The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Worked

I know MMA fans hate to admit that their sport is pro wrestling for real, but this is too good an example to pass by. Check the bottom.

Ooooh! Wanderlei Silva is talking about Anderson Silva! Putting him down, disrespecting him! This Sunday at the Greensboro Coliseum brother, it’s gonna be war…..

I mean, seriously, I applaud Wanderlei for this, but isn’t it obvious what he’s doing? He and the people in his camp are not stupid. His career’s winding down, he’s been losing as much or more than he wins for the last few years and being occasionally knocked out in horrifying fashion- he needs to make money quickly before time gets called on his career in the major leagues. Rich Franklin is a good waystation fight- the money’s good, it’s a main event, it’s not unwinnable, it’s almost certain to be exciting and has a chance to be a fight of the night. What’s more, it’s an explainable loss if things go that way: he was still adjusting to being smaller coming down from 205 to a 195 catchweight, this just proves he needs to move to 185, etc. You could write that interview yourself probably. But once the Franklin fight’s over, win or lose, Wanderlei needs something else; he sees an opening here and so he’s starting to beat the drums for a showdown with Anderson Silva, a title fight certain to be positioned at main or semi-main level. It’s certainly not an unreasonable fight on the merits- broken down or not Wanderlei’s a legend, and his style will make the Spider actually fight- but with Dana talking about A. Silva vs. GSP or at 205, it’s also not a slam dunk. How to help it along? Find a personal issue to hype up and increase its marketability and fan interest, and since it’s not as though these two are known for having long time bad blood, Wanderlei is creating it in his remarks to the press.

This is not new to legitimate(ish) combat sports: examples from boxing are many, with Junior Witter’s unsuccessful attempts to force Ricky Hatton into a fight coming to mind most readily as a recent one. But in its essence, it’s the same basic principle behind all of pro wrestling: find two big dudes with star quality, make people think they hate each other, then charge them to watch the guys settle it. I mean this in the nicest possible way and with nothing but respect, but Wanderlei Silva is basically working people right now as much as Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair ever did- the only difference is because the fights he’s selling are real, people don’t notice the work in the rest of it so readily. In reality, the principle isn’t even contained exclusively to combat sports: think of how many records Biggie and Tupac sold off of the tension between them (with battle tracks as the fight being sold), or how desperately 50 Cent used to look around for someone else to feud with. I’m a huge fan of Jamaican dancehall music, which has a tradition of dis tracks and face-to-face confrontations between artists on stage, and you can trace the history of that music through the line of famous clashes: Super Cat vs. Ninjaman, Bounty vs. Beenie, Movado vs. Kartel. Any business based on star power and confrontation has some of this in its DNA- Bird vs. Magic, Ovechkin vs. Crosby, Manning vs. Brady….

As a fan I pretty much consider all of this as an nearly unmitigated good. Humans are story telling creatures, and drawn to certain personalities and characters; supposedly Pure Sport has been tried many times, and while it’s admirable for what it is, it’s not mass entertainment- the BJJ Mundials aren’t on ESPN, neither the NCAA freestyle wrestling championships, nor a hundred other sports save for the Olympics when every 4 years when they get an hour on CNBC with the name “Olympics” as the draw. If Wanderlei can work an angle for his fight to get people excited for it, that’s nothing but a plus- it’s money for Wanderlei, money for UFC, and greater anticipation and enjoyment for the fans. It’s a story well told. But with that said, if you take off the fan hat for a second and try to be objective or journalistic (or whatever it is that MMA sites are going for), you should probably be able to tell when you’re being worked more often than not. Not being able to is one of the weaknesses MMA fans and analysts expose themselves to so long as they insist that their sport has nothing to do with pro wrestling or boxing; there’s the lessons of a hundred years or more of history going begging.

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April 23, 2009 - Posted by | Boxing, MMA

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