The Reality of Wrestling: Roundtable October

The leaves are beginning to change color and while the temperatures don’t reflect it yet, fall is here. With the changing of the seasons have come some potential changes—just as good as actual changes in the wrestling world—amongst several wrestling promotions and one we’ll be discussing that could impact the entire business for one country. Not as many major shows this month with AAA’s Antonio Pena Memorial Show in the books and TNA just having their Wrestlemania, but that means this month’s roundtable will be strictly related to out-of-the-ring matters. With “Black Tiger” joining me at the roundtable once again, this should be fun.

1. WWE is going to have 13 pay-per-views for 2010. While that is less (I believe) than 2009, is there really any need any more for a PPV each month considering price and content? Or has that market gotten to the point where The E could start doing less PPV’s during a year?

K.W.: This is a difficult question to answer without knowing WWE’s bottom line, as even if with less buys they still might make more money then if they had less PPVs with slightly higher buys (in theory). Obviously as a fan I’d say that I’d like them to run less PPVs. Actually, in my ideal world they’d use the IYH method of maybe 6 full price PPVs, then 4 half priced PPVs for the lesser cards. Again, this is without seeing what their profit margins are but the way their buyrates are consisently dropping something needs to be done if they are getting close to the point where it isn’t profitable enough to justify it.

M.C.: Running more than twelve was justified when RAW were running brand exclusive PPVs, but with then being consolidated, there is really no need for more than one per month. The fact that buyrates have been steadily moving downwards should be enough hint that WWE needs to scale back a bit.

P.C.: I believe the market has gotten to the point where you don’t need to have a pay-per-view each month—The E or anybody—but that doesn’t mean that less PPV’s will be run. TNA and The E are going to continue running a PPV a month, but for the exact opposite reasons: TNA will do it because they believe being on pay-per-view each month is still part of their plans, The E will do it because they can, and nothing more. With The E, houseshow numbers aren’t that bad, merchandise is still selling great, T.V. ratings aren’t getting to crisis levels, so why not run a PPV each month? It’s not hurting them any that their PPV’s aren’t getting past the 250,000 buy mark for anything other than their big four, so really why not? TNA would benefit more by taking a page out of The E’s playbook circa the late 1980’s when they created their big four PPV’s. This would allow TNA to run fewer PPV’s—they’re not drawing anything for them as of now anyway—and give them a chance to elevate the overall worth of these PPV’s if there is more time in between shows. Also, unlike The E, TNA still has major issues getting their fans to pay to see their product as T.V. ratings are fine by TNA standards, but they still can’t get even a respectable percentage of those T.V. viewers to give up thirty bucks every month.

2. With the possibility that FEG (the company that owns K-1 and Dream) may go out of business by next year, what could that do for the wrestling business in Japan?

K.W.: Not much. It would have meant more in 2001 – 2005 when puroresu and MMA were more closely connected, but now they don’t seem to compete with each other as much as they used to since both are not as popular as they were 5 years ago in Japan. It could have a positive impact if there are any fighters in K-1 or Dream (and I don’t follow them so I don’t know) that are popular and interested in switching over to pro wrestling. If that was the case, then it could benefit pro wrestling as new stars is always a plus, especially if they already have a fan base. Outside of any potential talent jump however I don’t think that it will have a huge impact.

M.C.: I really don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact on the business over there. New Japan is doing just fine for themselves, NOAH and All Japan are struggling, but not due to anything involving MMA. NOAH has been having problems for a good long time, and the loss of Misawa, along with long terms injuries to Akiyama and Kobashi have only added to the problem. All Japan has always been looked at as the lower tier of the major feds in Japan.

P.C.: Sadly, this does seem to be pretty cut and dry for me as FEG’s issues don’t help or hinder pro wrestling in Japan in anyway. I do agree with Kevin that if this were five years ago (when the wrestling business in Japan was really in trouble) it would’ve meant a lot more. Today, all it would mean is bad things to come for MMA in Japan. Aside from that, pro wrestling (minus IGF) in Japan has shied away from MMA in recent years and since doing that, has begun its reascent.

3. Both Ring of Honor and Dragon Gate USA are (or will be) doing internet pay-per-view’s for their bigger shows. Is this the answer for either promotion in terms of staying alive?

K.W.: I don’t know if it is the answer, but it is a step in the right direction. With results being instantly available with the Internet, having a way for your fans to watch the action live is important. I try not to watch wrestling if I already know the results as it kills much of the drama for me (unless its from Japan which is harder to avoid), and I am sure I am not the only fan that would be interested in watching the event as it happens. That being said, the real key to staying alive in the indys is putting on a great product and spending money wisely on talent. But adding a revenue stream is never a bad thing, and with technology the way it is now it should be a mostly profitable venture.

M.C.: I don’t know if it’s *the* answer, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction, more for ROH than DGUSA. DGUSA only runs a few shows per year compared to the much more busy schedule for ROH.

P.C.: I did get Glory By Honor IX on iPPV and I must say that if what I saw was the norm and not an exception, I will be getting more iPPV’s from now on. And after seeing Dragon Gate USA’s show in Milwaukee, any doubts I may have had about getting one of their iPPV’s were swept away in a tide of action and fun. I think ROH could use good buy numbers from shows like this a lot more than DG USA for one simple reason: Dragon Gate USA is an extension of the Dragon Gate promotion, Ring of Honor is a promotion by itself. If DG USA goes under, then it was just a failed experiment and they can go back to just being a very successful promotion in Japan. If the iPPV experiment doesn’t fully add up to dollars and cents for Ring of Honor, then they are going to have a problem considering the PPV experiment’s failure, the fact that HD-Net isn’t on as many TV’s as it needs to be, and that DVD sales and general word of mouth for the promotion isn’t what it once was. For the moment, however, I do see this as a great thing for both promotions as it is a way to make something off of the small, underground audience that both promotions have. And as an Indy promotion in the U.S., if you’re able to prosper off of your limited audience, you’re doing just fine for yourself.

4. Is the Sean Davis Project dead? If not, is it even feasible?

K.W.: Probably not dead, definitely not feasible. First of all, with the wrestling climate the way it is, starting a new promotion period is very risky business and more then likely will not succeed. Then you add in that they have great aspirations using well known wrestlers, health care, a TV deal, etc. and the first promotion I thought of was XWF. Both were based in florida, both had big stars and planned on being the next big thing, and obviously the XWF didn’t make it since half the people reading this probably have no idea what it is. You have to start small and grow into something big to be a profitable promotion, if it is possible at all, so I think the SDP has to re-group and change their opening expectations if they are going to be a success.

M.C.: It might be dead, I haven’t heard a thing about it in forever. As far as being feasible or not, it’s hard to say right now. If we’ve learned anything over the last year it’s how hard it really is to get a fed off the ground. People were thinking EVOLVE was going to seriously hurt ROH, but ROH coped just fine, while EVOLVE has been drawing low crowds (not even post WWE Danielson could draw them a sellout!).

P.C.: I kind of wish it weren’t dead, but it’s dead. Unless they come back in a couple months announcing some kind of a T.V. deal, they’re dead. The whole idea surrounding the Sean Davis Project was an example of “if it sounds too good to be true, it is.” Think about it: a big money investor, health benefits for wrestlers, promotional tactics more catered to today’s 17-35 demographic, in the wrestling world? That is too good to be true and the proof is that the contracts for this promotion—according to the info that I’ve read—have already gone into effect or will go into effect in January. But already they’re screwed because talking big and planning big only to have to delay things because of poor time management is a death knell for a promotion starting up. Now any goodwill or good hype is out the window because you’re credibility is out the window for not providing what you said you would provide when you originally said you would provide it. This whole thing would’ve been better off for all parties involved and guys like me—who loved everything he heard in the beginning about this promotion and what they were going to try to do—if they would’ve started out just like any other Indy promotion running some shows all the while looking for a T.V. deal and looking for whatever they still needed to make those contracts work. Instead, it’s almost a laughingstock and that makes me sad and angry, mostly angry.

5. If The E goes all the way with their unifying of their titles–with it all culminating at Wrestlemania–will my prediction (on my radio show) of a Taker/Cena world title unification come to fruition?

K.W.: Not this year, sorry Phil. They seem to have some big storyline in progress with Cena and Nexus, so I just don’t see them finishing that in time for Cena to start a brand new feud with a wrestler on the other brand. Anything is possible in the world of WWE and we’ll know a lot more come the Royal Rumble, but I think you will see HHH in the main event of WrestleMania as he is a big star that has been out of action for a long time and they will consider him the “big draw” more then likely. I expect to see Cena/Barrett at WM if Cena doesn’t turn heel, the only way that Cena/Taker happens is if Cena in fact turns heal, Taker confronts him at the RR, and from there they both get the titles and work the feud at that point. It would be a lot of fun though and I do hope that the match takes place somehow.

M.C.: Well, if they go all the way, that’s the logical ending. But keep in mind, Vengeance 2002 was the original unification of the WWE and World Titles, which lasted for less than a year. The only way I can see this unification business working is if they’re seriously ending the brand split, which is stupid because they’ve go so much talent, that guys are going to get lost in the shuffle.

P.C.: Since it’s my prediction, I’m going to stick to it: If The E is really going to unify their two world titles at Wrestlemania XXVII in the Georgia Dome, it will be John Cena vs. The Undertaker. I think I covered myself nicely there because if they aren’t going with the unification rout, then everything Kevin said above would be correct. However, I do see them going that rout only because they really never needed to have separate belts on each show and are only now realizing that. If there’s only one champion for each belt and that person (or persons for the tag belts) is the only one(s) being on both shows, then what’s the problem? In terms of promotion-wide issues, there really isn’t a problem. However, I do know that because it’s Wrestlemania that whatever the plan is now will be different by the time Mania rolls around, hell it’ll be different tomorrow. As for the whole Cena/Nexus thing, that could be done at The Rumble even if unification wasn’t the idea for Cena at Mania and he was going to be inserted into some other big feud. However, I do believe that Cena/Taker will happen at the end of the day because it’s a lot harder to get people to buy Wrestlemania on pay-per-view than it is to get them to buy tickets to Wrestlemania, and a match like Cena/Taker would solve those problems.

SEVEN MATCHES UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN

Tiger Mask Vs. Dynamite Kid, NJPW, 8/5/1982

If you’ve seen one Dynamite/Tiger Mask match, then you know how awesome they are together. Here’s just another example, so bask in the greatness all the while remembering that this is in the early 80’s. For some people, this is the key to really enjoying a Dynamite/Tiger Mask match.

Jumbo Tsuruta Vs. Bruiser Brody, AJPW, 1986-88

I’m not sure on the year, but I believe it falls into the range I gave. With it being Brody and All Japan during the 80’s, there’s one very likely finish. However, it’s Jumbo in his prime and Brody during his last run (if I’m right on the date) in All Japan, so it’s not as though it has nothing to offer. Quite the opposite, watch and see.

Kiyoshi Tamura Vs. Frank Shamrock, RINGS, 4/23/1999

If you’re a fan of mat wrestling, technical wrestling, catch wrestling, or grappling, this is the match for you. While this was during the time period that RINGS was switching from a shoot-style wrestling promotion into a Mixed Martial-Arts promotion, this was worked despite Frank being an MMA fighter. One of the few times you can call a match a 20-minute sprint, but that’s what this is in many ways and it still rocks out loud.

Toshiaki Kawada Vs. Vader, AJPW, 2/17/2000

The only singles match between these two. It’s shocking and sad to know that as you can cut and paste pretty much any year from 1988 on and this would’ve been a hell of a match. For the short time (by All Japan standards around this time) that it gets, you get a very satisfying one-time meeting between these two along with all of the stiff shots you’d expect.

Jushin Liger Vs. The Great Sasuke, 4/16/1994

Another Liger match from the 94 J-Cup, so if you were reading last week and watched the Liger/Hayabusa match from this tourney, you should have an idea of what to expect. Instead of Liger going against a younger and more “hardcore” version of himself, just think of this as Liger going up against his equal at the time.

Volk Han Vs. Kiyoshi Tamura, RINGS, 9/25/1996
Part 2

More shoot-style! While Frank/Tamura could be described as a 20-minute sprint, this is an actual sprint, and that doesn’t take a single thing away from how good this one is. These two had at least one more match in RINGS together and that one is just as good, if not better (depending on whose opinion you read) than this one. The fact that so few people know about Han is a tragedy for great mat wrestling, but that’s why I’m here: to give you a glimpse. If you enjoy Han in this one, for goodness sake, search him on any video site and check out more and more of his stuff. Also, all of Tamura’s stuff from RINGS is dynamite and ab fab and all that.

Kenta Kobashi & KENTA Vs. Shinjiro Ohtani & Masato Tanaka, NOAH, 1/13/2003

I’m a huge fan of the EMBLEM team of Ohtani and Tanaka, so you insert two stiff as all hell strikers like Kobashi and KENTA, and you’ve got me. This took place a few days after one of NOAH’s Budokan Hall shows where EMBLEM main-evented the show (not the advertised main-event). KENTA was still coming along at this point, but showed all of the signs of his eventual greatness—this was just a few months (if that) before the KENTAfuji team set the wrestling world on fire in Japan—and Kobashi was still very mobile at this point, just two months away from beginning his two year title reign. Emblem will bring the tag wrestling, Kobashi and KENTA will bring the stiff chops and kicks, and you (the viewer) will be thankful.

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