Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Duckman Returns With A Cracker - WWE/UFC......
Above: UFC's Chael Sonnen
"Anderson Silva, you absolutely suck! Super Bowl weekend, the biggest rematch in the history of the business. I'm calling you out Silva, but we're upping the stakes. I beat you - you leave the division. You beat me - I will leave the UFC for ever."
Chael Sonnen, after his win at UFC 136 on 8th October 2011, challenges Anderson Silva to a ‘loser leaves town’ rematch for the UFC Middleweight Title.
Hello strangers! Yeah, I know, it’s been a while since you last saw me here at Wrestling’s Last Hope. Well I’m back and better than ever baby! Where have I been and what have I been doing you ask? Mind your own business you nosey bastards! Ah, don’t worry – I’m only kidding. Sadly it’s not exactly the most exciting way to start a new article but seeing as you asked I’ll tell you. Aside from a few secret missions for WLH, the results of which I hope we’ll see here soon, I’ve been on holiday. Well, a holiday from being online but a holiday nonetheless.
Here’s the deal - every few months I like to unplug almost completely from the internet for a few weeks. I find that every now and again I have to remind myself that life is not solely about debating the creative direction, or lack thereof, in TNA/WWE. It’s not even about watching a video of a monkey peeing into his own mouth on You Tube. Although both activities are equally pointless and hilarious.
I usually have a tipping point where I get an overwhelming urge to get offline completely. I’ll go spend some time with loved ones. Maybe, if I’m lucky, get a bit of skin on skin human interaction. It’s nice for a while to just leave the annoyance, ignorance, prejudice and general assholishness of the internet locked away in a dark corner. Please don’t get me wrong - I don’t hate the internet…just the majority of the people who use it!
But like Michael Corleone in Godfather III - just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in! So I’m back to ignoring the outside world and my friends and family – they’re annoying anyway. Now it’s time to get back to the important shit in life like; discussing the recent WORST EPISODE OF RAW EVER (copyright overly reactionary internet wrestling fans) or complaining about TNA booking two men (one of whom could be classed as physically disabled) at least 25 years past their primes in the biggest match on their biggest PPV of the year, oh and maybe writing a few sarcastically entertaining tweets. That right, bitches, Duckman is back!
Right, now that’s out the way let’s get back to the whole comment/opinion/entertaining read you’re all here for! I know some of you are probably wondering why there’s a quote from a UFC fighter at the top of this article. Yeah, yeah, I know this is Wrestling’s Last Hope -the number one stop for all your indy and other wrestling opinion and content. You’re here to read about ROH or PWG, right? Maybe find a breakdown of Hell in the Cell or something, right? You want some wrestling based opinion, not some MMA bollocks. Well wrestling based opinion is just what you’re going to get. But you have to follow me down the path of enlightenment first. Allow me to explain…
You see I had this big idea to write a piece about HHH’s comments a few weeks back where he said WWE and UFC aren’t in competition and how UFC, rather than WWE, needs to evolve their product. I had a big load of smart arse comments lined up to counter that. Stuff like, “the only company that needs to evolve is the one who hasn’t changed its TV format in over 15 years,” and other such zingers. But it just didn’t seem right. I couldn’t join the dots in my argument. It was just degenerating into pointless name calling and threats.
So I was when extremely thankful when I finally had some inspiration and after three abortive attempts at writing something semi coherent and entertaining, I decided to write about professional wrestling being done well…and that’s where Chael Sonnen comes in.
Yes, Chael Sonnen the highly talented and extremely controversial UFC fighter. I told you, we’re going down the path of enlightenment, trust me. It’ll all make sense in the end. If it doesn’t, you can write to Stu and ask for him to kick me in the balls for wasting everyone’s time.
I know I’ve written about my admiration for Sonnen’s verbal ability to sell a fight before but I don’t think enough people appreciate what Sonnen is doing and how that links to what WWE should be doing. Plus the dude fucking entertains me! The crazy thing is some people are calling what Sonnen said at UFC 136 the best promo in the history of the UFC! It only took 46 words and the excitement and interest levels for Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva II went through the roof.
Oh and if you don’t know who Chael Sonnen is shame on you. Google him, You Tube him, do whatever you have to do and listen to the man talk. You don’t need to know how the guy fights. You don’t even need to know what his record is. You just need to know that no one cuts a promo like Chael Sonnen and no one sells a fight as well as he does. Personally I’d put him slightly ahead of CM Punk as the number one best promo man in the world in any form of sport or entertainment.
Many MMA insiders and experts are predicting a massive buy rate for the fight. The kind of buy rate Vince would happily kill his first born child for. A buy rate that combines all the buy rates of his last three PPVs. Plus a few 100K more. In other words - big bucks.
A lot more knowledgeable and qualified people than I have long said that the UFC does what WWE used to do back in the 1980s but now seem almost incapable of doing. They create new stars and build on the popularity of their current stars. They make their Titles seem important. But most importantly of all - they give their fans a reason to care about their fighters or a particular fight and hopefully, for UFC, those fans will pay to see that fighter or the outcome of that fight.
Chael Sonnen understands this and he has used his knowledge of professional wrestling booking to make the kind of match that has the MMA world buzzing. Granted a large percentage of that buzz is MMA fans bitching about UFC turning into WWE with this ‘loser leaves town’ stipulation that Chael came up with. They fail to grasp that Sonnen has played the whole MMA world perfectly and in turn, generated more interest in him, Silva and their eventual Title fight.
So who’s going to watch this fight? Everyone! Those who want to see either man win. Those who want to see either man lose. Those who want to see if Sonnen can live up to his big words. Those who want to see if he follows up on his promise if he loses the fight. Those who want to see a Title change. Those who want to see Silva shut Sonnen up for good. EVERYONE. Sonnen has given people a HUGE reason to watch the fight. He’s promoted the simplest of pro wrestling angles for his big rematch and for at least the next 3-4 months the hype and interest around this fight is going to grow and grow. I mean, shit, what happens if Anderson Silva actually ACCEPTS the stipulations?!
In the meantime UFC has a roster of elite and varied talent that it has protected, grown and built up over the past few years. As well as signing top talent from outside the company. This allows them to give a huge match like Sonnen vs. Silva 2 the kind of time it needs to build up, while still running 13 PPV shows per year. UFC can take their time, let the hype machine take its natural course. They can put together their teaser videos and they can send Sonnen out to work his promo magic and come April 2012 (or whenever the fight actually happens) people will be chomping at the bit to see Sonnen and Silva hook ‘em up again. It’s wrestling promoting at its most basic level and it FUCKING WORKS. It always has and it always will.
So it’s with utter confusion and a level of frustration that is bordering on insanity that I ask the question; WHY THE FUCK CAN’T WWE DO THIS? Especially when they have the opportunity to completely manipulate the outcome of every single aspect of any story they tell, right down to the finish of the match. They’re in total control and yet they seem almost incapable of producing the kind of interest that Sonnen has and more importantly – keeping that level of interest and making some fucking money from it by selling PPVs.
It’s a two part problem that is playing out on our TV screens every week on Raw and Smackdown. Those problems? A lack of real stars and a ridiculously counterproductive creative process/schedule. I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here and this does seem a little like comparing WWE and UFC. But I’m not. I’m just saying UFC promotes professional wrestling better than WWE does. Crazy, eh?
When I talk about ‘stars’ in WWE I don’t mean good wrestlers or guys that are seen as being big names by internet wrestling fans. I’m talking about those wrestlers that your sister or your math teacher or your parents would know. My parents know who Hogan, Austin, Undertaker and The Rock are. Neither of them have ever watched WWE. They know who Cena is. These stars are guys who can legitimately ‘shift the needle’ when it comes to TV ratings, PPV buys and selling tickets. These are the guys, like Chael Sonnen, who can sell a match through their own personality and their great in-ring/cage work.
In reality WWE currently has two top level stars on their roster – John Cena and Randy Orton (but to a much lesser scale). CM Punk looked to be joining that group but given how many steps backwards his character has taken since MITB, it’s doubtful he’s going to ever become a legitimate household name. Taker and HHH aren’t working full time schedules so I’m not counting them. This is a horrendous situation which results in Randy Orton vs. Christian wrestling every minute of every day for four months. Or at least that’s how it felt to me. The whole thing is made even worse by the stop/start push that SO many young WWE guys have received in recent years (Kingston, Riley, Bourne, Swagger, McIntyre and on and on).
How can a fan emotionally invest in someone who one month is going toe to toe with Randy Orton and the next month is jobber food for Great Khali? Or a guy who is booked to be a breakout babyface (Riley) only to be dropped after one PPV cycle and relegated to “dude standing in the background while HHH gets more camera time?” YOU CAN’T. No one will pay to watch these guys because of how they’ve been presented and shortsightedly booked into oblivion. You can’t create stars unless you present them as stars.
As for the creative process/schedule for WWE compounding their problems? I’ve harked on for years about how pointless and counterproductive it is that WWE run 12 PPVs a year. If they were still drawing more than 250K buys per show domestically I’d understand it. But they barely break 150K on most of the shows these days – bar the big ones. If WWE cut back to even 8 PPVs a year and just slowed the fuck down, they would have time to effectively build new stars and logical money drawing angles. I’m certain if the CM Punk angle was given 3 months instead of 3 weeks they would have seen a dramatic rise in interest in their product.
The creative process in WWE is bizarre beyond words. It’s well known that the shows are written and then rewritten countless times before they go to air. The writing team and the politics of the process is something that is an article in itself. Vince McMahon is famous for getting the final show format and then just completely changing everything the morning of the show. There is almost no way to plan and execute effective angles with such constant change. It sounds like a living hell and most ex WWE writers I’ve heard talk on the subject pretty much describe it as a nightmare.
Imagine if the writers of The Sopranos or Breaking Bad worked in this same way. They turn up on the first day of shooting for the season and they haven’t even worked out how the season is going to start, let alone end, or whatever the fuck is going to happen in the middle. It’d be like watching Lost. Sorry to all the Lost fans out there for that joke, the finish of that series just killed the whole thing for me. Sucked monkey balls.
So here we are. Finally - the end of the path of enlightenment. What have we learned? Apart from the fact I seem to have a monkey obsession as I’ve mentioned them twice in this article? Well we’ve learned that Chael Sonnen is a promotional master. We’ve learned that a MMA promotion books wrestling angles more effectively than the biggest wrestling company in the world. We’ve learned that no matter what HHH says WWE, for its own good, really does need to evolve. Just maybe not in the way he’s currently doing it. Kind of.
Well those are the theories I’m throwing out there. You can agree or disagree – that’s the beauty of the internet. Ah, internet. I forgive you. It’s nice to be back. Hope you guys have enjoyed this long and winding road of enlightened opinion. Feel free to comment on all the nonsense I’ve just written. If I don’t reply, don’t worry I’m just on internet holiday again!
Thanks for reading and don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter @WLHDuckman. Thanks for continuing to support Wrestling’s Last Hope and make sure to like the page on Facebook!
Until next time...