“I respect you, BOOKER MAN!” With those words, Brian Pillman yanked back a portion of the curtain covering the mystique of professional wrestling. When he said that to Kevin Sullivan in 1996, casual fans were confused, and the smart fans went apeshit. What’s one of the most common questions non wrestling fans typically ask wrestling fans?
Besides the obvious “Is it real?” FAQ perhaps a close runner up is, “Who decides who wins or loses?” We’ve all heard ridiculous theories. They flip a coin. They take turns. They have a pie eating contest before and whoever wins that, wins the matches. Booking is NOT an easy task, by any means. Who actually determines booking?
For the WWE, obviously the buck stops with Vince McMahon. Sure he has his writers and his inner circle but let’s get real…he books what he wants. To me, booking should be done on a 40-30-30 split. Thirty percent of the booking should be determined by the fans. They’re the ones buying the tickets! They should get what they want to see! If the real world operated like professional wrestling, if I went to McDonald’s and ordered chicken nuggets, but the chef decided he knew better than me what I wanted and instead gave me a Big N Nasty (if you don’t know, look it up), I’d hop the counter, walk straight into the kitchen, and punch him right in his mealy mouth. Then maybe he would learn his lesson! If I like McDonald’s and I want to eat their food…I should get what I pay for! Thirty percent should be dictated by the workers themselves. Of course, this means they should have significant input on their match structure, finishes, and have reasonable creative input on finishes and angles. And the remaining 40 percent should be determined by the person in charge. The buck does have to stop somewhere. But this is a dying art.
On the independents, local feds are dominated by ego trip bookers who run shows not to make money or operate as a business, but to feed their own egos and try to live their vicarious fantasies of superstardom in front of 25 people, 8 of whom probably paid. Don’t get me wrong, there are GREAT independent feds out there, but let us be honest hear. We all know that the bad far outweighs the good. You can’t sell a product that people that don’t want to buy it. Or believe in it. The day I hear a fan in the crowd say, “I could take that guy” about me is the day that I quit actually wrestling. The successful independents book guys that LOOK LIKE BAD ASSES. Again, the look of a wrestler is a whole ‘nother column itself.
That’s what my independent Powerslam Productions was based on. I inherited an entrepreneurial spirit from my dad, who for years ran his own business and promoted his own yearly 5 mile races for the local townspeople. The best wrestling bookers are the ones that are actually WRESTLING FANS. And I am one. I’m proud of my business partner Reggie Matthews and all of our talent for working together as a unit to put on the best shows in the state of Mississippi. I’m even prouder of our fans. And that’s what we all have in common. We are all WRESTLING FANS. They let us know what they like and what they don’t. Which leads me to my point of this column.
As a promoter, and a worker as well, I’d be freakin’ mortified if one of my paying fans came up to me and demanded a refund. I’d bury my head in cement and set my feet on fire! There’s NO excuse for that. That’s like going up to the chef and saying “Take this shit back! It sucks and I don’t want to pay for it!” Now of course there’s the occasional exceptions when someone is being too sensitive and making a big deal out of nothing. But isn’t it a REAL MAJOR F’N PROBLEM when enough people complain about the chef that the food distributor offers refunds instead of the restaurant? Bet your limpy skimpy ass it’s a problem! And that’s exactly what happened this week in the WWE!
Apparently, enough fans called and complained about the stripping of the WWE Championship from Daniel Bryan, that the CABLE COMPANIES offered refunds to people who felt gypped from ordering Night of Champions! And they stripped him of the belt on RAW! That itself Is a problem! The stripping occurred the NEXT night! It would be like ordering food, eating it, deciding THE NEXT DAY that you didn’t like it, and actually getting a refund! That’s insane.
I can’t even list how many respected wrestling veterans are employed by the WWE, yet they’re not the ones doing the booking! Pro wrestling needs BOOKERS. Not writers. Not creative consultants. It needs someone who has a brain that can equally balance both a love for wrestling as a fan, and a love for giving fellow fans what they want. Not someone who’s writing for WWE until that sitcom they’ve been working on since they were a junior in college gets picked up by Sci Fi or whatever the hell they’re waiting on.
Granted, some of the WWE writers ARE wrestling fans. And they know who they are, and the ones that remember me know that I’m not talking about them. There were several writers who had great wrestling minds because they were fans, yet their ideas were rejected. The only other time I can recall an error like this was the 1998 Halloween Havoc debacle in WCW. Where they failed to adhere to their time constraints, and the show ran over, cutting over half the main event of Goldberg vs. Diamond Dallas Page off and costing WCW millions of dollars in refunds.
I doubt the buy rate of Night of Champions will be significant enough to cost WWE millions of dollars, but it’s still gonna hurt. It may not be a lot, but there are people who probably won’t order a WWE pay per view for a looonnnngggg time just because of stuff like this. They may be planning a huge title victory for Bryan in the future, but the damage has already been done.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a column predicting that Summerslam this year could have been Bryan’s equivalent of Bret Hart’s Summerslam 1991. A breakout moment. Boy was I wrong. And it sure isn’t Bryan’s fault. Soon enough…Vince is going to get tired of the Daniel Bryan Experiment. A promoter should share the glory of success and take the full brunt of the failures. Ain’t gonna happen. Bryan is going to get the blame for things he has no control over. Hopefully, he’s saving his money, and when he decides to call it a day and go back to the independents, he’ll never have to worry about money ever again.
In the meantime, the WWE needs to find some new cooks. And the fans need to jump over the counter, punch the current cook in the teeth and tell him, “Your cooking sucks. I want my money back!”
Thanks for reading.