If you can't tell yet, I spend nearly as much time lurking around comic book web sites as I do here at Cageside Seats. With WWE's increased presence at the comic book industry's very own "Granddaddy of them all", the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), I've been a kid in a candy store with news and rumors concerning two of my favorite geek passions over the last week.
One interesting rumor that began circulating over the weekend (starting with PWInsider and spreading across the wrestling internet like a virus, or spyware, from there) posits that WWE may be interested in starting up their own fan convention, modeled after Comic-Con.
The San Diego show started over 40 years ago as a regional place for comics, science fiction and fantasy aficionados to get together, hang with creators and buy collectibles, and has turned into a Hollywood extravaganza where books, television shows and films with only a tangential relation to comics are hyped. Given that, it should come as no surprise that Vince McMahon's mainstream media and movie industry obsessed company should be sniffing around the concept.
Very much still in the rumor phase, there are no concrete plans. The whispers apparently started due to WWE sending out some fan surveys to gauge the appeal of a potential convention and poll interest in different types of attractions. Ideas being floated include the usual convention fare such as panels with WWE writers, executives, Legends and current Superstars with question & answer and autograph sessions, pay-per-view (PPV) and event watching parties, and vendors selling memorabilia and other collectibles.
More wrestling-centric activities may include matches featuring talents from the WWE Performance Center and a museum/memorabilia display from WWE-owned pieces of pro wrestling history.
Guesses have the event as occurring over the course of three or four days and coinciding with a major PPV. Convention passes are presumed to be separate from event tickets. Cities reportedly under consideration include New York, Orlando, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Miami, Philadelphia and Las Vegas.
A number of questions spring to mind:
How would this be different from Axxess events that already occur before WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Royal Rumble?
The most notable difference seems to be the inclusion of vendors and fans other than WWE selling merchandise and collectibles. But that in itself opens up a world of questions. How would WWE decide who to license to participate? Would TNA or independent associated material be permitted? Assuming the answer to that is no, would WWE allow companies that work with competitors to participate, or would they have to promise to only do business with the Stamford-based giant? And if that was the case, would anyone want to sign that deal?
Beyond that, all of the speculated upon happenings already go on at most Axxess events.
How would kayfabe be handled in the proposed panels?
They experimented with this concept with the "Shooting Straight" panels that were held in Arizona for the Rumble last year. Those were reportedly extremely open and resembled the shoot interviews to which their title was alluding. But they also covered events (The Montreal Screwjob and the heyday of D-Generation X) from a decade or more ago.
Would they be willing to delve in to more recent storylines and situations? I think I know a few folks who would eat up a Summer of Punk II discussion, but how would that work when CM Punk's character is still based on those days to some extent?
Will they really trot out a bunch of writers to answer questions from hardcore fans? This one is so tantalizing it's almost worth the price of admission alone, but I could also see it going badly off the rails. Do more casual fans care about that kind of "inside baseball" access, or would they be turned off by how the hot dogs are made?
And if they don't open up the discussion to recent history or previously off-limits personnel, can they fill four days?
What are they hoping to achieve with a convention?
Will WWE-i-con accomplish anything that existing PPV fan events like Axxess don't already? This would appear targeted at the hardcore or so-called smart fan, but a lot of us already plan to spend our big event weekend free time with independent shows that follow in WWE's wake. And the 'E will never be able to really offer what we crave from those shows: different talent working a different style that what we'll ever see on Raw or Smackdown or even NXT.
Is a goal here to ensure that newer fans or folks on the fence about checking out smaller promotions have something to do instead of going to WrestleCon or similar events? I'd argue that the success of those shows create consumers who are more likely to buy more WWE product, but as a publicly traded company, Vince and family may want to stake a claim to every wrestling dollar out there.
Is a goal to attract more mainstream attention like SDCC has? It probably is, because I think that's a motive in everything the company does. But again, I'm not sure that the small differences between the convention idea and what they already do would attract a whole lot of Hollywood or other media eyeballs.
What do you think? We (anyone who cares enough about WWE or pro wrestling to read about it online) are at least initially a big component of any business plan for a convention-style event. Would you go? Are there types of attractions that could sway you to attend?
Or is this another rumor that will never see the light of day? Or one, like The World and the XFL, that never should come true?