Posted by Richard Gray
Outrage, resentment, anger – these are the reactions I see all across social media one day after TNA Impact Wrestling unveiled their latest mystery talent as Tito Ortiz.
This does nothing to help TNA. Wrestling fans only care about wrestling. It had to be a wrestler. These are all the reactions popping up and it’s fine to have them. In fact, I’m not a fan on the surface of how the campaign was brought about. Let me explain.
Cryptic viral marketing campaigns tend to create unrealistic expectations. In a couple of weeks, we’ll hold our Fantasy Football Draft. We will select NFL players that we’ll carry throughout the 2013 season and hope they’ll be able top create enough “points” from week to week to lead our team to a championship… and a $200+ payday. Prior to Draft Day, I often find myself fantasizing of what it would be like if I was able to nab the top player at every position. A near impossibility, it’s a thought that often creeps through my mind as I do my pre-draft research and create my cheat sheets.
In sports, most fans like to dream of their favorite team acquiring the top players in the world. Even if we know there’s little to no chance of some acquisitions happening, it doesn’t stop us from posting “what if” blogs or tinkering with the idea of assembling a dream team that we can follow to dominance throughout the season.
This is what happens with these viral marketing campaigns. Most of us are realistic people. We understand the likes of Dave Batista or Bill Goldberg aren’t going to randomly pop up in TNA Wrestling but it doesn’t stop the scenarios. What if this happens? I wonder what that would be like?
One of the reasons Sting is able to work over a decade past his prime is how much pro wrestling fans love and appreciate nostalgia. We like to see top names from the past come back and make an impact (no pun intended). The Undertaker spoils us every year by putting on improbable matches at Wrestlemania when the talk leading up is always “this could be it.”
Because of our own thoughts and dreams and fantasy scenarios compiled with our thirst for nostalgia, we create unrealistic expectations. As soon as TNA [or WWE for that matter] start teasing a new debut or character or return, our senses go into overdrive. We take all of these elements and create these “earth rattling” scenarios that actually have little chance of happening. We then judge what actually happens to our own scenarios and almost always end up disappointed.
In 2011, WWE did a cryptic viral marketing campaign to re-introduce The Undertaker to the WWE audience and program him against Triple H for a No Holds Barred Match at Wrestlemania XXVII. The videos were mysterious and featured Johnny Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down).” WWE accomplished their goal by creating a buzz and while many figured the campaign was to be used to re-introduce Undertaker, the what-if it is Sting scenario crept in.
The buzz was so loud WWE actually went to Sting to gauge his interest. Despite being close, Sting and WWE didn’t come to terms and Undertaker was brought back under the campaign. While I had known all along the possibility of Sting going to WWE to work a “dream feud” at Wrestlemania was unlikely, I convinced myself it was a possibility and a result, I was disappointed when it didn’t happen.
Who did you expect?
This is the first question I want to ask everyone that is outraged over Tito Ortiz being behind the #August1Warning videos. Yeah, I know that Batista and Chris Jericho and Goldberg got name dropped in the videos but realistically, who did you expect?
Who do you think there is left out there that is a realistic option that can actually make people tune in?
TNA currently employs Hulk Hogan, Sting, Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy and others on top of several young up and coming talent on top of other names that have either become household names or have been top stars in promotions like Ring of Honor.
TNA has more talent than they know what to do with (e.g. Rob Van Dam). They have the legends, the top guys, the young up and comers, the TNA talent roster is as deep as any promotion in the world and rivals that of WWE. The names are there.
Can you believe that while on Twitter Friday, one of my followers suggested it Adam Pearce should have been behind #August1Warning? Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge Adam Pearce fan and felt the Gut Check Challenge (his last appearance on TNA TV) was above him, but really? Is that really rational and would that have satisfied the masses? Do the masses know who Adam Pearce is?
Who did you expect?
A fair point to criticize:
It was only a couple months ago that Dixie Carter teased a major free agent signing. Speculation was rampant until it was announced that Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was the latest former UFC name to ink a contract that would see him act, wrestle and fight across a partnership with TNA, Bellator MMA and Paramount Pictures (through Spike TV). A lot of fans criticized this move.
This time, they didn’t clamor for Adam Pearce but they clamored for the likes of Shelton Benjamin. No disrespect either, I’m a huge Shelton Benjamin fan but do the masses even know who Shelton Benjamin is?
I defended TNA for the decision as I’ll defend it now. Rampage Jackson, while not a wrestler, is a name that people recognize. That doesn’t mean he can work a match to save his life but his name still has value.
One, however, can argue that the Rampage Jackson signing is still fresh. People are still unsure about fighters in wrestling (much like MMA fans are unsure about wrestlers in fighting) and to announce another… well that would just be overkill.
I totally understand that and don’t blame you for that. It’s your right to not want to see two guys – MMA guys – come to a wrestling company in less than three months when we don’t know if they can even work a match. Not to mention TNA’s other crossover star, King Mo, has done next to nothing in the ring.
Why it was done:
At the end of the day Tito Ortiz was brought [back] to TNA so they could script him to feud with Rampage Jackson and increase interest in their fight scheduled for November 2, 2013 on Bellator PPV. Smoke screen or not, the announcement, came on the heels of rumors that Jackson was going to box – yes, box – Roy Jones, Jr. on pay-per-view.
So perhaps you’re feeling a bit ripped off. Cheated if you will. You were expecting an asset and you ended up playing into a viral marketing campaign. This was a business decision and it accomplished its goal. The goal of grabbing your attention.
Kick ‘em while their down:
One of the reasons I felt so compelled to write what is now turning into a manifesto of sorts is that I despise when people kick others while they’re down just for the hell of it. Some think that shows power, I think it shows insecurity and weakness.
TNA is coming off a hellacious month. They had to make significant roster cuts. While the majority of the names released were less than notable, mass cuts cause mass chaos. People not expecting to be asked to take less money, getting asked to take less money starts rumors.
Did you hear TNA actually ran a show last month in Missouri featuring eight workers in five matches? July 2013 was a bad month for TNA Wrestling. However, let’s not get confused here. There were some negative things, some things that could have been handled better but all of the sudden; everyone with an opinion has access to TNA’s financials.
The doubters and haters and trolls are out in droves driving the final nail in TNA’s coffin. I read prior to the #August1Warning that “TNA was reaching for straws with this.” Really? And how do you know this?
TNA just announced a major international television deal in India yet they’re “reaching for straws” and about to go out of business?
All because someone that wasn’t a top name and didn’t really have a creative direction was released?
A lot of the hatred and disdain I’m seeing today comes from a group of people that enjoy piling it on when things look bad. You know, the “when it rains, it pours” type people. Why not try and kick someone when they’re on top? Kick someone that can kick back. If your points are valid, they’ll hold up regardless of opposition, unless of course your points aren’t your points at all.
Form your own opinion:
Tommy Dreamer, Bob Holly and Dave Meltzer were three names I saw that ripped into TNA for #August1Warning. Their criticism even became headline news on some websites. Beside the fact that these seem like three completely random names to pull together and make a headline on a website, their opinions do not have to be your opinions.
Sure, Tommy has always had a slice of the IWC’s heart and Bob Holly’s a big tough guy and Meltzer is Meltzer but guess what, you don’t have to share their opinion. Once a few people make up their mind about something, the masses usually follow. It becomes the new “cool thing to do.” Well, this guy is kinda cool and he thinks this so if I think that then I’ll look cool like them.
When I saw the firestorm of critics that greeted my social media Friday morning I asked each one why they were so upset.
Most of the points were recycled from some of the people I mentioned above.
There are some publications that believe that today is national bash TNA Wrestling day. You should see some of the stuff I’ve seen. Kick ‘em while they are down, that’ll make us look “smart” and “informed” and “in the know.” Maybe it just makes you look like a jackass.
Form your own opinion; don’t let me or the media or Facebook or Twitter or anyone else decide for you. Analyze the situation and form your own opinion. Then feel free to stand strong and support it.
What I think:
I think people are going way overboard on their reactions. Perhaps I am desensitized when it comes to this kind of stuff but I don’t see what all the fuss is about. TNA ran a viral campaign for Tito Ortiz. He fights Rampage in November. What’s the big deal?
From a marketing perspective, it got people talking. From a crossover perspective, it gives the rare opportunity to tell a story leading into a legitimate fight. It might work and it might not. We won’t know until the buys come down.
TNA is not going out of business because they’re bringing in Tito Ortiz to cross promote an MMA fight. They could go out of business tomorrow but it won’t be because of Tito Ortiz or the fact they decided to make some cuts. If TNA goes out of business it will be based on a decision from the people that financially support them.
The fact of the matter is we don’t know if Dixie Carter and company are raking in millions or if they’re on the brink of financial collapse. TNA is a privately held company and their financial information is not public. Most of the people that claim to “know without knowing” don’t know anything. They would have a hard time itemizing the expenses for a single event, much less reconciling the company budget.
Something hit me the other day while I was speaking with Bobby Roode. TNA started at the Nashville Fairgrounds. Think about where TNA is today and think about where they started.
Sure, they haven’t come close to challenging WWE and their ratings aren’t where many had hoped they would be but they started at the Nashville Fairgrounds.
TNA could be a phenomenal success story telling itself right before your eyes but you’re too busy blasting everyone that will listen over a viral marketing campaign. They could be yet another pro wrestling tragedy as well but if TNA closed up shop tomorrow, would it be a tragedy?
TNA started at the Nashville Fairgrounds.
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