Friday Sports Entertainment 02.03.12: Inaugural Edition
I’m Sean Kelly, and I’m your new Friday columnist at the 411Mania Wrestling Zone. I’m from New York City and that makes me a WWE guy through and through. And 411 needs more people to espouse the WWE product, right?
Anyhow, I’ve been visiting 411 back when it was just wrestling and they had that weird black and yellow color scheme. When Larry put out the call to write for 411, I figured I’d take the chance to submit a sample that displayed my unique perspective on wrestling and showcased my vastly superior writing ability.
As a 411 fan, I thought it would be interesting to show you the column that got me the gig here. I’ve always wondered how the guys writing here got hired, so take a peek at the “pilot” of my column, which was written circa six weeks ago, shortly after Daniel Bryan won the World Heavyweight Championship from the Big Show at TLC. Keep in mind; this was when he was a babyface. Then Stick around after the pilot for some more fun stuff.
So, without further ado, here’s the writing sample that got you the pleasure of reading my work every Friday:
Greetings Marks, and welcome to my column. This week we’ll take a look at IWC darling Daniel Bryan, and I’ll make the case as to why he shouldn’t be anywhere near a major title at this point in his career.
DANIEL BRYAN IS OVERRATED
Yes, you read that correctly. Daniel Bryan is overrated, and he won the World Heavyweight Championship at least 2-3 years too soon. If you’re World Champion, it means you have to keep the existing audience while attracting new eyeballs to watch WWE programming. You need to sell merchandise. You need to get media exposure for the company. It’s a huge responsibility, and you need to be ready to take that ball and run with it. Ask yourself, do you think that Bryan is capable of doing all that right now?
WRESTLER vs. SUPERSTAR
IWC folks tend to think that Vince McMahon is crazy. Everyone complains that we’re not supposed to say “wrestling” — we’re supposed to say “sports entertainment.” Those guys in tiny trunks aren’t WRESTLERS, they’re SUPERSTARS. Well, let me tell you something, I’ll take sports entertainment superstars over wrestling wrestlers any day of the week. Sure, classifying the WWE product less as sports and more as entertainment brings numerous regulatory advantages, but it’s still a more accurate description of the product.
THE MAKINGS OF A SUPERSTAR
There are certain qualities inherent in a WWE Superstar (notice I didn’t say wrestler). A recipe, if you will. And that recipe has four ingredients, which are:
Ingredient #1: The Look
In early 2011, I took my brother-in-law Mike to a WWE house show. Mike is the kind of guy that WWE desperately wants as a fan – he makes good money, he likes sports, and, more importantly, he doesn’t watch wrestling at all (it’s called GROWTH, people!). It was a great experiment for me, as I could get his take on the WWE’s product and whether or not it intrigued him. Would they put on a show that would make him a fan? Would he enjoy it so much that they’d get Mike’s hard earned dollars going forward? Also, would he pass that appreciation on to his young son?
Guys like Mike don’t really care about work rate. He knows wrestling is scripted, but he still expects a degree of believability when watching two guys fake-fight. So let me ask you this, if you’re brand new to wrestling, and you had to guess which guy was the current World Heavyweight Champion based on looks alone, which of the following would you pick:
Yeah. I thought so.
I used Mason Ryan (TM Ed McGuinness) & David Otunga as the other choices for a reason. Both draw the ire of the IWC, but you have to admit, both LOOK more like a champion than Bryan. If you just met these three guys, and had to pick two to back you up in a bar fight, which would you choose?
Ingredient # 2: Charisma
To be a champion of a scripted-competition company, you need to have a large helping of Charisma. People need to feel drawn to you. To paraphrase Chris Jericho on the new Steve Austin DVD, “men need to want to have a beer with you, and women need to want to sleep with you.” And he’s right. If you can appeal to both men and women, you’re mainstream, baby.
So ask yourself this, how many regular guys who don’t care about workrate would want to toss back a few beers with Daniel Bryan? How many women out there do you think throw themselves at him? Even when the WWE scripts it that way, like when the Bella twins had a Bryan infatuation, it was hard to swallow. They looked so awkward and it seemed forced. ZERO CHEMISTRY.
No, not awkward AT ALL
Bryan faces the same “vanilla midget” handicap that affected Bret Hart, Chris Benoit, and countless others. The vanilla part doesn’t mean he’s Sheamus pale, it means he’s boring. How many times in recent months have you said “OMG can you believe what Daniel Bryan did/said the other day?!” Guys like Stone Cold, the Rock and HBK had me saying that all the time. CM Punk does it now. How about Bryan? Quick, name the top 5 wild, spectacular, water cooler moments that Bryan has done in WWE. ReadysetGO!
Yeah. I thought so.
Ingredient #3: The Gimmick
You need a great gimmick to make it as a top superstar. Shawn Michaels had the “Heartbreak Kid/Sexy Boy” persona. Steve Austin modeled his Stone Cold character after a cold-blooded assassin for the mob. Undertaker’s gimmick, although cartoonish, you understand just by looking at him. What’s Daniel Bryan’s gimmick? He’s an underdog? OK, what else do you have? How long do you think he can keep that going? You can only be the underdog for so long before it gets tiresome. And if you’re the champ, you need to have a gimmick that is sustainable.
When I was at that house show with Mike, one of the matches on the card was Dolph Ziggler vs. John Morrison. He asked me to explain who these guys were. And you know what? I couldn’t do it. It basically went something like this:
“Ziggler is kind of like Mr. Perfect…only not really. He’s a good wrestler, though. Um, he’s, uh…kind of a douche?”
“Morrison calls himself the Shaman of Sexy, and, uh, well, he’s a good wrestler, too?”
How would you characterize these guys? Tell me below. It’s almost a year later and I STILL can’t do it.
Ingredient #4: Ring Work
Now here is where Bryan shines. He’s a master in the ring. We all know this. But you know who doesn’t know it? Most of the WWE Universe. They haven’t seen Bryan wrestle in indie shows, and they’re sure not gonna look up those ROH matches on Youtube. Bryan’s had some good matches in WWE, don’t get me wrong, but not enough to the point where he can be considered a top ring general by a mainstream audience.
This is a very important ingredient in the WWE superstar recipe, but it’s not THE most important, as many on the internet tend to believe. You could wrestle ***** matches all year long, but if I don’t give a rat’s ass about you, what’s the point?
0+0+0+1 DOES NOT EQUAL 4
Think about the top WWE guys of all time and how many of them had the attributes mentioned above. Guys like Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, the Undertaker and the Rock had all four critical components that are needed to be a top tier Superstar. Mainstream successes like Hulk Hogan & the Ultimate Warrior had three out of four. Right now, Daniel Bryan has only one. And this guy is holding one of the top belts?
What Bryan needs is to come up with a good gimmick and to work on his charisma. There’s only so much he can do with his look, but hey, smaller guys like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels did just fine. And it’s not just size. It’s your shape, posture, facial expressions, wardrobe, hairstyle – it all adds up. Bryan definitely has the tools to make an effective champion one day, but that day is not today. It’s way too soon, and having the belt right now will ultimately do him more harm than good.
Think about it, how many people got the World Heavyweight belt before it was time, only to slide back down the ladder and languish in the midcard? When everyone in the company is scratching and clawing their way to the top, it’s even harder for a guy who once had the belt and failed to make a case that he deserves another run at the top. And 9 times out of 10, a guy who gets the belt too soon will fail at being champion. Don’t believe me? Ask Jack Swagger or the Great Khali how their World Title reigns worked out for them.
I’m pulling for Bryan. I really am. But things don’t look too bright considering the way they are booking him. I really hope I am wrong and they come up with a hot angle that will fit him perfectly, but my cynical nature keeps me from thinking that’ll ever happen.
So whatever came of Mike and his first WWE experience? He liked it, but not enough to start watching on his own. And I don’t blame him; there simply aren’t enough big stars or compelling storylines at the moment to hook casual fans. What I found most interesting is that there was one guy he liked above all the others, who at the time was a top heel and did a lot of little, entertaining things for the crowd that Mike appreciated. That Superstar?
Interesting how it all works out, no?
Your turn, screwheads. What do you think: Daniel Bryan – too soon or perfect timing? Leave your comments below and I’ll respond next week.
AND NOW WE CONTINUE WITH OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING
There it is. Not bad for an audition piece. Stellar piece of work, that is.
Anyway, I still stand by everything I said. The good news is that the WWE is doing a great job of subtly turning Bryan heel, allowing him to showcase that charisma that’s been sorely missing for so long. If he keeps this up, and provided he’s booked properly, he can elevate his standing in the eyes of many fans. The whole over the top celebration & I’m a vegan gimmick is an improvement, and I hope they’ll prove me wrong and use the belt as a tool to get him over.
BREAK ON THROUGH
He’s still never going to become a breakthrough star, though. It’s just not happening. You will never hear Bryan’s name mentioned in the same breath as Hulk Hogan’s, Ultimate Warrior’s, Steve Austin’s or The Rock’s. Those are names — where if you walked up to a complete stranger on the street and asked if he’s ever heard of them – he’ll say he has. Think that random guy will ever know who Daniel Bryan is?
Bryan will probably be more like an Edge. Edge is a great Superstar, well respected by his peers & the audience, and he’s accomplished a lot in the world of Sports Entertainment. But John Q Redneck has no idea whom Edge is. Edge isn’t the guy you send to yuk it up with Kelly Ripa or Jay Leno. I love Edge, but he’s not at the top of the mountain with Ric Flair or John Cena. He’s got a great view from his spot, but he’s not at the pinnacle.
SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT #FOLLOWFRIDAY OF THE WEEK
Yeah, the WWE is shoving twitter down our throats. Yeah, it’s annoying. But it’s essential to join Twitter if you want to keep up with the latest Sports Entertainment developments. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and sign up for Twitter. There are a ton of superstars on there, and a lot of them have great stuff to say.
In this segment, I’ll recommend someone each week for you to follow on Twitter to further your Sports Entertainment education. You’re so lucky to have me. This week, I recommend following @SethMates, a former WWE creative member who drops Twitter bombs loaded with WWE goodness. He’s got no agenda; he just provides honest opinions and answers to fans questions, usually while doing cardio.
For example, did you know that Batista was never supposed to be eliminated with John Cena at the end of the 2005 Royal Rumble? That was a botch! And everything that happened afterward, with the referees playing along, Vince storming down (and subsequently tearing his quad), and the following shenanigans was ad-libbed! They did a great job, and the result was probably much better than whatever they originally planned.
I learned all this from @SethMates, so give him a follow today!
And of course, follow all the 411 stuff on Twitter! #spon
NON-SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT THING OF THE WEEK
Who says this has to be all about sports entertainment? Title kinda speaks for itself.
This week’s Non-Sports Entertainment thing of the week is brought to you by Gizmodo.
Here are the directions:
1) Stare at the colored dots on the lady’s nose for about 30 seconds
2) Look at a plain, white surface and blink a lot, really fast
3) What do you see?
Amazing what the ol’ gray matter is capable of.
SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT ART CONTEST
This semi-regular feature is meant to show off the artistic talents of Team 411Mania NationUniverseArmy! The sports entertainment art contest will showcase your mad skillz, yo. Time to impress, kids.
For this week’s contest, make me a banner for the column. Anyone out there got the Adobe chops to make me a swank Friday Sports Entertainment banner? It should say Friday Sports Entertainment with Sean Kelly, or something to that effect. Be creative. Winner gets a shout out and a plug for your Twitter/Facebook/website/whatever, where people can check out your other work. Gah! Free advertising! Ashish will kill me!
Here’s some other 411 stuff to pass the time:
Your turn, screwheads. Post your comments below or drop me a line. I plan to make this a very interactive column, so check back to see if you get a mention here.