September 04, 2011

Use established names to build your future while you still can

When the quarter hour ratings for the 8/25 edition of iMPACT WRESTLING came out, I knew I was going to have to write a blog about this. Unfortunately, Hurricane Irene happened and I lost power for close to 4 days, so this is a bit late. No less relevant, though.

In the report that was posted on TNAsylum, we learned that the highest rated segment of the night was an in-ring confrontation between Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Sting, which garnered a 1.44. The second highest rated quarter hour of the show, featuring the Knockouts, X-division and backstage stuff, drew a 1.27 -- not a bad rating in and of itself, but a noticeable difference to be sure.

Of course, I knew what was going to happen next, and sure enough, the usual suspects in the comment section launched into the same debate they have every week when the ratings come out: "THESE people are the only ones who draw! FACT!" "No, THOSE people are the only ones who draw! DOUBLE FACT!" "You're both wrong! NO ONE on this show draws! FACT TIMES INFINITY!" And so on and so forth.

I try not to get drawn into the never-ending ratings debates anymore if I can help it because, quite frankly, it's the same exact argument with the same exact talking points over and over again, and the whole thing has become tiresome to me. But that doesn't mean I don't have something to say about this.

Certain TNAsylum posters are very fond of pointing out that "established stars" (meaning people who were established in WWE or WCW) are the only talents in this company that draw ratings. In fact, it almost seems as if they feel a sort of glee in beating other posters over the head with this, saying that the aging established veterans are the only ones who do business worth a crap and, with a few exceptions, the home grown talent are just a collective waste of human plasma who shouldn't even be employed, and constantly point to quarter hour rating stats as their proof.

I'm not going to agree or disagree with this assessment. That's not what this blog is about. Instead, I'm going to posit a question to these people...

If, in fact, it is true that the established stars are the only ones who make any difference in the ratings, why in the world do you think that's a good thing?

Newsflash: IT'S NOT!

You shouldn't be happy if the veterans and established talent are the only ones on the show garnering any interest from casual viewers. You should be concerned, just as I am, because this is not a good thing.

So Sting, Hogan and Flair drew a 1.44. So what? This is all in an effort to build up to a Sting vs Hogan match at Bound For Glory in October. Granted, I personally, have NO desire to see that match, but I will begrudgingly admit that this doesn't mean it won't get other people to order the PPV or buy a ticket to the event out of nostalgia. And that's all well and good for Bound For Glory, but what about when that show is over? What does one last Hogan vs Sting match do for the company after that?

Not a damn thing.

Don't you wonder why there was such a huge difference in viewership between the 2 highest rated segments on the 8/25 show? It's because those extra people who tuned in to see Hogan and Flair and Sting only wanted to see those guys, and left when the segment was over because they didn't care about anything else on the show. From 1.44 to 1.27, we're talking about a drop of 0.17. If you round up, that's a difference of 2 tenths of a ratings point. That wouldn't seem like much if we were talking about Monday Night Raw, but in TNA/iMPACT WRESTLING, it's the difference between a great rating and a rating low enough to have people predicting doom and gloom.

So why then would you want the company to continue utilizing the established stars and veterans in this way? Hogan vs Sting might pop the buyrate and attendance for Bound For Glory, but the first Thursday after that it leaves them right back at square one with all the same problems they had before.

These veterans are not going to be around much longer. This company needs to stop using established stars vs other established stars as a crutch. The day is going to come when that crutch breaks and they need to be able to walk under their own power when it does. They need to think about what they're going to do X number of years in the future after Sting has retired, after Hogan has moved on to his next cash cow, after Flair has died in the ring (don't start with me on this. We all know it's going to happen one of these days). Even Kurt Angle, the Randy Couture of pro wrestling, won't be there forever.

So what happens when those people are gone? What is the company going to do when there are no more established stars to lean on and they have to rely on the home grown guys? Signing Chavo Guerrero and bringing back Tommy Dreamer sure as hell isn't going to help them then (it wouldn't help them now either, but I digress).

This company (and all you people too) need to get that through their heads. Playing the established stars against each other might pop a rating for one segment, it might pop the buyrate for one PPV, but it does NOTHING to build for the future. For as many people who might show up to see Sting face Hulk Hogan in the ring one last time, that doesn't mean nearly as much as you might think. That match doesn't elevate any new talents, it doesn't create any new stars, ergo, it does virtually nothing to benefit the company beyond that one show. It's a short term solution to a long term problem.

What if, instead of Sting vs Hogan at Bound For Glory, it was Sting vs Crimson and Hogan vs Bobby Roode? Those matches almost certainly wouldn't draw as well, but the rub Crimson and Roode got would be hugely beneficial down the road. Crimson would get a big boost from defeating Sting on the company's biggest stage, and just imagine if Roode went over Hogan on top of that. Of all people, TNA home grown star BOBBY ROODE would now have the accolade of defeating the Immortal Hulk Hogan in his last match ever. BOBBY ROODE would be the man who retired Hulk Hogan. Ergo, Bobby Roode would become a made star.

If there's anything that would get the casual fans who only tune in to see the established talent to start tuning in to see the younger stars too, that's it. This is what they need to be doing more of.

Sting, Hogan and Flair drawing a 1.44 for one segment means exactly nothing. Put a young star with a bright future in the ring with them and now you're doing something productive.

Easily the best example of this that I've seen recently was what they just did with Kurt Angle and Crimson. Angle says he's going to take out all the young talent on the roster and chooses Crimson as his first target. The following week, Crimson calls out Angle, stands up to him and challenges him to a match. The week after that, they have another confrontation, hype their match up like a big deal, and the match is competitive enough that Crimson is made to look like a total stud against the world champion without even winning the match.

They built up to the match for 2 weeks, made it look like it was a BIG match, and when the bell rang they made the up-and-comer look like he was on the same level as the established star. Granted, it didn't pop the rating, but what it did was give Crimson a big rub and allow the fans to see him as a bigger deal than before, which will help his ability to draw ratings as his star rises in the future.

The company needs to be doing this with every established star they've got. Instead of Sting vs Flair and Sting vs Hogan, do Sting vs James Storm, Hogan vs Bobby Roode and Flair vs the Pope. Instead of Bully Ray vs Ken Anderson, do Bully Ray vs Samoa Joe and Ken Anderson vs Magnus. Instead of Jeff Jarret vs Kurt Angle for 7 months straight, do Jeff Jarret vs Alex Shelley and Kurt Angle vs Austin Aries.

Instead of playing them against each other, put all the established names in programs with the young talent with the expressed purpose of ultimately putting them over and helping to turn them into bigger stars. No more idiotic, counter productive bull@#$%, like Jeff Jarret tapping out Samoa Joe with his own freaking submission hold, thus forever destroying any mystique Joe's character had left.

Maybe this would eventually turn said young talents into ratings draws and maybe it wouldn't. But at least it would be doing SOMETHING. At least it would be an attempt to build the company's future. At least it would be some kind of effort on their part to prepare for the day when those established stars are no longer there to keep iMPACT's ratings in the black.

And that day is going to come. Do you want them to be ready when it does, or not?

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