FanPost

What wrestling can learn from the world of sport

If one thing is for certain, sport sells. Monday Night Football attracts over 12 million viewers a week in the US. UFC 190 drew about as many pay-per-view buys as Wrestlemania 17 in an era where the PPV is supposed to be dying out. It is also reported that over half of the world’s population watched the London 2012 Olympics. Wrestling, however, hasn’t been selling quite as well lately. Seeing how companies like UFC have taken influence from wrestling, isn’t it time wrestling took a bit of influence back from sport? After all, it’s where the business has its origins. Here’s a few things I think wrestling could take from professional sport in order to try and improve its business.

Tournaments

While Vince McMahon may not like them, tournaments are a sure fire way of making every match mean something. Tournaments are used in wrestling but not too their full potential in my opinion. I actually think a promotion should be built entirely around tournaments and that championship belts should be scrapped in favour of tournament trophies and titles. This means you can only win a championship once a year and a company doesn’t have to worry about a talent’s booking affecting the prestige of a championship. You could have tournaments that cover an entire month of programming. Where you get to in the tournament directly effects a wrestler’s position in the rankings. High ranked stars are seeded in the tournament draw and therefore have an easier path to the finals in the next tournaments. Basically how it works in many singles sports such as Tennis and Darts.

Tournaments can create new stars in one match. An upset victory can propel a talent to be considered a hot prospect in the next tournament. They can create long term rivalries from two superstars who are destined to face each other in the final. They can also be used to create a constant freshness to the overall product. If each tournament was held in a different country or had a different theme they could give the company a different feel every month of the year. Imagine an entire month of programming just dedicated to women’s wrestling or tag team wrestling? Imagine tournaments that look like Tennis Open Championships in countries like the USA, Canada, Japan and the UK. That would really put the ‘world’ or the ‘global’ in the names of the respective promotions. This is actually the kind of model I would have liked to have seen GFW adopt in order to differentiate itself from the competition so they don’t just seem like the early days of TNA.

Managers/Coaches

While there are some managers in wrestling, they aren’t that prevalent which is surprisingly considering there are a lot of good ones out there (Paul Heyman, Xavier Woods, Lana). But at their core, managers are not much more than glorified cheerleaders. In sport, coaches or managers are a key part of the success and failure for their teams. In wrestling, managers having any influence on strategy is merely suggested. In sport, manager strategy is a vital part of a team’s performance and the manager will take the brunt of the blame if their team doesn’t perform to the standard that is expected. A manager can make changes to the team, use a different formation, play someone in a different position, play defensive or attacking. These decisions can make all the difference when it comes to winning or losing.

What if managers in wrestling could actually have a direct impact on the strategy of matches? I’m not talking about managers interjecting themselves via interference. That’s been done to death. What I’m talking about is giving managers tools to use to make the difference when it comes to their client winning or losing.

One of the great things about having managers as strategic pieces of a wrestler’s puzzle along with the vocal ones is that the manager effectively becomes part of the act. That means if the manager is over, then so will the wrestler or team that he or she represents. This is great news considering the number of older wrestlers who companies like WWE rely on putting in high profile matches. In this model, they could instead be managers and help get someone else over rather than just themselves, whilst adding considerable star power to their client.

Challenges & Technology

With all the dodgy officiating that goes on in wrestling, it’s bizarre that no one has ever asked for a video referee who can review the tape to see if the referee’s decision was the right one. In many other sports this has been implemented. Soccer and Ice Hockey have goal line technology, Rugby has a video referee, Cricket has a third umpire. In 2015, it’s an essential part of sport.

You might argue that the problem with bringing in video refereeing as that the heel could no longer effectively cheat as the video referee would see his cheating and immediately reverse the referee’s decision. That’s why I’d implement the Tennis challenge system. If each wrestler only had one challenge they could use during a match, heels could still cheat but would have to be cleverer about doing it. You could also tell plenty of stories around the challenge system. Maybe the heel calls for a challenge just to put off the babyface. Maybe the video referee makes the wrong call despite the overwhelming evidence to suggest otherwise. Maybe a heel makes a challenge against himself for cheating in order to retain his championship. There are simply so many options with this move that reflects the world of sport in 2015.

Timeouts

While a few heels have ‘called for a timeout’ in the middle of a match, there are no official timeouts in wrestling. This means that in the regular television product, a match will on a regular basis, continue through a commercial break. This would never happen in sport as the game could finish in the middle of the break thus severely angering the audience at home that they didn’t get to see the ending. Timeouts solve this problem. American sports have used the timeout to great effect in order to fill their games with commercials instead of having to show the whole thing commercial-free. Wrestling could simply call a timeout as a way to get a commercial break and resume the action when the commercials are over.

Timeouts could also add an extra layer of psychology to a wrestling match. Imagine the heat a heel could get if his manager called for a timeout whilst he was getting pinned and about to lose a match. Time outs could also provide a more natural way for a particular wrestler to get the upper hand in the match. Usually heels randomly take advantage in a match for no real reason. A heel could use a timeout to get their breath back or even sneak attack their opponent when they are not expecting any physical contact.

Changes/Substitutions

This really would apply only to tag team matches. In team sports, substitutes can play a major part in the course of a match. One player changed can turn a struggling team into a winning one. These changes add an extra layer of drama to the proceedings and mean a match can continue without a disadvantage to one team if someone gets injured.

Substitutions could be a great way to get new talent over. You could create wrestlers who are great ‘super subs’. Ones that can make an immediate impact on a match but might not be as good as carrying an entire match themselves. This could refresh the stale formula of hot tags by giving it an extra dimension. It would also be a great device to get managers involved in the strategy of a match. A manager would be significantly praised if the substitute they brought into the tag team match was the deciding factor in their victory.

So that’s a few ways I think that wrestling can take influence from sport. Sports presentation has been unpopular in wrestling especially since the business was exposed as predetermined to the masses. However, I feel the traits and drama that comes from the real world of sport could only enhance the staged world of professional wrestling in 2015.

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.