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Big Daddy's Beefs: Who is a draw?
By DONNIE ABREU - For SLAM! Wrestling


There is no bigger compliment to give a professional wrestler than telling them that he or she is a draw. In layman's terms; people throw down money hand over fist for the opportunity to come see said wrestler, live and in person.

If you look through the rich history of professional wrestling, you'll find many individual talents who are noted for their drawing power. Just their names on a poster were enough to fill an arena. Men like Whipper Billy Watson, Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin immediately come to mind.

So I pose the question: Who is the top draw in 2010? Answer: Nobody.

The concept of any one individual as a featured attraction seems to be antiquated when you look at the current wrestling landscape.

About a year ago, while discussing TNA on my radio program Tha O Show, my co-host Dan-e-o and I started looking at the number of people who have joined that company and were trumpeted as being the answer to the question: "How do we improve the ratings?" Kurt Angle, Christian Cage, Booker T and Team 3-D all failed to move the needle in any significant way.

I made the comment back then that not even Hulk Hogan himself (often referred to as the single greatest draw of all time) could affect the ratings in a noticeable way. Just a week or so later, Hogan signed with TNA and as of today, their share of the wrestling audience has not expanded. In fact, during the failed Monday Night Wars 2.0 experiment, where Hogan was a key on-screen character, their numbers actually plummeted.

Some would argue that men like John Cena or Randy Orton are big draws for the WWE, but where is the proof of that? If either man wasn't on a house show, do you think the fans that were planning to attend would suddenly say "forget it! I'm staying home!"?

Gregory Helms was a guest on my radio show this week and discussed this very topic. He backed up my beliefs by saying that the WWE itself is the draw. Itís all about their brand. Whoever they plug into the top spots will eventually be perceived as a top guy.

Itís not like Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis are hiring guys for their abilities to sell out shows on the independent circuit. In fact, itís quite the opposite. The WWE has shown that they are more than willing to write "No Experience Necessary" on the pro wrestler job application -- if you're 6'6" and 285 pounds of washboard abs with Hollywood star good looks.

Vince McMahon has said himself in interviews that anyone on the roster is replaceable. If the guy is a big part of the central story and is really over, then it may take a little time to recover from his potential absence, but eventually someone else will be slotted into that spot and the company will move on like nothing ever happened.

Think about the number of people who were considered invaluable and irreplaceable who were either cut or allowed to walk away. Hogan. Ultimate Warrior. Randy Savage. The Rock. Bret Hart. Brock Lesnar. Kurt Angle. When superstars like that are allowed to just leave, what chance does do guys like Chris Jericho or Dave Batista have at the bargaining table?

The original ECW had this concept down to a science. You could watch a 30-minute classic between Jerry Lynn and Lance Storm, but on every big spot the die hards would chant the name of the company -- not the guys breaking their bodies. While many chastised the ECW faithful for this behavior and considered it disrespectful to the boys, it was the first tangible sign of a company being bigger than the individuals listed in the program.

One of the many hats I've worn over the years in the wrestling biz is the one of "booker." I absolutely love the challenges that come with booking a show that is entertaining and makes sense. When I booked for Living Legends Wrestling in Hamilton between 2007 and 2008, we had a great run and were named Ontario's promotion of the year.


Book the Ugandan Giant now! Photo by Andrea Kellaway
During that time we booked names like Raven (when he was red hot in TNA), A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, Chris Sabin and many, many others. You know who the single biggest draw ended up being? Kamala!

People still pop for nostalgia and the gimmicks they remember from a time when the whole business was really over. Are today's workers victims of being caught in the middle of an industry-wide dry spell, or are we in a dry spell because we don't have that one great draw?

The new blueprint for long term success in this industry is to build your brand and develop a long term fanbase, and forget about finding the "next one."

Big Daddy Donnie Abreu is the Tony Fernandez of SLAM! Wrestling, back for his third tour of duty. He is currently the booker for CIW Wrestling (cwiwrestling.com) and the host of Tha O Show radio program (www.thaoshow.com)