Paul Heymen’s Rant on WWE and TNALeave a Comment
Let’s get one thing out of the way, just so we can focus on the big picture: I’m not involved in tonight’s Monday Night Wrestling head-to-head programming as SpikeTV’s “TNA Impact” steps up against USA Network’s “WWE Monday Night Raw.”
Ironically, the fact I took my first vacation since 1993 lead to the rumors of my involvement, and those rumors ended up taking on a life of their own.
Since I’ve never actually enjoyed a “road trip” with my children, I figured it was time to experience a little bit of Americana with The Heyman Kids, and we set out on our little insane adventure. While I checked in regarding the Hustle (and other projects) frequently … ok, at first, obsessively, but I learned to relax a little … key words being “a little” … I didn’t respond to many calls or emails.
And that’s when the rumors got out of hand. “Heyman’s bringing in RVD and Ken Anderson…” “Heyman’s opening up the show on January 4th…” “Heyman is a 75% lock to start on Impact.”
I wish someone would have taken some action on that percentage. My money would have been on the 25% that I wasn’t showing up.
I’ve been the subject of rumors before, but when close friends in both WWE and TNA (sorry Dixie, WWE still gets top billing for now) are calling and emailing, convinced I’m hiding the secret that I’m appearing in Orlando on January 4th, it’s a bit stunning.
I always try to torment Jim Ross (one of my favorite pastimes) when he lets Internet reports bother him to such an extent that he’ll address them on his website (and, just to be fair to my pushing-60-but-still-better-than-any-other-kid-out-there former colleague, I’ll post a link to his site: http://www.jrsbarbq.com), but for the first time, I understand the need to do so. I hate addressing rumors (even when they’re true), because you’ve set the precedent for giving comment. Therefore, the next time there’s a ridiculous rumor, and you decide not to comment, people take your silence as confirmation there’s something to the story, because otherwise you’d address it.
I left the wrestling business on December 4, 2006 when I shook Vince McMahon’s hand after a rather volatile meeting with him and Stephanie, and I’ve never looked back. Some projects, like THE HEYMAN HUSTLE, are out in front of the public already, and there’s a ton of others in the works. I’m in no rush. I’m taking my time. I’m enjoying my family. And (here comes the segue), I’m looking forward to what happens out of this Monday Night head-to-head programming on SpikeTV and USA Network.
If you’re wondering why I’m not referring to tonight’s “1st Monday Night War In Almost A Decade” as a collision between WWE and TNA, it’s because this evening’s head-to-head competition has very little to do with the professional wrestling / sports entertainment industry.
Here’s the poop, at least from my perspective: SpikeTV’s Doug Herzog and Kevin Kay smell blood. And that blood they smell is the bleeding caused by the erosion of Raw’s fan base. Slowly but surely, Raw’s core audience is getting older and older, and the indescribably-important “youth audience” is not being replenished. Despite World Wrestling Entertainment’s Push-to-PG, the Goliath of Monday Night Cable Programming’s product is stale, and the terms “hip,” “happening,” “socially relevant,” or “pop culture phenomenon” don’t apply to Vince McMahon’s flagship cablecast anymore.
Raw, however, remains a powerhouse. Even the much-maligned “low 3′ ratings” are still way better than anything SpikeTV is pushing, and keep in mind Spike is the television home of the Ultimate Fight juggernaut. A decade past its heyday, Monday Night Raw is the driving force behind USA Network’s 4th consecutive sweep of the annual Cable Ratings Wars.
That, in and of itself, makes Vince McMahon a very influential person when it comes to NBC-Universal Executive Bonnie Hammer, who runs both USA (home of Raw) and SyFy (home of the WWE-owed ECW). For those of you keeping score, NBC is in a real state of flux. While Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts and NBC-Universal President Jeff Zucker prepare to defend Comcast’s takeover of NBC before a Senate Committee later this month, Bonnie Hammer continues to be the rising star in the NBC-U family. Long regarded, along with Oprah Winfrey and Valerie Schaer as one of the sharpest women in all of television, Hammer’s power lies in the fact USA is the crown jewel of the NBC-U television empire. Forget the network. Their business model collapsed, along with Zucker’s Midas touch, when the Jay Leno Experiment exposed the network as not budget-conscious, but simply desperate-for-programming.
USA, meanwhile, forged ahead. Under Hammer’s masterful guidance in 2009, USA drew a record 3.27 million viewers in primetime, a 14% improvement over its 2008 delivery. For the period spanning Dec. 29, 2008, through Dec. 27, 2009, USA swept ad-supported cable’s three top TV demos, averaging 1.49 million adults 25-54, an increase of 11% versus 2008, while also delivering 1.32 million viewers 18-49 (up 5%). The network also held off former WCW-home TBS to take the 18-34 demo, drawing 616,000 viewers.
Not only is USA surviving, it’s thriving. And heavy hangs the head that wears the crown.
Doug Herzog and Kevin Kay’s target for Twenty Ten: Stop Bonnie Hammer.
Bonnie Hammer’s easy weekly ratings boost: Vince McMahon’s Monday Night Raw.
In the cutthroat world of television, the next step was a “gimme.” Go after Raw. Put a dent in the already-dented armor of the Still-Standing-Giant.
So Herzog and Kevin Kay, along with “In Your Face” SpikeTV execs Sharon Levy and Brian Diamond decided to dip their toe into the shark-infested Monday Night waters. Looking at Spike’s positioning, you have to admit, it’s a pretty smart move. There’s no way for Spike to lose. Tonight, TNA will deliver three hours of primetime programming for the network, and next week, the network will air a live “UFC Fight Night” featuring Gray Maynard vs Nate Diaz.
Wait a minute. No Kimbo? No GSP? No update on Brock Lesnar? Doesn’t sound like a major head-to-head UFC vs WWE confrontation, does it?
That’s because UFC is simply putting on an event when their host network, SpikeTV, wants to pay them for the programming content Zuffa can deliver. As a matter of fact, UFC is not getting into the hype. Dana White is too focused on his own business (and StrikeForce, and anyone else wanting to get into MMA) to think this is a fight with WWE. The controversial Ultimate Fight President even laughed at the insinuation there would be a Monday Night War when he noted “I’m not trying to beat (WWE) on Monday night. I don’t think we would beat (Raw). Those guys pull killer ratings. It’s been like the highest rated show on television forever. We’re just putting a fight on Monday night because Spike wants us to.”
SpikeTV wanted UFC to deliver programming for Monday Night, January 11th, because the execs at Spike want to see where Raw is vulnerable. Even if TNA bombs tonight, it truly doesn’t matter. The network is going to pick apart not only the Demo-trending, but also the minute-by-minute ratings for Raw and TNA. Where did Raw lose viewers? Did TNA pick any of those viewers up? What caused the television viewership to change channels? What caused them to stick with what they were watching? Where can the counter-programming work to Spike’s advantage?
The real story of tonight’s head-to-head battle is not Vince McMahon vs Hulk Hogan, or the re-emergence of Eric Bischoff, or Stephanie McMahon’s vision for the future vs Dixie Carter’s vision for her company. It’s about SpikeTV executives’ decision to curb the enthusiasm (oy vey) of Bonnie Hammer and NBC-U’s 4th consecutive Cable Grand Slam.
So bring back Bret. Let Hulkamania run wild. Hand Eric Bischoff a mic, and let him declare it’s1995 all over again. Bid on Ric Flair’s “Whooooooo!” Make short term and long term offers for Rob Van Dam, Ken Anderson, and the remaining members of the Ring of Honor roster.
The key for TNA to take advantage of this programming decision is to use the increased attention to finally BRAND their company. Pick a direction, and stick with it. So far, the only hype has been Hulk Hogan declaring himself “The Vince McMahon of TNA” (sounds like the opening line for a Wrestlemania return),
and everyone else saying “The Monday Night Wars Are Back! The Monday Night Wars Are Back!”
I need a reason to care about AJ Styles. Seriously, how anyone in TNA can look at themselves in the mirror and accept the fact AJ, the promotion’s World Champion and one of the most consistent performers in the industry for over half a decade, is not nearly as well known as Sheamus is simply a crime. I like Sheamus’ push, and think WWE made a fantastic decision to elevate a new character into the main event, and present him not as a fluke, but as a real deal.
But for Sheamus to be so much better known to the general public at this point in his career than AJ Styles is not only a sign of WWE’s marketing success, but TNA’s most glaring failure.
I know why as a fan, Sheamus is to be hated. I don’t know why, as a fan, I am supposed to care about AJ Styles. I need a reason to believe in the Motor City Machine Guns. Besides being every school boy’s masturbatory fantasy, why should I spend my time thinking about Lacey Von Erich? Is Awesome Kong the Cris Cyborg of pro wrestling? If so, demonstrate that to me.
TNA has a chance to capitalize on its home network’s desire to derail USA Network’s momentum. Character development and TNA-brand-building are key. Tonight, TNA has the opportunity to declare to the public something far more substantive than “check out a bunch of former WWE big name stars in a six sided ring with some of our own guys who aren’t quite so recognizable.”
Tonight, TNA has a chance to deliver. Deliver to their own audience. Deliver to the 8pm Eastern Time curiosity viewers Hulk Hogan’s involvement may bring in. And most importantly, deliver a market study for SpikeTV execs to learn a little more about the true Ultimate Champion of the Monday Night Cable Wars:
WOW he had alot to say and you know what its ALL TRUE but i bet VINNY MAC is kinda pissed