Respecting Tradition? Eric Bischoff in the Court of Wrestling Public Opinion
He was part of the team that transformed the very nature of wrestling. He challenged a giant and won. In a short period of time, he created a multi-million dollar industry that redefined wrestling. The nWo was and remains one of the greatest angle concepts in wrestling history.
He had the WWE on its knees. The man was Eric Bischoff.
Working alongside many including Vince Russo, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash et al. they created a storyline of such magnitude that it fired the Monday Night War's first shots. In tandem with Stone Cold, it created the Attitude Era and an explosion in ratings.
But what goes up, must inevitably come down. Wrestling angles last only so long. The basics may always remain the same, good battles evil and good wins in the end, but things need to change for it to survive.
WCW did not change, and rather than evolving, it simply got old.
In fact it got old, fast.
The new generation that ironically are headlining the WWE a decade later, were never promoted and the audiences began to dwindle.
The WCW dream soon died.
It was never in terminal decline, even towards the end of its run in late 2000. But the reality was that the changes that were needed, never came.
What can TNA do in 2011 in ratings?
The collapse of the old WCW is no one person's fault. But what is clear, is that lessons were there to be learnt.
I cannot help but think that the wrestling world does not learn from its mistakes. The reappearance of David Arquette last week was a bizarre step for the WWE to take but at least he did not win any gold this time.
Not normally an Orton fan, I did however appreciate his RKO for once.
But Arquette's appearance, did make me think of TNA and just how little Bischoff and Hogan has actually learnt from their WCW days.
According to Bischoff, controversy creates cash. Thats both understandable and correct. How many out there have heard or seen Jerry Springer?
We may in our middle class way say it's beneath us or that we have never actually seen it but in truth we have all at least flicked over momentarily during DNA results special week and wondered exactly who is the father.
Its cheap and its colourful. And because of it, it will always sell.
Does not necessarily make it good though.
When Bischoff and Hogan arrived in TNA almost a year ago, I felt that they could bring so much. They could learn from their mistakes and revitalise wrestling. How wrong I was.
In a short period of time, we had Hogan, Flair, Val Venis, Scott Hall, Sean Waltman, Orlando Jordan and of course the Nasty Boys!
The X Division disintergrated, a clatter of TNA stalwarts disappeared including Amazing Red and Daniels, the ring lost two sides and the nWo was reformed for the millionth time.
Sure some of those are teething problems, there have been some great moments too including the tag team division. But they changed too much and in an instant, TNA became either WCW II or WWE lite. An inability to stick to a basic plan has left their program without consistency.
Storylines are disjointed, participants change every week, angles are controversial and at all times, either Flair or Hogan must be on the television.
TNA in its attempt to be bold and different, have simply adopted ideas from two sources: the WWE and WCW. And yet here is the problem. They have little originality or respect for tradition. They look amateurish because they do not have the ability to think long term.
It is ironic that Flair has appeared in more Main Events this year than AJ, despite the fact that the former is meant to be his mentor. Where will Flair be in 5 years? AJ if treated in such a fashion might very well jump ship.
Hogan is one injury away from serious paralysis, for his own safety he cannot wrestle again. He might remain a headlining name but he is no longer a headline act. Using Hogan and the nWo shows a considerable lack of forward thinking.
Wrestling is won and lost by having a 5 -10 year plan. Plant the seeds now and soon, the product will flourish. TNA does not have this outlook. The WWE does.
Hogan and Flair wrestling might win some ratings on a particular night, but long term, it creates nothing for the product and shows a lack of respect for TNA tradition if their appearance comes at the expense of AJ, Red, Daniels, Joe or Hernandez.
Hogan, Nash and Flair's inability to develop WCW's new talent, caused the company to collapse. Their hogging of the limelight caused interest to drop and with it went ratings and revenue. But this is not the only means of showing a lack of respect for wrestling tradition.
When David Arquette won the WCW title, it was controversial. Some might have even watched to see it. But what it did that night, perhaps more than any other night showed, Bischoff et al as being anti-tradition.
Just as Roddy Piper reminded us in one of the best promos I have ever seen, a wrestling belt is a coveted thing. It is all about history and tradition. Giving the big gold belt to Arquette was a travesty, it was disrespectful and it was simply wrong.
In doing so, Bischoff sold out the company for ratings and attention. The primary goal was not good television but ratings. Simply ratings.
In TNA today, there are a lot of problems. There are some positives too, but the problems outnumber them presently. Wrestling needs TNA to succeed. But until Bischoff, Hogan and Russo learn from their mistakes, they are destined never to succeed.
Storylines that involve concussions cut too close to the bone, excessive blood in matches is unwarranted, and sixty year old wrestlers taking the spots of younger budding stars is simply bad business.
What can bring about immediate interest and money does not necessarily equate to long term stability. Only a tradition of respect for wrestling and wrestlers will do that. Simply stories, good wrestling and great rivalries brings success. Just look at the Guns/Beer Money/Gen Me rivalry.
The ghosts of WCW past are there for all to see. Controversy might create cash but if it undermines the product long term, the money will eventually dry up. Why?
Simply because no-one respects what they are paying to see any more.
Its been a year, and the report card is being written by many—for Bischoff and company, it is very much a case of, "must do better." In 2011, keep it simple and success might just come.
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