Lou Pickney's Online Commentary
August 11, 2006
For too long, American pro wrestling has had far too little athletic base to what it does. It seems to me that if presented in a more serious manner, pro wrestling could flourish. Under Vince McMahon's reign that won't happen, and TNA tries but gets too caught up in storytelling that it loses its vision on how good matches equate to long-term fans. However, there is a promotion in the northeast called Ring of Honor that is putting on some fantastic shows. Remember how the old ECW used to almost always have outstanding house shows? ROH is like that. With *so many* cable channels out there now, it really baffles me that Ring of Honor hasn't picked up any national TV clearance yet. That really needs to happen.
Looking at the current offerings on American television leaves much to be desired. World Wrestling Entertainment is a mess. Vince McMahon has a very narrow view of what constitutes good pro wrestling: big wrestlers, workrate an afterthought, 2-5 minute long TV matches, wrestlers being forced to work one style (punch, punch, kick, etc.) ECW is generally awful, with it seeming to be a rib on people that liked the real, old ECW (1994-2001.)
TNA Wrestling has some great workers (Samoa Joe, A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels, etc.), and the company received a major boost from Jim Cornette coming on board recently. But the booking is weak at times (Jeff Jarrett is on top, when Samoa Joe *should* have the title), the TV show tries too hard to be WWEish (coming across as second-rate when it does so), and the color commentator situation is awful. Overall, the promotion has some good matches but it fails to deliver on the quality if could have.
If Ring of Honor could land a TV deal, we'd have the potential to have a consistently entertaining product on the air. Alas, it's not the case. I'd love to show you some of their video, but they are stingy on the YouTube stuff. That's the company's prerogative, since ROH owns the copyright to the material, but it chooses to be exclusive at the cost of bringing in more fans.
There are Mexican wrestling promotions that run shows near (and every now and then, in) the United States, but unless one can get a spot on Univision, there's not much of a likelihood for a promotion to get any sort of grip on the U.S. wrestling audience. I'd certainly watch if the network picked up a show, particularly if they have an English-language track with the SAP button.
MTV is supposedly going to be launching a new, made-for-TV wrestling company before too long, though I will wait to see it before getting my hopes up. Though, to be fair, MTV did manage to make martial arts strangely compelling with its Final Fu show (that I saw last weekend when Melissa was in town and had MTV on here, which is a rare thing for that network in my apartment.)
As a 28-year-old man, I fall into all sorts of tempting demos (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54), and I know that I'm not alone on thinking that a good, sports-centered wrestling promotion would do great business here in the U.S. But will it happen? It's hard to go to battle against a billionaire (Vince McMahon is a legit billionaire, as per Dave Meltzer), but if you put on a product that is legit different enough from WWE to draw a unique audience, I think it's a workable situation.