The UFC Conundrum

Well, hello. Welcome back to the column that loves the snow, loves the ice. Loves it so much, that it waits near your garden until you’ve built a snowman, then WHAM! Gone in 60 seconds. Oh yeah!

So, I presume that you’ll have seen that UFC ran a card at the weekend, pitting Canadian hero Georges St. Pierre against mouthy bad boy Josh Koscheck, right in the centre of Montreal. Never since Shawn Michaels made his return has one Canadian crowd been so much on the back of one man as Josh Koscheck.

It made me think of the days that the WWE could draw heat like that, and how the UFC manage it. Think about it – the UFC don’t have cartoonish angles, or factions, or evil bosses (well, some would argue a case for Dana White being that, but that’s for other columnists to look at!) to fall back on. They just have two guys, an octagon and a fight – but with enough time to promote it.

Obviously, GSP vs. Koscheck had the Ultimate Fighter season to tie in with, and that has to have helped push the buy rate. but WWE has NXT. Why not use it in a similar way? Have two trainers duking it out, but not settled in one night, like Del Rio and Bryan was last week – that’s just pointless hotshotting of an angle for the hell of it – but use it, not just to build rookies, but to further storylines, and push angles.

UFC falls back on the most basic of wrestling premises – that all you need is two guys with an issue, a place and a date – to sell tickets. Koscheck is such a natural heel, you want to see him get his comeuppance, you want to see him get beaten and lose to the courageous good guy, GSP in this case. Have they needed any silly added on gimmicks to sell it? No.

Of course, UFC and wrestling are two totally different entities, I’m not denying that, nor am I comparing them IN THE RING. Outside of the ring, promotion is promotion. Good promotion can make or break a show’s buy rate. One of the things the WWE does better than anyone is the pre match video packages telling the story of the match that’s just about to happen.

Here’s my problem – why are these often incredible videos saved for the actual PPV? Why not use them on TV? Once peeps have bought the PPV, they’re hooked – they’re a captive audience, showing them a recap of a feud isn’t going to garner any extra buys. Showing these vids on Raw or Smackdown in the lead-up to a PPV could convince the swaying buyer to fork out the cash for a show.

UFC set the GSP vs. Kos match months in advance, and worked the media for all it was worth. GSP didn’t do much trash talking, but that just made him out to be even more of a likable good guy. Koscheck talked as much trash as anyone has since Chael Sonnen – and his fight with Silva did huge numbers too.

It’s a proven fact – good talking in advance of a set date CAN sell PPVs. So why do the WWE, and to a lesser extent TNA, insist on throwing shows together at the last minute? How can they sell a show fully when they only book the final matches the week, sometimes days before show time?

The overload of PPVs is most apparent here. Back when PPVs were limited in number to The Big Four, whoever won The Rumble had clear sailing through to WrestleMania to promote the big match with the Champ. Now? The champ has to negotiate the Elimination Chamber show before the WrestleMania match can be set in stone; likewise for the challenger – how many matches have you seen where the ‘Mania title shot is on the line?

It’s one of the most bemusing things about current day WWE policy to me – if you want to sell a show, promote it properly. To promote it properly, the card MUST be set in advance. Not all of it, as that’s probably not possible with the fast track policy to angles and blow offs these days.

Getting back to UFC, their promotion is just plain and simple “I want to beat him” – sometimes they add a reason, to prove they’re better, or they had a fallout, or they want a title shot, or it’s to show the world they are as good as the other guy, or they just flat out don’t like each other. The point being, it’s just a simple issue, pushed by solid interviews about the reasons.

At the end of the day, though, wrestling USED to be like that. It used to be purely and simply about the belt, or about personal issues. None of this carry on with Edge and Kane at the moment. I mean come on, Edge has kidnapped Kane’s father, and tricked him into “killing” him. Edge is the face in this how?

Kane has the title. Edge wants it so he can prove he’s the best. That’s it. Or it would be, if the titles meant anything any more. When John Cena’s contractual status is more of an issue on TV than the World Championship, it just makes me think that wrestling has lost sight of the plot a little.

Peeps are turning to UFC, not just because of the MMA attraction, which is a BIG selling point, but because as we’ve grown up, wrestling on the whole has perhaps strayed a little too much to the cartoonish side of things again. I hate to bring it up, but in the Attitude era, sure there were the big set pieces and over the top angles – but all built from competition and the desire to prove who was the better man, or woman, or Chyna.

Maybe UFC have caught a little spark in the market that wrestling has discarded in the past. Maybe it’s time for wrestling to take a step backwards to move forwards, and copy a little something from UFC, that UFC in turn copied from the wrestling model of many moons ago. And no, Jeff Jarrett – your current gimmick doesn’t count.

Until next time. have fun, go mad.

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