Tuesday, March 20, 2007

insider/ outsider

I was really interested to see the juxtaposition of the openings of the Bischoff article and the Ole Anderson texts we read for this week. The theme throughout was Vince being the 'wrestling insider' who knows evry inch of the industry and Bischoff being sort of an intruder into the wrestling world who shakes things up. But what is interesting is the different takes on which has the advantage-- the one 'in the know' or the one with fresh eyes and ideas.
Anderson starts his chapter on mismanagement: "Turner's people in the WCW couldn't control their wrestlers because the people running it didn't know anything about the wrestling business. They hired people who were completely ignorant about wrestling and who had never had anything to do with the business."(360)
I think this harkens back to my post about family in wrestling- there does seem to be a really tightly held community in wrestling and a strong sense of legacy and continuity... this helps the industry because one storyline can go on for years, even generations. There is also implicit trust and loyalty that comes from the tight community. I think we can see this even through all the shifts from regional to national through format shifts there. Interestingly, in the documentaries we've seen that have been produced by the WWE, it seems like Vince doesn't choose to emphasize his legacy role, instead framing his success as coming through his announcer role and the developing into a superpower with hard work over time. Maybe we'll see a different version of the narrative in the 'MacMahon' documentary we'll watch soon, but Vince is playing the role of ultimate legacied insider and hard-worker who finds wild success (sort of the heel and the face at the same time, both onstage and off, at different stages).
Bischoff, on the other hand, presents a model of irreverence and audacity that only an outsider could possess. His text 'From Disadvantage to Edge' begins: Applying for the executive producer's spot was a big leap. I though there was a very slim chance that I'd get the job. I had only one real advantage-- I wasn't a wrestling guy." (81) He doesn't have to play by the established rules, and none of the loyalty, dedication, or deep understanding of the sport came into play. Instead, he could reenvision wrestling as an entertainment format, and say things like 'Screw that and let's just produce television' (92) and fire people that had histories and change the criteria for a successful wrestling show to something off from what had been happening and developing slowly over time.
Bischoff's role as outsider allowed wrestling an evolutionary leap, on some level. He offered a burst of energy, a challenge to status quo, a direct challenge to Vince and the WWE. I think most would agree that this insider-outsider matchup of Vince and Eric was largely responsible for reinvigorating and refining the wrestling medium.


Mike W. said...

That's a very interesting perspective on things, and one that seems to hold true. The reason McMahon succeeded, according to WWE's version of the story, is because Vince Jr. did not want to do wrestling the way it had been done in the past; the characters, the presentation, and the national expansion all went far beyond what an "insider" would have attempted at the time.

Vince Russo was lauded with saving the WWF by creating the "Attitude" era, and I believe he was considered an "outsider" (though I don't know enough about him to say if that's true or not).

After a certain time, however, the outsider becomes the insider, and what was fresh and innovative becomes the status quo. Watching the Attitude-era Royal Rumbles recently, I couldn't help but think how similar they are to the TNA product currently - from characters, to storylines, the diminishing emphasis on wrestling matches, and, of course, the "clusterf**k" main event, featuring the referee bump and run-in by no less than five people.

But all that may not matter, really. Was Russo the innovator at the time? Others would argue that, without ECW, there would be no impetus for change. WWF Attitude took ECW's style and made it their own. The person at the helm of ECW? Paul Heyman; but, was he an insider or outsider? Yes, he'd been in the business in various forms since the early 1980's, but from all the reading I've done, it seems nobody saved room for kind words about him. I suppose, then, we have to define "insider" and "outsider." Heyman was certainly an "outsider" in pro wresting, but a different sort of "outsider" than someone who took no effort or interest in the show.

Luis Tenorio said...

It seems like outsiders are not welcome by the hardcore audience of wrestling but they always seem to be the ones who bring in the main stream audience and raise ratings. Of course the way that outsiders succeed is by understanding the audience they are trying to reach and appeal to them while still trying to appeal to the audience that stays with them through thick and thin, the hardcore. Of course there are those outsiders who think they can treat wrestling like any other TV show and try to work within the rules of network TV. I think Bischoff was a real outsider since he was just an interviewer and never really had experience with the outcomes of wrestling and he even admitted that he would worry about ratings more than anything and be so confident about it and not think about the wrestling.

Sam Ford said...

You all have good points here, and the "insider" vs. "outsider" dynamic works well. Almost everyone is an outsider when they start in wrestling, unless they are one of many second or third-generation wrestlers or promoters. In Vince's case, he plays up often that he is a third-generation promoter, but we'll see in our readings soon that it's a little bit of a stretch because he didn't grow up in the wrestling business with his father.

As some of you mention, many people didn't consider Jr. to be an insider like his dad but rather a kid who didn't really know the business but who was taking over his father's company and running wrestling into the ground. Yet, Vince has not only became the insider over time but instead the ULTIMATE insider.

But you are right that Ole's rhetoric often played into Vince's hand. Vince is a third-generation wrestling promoter who cares nothing about wrestling, while Ted Turner owns a media conglomerate who happens to have a wrestling company. Vince plays it up as a family-owned business dedicated to the wrestling industry versus a corporate tyrant just in wrestling for the profits. And that narrative worked quite well in establishing an edge for WWE among fans.