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 411mania » Wrestling » Columns

411Wrestling Special: 10 Ways To Save Wrestling - Part 1
Posted by Michael Benjamin on 10.13.2003

411Wrestling Special:


This column is dedicated to Daniels, Josh, Eric, Hyatte, Gamble, Bower, Keith, Carlos, Widro, Ash, Keith, BC, Haley, PK, Barron, Morse, Craig and all of the other old-school writers who have helped bring this great site to such amazing heights. The hard work of the entire wrestling crew here is what brought 411Mania to the dance, don't ever forget that. Apparently, top ten lists were officially created and copyrighted elsewhere, but I'm gonna take my chances with this one and risk prosecution...


What's up guys. I hope you didn't miss me too much. Thanks to those of you who continue to email me asking about the next installment of the Year in Wrestling series, despite the fact that it's been well over a year since the last true edition. Thanks a million for caring, and you'll find the answer to your question hidden somewhere in this column.

You probably don't care where I've been for the last ten months, but let's just say the current product hasn't exactly put me in the mood to write extensively about wrestling.

To those of you reading my stuff for the first time, welcome aboard. I've been a proud contributor to the 411 for about two and a half years. Check the archives if you're ever bored. You might just like what you find.

Let's do it...

Ten Ways to Save Wrestling.

A wise man once said that the worst feeling the consumer can ever have towards your product is that of complacency.

Whether you like it or not, the very existence of professional wrestling in America hinges on Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment. Without the WWE and the McMahon family, wrestling would stand very little chance of surviving in our culture after the current generation of die-hard fans is gone.

As things stand, Vince McMahon is driving his business, and American wrestling, into the ground at a disturbingly alarming rate. The signs are everywhere. Smackdown and RAW ratings both hit near record lows last week. House show attendance continues to plummet to all-time lows, showing no sign of slowing. PPV buys, the single largest source of revenue for the WWE, have bottomed out to the point of emergency. Fan indifference is at an all-time high.

Nobody's getting cheered, nobody's getting booed. Nobody cares.

A wise man once said that the worst feeling the consumer can ever have towards your product is that of complacency.

A recent Sports Marketing poll had "wrestling" as the second most hated sport in the country. If it weren't for illegal dog-fighting, we would have taken the top spot. As true wrestling fans, I just don't think we fully grasp just how much mainstream America hates "fake" wrestling, and how badly they'd like to see it fail.

If Vince doesn't make some major changes in the coming months, the chances of his company failing are much greater than any of us could imagine. Vince is just so out of touch with reality right now, and so far removed from his fanbase, that a few stupid decisions could realistically send his empire crashing into the ground.

The WWE isn't in immediate danger of bankruptcy. Vince McMahon has extremely deep pockets and can easily keep things afloat during bad times.

With that being said, the next six to ten months will be the most pivotal, important time period in WWE history. With proper business decisions, well thought-out planning, and a couple of smart ideas, Vince McMahon can stabilize his faltering company, and plant the seeds for years of economic security and success for the WWE.

Conversely, if Vince continues on the same illogical, self-masturbatory path of destruction that he's currently on, in a year's time he might have done enough damage to his product that the WWE, and American wrestling, will never truly be able to recover.

In order to reverse the downward spiral of the WWE's business, I've compiled ten ways in which Vince McMahon and the WWE can stop the bleeding, turn business around, and ultimately ensure long-term economic prosperity for the company and American wrestling as a whole.

1. Lower non-major PPV prices:

With the current state of the economy, coupled with new brand-exclusive PPV's, it's becoming readily apparent that the average fan just isn't willing or able to pay $35 a month for what usually amounts to nothing but a glorified episode of RAW or Smackdown. Buyrates for these brand-exclusive PPV's have been nothing short of disastrous. Hopefully, this will be a wakeup call to Vince McMahon that the average family just isn't willing to spend nearly $500 a year on WWE PPV's.

With the recent advent of "exciting new brand-exclusive PPV's," it also becoming readily apparent that a lot of consumers are beginning to feel ripped off with the fact that they're paying MORE money for PPV's than they were a year ago, and in return, are only getting half the product that they once did.

A look at the recent, publicly available buyrates for the WWE since the brand-exclusive PPV's began reveals that consumer interest is spiraling downward.

If things continue at this rate, the December Armageddon PPV could very well have the lowest buyrate in WWE history. The WWE needs to view this as nothing short of an emergency.

Neither brand is deep enough to realistically put forth a three hour PPV, as evident by such garbage filler as the Austin-Bischoff "redneck triathlon," and the bullshit McMahon nonsense that seems to eat up half of the three hour show.

What the WWE needs is cheaper, shorter PPV's to occupy the off-months that don't contain a major PPV.

A $20, two hour PPV from each brand, loaded from top to bottom with quality, entertaining matches would go much further towards long-term, financial success than directionless, crap-laden, three hour marathons that cost the consumer nearly $40.

In the last two years, 30% more people have begun watching WWE PPV's in sports bars and other public places than did previously. High PPV prices, coupled with a downright shitty payoff, are driving people away from ordering PPV's at home.

Most of these on-the-fence consumers still order Wrestlemania, The Royal Rumble, and Summerslam at home. With lower non-major PPV prices, and a slightly shorter show, this same target group might just be coerced into sitting at home on Sunday nights and ordering the PPV from the comfort of their favorite chair, as opposed to going out to a venue in which the WWE makes much less money on a per capita basis.

With the current price scheme, along with an inconsistent, shoddy product, the WWE is burying itself into a hole that will be nearly impossible to escape from.

2. Move Towards a More Interactive Product:

During the last boom period for wrestling, the casual fans had a much bigger opportunity to be part of the show. Almost all popular wrestlers and groups had some sort of catch-phrase, from Steve Austin's "That's the bottom line..", to DX's "Suck It!", to the New Age Outlaw's entire opening spiel. It gave the crowd something to do, and in the process kept them more active, much hotter and a lot more into the show overall.

The current product has become a parody of it's former self in terms of crowd interaction. Sadly enough, the only way the crowd is encouraged to participate these days is in the form of self-depreciating chants directed at the WWE itself. If your dialogue is so bad that the fans are encouraged to cheer "WHAT?" after every line, you've dug yourself into quite the hole. If you view one of your wrestlers as so talentless and boring that you actively encourage the crowd to chant "BORING" at your product, you've lost all touch with good business sense, not to mention reality.

Wrestlers needs catchphrases. The fans need a way to get involved.

You hear so many complaints from those within the WWE that the fans only pop for entrances and finishers, and sit on their hands for the rest of the show.

Come real close fellas, I've got a revelation for you, YOU HAVE TRAINED THEM TO ACT THAT WAY.

Find a way to get them back into the show. It will give them more incentive to get off their asses and buy tickets, it will give them more reason to make noise during the show, and it will make the entire product appear much more fresh and alive on television.

Little things like these can go a long way towards helping to rebuild.

3. Advertise outside of your Target Demographic:

Advertising is a VITAL part of the success of most large companies. Coca-Cola, the most recognized name brand on the face of the planet, spends over ONE BILLION dollars a year advertising.

The main problem with the advertising philosophy of the WWE lies in the fact that they refuse to open up their wallets and advertise in the proper places.

To me, it seems counterproductive to put 75% of your marketing dollars towards advertising to your current fanbase. As much as the product sucks right now, most of us will continue to watch it. Vince DOESN'T NEED to run commercials all week on Spike TV letting us know that Goldberg will be fighting Mark Henry this week on Raw. We, the current fanbase don't need reminders, WE ALREADY KNOW IT.

Mainstream America has quickly gone back to the thought process that wrestling is backwoods entertainment, meant for hillbillies, idiots, and white trash. In order to break that mentality, Vince needs to advertise in the RIGHT damn places. He needs to advertise during Friends. He needs to advertise during the World Series. He needs to advertise during Monday Night Football. He sure as hell doesn't need to be spending high volumes of money advertising during Stripperella.

Vince doesn't need to plug a particle brand, a particular show, or a particular PPV, but rather plug the WWE itself. A short, Desire-like video featuring Kurt Angle moonsaulting off of the cage, Brock Lesner superplexing the Big Show through the ring, Rey Misterio Jr. hitting the 619 on Matt Hardy, and Goldberg and Triple H staring each other down would do SO much to present the product as fresh, athletic, and energetic to non-fans, as opposed to idiotic, mindless, moronic "fake-fighting" that most currently view the product to be.

Friends averages nearly 25 million viewers a week. If even five percent of that audience was enthralled enough by a WWE television spot to tune into RAW or flip the channel to Smackdown, the ad would pay for itself.

Click Here For Part 2!


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