An Interesting Read from an old interview with Bill Watts…

I was rummaging through RSPW-legend Herb Kunze’s “Tidbits” (thats what she said) today and came across this awesome gem from 2/9/95. Check it out. It’s worth reading in full because well, I didn’t write it. Oh man, I totally just zing’d myself.

– I’ve had the chance to read some old Wrestling Flyer interviews (Thanks
Jason) and have come across a few things that might be particularly
interesting to the net at large. When WCW went to Hulk Hogan, there
was some talk about Bill Watts’ run a couple of years ago. Here is
Bill’s response in 01/93 to the question “What effects did all the
happenings in the professional wrestling industry in the year 1992
have on the overall success, long-term well-being, and the existence
of the wrestling business?” (any errors are probably not due to the
scanner; they are probably just newsletter typos…please let me know
if you enjoy this and I’ll try to scan the few other interesting
things):

Well, I think we’re seeing the overall effect of just the business.
These other things (scandals, houses and TV hitting all-time lows) are
just a part of it. I don’t think those things are the cause, I think
they’re the effect of the overall status of the industry. I think the
industry has been down-trending since ’86. There was a mega-trend, a
mega-change in the thing and you had the destruction of the
infrastructure of this business, the very thing that kept it alive – all
the independent areas that had places for new talent to get in, get
experienced on a regular basis, and then as they rose up, they
advanced to bigger and better areas. Also, the different areas as they
had turnovers in ownership, you get better people in or worse people in.
So, you had a constantly changing industry that had eighteen to twenty
different places in this country to go work. and now you basically have
two.

At the time you had these two, one guy took it and made it a faddish
event to be with a lot of tremendous media blitzing and
positioning. At the same time, he totally killed the credibility of our
business. It was always questionable, but he removed all doubt, and
turned his empire into a cartoon comic strip come to life concept. And
he thought that, it was so big and making so much money, it would go on
and on forever. And this company here evolved into it and all of a
sudden, they had people that in my opinion, TV executives, that didn’t
understand the industry and didn’t even understand how to pay attention
to their own research. They started copying it and combined with that,
this company had a bunch of TV executives that knew nothing about it and
they started guaranteeing talent huge contracts that had no basis for
performance or incentive. So they didn’t give a damn whether they made
the event or didn’t make the event or had a good match or had a bad
match, they got paid. The NFL experienced the same thing back in the
early ’60s where they had guaranteed contracts and they would end up
with a lot of #1 draft picks sitting on the bench. They quit doing it.
When you sign a contract with the NFL, you get your bonus and if you
don’t make the team, they get rid of you. So they’re not long-term tied
to you on anything guaranteed. You’ve got to have a “dog eat dog”
concept of survival of the fittest in all the sports. The other aspect
is that the WWF bought all the big stars. The wrestling stars were all
owned by this company, but this company got top-heavy contract-wise so
there was no way to influx anything new. The wwf never has developed
anything on its own, so it took all the top stars. Well, you had a total
stagnation of turnover. In other words, since both areas, where every TV
they showed goes nationwide, all the top stars and everything you had in
wrestling was being exposed every week on television nationwide. Whereas
in the old days, if you were a big star in one small regional area, and
another area was down and its talent was stale, they could bring you in
and a couple of guys and you would rejuvenate or spark the local area,
because you were new and you were doing things different.

Well, pretty soon, Vince McMahon went through his repertoire…
hulk hogan hit an era where he became the new success point of wrestling,
but it also had gotten so big through Vince’s very, very shrewd marketing and
positioning, he made so damn much money that he got bigger than the
business. As he got bigger than business, he no longer needed to meet
the demands and the rigors of a daily schedule, he didn’t need to stay
as focused in one aspect. As he (Hogan) retired and then Andre the
Giant and all these great established people retired, they didn’t
replace them with anybody. And as they came down and tried to replace
them with guys like the Ultimate Warrior, who has never had any
credibility in my opinion, and who didn’t know shit from shinola, and
never’s had any integrity in my opinion, and different people like that
that couldn’t carry the mantle and wouldn’t even keep their word, and
they got into chaos. Then they established stars- The Macho Man, he’s
been there forever, the DiBiases, the Ric Flairs, they’ve all ended up
in ruts and they’ve all been there forever. So it’s a culmination of all
these things.

So you finally reach a point, down-trend, down-trend,
down-trend, but then it reaches saturation for all these effects to take
total charge, and it’s like it fell off a cliff. So it wasn’t 1992, 1992
just saw it finally hit the bottom. It is in the worst crisis it has
ever been in because you can’t reach out to another regional territory
and pick up a superstar to rejuvenate it. And they all think, well gosh,
we’ve got to go find the next Hulk Hogan. Well, there’s no next Hulk
Hogan out there right now. That’s a phenomenon that just comes along
once in a while and it has to have all these right things in places for
it to happen, because Hulk Hogan truly became a mega-star, he developed
into as big of a star that has ever been in this business. It was on a
much bigger level than Bruno Sammartino. He had a longer lifetime and a
longer regularity and everything of drawing money, but back then, it
was limited to just the east coast. Whereas, Hulk Hogan’s projection was
world-wide. He still hasn’t stood the test of time like a lou thesz, a
Bruno Sammartino, or anybody else, but he was projected so much bigger
because McMahon did it in such a bigger method and a bigger
presentation. And now, Hulk is not here, Flair’s hit his golden years in
this business and he’s now with an outfit that doesn’t really feature
his best abilities. He’s like a square peg in a round hole with the WWF
and they haven’t stayed with him and they’re sitting there grasping at
straws trying to figure out who’s going to be their savior and they
don’t have any. And at the same time, with this infrastructure gone,
where do the new kids learn to get the experience to do what the made
the business great.

So what these guys all say to us guys from the past, “the business has changed.”
I want to tell you, the business has not changed. The same emotion that makes
somebody want to watch a match or not watch a match is still out there.
The only difference in the business that’s changed is that we used to draw money, all over, in
every little area, and these areas ran on a regular basis. The wrestling
fan and the wrestling industry has been destroyed. So we have to
rebuild it out of the ashes of this chaos and take it back- I don’t mean
back it up like, take a 1993 car and make it a 1950 car- but we have to
re-establish the traditions of this business where the athletes have a
bond between the wrestling fan, their peers, and the promotion to have
the integrity to show up for their bookings, be in condition, drug free,
and be able to go out there and bust their ass and to give the people
their money’s worth. You can go back to one or two other major factors,
the AIDS aspect and blood, but that’s just a small effect. The major
effect has come about because you had a mega-trend where your industry
is down to two places that expose everything that they do nationwide
every time they do it, and there has been nothing new.

You had the same model in New Japan Pro Wrestling in Japan three or four years ago.
They were stale and they had their two top stars retire- lnoki and Sakaguchi,
who had been carrying the mantle for twenty years. They invested in the
time and money to build the Sakaguchis, the Sasakis, the Mutas, and the
Chonos, and the Ligers. They’ve got five Olympians in their program and
as they took the time and invested and built them, now they’re reaping
the benefits, they’ve rebuilt their business. And they went back to
wrestling and they went back seriousness. And the other thing they did
is they didn’t go out and buy big superstars with inflated egos, they
made people, no matter who they were, come into their system and learn
to wrestle and learn to pay a price to be in this business because they
wanted to be in this business. They didn’t go kiss somebody’s ass,
they didn’t go find some steroid freak that used to be a hairdresser or
used to play in a band, they went and found people with athletic
ability. They’ve got five Olympians in that program. It’s that long
range planning and it was going back to the basics, and that’s to me,
where this industry is now in the United States. It’s in a crisis point.

Everybody says, “Oh, Vince loves the industry.” Ah, excuse me, I think
he loved the power and the money. I think he hates wrestling. If he
loved wrestling, he couldn’t pervert it and present it in the light that
he presents it in. So it’s going through its shake out phases. Naturally
in our country, everything’s very faddish. But, I always said that the
wrestling industry has not been healthy for a long time. Where you had
every territory running one or two towns every night all over the United
States, it got down to two companies running one or two towns a night,
and now it’s not even that. It was just made into a farce and the talent
had no respect for anything except themselves and the promoters had no
respect for the talent. But, the talent wants to blame it all on
management. But when the talent doesn’t show up or miss bookings or have
shitty matches, they’re just as much to blame as the management. So that
is my opinion on what got us here and where we are.

Two things were happening when my territory went down. One thing, which
killed the whole country, was Reagan’s new tax package which devalued the
greatest asset in this country, land, by some 40% when they said you could no longer
write off your interest when you’re buying property, unless you’re
buying it as a home. That wrecked every person that was investing in
real estate as a long-term investment. All banks were collateralized
based on land back then, so the banks went down. They now have banks
collateralized based on your ability to repay, your cash flow. And you
have an area that I vas in, the five states primarily, which was my cash
flow, had that happen to it plus the oil impact as it crashed. You had
total devastation. The entertainment market was affected too. Rock bands
quit drawing, the country western quit drawing. It was like the money
was shut off with a spigot. Fortunately, I had seen the mega-trend
happening in wrestling, even though I couldn’t stop it. I wasn’t big
enough, I wasn’t in a big enough demographic area, I didn’t have the
backing. It was a brand new era where we had started doing our own
syndication, we were starting to get revenue from our program. But Vince
was in the media areas and he had a million dollar war chest that his
dad and he had accumulated. He was ahead of everybody and he was already
in the biggest populated areas in the country. He could buy your top
guy, put him on his preliminaries, and make him more money. He’d just
come in and buy all your top talent out from under you. It was a well
planned thing by him and he got away with it. With all the other
ingredients, it was apparently meant to happen.

Here we are with all this accumulative effect, it’s finally come home to roost.
But, thank God it’s also going to kick his ass! Here we are at WCW, we know where
the industry is and we know where it’s going. But we are fortunate in
that it’s a part of Ted Turner’s situation and his vision, and he has
the backing, he has the staying power. So if we just get ourself
reorganized and get back to the basics and start looking for new talent
which we re constantly doing, and hells’ bells, I don’t try to fool
anybody that some of the young talent we’re putting on are the next
superstars. But, you’ve got to give them a chance. At least it’s better to
tune into our show and see somebody new than to watch the same old shit
over and over again. Who wants to watch formula matches, or as you guys
term them- squash matches, on every TV show? So we’re trying to go back
to exciting TV. The last thing I feel will react are the live gates.
I think we’ll do well with our television ratings, we’ll do well with our
PPVs, we’ll do well with our Clashes, when we have what people want to
see then you get up to the situation, we can hype market and we can book
them, but your talent basically, most of them don’t know how to carry
the event. That’s the big loss, they don’t have the experience to carry
the big events. We have to get them back to where they have the basics
and they have the concepts to where they can then live up to what we
can market. It’s a crazy deal.

Hmm, I wonder what Bill Watts would have to say about the WWE today.

Posted on October 30, 2008, in WCW, WWE and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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