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ESPN DEBATE

From: Blake Mitchamore

To: Jeff Lane

Subject: WWE and ESPN

 

Jeff, 

 

The WWE striking a deal with ESPN is fantastic for the WWE on multiple fronts. First the mainstream exposure that ESPN brings to a product like professional wrestling is great. I think that it also COULD finally cause the WWE to start re-evaluating the product and the current creative direction. 

 

I want to stress the word COULD in that previous statement. I think this could provide that opportunity but it could also just be another chance the WWE misses. 

 

A weekly segment on ESPN will provide many new eyes on the WWE product. It will provide eyes that don't watch wrestling on a regular basis and honestly some eyes that may not even know much about what the WWE is.  ESPN's reputation as a "legitimate" sports network and organization may not be what it used to. Even with that ESPN is a still an industry leader in legitmate sports. and legitimate sports coverage.Having your product featured weekly on a platform like that will provide WWE with an aura of legitimacy it's never had before. 

 

From: Jeff Lane

To: Blake Mitchamore

Subject: Re: WWE and ESPN

 

I never said it was a bad thing, Blake!  This is absolutely a positive for the WWE to get themselves in front of people that may not be watching, although ESPN covering them makes as much sense as CNN covering the war in Westeros.  My response was in regards to you saying it may motivate their creative to get better.  They have fifteen years of facts staring them in the face telling them that they need to change creative which they completely ignore.  If pre-Attitude Era ratings don't motivate them, why would six minutes on ESPN on a Tuesday do so?

 

From: Blake Mitchamore

To: Jeff Lane

Subject: Re: WWE and ESPN

 

The honest answer is not a friendly one. It's also an answer the WWE won't ever admit to.  The WWE doesn't care about you, the WWE doesn't care about me they don't care about any fans that pine for the attitude era to come back. They don't care about any fans that don't want to invest in the current product or the current stars. 

 

The WWE Network exists for fans like that. You can watch all the attitude era footage you want and embrace the past and never watch the current product if you don't want to. The truth of the matter is most of the old school fans like you and I don't want to give this product a chance. They just want to have something to bitch about and something to complain about.

 

The WWE is smart enough to realize that those fans are gone. They also realize that the majority of those fans either won't give their current product a real shot or they'll watch it just to have something to bitch about. We can argue all day as to whether or not the WWE could turn on a more edgy or risque product. The fact of the matter is they ARE NOT going to do it. So if you can't make the old school fan that pines for the attitude era happy then what are you left to do. In my mind there is only one option: 

 

CREATE A NEW AUDIENCE

 

In my opinion that's what this ESPN deal represents. It represents the chance to create a new fans and a new audience. There is a good segment of the ESPN watching audience that never turns on WWE programming. If they see WWE programming on SportsCenter they may decide to give WWE a shot on Monday Night Raw the next week. If the WWE recognizes that and puts some more effort into the current product and the creative they can keep some of those people. If you begin to keep some of those people on a weekly basis your ratings and numbers begin to increase. If the numbers and ratings begin to increase then the buzz and the profile of WWE.  If the buzz around WWE increases then the WWE begins to sell more tickets and make more money. 

 

I'm not saying that this ESPN will bring wrestling back to the heights it was during the attitude era. The truth is we may never see those days again.

 

I do however still believe in Vince McMahon and the WWE. I believe that even at 70 that he is still smart enough to realize what this deal could mean and not let it pass by without making the most of this opportunity. 

 

 

From: Jeff Lane

To: Blake Mitchamore

Subject: Re: WWE and ESPN

 

TL;DR.  Like the WWE, you must not understand that people have short attention spans!  Kidding, of course, so I'll address a few of these points:

 

"The WWE doesn't care about you, the WWE doesn't care about me they don't care about any fans that pine for the attitude era to come back. They don't care about any fans that don't want to invest in the current product or the current stars." 

 

Partly correct.  They also don't care about the fans that are turning off the TV every week because the show sucks.

 

"The truth of the matter is most of the old school fans like you and I don't want to give this product a chance. They just want to have something to bitch about and something to complain about."

 

I give this product a chance every single Monday for 3 hours.  So do 3.3 million (and dropping) people.  False statement.  Also, if the product was good, there would be nothing to bitch about.  The reason why I stopped reviewing Raw was because I was TIRED of bitching about it.  I don't want to bitch about anything.  I want to watch a good wrestling show.  I would assume most people would prefer the same.  People aren't bitching just to bitch.  They are bitching because the show is bad 95% of the time.

 

"The WWE is smart enough to realize that those fans are gone."

 

No, the WWE is too dumb to realize that they drove those fans away.  It's not smart at all.  Bringing back the fans would be smart.

 

"We can argue all day as to whether or not the WWE could turn on a more edgy or risque product. The fact of the matter is they ARE NOT going to do it. So if you can't make the old school fan that pines for the attitude era happy then what are you left to do."

 

I don't care if it is risque or not at this point, I just want a program that doesn't insult the intelligence of its audience.  Just because it is PG doesn't mean you can't write a compelling show.  

 

"In my opinion that's what this ESPN deal represents. It represents the chance to create a new fans and a new audience. There is a good segment of the ESPN watching audience that never turns on WWE programming. If they see WWE programming on SportsCenter they may decide to give WWE a shot on Monday Night Raw the next week."

 

This I agree with.  The problem is, when they give it a shot they will see a laughable show and turn it right back off.  If the creative doesn't change, it will not capture this new audience.  If the in ring product doesn't look realistic, they will not capture this new audience.  Besides, the "new audience" is the same demographic that used to watch wrestling when it was well-written.

 

From: Blake Mitchamore

To: Jeff Lane

Subject: Re: WWE and ESPN

 

On your last point in the previous email:  

 

You are absolutely correct if the WWE continues to put out the same show then it will not result in any new sustained viewership.We are in 100 percent agreement on that fact.  That brings us back to my original point which is that this deal COULD bring the change that we the WWE fan base is longing for right now. 

 

I used the term "new audience" because yes it's the same demographic but I believe a good portion of the ESPN audience has quite possibly never consumed WWE or wrestling. I know for me personally outside of the wrestling business my close friends don't watch wrestling. A few watched during the attitude era , a few watched as a kid in the 80's but a good portion have never watched. They ALL watch ESPN and consume sports on a regular basis. So this exposure on ESPN does have the chance to generate fans or people watching the product that don't have any pre-conceived notion of what wrestling should be. They also won't give the "Back in My Day" when Stone Cold gave the finger or Hulk Hogan said Say Your Prayers and Eat your Vitamins that's when wrestling was good. 

 

I want to clarify something before we go any further.  I'm not trying to argue that the WWE or RAW has been good as of late. In the last few weeks especially it's been absolutely horrible. I do think this ESPN deal is something that can spur change inside the WWE creative. I think it can spur change because it's the opportunity to attract new eyes to your product. The WWE is shifting it's focus to bringing new eyes to their product instead of trying to please the old ones that will never be pleased. 

 

From: Jeff Lane

To: Blake Mitchamore

Subject: Re: WWE and ESPN

 

I really would like to know how you believe that the old fans will "never be pleased"?  They will come back if the product is good and worth watching.  This argument miffs me.  Also, what makes you believe there is an effort to "shift the focus"?  What is the creative direction that is aimed at getting new people to watch?

 

From: Blake Mitchamore

To: Jeff Lane

Subject: Re: WWE and ESPN

 

If I'm being 100 percent honest I agree with you I think the majority of our demographic would come back. It does sometimes feel like their is a segment of the fan base honestly would find something to bitch about and something to complain about even if there were 14 million people watching a week. I also think you can make that argument and their is a segment of people who will do that in any genre of sports or entertainment.  Sidenote:  MIff?  Who says Miff?! 

 

I'm not saying there is an effort or has been an effort YET. I'm saying that having this new exposure and these new eyes on the productSHOULD AND COULD provide a new focus. You seem to be ignoring the word COULD in all of these statements. I've never once said this WILL HAPPEN or prepare for this I've said this could provide the change we've all been looking for. 

 

At the end of the day you can argue whether or not the WWE is a good wrestling company anymore. You can't argue that the WWE isn't good at business. Being a good business company they should be able to realize what this opportunity could be for them and make the most out of it.  I'm willing to say that it may very well not happen. Only time will tell which one of us is right.... 

 

 

From: Jeff Lane

To: Blake Mitchamore

Subject: Re: WWE and ESPN

 

And while I agree with most of that, it brings me back to the original point.  Why do you believe this COULD provide the motivation for a creative change while nothing else has?  To me, this just seems like the WWE figures that if they can get more people to watch because of ESPN then the ratings will go up.  It's a move that has me thinking they believe their current product is fine, and that people will start watching because of ESPN and become fans.  It doesn't work that way.  So while I hope they turn the product around, nothing has given me a reason to believe that they will.  

 

From: Blake Mitchamore

To: Jeff Lane

Subject: Re: WWE and ESPN

 

I guess in the end it's just a difference in mindset.  I feel like I can look at things with a more positive or glass half full mindset. This deal represents the potential for change and I just choose to think that WWE will make the most of it. 

 

From: Jeff Lane

To: Blake Mitchamore

Subject: Re: WWE and ESPN

 

I hope you're right.

 

Follow Jeff on Twitter: @JeffLane22

Follow Blake on Twitter: @BlakeMitchamore

 

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