was left for dead) than WWF (average viewer was usually about 25). Perhaps its version of pro wrestling (at least pre-Nash and Russo) was closer to what the older audience was comfortable with and the stars were people they were more familiar with. Currently, that number on Monday's is closer to two million. To lose that many viewers in an age group that would be the most loyal so quickly is the single biggest problem facing pro wrestling today, particularly long-term. And it is one that has largely been ignored because of who the WWF sees its target audience as. It is also a large part of why ratings have declined as well as overall wrestling interest for all products that would appeal to long-time fans.

 

About the time WCW went into a similar decline, it commissioned a study, where it studied the audience that was no longer watching the product, as well as those who still watched, and what they liked and didnt like about the product. At that point, and this was done two years ago, fans wanted more emphasis on the wrestling, less on the silly angles, interviews and skits. The results were 180 degrees different to what the people in charge (Russo at the time) thought wrestling should be. As people remember, the people in charge got the study, rejected it, and the guy who did the study quit, and the company went in its blind and merry way out of business. The most powerful people when it comes to constructing a television wrestling show these days are the writers. Writers write shows to show the value of the writers over the wrestlers. Often they make themselves central characters even though they aren?t wrestlers, and, with the occasional exception (Vince McMahon), in 80% or more of the cases, its the kiss of death. This business is in its worst shape in modern memory because of people in charge of WCW having no clue as to what their audience wanted. WWF, in appealing to a younger audience, there is a far greater divergence in what they want, and fixing problems is actually far more difficult than it would have been for WCW at the same stage of the decline. WWF have polarized audiences that want exactly what many others don?t want, unlike the older WCW audience that largely had similar opinions of what they wanted the product to be, and weren?t getting.

WWF is huge in studying fan response. Vince McMahon makes changes literally every week based on crowd reactions at TV tapings. Unfortunately, all the time spent analysing their current audience and doing the monstrous job of producing so much television every week made them skip out on studying the last few years of WCW and all the lessons learned, because they are repeating so many of the same mistakes. It was sad that as WCW?s numbers declined, they started throwing blame everywhere but where it belonged, as a way to not have to address the real problems, which never did get addressed. Also sad to see WWF starting to do the same thing. Blaming outside forces for people not buying tickets. Blaming critics for the fact their product is starting to get negative criticism despite declining ratings showing that something is wrong.

 

This is what WWF needs to do. Find out the audience leaving wrestling the fastest, probably ages 30-45, mostly male. Contact cable companies for names of people that purchased wrestling PPVs in 1998 in all three companies. I know the data exists, because our local cable company sent out mailers and had phone calls made to former UFC fans, the last local broadcast being four years ago, to remind them of the last show. Start making calls and, in particular, do a study, not of people who purchased the last PPV, in fact, ignore them. But have a lot of questions to ask among those who stopped buying PPV, what is missing and why and what would interest you to come back. If they give an answer such as the return of 1980s wrestling or 80s stars, ignore them. Some people have left the product for reasons that cant be avoided and you aren?t going to get them back. But the majority of long-time fans, I'd suggest, want to be fans today, still have a very casual interest and would be fans if there were storylines and characters that they could identify with without feeling screwed and stupid, ironically by the company presenting them, for caring. Do the same for people on the expired list of WWF and WCW Magazine subscriptions. Go to the gyms, or sporting events, and hire people to ask around about wrestling and see what the masses are saying, and aren't The current fan base isn?t the answer to the problems. They are still watching. The Internet isn?t the answer, because on the internet, you are getting a different type of fan who is going to give different answers. Often the people who aren?t watching will give you the same answers as the people who are. During the decline of WCW, the same things people were saying on our internet show for a totally specialized audience or in letters here were the same things I heard from my friends who had a very casual interest, or from people at the gym who were constantly telling me how Vince Russo was killing the product, and they meant the television character and the nature of the writing. They had no inside info and didn?t care about the backstage political atmosphere. But they knew what they didn?t like and they knew why they stopped watching.

 

One of the biggest problems many companies have had on the way down the drain is listening to the wrong audience, which is the audience that has remained after you've run the casual fans off. I can specifically remember going to a WCW event at the Nassau Coliseum on February 14, 2000, when the company was taking on water badly. Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair got far bigger reactions than everyone else on the show. I realized right there, that being in the building, was the worst thing for the people making decisions. The veterans were experts at working the crowd. The paid attendance for that show (headlined by an advertised Hogan vs. Flair match) was terrible, but if you were there, you would come to the conclusion they were the only guys the fans cared about And you'd be right, but since they weren?t pulling fans in, they couldn?t be built around either. But for years, Bischoff was in those arenas (it was funny, but at the end, before his failed attempt to buy the company, he started staying away from the arenas on purpose to watch on TV and see how the masses saw things) and saw how the crowd reacted to Hogan and Sting, not realizing he was going with a pat hand far too long and planting the seeds for what happened. Generally speaking, the guys on top, because they have the most TV time and are portrayed on top, are going to get the best pops among those that pay, kind of inherently, but if nobody is paying, those pops mean zilch. This creates a redundancy, because then they continue to be featured. However, while they may get the best pops, they are only human and will get stale. New acts have to be put on top to create new match-ups to get people to continually spend money for tickets to see something different Deciding next month's card by listening to this month's audience response means the audience, and not the promoter, is the manipulator The audience doesn?t understand its responsibility to keep the main events fresh, but the promoter doesn?t know exactly where he's going, which kills the long-term storylines which are the foundation of turning around business.

 

The older audience can make a bigger difference in overall ratings if they were given a product they like. But catering your product to regaining them has its risks. They may be gone for good, sans the occasional tuning in for nostalgia purposes, and nostalgia only works very short-term in entertainment and in wrestling. You don't want to alienate a younger audience that wants something different. But a good product should be able to attract both, witness the growth of both Nitro and Raw at about the same time with divergent products. In television, when an audience loses interest in a TV show because of whatever reason, bad writing, stale characters, over a season, it is next to impossible to get them hack even with new writers and an improved product. They've moved on. Maybe they'll come back for a wedding special or a farewell show. Everyone's idea of what they want out of wrestling is different and you can never please everyone. In 1995-96. when the Monday night phenomenon started, teenagers increased but much of the new audience was 35+, not so much drawn by YVWF Raw fans switching to WCW, but WCW creating a new audience of older fans interested in the stars they grew up with mixed in with new stars in a new format that looked state-of-the-art Ultimately, it was the inability (with the notable exception of Bill Goldberg and maybe Paul Wight, both of whom were squandered anyway, and DDP to a far lesser extent) to use the old names create new stars, and the old names holding onto their position as they got stale, that killed it.

 

The lessons of 1996 tells us fans from every age group can be brought back if the product re-invents itself, and perhaps there is real competition and more of an unpredictable feel to the show leading to a cant miss feeling. But the contract situation in wrestling is different. There is no movement from territory-to-territory or super North American workers making a living in Japan and Mexico to revolutionize the in-ring product to allow constantly bringing in new faces to rise to the top. You cant recreate Nitro, or for that matter, 1997 Raw. They tried to recreate 1997 Raw with Angle as Austin, and it failed. Even the lessons of July tell us the right angle and right comeback, the lost audience will test the waters. But they wont stay more than a few weeks if they don?t like what they get The lesson of 10/8 says the opposite, that a lot of damage has been done over the last two months that isn?t so easy to turn around even by promising the greatest show of all-time and pushing a match as PPV quality for free.

 

The decline among teenagers can be explained because that audience is into the latest fad. Wrestling isn?t nearly as hot in high schools as a few years ago, and some of that decline was inevitable. The Male 12-

29 audience is also more important for overall business, as that audience is far more likely to attend house shows and buy merchandise. The teenage audience is tough to reach for everyone, which is why Vince McMahon was considered a promotional genius by so many when he got them. The over-30 audience is totally different, especially when it comes to sports. While most sports have had ratings declines, a lot of the decline is because they are losing so much ground with younger viewers, as well as the inevitable decline ratings will have when there are so many different stations to choose from as compared with even a few years ago. When it comes to the major sports, even with rising ticket prices, attendance has not shown a significant decline. With pro wrestling, live attendance has never been lower in modem history, largely because there is only one major league product and the amount of people willing to support a perceived minor league product is very small. But non-wrestling changes can not even start to address a decline of around 65 percent in what should be the steadiest and most loyal audience demographic, since the older people are, the more their habits are long-term patterned based.

 

Wrestling being presented so much as entertainment, with no realism (it was really telling a few weeks ago when Kurt Angle was wheeled out on a stretcher and everyone laughed, or when fans visible on TV were leaving in droves during the Smackdown main event with Rock involved), its fake sports trappings such as emphasis on results and title changes being dropped, a lot of what may have attracted and kept that audience through the years is no longer an important part of the current product To say you had to sacrifice some of the older audience to capture the newer audience is logical, and also true (something similar happened when Vince McMahon changed wrestling in 1984 and the result was a stronger audience base of new fans, and while many older fans complained about wrestling changing, they stuck around for most of that decade and eventually either got into the new product or the competing major league companies doing a different style). Wrestling has to constantly evolve or it becomes stagnant. It's an unfortunate fact of life for people who enjoy and are comfortable with a certain version of a wrestling product, because the reality is a pat hand in wrestling is quickly a losing hand. But change that doesn?t work is even worse than not changing, because if you alienate the existing audience without creating an equal or larger new audience, the result is. well. WCW A lot of the older audience left during the period WCW imploded its halt A lot more left when WCW disappeared. WWF picked up some of the disenfranchised WCW audience during its last few years of decline, hut now has lost more that it picked up over the past year, and in particular, since WCW folded and the Invasion was botched.

 

It needs to be noted that this audience did not turn off the current style or product mix. Most were still watching one year ago. The lengthy interviews and shorter matches were the product that existed at its peak, and were a larger audience than existed during romantic glory days of Jim Crockett in the mid-80?s. which was already dying, not so much as a product form, but because of stale talent and too many turns and bad finishes, as early as 1987 and was dead the next year except for the TBS life support which kept it alive until it was finally profitable in 1996 for a three-year strong run. The audience turned oft" what it perceived was a bad product, more so in WCW, but now with WWF.

 

This is where the current decline differs from previous down periods. When wrestling constricted in the early 90s, the loyal fans stuck with the product. A lot of Johnny-come-latelys left, and were gone until 1996, when the business got hot again. This decline has been more among loyal fans, many of whom were fans for 15 years or longer. They are the hardest audience to run off, because it's a patterned and in many cases important part of their life. As we saw with WCW, and now with WWF as late as two months ago, many will come back at the slightest sign of hope things are turning around. But after a while, they wont be fooled and teased any longer. WCW was able to hype occasional big events and get noticeably larger audiences based on the promise things would turn around. If you check back, after a few weeks, that audience decided the direction wasn?t to their liking, and the decline got worse. WWF had a similar situation with the WCW invasion, then the ECW invasion and the Rock return, only to lose that audience through weak storylines and the biggest problem of all.

 

Probably the single biggest cause of the decline and deaths of wrestling companies is the failure to constantly make new stars. WCW lost its audience when the old stars faded, and there was no more hope they could create new ones. When they had established their mid-card as people who weren't going to be elevated, fans gave up their emotional attachment to watching the young guys rise. The company was dead, even though it didn?t know it at the time. Today's ratings patterns differ from a year ago in one major way. A year ago, the mid-card was over. The Edge, Christian, Hardy Boys, Benoit, Jericho, Guerrero core were hot midcarders on their way up. Fans were teased by their holding their own with the big names, frustrated by their false starts, and eventually, stopped caring once they figured out there was a glass ceiling. A second problem, again based on those same names, is there needs to be a constant influx of new people throughout the card. WWF is paying the price today for having such a great product and giving the fans too much. Fans saw these guys when they were willing to take risks to get over. Now they are, "better workers," and "smarter workers," but they aren't fresh talent. Fresh talent cant get in because they don?t have the talent of the guys who are in. But by not getting in, the product in inherently stale. We've seen that in the 90s in Japan, where the product got so ridiculously good, that few could compete at the top level and fan expectation of a main event grew to where few guys could do it. Those guys did it, but eventually, their matches had been done and there was nothing new. No dream matches left. No mega-business left.

 

After having written all this, I threw up, as a question, on the internet, that if you were past 30, had been a fan forever, and your interest was declining or not there anymore when it came to the current WWF product, let me know why. The response was ridiculous. I'll throw up questions all the time and get a few dozen responses. This was getting a dozen or more responses every half hour. Literally, enough material to write at least one full book on the subject. This question hit a nerve like no question I've ever asked. I will say right now that these results may say something, but this is by no means a sub for what I'm suggesting WWF needs to do. The specialized fans may be more into aspects like match quality. Bottom line is that a good match is better than a bad match, but the most important aspect to the masses are constant creation of new superstars and thus new main event matches, gripping storylines (as opposed to lots of bad storylines that blend in together so that nobody cares about them) and wrestlers who combine both a solid style in the ring with a lot of fan interaction, the decline in the latter, like the sing along with Rock interviews and the "suck it" and the "five second pose" parts of the show that have disappeared have coincided with a loss in at least the younger audience Any response I got is based on a very narrow audience?people who came to a specialized web site on a Wednesday, and should be taken accordingly, just as WWF and WCW both made huge mistakes in recent years in thinking its majority audience goes to web sites when it is a tiny percentage, which shows why "inside references" on interviews usually get Hat responses from arena crowds

The tact that so many aren?t watching the product itself, but are still interested enough in the news to click on, on a day without a substantive news story, was shocking. Even with this newsletter, over the last few months I've been floored with letters saying how they are re-subscribing, but don?t watch wrestling anymore. I've been doing this for 20 years, and never got letters like that Now I get them on almost a daily basis. There is something really wrong when a monopoly promotion is losing interest among people who wrestling is a major part of their life and has been for years. Some of this is inevitable, because change is going to leave people behind that want things as they were but cant be anymore. Time does move on. There are probably a lot of similarities in these results to what the problems are. but the real problem is not in running off Observer readers or web site junkies, but in running off the millions?and millions of no longer Rock fans whose only connection to the business is watching television and buying an important PPV or paying to see the stars coming to their city.

After going through several hundred letters, here are the items mentioned most often by people who categorized themselves as disenfranchised long-term fans over the age of 30. Should mention that the top five on the list all had significant responses (mentioned prominently in 60-80 letters), while starting with No. 6, there was a significant difference:

 

1: Botched Invasion angle: It's a current subject, and it does coincide with a recent decline in ratings. The complaints were that the WCW and ECW forces were portrayed as jobbers, the McMahon?s never should were looking forward to like no other in recent years, because of all the possibilities. Everyone figured this could be the biggest money feud in wrestling history. The first PPV was a huge success. And then it died. People were left flat by its execution, and the signs were in neon that ego got in the way of huge business. As far as an angle with unbelievable potential that seems to have gone unrealised, this was huge, and even would agree it's No. 1 as to why recent audiences have lost interest, but cant buy it's turned more people off than many things WCW did from 1998 on.

 

2: Shane and Stephanie: It's funny, because ratings patterns seem to say the opposite, but people seem to really resent the amount of television time these two have. They resent Stephanie's interview time and that the top stars sell for Shane like he's a main event wrestler. Their ownership of WCW and ECW was a booking disaster, that hasn?t been rectified, which shows yet another problem even more serious. But I still think this is more a problem for the internet audience. To the casual audience, the problem is there are a handful of stars who get the bulk of the TV focus and the serious interview time, Shane and Stephanie being two of them, and everyone else has been portrayed as not being on that level nor will they get to that level which is the key point, and people lake them as unimportant, and people aren?t devoting as much time to watching what they perceive as unimportant parts of the show.

 

3: No Flair, Goldberg, Sting, Hall, Nash, Hogan: Those were the names mentioned most often with the pattern that wrestling isn?t interesting because their favorite or longstanding wrestlers aren?t on the scene. Virtually nobody mentioned Savage, Piper or anyone else. Of those, by far, Flair's name was mentioned the most followed by Goldberg and then Sting, although the feeling in letters, as it should be, is that Goldberg was the most valuable to the WWF of the group, but for older fans, there is more of an emotional tie to Flair. I think there would be some casual interest return if these names were on television, but only if they were portrayed strongly, and this is a hell of an argument to bring Hall, Nash and Flair in with a few other faces next year if possible, even with the potential downsides Hall & Nash could bring. I think it would be beneficial to not call them Razor Ramon and Diesel.

 

4: Disenfranchised WCW fan: This was a group that seemed to either start out as a fan of WCW, in most cases dating back to the Jim Crockett days on the Superstation in the 80s, and some starting out with Ole Anderson's Georgia Championship Wrestling at 6:05 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, or start out in the 70s and 80s as a fan of another promotion, often WWF, and migrate to the WCW TV show on the Superstation because of the superior workrate and drama and less frills version of wrestling When the show was cancelled in March, that was it for their interest in wrestling. This group was pretty strong that they never liked Vince McMahon?s version of wrestling, or at least hadn?t since the 80s, and their interest in wrestling died when McMahon appeared on the final Nitro. If McMahon had been able to get WCW, with most of the same names, influx a few of his names and outside names, promote it smarter, kept a different style, he probably could have maintained most of the 2.5 million Nitro exclusive viewers that were there at the end. Their TV soap opera was cancelled and it won?t be revived. Buffy changed networks and became even more popular. The failure of WCW wasn?t a failure of the style as much as a failure of the leadership. Those fans aren't coming back unless something spectacular happens to bring them back. Many people who fit into this category were fans of WCW specifically because it was the Southern brand, or because it wasn?t the Vince McMahon brand, and many of those people indicated they aren?t coming back. No matter what the poll says, the audience departure suits say this is reason No. 1. There is one thing also to consider on this. In

1984, Vince McMahon bought Georgia Championship Wrestling and for one year had the traditional time slot on TBS. When he and Ted Turner had their falling out, McMahon sold the time slot to Jim Crockett in the spring of 1985. The companies had entirely different styles and none of the same stars, but once getting the slot, immediately did big ratings (bigger than McMahon?s) and their promotion had its hottest year in its history, as the new time slot created a whole slew of new national stars like Rock & Roll Express, Magnum T.A., Tully Blanchard, Am Anderson, Nikita Koloff, Midnight Express and later Sting while using previously established stars on the station like Ric Hair, Dusty Rhodes and Ole Anderson as the backbone.

Of course they were an established hot promotion with a style fans watching wrestling on that station were used to and built around Rhodes, who was the biggest draw on the station before McMahon got the slot. It's really too bad that politically and contractually McMahon wasn?t able to keep WCW on the air on TNT because of his Viacom exclusive (five years from now, that Viacom deal is going to be an interesting thing to look back on in many ways) and that Viacom wouldn?t give him a prime time slot quickly for his new acquisition. It may have failed anyway, but I'd like everyone's chances a whole lot better. Like we've written before, when the overview of this industry is written in a few years, the major historical events are not the good and bad bookers and good or bad champions, but decisions made by television executives that change the course of history irrevocably.

 

 

5: 20 minute interviews: This was cited as the main tumoff of Raw and Smackdown. There was a lot of consistency in response that people didn?t mind three to five minute promos from top people, and most fans love interviews, but the lengthy promos at the start of the show were mentioned by too many people as the specific reason they no longer watch the show.

 

6: Legs cut from under midcarders: Somewhere along the way, they gave up hope that midcarders were ever going to advance. They've been teased with false starts too many times and no longer watch. This hurt WCW and led to its decline, and the same thing is happening in WWF. This one is big.

 

7: No suspension of disbelief: Or product mix. This is a group that wanted their wrestling product to be believable and characters consistent, and felt that was no longer the case. Characters doing things inconsistent with their character. Steve Austin's name frequently thrown in, often mentioned his alignment with Vince McMahon?people came to WWF based on the strength of that program and there was no logical storyline explanation for their uniting, basically the WWF was giving its fans that supported Austin the finger. This, along with a less than serious product and less dramatic product were all mentioned. I think there is something to this, but in the current environment, it's going to be hard to recreate it New Japan is the company trying with its usage of shootfighters, and I think most would say it isn?t working.

 

8: Can?t get emotionally involved in characters: This seems to be a mix between points six and seven. Basically people aren?t fans of specific wrestlers because they cant get into the logic of how they are written, or have been burned too many times wanting and being teased they are climbing the ladder, only to get nowhere. Once again, illogical turns (Austin once again) and storylines that aren?t consistent were mentioned. This one I think is very valid, and points to writers who haven?t watched the shows long enough as casual fans, although names like Heyman, Hayes and Prichard have been around the business their entire lives so that shouldn?t be the situation.

 

9: Lack of competition: I thought this would finish much higher. Some of this would figure into the folding of WCW and ECW and it was mentioned often. Wrestling is less interesting because there is only one major league group on television in the U.S. Once again points to almost a necessity of making a second company and making it a strong rebellious company with shots taken back-and-forth. but it's also something seemingly simple that has been such a disappointment already

 

10: Vince Russo: The period he was writing for WCW led to people stopping being wrestling fans. This was again a group of long-term WCW fans who weren't going to be WWF fans anyway. The Russo era ended their fandom of WCW even before the company closed its doors. He destroyed the product base of WCW. which led to a lot of audience turned off during the Nash era to give up hope completely. In hindsight, this period can't be underestimated.

 

11: Lack of emphasis on titles: Pretty much self explanatory. Also, too many titles on WWF broadcasts so titles, which used to be the holy grail when it came to their quest was the key in building business, have no meaning and thus most programs have no meaning. I see this as similar to reason No. 8, again because some of the writers didn't grow up as or around a lot of wrestling fans or studied the business long-term to see that the biggest gates usually came from long storylines based on chasing titles. It's a chicken and egg thing now, as fans don?t care about any title but the WWF belt, and care less about that than they have in the past, so putting more emphasis is scary if fans don?t buy it.

 

12: Too much T & A: A surprising answer finishing this high. A lot of women responded that this, and the overall portrayal of women on WWF broadcasts, with the reason they gave up watching Raw and Smackdown, but there were men who didn?t like it either and stopped watching. In most cases, the explanation from men who stopped watching and listed this as the reason isn?t that they hated it in and of itself, but that they felt they weren't good parents to have the show on because they had children in the house, which led to them not watching for parental responsibility, and thus losing interest in the product overall. Also listed (and not counted but perhaps should have been) was too many women and too many matches involving women who cant wrestle. While this does turn some people off and others on, the T&A increase led to an increase in popularity across the board early. Like everything in wrestling, when a little bit of something works, it's shoved down your throat until it doesn?t At this point it's considered part of the product and I think they'd lose more of an audience totally eliminating it, but overdoing it is also a negative. One relatively short segment on Raw a week is probably enough.

 

13: Kurt Angle/HHH/Stephanie storyline ending: More than any other angle, by far, this was named. Generally people liked the angle, some loved it, but the conclusion was in many people's minds, the beginning of the end. There was only one possible conclusion for long-term business, which was Stephanie ending up with Angle and HHH being the jilted babyface going for revenge. It's a storyline that almost everyone could relate to, which is why the build-up was such a huge success and got Angle over as a major heel. Instead, Stephanie sided with HHH, who beat Angle in their climactic match, and the feud ended flat just before it should have just started to draw money. This was the first example of where the egos of the people involved killed the most interesting angle in the company, not to mention that if Angle wasn?t such a great performer, he'd have ended up just like the Hardy?s positioning wise after his run with HHH. The company has yet to run another long-term angle anywhere close to as good as this, and this one was squandered before the payoff, and again, a lot of people trace the ending of their emotional bond with WWF angles to this.

 

14: Bad WWF television writing: Pretty much self explanatory.

 

15: WCW misusing Ric Flair: This came from long-time WCW fans who didn?t last until the end. The turnoff was the portrayal of Ric Flair, both as a heel when people didn?t want to boo him, but more as never getting his revenge against the top guys when he was the biggest ratings draw and most popular talent to the masses in the company. Am Anderson's name was also mentioned a lot, as were the frequent Horsemen revivals and quick destructions. This was the beginning of the end of the NWO era when NWO vs. Horseman, a feud that should have been strong, was botched because the powers at the time wouldn?t allow the Horsemen to be competitive. Since much of the adult audience was with WCW even in late 1999 and early 2000, and Flair was the company's biggest ratings draw until he was abused and turned heel to the point nobody cared (kiss of death probably the spring of 2000 turn) and ratings dropped, this is probably pretty significant. I think more than a lot of things listed above it

 

16: Stale WWF product: Same guys on top Same style of show, short matches, lengthy interview. No new matches. Rehashed angles. Many things went into this complaint

 

17: No character consistency: This was a complaint both from the dying days of WCW as well as WWF. It wasn't so much the frequent turns, although that complaint was there, hut the lack of storyline to explain changes. Steve Austin's name and heel turn, particularly joining with Vince McMahon and HHH was frequently mentioned. Fans surrogately lived through Austin in hating HHH and Vince, and suddenly Austin didn?t care. It was like they had invested all this emotion in a fake storyline and felt jilted. Make no mistake about it, the Austin heel role, and teased face turn, coincided with all the downs and ups of ratings since Mania.

 

18: Life got busier: This was a point that wrestling itself and its product had no control over. People who simply said as they got older, usually got a family and children and the amount of time left over for watching Wrestling wasn?t there. Different priorities caused interest to wane. The fact this was not in the top ten means that while it is a factor, wrestling factors were far more important. But there is always an audience of wrestling fans whose lives change when they get married and have children. Some do drop out of fandom, but when wrestling is hot, the fan base in all age groups increase. This is a very valid reason for some people, but not a valid reason for a decline in the wrestling viewing audience or the adult audience would have, throughout history, always declined.

 

19: Too much bad comedy: Self explanatory. People said if they wanted to watch comedy on Monday, they'd watch "Everybody Loves Raymond." They wanted to watch wrestling on Monday and weren't getting enough of it.

 

20: Rehashed storylines: Kurt Angle was doing all the same things that Steve Austin did to get over in 1997-98. People are watching repeats of what they had already seen. Part of the problem is during the 1997-2000 war period, so much was thrown out so fast that there is nothing new fans haven?t seen. Fans saw more angles and title changes in that four-year period than people who were fans from 1980-96 saw in 17 years, so everything started to look the same. It's not so much a lack of creativity, but paying for the excesses of the boom period.

 

21 Too many run-ins: Self explanatory. People have seen run-ins so often they became numbing. There is a reason for run-ins; to get heat. When you do it so often it becomes a regular occurrence, there is no heat. Now it's such an established part of wrestling that they are done in almost every match, and nobody probably ever stands back, gets away from the product, thinks about how the fan is taking this, and recognizes a pattern in some form needs changing. And there is a fear of change, so where if there is no run-in during the main events, there is no way to book a finish. To a lesser extent, too many referee bumps was also mentioned.

 

22: Lack of surprises: Things are too predictable. This isn?t the illogical swerves that make no sense from character consistency, but the surprises such as newcomers arriving and jumps like in the heyday.

 

23:Not enough wrestling: There is always the balance of how much time during a show should be wrestling time. Bottom line is a lot of these complaints are from people who romanticize about wrestling and what it was in the past, which, in reality, it more often that not wasn?t. Most wrestling TV shows since the early 80s consisted of 3-5 minute television matches. At one point, WCW Saturday Night under Dusty Rhodes, during a period where ratings declined greatly, was doing a 30 second squash match/90 second interview format. The long matches were always saved for the arenas, and bottom line, on PPV you get 10 minute matches on the undercard, and 20 minute main events that more often than not are great. But there are people not watching because not enough time is spent in the ring. There is also a newer audience weaned on skits that considers the time in the ring as boring unless it's with one of the five or six main guys. You can?t satisfy both audiences.

 

24: WCW and ECW getting buried in losses: More on the Botched Invasion. These are fans who have stopped watching because they were sick of their favorites getting buried in results. This is very similar to watching WCW in this city with the Mexican audience. Konnan and company came to San Jose for AAA and drew 4,500+. A few years later, they came back with WCW, as midcarders with all the so-called huge stars of WCW added to the mix, and drew 2,000, with virtually no Mexican fans coming to the show. The Mexicans, huge wrestling fans in this market, were not going to pay money to watch their superstars portrayed as midcarders nor care about seeing the people they relate to as non-stars. I can remember going to a Japanese video store the day after Chigusa Nagayo appeared as Zero on Nitro, and talking to the people working there who were fans, and how furious they were and wouldn't watch WCW afterwards for destroying their memory of their childhood hero. One of the biggest lures of wrestling, and everyone seems to have forgotten it is identifying with a hero who may stumble, but if he does, immediately gets back up and goes for it. When your hero loses cleanly and it doesn?t lead to them at least trying to rectify it, or they ignore it, you will lose faith. Why would the disenfranchised WCW fans pay to watch WCW wrestlers on WWF shows when they know they are bit players to be humiliated? It's the reason ethnic superheroes in the past drew, but having ethnics on the undercard just based on their ethnicity were a waste of a promoters' time.

 

25: Ruining Steve Austin: Once again, a character consistency issue as well as portraying someone as a heel that the fans want to cheer for. What?s frustrating about this one is we wrote about this the day he turned and it turned out exactly as we figured, only worse. Its Ric Flair in the Carolinas all over again, except on a national basis. Austin was great in the ring as a heel, and out of the ring. Problem is, fans liked him. They weren't going to pay money to boo him although to those there, he could manipulate the crowd every night with his actions to get the desired response. In wrestling, people see the desired response (hey, the crowd, even in Texas, is booing Austin, we manipulated them) and miss the real desired response (Austin no longer selling tickets and spiking ratings like he used to). Many have mentioned the Austin turn as the beginning of WWF problems, but I also think the botched, and I mean badly botched return of Rock has hurt them more of late. He came back huge, and then did illogical jobs on TV for Rhyno (which didn't even elevate Rhyno, just took Rock down) and was pinned by Stephanie, which actually I thought was cool because it led to a situation where he needed to get revenge on her. But when Rock didn?t even care, never acknowledged the losses or looked for revenge from them, never did an interview regarding Austin, HHH and Vince, who knocked him out of action, his story that the fans knew and wanted him to get revenge for was dropped. If he didn?t care about getting screwed and wasn?t going to get even, the fans aren?t going to care much about what he does. He became a character you pop for as part of a show, and he's still a huge star, but the extra drawing power and identification with his every move is now missing.

 

This is part of the Angle problem. Fans are not going to get emotionally behind as their hero a guy who so recently was wearing an undersized cowboy hat and a gold badge portraying the most uncool geek of a character.

 

Other items mentioned at least ten times in letters: Favorite wrestlers got old (unavoidable); The 9/11 Smackdown show (I was shocked by this, but a lot of people specifically pointed to WWF doing this show and also the interviews Vince and Stephanie did on the show as their last straw and they no longer watch): Bill Goldberg's winning streak ended by Kevin Nash; Portrayal of women on WWF and WCW broadcasts; Kevin Nash booking regime (if you go back, this is where WCW really started losing its TV audience); Fans were given too much during the hot period and now nothing in or out of the ring seems new or exciting; Lack of old school style slow building matches based around holds (again, some changes in style are unavoidable and it to me fits into the same unavoidable category because you cant slow it down when the believability aspect has gone out the window and the lack of believability aspect has changed the product to something I don?t think it can easily return to and if that's the kind of wrestling you want and grew up with, well, I can see the problem); Same people on top for too long so no new main events; and too much television product over the past few years burned out people on wrestling.

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Guest The Man in Blak

There's no understating just how egregious an error the InVasion mess was on the WWE's part, and this article (with the Alliance/WCW buyout causing three out of the top five reasons for fan disenchantment) just drives the point home.

 

Another interesting point was that Shane & Steph were another big contributing factor, which brings in line another one of Russo's marks on the business - the authority character becoming an active character in storylines. Ratings went up as casual fans tuned into Shane & Steph for the soap opera elements in the show, while hardcore fans turned away and, for the most part, didn't turn back.

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Guest TheShawshankRudotion

Fresh talent cant get in because they don?t have the talent of the guys who are in. But by not getting in, the product in inherently stale. We've seen that in the 90s in Japan, where the product got so ridiculously good, that few could compete at the top level and fan expectation of a main event grew to where few guys could do it.

God this is such a good quote. The idea that there was too much too soon in the MNWs and the Attitude Era and it set a standard that was too high is really interesting.

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Guest Crucifixio Jones

When they had established their mid-card as people who weren't going to be elevated, fans gave up their emotional attachment to watching the young guys rise... The Edge, Christian, Hardy Boys, Benoit, Jericho, Guerrero core were hot midcarders on their way up. Fans were teased by their holding their own with the big names, frustrated by their false starts, and eventually, stopped caring once they figured out there was a glass ceiling.

This is the quote that I think sums up why most people, myself included, walked away from wrestling. I got tired of being cock-teased week after week that my favorites were going to be involved and do big things, only to see them shunted back down to the midcard a few weeks later while the same three or four stale guys remained at the top.

 

When I tune in today, it's the same story. The midcard has changed a little, with some new faces to tease me with but I refuse to get excited about any of them because I know ultimately where they're going to end up. And the same guys remain in the main event. It's more than just frustrating, it's downright maddening and stupid. I can't watch that.

#13: Kurt Angle/HHH/Stephanie storyline ending

Holy shit. I had almost completely forgotten about this. In '99 I remember writing an article on this angle that must've been almost as long as Meltzer's article above...just on this love triangle angle; why guys liked it and could relate, why girls could do the same and gushed with praise about everything it did right. But I must've written another page or two on all the things it did wrong and why it ultimately failed and in the process, really hurt my feelings as a wrestling fan. I wish I could find that.
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Guest Bruiser Chong

That's a great list that collects virtually every complaint I've heard about the product over the last four years.

 

9: Lack of competition: I thought this would finish much higher. Some of this would figure into the folding of WCW and ECW and it was mentioned often. Wrestling is less interesting because there is only one major league group on television in the U.S. Once again points to almost a necessity of making a second company and making it a strong rebellious company with shots taken back-and-forth. but it's also something seemingly simple that has been such a disappointment already

It's not discussed too often, but I think this is the biggest cause of the decline in product quality. Think about it. Since the buyout, there hasn't been a fairly significant chunk of time where the product was on its game. There was a month in 2001 where the TV was excellent and in the fall of 2002, things on the SD side were looking up, but neither resulting in a lasting impact.

 

Blaming the stubborness of Vince and Co. is easy, but unlike the days when there was still a Number Two, there's no huge reason to give in to logic. They're losing fans, ratings, and revenue, but for the time being, none of those are as imposing as the possibility that another promotion could take your spot at the top.

 

Currently, there's no Number Two, nor is there even a contender. Sorry, but TNA isn't ever going to be a legit threat to WWE. Without the chance of being overthrown, WWE isn't going to make the necessary changes.

 

Whether guys like HHH would still be at the top if there were a Number Two promotion can be argued many times over. It's a tough call, but I can't see how many of the things that is currently plaguing the promotion could remain unchanged if they had some true competition.

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Guest TheShawshankRudotion

There is competition, it's just not in wrestling terms. Competition was best for McMahon because he took risks and he had someone to copy from, the thing is, he can still copy from what's being presented on TV today, he just doesn't know how... which is ironic, because he hires hollywood script writers and I haven't seen anything coming out of the WWE that would resemble even the worst show on television.

 

Of course, the best thing wrestling competition provided him was a place for wrestling fans to turn to when they were sick of the WWE. They were "held" until Vince could woo them again. Now only a small portion is held and those are the people who have turned to TNA, ROH, etc. The choice now isn't "WWF or WCW", it's "WWF or Nothing", and even in the darkest times in the mid-90's, that first choice was so much better for Vince.

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To me the main reason there's such a drop off is that WCW fans just didn't want to watch WWF programming, especially when it involved guys they used to watch in WCW used as jobber food on WWF TV.

 

One of the side effects of the 80s-90s explosion is that wrestling audiences were pretty devoted to their favorite group. A lot of WWF fans wouldn't watch NWA/WCW stuff, and most of the NWA/WCW fans grew up on the more realistic southern style and had no need for the more cartoony WWF style. WCW had its silly stuff, but WWF was always seen as geared more toward kids no matter how much Vince would deny it.

 

When WCW folded, a large chunk of their viewers were faced with the option of watching WWF programming or walking away from wrestling. Judging by the ratings RAW and SD get now, it seems almost all of them chose to walk away.

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I think the biggest issue wrestling faces is the exodus of name stars. Within the last five years, Hulk Hogan, Bill Goldberg, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Steve Austin, The Rock, Sting, Mick Foley, Dallas Page, and others have ceased wrestling full time. You can blame the lack of quality booking for the failure to create new stars, but I cannot recall another time when so many top wrestlers departed the industry at the same time. You simply cannot create many new stars so quickly.

 

The departure of WCW hurt most in the regard. The Monday Night Wars made the top stars independantly wealthy. When the bubble burst, salaries plummeted, and since the top guys did not need the money, they felt no need to stick around.

 

The lack of wrestling competition has hurt in that there is little wrestling activity outside of WWE. TV shows are one thing, but the only local wrestling one can see comes from rare WWE shows or small time Indies, unless you live in Philadelphia. The lack of live wrestling shows hurts fan interest.

 

There is a silver lining, I think. The Attitude era created a boom in wrestling popularity, and yesterday's viewers could become tomorrow's superstars. There are likely some guys working their way through wrestling schools and small-time indies, and a few of them could become big time stars some day.

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Guest Crucifixio Jones

You're joking right?

 

You're telling me that you believe that in the time since Hulk Hogan, Bill Goldberg, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Steve Austin, The Rock, Sting, Mick Foley, Dallas Page, and others have ceased wrestling full time that WWE hasn't had umpteen chances to create new superstars?

 

Gimme a break.

 

We, (the IWC, casual fans) asked Vince to elevate guys to take these guys' places when they were STILL wrestling because even we had the good sense to know that these guys weren't going to be around forever. That was '98...SEVEN years ago. You don't think that's enough time? You think we should still have to hold out hope that there's some prodigy in wrestling school or in the indies to be the Next Big Thing? You honestly believe that instead of elevating the likes of Jericho, Benoit, Guerrero, Booker and RVD at least FIVE years ago, we have to wait for the kids who grew up watching the boom period of WWF wrestling before we get something fresh? Stop drinking the Kool Aid.

 

LOL.

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You're joking right?

 

You're telling me that you believe that in the time since Hulk Hogan, Bill Goldberg, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Steve Austin, The Rock, Sting, Mick Foley, Dallas Page, and others have ceased wrestling full time that WWE hasn't had umpteen chances to create new superstars?

I stated stars retired at a faster rate than one could expect new ones to emerge, and I believe that. You mentioned five wrestlers. Of those, Benoit missed a year with neck surgery, Guerrero missed significant time due to drug problems, Booker T is almost forty, and RVD seems to have lost interest. Of course, RVD's problems could be his lack of quality booking, but the fact is the desire is not there. New stars? The WWE has come up with John Cena, Batista, and a few others, and they have done a reasonably good job with them.

 

We, (the IWC, casual fans) asked Vince to elevate guys to take these guys' places when they were STILL wrestling because even we had the good sense to know that these guys weren't going to be around forever. That was '98...SEVEN years ago. You don't think that's enough time?

No. When's the last time so many quality wrestlers retired in short order? I don't think the lack of new stars is due to bad booking in large part. Fans will generally respond to a good wrestler no matter how he is booked. The problem is that fans have their allegences to their favorites, and a loss here and there is not going to change that. If you meet a wrestling fan who watched during the 1980s, will they remember how the Junkyard Dog and others gave up their spots, or who they lost to? Of course not. I'm just throwing out an example here. Basically, popularity is not attained just by giving a guy a few key wins. There's more to it. Benoit, Van Dam, and Booker T are good wrestlers, but you're kidding yourself if you think they have the charisma of most of the bygone wrestlers.

 

You think we should still have to hold out hope that there's some prodigy in wrestling school or in the indies to be the Next Big Thing? You honestly believe that instead of elevating the likes of Jericho, Benoit, Guerrero, Booker and RVD at least FIVE years ago, we have to wait for the kids who grew up watching the boom period of WWF wrestling before we get something fresh? Stop drinking the Kool Aid.

I'm saying that the wrestling boom has after-effects we can look forward to. They do not erase any mistakes of the current generation, but they do offer some excitement for the future.

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I've always been of the opinion that the only reason pro wrestling is cyclical is because of the tendency for successful companies to rest on their laurels. I can't say I don't understand it, as common sense says that if a formula is working, you don't tweak it, but when WWE moved to Spike TV and saw their ratings start to slowly fall, and when they turned Austin heel and built around the Undertaker and Kane as top babyfaces, they saw things start falling apart and that was the time when they really needed to re-evaluate. They treaded along unsure of their identity during the inVasion and Rob Van Dam came in and got over immediately as a superstar. They pushed him briefly, before backing out because he couldn't work or whatever other excuse they could find. I'd say hindsight is 20/20, but even at the time, the argument was that you elevate Van Dam and make him the face of the company, and you build up other guys who are capable of working good matches with him as a strong supporting cast around him. Considering that most of the guys who he has had his best matches against are the same guys who have had the rug pulled out from under them at various points, had they all been elevated, it would have worked. With guys like Hogan, Nash, Hall, Page, Steiner and Goldberg in and out of the company over the last few years, along with the top guys they've had around constantly forever now anyway, there's no reason that generation couldn't have been given a rub. They may not have necessarily been an every man's hero like Steve Austin or a media darling like The Rock, but they could have bridged the gap between the HHH/HBK/Undertaker generation and the Orton/Cena/Batista generation. As it stands, they're trying to use the guys they never fully pushed to elevate the guys they want to push now, and it doesn't really work that way.

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Guest Hunter's Torn Quad

Here is the follow up article one year later. It's a shorter read than the previous article.

 

One year ago, in what is still one of them most widely read issues in our history, we had our most in-depth look ever at the biggest and most unaddressed problem facing the WWE and pro wrestling in general, the loss of the over-30 audience.

 

When wrestling peaked in late 1998 and early 1999, there was just under six million viewers over the age of 30 watching wrestling every Monday night During that period, even though WWE was winning the ratings overall with its sizeable lead among teenagers and kids, slightly more than half of those were watching WCW, even though it was clear that company was in decline. Over the next two years, WWE picked up some of that WCW audience in that age group, but for the most part, WCW simply lost them and they went away. In March of 2001, WCW went away. If those millions of wrestling fans kept watching wrestling, it was on very rare occasions and such a small percentage of them that it's not even a noticeable blip. They were gone, and they've never come back. Realistically, the odds are they never will. It's not impossible, as when Nitro started in 1995, and grew in 1996, its audience was not just a teenage audience that thought the NWO was cool. The new audience actually averaged out to being 35 years old. It was an older audience that wasn't all that interested in WWF programming at that time. This wasn't an audience jumping on board because wrestling was suddenly cool, it was an audience that found whatever WCW was presenting at the time to be entertaining wrestling, something most had grown up with, probably from watching regional wrestling as kids, and drifted away from during the down period of the American business. WWF always had its eye on the ball of the kids audience for merchandising, and later when its business started turning around, the teenage and early 20s audience, because they made them a prime target for advertisers that coveted that hard-to-reach group.

 

When WCW started its serious decline in 1999, it commissioned a study. Among what was studied was the audience that was no longer watching wrestling, but had been loyal fans a year earlier. It also studied the loyal fans that still watched, and what they liked and didn't like about the product. At that time, the constant responses were fans wanting more emphasis on the wrestling in the ring, and less silly angles, interviews and skits. The results of the survey were a 180-degree difference from what the people in charge of creative (Vince Russo at the time the study was completed) thought pro wrestling should be. The study was rejected and the guy who did it after presenting the results, quit the company. WCW went in its blind and merry way right out of business.

 

Over the past year, the over-30 wrestling audience has declined, although not to the degree it did from mid-1999 through late 2001. The Monday night over-30 audience is well below two million, although the Thursday night Smackdown audience still hovers around that number. The declines of the past year have been largely among teenagers; the wrestling is no longer cool demographic. In order to try and win them back, no attention has been paid to any other age group.

 

Since WWF at the time didn't bother to address the issue, or even do what WCW did and try to learn what their audience wanted before rejecting what their audience wanted as unimportant, we asked on the internet to hear from only fans over 30, who were losing interest or no longer interested, exactly what it was that turned them off. We were also interested in what might bring them back. This is not the best focus group to be sure, but it was the only one we had

 

At the time, the biggest tumoff was the botched nature of the Invasion angle. Well, one year later, that's history. It will go down as probably the biggest bungle in the history of modern day wrestling, even ahead of the day that Eric Bischoff fired Steve Austin because he wasn't marketable in black boots and tights. The other problem was too much of the McMahon children on television. Shane is now virtually gone from television. Stephanie remains on Smackdown, and while ill cast in her role as Smackdown GM her television persona is no longer a major problem. At this point it is a common theme, and perhaps even consensus among the wrestlers that her being head writer is a huge problem, and one that nobody expects will be addressed. I always hate to point fingers at the specific individuals in the creative process because the creative process is still, ultimately, Vince McMahon, not Stephanie McMahon, Paul Heyman or Brian Gewirtz. You can seethe Heyman and Gewirtz fingerprints because of the difference in how Raw and Smackdown are written, which shows different influences on McMahon. But ultimately, everyone, Stephanie included, are just lieutenants following marching orders.

 

The third problem was interesting. No Flair, Goldberg, Sting Hall, Nash and Hogan were active in wrestling at this time a year ago. Over the past year, most of those came in. Flair came in weeks later, and in spots helped ratings but ultimately was used poorly and not allowed to be Flair. He was overused in the ring to where his age became a detriment instead of a positive. But the biggest problem with Flair has been the scripting of Flair. Flair had a certain interview style, which they didn't want him doing. The catch phrases and the whoos were replaced by that slow, deliberate HHH style of interview. Signing Hall was a mistake going in. As most likely was Nash, who ended up being injured twice and meaning little even when he was around. Hogan's return as far as fan response was a bigger success than anyone could have imagined, increased interest for a short period of time, but it seemed to die the day they gave him the title. The company, and quite frankly they weren't the only ones, misread the giant pops and the nostalgia, and it's business value ended. The most amazing thing is nobody in the company got bigger crowd pops than Hogan. Yet the turnaround in the Smackdown ratings started exactly the week mat Hogan stopped appearing on the show.

 

Goldberg, who should have been brought in during the summer of 2001, may not wind up ever coming in. The longer he's not used, most likely, the less he'll mean, although there is no bigger money match in the world right now than Goldberg vs. Lesnar with anything other than a totally botched promotional job behind it The Goldberg gamble, because the stakes were higher financially, would have been a risk, but the risk to potential reward ratio was surely better than for Hall and Nash. And it may be a moot point because of the schedule. Sting is a non-entity. He'd probably mean a little for a one month program, but it's not happening and he wouldn't mean much.

 

As far as the disenfranchised WCW fan, now that we're 19 months since the company went down, few think about it or care about it. It's a cancelled TV show that had a 18-25 year run, depending upon when your part of the country first got TBS on cable. It had a loyal audience when it was cancelled. It's totally irrelevant today.

 

The overdone 20-minute interviews on Raw and Smackdown to start the show have been cut back on recently. The booking of the legs cut from under midcarders has remained, and in most ways, gotten worse over the past year. The inability to suspend disbelief, people wanting characters to be consistent and a believable product, was cited as a major problem. Smackdown up until a few weeks ago had a run where it gave the kind of a product that fan claimed they wanted. Numbers were slowly increasing on television, but people still weren't buying tickets to the house events or PPVs, although as we've noted, that's largely because the general public doesn't differentiate between the two brands because there is no believability in that main angle. Well, if you didn't like non-believability in the product, this isn't going to be a good period because with murder, death, rape and necrophilia as storylines that nobody believes for a second, Vince McMahon has a very different opinion regarding product mix. This coincides with an inability to get emotionally involved in characters. There is a difference between people thinking it's real, and getting into characters. On a great dramatic television show or movie, the characters can make the audience laugh or cry because they have depth, consistency and believability. Everyone knows none of it is real. But if Rachel on Friends gave birth to an alien baby, or Rachel's 80-year-old grandmother was pregnant, the ratings on Friends would fall faster than a diet of watching Tommy Dreamer eating a hot dog sat on by a bare-assed Rikishi. Addressing some of the other problems from a year ago:

 

Lack of competition ? They tried to artificially create it, which was a good idea. The execution of the idea was awful to the point it has been a negative to business up to this point

 

Vince Russo ? Russo's writing ran off the over-30 fan of WCW, no doubt about that. Even though he's involved with NWA TNA, in reality, that group is of no real consequence to the mainstream and he's more annoying people in the same company as him than actually having any negative effect on business.

 

Lack of emphasis on titles ? This has been a weird one. After Wrestlemania, WWE addressed this problem. They cut down greatly on world title matches on television. They eliminated all the belts that were jokes to begin with. And at SummerSlam, with Rock vs. Brock Lesnar, that work seemed to finally be paying off. A week later, they turned it into a joke with that Raw title debacle. Now, there is an emphasis on titles, but the handing of HHH the belt made it impossible to care about them, so the end result is no gain.

 

Too much T&A ? Who knows about this. Every Raw, there is a few minute segment of women with large implants and manufactured bodies doing what ranges from terrible to occasionally good wrestling matches. Most of the time, ratings drop for those segments. On Smackdown, there is a few minute segment usually featuring very weak reasons to end up seeing two women in bikinis or underwear. Those segments seem to do better. If the basis of the show and selling point was the women, I think there would be a lot of trouble. Giving three women one segment on a two-hour show is probably about right, considering the younger skewing male audience.

 

Bad TV writing. ? We get both good and bad writing every week, but the real bad is getting worse

 

Stale product with same guys on top -  That problem is far worse than it was one year ago.

 

Life got busier ? If all TV shows were dropping 20% from the previous year, and all sports were dropping 50% in attendance from the previous year, I could use this as an excuse. Since neither is even close to being the case, it's an explanation with as much validity as the one about the real wrestling stars are the ones who make people turn heads at the airport, regardless of what they can do in the ring.

 

Too much bad comedy ? Amen to that.

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Guest The Man in Blak

I've always been of the opinion that the only reason pro wrestling is cyclical is because of the tendency for successful companies to rest on their laurels.

Actually, I'd say that the business is cyclical because the two "postures" that an organization can take - building up new stars, riding the wave of existing stars - are basically mutually exclusive.

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Guest Hunter's Torn Quad

Actually, I'd say that the business is cyclical because the two "postures" that an organization can take - building up new stars, riding the wave of existing stars - are basically mutually exclusive.

This is not true. One example of which would be the WWF building up Hunter and Rock while riding the wave of Steve Austin.
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Guest The Man in Blak

Steve Austin's run is a special case, though, due to his character. Much of his early run was sustained by feeding him a bunch of C-level guys like Patterson & Brisco because the person that he was directly feuding with - Vince McMahon - wasn't on the roster. Austin's character was unique in that it could function without having to swallow up midcard talent like, say, Hogan or Goldberg because he could always maintain heat by feuding with the authority figure, McMahon.

 

Example: Austin comes out and helps Mankind win his first World Title. His interference actually furthered his feud with McMahon because he enabled something to happen that McMahon never wanted - Mankind as World Champion.

 

Austin could virtually give the rub with impunity because of this. Contrast this with Hogan - he tried to pass the torch cleanly to the Ultimate Warrior, but the fans didn't take it and, as a result, he never really left the main event (and Warrior never really entered it).

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Guest Hunter's Torn Quad

How about in the NWA with numerous babyfaces and heels being built up while the stars of Flair and Dusty were being riden ?

 

Or in All Japan with Tsuruta being kept strong and on top, with Kobashi et al being built up ?

 

Or ECW with PE being kept on top, while Sandman and others were being built up ?

 

Or in New Japan where it's practically a booking pattern of building new guys up while top stars are pushed in the top spots ?

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Guest The Man in Blak

Okay, you've got a good point - wasn't seeing the forest for the trees. I'll rephrase.

 

Wrestling in North America is cyclical because the federations only seem to take two positions - building up stars, and riding stars until they drop. Other federations, such as the Japanese organizations that you mention, have done a better job of transitioning middle card players into the upper card.

 

Somewhere along the line, something (perhaps the success of Hulk Hogan) changed the way that North American promoters went about pushing their talent.

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