Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kick-Back: "Not a wrestling company"

There's been a lot of talk over the last week about a WWE publicist telling some blogger that WWE is "not a wrestling company." Of course, wrestling fans took to the internet to voice their rage, "how dare WWE turn their back on what made them famous!?" but I got a strange sense of déjà vu, I could swear I've talked about this before. Sure enough, I addressed very similar statements made by another WWE executive way back in June of 2009 on Episode 5 of Kick-Out!! Radio. Here's the transcript:

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There's a story making the rounds this week, perhaps you've seen it, about a WWE "executive" discussing the differences between TNA and WWE. Before we get into that, I have to ask, what exactly is a WWE executive? What does this guy do? Don't hold your breath on any of the sites reporting this story to actually look into that or anything, he's an "executive" isn't that enough for you? Journalism is hard!

Basically, the guy was asked about WWE's competition, specifically TNA and he replied that all entertainment is their competition and that "whether you are Manchester United, U2 or WWE, the biggest concern is the enormous proliferation of content in the market." Which is a totally fair point, as the sheer amount of stuff to do grows, everyone's piece of the pie shrinks. It's not just wrestling, it's all of television; there was a point – not that long ago – that your television experience was limited to a couple channels (maybe more if you had a good antenna) and perhaps you could watch a movie at home if you could afford one of those newfangled VCR contraptions.

Now, we have hundreds upon hundreds of channels, massive DVD libraries, programming on demand, and that's just what we can do with our TVs. There are millions, perhaps billions, of hours of video content available at the click of a mouse: Netflix, downloadable movies and shows on our Xboxes and Playstations, and now we can even watch an entire series on our cell phones. There are many avenues to get your "entertainments," whether it's television, music, movies, books, news, or just videos of guys mixing Mentos and Diet Coke, there are a lot more option available than there were thirty years ago, even ten years ago!

So our executive is absolutely right, there are a lot of entertainment options out there and simply asking about TNA is a really narrow view of what defines WWE's competition. But the one statement that really got the internet buzzing was this particular quote "While TNA is pro-wrestling, WWE is entertainment." Of course, the dirtsheets made that their headline of the day, smarks everywhere lost their minds (or what little they had left), "SEE WWE ISN'T WRESTLING, THIS GUY SAID SO!" And all I could do was sit there and think "How is this any different than what Vince McMahon has been saying for the last 25 years?"

Did you see the 1999 documentary about wrestling called Beyond The Mat? Brilliant movie and one of my most memorable quotes from that is when Vince is being interviewed and when asked about his company, he simply answers "We make movies." And what about one of Vince's favorite stories to tell, the story of Ted Turner buying WCW? We all know this one, Turner calls Vince and says "I'm in the wrasslin' business!" and Vince replies "that's great, Ted... I'm in the entertainment business." So why are we suddenly shocked that some "executive" is repeating what has been the company line since the days of Hulk Hogan?

Smarks love to complain about the "Entertainment" aspect of WWE, but they always forget that the second W still stands for "Wrestling." Vince is very image conscious of his brand and rightfully so after decades of "wrasslin" being synonymous with cheap, poorly produced, carny shows in smokey "arenas" filled with a couple hundred fans, but only a couple dozen teeth. We all know the stereotypes, and this is the perception that Vince has been fighting since he bought the company from his father. But at the end of the day, the foundation of WWE is still what goes on between the ropes, the wrestling aspect, and there's been more of an emphasis on that in the last two years than there ever was during the Attitude Era. WWE is still very much a wrestling company, Vince is just trying to control the language associated with it and give it a slicker image. Judging by WWE's massive worldwide success that no other wrestling company has ever been able to duplicate, he just might be onto something.

3 comments:

  1. Good read.

    My thing with all this hullaballoo is that people like to hold Vince's and other's words against them while patently ignoring that the WWE presents itself as wrestling. It's tiring to hear the complaints.

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  2. Completely agree.

    Its not like Vince calling it entertainment is going to make them suddenly stop putting on matches or presenting a wrestling product. Its a branding position and one they've put a great deal of thought, time and effort into. Resisting this and them at every turn on this issue wont just set WWE back, but the entire wrestling industry as a whole. More than anything, they're trying to make it not be embarrassing for people to admit to being a wrestling fan. Don't we all want that?

    Besides, i'm pretty sure Smackdown last week had about 8 matches and Impact last week had about 8 minutes of wrestling. So calling TNA "pro wrestling" is probably not even accurate.

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  3. I left it out in the re-post since it didn't have anything to do with the spirit of the article, but in the original Opening Bell, it was posted a week after an episode of Impact had 15 minutes of actual wrestling.

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