Off Season: Part 1

March 3, 2009

I wrote the following for my “Storm Front” article for “Fighting Spirit” Magazine, back in October of 2008, and it is being reproduced with permission from Uncooked Media Ltd.

As I write this I am on vacation with my family and because of this I have not been following any WWE or TNA programming. I have not missed watching the shows in the least and just now after 3 weeks away I’m just starting to get curious about what’s been going on. I’m now looking forward to getting back to into the swing of watching RAW, SD, and Impact (okay not so much Impact) each week. My time away has helped revive my interest WWE and TNA, which is why I’m putting the concept of a “pro-wrestling off season” on the Storm Front this month.

There are three sides you have to consider when you look at the advantages and disadvantages of an off season. You have the fans’ perspective, the wrestlers’ perspective and off course the office’s perspective which is the business and financial end of things. This is going to be way too big of a topic to deal with in one article so I’m going to look at the fan and wrestler perspectives this month and then take a very detailed look at the many aspects of the business side of things next months.

The Fans’ Perspective:

From the fans point of view I think an off season is a no brainer. People are used to their favourite programming having an off season so I think it would be an easy adjustment for wrestling fans. Every sport has an off season and every television show, with the exception of day time soap operas, take a summer hiatus so this isn’t exactly uncharted waters. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Highlight or Best Of shows could be played during the off season for those who absolutely need their wrestling fix, but for those who just need a break, a month or two off might help keep their interest. I know a lot of my friends who used to follow wrestling don’t anymore because it just became too much work to keep up with the product, so lightening the load might help avoid fan turn over and burn out.

A specific season would not only give regular fans a break but it would also provide more casual fans a good starting point each season to get back into the product if they were out of touch for a while. A good cliff hanger at the end of one season would hold current fans through the break and good fresh booking at the start of a season might be able to help hook new fans giving the new season a try.

Had this season ended with the cliff hanger of CM Punk winning the World Title there could have been a summer long buzz leading into the new fall season. You could also kick the season off with the draft show which you could plug all summer to ensure a huge rating for the season premier.

The Wrestlers’ Perspective:

There are a lot of upsides to an off season for the boys. I was on the road for a lot of years and believe me it wasn’t easy. The WWE road schedule is a very grueling one, and my 4 years of it was about all my family and I could handle. If there was an off season in WWE, I’d most likely still be there. WWE generally runs 4 shows per week with an additional half day lost for travel. That only gives you 2 and a half days home per week with your family. When you do that 51 weeks per year you are generally so exhausted when you get home that the first day (day and a half) you are pretty much too tired to be of any use to your family and that last day is spent packing your gear and booking rental cars and hotels for the following week. Quality time off is practically nonexistent and with current International tour dates being so frequent, it’s getting even worse.

Family time aside there is also the physical toll this schedule takes on your body. Never having more than a couple days off in a row makes it nearly impossible to heal nagging injuries. Most small injuries will become major ones when not given the needed time to rest and recuperate. Yearly scheduled down time would allow performers to rest and heal their bodies and their minds, and would at least in theory, lengthen careers.

There is also the possibility that this time off to heal would help reduce the use of pain pills and drugs to deal with nagging injuries, but I’m not sold on that being the case. Those of us in the industry who avoid drugs would certainly benefit from the off season to recoup from injury, but there are a lot of people in the industry who use these drugs recreationally and only use the “bumps and bruises of the road” as an excuse to justify their drug use so they would likely not be effected. The group most in need of help likely wouldn’t take advantage of it and with a definite light at the end of the tunnel as far as the schedule goes drug use might even increase.

When you look at the history of injuries in this business, unless the injury is one that you are completely incapacitated from, the boys always try to finish their current program before taking time off. When The Undertaker tore his bicep he did that one last cage match with Batista in order to drop the title to Edge before taking time off for surgery. This is common practice and as long as there isn’t a huge risk of making the injury worse I agree with it. You put an off season into the schedule and the possibility arises that the injured party won’t just try to tough it out for that one last match, to drop the title, but try to suck it up through the rest of the season.

Let’s be honest the boys don’t have a great track record when it comes to looking out for their long term health. Guys can get time off now for injuries if they want it but often choose to stay on the road and make money. If there was a 2 month off season and I got hurt with 3 months left in the season taking the 8 to 10 weeks off to rehab the injury would likely put me out for the rest of the season, which would mean me being off for 5 month. That’s a pretty big hit financially so the incentive for me to tough it out the next 3 months and finish the season is huge. With the current nonstop schedule it doesn’t really matter when I take the 8-10 weeks so I’d be more apt to do it immediately, but with an off season guys will want to put off surgery and rehab in hopes of finishing the season, which will definitely lead to drug use.

As you can see there is no easy answer and when we get into the business side of the Off Season next month it gets even worse. Oh well who said life was easy?

Till then,
Lance Storm