It seems that the month of May is my prime “writing” season in terms of producing new “Balrog Babblings” columns for TBL. To that end, I recommend checking out the Balrog Babblings archive for some of the May columns that I’ve written. Topics include the Death of Owen Hart, 4 straight hours of wrestling one Monday night, and a look at splitting the writers.
Actually, the idea of splitting the writers, browsing through Jim Ross’ blog, and a great conversation with my friend and TBL Webmaster, Eddie, that prompted me to write this particular column. You see, I’m not satisfied with RAW, Smackdown!, and ECW. I’m just not. I wish TNA was the answer to my dilemma, but they have to redesign their business model from the ground up in order to make it work correctly (a column for a later time). I won’t discuss the root of my problem with World Wrestling Entertainment (the previous Jean Paul Levesque-ization of the company that lingers as a bad taste in my mouth, Stephanie being just horrible at her job, and Vince losing touch), but I will attempt to address the branding of WWE.
I hate WWE’s branding. Simple enough? They once tried to have a different feel on each show and that tanked. Then they did this recurring draft lottery that most people accepted, but never understood the reasoning behind after the first one. Now we have guys that are constants on both of the main “brands” (Matt Hardy, Mr. McMahon, Bobby Lashley – to a degree) and I’m not entirely opposed to that, but in the end – it’s all WWE.
And that’s part of the problem that I have with WWE’s branding – there really are very few distinctions between their “brands.” Quite frankly, they’re using the word the wrong way in this instance. There are tobacco companies that own more than one type of cigarette and you don’t see them putting one or two sticks of one “brand” in another “brand,” do you? Of course not. I think WWE needs to either shit or get off the pot with respect to this “brand” stuff. And what does that mean?
Well, WWE owns the copyrights to the three biggest US-based wrestling promotions of the last decade. WWE, WCW, and ECW all had a unique style about them that made them fun and interesting to watch (for the most part). There was a time with WWE that you knew you’d be seeing a highly produced show with some great wrestling and a very “working man’s” type of wrestling show. You also knew that WCW would have a reduced production quality with a lot of high-flyers and some really interesting invasion-style angles. ECW always gave us completely insane stunts that might not have been a part of the best matches, but they were the training ground for the superstars of WCW and WWE and they did have some of the best wrestling when they put the right people in the ring.
You don’t get that now. A large part of the problem is the monopoly that WWE has on the US wrestling market and an equally as troubling problem is the increased power that Stephanie has been given in the company and her inability to see past a balance sheet or a year-end financial statement.
But I will maintain hope that at some point, someone will realize that the current plan for the company is bland and something better needs to happen. Is my plan better? Who knows, it might not be. But it’s certainly something I would change the channel to see.
And for those of us who are a little bit older now than we were during the attitude era, wouldn’t it be nice to have seemingly separate promotions again? I wouldn’t mind that WWE owned all of them just so long as, let’s say, each show had a branding and feeling unique to itself. Bring back the smaller arenas for ECW and bring back the poorer production quality (not too poor, let’s be real). And I’d actually pay a good deal of money to see a WCW show with the old, gray-looking arena. I’d flip my channel to hear Schiavone and Zybsyco call a match. I’d stay awake on a Tuesday night if ECW got a later time slot and did some truly “hardcore” wrestling.
Is this my attempt to create a nostalgia trip for myself and for the wrestling fans out there who long for these days? Eh, you could say that, though I think it’s much deeper than that.
It’s a variety thing. Look at the great success that Seinfeld had on NBC. When that show ended, you didn’t see NBC using the concept of Seinfeld for their other hit shows like Scrubs or My Name is Earl. Television is a business of variety – that’s where there are thousands of channels – people like to see different “stuff” from time to time. WWE has a chance to provide them with a form of that variety through their wrestling shows. Give us more flashy, entertainment-style wrestling on Monday with WWE RAW, then give us some hardcore action late night on Tuesday’s with ECW on Sci Fi, round out the week with a wrestling exposé on Friday’s with WCW Nitro.
I’d love to end the column in a foreboding tone with something like, “If WWE doesn’t give us this variety, then not only will fans continue to be apathetic towards the product, but another promotion will come along and deliver in WWE’s place.” But, unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen any time soon.