Welcome to In Your Head! Wrestling podcast, news and community!
Welcome to In Your Head! Wrestling podcast, news and community!
by "Playboy" Don Douglas
So what would you do, then?
If you've ever criticized the current state of pro wrestling, you've heard this question. Someone who enjoys Raw, Smackdown, Impact, or even one of the prominent indie companies will invariably take offense to something you've said and will want to know: If you're unhappy with what's out there now, what would you do differently?
Well, anyone who has read my posts on any wrestling forum, is a friend on Facebook, or has spoke to me in person at an NWA Legends Fanfest (www.nwalegends.com) knows that I haven't been happy with wrestling for several years now. If something that sounds remotely interesting happens, I'm quick to write it off with a dismissive, "They'll screw it up." In my opinion, I'm always right about that, but that's beside the point. The point is, I've decided to answer that question once and for all.
Important note: I feel it's important to make this point, because people typically don't seem to get it right away - I am not saying I think all wrestling should be like this. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, and that certainly applies to wrestling as well. One of the things I loved about being a fan when I was a kid was the different styles that were available to me - the larger than life characters and grand presentation of the WWF, the more sports-based (but with compelling personalities) offerings of Jim Crockett Promotions, the serious presentation of Bill Watts in Mid South/UWF, the hard hitting style in World Class, etc. The AWA had it's own style, Memphis had it's own style, and so on and so forth. It's not an original statement, but one that applies: it was like the circus. If you didn't like the clowns, maybe you'd like the acrobats or the trained animals. When it comes to wrestling back then, I liked it all, but sometimes I wanted to see Hogan take down a monster or Gorilla Monsoon & Bobby Heenan running around a theme park. Sometimes I wanted to see colorful and entertaining personalities duke it out (physically and verbally) over who was the better wrestler. Sometimes I wanted to see two guys fight over a championship that seemingly meant more to them than anything in the world. Whatever mood I was in, it was at my disposal. I'd love to have that variety again, and I doubt I'm the only one.
With that out of the way, let's get into what I would do if I had my own company.
Championships would be treated as the ultimate achievement
People have recently began saying, "Oh, the belts are just a prop." Well, yes, if you treat them like they are just a prop, everyone will view them as just a prop. And when you try to promote a championship match as the selling point for your next show, people will be less likely to care, because let's face it: if none of the participants in the match care about the championship, why should the people buying the tickets or PPV shows? Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali would have been a great fight regardless, but the added element of, "who is the real world champion?" really put it over the top. "But everyone knows wrestling isn't real," some will say. So what? Let's apply the principle to Hollywood. How many people would have bought a ticket to any part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy if Frodo had said, "Well, I guess I can try to destroy the ring. But I've heard the Prancing Pony has a wicked karaoke night, so I'll probably stop for that first. And you know Sam likes his potatoes, so we'll be going to the Waffle House for some smothered and covered hash browns. And that Golem guy just creeps me out, so we'll probably pick him up at the last minute." Would you think the quest to destroy that ring was the least bit important? If you want to know how i think the championships should be treated, watch some Harley Race promos from the '70s and early '80s. You honestly got the impression that Harley would murder a man to win or keep the championship. Something like that opens so many doors creatively and gives you an easy selling point to boot.
I wouldn't have any title matches involving challengers who were perceived as undeserving. One of the many things that has plagued boxing's image has been the mandatory challengers appointed by the governing bodies at times. When even a casual fan looks at an upcoming title fight and thinks, "I'm supposed to think this guy has any chance at all at beating this guy and becoming the champion?" you know you have a problem. I understand the appeal of an underdog as much as anyone, but the underdog needs to have something in his or her favor in order for it to really work. Rocky was an underdog against Apollo Creed. He didn't have Apollo's skill. He may not have had Apollo's speed. It may have been arguable who had the better punch. Let's face it, Carl Weathers was pretty jacked too. But it could never be said that Apollo had the heart and determination that Rocky had. There would have to be at least one major selling point for a challenger before I would want to put them into a championship match.
I would go so far as to have an actual top 10. And not like TNA's abortive attempt at a top 10, but a real top 10. I wouldn't give fans a vote in the matter because this isn't American Idol. Yes, it would require more effort from a booking perspective, but I feel the ends would justify it. I know that I'll always remember Ric Flair telling Terry Funk, "We've got a top 10," and Terry replying, "Wait a minute...are you saying I'm not a contender?" Some would argue that it limits your options, but I say it creates more. Besides, at some point, we've all said, "Why is that guy getting a shot? He's had 3 matches that meant anything."
I would even bring a different physical presentation to championship matches. For my top championships, it would be apparent from the start. I would drop the lights prior to the introduction. I would have the ring announcer decked out in a tuxedo and under strict orders to give a classy introduction. Everybody remembers Michael Buffer and "Let's get ready to rumble!," but some people only remember because of how annoying they found him to be, and let's face it: no one buys tickets to hear the announcer. Unless there was a safety issue involved, I would have all the lights dropped except for a spotlight during entrances. Both participants would be in the ring and in the respective corners before the introductions began. There would be no music playing during the actual introductions. I might even have them meet in the center of the ring for final instructions.
Tag/women's/cruiserweight divisions would mean something
In fact, I would want them to be able to main event a card if possible. Some people want to say that no one cares about tag teams, women, or cruiserweights. I say that if you give them no reason to care about any of them, of course they aren't going to.
I would have actual tag teams, not just randomly thrown together guys. Some want to say that even classic tag teams started as guys who were thrown together. Bobby Eaton & Dennis Condrey were put together by Bill Watts, who had seen both work mostly as singles. The biggest differences being, they had a name for their team, as opposed to just both their names, and they made an effort to look like a team. Let's face it: Hawk and Animal looked like a team. Rey Mysterio and the Undertaker, for example, would not look like a team. And I can promise you this: you would never see the tired angle of enemies somehow becoming tag champions. It may have been somewhat interesting the first time, (I honestly can't remember) but it's been done to death. This is a question for folks who were watching at the time: would you have believed that Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes would have been able to work together well enough to beat the Rock n Roll Express or the Road Warriors? I know I wouldn't have believed it for a second.
For that matter, you would never see the world champion beating the tag champions in a handicap match. I could buy Ric Flair beating Ricky Morton or Road Warrior Hawk one on one. I wouldn't have bought Ric Flair beating the Rock n Roll Express or the Road Warriors in a 2 on 1 situation. I would not build my tag division as the, "These are the guys who couldn't make it as singles, so they're doing tags," division.
The women's division would not be a joke or a t&a fest. I can usually understand (at least to some degree) opinions and interests that differ from my own. This is not one of them. I like beautiful, sexy women too. So you know what I do when I want to see them? I don't watch wrestling. I may actually go outside and see them in person. There would be no washed out porn stars, Playboy bunnies, or bikini models on the roster. All of those are easy enough to see without having them out of place on a wrestling show. If the women end up being attractive, consider it a bonus.
I would bring back a cruiserweight division. There are plenty of guys out there who are great performers, but may be too small to be taken seriously as a threat in a heavyweight division. Plus it adds to the realistic presentation when you consider that both boxing and UFC have weight classes. Why not wrestling? In WCW, the division often yielded the best matches on the card. There is definitely a place (and a prominent one at that) for smaller wrestlers.
Gimmick matches would be used sparingly and almost exclusively as feud enders
By and large, the gimmick match has been killed dead as Kelsey's nuts. Any random Monday Night Raw might give you a cage match with no build, possibly featuring people who aren't even feuding. We've seen ladder matches and street fights given the same treatment. We even have entire pay per view broadcasts dedicated to "extreme rules" matches, Hell In a Cell, submission matches and who knows what else. When you know that at some point in the year, you're getting a Hell In a Cell match regardless, are you really going to buy it as something happening because these two guys despise each other and nothing else will really settle it? Or are you going to think, "Okay, they were going to have a couple of Hell In a Cell matches this month regardless of what was happening, so they decided to throw these guys in." Which of those two possibilities sounds more impressive to you? Or, let me put it this way: would you be more excited about Zack Ryder vs The Miz in a street fight on Raw that wasn't announced until the start of the show that night, or about John Cena vs CM Punk in a street fight on PPV that was announced at least 2 or 3 weeks in advance so they had time to sell it with promos, angles, etc.?
Rules would be clearly explained and enforced
Have you ever watched a show and wonder why one guy got counted out earlier on the show and the guys in the main event fought outside the ring for 5 minutes and nothing happened, even though it was a standard match? Well, I wouldn't have any of that. The guys could either pay attention to the ref's count, or they could screw up their match and get out of there (and most likely fired) by doing things however they wanted. It would be thoroughly explained to everyone that if you're going to break the rules, make sure the ref is out of position. If your heel nails a guy with some brass knucks and the ref is looking right at him but pretends he didn't see it, who is the crowd most likely to get pissed at - the heel, or the ref? At the very least, they're going to be wondering why the ref didn't call it, and when there is no explanation beyond, "somebody messed up," it does nothing to help your show. As mentioned with announcers earlier, nobody buys a ticket to see a ref. Count outs and DQs would be enforced and the wrestlers (and booker) would have to work around that.
Cliche's would be drastically reduced
I thoroughly believe that it's important to have a winner and a loser. I also believe that simply losing a match isn't going to hurt someone if it's done correctly. All of the BS finishes that have sprung up over the years and have been done to death would go by the wayside. Ref gets bumped and the guy who loses gets a 3 count while he's out? You won't see it every time you turn around. The old bit where somebody pulls the ref out of the ring before he can make a 3 count? Not going to see it. Why would that not be a DQ? Main events where guys kick out of 30 finishers when 1 would have put them down a week before? Not going to happen. That spot guys like to do where they trade reversals a few times and then stop in a face off so the crowd can applaud? I'd probably fire somebody for doing it. It's predictable crap that everyone has seen a million times and knows exactly what they're seeing as soon as it starts. So what is the upside?
Absolutely no scripted promos or segments
This is a huge issue that I have with a lot of wrestling these days, and I know I'm not alone. No one sounds sincere, no one truly sounds like they're speaking their mind, and a lot of it sounds the same because it's all being written by the same people. Everyone would be responsible for their own promos. If someone can't do a promo, we'd put them with a manager who could. I would also put a ban on these long winded promos and skits that have plagued TV in recent years. If you have to have people talking that long to explain what you did last week, you probably shouldn't have done it to begin with. The explanation is probably going to be full of holes anyway. All of these ridiculous attempts at comedy would be gone. I'll be the first to admit, I laughed at Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan back in the '80s. I didn't laugh at Santino wearing a dress and claiming to be his own sister. To me, unless you've got somebody who is exceptionally good at comedy, you're better off just leaving it off the card. Comedy is something that is more likely to fall on its face than not, whether it's on a wrestling show or a network sitcom.
Managers and valets would be brought back
This is something that is obviously lacking from wrestling as a whole these days. I would not employ managers who thought it was their job to get themselves over. I would not hire anyone who wanted to interfere throughout the match. If a manager interferes in a match and it's not the finish, it doesn't mean anything. Then, when he interferes for the finish, it doesn't mean as much because he did it 15 times before that. I wouldn't want the match to end directly as a result of the manager interfering anyway (and I say this as someone who has worked as a manager) because then it seems more like the manager won. If the manager interferes as part of the finish, I'd want it to lead into something that his guy did to win the match. I would use valets, but if the only thing a woman had in her favor was being hot, she'd need to look elsewhere for work. If she couldn't be as effective a heel as Sherri Martel, or as sympathetic an innocent character as Elizabeth, being devoted to an unsympathetic character to the point of being used as a human shield, she wouldn't be used. Let's face it, when Savage used Sherri as a human shield, no one really cared. If she couldn't be as essential to the character as Sunshine was to "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin in Texas, she wouldn't be used. If her only appeal is being sexy, she's better off working in a strip club because she'll probably make more money than I could pay her anyway.
Various in-ring styles would be featured
Brawlers, technical masters, high flyers (not meaningless spot monkeys), mat wrestlers, we'd use it all. Well, except for garbage wrestling. I've never been big on the hardcore scene and these days it's not even hot anymore. But I would want a variety of in-ring styles so everyone could find something they like. If you're someone like me, you like some of all of those styles, so you'd love getting them all on one show.
The two man announce team would be focused on getting people over
I think a 3 man team is too crowded, so we'd limit it to two. There would be none of this crap like we see these days where Michael Cole (a heel color commentator) will bury Daniel Bryan (a heel wrestler) every week. I have no problem with a heel color commentator (I've always preferred one, as a matter of fact) but I'd want one that could basically put over everyone while actively cheering for the heels. Jesse Ventura was very good at this, as was Bobby Heenan when he wanted to be. Watch the '92 Royal Rumble and you'll see that even with Heenan actually be aligned with Ric Flair, he put over everyone from Hogan & Savage to Tito Santana & Greg Valentine to the Repo Man. As for my other guy, I wouldn't want him to be strictly play by play (I understand why some feel such a role isn't necessary) but I would want them to call the action in addition to discussing the hows and whys. It always annoyed me as a fan when two guys on the undercard would be having a hell of a match and the announcers just talked about the main event.
There would be no "earlier tonight" or "moments ago" recaps
I understand that sometimes it is wise to remind the audience of what happened previously. But do you really need to see something happen on a show, go to a commercial break, see it again when you come back from the break, and then see it twice more before the show is over? I don't think so. We'd keep the replays to a minimum.
There would be angles, but no ridiculous soap opera crap
"You burned down my house and killed my dog?" "You broke into my house and beat me up in front of my wife and kids?" "I gave you my ring and it gave you mystical powers until you got brainwashed and started attacking people with a deadly weapon?" Nothing like that would be happening. I'm sure there are people who enjoy that stuff, and they still have plenty of options in wrestling, let alone the rest of TV. I think it's ridiculous, beyond the realm of believability, and has no place on a show of mine.
I'm sure I've forgotten something that I would consider important. I tend to be long winded when it comes to this sort of thing and I doubt I ever think of all the same things twice. But if you want to know what I would do differently than what's being done today, I think this gives you an excellent starting point. Some of you may like it, some of you may think it would never work. Regardless, that's what I'd like to do, and if nothing else, it shows that I'm not criticizing today's wrestling without having an idea what I'd rather see.
Feel free to send me any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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