COMMENTARY | The increasing emphasis on safety in professional wrestling coupled with developments in CGI animation may soon lead to a groundbreaking change in how fans enjoy sports entertainment.
The concept of CGI (computer-generated imagery) or other forms of animated wrestling is certainly not a new idea. For several decades, wrestling fans and gamers have enjoyed any number of professional wrestling video games. Over time, CGI has improved exponentially to the point that video game franchises such as Madden and 2K Sports have tremendous followings among sports fans and gamers. Wrestling fans are eagerly awaiting the release of WWE 2K14 on October 29, 2013.
Part of the allure of wrestling video games is that fans can direct matches in any way they choose. For example, if fans prefer violent matches, they can change the settings to include stipulations such as no disqualification, cage match, blood, etc. The WWE even capitalized on the cult-like popularity of the Attitude Era by making that the theme of its previous video game release. Of course, WWE video games will always be more violent than the real thing.
While CGI is becoming more realistic, professional wrestling is becoming much safer. The WWE has instituted ImPACT medical testing to ensure that its wrestlers are fully recovered before returning from concussions. To lessen the risks of receiving concussions, the WWE has banned piledrivers and chair shots to the head. And in general, WWE wrestlers take far fewer risks than they did 10-15 years ago.
Although many old-school fans complain about the WWE's TV-PG programming and its less violent product, the increase in safety measures is clearly a positive development. And the fact is that most mainstream wrestling promotions today present a safer product than was typically offered in the late 1990s and ever further back. A few rogue promotions are trying to recapture the magic of ECW, but they are not prevalent today.
The WWE recently posted a poll on its website asking fans to vote on which match they'd like to see simulated from WWE 2K14. This is when I had the idea of just running an entire wrestling promotion through CGI animation. Not all fans are gamers. So there may be many fans around the world who'd prefer to simply watch the aforementioned brand of wrestling via CGI rather than using a game controller to do so.
Obviously, CGI wrestlers wouldn't have to worry about concussions. The wonders of CGI would allow wrestlers to fall off the top of a cage and not worry about losing a tooth. Accidents that have led wrestlers such as Droz to suffer permanent disabilities (or worse) would not be a concern in the CGI world of animation. Of course, there would have to be injuries to make the drama as realistic as possible, but real people would not be suffering those injuries.
Another benefit of CGI wrestling is that costs would be reduced dramatically. Promoters would not have to pay rental fees for arenas and worry about empty seats. Instead of paying a roster of 50-100 wrestlers six or seven-figure salaries, promoters would only need a team of graphic designers and voice actors. CGI promoters would not have to pay for transportation either. But if done correctly, they could still generate ad revenue, merchandise sales, and perhaps even pay-per-view buys.
Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to see a successful CGI wrestling promotion within the next couple of years. I do believe that someone will eventually try to make it work, but it will take some time for fans to be conditioned to get behind a CGI promotion. Also, the first couple of attempts will probably not be that great. It would likely take a great mind, such as Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, or Jim Cornette, to handle creative, while the programmers just focus on the CGI animation.
I don't think John Cena or any young wrestler on the independent scene needs to worry about getting replaced by a cartoon. If CGI wrestling does catch on, it would probably have a small niche in the industry. But if a creative wrestling genius gets behind the project, it could be highly successful. Perhaps CGI is how some wrestling fans will get the extreme action they've been yearning for since the late 1990s.
Patrick Michael lives in New Orleans and has always been a big fan of pro wrestling. Patrick's favorite wrestling promotion was Mid-South Wrestling back in the 1980s. Patrick's favorite wrestling angle of all-time was the NWO and his favorite wrestler is Roddy Piper. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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