The backstage of professional wrestling can teach critical business strategies that have proven to work across industries.
It’s no secret I’m a big fan of the WWE, and have been since I was about 9 or ten years-old. When I reveal that I still watch wrestling, it’s guaranteed to garner a snicker or a stare. But what people don’t realize is that when I’m spending my off-time hypnotized by WWE Home Video, I’m not really glued to tube because of the fight that’s taking place; I’m learning critical business strategies that have already proven to work across industries.
To get a better understanding of what I’m referring to, here’s a list of three things I learned while watching wrestling.
- Storytelling: Every sports-entertainer introduced by WWE—or any wrestling organization for that matter—has a character. Each character has a story, and that story influences the matches, merchandise and multi-media produced by the organization. For example, Rey Mysterio’s marketing heavily integrates his Mexican culture and the lucha libre tradition of wearing the mask. The story arc, however true or false it maybe, introduces an opportunity for hired creatives to market a “mask v.s. mask” match, sell replica masks to adoring fans at concessions stands, and produce a DVD series about the many masks of Rey Mysterio. Entrepreneurs, regardless of their industry, need to master storytelling not just to impact the bottom line, but to attract resources, talent and extend branding opportunities—which in many ways can be more valuable than the greenbacks.
- Staying relevant by reinventing yourself: Sports-entertainers, many who are on TV today, started in a development facility or an independent promotion under another name and gimmick. Once arriving to the big leagues, creative usually changes their name, give them some cool entrance music, and most importantly: a back story. However, once they make it to the top of the roster, the superstars can’t take their positions for granted; they have to consistently keep their character fresh with new feuds, new storylines, and maybe a new gimmick. The Undertaker—associated mainly with the dark lights and funeral-like processionals to the ring—at one point in the early 2000’s morphed to the “American Badass” biker character; dressed in denim; and drove a motorcycle to the ring. For the moment in time in which it occurred, his character was popular with the fans. Once the magic wore off, he reverted back to his traditional persona, but added much more edge and realism. If your product isn’t selling the way you projected it to, or consumers aren’t becoming as fanatic as anticipated, consider revamping the imagery, name—hell, even add some music!
- The element of surprise: In 1996 when Scott Hall (Razor Ramon) and Kevin Nash’s (Diesel) contract was up with the WWF, they quickly signed with southern rival promotion, WCW, playing up the gimmick as “outsider” and portraying a hostile takeover endorsed by Vince McMahon. Soon after Hall and Nash’s arrival, Hulk Hogan turned in his red and yellow ring attire for the black & white colors of the n.W.o (New World Order). Judging by the amount of trash that filled the ring at the Bash at the Beach pay-per-view, fans were not expecting a heel turn by Hogan. That surprising move by then WCW executive, Eric Bischoff, kept the fans on their toes and the cash flowing in. Surprises—or controlled coincidences, if you will—keep the market interesting and makes your competition work that much harder. It also shows your customer(s) that you don’t take them for granted. At the same time, aim to surprise yourself. As I tell myself every day—and it might you help if you do to—success isn’t achieving another man’s expectations of you in another man’s workforce, but success is exceeding your own expectations through your own ideas. When you surprise yourself that’s when you’re really succeeding.
Hold onto to these three things while minding your business and you’ll be jumping off the top rope onto a healthy bottom line.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
Photo: AP/Jonathan Bachman