Random Thoughts from the Office: August 27, 2010

You have to hand it to the powers that be at TNA, they sure know how to make good gimmicks. For example, basing a new pair of wrestlers on "characters" from a reality show that's in direct competition to you on Thursday night, thus guaranteeing the only people who'll actually "get" the characters aren't actually watching your show in the first place. BRILLIANT! And these people wonder why they once drew below a 0.5?

Credit where it's due though to TNA and by extension Vince Russo, they always find ways to create compelling characters for everyone, not just the guys involved in the main event. Now if they could just finish their storylines like the Angle goes through the Top 10 contenders list they might just have something.

Not that the WWE don't botch stories of their own, just look at the Nexus angle. How can a angle that was so hot and had people so interested fall apart so quickly? It now seems like a lot of the Nexus is now an after-thought while the WWE has put all of their focus on the two stars of the first season of NXT: Wade Barrett and Daniel(son) Bryan, who isn't with NXT anymore but will no doubt be remembered as THE breakout star when we look back at NXT next year. (I mean no offense to guys like Kaval, Alex Riley, Justin Gabriel and Joe Henning but I don't see them exactly getting out of the midcard any time soon, if at all) The big program that the WWE seems to want to pin their hopes on, the Kane-Undertaker feud, has ZERO heat and the guy who's arguably the most over babyface in the company, Randy Orton, STILL can't work babyface.

Not that I envy the WWE or even really blame them. They have to come up with 6 hours of original programming every week (Even if Superstars doesn't really count) and there's always going to be off weeks, but surely the powers that be can see the inherent problem they have. Hell I could make an argument today that right now the hottest angle in wrestling (Not counting Ring of Honor) right now on TV is Daniel Bryan and The Miz for the US Title, which until about 3 weeks ago I'd forgotten The Miz even HAD still. In TNA it's the same thing, the hot angle is Fortune vs EV2.0 which isn't even for a title at all. It's a big reason why business is failing and less and less people are watching, because the main events aren't compelling so there's no reason to hang around and watch them.

Don't get me wrong. I realize belts are just props, used to get a person over or reward them for their hard work. I also realize you don't NEED a title to be on the line to create a compelling storyline. The past two Wrestlemanias with Shawn Michaels versus The Undertaker have proven that, but wrestling for all of its advancements and all its attempts to move into the future is still pretty much governed by the same mentality that there was in the 50's and all the way through. The main event usually has your World Champion defending his belt against the top contender, the World Champion is the face of your company and you go from there.

Or at least that's the way it SHOULD be. And there we come to the big problem with wrestling at the moment: The World Champion, in BOTH the WWE and TNA is not the face of the company.

As much as Seamus is a compelling character, as much as he's used as a monster and he 'put Triple H on the shelf fella and now I'm the champion', he is NOT the face of the company, John Cena is, it was plainly obvious in the buildup to Summerslam and it was even MORE obvious at Summerslam where he once again "overcame the odds" (And set the Wrestlecrap forums into meltdown). Kane? Kane's a great company guy, one of the best characters the WWE has ever had, but show me one person who thinks he's anything more than a transitional champion and I'll show you a one eyed WWE mark.

It was said once that the shelf life of characters on television was 7 years. It's not uniform, shows like CSI, NCIS, Law and Order and of course The Simpsons proved that, but as a GENERAL rule after seven years they became stale and most people would just turn the channel. Add that with the fact that as time went by you'd have to pay the actors more and more to stay on and after seven years the show became unprofitable.

Now that's with one hour a week, Wrestling, especially the WWE, has more than double that. That's why they created the brand extension, to limit overexposure of their stars. My theory is in wrestling the shelf life character of a main event star is 3 years, maybe 4. If you book them right and compellingly early you can gain a lifetime star through sheer will. The Undertaker proves that point. But after 3-4 years you better have something else planned to take over or fans are going to switch off fast.

That's what killed WCW. the nWo lasted 5 years, or at least was brought back again and again, sometimes under different guises (The Millionare's Club and New Blood angle), sometimes to try and make it seem "Cool" (The Wolfpac) but each and every time to diminishing returns.

WWE, while I don't think will ever be in the same spot as WCW, are in that danger period. John Cena has been on top for 5 years, Randy Orton is at 6, Hunter is at 10. In fact the best thing Triple H could ever have done was gotten injured. You know that song "You don't what you've got till it's gone"? That's Hunter at the moment, people always give him a HUGE reaction when he comes back, as well as instantly forget how much we HATED him during 2003/2004 when he was World champion. The need to create new stars is now and Seamus, Wade Barrett and Daniel Bryan proves they're at least aware of it.

The next five years are the biggest test wrestling will ever face. UFC will threaten to wipe it off the map. By putting the tools in place now the WWE and to a lesser extent TNA can make sure their futures are secure but to do it, they must first stop living in the past.

Clarence "Showstealer" Mason

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