TennisMania: What Tennis Can Take From Professional Wrestling
Courtney Massey, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis has left the California desert for the courts in Miami, but back in San Jose, professional wrestling has taken over. This past week and weekend have been packed with the most popular names in WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and Independent wrestling. The event schedule included WWE’s AXXESS to Independent Wrestling’s own WrestleCon. All of the action has lead to tonight’s WWE WrestleMania, which is one of the biggest entertainment events on the calendar.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You are wondering what tennis and wrestling have to do with one another. Tennis is a competitive sports competition, while wrestling is an athletic entertainment. I am madly in love with professional tennis. I’m also in love with professional wrestling and other sports and entertainment. There are aspects of entertainment I’d like to incorporate into the tennis universe. Here are some examples of what tennis can take from professional wrestling and how we can make tennis even better.
In professional wrestling, each wrestler has their own specific music played each time they enter the ring. Just a couple seconds into the theme is all it takes for the packed arena crowds to go wild, or “pop”, as they say in wrestling. I would love to see the tennis world incorporate personalized music for each player. Last summer the Wall Street Journal published an article about US Open DJ, Dieter Ruehle. In the piece, Ruehle talked about the songs of the summer and mentioned some requests players had made as to what songs they’d prefer to walk out to. Some of these requests included Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” for Alize Cornet, “I am a God” by Kanye West for Ernests Gulbis, and WWE fan John Isner wanted Randy Houser’s “Like a Cowboy”. This is a good start, but I would like to see every player, at least the top 20, have their own theme that lasts throughout the entire tennis season. It may seem silly at first. You know whose about to play, so why is a specific song necessary to accompany the introduction? Unless you are a professional wrestling fan or watch other sports like the PBR (Professional Bull Riding) that have included personalized music, it may be hard to understand the excitement. When the entrance music starts to play, there is another layer of anticipation added to the atmosphere. The excitement already inside you, irrupts. The feeling is similar to the first song the band begins to play at a concert. You’re there. Your favorite player is there. Things are happening!
Ah promos. Wrestling promos are small video clips of wrestlers talking straight into the camera and promoting a match. They make statements as to why they are going to win and can trash talk their opponent in the process. It may seem like I am about to cause a huge war within the tennis player community, but hear me out on this. Promos can be serious and aggressive, but they are often very silly and ridiculous which is what I want to see. It’s a fun way for the fans to see their personalities, as well as get excited for the match ups. I would like to see more opportunities for the tennis players to show off their own unique humor and charisma. There is one player in particular that I already know would be up for the challenge.
In an article, The Privilege of being Ernests by Steve Tignor from 2013, Ernests Gulbis is quoted discussing what he’d like to see more of in the tennis world.
He continued to say that the interviews given by the top 4 , respectfully, are boring to listen to. What does Ernests want to see more of? War and emotion!
When boxers face each other down at the weigh-in, they bring what the fans want: war, blood, and emotion.
While blood and war can get awfully messy, introducing playful promos from time to time can be a happy medium. Last year Grigor Dimitrov and Roger Federer made a promotional video for their BNP Paribas Showdown that was played earlier this month. In that promotional video, Grigor Dimitrov included a tradition promo. Grigor, looking into camera addresses his opponent,
Roger, I’ll see you at the Garden. Bring your racket and tie your shoes, you old man!
That my friends, is a promo! That my friends, is a start!
Tennis players have their own gear or “kit”, as they say in tennis, that is given to them by their sponsors. Adidas and Nike being the major brands. Usually these kits are one or two colors with minimal pattern. Other players, like Radek Stepanek, have spiced up their outfits with bolder looks such as shirts with the New York City skyline. In professional wrestling, each wrestler has their own personalized gear. An exception to this may be a tag team or fraction (more than one wrestler wrestling together as a group), that may have the same or similar outfits. Many of the tennis players are sponsored by the same brand, therefore, you see many of the tennis players wearing the same exact clothes. I think we can do better, clothing brands! Tailoring the outfit to fit the player’s own style, while still promoting the brand itself would be great for the sport. I can imagine an increase in sales as well. While some personalized gear exists today, we still have a long way to go to expand this. Which leads me into my next segment…
I’ve been going to tennis tournaments since 2009, and in all of those trips I’ve browsed through the merchandise tent. However, I’ve been left with a level of disappointment each time. Why? I never, or very rarely, see specific player merchandise. The official tournament merchandise is great, and buying the occasional athletic gear the players wear is nice, but I’m talking about novelty merchandise! I want to buy anything and everything with my favorite player’s picture on them. I want to buy bedroom posters with photos and quotes. T-shirts, cups, and action figures of my favorite men and women! Where is our Monopoly game? The lack of this merchandise is confusing and frustrating! The only way I can purchase items of this nature is to visit sites like Etsy for handmade items made by the fans. An official merchandise shop would be extremely profitable, and I can promote my love for the sport everywhere I go! WWE has a shop on their website selling t-shirts and other items for each wrestler. Independent wrestlers also have multiple shirts designed to sell at shows and online at Pro Wrestling Tees. Along with the tradition t-shirts, they sell DVD’s of shows and interview shoots that are very popular.
Expand the Fan Experience:
Wrestling, especially on the Independent circuit, is very fan friendly. Wrestlers sell their own merchandise, talk, take pictures and interact with fans. Chikara, an independent promotion out of Philadelphia, holds fan conclaves to allow their fans to play games and interact with the wrestlers. For professional tennis, you’re able to ask for photos and autographs around the grounds. Tournaments often hold autograph sessions for a small number of players throughout the tournament. Tennis can do a better job at breaching the gap between fans and the pros they admire. Some suggestions to improve this include adding more exhibition/comedy matches, more autograph sessions that also include multiple players at one time, high quality photo booths, and live Q&A or interview sessions.
As you can clearly see, I want to showcase these players not only for their talent on the court but for who they are as a person. Show off their personalities, humor, and passion!
Is there anything you’d like to see the tennis world incorporate?