Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Wildman Economics

The last three chapters of Drawing Heat summarizes the death of Wildman’s wrestling business, which of course was symptomatic of the small time promoter/wrestler across North America, as well as regional promoters. This was due to the territorial expansion of McMahon’s empire, with the regionals and locals having draw and financial problems, as well as cultural changes where American wrestlers were winning for America—good guys were winning. There were marketing changes with the advent of Wrestlemania and larger TV audiences. The nature of the fan was drawn away from the local wrestling shows and local wrestlers themselves, to shows which featured heretofore unknown intercontinental heroes. The fan base around the country began to increase due to the “modernization” of wrestling personalities and media.

It was interesting that Freedman said his image of wrestling had vastly changed, from first watching arcane antics to now where wrestling was a nightly gamble. Freedman mentions it was sad to see Wildman beg the arena manager just for a chance so Wildman could have the opportunity of losing money!

Later we see Wildman’s economics where all can be overcome by working harder as this made the biggest difference; labor would save the year from financial loss. Wildman said he would cut costs, book more dates, become more focused on the road. This was Wildman’s true economy of man. In the end, the more Dave / Wildman worked, the deeper the hole he dug. All the while his costs rose dramatically, arena rents, overhead, and the cycle of not being able to book first tier wrestlers because he could not afford them. In the end, after a multi-year valiant struggle, and being $200,000 in the hole, it was Tunney’s new commissioner that got him.


Sam Ford said...

I thought the description of how The Wildman's economic logic fought against him was most devastating of all. Here, you have a man who puts on shows that re-enact the unfairness of the world and the pain of losing--the reality of capitalism vs. the ideal of capitalism--and yet, in his personal life, he still persevered through to believe that he might achieve the ideal of capitalism yet. And, here, Jim Freedman demonstrates how everything from market realities to changes in the wrestling business to lazy or past-their-prime performers to greedy arena managers to the tax man and beyond all come together to create an environment that made The Wildman lose more money the harder he worked. The Wildman's promotion becomes the plight of the hero, destined to lose to the bad guy, who becomes an enduring hero not just or even necessarily because he would never give up (Hustle! Loyalty! Respect!) but rather or especially because of the grace and character that he showed during those moments of terror. Dave was, as the mailman says of Whipper Watson, made of sterner stuff.

Timothy S. Rich said...

I found the economics discussion particularly enlightening. In part because I think many outsiders don't fully appreciate the non-performer costs associated with putting on wrestling. It's also a common tragedy seen in smaller wrestling promotions: hoping that booking a few known names, which cost considerably more, will generate enough butts in seats to turn a profit.

Drawing Heat also made a short reference to the difficulties in finding locations for wrestling. Arenas are costly and you're competing with other means of entertainment wanting the same space. Plus, in many cases other promotions will try to negotiate with arenas to book their shows exclusively (I've read elsewhere the WWF commonly attempted this tactic in the 80s and 90s).