In the early 1980s, the above is what the American wrestling scene would have looked like. This was the NWA’s territory system, and it worked well until video tapes and Vincent K. McMahon came along. Video tapes allowed fans to see more markets, more stars, more wrestling, and in some cases, “better” would be the adjective to replace “more” in this sentence. While great for the fans, this hurt promoters and promotions, as plotholes and inconsistencies were revealed. The latter broke out of his company’s territorial restraint, and spread out throughout the country, and later the World. McMahon accomplished this by raiding other territory’s pool of talent, and using the aforementioned trends to his advantage.
In an attempt to compete against McMahon’s WWF, the some NWA and AWA promoters tried partnering together to co-promote shows under the banner “Pro Wrestling USA”. However, money and power disputes broke out, and the deal eventually collapsed. In one last ditch effort to stop McMahon, a few promoters gathered in a bathroom at a wrestling convention, and discussed a plan to have him killed.
As WWF was buying up various territories and airing their product nationwide, Jim Crockett Promotions decided to unify some NWA territories, in order to go national , and thus began buying them up, or allowing them to quietly die out and absorbing their rosters. Unfortunately, due to JCP’s spending sprees and not-even-close-to-competing-with-WWF business strategies, the company was in a money drought, with Crockett facing bankruptcy. Enter Ted Turner, who purchased the fledgling JCP, and renamed it World Championship Wrestling. With Turner’s deep pockets behind it, WCW became a national company, and in 1991 officially withdrew from the NWA.
Fast forward 10 years…. and WWF now owns it’s only remaining competition, WCW. (not counting ECW as competition, sorry hardcore diehards)
For several years, the WWF, or now WWE, does fine. The company has the best stars in the industry, the storylines are for the most part good, and the fans seem happy; business is good. Fast forward to 2011…
The last 5 or 6 years have seen a major decline in the WWE product. Those fantastic stars many fans have grown up with are retiring, or already gone. The storylines are bland, boring, and disarranged. The majority of fans seem to be unhappy with the product, and business wise, the numbers are showing. The stock is declining, PPV buyrates are in decline, the ratings are weak, and anyone who watches WWE programming can see that the fans in attendance look bored.
Edge, Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, Undertaker, HHH, Trish Stratus, Lita, Molly Holly, JBL, Chris Jericho, The Rock, Steve Austin, Goldust, Batista, Rey Mysterio, William Regal, Booker T, Chavo Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Big Show, the list goes on…. All out of wrestling, dead, or about to be out of wrestling, and they’re not being replaced on the WWE roster. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the WWE roster is good; there are some excellent young talent in the company. However, there is no depth. There’s John Cena, Randy Orton, and everyone else.
Many people blame this “star-lacking” situation on the fact that territories no longer exist, and I’m partial to agree with them. Back in the territory days, wrestlers had ample time to hone their craft, figure out how to entice audiences, and learn all that other good stuff wrestlers need to know and be able to do. Since territories are no longer around, young wrestlers are lacking.
The lack of competition, has also hurt the wrestling industry, specifically the WWE. While the company does have numerous young talent who have great potential, having no competition has created a lull within the organization; officials have become lazy. They don’t have to bring their A-game to the table, because there isn’t another company fans can turn to, on a broad, national scale, to watch instead. So, unfortunately for all us fans, we’re subjected to bland, disarranged storylines.
Now, there are Independent companies, which many disgruntled WWE fans have turned to, that have alleviated the issue of wrestlers honing their craft. There are some problems, though, that arise from the independents. I’m not going to go into grave detail, but one example would be only focusing on the actually wrestling, rather than telling a story in the ring.
So, how can the territory conundrum be solved?
The days of territories are long gone, more than likely never to return. However, I do have one idea of how the WWE can better prepare their young talent. WWE has their developmental system, Florida Championship Wrestling, but as we all know that hasn’t done much. I don’t propose doing away with FCW, rather just having the talent work elsewhere while “serving their time” in FCW. Send members of the roster out to “run the indies” similar to the way wrestlers used to “run the territories”. Have them working in various places for a set amount of time, then switch them up, and then return to FCW for awhile. This allows the wrestlers to better hone their craft, interact with and experience different crowds. It also benefits all the companies involved. The Independent companies get to market “future WWE stars”, FCW gets more exposure, while WWE profits by having better, more experienced performers.
I’m sure this idea is flawed in some manner, and I’m sure there’s other ideas out there (would love to hear any of your’s) The fact remains, though, the Territory Conundrum is a serious issue, one that needs to dealt with sooner or later.
Thanks for Reading,
You can find me on Twitter: @J712v2