Monday, April 13, 2015

Time to Get Real

"From this moment on, I'm changing the way I feel. From this moment on, it's time to get real."
- Long Gone and Moved On by The Script

What's in a word? Can one word encompass everything that a brand represents? Yes, if that word is the right word. Yes, if that word links to everything that your brand represents. Case in point, HP used the buzz word "Invent" as a slogan. Simple and catchy, "Invent" formed the basis of not just what HP do (invent various kind of technology) but also describes the company mission statement: keep inventing, keep pushing the boundaries into new territory. Just one word. Smart wrestling promoters do the same when it comes to thinking of simple buzz words to describe their products.

In the 1990s the buzz word for ECW was "Extreme" which described their matches, their characters and their attitude. "Extreme" became a word that fans believed in. For some, "Extreme" became a way of life. Fast forward to today and look at NXT, where the buzz word is "Future". The opening of the show displays the slogan "The Future Is Now!" WWE presents the NXT talent as the future stars of WWE—their style, the "future" style of wrestling. Even watching on the WWE Network may be the "Future" of how we watch wrestling. Again, this is a word that fans believe in. "Future" conjures up images of freshness and of excitement, which the product delivers.

So what does all of this have to do with TNA? Well, it pretty much highlights that TNA have never had a buzz word to build their brand around. There has never been a word that defines the identity of who TNA are (mainly because TNA have never had an identity) and I think it's time for that to change. On a new network, with a new look and a new direction, it's about time TNA had a word to start building its company around and for me, that word is "Real".

Now, let's be clear, I'm not suggesting that TNA should market itself as a legitimate sport, definitely not. Wrestling is a scripted product for a reason and it should stay that way. What I mean by "Real" is that it should be "Real" in wrestling context, which I guess translates as "believable" and should apply to everything that the company presents: real stories, real promos, real characters, real production, and acknowledgement of the real world. TNA is already doing this to an extent, but I think it's in their best interests to ramp it up.

Real Stories: Again, this does not mean real matches or "shoot" angles. It just means stories that people can relate to. Love, loss, jealousy, comedy, pain, sex, revenge, pursuit of money, pursuit of glory, friendship, betrayal.. these are things that people connect to because they're things that we all face in our daily lives. Wrestling should be no different. In my vision of a "Real" TNA, this is what storylines should be based on. Wrestling is the only true morality play left in the world—use that.

Real Promos: To me, this just means real language. Have the talent react to situations in real mannerisms. That means if they're angry don't say "gosh darn it!" Get some swear words in there. TNA have pushed the envelope with this recently (hearing Mickie James say "Pubes" was a first in wrestling, I believe) but I say go whole hog. Don't turn it into an episode of Deadwood but a few swears here and there can add to the emotion, which is what wrestling is about. Keep in mind, if it doesn't fit a character's personality then don't have him swear. How people react and speak should be an extension of who they are.

Real Characters: You've got people like Kurt Angle, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and Bobby Lashley, a legit MMA fighter. This is as real as it gets and should be the heart and soul of these characters. Everyone on the roster should be an extension of who they are, just amped up a little. The reason for this is because if we see characters we can relate to or who remind us of people we know or have met in real life, it's much easier to create an emotional connection to them. People like the BroMans do exist in real life; it's hard to imagine anyone like the Ascension does and TNA should use that to its benefit. Real people.

While we're on that subject, I think every wrestler in TNA should have a first name and a last name, you know, like real people do. WWE has a fetish for one names (Neville???) and by giving TNA wrestlers a first and last name it sets the tone that these are real people. So instead of Havok, call her Jessicka Havok and so on. Maybe there can be some exceptions like Abyss but even then, calling him Christopher Abyss might work. Now, just because we're getting "Real" doesn't mean an end to dark or unique characters, quite the opposite because the real world is full of dark and unique characters. Above all, they have to be interesting and if you follow any of the TNA guys or gals on social media or have met them, there are plenty of interesting characters to carry the show.

Real Production: You could say what TNA is doing right now is a "reality" type production with the dim lighting and rapid camera changes, both of which I think still needs some tinkering to make it a more watchable experience but they're on the right track. I also love having the commentary team in the Nashville studios to give it a "sports" type feel. For the most part, I'd eliminate backstage segments (save for special moments) for the simple reason that if you're plotting to attack someone or sneak up on someone, why would you allow a camera crew to accompany you doing it?

Also, am I the only one who thinks that wrestlers coming out and cutting promos in the ring has been done to death? Enough already, let the wrestlers air their grievances on an interview stage set in the arena which Mike Tenay could manage or just minimize it altogether. As for the current stage setup, I love that it's simple but striking. I also love the cartoon graphics of the wrestlers that were used recently and I think that's a unique concept that can continue. Never underestimate the power of a catchy logo or graphic. Every wrestler should have one. Focus on that and eliminate the pyro, the laser beams and the other clich├ęd ballyhoo.

So really, what it all boils down to is having real characters in relatable situations and reacting in real mannerisms, all presented in a real manner. Of course, all of this has to be done in the confines of a scripted wrestling show but that shouldn't limit the impact (pardon the pun) of it all. Don't forget that most TV shows are scripted and that doesn't prevent them from creating realistic characters and situations which hook us.

Of course, none of this means anything if it's not marketed right and if TNA were to get behind the "Real" brand, they need to market the hell out of that word. It's no coincidence that the best selling TNA shirt is the Mr. Anderson "Pro wrestling is real, people are fake" shirt. Wrestling fans buy it because they believe in the slogan, it's something they can get behind. For the "Real" campaign, TNA can advertise slogans like "Impact Wrestling: No fakes allowed" or "Things just got real".

In my opinion, TNA's biggest issue is that it has never had an identity. Getting "Real" could change that. It can be anything as long as it connects, is something that fans can buy into, and is something TNA can market and build their brand around. So if you could use one buzz word for TNA, what would it be? Would you keep it real?