Guest Editorials How to set the stage for an even better 2006 than 2005 has been so far
Jun 23, 2005 - 2:40:00 PM
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By Darvio Morrow of Cleveland Ohio
This has already developed into an interesting year for wrestling fans. We've received warning shot after warning shot in the pending Monday Night War II. ECW One Night Stand had the entire wrestling world buzzing as ECW put pro wrestling in checkmate, again; and Gabe Sapolsky has proved that he was observant in his tenure with ECW, as Ring of Honor (ROH) is constantly growing and seemingly destined for greatness just as its formerly deceased cousin was.
These elements could prove for an interesting 2006 as pro wrestling is currently in need of a shot in the arm. The question that most fans and promoters alike have is, "How do we restore pro wrestling to the immense mainstream popularity that it received in the 90's?" It should be obvious by now that the WWE can not take on this daunting task on its own, as corny and often ridiculous storylines, constant politicking by a certain top level star, and less than stellar performances by some of the top superstars have all contributed to the proverbial wrestling well running dry. Once again, it's time for a revival, a "revolution" so to speak, but how do we get there?
TNA & ROH Relationship: I will focus of what the WWE can do specifically for their brands later. First, I want to focus on the relationship between TNA and ROH and how it can be beneficial for both parties involved and for the wrestling business as a whole. It is well documented that TNA and ROH have had a somewhat rocky relationship in the past, much like a couple that continuously breaks up and gets back together after they realize that they both equally need each other. I believe that in the future, TNA & ROH can have a relationship similar to the one that WWE and ECW had in the '90's.
Someone had a suggestion that Ring of Honor should invade TNA a la ECW invading Raw circa 1997. Right now, that would be a horrible plan. An invasion of that nature should serve the purpose of expanding TNA's audience and to elevate ROH and its stars into a higher position than its currently in; but with TNA not having a national television clearance, they can hardly elevate themselves at this point, let alone another promotion.
However, I do believe that an invasion of this nature would work after TNA gets out of its stalemate and returns to television. It would strengthen both brands, and it takes nothing away from ROH to be associated with TNA. It's a win-win situation. It was also good to hear Mike Tenay mention Samoa Joe's ROH accolades at "Slammiversary." Simple things like showing association between the two companies can result in a big pay off down the road. If or when TNA and ROH enter into a boom period, fans won't feel forced to choose between TNA or ROH like most fans did in the '90s concerning WWE and WCW. Fans of both promotions can comfortably watch TNA and ROH without feeling a sense of disloyalty to either promotion.
ECW Must Return Full-Time: Many fans have touted ECW One Night Stand as the best pay-per-view that they have seen in years. I saw ONS at a friend's house. My friend and I were the only two active wrestling fans in the room. The other two people were casual fans who used to watch wrestling in the 1990s, but lost interest. The energy that was in that living room as we watched ONS was unbelievable. I guarantee you that if an ECW show were to come on tomorrow, those two casual fans would be there to watch it. They were hooked immediately. Almost every individual that saw ONS felt the emotion, and wanted more.
From a business standpoint, all of the old ECW fans that were trained for years not to like any other brand would return to the wrestling fold. One Night Stand showed that the WWE is capable of accurately and authentically re-creating ECW, which is what those hardcore fans want. ECW will also be exposed to a new generation of potential fans, which will expand the business. Pro wrestling could exceed its former 1990s glory, and ECW could help contribute to that; and on a personal note, since ECW is owned by the WWE, the money would go into the same bank account, which should make Vinnie Mac extremely (pun intended) happy.
Effectively use the Brand Extension: My personal feeling is that the WWE should end the brand extension and re-unite the company. Bringing ECW back and taking those active WWE stars that are ECW alumni and putting them back in ECW would leave the door wide open for re-uniting, but, since the WWE probably won't do that, here's a suggestion. If you're going to do something, do it right.
There's so many ways that the WWE could make this roster split work. First of all, Raw and Smackdown have to be presented as equal counterparts. Smackdown being presented as a second-rate Raw (which it is right now) is setting the brand up for homicide. Smackdown has to be seen as a strong organization, equal with Raw as far as talent, storylines, etc. in its own right.
Secondly, Raw and Smackdown should be presented as two completely different companies. There should be something that is unique to only one, where you can see this only on Smackdown and see that only on Raw, something that completely separates the two other than the talent, the belts, the set, and the announcers. When a fan watches Raw or Smackdown they shouldn't feel like they're watching a WWE program, they should feel like they're watching Raw or Smackdown. We all know that the aforementioned brands are part of the same company, but can't we at least pretend that it's not while we're watching the show???
The two things that were supposed to separate Raw & Smackdown were a cruiserweight division that is currently in shambles and a hardcore division that no longer exists. Needless to say, Raw & Smackdown both need makeovers. Raw should have its own audience and Smackdown should have its own audience, and they should both be focused on growing their audiences separately. Obviously, there will still be some people who will watch both shows, but for the most part, there should be Smackdown fans that only watch Smackdown and Raw fans that only watch Raw. Raw and Smackdown should be focused on expanding its own respective fanbases, not being content on just sharing one.
WWE missed an incredible opportunity with Heat and Velocity. When the company was united, the storylines on Raw would continue on Smackdown, and the storylines from Smackdown would progress to the next Raw. Why couldn't they have done that with Sunday Night Heat and Velocity? Instead of allowing Heat to be a second rate show way past its prime and allowing Velocity to be a second rate show to a second rate show, they could have took those shows and continued major storylines on it like they used to do from Raw to Smackdown. The Raw crew could have taped Heat on a Tuesday instead of a doing a house show and the Smackdown crew could have taped Velocity on a Friday instead of doing a house show. It would have legitimized Raw and Smackdown as truly being different brands with two shows, instead of having only one major show a week, and it's the show that the brand is named after. Based on the title alone, would you be attracted to watch a show called "the WWE show"?? I wouldn't either. The only way that the brand extension will work is if Raw and Smackdown are fully treated like two completely different companies and not just WWE subsidiaries.
I believe that the current state of the industry has to change. New life has to be breathed into the wrestling business as a whole. The possibilities of the business expanding past the "former glory" of the 1990's are endless. Imagine if TNA, ROH, ECW, Raw, and Smackdown were all hitting creative highs and all doing phenomenal business. Imagine if all of those brands had their own successful and continuously growing fanbases separate from the others. Wrestling would be on an unbelievable high that would never come down again as long as there are no more buyouts (Vince!). Winning in the ratings doesn't matter. Keeping your product vibrant and full of life does. Imagine the possibilities.
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