Friday 19 September 2014

Narrative is a Draw Too

Is it enough these day for wrestling companies to put on excellent wrestling and expect people to watch their show or buy their DVDs? I don’t think so. While high quality wrestling is obviously desirable I don’t think it’s enough to sustain TV ratings, live stream buys, tickets sales, DVD purchases and so on in 2014. Or any other year come to that. There needs to be an ongoing narrative to hook you and keep you coming back to watch the great wrestlers doing their great wrestling.

A large part of pro wrestling’s appeal comes from its narrative. Its predetermined nature and associated theatrics mean that stories can be told in matches and, more importantly for the purposes of the point I’m making, across a number of shows to keep people entertained and tuning in. Y’know, like a soap, those things which millions of people become hugely invested in.

This isn’t to say that everything has to be in the Vince Russo-slash-Days of Our Lives mould. That approach has a very limited appeal and has been done very successfully before. There are dozens of alternatives. New Japan, for example, focuses on the journey up the card of a wrestler with wins and losses having a heightened meaning. WWE, generally speaking, tells stories about their mighty heroes overcoming long odds. Meanwhile TNA struggles with telling interesting stories and is floundering as a result.

The result of storytelling.
A continuing narrative is as intrinsic to pro wrestling as the wrestling itself. Without a compelling storyline people have no reason to invest in characters and keep watching. Wanting to see a babyface win a championship or a heel receive their comeuppance is something that can only be properly and effectively achieved if there are bookers or writers in place to structure plots over a period of weeks, months, or, in exceptional cases, years.

A roster filled with talented wrestlers is great. It’s ideal, in fact. But it’s not the be all and end all of a great wrestling promotion. If someone just wants to watch great wrestling these days they’re spoilt for choice. YouTube and similar sites provide countless great matches for free. Every promotion from New Japan to EVOLVE puts on its fair share of quality wrestling. Great wrestlers and great wrestling are not hard things to find.

My point (yeah, I’ve got one) is that wrestling companies need to offer people more than excellent wrestling. That’s good to have but it won’t necessarily keep people coming back. Give us reasons to support these great wrestlers and want to see them win. Narrative is a draw too.

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