Friday, October 10, 2014

Why WCW lost money in the early 90s: Exhibit A & B

As mentioned in the readings, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) transitioned in the early 90s to a more sports-entertainment format to compete with the WWF. Part of that transition were producing mini-movies to hype pay-per-views, something the WWF was not doing, all with unintentionally hilarious results.

Exhibit A: Sting vs. Vader and the White Castle of Fear. Unfortunately there's no little burgers:

Exhibit B: Sting vs. Jake Roberts and the "Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal". I really hope Pat Sajak says this line some time on Wheel of Fortune:

I should note that the videos were never explained at all on television. Why does Vader have an evil lair and where is it? Why is Jake Roberts not just challenging Sting to his preferred type of match? Apparently Vader and Roberts both trust the same little person (named Cheatum). Such videos, which have almost nothing to do with wrestling itself, ties in nicely with Ole Anderson's earlier remarks about wasted money in the late 80s/early 90s


Sam Ford said...

Absolutely...and we can read about the role Ole played in producing some of these vignettes, admittedly at a time when he was just drawing a paycheck rather than being in charge any longer...Ole's read of the WCW regime is an entertaining take from someone who lived through the transition from what wrestling was to the "corporate America" version.

Marshall Metcalf said...

I think the whole concept of pay-per view wrestling is an amazing one. So many people are spending extra money on watching professional wrestling. Vince definitely hit the ball out of the park with it. I'd imagine that a lot of the money that the WWE now makes was because of this great transition.

Timothy S. Rich said...

Pay Per Views certainly create a whole revenue stream on their own, although it might have been possible to do similar numbers pre-internet by going town to town (assuming the proper build up).

My biggest concern with the PPV model, which is most evident in today's WWE product, is the difficulty in properly building up the interest in a PPV show when there is one almost every four weeks. In the 80s, PPVs were at best four times a year. That's plenty of time to build up the main event and undercard. Now, frequently a PPV this month looks much like the last one, with a series of rematches and few actual conclusions.

With the new WWE Network (which gives access to PPVs at a fraction of the regular cost), the company has even less incentive to differentiate each show.

Sam Ford said...

Differentiation is one thing. I'd also argue that there's a pace in storytelling that has its plus and minuses. On shows now, as soon as one major event is finished, they need to start the build for the next one on the next night's show. So they move constantly from building to one event to the next. When you only had 4-5 mega-events a year, there was sometimes a lack of direction between shows...but that also meant there was room for exploring mini-feuds that would never make it to PPV, or do things that helped build characters up and build suspense on a "slow burn" for a mega-match in a way that is accelerated when you always only have 4 weeks to build for the next show...