WWE, TNA Writers Strike
LOS ANGELES, CA — The Writers Guild strike going on within the Hollywood entertainment industry has spread to the professional wrestling business, and leaders of both major promotions have been scrambling to provide original programming for USA Network, the CW Network, and Spike TV.
Writers for both World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Total Nonstop Action (TNA) announced a formal strike this past weekend, throwing all major booking storylines and TV scripts into disarray.
Vince Russo led the strike, calling out peers Brian Gewirtz, Dusty Rhodes, Michael Hayes, and Dutch Mantel onto the picket line. No deal has been reached at press time, and the sides appear far apart on money terms.
But to the surprise of many, the strike has had the opposite effect of what was feared would happen.
“These are the best shows WWE has put on in years,” wrote Dave Meltzer, editor of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. “Without the bad writing, bad acting, and yo-yo booking, the product finally appears solid, clear, and basic. It works.”
“iMPACT ROCKS~!!” agreed Bryan Alvarez in this week’s edition of Figure 4 Weekly. “All hail the absence of Vince Russo, and all hail the existence of common sense booking. Me love TNA~!”
Without any fancy Hollywood writers, WWE and TNA were forced to present simplistic booking, basic wrestling matches, and no more backstage skits. The shows hyped and built toward the pay-per-view matches, focusing on enhancing wrestlers’ personalities, recapping storylines in an understandable manner, and promising a great show.
Without the complication of writers coming up with complex finishes, all the TV matches had clean finishes, no outside interference, and no ref bumps.
Ordinary wrestling fans had nice things to say, too.
“Finally, my kids can understand what’s goin’ on,” said Al Hathaway, a gas station attendant who lives in Alabama. “We’re just ordinary folk, not interested in thinkin’ too much. We like watchin’ rasslin’, seein’ a winner and a loser. I seen it last night and they was keepin’ it real, real simple. For the first time in years we actually understanded everythin’ we seen.”
The Neilsen research company, which tracks television ratings, reported an increase in ratings for the top wrestling shows. WWE Monday Night Raw showed a 150% increase, delivering a 5.25 rating for the composite two hours; the best in seven years, said Meltzer. Meanwhile, WWE SmackDown turned in a solid 4.0 rating, a number it hasn’t seen since its 1999 debut. “What was notable about the SmackDown number was that the increase didn’t come from Hispanic viewers, which is where SmackDown is normally strongest.”
TNA’s iMPACT program showed the biggest increase, doing a 3.5 rating; a 350% increase over its season average.
When asked who has been writing the TNA shows, TNA President Dixie Carter was refreshingly honest.
“Honestly, we have no writers,” she explained. “We threw wrestlers’ names into a hat, picked them randomly, made them wrestle, and just started hyping and building toward our next PPV event. We focused on our wrestlers’ strengths and tried hiding their weaknesses. We just used common sense. It was so simple.”
In other words, shows with no writers at all drew more than triple the ratings of shows written by Vince Russo, who has years of experience and earns over $100,000 per year in TNA.
The results led those in power to question whether or not they need writers at all.
“We got to thinking; do we really need writers?” asked Vince McMahon, CEO of WWE. “Come to think of it, I didn’t have any writers when this company got big. We just had me as booker, with an assistant or two. With the strike, we went back to that formula, and ratings exploded.”
Vince’s daughter Stephanie, who is technically a writer, was also on the picket line striking. However, when she got the news of WWE’s record ratings, she dropped her picket and called her mother Linda, reportedly lowering her demands.
Linda had not returned her daughter’s call at press time. Russo’s calls to TNA had also not been returned.
The potential situation of wrestling’s writers being removed had generated a huge buzz among wrestling fans both on and off the internet. Celebrations were held at houses all across the nation, with the parties lasting well into the night.