Could A Modern Day Rock 'N' Wrestling Cartoon Help TNA Bring In The Important Kid Demographic?
There is no doubt the WWE panders to a younger demographic. I respect the hell out of John Cena, but he’s the biggest star in the business, not only because of his tireless work ethic and positive attitude, but because WWE can market him as a safe option for kids. There’s certainly nothing at all wrong with that, as they did the very same thing with Hulk Hogan in the 80’s, becoming a global juggernaut in the process. It was during Hogan’s run that merchandising became a focal point for Vince McMahon & Co., and untold millions were made off an assortment of ‘kid friendly’ items. Everything from action figures to sleeping bags, lunch boxes to yes, ice cream bars, were marketed specifically to kids, and we ate it up, doing whatever we could to get that Ultimate Warrior satin jacket or Randy Savage stuffed ‘wrestling buddy’. I know I did an awful lot of yard mowing and cleaning up of my room to save the money needed to purchase those old LJN action figures.
During that same era, the WWF produced a show called Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling, a 30 minute, Saturday morning cartoon. The format was a simple one: Simplistic stories, with plenty of wacky hijinks and good always defeating evil. The 8-year old me loved it. The WWF produced 26 episodes and the show ran for 2 seasons (plus an extra season in reruns). I never missed an episode. In truth, as someone who always preferred the WCCW and Mid-South products, the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling cartoon opened my eyes to the larger than life characters in the WWF, which in turn got me into their regular programming. This recently got me thinking: Why has no one brought the cartoon format back to pro wrestling since the mid-80’s?
Certainly, WWE is the logical choice for the company most likely to resurrect a weekly cartoon, especially with their launching of the WWE Network later this year. They have the money, the inroads and the vision to produce and make a success of a show of this nature. With so much time to fill on the network, it would seem to make perfect sense. But in my view, TNA is actually the company with the most to gain from a move this blatantly geared towards kids.
I have long thought TNA needs to add another hour or two of programming somewhere to showcase more of their talent and give fans another chance to see the product during the week. WWE seems to have the perfect setup, with RAW on Mondays, followed by Smackdown on Fridays, plus a couple of one hour online shows, but once upon a time, WWE made very good use of the weekends as well. With WWE having no weekend presence, would a half hour pro wrestling cartoon, geared specifically to kids, work for TNA?
Spike, the home of TNA’s IMPACT! Wrestling, would obviously not be the network for such a venture. They gear their programming towards men, 18-34 years of age and are unlikely to have a place for a kids cartoon. However, Spike is owned by media giant Viacom, who also owns, among their many holdings, MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. At first blush, the latter of those three networks would seem to be a perfect match for something this off the wall. Eric Bischoff and Jason Hervey, both of whom have close ties with TNA, could possibly come in very handy in the area of developing and shopping the cartoon, making use of their contacts with their production/development company, Bischoff/Hervey Entertainment.
Cost is an important factor to consider when looking at the creation and production of a new show, however animation has become quite a bit more cost effective over the years. Disney, Hanna Barbera, Warner Bros., and Marvel have all opened offices in the Philippines and save upwards of 80% over their costs here in the U.S. by employing animation studios like Manila-based FilCartoons (owned by Hanna Barbera) to do the majority of the sketching, painting and filming that goes into the creation of the 30 minute cartoons they produce. As for writing the cartoon, were it up to me, Marty DeRosa and Colt Cabana would be my choices. Those two seem tailor made for such an endeavor. They each have firm grasps of comedy and pro wrestling, and how the two genres can work in unison. TNA could also make use of more talent on their roster, getting them voiceover work, and maybe even mixing in a short, 2-minute match at the end of the cartoon to showcase a particular talent. This would get a few more guys paid, which would only boost morale backstage. At least on the surface, this seems like a recipe for success.
Jeff Hardy, with the colorful face paint and gear, and the high flying acrobatics, is already a walking cartoon. Love him or hate him, the kids pop for him each and every time he hits the ring. He would seem to be the perfect candidate for something like this. Gearing the marketing of such a show around him would possibly be the quickest and easiest way to get kids on board with it. Bully Ray is another great character that would translate well to an animation format. Matter of fact, Bully already reminds me of the big bulldog that would always make life so hard for Tom in the Tom & Jerry cartoons. “Cowboy” James Storm, Robbie E. and Abyss would also appear to be readymade characters.
In an industry so dependant on larger than life characters, a marriage between pro wrestling and the cartoon world would appear to be a match made in heaven. Certainly, these are fairly broad strokes I’ve been painting with, and there is a ton that goes into the creation of a television show, but I think it has real potential and should at least be considered as a viable option to bringing a younger set of eyes to a product sorely in need of such a thing.