I was out on a morning troll when I came across some fantasy booking on a pro wrestling fan site. A commenter creates a unique storyline for a real-life development occurring in a promotion, and before completing his/her opening statement drops the following jewel in the middle of it all:
… push the guys the fans want to see …
Needless to say this comment and the thought process intrigued me enough to bring it to our lovely L.E.W.D. shores for an insightful and invigorating conversation.
With no offense or ill will intended for the commenter or the site they drafted their opinion on, it’s quite fascinating how people tend to operate more often than not off of their feelings without giving consideration to the context of their feelings or the experiences of those around them. All that is to say that this notion of “pushing the guys the fans want to see” tends to come off extremely shortsighted because there several underlying assumptions that are never addressed or considered when speaking about pushing the guys the “fans want” to see.
And there it is; the two most important words in that statement are “fans want.” Whether one stands to admit it or not, our hopes and expectations about a given pro wrestling product are intricately bound by the idea that corporations give consumers what consumers want. To an extent that is true, but it can be quite misleading for the fan that has quietly assimilated into the Generation ME lifestyle.
Corporations don’t give consumers what consumers want; corporations sell consumers what consumers are willing to pay for. When this process happens long enough, we become “convinced” that the corporation is “giving” us what we “want.” No matter how many miles one walks and how many pounds one wants to shed, McDonald’s will still continue to sell Big Macs because people are still willing to buy Big Macs.
As we’ve said many times on this site before, it’s all about money. These United States of America are ruled by the color green; we are all capitalists and there are more companies (and individuals) than not who give more of a damn about profit margins than they do about what you and I want. Companies provide a particular product or service for a price, and the ebb and flow of their business models shift and surge depending solely on what they can get consumers to buy. The more money a product or service can bring in, the more it’ll be shoved into our faces accompanied with advertising and marketing intentionally designed to convince us “this is what we want, this is what we need” in order to do x-y-z in life.
The same rule of thumb applies to a given wrestling promotion; a promotion will offer fans someone they’ll pay to see, which sometimes can be the person that fans “want” to see. When that doesn’t happen, however, a lot of hurt feelings and raw emotions are expressed via the interweb. The reality of it all is that just because fans want to see a particular star doesn’t necessarily mean those same fans (or other fans) are willing to pay to see that star in a prominent position.
The tragic part of it all is that consumers often “want” something more deeper and intricate than what they’re given or what they’re told they want.
Let’s take everyone’s favorite broski Zack Ryder as an example. Three years ago Ryder successfully utilized social media to gain a very vocal cult following. Fans rallied behind Ryder enough to the point where he was given a safe and solid push from the powers that be. At the time there was no doubt that Zack Ryder was someone that a lot of fans “wanted to see,” and that was never really in question.
The question was whether or not we would pay to see Zack Ryder in a more prominent role higher than the mid-card. As exceptional a talent as Zack Ryder is, it became obvious that the same legion of fans who rallied for his push were also the same ones who wouldn’t put enough green down for him to have more than a cup of coffee in the upper mid-card. Our response to such instances is to blame the promotion, but a promotion can’t financially survive off of feeding into the fans’ fleeting emotions.
The other perspective to consider as fans is whether or not we understand completely the vast spectrum of fandom that exists inside of pro wrestling. Not all fans are alike and not all fans “like” or “want” the same thing. We often speak of ourselves in blanket terms without even thinking of the differences of opinion that are present among us. Every time a fan chants “Let’s go Cena,” they’re greeted by a resounding chorus of “Cena Sucks!” responses. As cute and enchanting as the dueling chants can be, it also shows us in very simple terms that wrestling fans don’t always think alike. We’re a dynamic group of individuals who can collectively enjoy and critique the product while also having uniquely different ideas that explain why we like or dislike the product.
To blithely say or assume that a promotion should push guys “fans want to see” is to also assume, without saying, that all fans want to see one particular wrestler and that all fans will pay to see that same wrestler. No matter how we look at “the business,” it’s a form of entertainment that moves along with what consumers are willing to pay to see. With fans having varying tastes that can literally change overnight without notice, the guys fans want to “see” could switch at any given time plus the fact that there may be six to seven different guys that different fans want to “see” pushed.
On July 12, 2012, Austin Aries defeated Bobby Roode to become the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion at the Destination X pay per view. Aries’ reign came after he received a strong push upon his return to TNA which also led to a reinvigorated X-Division. Aries’ reign, however, lasted all of three months by the time he was defeated by Jeff Hardy at Bound for Glory that same year.
Over one year later in July 2013, well-known X-Division star Chris Sabin defeated Bully Ray to win his very first TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Sabin’s reign came after his return to TNA in May 2014 after recuperating from his second ACL injury. Sabin’s reign lasted less than a month as he lost the title to the former champion.
Both Aries and Sabin were fan favorites that fans wanted to “see” receive a push. With so much fervor behind them, why is it that their combined reigns lasted less than half a year? Even more sobering is the fact that the combined five reigns of Jeff Hardy and Bully Ray lasted for over a year and two months.
We can assume that Jeff Hardy and Bully Ray had more drawing power as champs, or we could blame the powers that be for not putting their all behind pushing the guys “fans wanted to see.” Whichever direction we decide to drift towards we cannot deny or ignore that the preeminent names in TNA between 2011 and 2012 were Hardy and Bully Ray; it wasn’t so much that the machine invested in them heavily (which is a part of the situation), but it also had to do with the fact that both men were individuals people paid good money to see and less to do with whether fans by and large “wanted” to see them per se.
To wrap things up, we cannot forget that “the business” is out to make money and cannot realistically operate by floating precariously on the whims of a fickle fan base. At the end of the day, we are paying (in most cases) these promotions to entertain us, and as a large and varied group of consumers these promotions must put players in place that will generate revenue to keep their businesses barreling towards the black and not moon walking towards the red. Because our likes are varied and because our likes change as often as folks change their drawes [sic], it’d be completely asinine for any promotion with the good sense given to them at birth to operate solely and completely off of what fans “say” they want at a given minute, especially if that particular fan base is miniscule and fair weather in nature … case in point …
We fans have a right to like what we like; we fans also have a right to expect a promotion to entertain us when we’re paying them to do so. But we must be realistic when viewing the product, understanding that guys the fans want to see pushed also have to be the guys fans will pay to see pushed. All the chants and petitions and crowd signs in the world won’t move a promotion’s top brass as much as revenue will. Period.
Yet another post about John Cena…
A WWE Legends of Wrestling video on YouTube caught my attention last Friday. In this particular installment of the series, the roundtable discussion focused on wrestling’s greatest “overachievers” and “underachievers.”
The panel, which consisted of “Mean” Gene Okerlund, JJ Dillon, Jim Ross, Robert “Sgt. Slaughter” Remus, and “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, discussed the careers of several superstars that exceeded expectations and fell short of living up to the hype surrounding them.
In the fifth video of this particular series, Jim Ross and JJ Dillon get into a friendly banter about the career of Bill Goldberg, who was considered among the group as an “underachiever.” Ross took some exception to this, which caused Dillon to elaborate on his particular stance on Goldberg.
Watch the video here:
Here’s the quote from Dillon that stood out to me the most:
“…even Superman after a while, if there wasn’t such a thing as a kryptonite where a guy could be vulnerable to something, they’re gonna…they’re gonna not stand behind him any longer.
(Ted DiBiase) “He was one dimensional”
“He was one dimensional. He has to fail at some point for the people to relate to him emotionally…”
As a fan, looking back at the impressive career of John Cena is a mind-boggling experience. Multiple championship reigns, record-breaking blockbuster movies sales, more wishes granted with the Make-A-Wish Foundation than imaginable…the man is truly an institution in and of himself.
To put it mildly, John Cena is damn near unstoppable. Perhaps that’s why fans are starting to turn against him with each passing moment.
Remove all of the excuses, fluff, and speculation that attempts to justify why Cena receives the divided crowd reaction each and every week. JJ Dillon’s comments about Goldberg also fit the beloved WWE icon that fans love to hate and hate to love; a growing number of fans can no longer relate to the man that won us over with his “hustle, loyalty, and respect.”
John Cena has only been taken off of TV by two things: injuries (a torn pectoral muscle and herniated disc in his neck) and Aaron “Jesús” Aguilera. Outside of that, Cena has barreled through opponents and has pretty much defeated most of the active roster in one form or another.
Even with the odds stacked against him, Cena’s “never say die” attitude resonated with fans in a way that was eerily (and perhaps purposefully) similar to the offbeat and profitable shenanigans on Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea.
The one constant in Cena’s career, however, was exactly that; he never gave up and was eventually “rewarded” for his resolve to conquer all obstacles. I DO NOT think it is coincidental that Cena’s “hard work pays off” character has been pushed to and protected at the top by a company owned by the very Republican Vincent Kennedy McMahon, Jr…but I digress.
Cena’s gimmick changed slightly (i.e. he stopped rapping), but his work ethic remained the same. Moving into his tenth year being a WWE Superstar, today’s John Cena is not that much different than the kid who in 2002 attempted to show Kurt Angle what “ruthless aggression” was all about.
When you consider that Goldberg’s streak went to 170+ televised victories, it makes sense that the only thing that could take him out was a cattle prod. Cena’s character as he stands now and did nine years ago is in that same situation. In my opinion, this is why many fans are clamoring for him to turn heel; after nine plus years of the same schtick, it’s about damn time for some change.
So here’s today’s talking point question: is it time for John Cena’s character to “evolve?” If so, what should that evolution look like? If not, how do you maintain his popularity among the current fan demographic?
I was perusing the net today while working when I ran across something that talked briefly about interview with former WWE Diva Maria Kanellis.
You remember Maria, don’t you? Well if you don’t, here’s the most un-risqué picture I could find of her on a work computer:
The interview was with James Guttman from ClubWWI fame, and the piece contains snippets from said interview. Click the hyperlink to read them if you like, but I really want to talk about ONE thing that stood out to me in those snippets.
Maria is asked about her stint in the WWE, and goes on to talk about the good and the bad when it came to working for the company. Mr. Guttman points out that Maria was released from the WWE just as her stint on Celebrity Apprentice began, to which she responds with the following:
“It’s funny. It happened with me. It happened with Ashley. It happened with Stacy. Jericho has left again. It’s just one of those weird things that happened. I think that it’s because WWE thinks that we get a big head about it. It’s not necessarily that we get a big head about it, it’s just we start to learn. We start to learn what’s out there. OK. This or that is going on. I want to fix it. I want to put it in my contract. I want to be able to talk about it. As soon as you start doing that, it was like you lose all leverage.”
Prior to that snippet, Mr. Guttman inquires about her transitioning from a WWE fan to a WWE performer, to which she apparently doesn’t really answer the question but provides some valuable talking points:
“I was surprised by how unhappy people were. It’s the greatest company in the world, but there are so many people within that company that still struggle with their creative abilities not being used. I think you see that in so many people that come out of it. They have motorcycle shops or they have tattoo parlors or they are designers and want to do fashion. Maryse just came out and said she wants to do fashion. Torrie wants to do fashion. Trish has her own yoga studio and her own yoga line. So many of us just feel creatively stifled.”
Thank you, Maria.
What struck me as intriguing about the bits of the interview I caught here was the notion that the WWE was “creatively stifling” for the obviously talented hordes of individuals that are fortunate enough to ink a deal with the company. I’m not surprised by this, because usually people who are released from their contracts — whether by force or intention — often cite the WWE’s vice-like stranglehold on their lives.
The most recent notable case of this involves former WWE Diva Gail Kim, who asked for her release because she felt disrespected by the WWE. As you remember, Kim notified WWE officials of her departure from the company ten minutes before the airing of a live episode of RAW…after which she promptly eliminated herself from a Divas Battle Royal.
In the interview listed above, Kim also sited that she was frustrated with the direction of the product, probably more so with the direction of the Divas division itself.
All things considered, the WWE is typically depicted by disgruntled employees as a dictatorship that steals souls and consumes fresh baby meat by the truckload on an hourly basis. The way it seems, Hitler would’ve been jealous of the power Vince McMahon exerts over his defenseless independent contractors.
My question is: what large U.S. for profit corporation doesn’t do that?
Politics exist everywhere and are not unique to the WWE. No matter what field we choose to make our livelihood in, there’s a fine and fancy dance we must all learn in order to advance in the ways we’d like to advance. Some people choose to tip-toe around the matter, while others wear the soles of their shoes ragged as they tap dance to the tune played by their bosses.
What sticks in my craw is when individuals pretend as if this isn’t the norm and act as if that entire system is not engrained in our North American system of values and work ethic.
Large corporations don’t give a hoot whether or not you’re creative if they’re not paying you to be creative in the first place. The way it works now, we’re all cogs in an intricate system and must function as such until we’re a) worn out beyond functional use or b) finely tuned to the point we can be relocated and operate elsewhere in a more productive fashion.
In the case of the WWE, wrestlers are hired to fulfill a particular role; if the WWE doesn’t provide that opportunity for you, then yes you will be creatively stifled. That, my friends, is the beauty of the world wide internet and water cooler gossip among coworkers: if you KNOW the WWE won’t let you do side projects without their approval, and you desire to do side projects…DON’T WORK FOR THE WWE.
Don’t get me wrong; you could be one of the plucky individuals that rages against the machine and affects some sort of change…but I guarantee you that won’t happen unless you get enough people to follow your lead. Seeing as everyone chooses to sell their souls to a given company (in this instance, the WWE), it’s obvious that it’d be extremely difficult to be “creatively free” in the WWE.
But again, that’s not just in the WWE; I would assume that’s in most major corporations in this company. You think my boss would let me go cut a rap album in two months when I’m supposed to be behind my desk proofreading documents and typing up these memos? Forget-about-it!
So here’s my question to you, lucky reader: do you think Maria’s comments, as poignant as they are, are warranted? Or do you think that there’s a slight chance that a good number of people are simply whining about something that the rest of the country deals with on a regular basis? Should the WWE receive so much flack for something most of us would lay down for in our own jobs?
Comment away below…and spread the word to others!