Booking plans

A few historical questions  about Vince’s plans – 1- Did Vince have a back up plan for Montreal? What would have happened had Bret listened to Davey Boy (or whomever) and not allowed himself to be put in the sharpshooter – what was Vince’s plan B as to how to get the title off him? 2- Did Vince expect Montreal to make him a top heel in the company? What was he expecting fan reaction to be? 3- On an unrelated note, what was the long term plan for the Two Man Power Trip/Canadian Violence Connection feud in ’01 had HHH not torn his quad? And what was the plan for HHH’s role in the Invasion? 

1.  They would have done a DQ finish and Bret would have surrendered the title on RAW the next night.  However, the odds of that actually happening are astronomical, because Vince would have found some way to screw Bret out of the title, even if Bret hadn’t fallen for the Sharpshooter spot.  Pretty much any submission move done by Shawn or any pinning predicament could have led to a bell being rung. 2.  Vince was so desperate that I don’t think fan reaction was even on his radar at that point.  3.  I had the whole plan outlined for me by a WWE writer, but I don’t use the same e-mail account anymore because otherwise I’d just reprint it here.  Basically HHH was going to do a slow burn babyface turn and occupy the spot that ended up going to Kurt Angle.  But, and this is a big one, the thing you have to keep in mind as well is that originally the Invasion angle was supposed to lead to separate WCW and WWF touring brands, and HHH & Rock were going to headline the WCW brand while Austin & Undertaker were going to be the WWF headliners.  So at the time plans were made for HHH and Austin, long-term plans were drastically different from where things ended up.  So it wasn’t like HHH and Austin were going to be wrestling all the time, it was more like they split up the team and HHH leaves for WCW so they can do interpromotional matches down the line. 

Fakeness

 

Hey Scott,
Got two for you:
1. Regarding last night’s Raw: I enjoy reality-based wrestling as much as the next guy, but when are the writers and the wrestlers involved going to realize that when they refer to stuff like "work rate" and "heel persona" that they’re essentially acknowledging, within the context of the story, that wrestling is indeed fake and thus negating the whole purpose of Cena and Punk talking trash about who’s gonna win Sunday.  Why should we care?  Cena’s character "John Cena" just admitted it’s all contrived.
2. Strictly kayfabe, to what extent are wrestling fans supposed to believe heels are truly "bad" people?  Like, in 1990, were we to assume that Mr. Perfect goes home from his job and is probably a law-abiding citizen who is merely unpopular at work? What about Earthquake, who assaulted Hulk Hogan in the third degree and is technically a felon?  If Ravishing Rick Rude saw the Ultimate Warrior trapped in a burning car, would Rude call the fire department, let alone try to help him get out?
These are the questions that plague me at night.

1.  This is the phenomenon I have previously discussed about Vince Russo, which I have dubbed Everything You Are Watching Is Fake, But What You Are Watching Right Now Is Real.  To me it’s a really strange way to sell a PPV, especially when a supposed title v. title unification match would be the more straight-forward storyline.  We internet folk might make for great trending patterns on Twitter (is there a #fivemovesofdoom one, I wonder…) but it’s not a great way to try to grow your audience.  We’re already the audience, you don’t need to convince us.  2.  Well, clearly Mr. Perfect was just an overachiever, not an actual bad person.  But I think in the bigger sense, it falls under suspension of disbelief and the unwritten rule that what happens in the ring stays in the ring.  Of course, once Russo came along and people started having brawls outside the arena for the Hardcore title, that kind of went out of the window.  I think it all goes under the umbrella of the Wolf and Sheepdog cartoons – yeah, Earthquake tries to murder Jake Roberts’ snake when he’s on the clock, but then he goes home and watches TV just like anyone else. 

Classics No More

Hey Keith I feel like I just emailed you a few months ago about WWEClassics.com changing. The new online service is WWEGreatestMatches.com. The name sucks but the premise is solid. They have (in their opinion which I agree 88% on the top 100 matches), full episodes, monthly videos and original content. The thing that bums me is that they are now selling episodes of Raw from 1993 for $1.99. Should I be mad or is this more of a standard premise among along services. I’m very mixed on this. I think the old WWEClassics.com offered too much and maybe I was spoiled (god forbid WWE gave fans somethign worth their money). What do you think? Do you blame WWE for trying to make additional revenue?

It’s one of those weird “addition by subtraction” type of marketing deals, I guess, where the actual pricing structure that was in place before stays, but now you don’t get the individual episodes included for your yearly subscription fee.  Since I never used the service for the individual matches, this would hold no appeal to me.  Really, they’re just biding their time until they can launch their WWE Network anyway, so it appears they no serious interest in making full use of their library any time soon.  Such is life.

Greatest Reign Ever?

Hi Scott, Let me start with the usual and say I’m a long time reader, first time emailer, so many thanks for the entertaining rants and reviews down the years. I was thinking about this the other day and thought your take would be interesting and all those on the blog might enjoy discussing who actually had the greatest single title reign in wrestling history? By this I mean a recognised World Heavyweight title reign anywhere in the world rated in terms of money made, future influence, match quality, storytelling, character development and other tangibles. But it must be a single title reign, so for example, while Austin’s run with the WWF Championship in 1998 was brilliant, it was split between two reigns so can’t count collectively but each of the two reigns could be considered on their own merits. Now apologies if I seem ignorant but my wrestling knowledge is really North American and late 80’s onwards, so if it was just about money made I’m sure Hogan’s 84-88 reign is the one, and I’m sure in terms of match quality, Ric Flair probably had a crazy good reign in the 80’s and finally in terms of drama and storytelling, Savage’s year with the title Wrestlemania IV to V is up there. But if you take everything into account, who had the greatest single title reign? I’ve been going back and forth between Savage’s Wrestlemania to Wrestlemania reign and Austin’s run from Wrestlemania 17 to Unforgiven 2001. Keep up the good work!

Yeah, the conversation pretty much begins and ends with Bruno Sammartino.  Eight years as WWF champion from 1963-71, and he pretty much invented the power wrestler template from which everyone else followed.  Drew money hand over fist as well.  Came back in the 70s and got another three years as champion just because Vince Sr. needed another couple of million dollars in his vault to dive into like Uncle Scrooge.  Runner-up:  Hulk Hogan’s first reign.  If you’re expanding to other, non-World titles, then I’d also nominate Honky Tonk Man. 

G+ Plug

Hi +Scott Keith you very kindly plugged my website when I first started, but there’s so many reviews on there now including all of the Harry Potter films, which frankly I feel I deserve a medal for sitting through. Any chance of one more cheap plug for old times sake, and I promise I won’t ask again. 🙂
http://www.thatfilmguy.co.uk/harry-potter-and-the-deathly-hallows-part-2

Well I can’t say no to a cheap plug. 

Good Times, We Got ‘Em

Hey Scott,Johnathan1988 from the boards
I keep reading about different "boom" periods in WWE, or times when business was bad, but different sources seem to give different information on which time-frames WWE was successful in (ratings, buyrates, attendance), and which periods things weren’t so good in. Seeing as I didn’t really take notice of such things until my conversion to smarkdom in 2001, I write you asking to clear it up.

I start with Hogan beating the Sheik for the belt. WWE was clearly on fire then, highlighted with Hulkamania and Hogan’s huge WM3 win over Andre. Does the fire start to die down a little in 88 and 89, or is it going just as strong up until WM VI in toronto?
Obviously things get cooler from here, but the mid 90s provide a constant source of argument between Bret and Shawn fans. Was Bret’s 94 run doing any good numbers? Was Shawn’s 96 title reign the closest WWE has come to going out of business? And where does Diesel in 95 fit in?
The Attitude Era was the next big boom, but my question is if Austin’s year long-absence (and thus the Rock taking over the top spot) made a difference in the numbers in 2000 compared to 99?
Finally, I heard an interview with Cena where he calls 02-06 "a down time" for ther business. So when does it start picking up again? Wrestlemania 23?
I know this is a convoluted question, but I figured you were a good authority to somewhat set the record straight.

OK, I’m game. 80s:  84-88 was huge, with Hogan-Orndorff in particular making money hand over fist every night for close to a year until they finally managed to burn people out on it.  It was INSANE the kind of houses they were doing after that piledriver.  Savage did really strong business on top as champion, leading to the all-time buyrate champion for a long time at Wrestlemania V.  Business starting dropping rapidly at that point, leading to Warrior’s horrible run on top (fault and causes are another argument, point being, business went south).  You can safely call 89-92ish a pretty big down cycle. The early 90s were a really weird period, and I’m going to play it safe and say it’s hard to categorize who would have done what with the title on top.  Diesel was unquestionably death for business, however, and I don’t think anyone seriously debates that.  As a personal anecdote, Diesel’s reign as champion saw them drop from running the hockey arena in Edmonton to the much, much smaller adjacent building, something that would have been unthinkable to me a few years prior.  Sid on top in 96 was a similar situation.  Bret always drew big numbers as champion internationally, so you pretty much had to keep him on top during that period when they were expanding like that.  Overall, 93-97 was a huge transitional period for the business in general, with Vince shifting his focus from promoting house shows on TV to promoting PPV on TV and finally just promoting TV for the sake of it.  2000 was the most profitable year for the WWF in their history, including today, so Rock must have been doing something right.   Really, by that time Austin wasn’t needed as a draw and HHH and Rock could carry things just fine on their own.  Austin’s peak years, 98-2000, were SOOOOOOO huge that he could have retired and still been comfortably rich for the rest of his life just based on them.  2000 was pretty much the peak of the entire business as far as WWF goes. As for the last one, business picked up specifically with the Batista-HHH main event at Wrestlemania 21.  That’s the show that turned WM from just the biggest PPV of the year into an event in itself.  It’s also the last time they really pulled the trigger and made 2 legitimate new stars (Cena and Batista), both in the same night!  However, outside of WM, PPV has been trending steadily downwards for a long time now, so we’ve been a down cycle for many years. 

Memorable Eras

Hey Scott. Your recent post regarding the "Best Final Matches" of certain wrestlers got me thinking about the various epochs of professional wrestling in North America. But a comment in said thread really got the creative juices going.

Every major period in pro wrestling seems to have a clear beginning, a decisive point where the beginning of the end is seen, and a symbolic ending to it. In the NWA (or WCW), for instance, Ric Flair’s run as the true face of the promotion began at Starrcade ’83 when he toppled Harley Race for his second world title, and ended with the unceremonious firing by Jim Herd in the summer of 1991. I looked a bit deeper, though, and would be so bold as to say that while Herd’s firing of Flair was the symbolic end to his reign as the top dog in WCW (since he was never the same force in the promotion again), you could see the beginning of the end as early as 1990, when the new generation (represented by Sting) finally overcame him in 1990. Sure, he would win the title back in 1991, but it was really the beginning of the end for Flair’s reign as the undisputed King of the NWA.
In the WWF, you can see something similar to Hulk Hogan, who actually had not one, but three "definitive" endings to his first WWF run. With a universally agreed-upon starting point set in 1984 with his title victory over the Iron Sheik, you could run it out to WrestleMania VI, where he lost the title to the Ultimate Warrior and "passed the torch" in much the same way Flair had to Sting (since both Warrior and Sting ended up as disappointing champions their first time out). You could make a case for WrestleMania VIII, which was really the culmination of nine years on the road with the WWF as its top attraction. And you can certainly look at 1993’s King of the Ring, where Yokozuna crushed him and led to his turfing from the promotion. But looking closer, you could almost see the beginning of the end at the Main Event in 1988, with his title loss to Andre. It was the first time Hogan had been beaten. The superhero had been felled, even if it came as treachery. After that, Hogan’s stature was lessened a bit, because you had the Macho Man operating at the same level in the fan’s eyes for a time, and then you had the Warrior rise up not long after. Like Flair, Hogan would have success after the beginning of the end. But it was really an iconic moment that really foreshadowed the changing times.
As I looked back, I could count a number of these areas where you had clear starting points and symbolic endings, like Steve Austin’s start at King of the Ring 1996, his symbolic end at WrestleMania XIX, and the beginning of the end with his awkward heel turn at WrestleMania X-Seven. Or you could even use Bret Hart, whose Intercontinental Championship victory at Summerslam 1991 launched his solo career for good, the WrestleMania 13 double-turn the beginning of his downfall, and Montreal representing the symbolic end. Who else has such identifiable periods in their career that you can recall?

Those would actually be the major ones I could think of as well.  I think it’s much more notable that someone like the Rock didn’t have a “beginning of the end” phase.  It was all rising action, and then one day he went to Hollywood and never looked back.  Ditto for someone like Brock Lesnar, who was on top of the business for his entire career.  You could probably make a case for Goldberg having an era, who debuted strong, and then saw the beginning of the end with the stupid car punching injury, and finally the heel turn that killed him off for good. 

Not As Much Money In The Bank As Previously Thought

As per last night’s Observer radio show, initial numbers for Money In The Bank are coming in, and it looks like about 135,000 domestic buys.  Predictions based on the show’s response had originally put it at 150,000 or more, which would have been phenomenal.  This doesn’t cover international buys and numbers will probably change a lot when the finals come in next quarter, but as it stands it’s a bit of a boost over 2010’s show, but not a game-changing performance or anything.  It’s basically a B-show that did better than it would have.   Hopefully this won’t mean Punk will immediately lose his version of the title and then job to Fake Sin Cara every night, but given the impatience WWE has displayed with the angle thus far, you never know.  Really, what it goes to show is that PPV is a dying market for WWE and there’s very little that’s going to boost it again short of Rock and Steve Austin returning fulltime.