July 20, 1998 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: WCW Bash at the Beach recap, Brawl For All continues, tons of news
When you play the celebrity game, there is a risk. There’s the risk the media and the public won’t get interested and the deal becomes a money loser. And there’s the risk that even if they do, trying to get outsiders, even if they are great athletes, to do a cram course in pro wrestling won’t result in a good match. But there is the upside. While Hulk Hogan would have been one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling history without Cyndi Lauper and Mr. T, without question the rub off of them helped catapult Hogan to a higher level of mainstream consciousness. Antonio Inoki would have been one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling history without Muhammad Ali, but if he wasn’t a household name in Japan before their fight, he certainly has been for all of the past 22 years since their fight. And their fight, was the ultimate in the risk not paying off and what the repercussions of that are, short-term disaster and stuff that long-term legends are created from.
But as society has changed, so have the athletes. The biggest risk today isn’t so much of a bad buy rate, or lack of media attention to sell it to the general public, or even of a bad match. The risk is, will the celebrity show up, and if he does, will he feel he’s so high and mighty that what he’s doing is a joke.
Enter Dennis Rodman. Jake Roberts used to repeat the fable every time he turned heel. It went something like this. You see a wounded snake that’s about to die. You save its life, you nurse it back to health and you treat it as a friend. It becomes your best friend. And one day out of nowhere, the snake bites you. You ask the snake, after all I did for you, why did you bite me? The snake responded, the first time you picked me up, you knew I was a snake.
Rodman is Rodman. In another age, he’d be considered something entirely different. Sure, some of his actions are largely an exercise is self-promotion. And some, like blowing off practice in the middle of the playoffs are something different. But he can get away with it. Because he can play. Actually, that is probably not a lot different from what would have happened in a previous generation except the media would have covered it up as in covering for him in those days rather than making a huge issue of it and thus making him more of a celebrity for it these days. But in this generation, doing things like that also make one a hero. He’s cool. He does what he wants. So WCW invests a ton of money in him. And last year, at the height of his celebrityhood, instead of using a football player or a boxer, athletes who have the rep of being tough, they tried a basketball player. He helped the buy rates a little on two shows, although not nearly as much as revisionist history from people who know nothing about pro wrestling seem to think. He didn’t help TV ratings one bit last year, nor one bit this year, and this year they needed it. But he was a success, because by being associated with WCW, it strengthened the WCW name probably to a level very close to equal the name brand of the WWF when it comes to pro wrestling. The fact his first match was something of a miracle was well and good for wrestling fans but it wouldn’t have mattered that much either way. Overall in the giant scheme of things, it was a success and the fact the match quality was surprising had very little to do with it.
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