And Another Thing: Bringing Down The House
Posted by Hyatte on 01.01.2000
While everyone focuses on changing TV, here’s a plan on how to make house shows just as exciting.
The plan was to present a novel approach to running house shows. Upon re-reading, it’s clear that it isn’t my best work.
(originally presented August, 2000: 411 wrestling)
Somewhere along the way, the Business changed.
When did it change? Who knows? All I can tell you is that it occurred sometime after Nitro debuted and sometime before Titan Sports went public. During that curious 5 year period, filled with NWO takeovers, Sieges on the McMahon Throne, 3:16s, backstage tantrums, power plays, and the Fall of the Harts… the very nature of Pro Wrestling changed.
From its inception, Wrestling was a traveling act. From city to city, these men, women, and Midgets would ply their trade in exhibitions of athletic skill. At first, they were just part of a larger Carnival. Don’t like the Bearded Lady? Had enough of the Lion Tamer? Well step on over to the next tent and be amazed by this competitive ballet!
Over time, wrestling grew in popularity and broke out from the Carny. It became its very own entity. With the advent of Television, Wrestling found a new way to advertise itself. Make no mistake since the first match was held on television, Wrestling always used the medium as a way to get you and your hard earned dollars to the nearest arena the next time Wrestling hit your town. In a way, Pro Wrestling was Television’s first “Infomercial”.
Vince McMahon knew this better than anyone else did. Before he became a Billionaire, he was a simple man, making a meager living as a small millionaire. Back during the Wrestlemania days, everything was for the House show. Each TV match featured a hapless journeyman playing tackling dummy for the Star to show off his skills. From time to time, Vince threw in a “featured match” between two big stars, or even Hulk Hogan, but that was usually only to develop a storyline… which, of course, would be played out at your nearest House show. WCW did the same thing every Saturday night for two hours, but their matches were more of a Main Event caliber. WCW on Saturday Night was exciting, action packed, and featured all the company’s top stars every week, but still what did the show do other than whet our appetites for the next House Show? “Jake the Snake wants revenge against Rick Rude, and at the (Insert Local Arena here), the Snake will STRIKE! Good seats still available!”
Even with the advent of Pay Per View, the idea was still the same. Pay Per View is simply a House Show brought into our homes, instead of the other way around. Essentially, the PPV altered the business, but it did not change anything. Wrestling still made it’s money on the road. Working the Houses week after week… 300 days a year
Then, it all changed. RAW came on. Eric Bischoff debuted Nitro. Wrestling became a weekly horserace for ratings dollars and your viewer ship. It was a bloody war played out on (usually) live TV once a week. The Media took notice, as did more and more new fans. During this period, House show dollars, while still important, were not as profitable as advertising dollars. Wrestling on Television stopped being Informercials for House shows. They started being Informercials for next week’s show! In his goal to destroy the WWF, Eric Bischoff offered top names like Kevin Nash and Scott Hall lucrative contracts that required them to only work a small number of House Shows. Meanwhile, with the debut of Smackdown, the WWF cut back the number of House shows to two or three days a week… to keep everyone healthy for the TV shows. For the first time in WWF History, workers get an actual weekend, sometimes a three-day weekend, every week! Meanwhile, WCW rarely has a House show, and when they do, you’re lucky if you get more than three big name stars.
The Business has changed.
So why keep on the House shows? Surely, the 100-200 thousand dollars they pull in on sales and merchandise is nothing to sneeze at, but why even bother anymore? Attendance is way down, for WCW at least. In the WWF, they still sell out the untelevised shows, but reports say that half the building leaves after the Rock performances at the halfway point. The fans know that House shows mean nothing anymore. Other than the RARE “spontaneous” moment where Steve Austin might pass out, House shows literally mean nothing to storylines and gimmicks. House shows mean nothing anymore, and once this new wrestling craze tapers off… attendance will shrink down to a point where both companies might say “Why bother”, and erase the concept altogether.
Well, I have an idea.
In the past three years, three “moments” took place at various WCW House shows that deviated from the norm. Were it not for the Internet, we would have never even known what had happened. In 1998, WCW Champion, “Hollywood” Hogan cleanly laid down for Raymond Rougeau in Montreal. A few months later, Chris Benoit and Booker T exchanged the Television title several times at numerous House shows over the course of a week. Finally, early last year, Hollywood Hogan fought Bret Hart for the first time in a San Francisco House. From all accounts, the fans loved every minute of it and went home completely satisfied. No one raised too much of a ruckus when WCW chose to ignore these moments on television, thus pretending that they never existed. They didn’t. They happened at a House show. No cameras. Thrilling as they might have been and as happy as it made the fans… these moments did not occur. They were simple deviations!
I say, make the deviations the norm!
Throw the book away. Let the Wrestlers do whatever they want at the House shows! Go wild! Go crazy! Who cares? It isn’t broadcasted! It NEVER EXISTED!
Kevin Nash has always had a good head for business. Say they are planning a program between him and Lance Storm, how cool would it be if Storm comes out during a House show and challenges Nash to a Grudge Match? How cool would it be if Nash laid down and put the guy over? How about, just for fun, Kronic gets into a shoving match with each other during a tag match and have an impromptu one on one match?
If they play in North Carolina, wouldn’t it be fun if Ric Flair made a guest appearance and take on Booker T for the crowd? It would mean nothing to the current storylines… it would not matter to anyone other than those special people who showed up for a show. Let’s give them one that will make them always come back!
Then there’s the WWF. The WWF have been doing better with House Shows, and they are far more strict with the rules; but the times have changed. Have Rocky tap out to the Crossface a few times. Word will get around and the fans will be JACKED for the next PPV match up… I promise. Besides, WCW is the company in deeper trouble, and it has already played around with this concept. They need all the help they can get as it is.
I being very specific here, and that’s not fair. My point is, the House Show, especially now, is the ideal place to try out new things, to practice new moves, and to give the people something they never even considered! Both companies pride themselves on their “Anything Can Happen” slogan. Why can’t they live up to that idea?
It will also be good for the talent. Working the road is not fun. Being away from their families is not fun. Why is Wrestling plagued with heavy drug use and alcoholism? Could it be because of one too many lonely nights in a cheap Hotel room? The road is tough and unforgiving… so why not relieve the talent of some of their stress by making the House a fun place to work? Spice things up. Get these big names excited about working a House! Imagine the pops they would get? After all, what fan wouldn’t cheer something totally unexpected? If these guys love the sport so much, they should be drooling at the concept of going to a House show and working against someone different… of doing unusual things. Who wouldn’t? It’s a surefire moral booster.
And what of the worker who prefers not to shoot? Oh well. Give him someone he has worked with a million times already and throw them out at the opening of the show. Get them done early and get them out of there.
It sounds iffy, I know. The famous egos of the big stars put the whole proposal on shaky ground. I can envision fistfights breaking out over who puts over who. Maybe if you remind them that this really doesn’t mean anything outside that building on that night, they might relax. If not, then break out the screwjob ending so that no one loses. It will cheapen the effect, but not a whole lot.
House Shows are lumbering towards the path of the Dinosaur. It’s the last shred of “Old School” in this new day. It’s time to make that final change and save the House Show from extinction. It is a good idea; it is a fun idea. If the WWF or WCW actually thought about doing so and asked the talent if they liked the idea… they might get an enthusiastic yes!
In fact, the most enthusiastic approval might be given by the most unexpected party, such as the guy who fought Bret Hart in San Francisco and put over Ray Rougeau in Canada.
It would not be too shocking if Hulk Hogan loved this idea.
Oh right, Hogan is unofficially gone from the company. It really happened.
This is Hyatte too