WWE Intensive Care: How to Transcend Media Outlets Without Venturing Too Far
I think we can all agree that Vince McMahon is decent at running a business.
However, most of his ideas for ventures outside of professional wrestling have only been good on paper. The WBF (World Bodybuilding Federation), which I had only heard about recently, was apparently a WWE sponsored bodybuilding organization that flopped. The XFL was supposed to revolutionize American Football with an alternative to the NFL, but that also flopped.
WWE's movie studio, one would think, would be a perfect idea. WWE's main product of live theater on a weekly basis gives its most popular on-screen characters full-on scripts to work from, directors, big budget special effects, etc. Most of the guys in the ring have the charisma to carry an actual story from beginning to end, right?
Again, they do, but only on paper. Being good in a wrestling ring and being good in a story where you need to play a completely different character are two different things.
The Chaperone, Legendary, That's What I Am, Inside Out, Knucklehead, The Reunion, The Marine, all of them have cost WWE millions of dollars (without even pulling off the biggest of special effects) and have done absolutely nothing for any of the characters people pay money to see wrestle in WWE rings.
Triple H, John Cena, Randy Orton and Big Show haven't benefited a single bit from any of those ventures because most people (fans or otherwise) can see through such a flimsy attempt at making wrestlers more visible.
Real talk: If people aren't as interested in professional wrestling as they once were, then why would they care that a WWE Superstar was in a movie?
They can deal with seeing one on a talk show segment for a few minutes (see Sheamus' appearance on Conan, two gingers doing comedy is freaking gold), but PAYING to sit through a two hour movie, and additionally buying the DVD? Not happening.
Years ago, WWE's characters had a tendency to transcend the program they were on every week for the simple fact that they were charismatic enough to bring in people who didn't even like wrestling. But how?
They ensured that the wrestling aspect, as well as the show they were on, didn't overshadow their presence in media. In other words, when the wrestlers cut promos, they spoke about prominent things in society as well as the world as if they themselves weren't the only thing to talk about.
Even though, for a while, they technically were.
Not to say that the actual physical sport of wrestling is useless, pointless, should be ignored or should even play second-fiddle to comical speaking segments, not at all. However back then, characters years ago were so undeniably entertaining that people who never would've watched a silly match between two guys in tights were suddenly tuning in because, quite frankly, it was hard to not be riveted by what they said.
In the far far past, wrestlers like Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior were nothing but grunting, growling muscleheads, threatening to win some match just so they could wear some belt. Guys like Triple H, Kevin Nash, Steve Austin, Chris Jericho and The Rock made sure that such a stereotype was obliterated. They either spoke intelligently or had enough variation in their voice to get a variety of messages across about all manner of media.
They didn't just talk about the upcoming PPV. They didn't just discuss last week's episode. And they didn't just take low blows at their opponent for the night. They kept their promos topical to hot button issues in society, which resonated far more with people outside the "WWE Universe" as well as fans.
People created such a powerful attachment, in fact, that wrestling fans were much prouder years ago to wear merchandise out in public than they are now. Used to be that I could go to the mall and at least one person would be wearing a Rock shirt, Austin 3:16 shirt, Degeneration-X shirt, NWO, something.
These days, I feel like I'm one of the few who wears my Sin Cara and CM Punk shirts to Dunkin Donuts when my fiancee wants to get coffee before a long day of shopping.
Nowadays, so many things have come out to express how "fake" wrestling is that so few take it seriously enough to WANT to defend it. Thing is, a guy or girl grabs a microphone and makes a remark about someone or something popular, what are people going to say? That can't be faked. They said what they said and that's that. Either forget about it or be mad enough to want to talk about it with friends.
Hey, maybe you might want to tune in to see if that loudmouth got theirs in the match later.
WWE is so self-contained these days that promos really just deal with wrestlers talking about other wrestlers. It's like visiting a society trapped in a bubble. The "WWE Universe" is literally it's own universe that deals with nothing outside of their own world. They talk about each other, but what about the wrestlers' actual lives?
It's like watching Ocean's Eleven and asking Danny Ocean if he's ever seen ER. Who plays the role of "George Clooney" in that world?
Do any of the wrestlers listen to certain music? Watch certain TV shows? Sure, we have Josh Mathews assuring us at every damn step that Trent Baretta and AJ Lee play Xbox and that Bryan is a vegan and that Cena likes rap music, but THEY need to talk about those things.
AJ is in a match against Beth or Tamina, she can make a comment that she's going to spin kick her opponent like Ezio from Assassin's Creed. Cena apparently still likes rap, though you wouldn't know it outside of his shots back at The Rock, but have we ever gotten any info on who his favorite rappers are?
I can say I like heavy metal, but unless I point out my favorite bands and some important concert memories, then you're really just taking me at my word. Those wrestlers need to grab microphones and mention people, places and things that the public likes to talk about.
After all, it's said that when courting someone for a date, when you want to make an impression, it's best to talk about what the other person likes as opposed to just talking about yourself. WWE needs to do that. They need to court the fans!
It doesn't have to low blow TNA or kick UFC in the "Lil' Jimmies." TNA's done that for years and it's only made them look cheap. So, that policy can stay static. But think about what a few mentions of popular TV shows would do.
Barrett just saw a new movie, Kofi downloaded the new "so-and-so" album, Swagger watched the State of the Union Address on C-Span. It's not cheap advertising, it's just addressing other parts of society that are still going on outside of WWE's little "isolation chamber."
Anyone wondering why Zack Ryder is so popular, just turn on MTV. You'll see eight people who act just like he does, and Zack is way more convincing than Robbie E.
It's inserting wrestlers into a discussion they weren't invited into, but viewers who may not take notice of a promo on Raw otherwise suddenly have a reason to YouTube a wrestler making a funny comment about Lady Gaga or Katy Perry or "McDreamy."
Or perhaps even ice cream. Most people in society love ice cream, do they not? This is one key reason why CM Punk is so entertaining. Did any of us foresee him mentioning ice cream bars during this promo? Absolutely not. Did it prove his point? It absolutely did.
Not everyone will view it right away, but at least one person will check it out and tell their friend, "you need to hear what Cody Rhodes said on Raw." "Who's Cody Rhodes?" "He's a wrestler, here, just watch, trust me, it's hilarious." Suddenly, we have someone new taking notice.
Heels could insult society, faces could make wild comparisons. I've never found Kofi Kingston to be particularly exciting to listen to, but I guarantee if he cut a promo saying, "ya know, Alberto, you remind me of Alvarez from Sons of Anarchy...only...without the mustache...or balls." Or say, "Miz, I read a story that you're dating Maryse. Since WWE dumped her, maybe you should too. I hear they're taking auditions for the 16th season of The Bachelor." It would get fans of those shows watching and talking.
Personally, I feel like the "Reality Era" is going okay, however we really need more mic work going on. Punk, Ziggler, Johnny Curtis (he's surprisingly good for someone we barely see, check out NXT, he's been back the past two weeks), Derrick Bateman, Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett, Sheamus, even Alberto Del Rio at times, are great on the microphone and they not only need to speak, but they need to say things that grab people outside of the wrestling canon.
They need to take topical shots and make comparisons to sports teams, celebrities, public figures, politicians, movie stars, TV shows, anything that can get fans of other media paying attention to WWE programming.
WWE is all about promoting Twitter, and if guys like Punk, Ziggler and Barrett mention some TV show or popular musician, it will go viral on social networks within seconds.
That's the way WWE seems to be missing the point of working social networks. Twitter is entirely free to use, and they'll claim a certain thing happening on Raw is "trending," but so what? The things they try to get trending aren't really important, it's just wrestler names and match debates. Big deal! Good for fans, bad for non-fans.
WWE needs to feature its biggest stars making important speeches about prominent public figures and entities far more often. They need to get their stars mentioning high profile things in society, without actually paying out the hoo-ha to have those people actually appear.
It's a humbling act, but it can do wonders for them.
Yes, the actual quality of wrestling should be consistently good as well, but for WWE to really make waves with people, without spending lots of money on ridiculous outside ventures or guest hosts, all they need to do is allow their best speakers to pay respect to the rest of what society has to offer.
Having Vickie flirt with Hugh Jackman? Alex Riley and Lita being interested in PeeWee Herman? Funny all around, but not doing the trick.
Then again, Dolph Ziggler starts to compare himself to Ryan Reynolds? Wade Barrett makes threats against Simon Cowell? Swagger throws his All-American American American support behind a Republican candidate for the Presidency?
How does a non-wrestling fan NOT take notice of that?
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