Wednesday, November 2, 2011

TIMELINE: 1992 - Booking 5 Guys To Carry The Company

Oooooh yeah! A rare tag team match up pitted the four biggest names int he WWE at the time. Prior to SummerSlam 1992 - heavyweight champion Randy Savage teamed up with intercontinetal champion Bret Hart top take on their two arch nemesis' Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels.

Hart and Michaels were tearing the roof the buildings at house shows with a series of title matches - some even ladder matches, while Savage and Flair extended their WrestleMania 8 feud for another 5 months before regained the title immediately after the SummerSlam PPV.

Now if you're looking into the timeline of events - take a look at how these four wrestlers are related. And when I say related, I don;t mean by family - I mean by booking. This is proof that the WWE USED TO book almost a year in advance and had a firm grip on the direction they were going as opposed to the shitfest they produce now.


January 1992 - Flair wins the Royal Rumble under the first and only stipulation that the winner would be awarded the vacated title. The following week, it's announced that Hulk Hogan will challenge Flair at WrestleMania, only to be changed a few weeks later to Flair vs. Randy Savage as co-main event at Mania.

Meanwhile at the same event, Roddy Piper substitutes for a very ill Bret Hart in a sanctioned rematch and defeats The Mountie for the Intercontinental title. Piper vs. Hart is also established for Mania 8.

April 1992 - Savage defeats Flair for the title at WrestleMania, and Hart defeats Piper for the IC title. Hogan immediately leaves the company but the Ultimate Warrior returns.

April 1992 - July 1992: Savage defends the title against a few shitty opponents, while Flair and manager Mr. Perfect are still hot on Savage's tail. Rather than pair up Savage and Flair in another program - bookers decide to cash in on the Warrior vs. Savage history that was last seen at Mania 7 when Warrior retired Savage. To make matters interesting now - both Warrior and Savage are fan favorites while Flair and Perfect are still major factors in the equation.

Hart is defending the IC title against even more shittier opponents like Skinner, Repo Man and Papa Shango - but the fans demand more matches between Bret hart and Shawn Michaels who also have a history stemming from both tag team and singles encounters.

August 1992: Warrior vs. Savage is booked in the main event - with the sub-story of who will Mr. Perfect influence. Ric Flair is not booked on the card but you know that creatively - he's the puppet master pulling Mr. Perfect's strings. Michaels has an interesting yet meaningless match with Rick Martel - but proves that he is in fact championship material. Hart defends and loses the IC title to brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith in one of the greatest matches in wrestling history.

September 1992 - Not even two weeks out of the SummerSlam PPV, Savage drops the title back to Flair with the help of Mr. Perfect and newcomer Razor Ramon. Hart is still in limbo after dropping the title but with the momentum of the match - bookers start working on what to do with him next before the white hot flame goes out.

October 1992 - In a VERY RARE non-televised match, Hart is booked to upset and defeat Flair for the heavyweight title. Savage and Warrior form a tag team, The Ultimate Maniacs. Shawn Michaels is primed as the number one contender to Davey Boy Smith's IC title - and then ultimately wins the title later that month.

November 1992 - Savage & Warrior are booked to face Flair & Razor Ramon at Survivor Series, and Bret Hart was scheduled to defend the heavyweight title against Shawn Michaels. Michaels is white hot at the time and creative doesn't want to kill his momentum. The match stays intact as champion vs. champion but only Bret's heavyweight title is defended int hematch. That way - Bret comes off his first first PPV title defense with a clean win and even though Shawn lost clean, he lost to the heavyweight champ yet remains IC champ.

Meanwhile, Warrior abruptly leaves the company forcing Savage to find a new partner. As a shock to many, Mr. Perfect leaves camp Flair and returns to action to square off against Flair and Ramon. And the rest is history!

Randy Savage, Bret Hart, Ric Flair, Mr. Perfect, Shawn Michaels - FIVE GUYS! Yes, I am excluding Hogan, Warrior, Piper and Davey Boy because they were merely stepping stones in the equation. Back to my original point - FIVE GUYS!!! From January 1992 to November 1992 - almost a full year. There was epic storytelling. There was genius booking. There weren't any meaningless moments or matches, or extended plots to the storylines. There was just REAL wrestling that hinged on the emotions of the fans and got the best work out of everyone involved. No one grew tired of what they were watching. It was well paced and it was effective. And THIS is how good solid booking and storytelling is done.

Now take any storyline/angle today and show me how you can run a year long program with just five guys that doesn't get watered down and tiresome over the course of an entire year. Show me how you don't kill the desire to follow with the same thing week after week with everyone mixing it up on TV and PPV. There is a true art to booking that's been lost much like managers, tag teams and even the intercontinental title scene. The more and more I look at today's product, I'm forced to agree with Vince Russo - the title is nothing more than a prop in the story. Damn, I hate wrestling today!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

TALES FROM THE BOOKER: A.M.i.L. VS. Thrillogy VS. Halls Bros. VS. Dan Barry & Ken Scampi (NWA Cyberspace 2005)

AMIL (All Money Is Legal) was truly one of my favorite tag teams to work with while booking for NWA Cyberspace. Not only did they provide some of the best high flying tag team action on the indy circuit - but their dedication to entertaining the fans was second to none. If we ever found ourselves in a creative jam, AMIL was one of those teams that we could depend on to give the fans what they paid to see.

In this video - you'll see AMIL in action, in what I had booked as a four corner tag team match.

We were having trouble finding new teams that could compete and draw with our tag team champions. We sent our scout to local indy shows, had him review tapes and do some online research to find teams that had the skill but who were also not overbooked in the same area that we ran in. I had gotten several recommendations of a group of young new talents looking to get booked in a territory where they would be more exposure to their work. I had liked what I had seen but then the creative devil popped his head in to offer an opinion or two.

All of the teams consisted of smaller guys - and when I say smaller, I'm saying smaller than you're average lightweight. Their look also didn't have anything that screamed "Book Me"! Regardless of their work - i was concerned about how they would draw and if the fans would quickly lose interest for the simple yet most common reason - they didn't look like wrestlers. Then again, times were changing and I couldn't be so closed minded in literally judging a book by its cover.

Rather than spreading out the auditions and filling a card with newbie matches - I decided to book to a four corner tag match. Now some critics called it a clusterfuck of a match - which the match in itself was anything but. But the critics out there who have never spent a day of their life in the business, (nonetheless running a wrestling promotion) thought the concept of a four corner tag team match was ludicrous since there was no real purpose to the match. This is where business and creative come clashing in. So let me share with you the thought process of the booker/promoter.

As I mentioned before, I needed more teams. The title was being bounced around from the sizable team The Solution to TNA's tag champions America's Most Wanted ('Wildcat' Chris Harris & 'Cowboy' James Storm). Not only could I NOT book an entire show filled with tag team squash matches, built it also gave me an opportunity to see how these teams work against each other. Did the match serve and purpose creatively? Absolutely not. But did it make sense for me to sacrifice ONE spot on the card to see the teams at work with each other so that i can plan out the future? Abso-fuckin-lutely!

Nevertheless, A.M.i.L showed me their hearts were bigger than there actual size. The Hall Brothers showed me they could have easily built themselves as tribute to The Rockers. Thrillogy proved to me that as good as they were as a team - they might be better off as singles competitors. And of course - Ken Scampi and Dan Barry proved that they were true veterans who were able to carry the match and give me a real account of how the workers performed in the ring.

You want to know the mentality of the booker? Well, here it is! Not everything you see in the ring is designed for entertainment purposes. Real bookers/promoters who only get to produce one show a month with limited resources have to go about their "business" in different fashions in order to analyze the results. So before you attempt to take a big wet shit on independent creative, try looking at the bigger picture. And instead of watching a match to attack the booker - how about watching the match for the sake of the match?

Here comes the attack on "DieHard" Derek, who is notorious for attacking WWE and TNA creative...Wait for it... Wait for it...

The difference between me and them is simple - I'm JUST me. And they are THEM - with large financial backing, private studios, training facilities, weekly programming, PPVs, multi-million dollar marketing machine and a shitload of television time to explain their storylines and get their talent over. Give me those tools and I promise to shake up the wrestling world. Until that day, here's my middle finger. Sit on it and spin!