Reality From Ringside #47
January 11, 2010
By: Doug Lackey of

The Love Sponge Paradox

Celebrity cameo appearances on television shows are nothing new; in fact, they?ve become somewhat of a necessity. From dramas like ?Law and Order? to comedies like ?Desperate Housewives?, celebrities add that slight hint of charisma that the typical cast cannot while at the same time adding a greater amount of viewership to the program, boosting ratings, and increasing advertising revenue.

It’s a vicious, cynical, yet entertaining cycle and nowhere has this been more prevalent than in professional wrestling.

We have seen a slight increase in viewership now that WWE has begun having guest hosts on Monday nights with ?Raw?. We can sit here and debate on what was considered a good show or not? who was meant to be a guest host or who felt a little uncomfortable? but the debates and arguments are meaningless and pointless.

You watched. McMahon got your eyeballs. Regardless of whether you were entertained or not, you tuned in. You saw the advertisements for Taco Bell, Castrol motor oil, and whatever new video game was coming out that week.

Monday nights have now turned into Vince McMahon’s one night stands. What high-dollar prostitute will Vince trot out next week to lure our eyeballs to the screen? Now sure, you could say that you could give a damn about the host and you?re tuning in for the action in the ring, but there is a problem with that argument: McMahon doesn?t know that.

While WWE has their one night stands with celebrities and notable names within all industries, TNA is now trying the same thing with a celebrity? of sorts?

Radio talk show host Bubba the Love Sponge made his debut with TNA Wrestling as a backstage ?interviewer? last Monday participating in four short video segments. I have heard and read many scathing reviews about his performance? one of the biggest detractors being Jim Cornette.

You can listen to Bubba the Love Sponge’s comments on Jim Cornette and his viewpoint at the following link: click here.

After listening to Bubba’s comments (as funny as they may come across at times), TNA is caught in a predicament that involves not just their future as a viable and legitimate opponent to WWE, but also the ?entertainment? component involved in their programs.

Bubba the Love Sponge is a radio talk show host (or ‘shock jock? dependant on your definition) heard regularly on satellite radio and terrestrial radio in Florida. Hulk Hogan and other wrestlers have been frequent guests of his program. While it is understandable for TNA to have their talent appear on his show to promote upcoming events, these appearances on both ends have begun to provide a cover of fog across the border of legitimacy.

TNA needs to ask itself some questions right now with regards to Bubba’s commentary and his debut appearance? to what degree of ?entertainment? do they wish to define themselves?

Bubba the Love Sponge views TNA as a ‘show?. He sees actors and scripts and lets it be known on his own radio program. In his comments jabbing Cornette, he constantly refers to Cornette as being ?really into this?.

Bubba also pokes fun at himself and his performance on TNA’s ?debut? last Monday. While it is hilarious to hear his own review, he does not realize that he is actually hindering TNA’s goal of becoming a viable and legitimate competitor against WWE.

So many questions begin to surface about not just Bubba, TNA, and the implications of his insertion into their programs, but about the industry of professional wrestling as a whole. These questions are professionally philosophical, so I apologize in advance if I cause your skull to house a small explosion of your brain.

Does Bubba the Love Sponge believe he is helping TNA and himself?

The number one reason any celebrity (be it nationally or locally) appears on a program other than their own is to promote something they are affiliated with. A television/radio show, a new book, a new motion picture, or even a worthy cause, celebrities attempt to bring attention to them in order to help their growth and in the most cynical and capitalistic of realizations, make money.

After his appearance last Monday, did TNA benefit from it? Did Bubba the Love Sponge benefit from it?

In the end, I don?t believe either helped or hurt themselves specifically. Bubba the Love Sponge has as much of a dedicated audience as Howard Stern or Mancow (based in Chicago) does. Regardless of what they do or where they go, their fan-base will follow.

In reality, I don?t believe Bubba tapped into any kind of listener/viewer market that could help his own program.

After watching TNA last Monday, were you curious to even research who he was or what he did? After seeing his feeble attempts at adding drama and suspense to a storyline involving hit-and-run attacks on TNA talents, were you compelled to become a subscriber of satellite radio in order to listen to his program?

Do you believe that Bubba the Love Sponge made TNA’s program entertaining enough that you will tune in to the next show? If someone else had been used in the same capacity, would you have noticed it at all?

If your answer was ?no? to all of these questions, then this collaborative effort between the two ended in failure.

What is TNA’s ultimate goal in the utilization of Bubba the Love Sponge?

Professional wrestlers have appeared on talk shows of all sorts. From ?Live with Regis and Kathie Lee? in the early 1990s to ?Saturday Night Live? and ESPN today, professional wrestlers have not only made programs even more entertaining (to certain degrees) but have also drawn new viewers and fans to their own products.

The difference between these examples and Bubba the Love Sponge’s radio show is that Bubba does not seem to help TNA and their product in any way. Talking about the inner workings of a company and most recently Hulk Hogan’s capacity within TNA, do not entice new viewers.

When you see commercials for hockey teams or NASCAR races, the advertisement talks about the excitement you will be witnessing and how you will be at the edge of your seat gnawing on your fingertips because you?ve run out of nail. You never hear taglines saying ?Come to our event and you might see a fight or a 10-car pile-up.?

Bubba the Love Sponge actually thinks that he is helping TNA by telling his audience how ridiculous it is. To the all-knowing over-analytical wrestling fan we can shrug this off, but to someone who has never seen professional wrestling it only furthers their potential stereotype on the industry itself? that it is ridiculous, irrelevant, and is about as entertaining as someone grabbing your nose, letting go, showing you their own thumb wedged between their fingers claiming they stole your nose.

TNA needs to seriously question their affiliation with Bubba the Love Sponge and whether this joint venture is beneficial for all involved.

Any publicity is good publicity, regardless of how insipid your product is made out to be? and we will all still watch regardless of how captivating or catastrophic the product may be? that’s always been my argument regarding the typical professional wrestling fan.

However this is not about TNA keeping what they have (us), it’s about attracting what they need (them).

Until next time, mouth-breathers!

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