Have you noticed an increase in popularity of classic wrestling thanks to the WWE Network
Absolutely. It is funny you said that. I have noticed over the last five or six years, when I started doing ComicCon conventions and the weekends when I work out on the road, there is no separation of fans. In the general population, there are two types – those who love wrestling and those who hate it. There is nobody in between, they are either all in or all out. If you follow the business, you know that numbers have dropped over the last 10 years. We have lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 to 48 million weekly viewers. Any other industry on the planet, like Microsoft or Wal Mart, losing that many customers would be out of business. All this stuff with Vince and his Internet network and his daughter dumping her stock, there is a lot of strange stuff going on behind the scenes. There has definitely been a dip in the business.
I think there is a yearning in the fans to see something akin to what they were brought up watching. When I talk to the fans, there is no separation and they would tell you that they were a lifelong fan of wrestling and have not watched it in years. Those things disconnected me. I was trying to figure out how someone could be a fan for all those years and then stop watching it? I get that the sport today is very different from what they grew up watching but I still can’t figure out that part of it. When you ask them, and take it a step further, and ask why they don’t watch it, the fans really don’t like Vince McMahon and his style of business. They have a grudging respect for what he accomplished in the business, but they really – they sensed he had the opportunity to provide what they wanted but really missed that target by a wide margin.
The fans have a dislike for Vince but have a hatred for his business and TNA and to me, I asked what would bring it back, they all said the same thing in different words. They would say old NWA, old WWF, old ECW, old WCW, I would be a fan again. What that said is that fans want old school wrestling – I don’t mean armbars for 25 or 30 minutes or an intelligent storyline that doesn’t make you feel childish because you liked it. They wanted something much closer to sports than the entertainment side. I’ve been preaching this for 15 years and have really almost started to forget about it. I felt after all this time, when I was in TNA when Dixie Carter first came onboard with Panda, I tried every way in the world to get her to go down that avenue, but she wouldn’t do it, so I almost completely lost interest.
This movie really brought out a very wealthy, well connected and fantastic businessman, and we started talking about a videogame about Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies. When we went to meet with him, he was very professional and polite and he turned to me and asked why wrestling today is so different than what he and I grew up watching. I would answer for him and then he would ask the same questions over again and I was starting to get hot because I didn’t think he was listening to me. After the meeting, I told Cody that and he said that he was just interested in all of that.
A week later, on Super Bowl Sunday, I got an email from him. I read the email but thought I wasn’t reading it correctly because it didn’t sound right. So, I read it a second time and then read it a third time and I was like holy shit, this guy isn’t wanting to just do something different, but he wants to change the industry. He is offering up a start-up new company, but this isn’t like ECW starting up in a bingo hall, he wants to start it up in a very big way. He wants to offer health insurance, revenue sharing, 401K and pension plans. I called him after I read the email to make sure I was reading it correctly. I told him we didn’t want to be fooled because we have all been fooled over 35 years in the business because there is not that kind of income in the business.
It is very possible, but the interesting things right now is that we sent out a lot of Letters of Intent and got back 35 rather quickly, and the other ones we didn’t get back, I wondered if they weren’t interested in this because I sure have would have wanted to be interested in this if I was still in the business full time. Kevin Sullivan and I were talking and he said that professional wrestlers are classic procrastinators. He then asked if I thought there were people out there who didn’t buy it. It took me three times to read it and a phone call to make sure it was real. But, you start to feel the ground move in the wrestling industry, there is something big at float here. The people who don’t buy it or don’t believe it, when they start to see this lion untamed coming out of the cage, that is when the reality will set in for some of them. The professional wrestling business will get very interesting over the next 12 months.
It would start in the next year?
I believe so. He and I started watching wrestling at the same time, with the WWWF with Bruno Sammartino and that is where his love of wrestling lies. I tend to temper that when I said you can’t bring back 1975 wrestling, but if we brought in an amalgamation of that style of storylines with real and believable characters and good stiff action, then that is something different. If someone asked if it was going to be like ECW, I would say no. That has been done – it’s been overdone. I think it is about time to let that legacy lie outside of reunions. It was a genie in a bottle and we got lucky with it on all cylinders. I’m not sure television today would want that kind of in your face, throwing women around, and the vulgarity of that thing. However, I’ve always considered the UWF to be the ECW before there was an ECW. Bill Watts used to write some amazingly intelligent storylines that really reached out and grabbed the audience, taking them along for the ride, along with a talented roster. If I was to answer in a three letter answer to what I would want it to look like, it would be UWF more than the WWF or WCW or ECW.