Monday, March 19, 2007

Carelessness of The Suits

The chapter titled "Spending Ted's Money" from Ole Anderson's Inside Out: How Corporate America Destroyed Professional Wrestling gives insight to the financial problems going on behind the scenes of WCW. With wrestling becoming a national phenomenon and wrestlers becoming more well known than professional athletes, wrestlers became even bigger assets to the business. In the case of WCW, a careless attitude towards the salaries of wrestlers developed as a result of Ted Turner providing money for the payoffs.

The yearly salaries of top wrestlers from the days of Verne Gagne up until the time of WCW and WWF were often based on performance and crowd turnout. When the two superpowers, WCW and WWF, were in direct competition during the 90's an inflation in wrestlers' salaries can be seen. Wrestlers were now bound to contracts that promised millions of dollars whether or not the business made money. The fact that WCW and WWF were in direct competition with each other may have influenced this inflation. Each business feared that their wrestlers would leave their organization for the competitor's, so big contracts with wrestlers were a way of pleasing and securing their talent.

The traditional responsibilities of wrestling promoters included paying wrestlers and determining how much they would make. Ole, having experience as a promoter, points out the major flaws going on by "The Suits", such as the top boss Bill Shaw, in WCW. With little experience in wrestling and the payoff schemes of promoters, "The Suits" made irresponsible deals with wrestlers. Rather than basing contracts off of talent and experience, the bosses at WCW were making big offers to those that didn't deserve it. One example Ole gives is in the case of Marc Mero who was just starting out in wrestling. Ole, who worked for WCW, negotiated a fair $50,000 contract with Mero. The bosses, not knowing of Ole's offer, offered Mero $275,000 a year plus $75,000 for clothing. The fact that Ted Turner was providing the money for the contracts made it seem as if there was an endless supply available. Since Turner was so wealthy it was easier for the bosses in WCW to run up the payroll with a false sense of security.

While working for WCW, Ole Anderson was able to see the trouble that the management was getting into. Eventually WCW went out of business and was bought out by the WWF. The salary issues might not have been the only cause of the WCW ending, but their $35 million payroll was definitely a problem. The carelessness displayed by the management and the lack of accountability, since Ted was the one losing money, led to the demise of WCW.


Sam Ford said...

Some claim that Ole was too old-school, and we see Eric Bischoff's take on Ole in the readings from his book in response to some of what Ole says. But I think Ole has some interesting points about the lack of check on budget for some of the wrestlers, especially in the idea of guaranteed contracts. WWE always offers a downside guarantee, that is a minimum a person will make, and then adds to that with PPV payoffs and other bonuses based on how well the shows perform. His description of how WCW operated certainly showed a lack of checks in relation to how the talent was compensated, the likes of which explain a lot about how the company could have lost significant money. It seems guys like Jim Herd were universally disliked, as we've seen Flair and Ole both lambast him for being a former Pizza Hut executive who knew little about pro wrestling.

Omar said...

I kind of got the impression that Ole Anderson was just blowing off steam throughout the majority of this reading.

For this reason, I didn't know how much to really take from the passage--I didn't know how much was really true. This brought to mind some of the other readings we've read thus far, like Drawing Heat.

Naturally, the annecdotes that some of these authors relate only convey part of the story. This seems to be a recurring theme in modern pro wrestling. From the seemingly staged "documentary" about Bret Hart to this, Ole Anderson's account of the WCW, there is no such thing as objective view of the workings behind the wrestling machine.