Here at L.E.W.D. we value the opinions of our readers and contributors alike. After all, without your reads and remarks this site would be just another random WordPress powered blog featuring a motley crew of ranting wrasslin’ fanatics.
There’s something else we value just as much here in the hallowed halls of cyberspace allotted to us; you see, we value valid and sound arguments just as much as we welcome dissension opinions. That’s just one of the things that make being a wrestling fan fun; we get to engage one another in healthy debates about a subject we’re all passionate about.
But that’s the key to it all…just as much as we value our readers and welcome their comments we are particularly high on valid and sound arguments. Rarely are we ranging without a purpose, and we expect the same from anyone who may claim that we’re out of touch with reality.
So imagine the level of consternation I experienced when reading reactions to the preview for tonight’s episode of Monday Night RAW. In case you haven’t heard the news, the Social Media Ambassadors for tonight will be none other than the incomparable Muppets!
This news first broke several days ago and before the ink even had a chance to dry on the dirt sheets, “wrestling” fans across the country launched into their typical anti-WWE tirades. Opinions ranged from, “This is why the WWE’s ratings are terrible and TNA is consistently good…” to “Muppets are stupid, zOMG TNA RuleZ.”
One comment in particular stood out to me, a nine-sentenced comment that accomplished the following:
- Promoted the quality of TNA’s product by downplaying the WWE’s product (as opposed to speaking of TNA’s product by its own merits…i.e. “it’s good because it’s good”),
- Regarded “sports entertainment” as “pro wrestling,”
- Over simplified the complex ratings system,
- Disregarded the true purpose of having the Muppets on the show
Needless to say these comments, and a slew of other nonsensical remarks, sparked my ire in ways I haven’t experienced since writing for Bleacher Report. So please, allow me the opportunity to provide you with an alternative perspective on the Muppets second WWE appearance in the last two years.
What the f**k do you have against the Muppets?
Seriously; what unfortunate incident occurred in your childhood that caused you to grow into a bitter, hateful adult that despises the good-natured work and efforts of Jim Henson and his workshop?
It’s mind-numbingly befuddling to hear anyone seriously complain about the Muppets being on a PG-Era wrestling show; that’s like boycotting Saturday Night Live during the musical segment because “It’s not sketch comedy!!!”
Just consider that line of logic for a second: a “wrestling” fan will complain that the WWE’s product is too kid friendly (tacitly and subconsciously revealing their resentment of children…) and that the WWE only wants to appease mothers and kids. Then, when the WWE does something that appeals to kids, such as ask the Muppets to serve as Social Media Ambassadors, that same “wrestling” fan will pitch a fit.
So…not only are you mad because the WWE’s product appeals to kids, something that you apparently never were, but you’re also mad because they invited kid-appealing guests to the show.
Newsflash: the most recent Muppets movie was filmed on a budget of $45 million American dollars. It grossed (meaning “the money it made”) over $158 million dollars. This makes the 2011 film The Muppets the second highest-grossing Muppet film next to the 1979 feature film The Muppet Movie.
According to my fuzzy math that means the movie brought in over 3.5 times as much as it cost to make it. The movie was such a success that Walt Disney Pictures ordered a sequel of the film to be made.
You mean to tell me with all that money and popularity swarming around the Muppets you’re convinced that having them return to the WWE is a bad thing?
Here’s another fact that may surprise you: professional wrestling and its unsightly sister sports entertainment are both businesses. In our very capitalistic society capital is super important to businesses, perhaps even more important that the workforce at times. This means that capital, or money, is the driving force behind everything.
Every single business outside of non-profit organizations operates to make money; period. You’d be hard pressed to find a business that, despite not turning a profit at all, still continue to waste resources and money by producing a product that nobody wants to invest in…(tongue-in-cheek).
The WWE is no different in that regard. Having been around since the 1980s and even prior to that if you include Vince J McMahon’s WWWF, the WWE has grown from a pro wrestling promotion to a global sports entertainment brand that is just as recognizable as Coca-Cola and McDonalds. Much to the “wrestling” fan’s chagrin, the company has diversified its product after sixty some odd years of being in business.
Look at it like this: Panda Energy International, Inc. started in developing environmentally friendly power plants in 1982. In 2002 they purchased controlling stock of Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling. So in twenty years, Panda Energy International, Inc. went from building power plants to building power plants and operating a professional wrestling company.
I’ve yet to see one blog post or comment thread bashing Bob Carter for extending the company to ventures outside of “clean and efficient energy!”
We have to get out of this mindset that in 2012 professional wrestling is simply all about professional wrestling and that’s the end of that. You can only dig from the same well for so long before the oil runs dry. Any major company worth its salt extended itself at some point beyond their initial product in order to create new areas of revenue so profit margins can grow and not decrease.
Coca-Cola went from health medicine to soft drinks to flavored water; would you dare kick your bottle of strawberry flavored Dasani water through the uprights and threaten to boycott Coke if they didn’t “stick to making soda?!?!”
No, you wouldn’t; so why is it that when a self-proclaimed sports entertainment company justifiably adds a non-wrestling entertainment based addition to their product, fans immediately get incensed and stupid?
Some of these very same fans cheered when WWE Superstar CM Punk advocated for ice cream bars during a live RAW broadcast…but ICE CREAM HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WRESTLING zOMG!!!!
Some of these very same fans begged their parents decades ago to buy them the Tonka Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior WWF Wrestling Buddies. Some of these very same fans tuned in weekly, if not daily, to watch Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling. These were just a few of the things that appealed to the kids that watched “professional wrestling” during the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Era, an era that increased the exposure of pro wrestling by utilizing individuals outside of pro wrestling industry.
Cyndi Lauper, Mr. T, Liberace, Bob Uecker, MTV…all of these entities were involved in this very vibrant and energized era of pro wrestling. Very few fans today will sit and complain about how any of these things took away from the wrestling. If anything it spread pro wrestling’s appeal to the fans we now know as “casual viewers.”
Casual viewers by and large are fair-weather wrestling fans, meaning they’ll watch the product on occasion but are not heavily invested in it. According to a recent conference call headed by WWE CFO George Barrios, the company’s viewing audience (an estimated 57 million homes that have “an affinity with WWE”) consists of 40% casual fans, 40% lapsed fans (fans who use to watch some wrestling but have not done so for a period of time), and 20% hardcore fans (core fan base that will regularly watch WWE programming).
In regards to the recent ratings dive experienced by WWE, let’s assume that those same numbers apply to the numbers of estimated viewers that watched last week’s RAW. If the December 3 episode of RAW saw 3.43 million fans tune in for a 2.55 ratings share, then we can estimate and say that 1.36 million casual and lapsed fans tuned into the show. The 680,000 fans left make up the hardcore audience.
From this fuzzy math we can hypothesize that the WWE’s viewing audience is probably losing more members from the casual and lapsed fan areas than anywhere else. With fewer casual and lapsed fans watching the product, wouldn’t it make more sense to do something that appeal to a fair weather fan or a fan that has to be hooked by something out of the ordinary to get them intrigued in pro wrestling again?
That’s why the Muppets become important; a casual fan would definitely stop by the USA Network to see the involvement of the Muppets, and that lapsed fan may tune in for at least one 15 minute segment to see what the hell is going on. Hardcore fans will watch regardless so the Muppets presence won’t deter them at all.
Let’s take the stance for the moment that TNA’s audience is composed 100% of a) hardcore fans and b) fans who prefer “wrestling” over “sports entertainment.” Chances are the company’s audience isn’t that static, but from the way some “wrestling” fans talk you’d believe it to be true.
Under this hypothesis TNA’s audience is split right down the middle: 50% makes up hardcore fans who’ll watch the product regardless, and 50% makes up fans who don’t like the WWE’s product.
The December 6 episode of Impact Wrestling brought in a 0.98 rating with 1.32 million viewers, meaning that 660,000 hardcore fans and 660,000 “wrestling” fans watched the show.
By this hypothesis our “wrestling” fan can complain because tonight’s episode of RAW should, in their opinion, appeal only to 660,000 people instead of 1.36 million…that seems…logical…
We can do even better than that; there are fans will proudly acknowledge TNA’s ability to have consistent ratings, ratings that have remained the same since 2011 if not before then.
There are people who are actually proud that the same 1.32 million fans that saw last week’s episode of Impact Wrestling are the same 1.32 million fans that watched last year’s episode of Impact Wrestling. Those fans will be very proud to know that the same 1.32 million people will be watching the show this week, and next week, and probably ten years from now.
Why is that type of stagnancy celebrated?
It isn’t remarkable that TNA is able to keep consistent ratings if we assume that half of their audience is made of up people who’ll watch the product regardless of what they do, a number that’s still lower than the hardcore WWE viewers from last week (TNA’s 660,000 versus WWE’s 680,000).
Not only that but TNA’s consistent ratings doesn’t speak of the increase or decrease in viewers they experience weekly. Between the 1.01 rated November 29 episode of Impact Wrestling (with 1,320,000 viewers) and the .98 rated December 6 episode (with 1,304,000 viewers), TNA gained 16,000 viewers.
That doesn’t seem like much at first, but keep in mind we’re speaking of a gain of 16,000 viewers who would watch TNA’s product regardless. What can be said about the product that consistently loses and gains back the same hardcore viewers?
We can throw numbers at each other all day; the reality is that TNA speaks to a particular audience as does WWE. TNA fans seemingly consist of viewers that prefer the sport of wrestling over the entertainment in wrestling, whereas WWE fans (according to the numbers from George Barrios) consist of casual viewers or viewers who watched wrestling long ago and stopped.
The funny thing about it all is that the total sum of TNA’s consistent viewership, from what we know, makes up only one-third of WWE’s viewership. Make as many excuses as you like, but that’s what some might call a minority in terms of pro wrestling fandom.
As much grief as we give TNA here in the L.E.W.D. offices, the product has for the past eight years survived through incredible amounts of mess too complicated to mention here. The fact that TNA survived after its first month in 2002 (literally) is a miracle; the fact that they landed a major television deal after being booted from Fox Sports South (after consistently bringing in 0.2-0.3 ratings) is a miracle.
The fact that for at least eight years the company has entertained fans with the same fast paced, high energy and action packed “wrestling” without losing or gaining a substantial amount of viewers is simply astounding. TNA can stand on its own merits without having to refer to the competition. Simply put, TNA should be heralded in its own right and not because the other show is “bad.”
But when you really think about it…is TNA the guardian of pro wrestling because it won’t or can’t get Disney to promote the Muppets on Impact Wrestling?
Come to think of it, isn’t it pretty depressing that the corporation that owns the studio TNA leases to film Impact Wrestling won’t use any of its well-known characters to promote the product?
Let’s bring the conversation back home to drive the point deeper: the Muppets will appear tonight on Monday Night RAW to bring revenue and to appeal to casual viewers. They will not be a part of a major storyline in the long term, they will not take away from the 3-hours of stuff that happens on the show, and they will ultimately fulfill any contractual obligations Disney had with the WWE and vice versa.
It is a waste of time and energy to complain about the Muppets existence on RAW without considering the money and attention they will bring to the product.
For those clamoring for “wrestling,” they’ve had CM Punk wrestle for one entire year as the WWE Champion and they’ve remained silent for the majority of his championship tenure. Those same fans say nothing about Antonio Cesaro’s fast growing resume of work; those same fans say nothing about Daniel Bryan and Kane’s presence in the revitalized tag team division.
Those same fans are speechless when the Divas wrestle in matches that exceed 45 seconds; those same fans are too dumbstruck to notice John Cena’s current position in putting over younger stars, particularly Dolph Ziggler.
Nope; those are the fans that only sit and point out the fact that having the Muppets on a “wrestling” show is besmirching the product. To these fans, Mike Tyson brought absolutely nothing to the table during the Attitude Era. To these fans, Hulk Hogan didn’t need to film No Holds Barred and damn sure could’ve packed an arena without Cyndi Lauper.
To these fans, Toby Keith and Chris Rock in TNA were pointless and useless. Johnny Fairplay, Jenna Morasca, The Situation and J-Woww, and Montgomery Gentry were all detractors to the great and amazing “wrestling” that was taking place on the show. Hell, TNA didn’t even benefit at all from having a brief feature in Chris Rock’s movie, Head of State.
WCW didn’t need Jay Leno, Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, David Arquette, Master P and the No Limit Soldiers or the feature film Ready to Rumble. All of this stuff didn’t help pro wrestling one bit.
What we need, what we want and expect as fans, is for at least 1 hour and 22 minutes of pure, unadulterated wrestling.
The funny thing is that none of the fans who think they believe in that notion will bother to give companies like Ring of Honor, DragonGate USA and EVOLVE, Shimmer or WOW, Triple A or NJPW anything more than a passing glance and an afterthought.
“The business,” ladies and gentlemen, is a business. The players are engrossed in a game of chess, not checkers. Fans can complain all they want as they illegally stream pay per views and watch free content on YouTube; while the Muppets bring big money to the table, all those types of fans bring is open hands, empty pockets and unrealistic expectations.
Thanks for your time; you’re wished well in all your future endeavors.
All this talk about litigation got me to thinking, and all this thinking made me want to write.
The following is taken from The City Paper: Nashville’s Online Source for Daily News regarding TNA’s lawsuit against Brian Wittenstein and the WWE. *Note: Pay special attention to statements in bold…
A WWE official notified TNA on May 7 about Wittenstein’s breach, but the lawsuit claims WWE waited three weeks before telling TNA. WWE fired Wittenstein after they learned what he did, according to the lawsuit.
Two days later, Flair attempted to terminate his TNA contract. He also failed to show up for TNA events from May 10-15, including a pay-per-view show. TNA now believes that Flair may be headed for WWE, the timing of which, it claims, is “suspect.”
“In order to injure TNA and gain a competitive advantage, WWE intentionally interfered with TNA’s contractual relationship with Ric Flair and maliciously used the trade secrets and confidential information provided by Wittenstein to approach Ric Flair,” the lawsuit reads.
The story continues…
Overall, TNA is suing for interference with existing contracts (against WWE), breach of duty of loyalty (against Wittenstein), conversion, breach of contract, civil conspiracy, unfair competition and violation of the Tennessee Uniform Trade Secrets Act.
The much larger WWE, founded in 1952, is based in Stamford, Conn., and made $123 million in revenue during the first quarter of 2012.
If you read my previous post about this mess, then you pretty much know how I feel about the accusations (innocent until proven guilty, right?); but that’s why I love reading, because it’s fun and you get to sift through all the bee-ess to get to the heart of the matter.
For example, this one sentence tickled me: TNA now believes that Flair may be headed for WWE, the timing of which, it claims, is “suspect.”
According to our good friends at TNAsylum, Flair has been a thorn in TNA’s side since signing with them many moons ago. In fact, he’s been partying it up a bit too much in Orlando and tends to cause a particularly high level of financial grief for the company whenever he struts into a bar.
The way the article at TNAsylum was written, one would think TNA was attempting to get rid of Flair, but clearly that isn’t the case at all. Why would Flair want to return to the soul-stealing, baby-punting, puppy-slicing evil corporation that is the WWE, especially after Dixie Carter graciously allowed him to receive his second WWE Hall of Fame induction atWrestleMania 28?
James Caldwell of the Pro Wrestling Torch even went as far as to post a note about Dixie’s interview with Busted Open satellite radio, where she commented on how TNA would never benefit from Ric Flair’s appearance at the event…
That incident makes the next statement more chuckle-inducing: [The WWE] used the trade secrets and confidential information provided by Wittenstein to approach Ric Flair.
By “trade secrets” and “confidential information,” I’m sure the lawyers meant “They lured him back by tying stacks of $100 bills to shoe strings and dragging it along the ground.”
Wait, there’s more: In order to injure TNA and gain a competitive advantage, WWE intentionally interfered with TNA’s contractual relationship with Ric Flair…
That’s right; the much larger company that made $123 million in revenue the first three months of the year needed Ric Flair to gain a competitive advantage over TNA, the smaller company who’s first quarter 2012 revenue numbers weren’t revealed or even mentioned.
The WWE boozed Flair up in all those bars and, in the most convoluted way since the year-long Immortal feud, interfered with Ric Flair’s contractual relationship with TNA.
And TNA, the company that paid top female wrestler Gail Kim handsomely, the company that paid top female wrestler Tara handsomely, has been taken completely off guard by these low-down, shady WWE tactics?
That’s right; TNA is the hapless victim that is standing up to the evil corporation for the sake of justice and all that is right in the world. Yes, TNA is indeed the virtuous underdog looking to end the oppressive and unethical practices of Vince McMahon’s heinous empire.
After all, TNA would never do anything as such to injure the WWE to gain a competitive advantage; they surely didn’t intentionally interfere with WWE’s contractual relationship with Jeff Hardy to woo him to TNA on Jan. 4, 2010 after the man had a verbal agreement to return to the WWE after healing from some “nagging injuries…”
TNA would never engage in acts of unfair competition, such as encouraging fans and its workers to make slanderous comments specifically about the WWE and Vince McMahon on tape to air on television…
I’m certain that TNA has informed the WWE of every single released worker that has revealed trade secrets and insider information of every single ex-WWE employee they’ve hired…
And I’m also extremely positive that TNA has made so much money that there’s really no need of any payments they may receive from a) winning the lawsuit or b) settling out of court with the WWE.
So here’s the real question: is TNA fighting for survival or taking advantage of a disgruntled former employee’s dumbass decision?
Imagine my happiness when I saw that the WWE released their first quarter results! Huzzah!
Brass tax here, folks: businesses are in business to make a profit. In regards to professional wrestling, all of the “entertaining the fans” and “global entertainment” stuff is cute and pleases us to no end, but the bottom line is that these companies must make a profit. Anything outside of that is simply icing on the cake.
Even more unfortunate for us fans is this fact: a business that’s in business to make money is deemed “successful” when it makes a profit. Period. We can analyze the s**t out of a John Cena storyline all we want to, but the thing is a complete flop if the company didn’t make at least $10 more than what they spent on producing the angle.
No matter how “good” a product may be or how much we “like” it, the financial results will always tell the true story of how well a given company will be able to produce the “good” product that we “like/love” so much. Seeing as the WWE is a publicly traded company, they have to produce these quarterly financial results to investors, which would include schleps like you and me if we actually invested in the company.
The cool thing about it is that the information is public! You don’t have to speculate on how good/bad a PPV did (TNA), argue about whether or not the company is actually financially viable (TNA) or palaver over whether or not they’ll be in or out of business in the next ten minutes (TNA). It’s all right there for you to see!
But enough of the subtle jabs; click here to read just how successful the WWE was during the first three months of 2012.