"Quit Living In The Past": Why Anything "Old" Won't Work Now (Pt.1)

Mr. Ashley MorrisAnalyst IDecember 28, 2009

In my humble opinion, pro wrestling will die a gruesome death if the old ECW, nWo, and Attitude Era are brought back, if Sheamus has the rug swept up from under his push, and if TNA continues to allow Hulk Hogan to dominate their programming. Period.

A while back, I crafted an article that talked about how the WWE Divas could benefit from looking back at what made the division successful in the past. Although that particular article didn't receive as many reads as I thought it would, it seems that several faithful B/R members and fans have taken my words to heart in some way, form, or fashion. These fans not only want to take what was successful in the past, they want to relive that past altogether.

That will not work, and will only slowly kill an organization.

"The business works in cycles." I cannot remember where I read these words or who said them, but the point was succinct and crystal clear. Pro wrestling will have periods where it is red hot, and ice cold. But, the fact remains that the success of certain feuds, storylines, and characters rely heavily on the fickle moods and tastes of the consumers.

In other words, pro wrestling is about supply and demand.

All of the things mentioned in the opening paragraph would fail because the demand for them is relatively low. John "Superman" Cena and DX continue to dominate WWE television and PPVs because fans demand to see them through merchandise sales and crowd reaction. While one could successfully argue that TV ratings and PPV buy rates are down, it could also be argued that at this point in the business, that's more of a sign of the times and not necessarily a sign of the product.

If the business truly moves in cycles, then this is a period where fans and the general population are lukewarm to pro wrestling. However, it is during this lukewarm period that any pro wrestling organization can seize the opportunity to groom a new generation of main event stars and the next generation of die hard fans. You cannot accomplish these goals though appealing to the die hard fans of today by bringing back dated storylines and wrestlers from ten plus years ago.

The business IS a business.  All businesses in this country (outside of non-profits) exist to make money. Companies care slightly more about their profits than they do about their consumers, and will do anything and everything necessary to boost their sales in the long-run first, and the short-term second. Anything after that is tertiary to their goal of being a profitable company.

Thus, while some fans may disagree with the current state of a company's product, the sales from merchandising and the money from sponsors and advertisers do not lie. If a company can stand to make more money with their current product then they will, regardless of how many tirades we may embark upon amongst our ICW brethren. And that is a fact one cannot argue with.

Let's go over some of the things mentioned in the opening paragraph.

The Old ECW and the Attitude Era

A lot of fans are upset with the rumor that the WWE may rebrand the ECW product in early 2010, and while they look favorably and anxiously towards the future, almost every commentator will bring up the fact that the "new" ECW is no where near being as great as the "old" ECW. Soon after that, someone will say, "They should bring back the old ECW."

Fact: the "old" ECW was way more entertaining than the "new" ECW, and I concur wholeheartedly with that belief. However, you'd be foolish to believe that a reincarnation of ECW under the guidance of Vince McMahon would look anything like the original ECW. Hell, the original Eastern Championship Wrestling looked nothing like Extreme Championship Wrestling, but it seems to me that no one is clamoring for the days of Todd Gordon's booking.

Extreme Championship Wrestling, much like the WWE's Attitude Era, worked at the time it did due to the fan's demand for that type of particular product. A lot of folks that were watching pro wrestling at that time (myself included) were once kids that watched Hulk Hogan, Rock N' Wrestling , and neon face paint Sting. When these fans became teenagers, they also became anti-establishment, chaotic, rude, crass, vulgar, and horny. Great time for that product to make a stand.

These days, there are kids and mothers watching the product, and to have boobs, blood, and vulgarities in every other segment would not only turn these kids and mothers away from the product, but the sponsors as well.

Don't believe me. Watch Monday Night RAW tonight and keep tab of the commercials that come on during the program. Then ask yourself this question: "Would [insert sponsor here] still pay money to advertise their product tonight if Jillian Hall ran around the ring topless covering herself with her index and middle fingers?"

If your answer is "no," then you will understand why the old ECW and Attitude Era wouldn't work today.

Another factor is that a good number of the fans today have no clue whatsoever what the old ECW or Attitude Era was about. I have a twelve year old cousin that showed me a Randy Orton RKO-collage on YouTube the other day. I showed him a Diamond Dallas Page Diamond Cutter-collage, and it blew his mind that the RKO wasn't a unique maneuver and that there was a wrestler that could do it better than Randy Orton. The Attitude Era and the old ECW are figments of his imagination, as he didn't even exist when they were around, and I was in the 8th/9th grade in it's heyday.

Sadly, I would guess that my cousin's generation makes up the most profitable demographic for the WWE at this point. I say that because although I have way more WWE DVDs than he does, he's got way more action figures, rings, and replica championship belts than I do. He would gladly attend the PPVs with me if (a) he had the money, and (b) we lived in the same state. He can usually get the money a lot faster than I can, and I have a job.

Another important point to make is the fact that a lot of the wrestlers from the old ECW and the Attitude Era are well past their prime and have aged horribly. These wrestlers did not benefit from a company instituted "Wellness Program," and are possibly dealing with substance abuse problems.

It is a known fact that half of the wrestlers that worked for Extreme Championship wrestling are dead. A third of the wrestlers are out-of-shape, broken and barely able to walk, or are off the pro wrestling radar completely. So that leaves the fans with 25% of the wrestlers that made ECW popular still around today and able to put on a show.

With those numbers, if one were to bring back the original Extreme Championship Wrestling, it would be no where near as exciting or profitable as it was in its prime.

Now let's be realistic and honest with ourselves.  Do we really believe that Vince McMahon will allow something that he's not responsible for make money for him?  Everyone knows that wrestlers from other organizations usually hustle in the WWE for about six years before they get a chance to run with the ball (Benoit, Guerrero, Booker T just to name a few).  So, could we really expect the new ECW to look like the old ECW without McMahon having a say in it at all?  No chance in hell (pun intended).

Would you take credit for something that you didn't come up with?  So why would we demand that Vince McMahon financially support an idea that was successful without his say? 

If that happened, then we wouldn't thank the WWE for maintaining the old ECW; we'd thank Paul Heyman for his programming and quietly forget that the company is owned by the WWE.  Yes it is a tad bit narcissistic, but a lot of our favorite superstars received worldwide stardom after Vince McMahon branded them a WWE superstar.

Same thing with the Attitude Era, to an extent. A good majority of the wrestlers that were big during that time are broken, no longer wrestling or interested in wrestling, or have moved on to a career in their lives that bring more satisfaction and allow them to spend quality time with their young families.

Also, a number of the storylines that worked during that time would be considered politically incorrect by today's standards (remember the militant Black faction, the redneck Biker faction, the fiery Latino faction, the rampant number of women flashing their genitals and being beat up by men ).

All of these things would be counter-productive in today's pro wrestling scene. The most profitable demographic, in my opinion, is not the 18-34 male demographic that tunes in every week to watch the programs on TV. That demographic, as large as we may be, are doing only that...watching the TV programs.

However, it's the mothers that are purchasing the merchandise for their kids, as well as buying the products advertised during the TV shows.

As long as they continue to invest in the product, the WWE will continue to cater to them. By catering to this younger audience, the WWE is also building a strong core of die hard fans that will one day clamor for their own version of the Attitude Era and gladly pay hard cash to see it. The WWE is also building their young stars of today to be the leaders of that era when it arrives.

Until then, all we can do is strap ourselves in and enjoy the ride...

This is Part 1 in a short series of articles that would have been extremely too long for you to read in one sitting. Part 2 will be up shortly.