(“Read my lips: ‘TNA WRESTLING F*CKING SUCKS!’”)
Recently the MMA community witnessed another watershed moment as Dana White announced that Zuffa, parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, had once again purchased the competition. This time the victim was San Jose based Strikeforce. Whether or not we look back upon favorably in the future depends on how the suits handle the situation. If history is any indicator, and it is, and I can compare a legitimate sport in MMA to a male soap opera in professional wrestling, and I can, then there is nothing to fear. Yo Dana, I know you’re reading so sit down and take some notes, class is about to begin.
Both the UFC and WWE generate the majority of their revenue from PPV while they supplement a portion of it with advertising and merchandise such as videogames, clothing and DVDs. They share a target demographic of the 18-34 year old male. Although one is more entertainment than the other is, it plays a huge role in each finished product as evidenced as Diego Sanchez’s “Energy bonus.” Contrary to what a few jaded fans claim, the two have more in common than you might imagine.
An announcement of such magnitude like the one we received last weekend excites, saddens, and angers many people, both fans and fighters. We’ve been told ad nauseum that the two mixed martial arts promotions will remain separate entities and it will be “business as usual.” Wait, what?! As a guy who has a rooting interest in the success of the sport I can’t help but think of the possibilities and how wonderful this is – as long as the UFC brass learns from the mistakes of Vinnie Mac.
Almost ten years ago to the day, World Wrestling Entertainment owner and CEO Vince McMahon bought World Championship Wrestling along with the assets of Extreme Championship Wrestling, which folded after filing bankruptcy in April 2001. In a move so unprecedented, the wrestlers themselves collectively had to pick their jaw up from off the floor when Vince’s son, Shane McMahon, appeared on WCW Monday Nitro. Talk about being blindsided! The fans didn’t know if they were supposed to cheer or boo so they held their breath as they watched history being made. Don’t play stupid; you remember how it went down. Just thinking about it gives you goose bumps.
For over twenty years, the then WWF waged war in competition for fans and TV ratings against WCW week in and week out. Then one day Mr. McMahon just dropped a brick of Benjamins on the table in front of his former foe. Check and mate. (Eww, gross… two old dudes. Barf!) Just like that, it was all over. Done. Finished. It’s a moment no pro wrestling fan will ever forget for many reasons, one of which being the unfortunate outcome of such a promising situation which was overflowing with potential.
When the McMahon shelled out roughly $4.2 million for a sinking ship, he did it so that he could prevent another baller from stepping in and putting up a fight. He had Ted Turner’s promotion down in the dirt when he seized the opportunity to finish it off with a chair shot.
Filled with a surplus of talent, even after cutting several undercard wrestlers, the equivalent to prelim fighters, from both sides, the WWE underwent a “Brand Extension” phase. They created two de facto shows, Smackdown and Raw, which had their own separate rosters, titles, everything under the illusion that they were competing against each other despite both being owned by McMahon and never airing on the same night.
The primary reason for the fall of pro wrestling is the rise of MMA. Dana won’t have to compete against himself so he’s already a step ahead of Vince. The gap between #1 and #2 is vast and desolate. Where the Mac Daddy failed, the Baldfather can succeed. Do not treat the newly acquired Strikeforce fighters like second-class citizens. Treating them like stepchildren still OK.
Over the next several years a steady decline in attendance, home video sales and pay-per-view buys have left the sports entertainment mecca a shell of its former self. Dana and the Fertitta’s would be remiss if they didn’t consider the following:
I believe that if Zuffa remains vigilant in their efforts to becoming larger than the NFL and becoming the biggest sport in the world, they are more than likely going to succeed. Who’s going to stop them, the NFL? Those buffoons can’t even figure out whether or not to play again next year and make a ton of money or not. Like that’s a tough question. Sheesh!
Will complacency set in? Not if Bellator or Shark Fights have any say in the matter. Those two promotions are the TNA of MMA. Wait, that didn’t come out right. Nevermind. With deals to broadcast their fights on MTV2 and HDNet respectively, the UFC isn’t technically out of competition to squash. At least not yet anyway.
There are far more legal issues at hand than a monkey like me can sift through. I’m sure there are many logical reasons for why we can’t and won’t get to watch Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem trade leather anytime soon. It’s quite possible that the legality of certain contract terms, Dana White is handcuffed until the deal with Showtime is up. Until then it’s just business as usual.