Wednesday, April 04, 2007

WrestleMania 23 and WWE's Effect on The Indy's

I watched WrestleMania 23 at our stomping grounds - Good Time Emporium in Somerville, MA this past Sunday night. One measure of the health of WWE is how many people go to Good Times to see a PPV event. The cover charge is $5 and a lot of area fans who don't want to pay the high cost of getting the PPV at home head to Somerville to catch these events.

Sunday's crowd was the largest I've seen in a very long time. You attribute that to a lot of factors, including this year's Donald Trump angle creating a lot of mainstream publicity.

As for the show itself, overall, I enjoyed it. When WWE puts on a WrestleMania, all the stops are pulled out and everyone has his working boots on. Was it the best Mania in terms of matches? No. But it was worth the time and money and, of course, the biggest wrestling event of the year on the planet is a must-see.

Without dissecting the card match by match, I'll offer a few impressions. First off, I found it interesting and alarming that so much of the card hinged on older talent. Undertaker, Michaels, Benoit are all on the downhill slope of their careers. Austin is done as an active wrestler. The ECW "Originals" are also guys who have more career behind them than in front of them.

Then there is John Cena. Ask me about John Cena and I will tell you he is a gentleman, conducts himself as a pro at all times, comes from a terrific family and works his ass off with as much passion and dedication as you will ever see. Yet, in spite of all that, he is booed unmercifully at times. One sign in the crown at Mania said "Cen-A Nuff." Man, how cold-blooded is that?

To me, what Cena lacks is that certain aura that the big stars have. Michaels made Cena look like a boy at times and I felt so badly for him. Michaels was terrific in the match and it was a hell of battle. Cena was good, but looked like he was intimidated by the skill and charisma of Michaels and the spot itself. It's a lot of pressure to be a top guy in WWE. Cena has the work ethic, but the question is can he develop that presence that the great ones all have in common.

Watching any WrestleMania also makes me think about the state of the business in general, specifically the independent business.

We are in an interesting time. I see PPV buy rates falling, probably due to over saturation and competition from MMA. I see live gates coming around for WWE in smaller venues. I don't see that one breakout guy that every talks about and tries to emulate.

Independents in New England seem to be seeing an upswing in business. In the case of NECW and WWW, I think much has to do with the vast improvement in the quality of the product, the marketing and the dedication of a staff that really wants the company to succeed. I also think that WWE not having that breakout guy makes people more interested in wrestling in general, as opposed to just what they see on TV. Wrestling will always be driven by stars, but right now people are being a lot more open about who and what a star is. Local heroes (and villians) is a far more viable concept now than it was a few years ago. We are getting more and more people who have never been to an independent show before and come away enjoying it and appreciating the experience. We are also getting more families with kids looking for an inexpensive night out.

I see a bright future ahead for our company and the business in general.

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