Wrestling Booking and The Two Schools of Thought

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cero2k
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Wrestling Booking and The Two Schools of Thought

Post by cero2k » Jun 26th, '17, 19:38

On last saturday's show, Dave Meltzer was talking about the ROH Tag Team title match between The Bucks, War Machine, and The Best Friends during the WOR show. He talked about how a match can be Right OR Wrong, and what you learned as wrong is always wrong, and that's it; but also, What works is Good, right and wrong is subjective and it changes according to time and location, just because something was wrong 10 yrs ago in a promotion, maybe it's good to do now. Just because ROH books stories, doesn't mean PWG should, and vice versa. Just because WWE books The New Day, doesn't mean anyone else should. So...

"Right vs Wrong" Booking: So on one side, there is the believe that there is a way of booking, that has always worked and should work regardless of the promotion or era. This is the school of thought that we constantly hear from the Cornettes of the world. There's really no reason why how babyfaces where booked in the 80's shouldn't work today, it's really the same thing at the end of the day, wrestling at its core, is working the same emotions all the time, to want to see the good guys defeat the bad guys; and if there is someone who is being cheered, then figure out how to make him heel-er

"What Works IS Right" Booking: So on to the other side, there is the believe that the important part of wrestling is to make money no matter what, and sometimes that means to give them whatever they want, because happy fans means paying fans. Literally whatever they want (warrant it's legal and affordable). And so we tend to start see things like dance off in the middle of matches, we start to see 1000 superkicks, we start to see hardcore wrestling, we start to see Tye Dillinger pushed into the main roster. At the end of the day, nothing in wrestling matters if you can't get butts on seats, and if people wanna see a swamp cult leader fight a man pretending to be dead, then who is to say that is wrong, people really have the power to make or break someone

I don't necessarily think that either is wrong, some things works for some people, some thing work for some promotions. You can't blame ROH for putting all their stocks on The Young Bucks because TYBs are one of their bigger money makers; or you can't blame PWG for not leaving the Legion Hall because that niche is what works for them; or when you go to a Wrestle-Con show and every single fan marks out for Drew Galloway dancing in the middle of a match, maybe it was worth it and maybe just maybe, that match alone evolves the sport. If the fans want Daniel Bryan to win the title, maybe doing it is not a bad idea.

So going back to the ROH BITW thread, we were talking about how ROH fans are not real ROH fans and how ROH allowed the 'comedy' to walk in, how the promotion should dictate what the fans want. I think this is a good point in ROH's existence where this debate really comes in, ROH is in that transition from indie to mainstream where you want to use that buzz that comes from the Bullet Clubs, the 1000 superkicks, the Dalton Castles. Can you blame them? I don't mean to defend ROH with this topic, but I think it could help us realize how things happen sometimes, especially when it comes to how fans react to some stuff. One of the arguments was that ROH shouldn't had allowed 'that' to enter in ROH to begin with, and where I start to wonder, did fans bring it, or did ROH bring it in order to bring the fans.

((tons of ideas, probably not all thoroughly worked in my head, sorry if I jump around or repeat over and over again))


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Re: Wrestling Booking and The Two Schools of Thought

Post by Big Red Machine » Jun 26th, '17, 21:36

The thing that makes the case of ROH more contentious is that ROH had an established identity. I've talked before about how, from its conception, the name Ring Of Honor was more than just a different-sounding name for a wrestling promotion; it was a promise to the fans that they weren't going to get screwed out of the money they spent on tickets or DVDs with f*ck finishes and other bullsh*t ruining the matches they paid to see. If you call your promotion "Family Friendly Wrestling" you can't just start running shows with deathmatches and people dropping F bombs and making sexual comments. If you're running ECW and you rail against the cartoon BS in WWE then you can't turn around and push Doink the Clown as a babyface. For this same reason, a promotion like ROH can't just change gears and start doing heel finishes all over the place, comedy bullsh*t in title matches, etc. If they do, then they're not ROH anymore.

In a promotion like that, for fans to cheer for a heel doing a run-in during a main event world title match where an under-achieving WWE cast-off is challenging one of the company's founding fathers for the title is just so wrong and backwards that you have to ask how these people- not just one but an arena full of them- decided to come to this company's show. I'm not a fan of deathmatches, so if I went to the local indy and it was all (or even mostly) deathmatches, I'm not going back. So what happened that such people started to feel comfortable coming to ROH?
At the end of the day, the fault lies with the booker for not putting his foot down when un-ROH stuff like dancing started to happen during matches, and for allowing the identity of ROH to be lost via booking exactly the sort of things that ROH is supposed to stand against. People cheer and chant for comedy at places like WrestleCon and PWG and WWE, but there are plenty of places still left where they don’t, and that’s because the bookers never allowed that in-roads to be made- or at the very least kept it contained only to specific comedy matches.
People didn’t chant for comedy in ROH until very recently. Within the past two years or so. Yes, people cheered heels like Adam Cole, but they didn’t start demanding for comedy until the Young Bucks brought their over the top Bullet Club antics to ROH. Initially they were babyfaces, so it wasn’t as bad, but the more overboard they went the more the people wanted to see comedy. People wanted to see the Young Bucks do their Young Bucks stuff, and because they had started doing over the top “SUCK IT!” stuff in PWG, fans expected to see that in ROH. And instead of putting his foot down like he should have (notice how the Bucks are much more over the top cartoonish in North America and Europe than they are in New Japan), Delirious let them do it because in his mind (I’ve talked about this before, too, and how it has killed the booking) the more pops the better it means things are, and the fans popped for the comedy so he let them do it. Then you had other people incorporating more comedy into their matches because it gets a pop and often doesn’t involve taking bumps, and the people just kept popping for it until they started to think that they were going to see comedy. To them, going to ROH is about seeing the Young Bucks and Dalton Castle and whoever else do their silly things that they do, so they pop every time they see it, even if it would have stopped being funny to a normal audience long ago because it’s wrestling and you’re supposed to pop for it. But it’s not supposed to be “just” pro wrestling because this isn’t any other company. This is ROH. It’s supposed to be different. And now that is gone.
ROH was growing when it was trying to be itself. Ever since this shift to this silly idea that being a “mainstream” promotion means doing a WWE-style show with shorter matches, more comedy, less of an emphasis on week-to-week storytelling, and a rush to gimmick matches to sell tickets, it has gone downhill. ROH isn’t cool anymore. It’s not relevant. It’s not the place where young guys go to make their names and prove themselves. It’s not part of the wrestling zeitgeist. No one expects any blow-away matches at ROH shows anymore unless it’s a big multi-person or multi-team tag match. There are no more marquee singles matches. Attendance has been down (with a few exceptions) because the fact that the promotion running in your town is ROH doesn’t matter anymore except for the fact that it’s the only place in North America that you can see the Young Bucks, the Briscoes, Jay Lethal, and a few other guys live (unless you manage to get a rare PWG ticket, in which case you can see the Bucks there, too). If ROH is no different from any other indy then why make the special effort to go see it- never mind travel hundreds of miles across multiple states like people used to?
ROH is nothing right now. It’s a shell. It’s a husk. Its soul slowly leaked out and was replaced by something else. I said it when the Bullet Club invasion happened and we got a PPV main event with no finish in the company who has always promised us that we won’t get f*ck finishes: “I don’t know what the f*ck I just watched, but it sure as hell wasn’t Ring Of Honor.”
If you are a promotion with an identity, you have to keep that identity intact, or else you won’t become any different from any other indy. ROH didn’t do that. It’s the same mistake TNA made when, as the second “mainstream” wrestling company they decided to shift over and start to be like the first. CHIKARA is suffering the same fate, because they didn’t protect a part of their brand that they didn’t value enough: the quality focus on storytelling. Once it was clear that was gone, the houses went down, the wrestlers started to leave, and it’s just a shell of its former self.
Dave isn’t wrong when he says that what works is “right,” but I think the danger in that is confusing the idea that “what is right in one time and place might be wrong in another,” and the needs of a company that is trying to compete in the marketplace. Just because it pops the crowd doesn’t mean you should keep doing it if it is clearly leading you away from the thing that got you to where you are. Because each crowd is made up of individuals. In PWG it is apparently mostly the same people each time. I’d venture to say the same thing about other promotions that don’t run everywhere. But ROH runs a lot more places than any non-WWE company in the US, Canada, Europe, or Japan (I can’t speak with any authority about Mexico), so they have more than just 400 people in Reseda, CA to worry about. They got this big by delivering a certain product, and any shift away from that product risks alienating the 600-3000 people in New York, Philly, Chicago, Dayton, Pittsburgh, Boston, Toronto, Detroit, San Antonio, and many other places that got you here. When you’re only going to these places twice a year, if you start changing the product based on the reaction in one place and asking people everywhere to buy the shows on VOD/DVD, then if they don’t like the change, they’re not going to show up when you get back to their city in six months. You might bring in new people to replace them, but those new people are fickle and will spend money on any promotion giving them the same general stuff you are. That’s why you have to keep your identity at all costs: because those fans who were drawn in by what made you unique are the ones who won’t leave you unless you lose yourself. They are the ones who go on message boards and tell everyone what an awesome time they had at ROH and how ROH is different than every other promotion and everyone should check it out.
They are the people who aren’t being served what they want by someone else for free or for cheaper, so they are the ones who will spend the most money on you. As long as you’re not doing something extreme like deathmatches (and some would add intergender violence), anyone willing to give wrestling a chance will give you a chance once they find you. This whole idea that there is much of a distinction between “mainstream” wrestling fans and “internet” fans is silly. I think that if you took a “casual” fan and had them watch some 2005 ROH and then told them that every week that they could sit through Raw and SD, or you would give them the next ROH show to watch, would pick the ROH stuff because the booking is much better, the action is better, and many of the promos are better. Production values might be an issue for some, but I think most of us got into (and have stayed into) wrestling because of the action, the characters, or the stories, not the because of the pyro or the lighting (but any promotion that can upgrade their production without sacrificing major talents should do so to help attract those people). The problem is that ROH (or choose the storyline and work-rate driven indy of your choice from the era of your choice) is hard to find out about in the first place, and once you do it’s not free like WWE TV is. The idea that “mainstream” fans will only like what WWE is doing is silly. They watch WWE because that is what they have found because it’s the easiest to find (and financially the easiest as well). That doesn’t mean that they won’t like something else if you give it to them. There’s a good chance they might well like something else more. After all, WWE has gone through many changes between now and Attitude Era, and it is much less popular now than it was then.
Any promotion trying to grow will get discovered by “casual” fans the way most of us discover wrestling in the first place: by accident. But there are some who will find out about it via the recommendations of their “internet”/”hardcore” fan friends, and the people most likely to spread the gospel about the your promotion are people who you got invested in it by giving them something they weren’t getting elsewhere. They’re not going to help you do this if you alienate them by no longer giving them what they loved about you.
No matter how you come by someone trying to check out your promotion, it is your job to show them why they should stick with you over someone else doing the same thing for free- or at least cheaper than you. That’s why you make yourself different. You need to give them something to attach themselves to that they won’t get from anyone else. Doing what WWE is doing in an attempt to be more “mainstream” doesn’t make you appeal to more people. It makes you more generic. Less unique. More replaceable. Easier to leave for someone else.

Okay. That became a lot of rambling. Sorry. But you get my general point, right?
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Re: Wrestling Booking and The Two Schools of Thought

Post by Big Red Machine » Jun 30th, '17, 17:35

I'm listening to the Cornette-Meltzer debate now and it's kind of fascinating. Not necessarily the points they're making but how badly they both seem to be missing the other's point because they're bending over backwards to deal with the flaws they know in their own. I'll write some more up on this at some point over the weekend.
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