Shining the Spotlight 12.28.12: Lessons of 2012
Apologies for the delay in the column, Christmas week more hectic than usual. So a bit shorter but still wanted to chime in as everyone else is doing thoughts on the last year so thought I’d add in a bit more as well. Let’s face it, 2012 had some things to teach the industry, fans and workers alike and hopefully some of these lessons can take better than others.
Don’t touch pregnancy storylines. Just don’t.: It’s been tried time and again but it never works out right. Yet TNA somehow believed they could do it with the Claire Lynch story and instead gave us the single worst storyline of 2012. To see A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels have to put up with a terrible actress claiming AJ fathered her child was just horrible and dragged down every episode it aired on. That it ultimately went nowhere with Lynch leaving after fan derision just made it a waste and why stories like these never work.
Paying off a Dream Match can work…: When the build for the Rock and John Cena began in early 2011, few believed WWE could actually hold off on such a match for a whole year. But they did and it worked out wonderfully. It wasn’t just that you had a clash of the biggest star of today with one of the biggest of a decade ago. No, it was also unique for the way it played on the fan attitude of today, how people would dismiss Cena as being old yet cheer a guy doing the same act as the last decade. It paid off big-time with a huge buy rate for Mania and proof you can deliver something special for fans.
As long as you don’t ruin it right off: With Brock Lesnar, WWE blew it big time. You do not sign a guy still known as a monster from his last run and only enhanced by his UFC tenure to a major return and then have him lose his first time out. I know Cena was the huge star and needed a win back after the Rock but putting him over Brock was a bad, bad move that killed his momentum right off. Even having him beat down HHH couldn’t overcome the blow for modern fans seeing him lose right off, not the right way to build such a big moment.
Don’t piss off your fanbase when they’re all you’ve got: Ring of Honor has made a few missteps this year but the iPPV debacle has to be the worst. The technical issues you can’t hold them too responsible for. But the reaction to it, you definitely can. To brush off legitimate complaints over a terrible transmission as just a minority of fans bitching was horrible in so many ways. ROH has always relied on the support of the internet for their survival so to just dismiss them now and act like everything is okay could be a major blow to the company as 2013 looks like a key one to their overall survival.
Never start an angle unless you have a payoff in mind: To be fair, hardly the first year you can make this accusation. But TNA learned it once more with Aces & Eights. Building up a major gang with the mystery of their boss and then having it be D-Von? Yes, it’s true that they’re hinting he’s just a pawn but this leads to the key problem. They’ve built A&E up so much that if the reveal of the mastermind isn’t something huge, the whole angle is going to suffer and be dismissed as a waste. Just look at the revelation of how the “Mystery RAW GM” was just Hornswoggle fooling around on a computer, that was completely wrong to payoff so long a running theme and shows how entering an angle with “we’ll figure the ending out later” just makes things worse.
Don’t be afraid to take a chance on someone fresh: When Austin Aries beat Bobby Roode for the TNA World title, some were upset about how it seemed to ruin the Roode/James Storm feud. But it was a move that worked out incredibly well, Aries taking off as the new champ and got TNA some major new attention and respect. It was also great in that the company wasn’t relying on some ex-WWE guy for fame but someone who’d been built up well there for a while and did a great job making Aries a huge star. It’s something WWE can learn a bit more from, you don’t have to keep the same guys on the top all the time and taking a chance really can work.
You can only capture lightning in a bottle once: WWE tried their best to push Ryback as the next big thing but most fans just didn’t buy it. It was obvious how they wanted to replicate Goldberg but the fact was that Goldberg was just the right guy at the right time, less created by the company and more growing on his own to capture the attention of fans. Ryback felt programmed from the start from the “Feed me more” catchphrase to entrances and obviously modeled after Goldberg to a degree that just drove fans away. He was never bought as a serious contender to Punk and shows how some guys, despite charisma, don’t quite have the main event feel for them.
Wrestling charisma is not genetic: Brooke Hogan, Knockouts VP. What more needs be said?
Going for laughs can make big bucks: When Daniel Bryan and Kane feuded, some thought it a bit slow and not right for Bryan. But then they were paired together and you had absolute comedy gold, the two bouncing off each other wonderfully with amazing chemistry and genuine laughs while acting like a good team as well. Meanwhile, Abyss dropped the mask to play the role of nerdy brother Joseph Parks and made it work by imbuing this character with good humor and making you buy into it so when he broke out as a fighter, it was more effective. So as much as people take things seriously, lightening up sometimes can be just as effective for a worker.
Rewarding vets with belts can be a double-edged sword: When TNA gave the TV title to Samoa Joe, it was a good move as the belt was pretty much a joke and Joe had been without some attention for a while. Now, the veteran was able to make the belt mean something with challenges and while he would lose it to D-Von, he at least made it something meaningful to get at for the mid-card to get attention. However, having RVD as X Division champion has been a bad move. The Division is meant to highlight the young guns of TNA so having a guy who hasn’t changed his move set since 1999 on top makes it all suffer. Hopefully, TNA gets that belt off him as sometimes letting an older guy hold a title for a nicety isn’t good for business.
If you keep a guy champ for a year, make it mean something: Yes, CM Punk has reigned as WWE champion for a solid year, one of the longest reigns in quite some time. Yet, he’s been in the background for stuff like Cena vs Rock, Brock and Johnny Ace. His feud with Bryan was cut far too short as he kept getting pushed to the sidelines despite some brilliant promos and the help of Paul Heyman. The champion should always be the focus of your company yet WWE kept marginalizing him so his milestone as year-long champion wasn’t as great an achievement as it deserved to be.
Don’t build up a big card only to change it a week beforehand: Survivor Series seemed set with Punk leading a team to fight Mick Foley, who wanted to teach Punk some respect, a great idea and promised a good match. But then, Vince and Vickie decided to make the main event a three-way match for the belt with Punk against Cena and Ryback. So now, Foley was leading a team against Ziggler, which made the entire “teach Punk some respect” idea make no sense whatsoever. I believe this cost the PPV more than a few buys and the perfect example of how trying to “shake things up” at such a late hour does more harm than good.
You don’t have to resort to stereotypes all the time: With Chavo Guerrero’s entrance, TNA got a proven star for the Latino audience but they thankfully avoided the rough stereotypes of the past like Mexican-American. Instead, Chavo was able to show off his real skills, he and Hernandez clicking wonderfully as tag team champs and is able to win over an audience without needing to do silly “Mexican” stuff to get over.
WWE owns everything, accept it: With the purchase of Mid-South’s tape library and a working deal with ROH for their footage, WWE dominates the ownership of wrestling programming. And that’s a good thing as the DVD side of the company is just brilliant with releases. From the great documentaries on Punk and the NWO to collections on best moves and the Attitude Era, they showcase wrestling’s great past in a package fans today can appreciate. Plus, the “Are You Serious?” show demonstrates they can laugh at the past as well. With the promise of a WarGames collection and showing the Bill Watts-led Mid-South at last, the possibility of more amazing sets makes you glad to see wrestling history showcased so wonderfully.
Appreciate what you have while you can: The near-fatal heart attack by Jerry Lawler made us realize just how respected and special the King truly is. It makes you realize how close others can come to an end without warning and how we should appreciate them while we can. We’ve lost some big names this year in fields of entertainment (Whitney Houston the biggest) that made us remember their good times, not the bad. Thankfully, Lawler is back with us but still a chilling reminder of how easily those we take for granted can be gone forever before we give them their due.
A bit short, I know but it is the holidays. For the final time in 2012, the spotlight is off.