Sunday, November 27, 2011

Why "Narrative" Is an Important Aspect of Pro Wrestling and MMA

Narrative has always been an
important part of combat sports
entertainment, even during the days
of Ad Santel.
Earlier today I read an article on Bleacher Report titled, "Why Professional Wrestling Fans Need to Stop Wanting to Make Changes". The article basically bashed another Bleacher Report writer who called for the UFC to place greater emphasis on storylines.

Well, I've taken to my blog today to respond to and defend the 'storyline wanter'. Narrative is an important part of sports entertainment. The UFC does, in fact, rely heavily on narrative to build their product, and they are learning how to capitalize on this important aspect of entertainment. Dana White's Twitter incentives are a prime example of this. He has encouraged fighters to communicate on Twitter (and we all know what kind of hell-raising goes on in the Twitter realm), offering monetary incentives for hot Twitter activity. What is Mr. White doing? He's stirring drama. Essentially, Dana is forcing the creation of new storylines by incentivizing fighters to engage in Twitter conflicts. A juicy conflict is the foundation of any worthwhile narrative.

So, that narrative hungry pro wrestling-slash-MMA fan isn't necessarily wrong for wanting to see more narrative, but he probably needs to recognize that the UFC consistently builds on the narrative to capture their audience (the UFC "All Access" series are all about telling fighters' stories to build up to big events). At the same time, the accuser (the one questioning the importance of narrative in MMA/UFC) also needs to recognize the existence of narrative in MMA. It's nothing new, it was present in catch wrestling (search Catch Wrestler Ad Santel vs Judu Black Belt Tokugoro Itoh), it's always been at the heart of boxing, pro wrestling is simply a long, ongoing storyline in itself, and MMA is a derivative/combination of all combat sports that continues the narrative tradition. If anything, the one thing we don't need is an MMA that 'makes up' stories to generate publicity. Let's keep the narrative tradition of combat sports alive through MMA, but keep it "natural", simple, and most importantly keep it real!

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