-The First Shot-
Hello everyone and welcome to your 26th edition of The Shoot. I received a couple of E-Mails and a Facebook comment relating to my 25th Anniversary Edition of The Shoot where they felt the need to correct me that I hadn?t been writing this column for 26 years. If I could face palm in front of each and every one of you? I would. How quickly we forget the market ploy of WWE’s Wrestlemania 25, but I digress.
Be that as it may? I hope you all enjoyed the Trade Deadline column that Anthony Valvo (From the Desk of Mr. V), Crelly (holding a vigil in the streetlight hoping for the return of TNA Epics), David Stephens (That’s A Wrap), and myself put together. It was a lot of fun to work on a project like that and so far, the feedback I got from it was well-received. Hopefully my fellow colleagues received the same positive feedback and we could do this all over again in the future.
Well, you didn?t come here to read my ramblings? so let’s head off into the land of wrestling news and take a look at a few stories that have aroused my interest.
The WWE still can?t believe how well the episode of Raw that was guest-hosted by Shaq did. In fact, they are thinking about bringing Shaq back to possibly work a program with The Big Show. I am assuming that because ESPN decided to pick up the story, they saw this as their meal ticket to get some mainstream media exposure? something that the Donald Trump storyline failed at miserably. I admit? after Kazaam, I had my doubts, but I thoroughly enjoyed that edition of Monday Night Raw and would actually be interested in seeing Shaq return to the squared circle once again. With a major PPV two weeks away, I would guess that this problem might start right after WWE SummerFest!
Speaking of SummerFest? Rey Misterio is booked against Ziggler to, again, defend his WWE Intercontinental Championship. I had a column about the promoters sending out stories to confuse smart marks in order to may shows and pay-per-views more unpredictable. In this case, the story floating around is Misterio was unhappy with the length of his championship reign, which caused the decision to be reversed. Now with a rematch, one must wonder if this is just some clever ploy to make me pick Misterio to retain when we do our staff predictions or if there is any legitimacy to the story. If there is any legitimacy, then I wouldn?t blame Misterio one bit for asking for a longer championship reign. The guy deserves it, plain and simple.
Back in my TNA Victory Road predictions, I made mention that it is odd for another company’s titles to change hands in a different company, let alone, a different part of the world and it seems to be true in this case. New Japan Pro Wrestling issued a statement that said that the NJPW Tag Team Championship change to Doug Williams and Brutus Magnus is not officially recognized by NJPW themselves. They say that Team 3D are still the NJPW Tag Team Champions. With this statement, they also said that a team is being negotiated on as their next challengers. With the statement of displeasure, one would assume that New Japan is scouring their roster to select the new champions. One must also wonder how this unauthorized title switch will affect the TNA ? NJPW relationship.
-The Big Shot: The Name Change Game-
This week, I am taking a look at something that bugs me a little bit, but on the flipside, I can see its advantages. This, of course, is changing a wrestler’s persona and ring name? better known as ?The Repackaging Process?
Before we get into this, there are a few reasons as to why a pro-wrestler would undergo a name change. The biggest of those reasons right now is a contract. Basically, wrestlers are like independent contractors. I could call myself a wrestler, but unless I sign with a wrestling company, I?m not going to get paid for being a wrestler. Much like a roofer won?t get paid unless he signs a contract with a company to utilize his services. The difference here is that the wrestling business is a lot more protective of their contracts than a roofer. When a roofer comes over, his name could be Joe Schmoe and you wouldn?t care? you just want your roof fixed, but in the world of professional wrestling, when you?re under contract, that company has the right to market you and make money off of your talent and services as they see fit.
This is why a professional wrestler’s name is often trademarked by the wrestling promotion so if they were to make it big and then decide not to work for that company at the end of the contract period, they cannot go someplace else and use that name they built up in order to make the same amount of money, if not, more. This is a wrestling company’s way of protecting its assets, but, this was fine and dandy in the days where wrestling was a little more ?hidden?. This belief is kind of a small extension on my column dealing with utilizing the internet to a promoter’s advantage, but in this scenario, the internet has made it possible for people to know who is who. Maybe back in 1985, a wrestler could bounce from promotion to promotion and some people wouldn?t know the difference, but in this day and age, people know that Kip James is Billy Gunn or that Mickie James is Alexis Laree.
I can hear the counter-statement going off as I type this. ?But? even though the internet knows who they are, they are still protecting the time and money spent developing that character?. This is true, but my point to this is, does that even matter anymore? With the internet spoiling a lot of wrestling’s secrets, fans have become smarter and so informed that they know who they are the minute they walk through the curtain no matter what name they have. They will cheer for them or even chant certain things to remind them of their past gimmick. Again, using Kip James as a reference, when Kip and BG James got back together in TNA, many people chanted ?New Age Outlaws?. They knew who they were despite the fact they were now called The James Gang. Despite making the name change, their popularity based on the past was still well-known to the point where the name change was irrelevant.
I could delve deeper into this situation because the United States has a system in place that likes to protect intellectual property. Trademarks, Patents, and Copyrights come into play here, but it is namely the Trademark that is focused on. Despite the internet driving a wedge into wrestling secrecy, the wrestling industry is still a business and any business will do its best to protect its investments. This is another reason as to why a wrestler’s name must change because even though a wrestler is still a performer and an independent contractor, they are being asked to portray a character created by the company that they work for.
But let’s take another step back here. What if the wrestler came up with the character and the company liked it. It would then be the wrestler’s intellectual property unless their contract has a clause stating that company will own the rights to the character despite the fact that it was created by a person or persons under contract with the company. It’s another form of a wrestling company protecting their investments, but this is where my issue comes into play.
My stance on this kind of situation is that if a wrestler has the creativity to come up with a character that they know that they can portray and wish to utilize it in order to make them a star, then I don?t believe that the company should have any stake in the trademarking of that character. They didn?t create it so they shouldn?t be able to control it. I know this statement will open up a can of worms, especially with those who firmly believe that a wrestling company should do whatever it feels like with talent under contract. The reason I made this statement was solely based off of a statement made by Stephanie McMahon-Levesque who stated that the WWE was encouraging younger talent to pitch ideas and step up to the plate.
I don?t know about you, but I wouldn?t feel comfortable pitching an idea to the WWE that I know that I created with my own creativity and not have any stake, claim, nor rights to it, should I leave the company. Maybe it is because I have a personal pet peeve that my work, my ideas, and my creativity are my own and I hate anyone or anything that disrespects my work? and controlling my own intellectual property and telling me that I can?t use it anywhere else falls in those lines for me.
But some wrestlers have found a solution to that by trademarking their names, gimmicks, and characters prior to entering a wrestling company. This way they can portray the characters that they have created and they can make a name for themselves off of their own creativity without having to turn any of it over to the company they choose to work for. I like this idea and I?m actually happy that wrestlers have taken steps to do this. It is their characters, they should own them, not big corporate.
That’s one side of the coin I wanted to look at. The other side of the coin is taking a look at changing a character’s more than once while they are working for the same company. We?ve seen a lot of wrestlers get repackaged and sometimes they work for the better? sometimes not so well. My question for this is? is it really the wrestler’s fault or creative’s fault for not being able to make this work?
Say you?re Wrestler A and you come into WWE Developmental. They give you the name of Chaud Blaze. They tell you that you?re a surfer from Hawaii and you?re supposed to make it work. Let’s say the gimmick works in front of a small crowd and creative thinks it will work well on television. They bring you up to the main roster and give you a push so you can get yourself over and the character bombs big time, but you did everything you did back in developmental that got you there. Now you?ve had main television exposure, people have seen you, they know your face, and then you disappear without any reason given.
All of a sudden, about six months from now, you?re back on WWE television. Your new name is Jackson Feldman and you?re a high steel worker who loves to get in fights down at the job site. You, somehow, make this atrocious gimmick work, then it bombs. So they repackage you under your real name and you start to actually get over? but people would have still remembered you from your previous two gimmicks. One has to wonder what kind of impact this could have on not only a wrestler’s career, but the company’s overall competence in developing new, meaningful characters as well as future superstars.
So the question here is? is trial and error really a good thing in the long run? Do you really thing that constant gimmick or name changing can benefit someone or would it just end up hurting the wrestler over all and damage the company’s image? I know wrestling companies have a right to experiment, but after recycling a wrestler a few times, especially in this day and age, is it really worth it and do you think that the creative department should spend more time creating meaningful character to avoid the possibility that a wrestler could become redundant?
-The Final Shot-
That’s my rant for this week. I will look forward to your e-mails containing your thoughts on it, but before I set sail off into the sunset.. I have resurrected the ?Return Fire? segment of reader E-Mail? but just this once due to a circumstance in my previous column. With that being said?
John Giammarino wrote:
I just wanted to correct you on something mentioned in your column: “Hogan turned heel for the first time in his career “, this in incorrect, actually Hulk Hogan started wrestling as a heel in Florida and with the WWF and had his first big match with Andre The Giant in 1980, where Andre was the face and Hogan was the heel.
Thank you to John for pointing that out for me. I am not the biggest Hulk Hogan fan so I didn?t tend to follow his career as closely as I have had others? so that was a detail I could easily overlook.
That will do it for me this week? until then, feel free to hit me up using any of the following:
Until next week…