VS. # 6 Eric Szulczewski vs. Shawn M. Smith

Features, VS.

Welcome to VS. where the most talented writing staff on the ‘net battle it out to see who is the supreme debater using wrestling as the great equalizer.

Today we have Broken Dial leader Shawn Smith, a music taste maker extraordinaire, whose ear is so close to the ground that you can always go to him and find the next big thing in music far in advance. His talents aren’t limited to finding music, however. He’s the founder of Ring of Honor coverage on Pulse Wrestling, a torch carried to this day by yours truly.

Chances are if you read something on InsidePulse.com, you read Eric S. He’s the site’s biggest and most consistent name in wrestling and a regular on The DVD Lounge, Popcorn Junkies, and well, damn near half of the rest of the site, just check. He’s also an opinionated curmudgeon and one of the biggest proponents of anything he believes in you will ever find. Guess what he just discovered is worthwhile?

Me? I’m Pulse Glazer. I’m mostly known as the Ring of Honor guy and, weekly, I write A Modest Response. I also seem to help write VS. almost every week and come up with the questions along with Rob Blatt. Check out Rob’s interview with Nigel McGuinness. It’s awesome. Back to me. I also write a Comics Nexus column, East of Gotham and a Not A True Ending gaming column, The Most Dangerous Gamer. In my “normal” life, I’m a high school English teacher and so, to differentiate my VS. with Blatt’s and Morse’s, I’ll be adding a grading section to my scoring for fun so you can see how I feel each participant did on each question.

On to the questions.

1. In March of 2002, the WWE announced a brand extension. Since then there have been ups and downs involving the different brands, like the Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle feud and December to Dismember. Lately, it seems like the brands mean less and less with pay per views dropping branding and moving superstars around like Edge, Matt Hardy, Bobby Lashley and the rumored Randy Orton move later in the summer. What does the future of the brand extension hold?

Shawn Smith: The brand extension? What brand extension? In March of 2002, the first rosters were divided up by Ric Flair and Vince McMahon in a show, an event,that I had really high hopes for and thought could really revolutionize the business. I was, as a fan, interested in the idea of WWE creating their own “competition.” The problem was very similar to what people complain about Vince Russo doing: the writers never stuck to the long term goal of keeping the brands separate and I feel that is a sign of bad leadership from the staffers above them.

The brands will be nothing more than shows within the next two years. The mid card talent will continue to be whittled away, but they will be needed to fill the extra screen time, so wrestlers like London and Kendrick can have matches each week in which they are not the ones taking the fall. Before the brand extension, London would have been jobbing to HHH, so this is a good thing.

Vince McMahon, however, has gotten bored with this idea, and 5 years later, there is the constant talk of scrapping the whole thing. I had a plan that would have made the experiment more successful: the treatment of these brands as not only distinct shows with separate talent, but also have them be regionally based.

Draw an imaginary line from North to South right in the middle of our country (the US). Once you are done, locate all the arenas on the East side of the line. Good, RAW can only originate from these venues. Smackdown gets everything west of the imaginary line, and thus, we have created instant territories. Have only RAW go to Canada, send Smackdown to Mexico and adopt more lucha elements. Why? Because it would allow the stars of each brand to be distinct and you wouldn’t have a horrible, muscle-bound guy with the title on all three “brands.” Cena, Batista and Lashley have one really big thing in common: they all suck. If you disagree, ask Widro. He�ll say it too. All three of them suck, and the only time that WWE books anything crazy (like the Edge MitB win and title change) is when injuries necessitate the staff created something spontaneous.

One, if people don’t see certain stars in their town for a few years because they were on the other brand, they might be slightly more excited for all those crazy trades that happened. Smackdown vs. Raw could have been about more than which brand is better. The old territory days show us that marketing the product to each section based on the styles that are prevalent there has drawn for decades.

Basically, I just wanted to get that idea out there because I was told by WWE staffers that the plan was crazy. If it’s crazy, at least I fleshed out a bit more of it than they did back in 2002, because their idea, by their own admission, hasn’t worked. They never accounted for the injuries or the suspensions. They used the same writers for both shows, so, in all actuality, there was nothing distinct about either program. RAW was the A show and Smackdown wanted to be RAW, not win fans over by doing different things to appeal to the 8 million fans who used to watch wrestling but don’t anymore.

People honestly don’t remember what really lead to the Monday Night Wars. There were two really stagnant companies (WCW and WWF) when ECW turned wrestling on its ear with the hardcore antics and long, competitive matches. You want fans to be interested again? Use my plan. Seriously, it’s a cool idea.

Don’t get me started on TNA.

Eric Szulczewski: I’ve been looking for a good analogy to the Brand Extension, and I finally found one. It actually fits every criterion. The Brand Extension is a wrestling version of a Soviet Five-Year Plan. All of the earmarks are there. There’s no competition, so let’s create some internally. Everyone buys into the slogans and it actually works for a while, enough to create a certain kind of mindset (I think “culture” is a little too strong of a word). There are efforts made to maintain the slogans for as long as possible and to motivate people. Then, things eventually start to break down. Targets are not only not met, they’re now being purposely ignored by those in charge. Focus changes from the goal of the plan to Stakhanovesque individuals who perform heroic deeds in the name of the plan. Yet the Plan keeps moving forward, driven by nothing but momentum. Then, when the five years ends, what happens? The leadership declares it a success and creates a new Five-Year Plan, unwilling and unable to admit failure, wrapped in a world of self-delusion created by that unwillingness combined with the reassuring words of a cadre of sycophantic toadies who cater to their every whim.

The boardroom of Titan Tower is more like the Politburo than you might think, if you consider the personalities of Vince and Steph and their recreation of the “sniff out, suck up, survive” mentality of the nomenklatura. Given those particulars, the Brand Extension, despite its
recent neutering, will still be with us for a while. Why? Because it’s
Vince’s and Steph’s brainchild. Getting them to admit a mistake and reverse a decision is like doing a U-turn with a supertanker: it’ll eventually happen, but it takes a long, long time and requires a great deal of room to do it.

Also, its purpose isn’t fully ended, but it’s very close to that point.
The Brand Extension has no reason to exist if WWE has external competition. However, they didn’t even acknowledge TNA being anywhere near them until Kurt Angle showed up in Orlando. Is it any coincidence
that the Brand Extension really went downhill at that point?

As for its future, its present is its future: still there, yet rarely
if ever mentioned, given lip service in passing. ECW will still be propped up in its “unique” identity by Joey and Tazz, who have an obligation to history to not give up the ghost. Comrade Bradshaw will
promote the glories of Smackdown. But the remainder? When was the last
time you heard Cole talk about how Smackdown was the only place you could see cruiserweight action? For that matter, when was the last time there was a cruiserweight match on Smackdown?

They’ll do just enough for now to keep propping life into the concept, because it’s now the end of the first Five-Year Plan. Time to begin the
next and refuse to acknowledge the failures of the recent past.

Mr. Glazer’s Grading: Shawn wrote a good bit and made a lot of good points, particularly about the brand differentiation, but he hit on so many points in such a short time, he only really had time to develop one: his view of what the brand extension should be. That’s fine, but the question is what does the future hold, not what should the brand extension be. That kind of inattention to detail really cost Shawn against Eric who�s response was absolutely perfect. This needs to be printed and posted everywhere and, honestly, I don�t know if a better explanation has been given for how the brand extension has gone and how it will be going. Bravo.

Shawn’s Score: C. Needs more development of the key idea and a focus on the question at hand.

Eric’s Score: A. Great work, insightful and heretofore unthought-of.

Eric gets the point.

Eric S. 1 – 0 Shawn M. Smith

2. So now that TNA and the NWA have parted ways, we have a chance to look back and see what the relationship meant to each of the companies. Now that it’s official that the TNA titles are separate from the NWA titles, which company saw the most benefit from the relationship? Who benefits most from the relationship’s end?

Shawn Smith: The decision of NWA to remove itself from the TNA brand does nothing for them. The inconvenience caused to TNA was minimal; they still have a television show and none of their wrestlers left. This is not WWE losing the WWE name by some wacky turn of events. This is the NWA pulling the same crap they pulled in the early 90s by revoking the rights of TNA to use their World, Tag and X Division titles.

TNA had to make new belts. They look more professional, frankly, even if their name is horrible and I can’t take them seriously after a PPV that saw 6 of 9 matches sucking the life out of me.

The National Wrestling Alliance is merely looking for a way to make people aware that they are still out there and do shows that need fans to attend. AmDrag will win the title and he will tour the country as “the best wrestler in the world,” while TNA continues to have a TV show that people do watch, albeit not in droves as some from their office would like to believe.

NWA had a chance to really make TNA promote their shows on TV, to make a name for themselves again and do what ROH does well: use DVD sales to make yourself a profitable entity. With the talent they had at their disposal (and at the rates that TNA booked its stars to NWA shows at) they could have made a killing.

That’s my long answer. TNA benefits because they don’t have to pay money for a dead weight name. NWA gets to rebuild the legacy it once had for being a quality wrestling promotion. I think that Bryan Danielson (and other indy wrestlers) are the big winner. He�s the first guy that mentioned the title twice and tons of other sites linked that YouTube clip, and now they will be having a tournament for the title that was defended for weeks on TNA programming. The problem is that if 1 million people watched TNA right now, 25% might know about the NWA pulling out to promote their shows nationally again, so TNA NOT acknowledging the reasons, or that the titles were changing, basically totally pissed in NWA’s cornflakes.

Eric Szulczewski: Obviously, at the beginning, TNA benefited the most.
They needed, at least in the Jarretts’ old-school minds, that initial boost of legitimacy that the NWA still has in the minds of people who
think like Jerry and Jeff. The remainder of us, the sane ones, know that the NWA was put into a vegetative state when WCW divorced itself from them and had the feeding tube pulled by Paul Heyman and Shane Douglas.

The problem was that TNA acted as an autonomous entity from the beginning, with no intent to give anything back to the NWA beyond what they were contractually obligated to do. They never helped the various NWA territories to any extent. They never promoted themselves, after a short period, as being affiliated with the NWA. All they did was use the lineage of the titles, and TNA had someone ideally suited to do that in Mike Tenay. Essentially, neither side got any real benefit out of the relationship, other than the marginal boost from that title lineage for TNA.

Honestly, it took us wrestling columnists only a few months to stop referring to them as “NWA-TNA”. That says volumes. The only columnists
doing so after, say, July 2002 are the same type of people who use the phrase “GNU/Linux”. The way I treat those people is simple: if I have mod points on Slashdot, anyone who uses that phrase gets -1 Troll. And considering that I have less respect for wrestling columnists than I do for Slashdot posters…think about it.

As for who benefits from the end of the relationship, at this point, neither side does. TNA just needs to switch title belts and only mention the NWA titles when it comes to the Dudleys and what they’ve won. NWA has to build legitimacy back, any sort of legitimacy. They’ve got a good selection of people for their title tournament. The problem is that the only wrestlers that people are excited about are the guys who work for ROH. Will NWA be tempted to enter into what would be another de facto relationship with an outside organization for a short-term boost? Absolutely not. The NWA/Big Finish deal and the ROH PPV deal shuts that possibility out. So, therefore, they’re going to have a champion who will engender the same kind of excitement among wrestling fans that Dan Severn as NWA champion did: none.

And if you think the deal with Big Finish was good for the NWA, think about who they made that deal with. They had a shot to do something with WSX and couldn’t generate excitement, despite having some great young wrestling talent who are just being noticed by the wider spectrum of fans. Let’s just bury the corpse, because it’s doing nothing but stinking up the joint.

Mr. Glazer’s Grading: This one is a lot closer. Shawn makes an excellent point in noting that TNA is no longer wasting money on the NWA name, a name they used merely for titles and nothing else after their initial run. Eric counters with his note that the ROH guys are now contracted and so will not be as available to NWA as they would have otherwise been. Shawn errs in stating that with his ROH and NOAH schedule Danielson will be able to maintain and compete a touring schedule as NWA champion without a deal being struck with ROH. That’s ultimately the difference-maker here.

Shawn’s Grade: B-. Well thought out, but some fact checking would have saved the point.

Eric’s Grade B: Solid work with no gaping holes. More explanation of the WSX comment would have netted a higher score.

Point to Eric.

Eric S. 2 – 0 Shawn M. Smith

3. The Briscoe Brothers have put on an arguable number of seven matches of the year and it’s only May. Is it possible that a tag team can be the wrestlers of the year? Who are the other early contenders for wrestler of the year and why?

Shawn Smith: I know that Glazer wants me to say that Jimmy Jacobs should be on the list for wrestler of the year. I will admit that despite how very much I do not find his style or his size credible, he’s charismatic and has a decent enough gimmick. The Emo Warrior is on the list because everyone else seems to see something I don’t, and just like Christian Cage, I cannot wait to see everyone crap on him in a year when he’s not World Champ. That’s not the point I need to make here, though, and this is a very simple answer:

The Briscoes were two of the best wrestlers in North American in their teens. They aren’t prodigies anymore, these are dudes who are just big enough to be intimidating to an Average Joe, but are agile and athletic enough to be one of the best aerial tag teams ever. Real talk.

That’s a bold statement, but look at their series of matches with the tag team that everyone considered Tag Team of the Year for 2006, Aries and Strong. I have never seen people mark out during matches like they do for the Briscoes. GRUT was there with us in New York. He has NEVER seen the Briscoes prior, but he has heard of them through Meltzer and various news boards. Last Saturday, he was converted into an ROH and Briscoes fan during their match with Sydal/Castagnoli. Unlike other teams, like the Kings of Wrestling, their double team maneuvers look and sound painful. This year alone the Briscoes have been a part of 7 Match of the Year Candidates, as you stated (2 with Steen/Generico, 1 vs Doi/Shingo FYF-Liverpool, 1 this past weekend with Sydal/Claudio, 1 Jay vs Mark FYF Finale, and 1 versus both the Motor/Murder City Machine Guns and Kings of Wrestling). That�s a ridiculous list, and one should seriously consider Mark AND Jay as wrestler of the year due to the consistency they bring in the ring, and the interest that fans have in ANY show the minute their names are attached to it.

Eric Szulczewski:: Frankly, despite it being distinctly possible and distinctly legitimate in this case (I would have absolutely no problem at this point voting for them), I really don’t want the Briscoes to win Wrestler(s) Of The Year. There’s a good reason why. Who won that award from us the last two years? What were they doing recently? Oh, yeah, having a middle-of-the-card match against each other at a thoroughly useless PPV with nothing on the line, both of them poster boys for TNA’s Booking By Micturition. Winning Wrestler Of The Year from Inside Pulse is a minor-league Madden Curse.

Oh, December will be an interesting social experiment. Over in the Super-Secret Writers’ Forum, we’re going to be dissecting the narrow differences of the merits of various Ring Of Honor guys like a bunch of crotchety old rabbis debating the Talmud. Over in the Den Of Smelly Proles, the mouth-breathers will reflexively vote for any WWE guy that somehow slipped the net and got on the final ballot (see Wrestler Of The Year, 2006, Co-Winner). Never will the difference between smarks and marks be as apparent. And never will I have the opportunity to feel even more superior to you than I do now.

Okay, that being said, the only place to look for a Wrestler Of The Year
candidate outside of the pool of the eight billion ones that ROH will give us is WWE (not counting anyone that Gordi might bring into the discussion). TNA’s totally flushed away all of their goodwill with wrestling fans and ruined their best wrestlers in so many ways that it’s truly mind-boggling to think about. So, who’s there in WWE? If Edge is actually given a substantial reign this time and not jobbed out to Lashley or someone (and it would be to Lashley), he’s the reflexive candidate. He’d be a legitimate one at this point. However, given the capricious booking of WWE (who knows when he’s going to piss off Michael Hayes?), it isn’t very firm.

That being said, WWE has presented an obvious candidate. In the World
Of Eric (a truly wondrous place to be so long as you practice complete
submission to your philosopher-king/god), Degree Of Difficulty counts,
just like in diving. And no one’s come through at a higher degree of
difficulty this year with consistently great performances as one Michael
Shawn Hickenbottom. It’s one thing for the Briscoes to go up against
some of the best in-ring performers in the world at every show. It’s
another to have to have an extended program with an unmotivated, truly
regressing John Cena. I’m not even sure that Bryan Danielson could have
carried that load of crap to a watchable (but dull) sixty-minute match.
Danielson had trouble last August doing it with Cabana, a task with a
very similar degree of difficulty. “Ah, Eric,” I hear you ROH-bots
bleep out in your tinny impersonation of binary code, “Danielson was
severely hurt, and he just did sixty the night before with Nigel, and…”

Shut up, I know that. I was there. Well, not for the match against
Nigel, but you know what I mean. I acknowledge that fact. But you also
have to realize that Shawn Michaels is on the wrong side of forty. His
back is shot; remember that little four-year retirement from the ring?
He’s working under similar handicaps, and he’s leaving as much of
himself in the ring as Danielson does. Now, take into account his promo
skills, which are only getting better. Also take into account that he
was thrust into this situation when Trip got hurt. He’s overcome a
great deal since January, and he hasn’t received the reward that he
should have: a fifth title run. It’s only fair to recompense him with
what little we can give. Right now, if I can’t vote for the Briscoes,
he’s my Wrestler Of The Year.

Mr. Glazer’s Grading: Now this is what I was looking forward to. This is a very well thought out argument by both men. Eric, by going into different companies, has a very good run of major points here, but by lumping the ROH guys together he inadvertently weakens his point. Shawn goes into good detail on the ROH guys, but ignoring the WWE and TNA (snicker) candidates he leaves a hole in his argument. That hole is covered up by listing the Briscoes impressive list of matches this year. Michaels has a good case, maybe as good as the Briscoes. It simply depends on whether you want to reward consistency or difficulty of performance. A big error causes this one to be Shawn’s first point. Eric states with his Madden Curse argument that Joe won Wrestler of the Year is outright wrong: Danielson was our Wrestler of the Year and deserved to be.

Shawn’s Score: A-. His best argument yet, citing matches makes his case even stronger.

Eric’s Score: B. A good argument that hit many major contenders, but an easily fact checked error costs him here huge.

Point to Shawn who’s down 2-1.

Eric S. 2 – 1 Shawn M. Smith

4. Who is the most dangerous man with a live mic?

Shawn Smith: There was a time that I would have said Kevin Nash, but he recycles variations of the same bits time and again, so I cannot name him. The same can be said for Flair, Hogan, Austin, Piper, any legend for that matter. Their acts have gotten stale, and while they are good for the “nostalgia” pop (see: Foley, Mick) they haven’t got it anymore. The most dangerous man with a microphone is, and always will be, Chris Jericho. Sure, there were more popular individuals during the height of his run, but not many could be so blatantly copied by the next generation without a single peep being uttered by his fans. No one else used the Rock’s material. You couldn’t. The antagonistic, cowardly heel who makes up his own rules and catchphrases on the spot, only two others were capable of that and all three are, sadly, out of wrestling (Rock and Austin).

Yeah, this might be fanboyism but when it all comes down to it, Jericho was before his time in so many ways. As an in-ring performer (which I understand this has nothing to do with the question, but give me this thought), Jericho is constantly emulated. He was the first North American to use the Asai moonsault on the national stage and his matches in ECW were the template used by “larger cruiserweights” like Gregory Helms and Chavo Guerrero, or even X Division stars like Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley. The TNA guys are directly influenced by the “Ayatollah of Rock and Roll-ah” and when more people are playing that plucky, heel character, it has more to do with Jericho than anything else, on OR off the microphone.

As for the WORST recorded interviews in history, I would submit both Jay Lethal (pre-Black Machismo) for his rad “Tonight, is the night…I’ve been waiting for!” speech for without that, ROH fans would make fun of Roderick Strong’s constant flubs or Matt Hardy’s “I hope you die in a car crash” speech. Those two instances are legendary examples of just why EVERY wrestler on National TV should have to take an acting/public speaking course. If my opponent tonight did it, they should too.

Eric Szulczewski: The honest answer would really be “no one”. Vince
has homogenized all of his performers. Cena lost his fans when he lost that sense of danger (in retrospect, it was always illusory, but it was a tangible illusion). Lashley…do I need to say anything? TNA is dominated by old-school thinkers, with Jarrett and Konnan in the vanguard. Konnan loves to pretend he’s dangerous on the mic, and can craft it in such a fashion that some of the lesser-intelligent (or more
prejudiced) might perceive a sense of danger. But, really, the gimmick was designed to take advantage of 2006’s immigration-as-flash-point-issue scenario. That’s now dead, if participation at this year’s marches signify anything.

You have to have a very unique combination of circumstances in order to
have the potential of danger these days. You have to be very, very talented on the mic. You have to be very secure in your position. You have to have the particular mentality to be able to cross the line back and forth at will. You have to have the motivation to cross that line in the first place. You have to have the gimmick that supports it. Christopher Daniels has the potential to be dangerous (as he demonstrated in his departure speech from ROH), but he only fulfills one (perhaps two, with an outside chance of three) of those criteria. He doesn’t have the mentality, certainly. The Fallen Angel does not blaspheme the God Wrestling.

There is one person, though, who does fit all of those criteria. His name is James E. Cornette. His mic talent has been obvious to anyone watching wrestling over the last twenty years. He’s certainly secure in his position, both in his on-camera job in TNA and in his legacy. He’s long had that mentality, not afraid to offend anyone. He’s got the gimmick, certainly; all he has to do is become exasperated at the latest move by Christian, and Mount Cornette can blow. As for the motivation to cross that line…Russo’s presence in TNA must be wearing his nerves raw. We all know how much Corny detests Russo and everything he stands for. It’s only a matter of time before he loses the last veneer of civility and goes off.

Last year, I wrote that watching Jim Cornette cut a promo live was one of the Five Pillars Of Wrestling. The sense of danger that he conveys every time he has a mic is not a put-up job, not kayfabe. It’s real, it’s tangible, and if he goes all the way, it’d be like seeing God.

Mr. Glazer’s Grading:: This one sure went nowhere fast. For the purposes of this question neither man gave me anything to judge them by. Shawn�s answer describes why Jericho might be the best on the mic, not the most dangerous. Eric begins with saying no one fits the bill, but Cornette has the potential to.

Shawn’s Score – F. Stay on task, influence and quality do not equal danger.

Eric’s Score – F. In the end, anyone could be dangerous with the right circumstance. The question is who is most dangerous, not who could be.

No point will be awarded here.

Eric S. 2 – 1 Shawn M. Smith

5. Now that we’re seeing more re-broadcasting of the old ECW shows on 24/7 and in DVD releases, some of the old ECW problems are popping up, namely the music licensing issues. Now that Ring of Honor is on Pay Per View, do you think that they will run into the same issues?

Shawn Smith: No. It’s a matter of time and honesty. If Vince McMahon will proclaim on TV that he is a billionaire, when he isn’t but he’s close, he should rightfully assume that the artists who wrote the songs in question are going to deserve a piece of the broadcasting pie. This isn’t the Rock and Wrestling era, where the lawyers just stood around and allowed the talent to do whatever cross-promotion was deemed necessary, this is a day and age where the music industry is falling deeper and deeper into the toilet. The sale of physical CDs is declining at a clip of 25-30% every year, so one would assume that eventually, there will be a 0%, and that assumption would be wrong. The decline, if one watches the numbers, has more to do with the consumption of the new music, i.e. artists that are currently coming out or releasing their first or second projects. Why is this the case? With the advent of blogs and mp3 aggregation, the new material is basically given away because the labels are pretty sure something isn’t going to move units, so they rely on the back catalog of old material (and the material that they own the publishing rights to) to make up the difference.

By looking at Billboard, one could see the decline in sales on new releases and breaking artists. The MAJOR labels screwed talent out of money for so long that no one trusts or believes them, so the songs that are in question are vital to the financial stability of the artists and their families. The portions they are entitled to were recently renegotiated this decade, so they are no longer getting pennies on the dollar compared to 30 years ago. If someone wants to use the song in something that is making the third party money, they just should ask. If someone like Vince pretends that he DOESN’T have the money, he’s lying. The labels don’t ask for $10,000, they might ask for significantly less than that and if it’s a song that the label is interested in reminding those viewers is out there (The Animals “House of the Rising Sun” comes to mind immediately), well they might just give the track away.

The labels and their artists, make more money on the back catalog. If you look online for old material, I am willing to bet you don’t find as many people “sharing” The Animals as you would find the new Lumidee track. Why is this? Well, the labels, in their neglect of the changing landscape in music, actually created a system where there are so few places to illegally download the classics, that they are sure to sell, and since most copies of said records were printed years ago, the costs have already been written off, thus, making the whole thing 100% profit.

In the digital age, you can find anything for free if you look hard enough, but the artists and (some) labels know that you do more good when you embrace your potential audience without reservation and/or litigation.

Ring of Honor will be fine. Maybe not for the first PPV, but if the companies in question realize that this is another opportunity to screw over someone who jerked them around for decades (Vince McMahon and his “we don’t have the money for licensing” department), I hope the labels jump at it. Give the indy discounted rates to allow them to grow and allow Cary to prove he is a far smarter businessman than that douche in Stamford.

Eric Szulczewski: As I wrote, ROH dodged a major bullet in this area
thanks to Cabana leaving (in addition to the remainder of the benefits his departure gives to the quality of wrestling in ROH). His music rights, which were absolutely a must-have in his case, would have been by far the most expensive. Rule of Thumb is the bigger the artist and the more well-known and popular the song, the more the rights fees would be. Maybe Barry would have given them a break, though. After all, he started his career playing piano for Bette Midler at the Continental Baths, so the thought of barely-dressed men groping each other might have given him a sense of nostalgia or something.

Cary’s already said that he’s going to do his best to make sure that he
gets music rights for his boys. I believe this for three reasons: 1) Cary Silkin does not lie. 2) Cary busts his ass to make sure that stuff
happens in ROH the way he wants it to. 3) Gabe Sapolsky used to work for Paul Heyman, and he knew how much Heyman was flirting with disaster in this area. Ten years ago, he might have got away with it. Today, with the MafiAA suing ten-year-old girls and dead people, no way.

It’s relatively easy to get the rights. The Harry Fox Agency has been around for decades just for this purpose. All ROH has to do is give them the particulars (which songs, expected revenue from PPV, expected revenue from DVD sales, etc.), and they’ll act as intermediary with the rights holders and negotiate a fair fee. The Fox Agency has a magnificent reputation for being fair to both sides. So I’ll expect ROH to get those rights.

Now, if it becomes an expense that ROH cannot sustain, they’ll drop it and move to generic music. It shouldn’t really be much of an issue at this point, since most of their entrance music pieces are obscure cover versions and older songs and shouldn’t be too much of a financial burden. But they’re at the vagaries of an industry that’s on a jihad against anything that threatens their revenue stream. A sudden increase in rights fees, either mandated by the RIAA toward their companies (with a concomitant increase from non-member companies as a domino effect) or due to market forces, can cause ROH to change their mind. It can be perceived as an unnecessary expense, and is certainly lower on the priority scale than other costs, like talent, DVD pressing, and show costs.

I expect them to pay for those rights as long as possible. Cary, Gabe, Syd…they’re all very savvy people who understand the importance of music as part of the experience of watching an ROH show. No, it’s not mandatory, but it does form an important part of the mosaic. Its loss won’t kill ROH, but if it becomes a choice between the music and a fiscal impact that might hurt ROH in a meaningful way, there is no choice.

Mr. Glazer’s Grading: A weak performance last question is again followed with fantastic answers to this one. Shawn absolutely nails what the realities of the music industry currently are and how ROH can work around them. Eric nails ROH’s role in the situation perfectly and hits the standard way of getting around this. Ultimately, both answers are near perfect, but Shawn’s out-of-the-box thinking here pulls ahead of Eric’s slightly more conventional answer.

Shawn’s Score: A. Out of the box thinking, along with good points and suggestions.

Eric’s Score: A. Just as good, although more conventional. Adding in the personal touch from knowing Cary helped.

Eric nearly pulled this off, but Shawn, by giving a totally different view that one would expect supported by outside sources gets the point and the tie, 2-2.

Eric S. 2 – 2 Shawn M. Smith

Looks like we’ll be doing a very special VS soon to settle this: VS. Sudden Death

Glazer is a former senior editor at Pulse Wrestling and editor and reviewer at The Comics Nexus.