Figured I start up a booking philosophies and disciplines discussion here. I'll come in here from time to time and throw out booking discipline/philosophy questions and statements to see what you guys are thinking.
To start out, I was reading Pat McNeill's take on Low Ki and ROH parting ways again and something stood out for me in McNeill's last paragraph.
People will say that Sapolsky does this as a disciple of Paul Heyman, who did a similar deal when he booked ECW. However, since reading "Wrestling at the Chase" I have learned this was also a huge point of Sam Mushnick's when he booked St Louis. Sam wanted interchangeable guys on top so that one individual would not be able to derail things.
Now, that seems fine for St Louis, which was a territory back in the day and fine for ROH which has a niche group of fans that they can sell their concept to. The WWE (and to a way lesser extent, TNA) is pretty much all about the star system. Now, could a national promotion run efficiently built around a concept and not a specific group of wrestlers or is that day dead and gone? I'm not saying they have to run WWE level, but at least be national and profitable.
Changing gears, in recent weeks it has come out that a lot of TNA's new audience are actually UFC fans. Thing is, TNA hasn't convinced any of the new UFC fans to buy their ppv's since the buyrates are the same from the FSN days.
That said, should TNA book a more legit sport-like, realistic way? TNA is still more sport and less entertainment oriented than WWE, but they still have their fair share of wanna be WWE like segments and vignettes. Should TNA change gears a little and book more realistic like cleaner finishes, no outside interference or ref bumps, etc?
I am of the opinion that as long as Jeff Jarrett is lead booker, this won't change because it appears he can't book matches (especially his own) without the above mentioned shortcuts and tricks. Would it even help TNA to do this or are UFC fans just kind of there for the ride and probrably not going to pay for the shows, so TNA should just try to stick to a more even steven sports and entertainment style show?
I've noticed a new saying cropping up, particularly in hip hop and amongst professional athletes. "It is what it is". What does it mean? It's kind of a lazy saying and not very deep. Then again, pro athletes and hip hop artists are not known for their mental prowess, in general at least.Personally, I think it's kind of a clever way for athletes to tell reporters and the media that they just answered their own questions and to really think of something better to ask. On the hip hop front, it's a way to say, "look, cut away all the bullshit from whatever, and you'll see things clearly."
On the 4th of July, I attended a WWE Supershow in Sacramento which consisted of a live Raw followed by a Smackdown taping. Since Raw was live on a holiday, WWE phoned it in and had a shitty show. The only redeeming thing about Raw was seeing the HBK turn. The crowd, along with myself and several TSM posters were stunned as well. No way anyone saw that coming. Smackdown was decent, not bad. Kind of sucked that my group seemed to be the only people in the building who knew who the fuck Blue Meanie or the BWO were.
What I was going to dedicate my first TSM blog to was the Muhammad Hassan/Undertaker angle which has recieved quite a lot of debate on the TSM forums. I was there live for the controversial angle. While it played out live, some in our group, who were standing at first, sat back down in our seats as we started to recognize what they were doing. The audience didn't really boo what they were seeing. Quite a few people around us just looked numb. Behind me were some guys who looked either Arab or Indian decent who just sat there quiet and shook their heads. I did the same. And no, we weren't shaking our heads up and down.
"It is what it is"
In my estimation, the Hassan character is a race bait character created by WWE Creative to play off the emotions of Americans towards Arabs and Arab-Americans, post 9/11. The presentation of Hassan and Davari are that of whiny, loud mouthed heels. In no way is Hassan attempting to endear himself to the crowd. Lawler and JR interacted with Hassan early on in their storyline arc and played it up as such. The argument that the crowd turned on Hassan first is insignificant because Hassan was supposed to be a heel from the get go. He was not designed to be a face or even a tweener. That's why he delivers the promos in fire and brimstone style. It's why Davari shouts his interpretations of what Hassan is saying. By design, they are supposed to get the crowd to not like them. Does the Hassan character have reasonable motivation to act like he does? Very much so. The character makes excellent points. However, the presentation and content of the promos is to get the audience to focus on his race and what is wrong with them (the audience).
"It is what it is"
Hassan's character arc is that anything that is wrong to him is because of discrimination. Not getting title shots? Discrimination. Not wrestling who or when he wants? Discrimination. Not getting the same things other wrestlers are getting? Discrimination. Of course, this just adds fuel to his fire. It's supposed to help make his point. The incidents are usually a bit of a stetch, but that's the point. We all have seen or met someone who thinks of bullshit reasoning as to why things aren't going their way. It's the victim syndrome. You get tired of hearing it, especially when some of the reasoning is questionable. Again, that is the point. The character by design is supposed to connect with you as the opposite to Hassan. Now, one of Hassan's points is that people label him a terrorist because he's Arab-American. Of course, he hasn't done anything remotely close to what a terrorist has done or even thought. Until...
"It is what it is"
July 4th, 2005 Sacramento, California. Now, Hassan still isn't a terrorist. Nor were the hooded men in camoflauge who choked the Undertaker with piano wire. Nor is Davari, who was carried out of the ring after a beating like a martyr, a point made even by the WWE announcers. No, what I saw was WWE crossing the line of good taste. What happened that night was an escalation of Hassan's character. Hassan, WWE, and anyone else with a voice on the product have not once used the word terrorist to describe Hassan's hooded thugs or the actions those men perpetrated. Now, did WWE intend on possibly unveiling Hassan's hooded friends as Americans to help cool down the racial hornets nest they were beating on? Perhaps. Maybe the intention all along was for the hooded men to be Americans. You know what? Who cares who they were supposed to be. Or what their intentions were. They were designed to invoke the image of the terrorists who are beheading people in the middle east on the TV and on the internet. I'll throw out the piano wire as a beheading tool, because that's a stretch. However, what is not a stretch is that those men were supposed to symbolize terrorists and Hassan was obviously associated with them, thereby making him guilty by association. To think that they were just generic masked men helping a heel beatdown his opponent is to have the WWE blinders on nice and tight. I mean, how many generic hooded heels carry out their beaten comrades like martyrs and kneel down in a prayer while their leader continues to choke out his opponent in a show of power?
"It is what it is"
There seems to be a contingent of people who just look at the situation from an 'out of the box' point of view. It's just a TV show. It's just wrestling. Pro wrestling has always had evil foreigner gimmicks. Why get worked so worked up about an angle, it's fake? They're acting, it's all good. My stance is now what it was when I saw the angle play out before my eyes live. Disappointment. Disappointment because WWE didn't need to go here, but they did and now there is a little bit of a shit storm in the mainstream media and now they areback pedalling. The feeling by a lot of the crowd was that you felt like you had to go home and take a shower after watching the angle. Folks who are making arguments that it's just a TV show are right in that the world is not going to end because of the gimmick. Terrorism is not going to end or escalate on a count of what WWE is doing. However, WWE's image gets hurt a little more in the public eye. The same public eye that was buying into the product 4-5 years ago in droves. Wrestling fans get a little more insecure about what they watch. Wrestling fans now have one more thing to defend against the criticisms lobbed to them by wrestling's detractors. I can see where it would offend fans and many non-fans. As a fan, I tell you that episode of Smackdown is the last show I'd want to introduce a friend or relative into the world of wrestling.
"It is what it is"
What now? UPN apparantly wants Hassan off this week's SD and who knows how much longer. Hassan is heading into a #1 contender's match against Taker at the next ppv. Will Vince have Hassan go over Taker and take on the champ at Summerslam? Will Vince feel slighted by the mainstream media and put the title on Hassan to spite them (as well as any self respecting wrestling fans)? If you weren't offended by what WWE did on Smackdown last week, great for you. However, I can see how people could be offended by the angle and just because you weren't, doesn't mean they are wrong. There is enough evidence to suggest WWE knew what they were doing in regards to creating faux terrorists, yet leave it open enough to where they can claim deniability. If you believe what WWE is pumping to you, hey, to each his own. Just don't get mad when the overwhelming sentiment is not along WWE lines.
"and that, is what it is"
What is up with the amount of people who are convinced that just because HBK and Hogan have used Hart to build heat up in their match, that at Summerslam, Bret is going to show? Hart agreed to do work for the DVD. Not show up and actively participate in storylines. I don't get how it's been reported that Hart has said he doesn't want to participate in storylines or angles, especially if it plays off Montreal. Yet there are some who think just mentioning Bret coinciding with his cooperation in doing the DVD on his career, think WWE is obligated to have Bret appear in some capacity during the Hogan/HBK match.
Here are just a few reasons this isn't going to happen..
1) He is unadvertised. There is only a SD left, and Hogan/HBK is a Raw feud. WWE isn't going to have Bret Hart show up just to pop the crowd and surprise people. That is Russocity at work and some people need to get it out of their system. Business wise, it makes zero sense to do this.
2) Do you really think Hogan AND HBK are going to allow Bret Hart to steal their heat? Me thinks not.
3) He doesn't have to. What does Bret get from going out there for an unnanounced pop? A lot of people have been clamoring for Bret to say goodbye to his fans. Whatever. Why should he do it on WWE's dime? He doesn't owe them shit. They owe him. Do you think he owes you a goodbye? He doesn't owe you shit either. This Oprah Winfrey "I need closure" shit has got to go.
If Bret were to sign off on participating with WWE in whatever form, I'm all for that. At least it's from Bret and I know Bret wouldn't participate unless he felt the situation was on the up and up. But this notion that Bret should do it for whoever has got to go.
I'm a Bret Hart mark. If he goes along with something, then I'm cool with it. What I won't go along with is what WWE and a lot of others "wish" Bret would be cool with.
A couple more Raw thoughts (pretty much all bad by the way)
-Who's brilliant idea was it to do a battle of the bands with Cena and Jericho? They can't control the environment when it comes to musical preferences. You may take some Cena fans and turn them against him when you put their feud in context of musical tastes. Didn't anyone learn anything from the West Texas Rednecks vs. No Limit Soldiers feud? You can't do musical tastes battles in wrestling, period.
-Kane vs Edge in a cage was ok. For a TV match, not bad, but couldn't they have done this match without the cage? When you do unimportant things like throwaway cage matches on TV, then cage matches cease to be important. I remember when a cage match would be a match that could headline a pay per view. Now, it's a weak mid card match for a feud no one was buying into since day one. As for Matt Hardy, another well done bit. I kind of wonder if WWE is getting a little too inside with Edge saying things like "go back and work the indies" and such. Stuff like that flies over the heads of 90% or more of the fans. Philly is a smarter crowd than the norm, so it didn't hurt, but it could bite them in the ass later if they get a more markish crowd that doesn't know the backstory.
That's pretty much all I have for this week's show. It's obvious this particular show is kind of spinning the wheels around in the mud until after GAB so they can really start to focus on the build up for Summerslam. Hey, at least no HHH for a bit, eh?
Man, last night's Raw was not good. Not good at all. Even the Hardy thing was just kind of eh. They are going to have to show their cards in the next week or two and have Hardy talk or else these sneak attacks are going to get real old. Here are some thoughts on the show...
-Did Shelton Benjamin step in some Crisco before his match and not wipe his boots off? I swear I counted 3 slip ups off of spring board moves throughout the night and then it looked like he slipped again when he came out to even up the lumberjack match. More of that and he's going to end up seriously injured and more importantly, getting the dreaded sloppy tag attached to his work.
-I can't stand that they change Bischoff's GM powers from month to month. One month, he can't make a match with HBK and Hassan and Davairi, yet HHH can make a match with JR. Then this month he has the power to suspend or fire Cena and put him in whatever match he feels. It's inconsistency like this that makes me hate the GM role, which I consider one of the biggest crutches the writing team has since the Attitude era ended.
-Who's sick idea was it to have Cena face Snitsky? I thought you were supposed to protect guys by hiding weaknesses and accentuating strengths? Having Cena in a position to have to "carry" a guy like Snitsky is just beyond dumb. Jericho was right in that he was going to "expose" Cena on monday, although I think he meant that differently. Do they want Cena to fail as champ? Right now, they are on the right path if that's the intention.
- The Masterlock challenge and Diva Search are 15 minutes of life I'd like to have back, RIGHT NOW! Even with Big Show coming out, I couldn't care less if he does break the Masterlock or not and I have even less desire to want to see them wrestle. I can't say anything about the Diva Search that your 2 eyes, 2 ears, and brain shouldn't already be telling you.
- I hope that was the end of Matt Striker in the Angle Challenge. The Angle challenge shouldn't go away because if they can keep it up longer, they can hotshot it to the right person and make a star very quickly. Boy, I'd actually mark out if Charlie Haas could come back and be that person. Striker isn't going to earn a roster spot (at least I dont' think he is) and isn't worthy of winning the challenge. Enough of him already. I don't see what other people see in him.
-Either HBK is holding back or doesn't want to go full heel. It won't hurt the match in my eyes because I'm just interested in how these 2 primadonnas are going to work a finish, but the marks, the 98% of fans out there need some more. I'm not going to lie and say I want Hogan to win, because I don't. He can't work nearly as often as HBK can and if Michaels can get this win, HBK could be in position to make a star out of someone down the line because he'll be one of the few with a win over Hogan. A win for Hogan isn't going to do anyone any good except pop the fans in the arena at the time. Hogan is eventually going to either leave the company again, or go on a long ass sabbatical, so I'm pulling for HBK. However, I don't like this approach of trying to keep HBK face as much as possible so when this program is over, he slides right back into facedom.
I'll share more later.