Monday, August 1, 2011

Destination Success: Impact Wrestling and the Power of Margins

Note, I usually don't like to do pieces analyzing the business side anymore. I find that microanalyzing buyrates or ratings can get really pedantic. However, I feel like with this one, there's a great point to be made.

Brian Kendrick, foundation of a better Impact
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Anyway, the buyrate numbers for Destination X are in, or as in as they can be for a company that is under no obligation to release its numbers publicly. Apparently, the buys were somewhat dismal, albeit comparatively speaking to their recent forays into PPV, they were par for the course. Conservative estimates place the number of buys at 8,000, about 500 fewer than their previous PPV, Slammiversary. That might sound like a failure, but as K. Sawyer Paul pointed out, it really wasn't in the grand scheme of things.

While the number didn't spike like some of us here might have hoped, I still think that DX was very much a success for the company, or at least a success for the maligned-by-management X-Division. We can very much agree that the difference between 8,500 and 8,000 is almost negligible in the grand scheme of things, right? So basically, DX and Slammiversary did almost the same number of buys. Assuming that the pre-wage overhead for both PPVs was the same, the rest of the costs are going to be determined by the monies paid out to the talent. The biggest name on the show in terms of a wage was Samoa Joe, Abyss or AJ Styles. Most of the wrestlers fall under the pay grade of "might have to apply for food stamps if miss more than one date", which means they're cheap. Meanwhile, Slammiversary had wages drawn by some of the heavy hitters in terms of salary. Ken Anderson, Kurt Angle, Sting, Scott Steiner, Bully Ray and one of the only Knockouts reputed to be making a decent wage in Mickie James were all on the card. Replacing them with guys like the Young Bucks, Austin Aries, Zema Ion, Mark Haskins, Shark Boy and Alex Shelley had to have brought costs down significantly, right?

So while the people who apparently don't like the X-Division in the front office might use this 5.9% as ammunition against putting more of a spotlight on these guys, what they don't realize is that it's very much a condemnation of the actual power the former TNA has in the marketplace, especially that of the supposed "stars" they have in the fold. If Angle and Sting and Anderson are only worth 500 more buys than Aries and Ion and Haskins, then is it fair to say that maybe their drawing power worth the exponential increase in salary, especially given that the former group has expenses taken care of as well while the latter group must self-fund to get from show to show? Looking at the margins, it has to make some kind of sense to people that maybe going cheaper and going younger might just be the road to take.

KSP closes his post with "The X Division guys aren't the ones who should be worrying about their jobs." In a fair world, that would be the case, but Impact Wrestling throughout its history has shown that don't make the best business decisions all the time. However, they really need to take a good, hard look at the way things are run. Maybe that whole "the Network is mandating the push for the X-Division" trope that ran on Impact last week is more shoot than not. Maybe the faith in Brian Kendrick, Shelley and Aries is real and a sign of things to come. But you'd have to forgive me if my faith in a bunch of stubborn men with their minds entrenched firmly in 1998 isn't as strong as it is in other promotions' booking (and I'm not even talking WWE here). If the rumors of spite and thickheadedness are true, then Impact is once again about to react to "bad" numbers in order to submarine change.

The thing is, for me, the best parts of Impact are when the X-Division is featured by itself. Not the bullshit Bischoff-is-trying-to-kill angle, but the one that's featuring Shelley and Kendrick dealing with a marauding Aries. To me, even when they're not wrestling, it's an intriguing angle. The quality's better, mainly because it's an issue among three guys based on a story that involves issues that are wholly in character. No one is shooting. No one is doing it for the respect of "the boys in the back" or for "stroke". All three, especially Aries who's awesome and Kendrick, whose character actually fits him, (key word, CHARACTER) are intriguing to me. The best part is that the blowoff is going to happen in the ring in what should be a match that at least tries to be innovative and entertaining.

I know some of that is subjective. I know that not everyone is going to go for the X-Division, but at the same time, forging ahead with the innovative in-ring stuff while having simple angles out of the ring, but teasing that direction has worked in the past. The Joe/Daniels/Styles stuff wasn't exactly fully capitalized on either. Meanwhile, the warmed over faux-Attitude/Monday Night Wars rehashing has been proving to drive the fan interest into the ground. So, when presented with two numbers that are somewhat similar, shouldn't you want to explore the thing that hasn't been tread upon instead of the thing that has been producing declining numbers over the months?

But again, Impact hasn't been known for its business prowess, especially when the money mark of an owner's representative eternally has a certain Noo Yawker in her ear about what makes good wrestling. It's a shame too, because Impact has a chance to try and give something to the fans while taking in something in return.

And hell, if the business model grew, maybe they could afford to pay Jesse Neal and the rest of the crew enough money so that they would get a paycheck even when they missed dates because of injury, y'know?

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