Below are some very interesting statistics:
Rankings for the top 10 programs on basic cable networks as compiled by Nielsen Media Research for the week of June 29-July 5. Each ratings point represents 980,000 households. Day and time (EDT) are included in parentheses.
1. ``WWF Wrestling'' (Monday, 10 p.m.), USA, 4.2, 4.08 million homes.
2. ``WWF Wrestling'' (Monday, 8:57 p.m.), USA, 3.9, 3.79 million homes.
3. ``World Championship Wrestling'' (Monday, 8 p.m.), TNT, 3.3, 3.23 million homes.
4. ``World Championship Wrestling'' (Monday, 9 p.m.), TNT, 2.9, 2.89 million homes.
5. ``World Championship Wrestling'' (Monday, 10 p.m.), TNT, 2.8, 2.76 million homes.
6. ``Thunder'' (Wednesday, 9:09 p.m.), TBS, 2.6, 2.53 million homes.
7. ``Rugrats'' (Monday, 7:30 p.m.), Nickelodeon, 2.5, 2.48 million homes.
8. ``TNT Big Picture Movies: The Last of the Mohicans'' (Sunday, 8 p.m.), TNT, 2.3, 2.25 million homes.
9. ``South Park'' (Wednesday, 10 p.m.), Comedy Central, 2.3, 2.22 million homes.
10. ``Blues Clues'' (Thursday, 9:30 a.m.), Nickelodeon, 2.2, 2.19 million homes.
This is not just a lucky week for professional wrestling. Although they do not usually dominate the top 6 spots straight in a row, for the year of 1998 professional wrestling has dominated the cable ratings charts. This is by no means a sign of the end of the world. What this is a sign of is professional wrestling is one of the most watched sports programs today.
Professional Wrestling is one of the the hottest commodities today in the sports world. Wrestling is viewed by millions in their homes each and every week. Their house shows are breaking previously unthought of attendance records and the merchandise is out of sight as far as slaes are concerned and also everywhere you look. In fact The World Cup Finals did a 6.9 rating. The Hulk Hogan /Bill Goldberg match on WCW's Nitro on June 6, 1998 had the exact same rating. The WWF in a previous week had over a 7.0 rating. This shows how hot wrestling is if it can tie and outdo the ratings of one of the most popular sporting events of all time.
Wrestling in the late 90's has taken on a new form. No longer are people embarrassed to say they watch wrestling. No longer do you have to hide that fact that you are going to a WWF or WCW card at your local arena. The family will probably want to go along. In fact today, they will probably insist on it.
No matter which federation is your "fave", when you go to the show you are bound to be in for a treat. Today's wrestlers are flamboyant, high energy and while some still have a character name most use their own name today. Sure they will add something cool and catchy to it like "Stone Cold" or "Hollywood" because that is still part of the wrestling genre but you also get to hear and see Rey Mysterio Jr. or Dean Malenko as opposed to the names like "The Crusher" as in days gone by. This helps people today identify a little more closely with who they are watching.
But the product itself has changed oh so much. There was a time when I was a child growing up, my parents would take me to the Philadelphia Arena to see the matches. I remember dark smoke filled arena's with little fanfare except the applause or the boo's of the crowd when the next combatants walked to the ring. Today we have pyrotechnics that put most 4th of July shows to shame. (I know, I live in a small community out in the boondocks)
The question is, "Did all this happen by accident?" Not by a long shot. Today's wrestling companies are multi-million dollar business's. Just ask Ted Turner who owns World Championship Wrestling or Vincent K. McMahon the owner of the World Wrestling Federation. Neither one of these businessmen would be backing a losing proposition.
Today's fans are also not the fans of the past. In yesteryear the atypical wrestling fan was your down to earth blue collar worker who worked his butt off to support his family. The factory worker, the truck driver, these were the people that came to the matches 30 years ago. Do not get me wrong, they are still coming to the shows but today they share the arena with lawyers, doctors, architects, accountants and a myriad of other people who span all cultures, races, ages and creed.
The sad thing is that wrestling is still scoffed upon by most sport reporting agencies. There is still the old fixation that wrestling is "fixed" and therefore not a sport at all, but entertainment at best. But let us look at a few sports that are reported on consistently by every sports section in every newspaper in of the country.
1 - Pro Boxing
Pro Boxing is a sport as all sports writers and commentators will attest. But are they not just as guilty as wrestling as far as having "predetermined outcomes"? I have read for years about how when a boxer wins the title it is his trainers job to hand select the next opponent for him. It is not usually the number one contender. What this usually means is the opponent is someone far below the talents of the champion. How many times have we witnessed very mismatched championship bouts in boxing? You know the kind, when you hear who the next opponent is going to be all you can do is groan or wonder who he is. Does this not fall under of the category of "predetermined outcome"? Well let's look at a small fact here. If boxing did not go for the "predetermined finish" we would have seen Holyfield/Lewis by now. Instead what we are offered is a Foreman/Holmes bout. This might have been something 20 years ago but in today's market? So the real question is, "Does boxing work towards a "predetermined outcome?" No matter how you slice it, it does.
2 - Horse Racing
For me to even have to go here is basically ludicrous. Until you get up into the level of the Kentucky Derby, (and even of the Triple Crown could fall suspect at anytime) horse racing is so mired in controversy it should make every scandal sheet and "dirt" TV show everyday of the week. For those of you unfamiliar with horse racing on a level below that of the Triple Crown there are so many stories of trainers and owners either "holding their horse back for better odds or a bigger payoff next time" or "juicing the horse's to make them either breath easier or run faster" it would make your head spin. But even with all of the fixing in horse racing it is still considered an honorable sport and is reported on weekly if not daily in many locales around the country.
I could go on and on but let me just say that there is not one sport that we watch that has never been tampered with. Each and every one has had their share of "fixes" and "predetermined finishes". But yet their credibility remains.
The lack of respect the athletes receive in pro wrestling is appalling. These are men and women who train hard to do their job to support their familes. Weight lifting, cardiovascular workouts, combined with years and years of learning and applying their trade are what makes a great wrestler just like every football, baseball and basketball player who believes in and loves the sport he/she has chosen as his or her profession.
But they make it look easy do they not? Pro wrestler's make it look like you yourself could do it for a living. Believe me, there is nothing farther from the truth. In fact I defy any man or woman reading this to climb up on a 4 ft. step ladder and jump out as far as they can with their arm extended and come crashing down on the floor landing on their one thigh and rib cage. I didn't think there would be any takers. (Those of you who just did it are wishing you wouldn't have aren't you?)
The reason you won't do it is because you know there is a great possibility that you would get hurt. I can hear you all now, "But they are trained how to fall". But are not football players "trained" how to take a hit? Does that mean that they are less endeared in our hearts? Does that mean that they are less likely to be injured and that what you are seeing on television is fake? How do you train to be thrown from of the top turnbuckle once, twice maybe even three times a night onto a mat that is covering plywood (the mat is not padded) which is atop a massive steel constructed ring that does not have much more give than your kitchen floor? You may be able to train to take the pain but you can never train your bones for the impacts that you take night after night. How do you train to dive between the ropes and land on a solid concrete floor without getting hurt? You can't, you take the bump and go on because it is what you are trained to do. Suck it up and go again. Sounds a lot like football doesn't it?
But there is something more to professional wrestling. Something that most people do not even see. The psychology of wrestling. That is what takes you to the edge of your seat and start to scream for your favorite personality or boo your most hated one. Pro Wrestling gives something that most other sports do not. Although there is psychology to every sport it is more prevalent in wrestling because as opposed to watching the many player team sports wrestling is mostly a one on one competition. The viewer can relate more to this. I have witnessed many people groan at a missed elbow drop the same way that they would groan when their favorite quarterback misses a receiver or when their favorite basketball player misses an easy lay up. Is that any less real to the viewer? Not by a long shot. Plus, wrestling interacts with the fans on a level that no other sport does. It is part of the psychology. It is part of the sell. It is one of the parts that have people shelling out millions upon millions of dollars each year to watch them on PPV and also buy merchandise while they are at the event.
To just eliminate professional wrestling from coverage of any kind today is a shame to say of the least. Most newspapers (not all for there are some very good wrestling columns today in Detroit, Atlanta and Pittsburgh just to name a few that are viewed by many wrestling fans each and every week) are missing the big picture when it comes to wrestling reporting. The only time wrestling is usually mentioned anywhere is if a star from another sport crosses over like the recent "WCW Bash At Of the Beach" card which featured Karl Malone and Dallas Page against Hulk Hogan and Dennis Rodman. What most people didn't catch was the shoving and pushing in Game #6 in the championships this year between Malone and Rodman was probably done more to hype the upcoming match than anything else. The psychology of wrestling can and is used everywhere.
Newspapers are discounting millions of fans and a billion dollar industry that is growing not shrinking. They are also missing out on many wrestling fans who would buy their paper just for the fact that wrestling was covered by them. Also with more and more newspapers turning to the Internet, they are missing out on a whole faction of readers who would visit their site who normally would not be able to receive their publication or maybe even know that it exists. Believe me, there are more wrestling fans on the Internet from around the world than anyone could imagine.
Do not think that the printed word is the only place that takes more than their share of potshots. Television, although it is the medium that wrestling most dominates, has taken more than their share of cuts and jabs at the sport. Although you would never hear them call it a sport. Theater, fake, fraud with actors and scripts are more in line with what you will hear when viewing a small spot dedicated to wrestling. Although the reporters will say that pro wrestling in the 90's is huge business, to them that is all it is and refuse to lend any credibility to it what-so-ever. I have yet to understand why. Again, here we have a medium that will report on just about anything from death, murder, starvation, drug addiction, rape, alcohol and child abuse to flower shows, dog shows, the latest movie, the latest craze, how someone found an old bone in their backyard and will cover every other sport in the world to the National Tiddlywink Tournament but will not cover professional wrestling. Why do they cover all those other events and happenings? Because they feel people want to hear about them.
Knock, knock, knock....Hello, is there anybody in there? Both the newspapers and television reporting have both segregated a massive part of this population because of their own prejudice. They have chosen for us that pro wrestling doesn't need to be reported on in the mainstream because "they" feel that it is not important enough or real enough for them. These are the same people when faced with a rising product called "The Ultimate Fighting Champions" they protested and squawked enough that it is illegal in most states to run it. Why? Because it is too real! (Is it just myself or do you see something very wrong here?)
Let me just stop for one second and get this correct. Wrestling is too fake so they will not report on it. The UFC was too real so they had it banned. Where does that leave boxing, baseball, football, tennis, lacrosse, golf, swimming, skiing, soccer, basketball and the rest of the sports that they will cover. By their own terms of what they have done in the past and their still present views on what should and should not be reported on, they are real enough to call it a true sport so they will just turn their heads to past present and future transgressions as far as these and other sports they deem as worthy being found guilty of having outcomes determined before hand.
Someday we may see the time where the media will stop chastising a business because it does not fall within their set standards. Until then, we still have to get our wrestling news from magazines, hotlines, newsletters, the Internet and word of mouth. A system that has worked very well so far. But let me let you in on a little secret, when they finally pull the mothballs out of their heads and figure a way to make a buck off of reporting on professional wrestling I will guarantee that every media venue in the world will jump on the bandwagon.
Fritz Capp is the editor for Pro Wrestling's Between The Sheets - for comments or opposing viewpoints please e-mail to Pro Wrestling's Between The Sheets