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Booking philosophies and disciplines

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Dangerous A

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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.

 

Less than two years ago, ROH was in even worse shape when TNA pulls its wrestlers from ROH events. The good news for Ring of Honor is that it's a promotion built around a concept, not around a specific wrestler or group of wrestlers. As long as ROH is using top-notch talent and putting on top-notch shows, they will survive, and probably thrive.

 

 

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?

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

A promotion can be built around a concept or a brand name. When WWE was doing record house show business, a lot of the time no card would be announced and it was all down to the WWE name being enough to draw people in. Of course, that's long since changed with things being focused on one or two select people and everyone else treated as afterthoughts. A national promotion can do that if they can do a good job of associating their promotion with the kind of action that a large enough fan base, not only want to see, but also want to pay to see. If, for example, the fans know that a card from this mythical promotion will see them get a lot of good matches and hot angles, then they'll want to see it, and, if hot enough, will also be willing to pay to see it. The key is getting over the concept while at the same time getting top guys over while not reducing everyone to secondary status.

 

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 don't know if going a more credible route would get UFC fans to pay for the PPV's, but they're not going to gain any ground as long as they keep looking like WWE-lite. They can't beat Vince at his own game, so they need to go the opposite route and do what Vince cannot or will not do, and that's put out a product that is athletic orientated, not entertainment orientated. They need to be like the NWA was during it's peak; emphasis the in-ring action, build up heated rivalries based on issues the people can relate to, and keep SE-style nonsense to an absolute minimum. They also need to eliminate the contrived SE/Dusty-esque finishes, like the one we saw in the NWA tag title match at the last PPV. That kind of thing just does not belong in a promotion that is touting itself as an alternative to WWE. TNA fans don't want screwjobs, even mildly creative ones, in top matches. They get enough of that in Jeff Jarrett's matches.

 

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?

 

It won't change with Jeff in charge. He's stuck in that Memphis mindset of interference and shortcuts, because that's what he grew up with, and he can't change. It's a crutch that he needs to get rid of. The problem is that Jarrett, and I think deep down he knows this, just cannot get by on talent alone when it comes to producing the kind of excitement and match quality that TNA, primarily through the X-Division, which is its greatest asset, has come to make its hallmark. Jarrett is good enough to be a valuable member of the crew, but he does not have the talent to be the top guy in TNA. That he deep down knows this, along with his jealousy over making sure he stays the top guy, means that what TNA can do to improve and grow to where they'll be a true alternative to WWE won't be done, because it will mean Jeff being fully exposed as not being anywhere near the level he thinks he is and where others want him to be.

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I think that, when booking for a national audience, the philosophy should certainly change and differs greatly from booking for a local audience.

 

ROH books for a specific audience - the audience that shows up. This affords them certain luxuries, including rotating the top guys on a frequent basis because you know the audience is going to show up anyways. When you have a nationally televised show there is the certainty of someone flipping through the channels and seeing your product. And in that time they see it, there are several possibilities:

 

A. They watch it for a second and then change the channel.

B. They watch it for a few seconds and then change the channel at the next commercial.

C. They watch it until it finishes (or until they see something they don't like) and then doesn't bother to watch it the next week.

D. Something like B or C, but they do watch it the next week, repeating their viewing behaviour.

E. Something like D, but they watch it infrequently afterwards, continually on the fence until they make up their mind.

F. Something like D, but they watch it frequently and eventually becomes a full blown fan - incorporating it into their viewing schedule.

 

The odds of someone walking by the arena and going "Hey, let's pay to see a wrestling show" are pretty slim. When someone goes to an ROH show, what are the odds they are doing it on a whim, that they will get up and leave if they aren't interested, that they have little interest in the first place, or that they will react in any way that's close to being similar to a TV viewer? When people go to ROH shows, they want to go to ROH shows. TNA is not ROH. IMPACT! has more similarities to HOUSE than it does to ROH, when it comes to finding its audience.

 

This is where focus comes in. With a TV show -any TV, be it a wrestling show, a medical drama, a crime series, a sitcom- the focus needs to be there so when that person who is flipping through stops to see what's on, they "get it". When someone turns on TNA, particularly a wrestling fan, they need to see what TNA is all about in that single viewing. The best way for someone to "get it" is through specific, main, characters. It's easier for someone to "get" one character, because people can relate to each other. You don't see them cycling the role of Gil Grissom every week on CSI, you don't see them continually replacing Rory on Gilmore Girls. The lead cast members are the "anchor" for the viewer, the constant focus that will be guaranteed for them to see week in and week out.

 

This assurance means that the viewer can put their emotions and their heart into a show and get excited and not worry about it all going away. Shows tend to die when their main cast members leave, because it's just not the same for the audience to see someone else in that role. And yes, that is potentially damaging for a wrestling company, however wrestling fans are more accustomed and open to a change in guard. But we're not really talking about booking for wrestling fans when we talk about TNA at this stage in the game, we're talking about booking for potential wrestling fans, and the most important thing in looking for converts is the hook and the anchor. (Luckily, when they *do* become wrestling fans, it may get easier for the once regular television viewer to accept a change on top because wrestlings structure allows for a more open door.)

 

TNA needs to stop their current philosophy of "let's get every guy out there and try to get the light on all of them" and needs to adapt "let's put our best and most interesting guys out there and let's let the light shine brightest on a chosen few". That they aren't able to translate their TV numbers to PPV numbers shows how (un)interested the fans are in seeing the results of the storylines. My bet is most that do tune into the show (let's say 0.75 of them) are just doing so for an alternative, while the 0.35 that comes and goes represents what I'm talking about above when I talk about category E. They are on the fence. They are looking for a reason to stay and watch, but as the ratings flux shows, they haven't foudn it yet. And there's probably a lot more out there in terms of Bs and Cs that could turn into E's if TNA actually had a focus to share with the audience.

 

Most TV shows have a A and B storyline. This is particularly evident in hour longs. They usually include anywhere between 4 to 6 to 8 characters. How many characters who were a focal point of the show? 20+? In most TV shows you'll see the characters on screen for the majority of the program. How often would you see TNA Wrestlers? 5 minutes at best? How can a television audience form a bond with anyone when it's spread so thin? A television model of an A and B storyline each week (you could allow a C storyline, which are not uncommon), with 8 characters getting the focus week to week would be an effective way of building shows and building PPVs. You bring up UFC, well, they don't sell their PPVs on the whole card, they sell them on the strength of 2 matches (or in the case of 57, just one), because that's all the fans need to get them to buy a show. The same can be said for wrestling. The WWE has *never* been good top-to-bottom, and often it only had one good thing going for them, and that one good thing was enough because that's all the fans really needed.

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RRR, I seem to remember something on either WOL or F4D between Alvarez and Meltzer where they said TNA should concentrate their energy and efforts on trying to make just 2-3 select guys stars with the adage that if you can make 2-3 guys, they can carry a promotion whereas if you try to make 30 guys into stars, you will not make any.

 

The thinking of how to book from a television POV is very interesting. It also works. There's that story that Vince always pushes where Ted Turner called him up shortly after purchasing WCW and said, "I'm now in the rasslin' business" to where Vince replied "Well, Ted, I'm in the television business". Right there, Vince was already ahead of the game in terms of the war with Ted and it wasn't until Ted opened up his pocket book and gave power to Eric Bischoff that WCW became more of a television product.

 

HTQ, one of the other things about Jarrett booking is the even-steven aspect of it. One part is tv time, specifically on ppv's. It seems everyone gets 8-12 minutes to do a match. Word I've heard is because Jeff wants to be everyone's friend and not step on anyone's toes. (unless they badmouth him publicly) He also doesn't want to offend his friends or anyone from the "Attitude" era who he feels are stars and so everyone gets this equal time and no one gets over. Sort of goes back to the bit where they should concentrate on just a few supercharged storylines and characters instead of everyone across the board getting the same treatment.

 

While I understand that he wants to reward guys that have been with the promotion from day one for being loyal, he needs to step back outside the bubble (in an ideal world) and see where the promotion's efforts should be directed.

 

 

 

 

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While I haven't given up on TNA, my interest in them certainly declined after 2 specific realizations. One was that Sting was the Big Surprise. I like Sting, but if that is their idea of something huge, I don't think their head is in the right place. The other was Team Canada. Team Canada continues to get pushed at some level despite being glorified jobbers. So what you'll get is 2 wins for every 3 losses, or vice versa. It's ineffective. And the only reason that is happening is because they are Scott D'mores boys and he has leverage when it comes to booking, and he is just lookin at keepin his boys in the spotlight no matter what.

 

I think TNA needs to have a rule that says those who are booking and writing the show have no role on the show. Because when I see stuff like JJ and Team Canada getting a certain focus of the show because they are in power, there is little to no hope of that ever changing because the power isn't going to change. Where it particularly hurts is that Team Canada and JJ don't interest me in the slightest and really aren't up to the standard of current television characters.

 

It's hard to book just for 2 or 3 guys, no doubt. Giving some guys a focus of 20 minutes, writing for 20 minutes, and having the rest of the roster get pissed because they are not getting used and are not getting paid. That's probably a big reason why TNA doesn't or can't go this route and instead decides to throw everything on screen and hopes something sticks, and continues to push for 2 hours on SPIKE. But if they don't know how to effectively use 1 hour, how can they use 2?

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One of Jim Cornette's booking disciplines is if a babyface promises he's going to do something, then you have to book it as such.

 

For Against All Odds, Christian promised to take the NWA championship from Jeff Jarrett at the faux press conference. At the PPV, that is what Christian did. The reaction was fantastic. It also helped Christian in that he did what he said he was going to do. Imagine what damage would've been caused had Christian not done what he promised the fans he would do? Just another fine example of booking discipline and how it truly effects the product.

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That's part of Chuck Liddells popularity in the UFC. He says he's going to knock out Tito, he knocks out Tito. He says he's going to knock out Vern, he knocks out Vern. He says he's going to knock out Randy, he knocks out Randy. Fans need to get the sense that they are backing the right horse.

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Very much so. Fans want to get behind guys who can back up what they're saying and exude confidence in doing so. If you have a real cocky asshole type, people will want to see him get his ass handed to him. (I think Tito fell into this category a few years ago before getting beaten by Liddell and Couture and lost some of his luster) Either way, it draws fans and money. As you can see from a business standpoint, UFC is doing quite well with this.

 

In pro wrestling, fans don't get behind incompetent babyfaces who say they are going to win, only to get outsmarted and defeated by the heel. (I'm looking at you, Hunter) It's why Batista became a star even with very limited in ring ability. He always had the one up on HHH. He was never outsmarted in their program. He said he'd beat HHH, then went out and did it. When HHH would try to pull a coyote, Batista pulled a roadrunner.

 

 

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This is why Hunter is going to be a babyface come Mania time. Him saying "I say what I am going to do, and I do it" is prime facebait. Plus, if you saw the Rumble, with his cool comedy stuff ("Candice, could you hold my balls"), there's no way the fans are going to boo him against Cena. HHH is the cool guy in the VIP room sippin on Cristal while Cena is on the dancefloor doin the robot and the running man hopin for the crowd to say "go while boy, go white boy go". He'll get eaten alive. We had this discussion with NiceGuyAdam on his show and LOTC made the point of saying HHH is going to get over exactly like Christian did against Cena - by calling him out and making fun of him for being Vanilla Ice 3.0.

 

I think the problem with the faces in the WWE today are that they are directionless. They wander around until it's their turn and then they wander around some more. Fans want to get behind the guys who are not waiting their turn, they get behind the guys who step up and take the spotlight. But that's not how it works in the WWE, no matter what they say. Fans aren't stupid, they recognize who the WWE wants to push and who the WWE won't push. And a lot of the times, who the WWE pushes are not the guys the fans like. The fans want to cheer who they want to cheer, but the fans don't know if they should fully get behind them. They get behind guys like the Boogeyman partially because they know it's a safebet. It's a comedy character, there's no chance to get burned by cheering him only to see him get squashed.. it was never meant to be taken seriously in the first place. How many times have the fans rallied behind someone only to see them hit their heads on the glass ceiling?

 

Think of how much more over Rey would be if the fans got the impression that the WWE was pushing him straight to the top?

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HHH was positioning himself as bad ass heel to Cena from day one when they had their first encounter and HHH said something to the effect of when I want your title, I'll take it. Insinuating that when he gets around to it, he'll dispose of Cena.

 

 

The Rey thing baffles me to no end. As soon as they had Rey jobbing clean to Mark Henry not once, but twice, you knew they didn't have confidence in him as a top guy at WM. I dont think WWE can get over themselves to push and protect Rey so he could be in a position to becoming a main event draw.

 

 

One thing about Rey though. While he'll always be a draw to the kids because of his size and character, I don't think he'll be that great of a drawing champion. I just think that he's a good character chasing the title and dream and if and when he wins, it'll make for a great moment, but I don't know if the crowds will be that into him as the defending champion for any lengthy period of time. Sort of like Sting. Sting was great chasing Ric Flair, but as champion, he just didnt' have that thing that makes you want to see him continue on as champion. I think Rey will have the same issue. Part of it may be his size in that pretty much every title defense will be a David and Goliath story and I'm not sure if the fans will buy into David beating Goliath after Goliath and escaping with the belt. It may hold up for a program or two, but I don't see it having any legs past 4-5 months.

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