Monday, 14 February 2011

The State of Pro-Wrestling Explained...Another Way

Happy Commercialised Love Day! This week, we thought we'd show you our cleverness, particularly when it comes to comparing things against other things in order to better understand the first thing. In the same vein as Brad taking on the role of explaining American Football using Aliens. This was a great post, and made me realise two fundemental things:

1) The idea of using an analogy can be E14.
2) I wanted some of Brad's action.

Thus, I resolved that I would find an analogy to illustrate the state of professional wrestling as it stands now. After some time, I have found two companies that compare well to the two major players in the professional wrestling world, WWE and TNA. Ladies and Gentlemen...I give you...

Pro-Wrestling Explained...Using Apple and Microsoft

For the benefits of this comparison, Apple will take the role of TNA (and also WCW for the sake of historical equivalency) and Microsoft will take the role of WWE. Funnily enough, the origins of Microsoft included some contract work on the Apple II, as well as the original Macintosh computer. Microsoft then went their own way, as did Apple, so for the early days it tends to be that the analogy doesn't work as well. In fact, doing my research, the only correlation I could find is that I've known people who have never owned a computer, and I've also known people who've never watched a wrestling match. Not much of a correlation, but there you go.

The real jumping-on point for the analogy is when Apple had financial problems in the mid-to late 1990s. The company was in serious financial trouble, mainly owing to a change of management at the top which had been for the considerably worse. Mirrored in this way was a lack of support in WCW for the man known as Eric Bischoff, despite his superb efforts to provide a genuine competitor to a federation that had been running roughshod over the competitors for the most part. Indeed, Bischoff is fond of the statistic that WCW Monday Nitro overtook WWE's Monday Night RAW for 88 straight weeks, and serious kudos must go to him for that.



Similarly, there was a bad habit in WCW at that time for letting good talent go to waste. Though I have to admit that I had no idea who Chris Jericho was when I saw him debut on Monday Night Raw in that period, I have to say that WCW were mad to let him go. Same for Chris Benoit, same for Eddie Guerrero. In the same way, Apple were absolutely mental to put anyone other than Steve Jobs in charge at their head.

As a result, WWE purchased WCW and ran their 'Invasion' storyline, and then on the flip side Microsoft purchased $150 million dollars worth of non-voting shares in Apple, and resolved to release a Mac version of their hugely successful Microsoft Office software, a product group which still brings in a ton of money for both companies today. Now, this brings us to the next point of comparison.

So WWE is number one, numero uno with no competitor whatsoever. Granted, Microsoft has never been without competition in any space. Software-wise, they've had Apple directly for their Operating System, they've had Netscape Navigator (remember that, kids?) in the browser space, and even more now. However, what definitely happened in both cases was a consumer backlash, mainly centred around a perceived lack of innovation and perhaps a certain complacency regarding being the number one by some margin. People saw Microsoft as not making Windows the best it could possibly be, particularly when it came to a few select Operating Systems (ME and Vista mainly), where WWE was shoving their favourite guys down your throat. In both cases, there seems to have been an emphasis on things that were bulky and a little on the large side (Vista and Albert in the respective corporations).

So TNA comes along, or the Apple of the pro wrestling world. They've got the perceived youth, and that shiny veneer about them. TNA took the concept of the four-sided ring, an established tradition in the activity, and changed it to a six-sided ring for quite a while. Similarly, Apple with their iMac project (which was their first project after their 'bail-out') took a more radical approach to form factor and the integration of hardware and software. Say what you like about Apple (and I did here...and here), but they make some sleek-looking bits of kit.

So the people who see themselves as wanting to be on the forefront of coolness embrace the new, younger, hungrier company with something to prove. It's made particularly interesting by the company's approach to competition. On the tech side, Mac vs PC ads demonstrated Apple's penchant for the trendier customer while at the same time reinforcing the stuffier, business image that a lot of people have of Microsoft in their head. As well as that, there's this bizarre disdain for Microsoft no matter how cool their products are. It's a little bit sad and pathetic at times, it has to be said, as a lot of the time if you push someone on why they feel the way they do towards Microsoft, they can't give you a decent well-reasoned answer.

On the wrestling side, TNA would let certain wrestlers do 'shoot' vignettes, where for example the Voodoo Kin Mafia (with initials VKM to ape the CEO of their competitor) would suggest that the remaining members of Degeneration X to a real-life fight either in the ring or anytime, anywhere. It's one of the more aggressive moves since Bischoff's tactics to keep Nitro on top, and it's aggressive in the kind of way that only people in the know will understand.

What happens next is interesting in both cases. There's a shift from one to the other. Not a massive shift, in either case, but enough to make the sleeping giant take notice. Until that point, the radar had probably not been on. For Microsoft, it was probably when Apple started to dominate in the phone section as well as mp3 players, and when the Mac gradually gained market share. For WWE, it was this moment:



Now, here's where the comparison has the most weight. So, you have some defectors who have made the 'switch' from either WWE or Microsoft to TNA or Apple. Here's where the controversy comes in, as I can confidently predict the following:

Neither TNA nor Apple will ever be number 1. The number one position is too highly cemented, and ultimately I think that both CEOs are realistic in their ambitions that they might well want to be but are fully willing to accept that number one is too lofty a goal. Having said that, there is a lot of money in second place as a general rule, as exhibited by the companies still making mp3 players despite Apple's dominance in that space. Besides, I'm all for competition; when companies compete, consumers win.

Anyway, what happens from here on in is simple: Ultimately, Apple fans are pretty set in their ways for the most part. Barring some defections back from Mac to PC surrounding the Apple/Flash debacle, in my line of work I generally see people buy what they know unless they're buying a computer to accompany the one they already have. Similarly, I don't know many die-hard TNA fans who would happily watch a WWE Pay per view with the possible exception of the Royal Rumble.

Now, this is not to say that TNA/Apple will not accumulate some serious interest from consumers as they become more well-known. This is also not to say that their momentum cannot be undone. As exhibited by the above example, Apple have lost a few fans over the Flash situation. In my experience as well, Apple seem to be experiencing some discord among their fans for their approach to what Steve Jobs calls "Post-PC" devices, as pricing and frequent revisions seem to be combining to make for some increasingly broke motherfuckers.

Then of course, there's always a third option. In one case, its fanbase consist of a mix of people who genuinely know their stuff and a bunch of hardcore douchebags who just think that corporations are stupid, and that everything should be free with no economic knowledge as to why that wouldn't work. And then there's Linux...

Besides, give it a few years, and I might be throwing Google/Wrestling World of Wrestling into the mix as well.




GAME OF DEATH GIVEAWAY

Action hero Wesley Snipes (Blade, Demolition Man) is back on top form in this dynamite powered, action spectacular. An accelerated blast of full-throttle violence, heart pounding thrills and death defying action sequences. Also starring unstoppable kickboxing champion Gary Daniels (The Expendables) and female stunt legend Zoe Bell (Death Proof, Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2).

Detroit: one of the toughest cities in the world. The kind of place where Agent Marcus (Snipes) fits right in as one of the most merciless and deadly bodyguards in the business. He's a walking war who'll stop at nothing to protect his clients. When a famous senator is injured during an assassination attempt and held in hospital, Marcus unleashes a storm of hellfire and fury to protect his life. Ruthless assassins, trained killers, double-crossing C.I.A agents and infamous arms dealers are all about to become players in the Game Of Death, a game of few survivors where losing is not an option.

Thanks to our friends at Optimum Home Entertainment, we've got three copies of Game of Death on Blu-ray to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to emotionally14@hotmail.co.uk before midday on Monday 21st February, making sure to put "Game of Death" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy each!

Don't forget to put "Game of Death" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Game of Death is available from Monday 21st February, priced £15.99 (DVD) and £19.99 (Blu-ray).

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.


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