The Competition Talking Point
It is an argument that has continued since the demise of World Championship Wrestling. It is a train of thought that has been carried on for over five years since TNA Wresling debuted on Spike Television. It is a talking point that has been perpetuated by many professional wrestling fans through the citation of other federations, from the defunct (Extreme Championship Wrestling) to those scratching the surface of mainstream notoriety (Ring of Honor).
“Competition is good for professional wrestling.”
I’ve never really thought about this claim until recently, due to the past two weeks’ worth of reports that Spike Television will be undergoing a shift in their marketing paradigm, broadening their age demographics and attempting to garner more female viewers. Throughout their press conference announcing this focus shift, Spike Television representatives would referrence their current original programming (‘Manswers’, ‘1000 Ways to Die’) and syndicated programming (‘CSI’). As intriguing, prepostorous, and curious as this may sound, not one mention was made of TNA Wrestling, its highest-rated programming on a consistent basis (even though Neilsen Media Research’s numbers are flawed and do not genuinely reflect how many people actually watch said programming).
This announcement of Spike Television’s marketing shift, combined with the unforseeable future of TNA Wrestling, has left many fans, albeit those that may care a little too much about professional wrestling, fearing for the worst; a relapse into 2001 where World Wrestling Entertainment was the most accessible avenue for their fix.
With their purchase of WCW in 2001, fans had to come to terms with the bleak reality that World Wrestling Entertainment would now be the end all be all and that there was no accessible substitute to them. If you were a professional wrestling fan and you were not watching WWE programming, then you were considered an endangered species and hunted for your pelt. You did not exist. If you were a fan of professional wrestling, you were watching WWE programming.
The competition talking point that began during this time certainly held merit in the years to follow. While WWE would continue to be the only viable entity for professional wrestling, its questionable storylines and even more questionable performances would leave many fans scratching their heads, shaking their heads, or clutching onto their heads in pain. It would not be far-fetched to say that many regular viewers of professional wrestling stopped watching due to the lack of entertainment value in the product.
World Wrestling Entertainment became complacent and took the viewing public for granted. Just mention the name ‘Katie Vick’, notice the expression on any fan’s face and the repulsive reaction you receive. Many, including myself, believe this disgusting necrophelia storyline between Triple H and Kane to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Viewers were disgusted, fans were embarassed, and the ratings would show it in the weeks that followed.
This is just one example of many that would lead to the opinion that professional wrestling, specifically WWE, needed “improving”. With a limited number of organizations accessible to the professional wrestling enthusiast and the harsh monopolizing reality dawned upon them, there were only two solutions: Hope for “improvement” or stop watching professional wrestling all together.
Fast forward ten years to the present. While the competition talking point still lingers and is consistently feuled by newer organizations, the crux of its argument has been rendered irrelevant due to the one advent that ironically perpetuates it: The Internet.
Without the luxury of YouTube, professional wrestling fans do not have nearly as many professional wrestling federations to choose from in order to get their fix as they did ten years ago. Organizations have also become exponentially more media and marketing savvy since then, using the internet as the foundation of getting their product out in the open through creating eye-popping website and advertising on others. For pundits and columnists to say that professional wrestling needs competition in order for it to improve through the accessibility of alternative organizations and outfits is incorrect. These alternatives are greater in number and more accessible than ever before.
In the models of business and product quality, competition is a tremendous positive. Restaurants attempt to outdo each other with the consistent marketing of calorie-counting, budget-pricing, and catering to popular trends (who does not remember the Southwestern Chipotle craze of the early 2000’s?). Car manufacturers tout higher gas mileage and luxurious options with every new model off the assembly line all for the sake of outperforming their competitor. Television networks announce new and exciting shows to keep you entertained and, in some instances, loyal to their brand.
However, in the realm of professional wrestling it is not as simple to discern the positives of competition. Restaurants, car manufacturers, and television networks all have clearly defined goods and services to provide to a buying public in need of satisfying that definition: a good meal for enjoyment, a reliable automobile for transportation, a television network for entertainment.
In professional wrestling, the goal of the industry is of course to entertain but its viewers can define this goal in many different ways. Some look for compelling storylines, others yearn for feats of athleticism, and some even seek a character to identify with for the sake of escapism. To attempt the argument of competition within the industry helping to augment the end product is also an attempt to define how professional wrestling is entertaining. Such an attempt is unrealistic and alienating to the viewing public as a whole.
For anyone to actually say that competition leads to professional wrestling’s product improving is not as much an argument for its betterment but more an attempt to define professional wrestling as a whole. In all reality, the competition talking point has been looked at in the opposite direction and with very ambiguous terms.
When someone says competition is good for professional wrestling, they are really saying, “I want other organizations that provide me with my definition of professional wrestling to be on the same level of accessibility as World Wrestling Entertainment.” A fan’s expectation of what professional wrestling should or should not be is never meant to be questioned. What is meant to be questioned is whether the same fan’s expectations are those used to define the entire indsutry.
Perhaps it is time for the talking point to be altered. Might I suggest this:
“Accessibility is good for professional wrestling.”