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WWEWDW: Remembering Marty Sklar

I wrote this blog separately from DillosDiz in 2013 following reading Marty Sklar’s book today. I was amazed by how many of his ideals I truly value – and may be why I continue to watch pro wrestling!

Most of the links and images have since been removed – enjoy!

Over the past 24 hours, I have completed renowned Walt Disney Imagineer Marty Sklar’s book ‘Dream It! Do It! My Half Century of Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms’ and have been disappointed by my third WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) pay per view in the past two months. The disappointment of the latter led into my thoughts about the former and how these two entities – Disney & professional wrestling/sports entertainment/rasslin’ have consumed a large portion of my life.

Seriously. You would be horrified if I showed you a pie chart.

The pay per view was the Survivor Series. When I was a kid, this was a Thanksgiving tradition – a rare opportunity to see superstars fight other superstars in rare 5 of 5 elimination style match-ups. The past 15 years of cable televised wrestling, initiated by the mid-90’s competition resulting in WWE buying out its rival WCW, have diluted this format. There are very few matches that feel fresh or unique and the challenge the company is facing in creating compelling storylines for, um, renewed rivalries is quite evident.

Last night, the best match on the card was the one that paid homage to the days of yore: the 5 on 5 elimination style matchup. And it made me long for the simplicity. It made me want to say to whomever in Stamford, Connecticut may listen – keep it simple, stupid.

So, it was quite interesting this morning as I finished Mr. Sklar’s book that he references the k.i.s.s. – It made me flip back to his creation, ‘Mickey’s Ten Commandments’ (there are actually 40, but he started with 10) to see if I could draw parallels betwixt the world of Disney Parks and the world of the WWE to see why the struggles are the way they are.

1. Know your audience.

Now, if you read the internet about wrestling (and SO MANY of you reading this blog right now do…), the collective fists have been shaking in the air for about 3 months regarding the use of Daniel Bryan. He’s not a giant. He’s not a powerlifter. He’s not the leading man type. Daniel Bryan is an underdog who became the most exciting entertainer in the WWE during the Summer of 2013. The audience reaction grew, intensified, with their responsive chants of ‘YES! YES! YES!

When the face of the company, John Cena, needed surgery and a few months off, it was clear who should take the ball and run with it for that period of time. The audience dictated it.

Instead, they demeaned Bryan on television. Pointing out the flaws. We’re all led to believe these are just villainous things to do, but audiences are not stupid. They could sense it. They knew this story was not going to end well. For four consecutive pay per view events, where the audience pays $55 to watch at home – the WWE stripped their audience of a happy ending.

The audience is still waiting. And sitting on their hands for the current main events taking place.

Know your audience – which you may be thinking about me and my blog as I write about pro wrestling/sports entertainment.

2. Wear your guests’ shoes.

Critics will also say that the WWE never thinks about the audience’s perspective. That the company will run gags and gimmicks that amuse themselves more than what the millions of Twitter followers think.

This, honestly, has been going on for years. What the company seems to be failing at is taking the time and patience for the audience to accept the gags and gimmicks (the ones that work) before the company changes direction, or trying to force feed corporate methodology when we accept them too quickly. This has made the audience complacent.

3. Organize the flow of people and ideas.

“Make sure there is a logic and sequence in your stories and in the way guests experience them.”

Last night was the first staredown between the storyline driven ‘face of the company’ Randy Orton & the ACTUAL face of the company since 2005, John Cena. Cena returned from injury last month – why would we want to follow a storyline about the evil ‘Authority’ (Owner Vince McMahon’s daughter Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley and, her husband, multiple time champion Triple H) wanting Orton as the face of the company when the face of the company has been back for a month? And we all know he’s the face of the company without question?*

*this opinion is subject to change based on the direction of this developing storyline

4. Create a visual magnet.

Well, there’s a ring – so, bravo!

5. Communicate with visual literacy (color, shape, form, texture – all nonverbal ways of communication)

Whether it’s the mood lighting for Sin Cara….

Or, structures, like the Hell in the Cell…

Or, the awesome new entrance of The Wyatt Family.

WWE plays with these forms more than we realize, which is, in part, why we keep watching. It’s visually appealing.

6. Avoid overload – create turn-ons.

“Resist the temptation to overload your audience with too much information…”

I’m looking at you broadcast team. You want to promote the main event during a lower level match, that’s one thing. Having a completely off topic conversation or engaging in bad word play while a match is taking place? Channel flipping worthy.

7. Tell one story at a time.

WWE has 50+ wrestlers/sports entertainers that they are trying to get on television every week, so there are multiple stories. Let’s just take a look at a couple:

The Miz: he just became a bad guy (I think..) last week after a a year long dalliance as a good guy… are we going to find out why? Does this character have an objective? You know, like characters do in stories.

Big Show: he was fired by the McMahon-HHH ‘Authority’ because he wouldn’t do what he was told, then rehired after filing a lawsuit. Then, he was rehired and demanded a title match at the Survivor Series pay per view. Who’s the protagonist and who’s the antagonist in this scenario? Because, when he lost his match to Randy Orton…

Ok, that’s all I got.

8. Avoid contradictions – maintain identity.

There are characters who maintain their identity despite the many changes that is weekly episodic television. John Cena, he who is WWE’s Superman, is loved by half the audience and absolutely loathed by the other half. He has had a longer run at the top of the company than Hulk Hogan did in the 1980’s prime of Rock ‘n’ Wrestling. That’s the first problem – burn out – and a stark refusal by some, or all, of the players involved to adapt and change with the times. The second problem is when Cena should be emotionally phased by a storyline occurrence- he isn’t, and when he is – he shouldn’t be. Despite the countless times he has lost titles or just his matches, we have never seen John Cena’s kryptonite, or believed that it was kryptonite if it was staring us in our Metropolized faces. His Wrestlemania 29 match against Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson was the climax of a story for Cena, where he struggled for 12 months following his loss to Rocky at WM 28…

Except he beat Brock Lesnar a month after that loss. You know, Brock Lesnar from UFC? After Lesnar destroyed him for 20 minutes.

Nobody bought into this redemptive storyline.

Identity? Yes. Contradictions? Aplenty.

9. For every ounce of treatment, provide a ton of treat.

I think the argument by many would be that they are getting an ounce of treat because there is no treatment.

10. Keep it up! (maintain it!)

Here’s the last one. For three months, WWE has been maintaining mediocrity (and I’m being nice). This is unfortunate due to the amount of excitement brewing within their roster: The Shield, The Wyatts, Cesaro and his giant swings, the Rhodes’ Brothers, Bryan, CM Punk, The Usos (if used properly), the AJ/Kaitlyn feud that sadly went off the rails because there’s a WWE Divas show on E!

And I get that the WWE is not a theme park, but the similarities are there – why else would I be drawn to both the way I am?

The WWE is on its fourth decade of being my guilty pleasured addiction. The potential is always there and that’s what really gets me.

What is potential if there is no follow through?

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