Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dispatches from the Lake: Poorly Timed Nostalgia and the Casual WWE Fan

This celebration was fun, but was it best for the narrative?
Photo Credit:
We all tend to look back at the media of our childhood with fondness and love. I’m as guilty of it as anyone. I’ve almost gotten into bar fights over which is the best Transformer. (The answer is Starscream, and if you care to disagree, I’ll be waiting by the dumpsters out back.) I’ve sung the praises of animated shows from my youth without having seen them in 20 years. You go back and watch those now, and a handful still hold up. Animaniacs is still glorious, but that Sonic the Hedgehog show from Saturday mornings is a hard watch, friends.

WWE seems to have that same affliction we all have. Watching the Hulk Hogan fest at the end of RAW made it all the more apparent.

WWE has a love of the past just because it was the past (when they can be bothered to remember what happened more than a month ago, but that's a rant for another time). Hogan was involved in great moments, but there’s a lot of stuff there that’s pretty terrible too. I get that the Hulkster was the man during what the WWE presents as the golden age of wrestling, but why close out the show before one of the four major yearly events with his birthday party? Isn’t there more pressing business?

That last paragraph sounds like I completely dismiss Hogan and everything he’s contributed to wrestling. I’m not trying to say that. I was a Hulkamaniac when I was a kid, though "Macho Man" Randy Savage was always the big favorite in our house. I was more than a little sad that he wasn’t around to be out there with everyone on RAW. I just think the nostalgia parade was poorly timed.

Honest question. If you aren’t already subscribed to the WWE Network, would you be any more inclined to buy it after that segment? Are you more inclined to renew your subscription?

Truthfully, I wouldn’t have even given RAW’s ending a second thought if it had been Brock Lesnar descending from his steak dinner to inflict some violence on the old timers. Isn’t that the point of them? They come to the ring, get the adulation they deserve, then a vicious heel comes down and decimates them. This isn’t rocket science. Move your story forward. I get most of the guys in the ring would have turned to dust and blown away had they taken an F5, but then stick someone in there who could still take it.

They can’t sell the Network on nostalgia alone. Better stories, dynamic characters, and more original content with a healthy dose of glory days nostalgia will sell the Network to fans. I really don’t think that formula will reel in the casual fans. I watch it a fair amount every week, so I get my money’s worth. But a casual fan? I don’t see it happening.

WWE needs as many people to sign up for the Network as they can get. This includes those casual fans that only come around for the big events like WrestleMania and, to a lesser extent, SummerSlam. These people might tune in to the episodes of RAW leading up to the show. Those are eyes on the product that WWE wants to hold on to, and while I think that Hogan does pull some of those lapsed fans back in, I’m not sure that he captures that long term interest. Parading classic wrestlers your alleged target age group doesn’t recognize into the ring and having them stand around not doing anything won’t keep any of those eyes on the product. If the casual fan can be bothered to tune in, they flip on the program, say “Hey, so and so is still alive. Good for them.”, and then go about their evening, if they tune in at all.

Nostalgia is only going to get so far with these people. If they aren’t watching wrestling every week on television, why the hell would they pay ten dollars a month for the Network they won’t watch that often?

But what the hell do I know? I spend my time waiting out by dumpsters to fight people over how awesome Starscream is.