commercials

Discussion: Commentary and Commercial Breaks

K Sawyer Paul, responding to my response to his response to Matt Saye:

That’s only a problem if you listen to commentary, and it’s subjective. If you don’t like Michael Cole, then this exacerbates the issue. But if you have no problem with Cole (he’s been employed long enough to suggest some people quite like him) then this doesn’t hold ground.

The commentary being a (or greatly adding to the) problem isn’t necessarily due to Cole being Cole; it’s because the announcing itself is very rarely commentary on the wrestling match (the technical aspect, the in-ring narrative, or the illusion of competition), but on tangential matters outside the ring. The pre-break spiel directly pertains to the in-ring action, so shifting from Lauranaitis is a better GM to Will Kofi keep his momentum? We’ll find out when Raw rolls on makes the commercial break all the more jarring.

I must admit that Jim Ross was guilty of the same thing back in the days when they were transitioning from play-by-play commentary to the current “WWE storytelling” announcing style.

Sawyer continues:

…with other scripted TV shows, we’re not actually missing any of the content when they go to commercial. With wrestling matches, we, the TV audience, is actually being robbed of part of the match.

You can suggest that not much happens during the break, that we’re actually saved from watching rest holds or whatever. But to a wrestling fan, the kind of person who likes the technical aspects of the art, we don’t care if we’re missing something bad or good; the fact that a piece of the match is missing is grating.

He goes on to suggest that it would be best to avoid cutting content altogether whenever possible, such as on taped shows like SmackDown. I totally agree. No one believes that show is live, anyway.

I would theorize that WWE believes that full, uninterrupted matches should only be seen by paying audiences, whether at a live show, a pay-per-view showing, or on a DVD set. But many matches featured on sets that were originally shown on free TV still don’t include the section of the match cut by a commercial break.

I guess all we’re left with is that WWE just doesn’t “get” wrestling fans, or Vince McMahon personally likes screwing with them. Both of which aren’t new theories at all, but each has as much weight as any wrestling-related theory I’ve ever heard.

On mid-match commercial breaks

K Sawyer Paul responds to Matt at the Wrestling Journal, about the annoyance of commercial breaks during long TV matches:

Other sports don’t have this problem. No sport with any popularity can play an entire game between commercials, and fans understand that. Other sports also have believable lull periods: time-outs, half-times, infield-outfield changes, etc., where it makes sense to place a commercial. But wrestling matches can last anywhere from 18 seconds to over an hour.

Airing commercials during matches is really only a problem if wrestling is still viewed through the lens of sports and competition.

Seeing wrestling an art in the medium of television, I see no other alternative to having commercial breaks in the middle of a match. On any given episode of Raw, the narrative progresses more so out of the ring than in it, and the important parts of the matches we missed are replayed anyway.

I’ve gotten used to the timing of the commercial break during the first featured match on any Monday Night Raw: always on the first “act” of the match, one of the wrestlers (usually the heel) gets thrown outside the ring, presenting the image of the other being the dominant competitor in the match. Once the show returns from commercials, the previously dominant wrestler is trapped in a submission hold (usually a chinlock), with the tide having turned during the break. The move that caused the shift is then shown to us in a “double-action” replay.

I have a theory: mid-match commercial breaks are much more grating now because of the commentary. Michael Cole (or, his character) has always placed more value in WWE storytelling and corporate line-toeing than in the importance of whatever match is taking place, so when he throws us to commercial break by emphasizing the uncertainty of wrestling competition, it feels like he’s insulting our intelligence.

As lovers of wrestling matches, we’ve probably gotten used to tuning out the asinine commentary on Monday Night Raw, so it can get quite jarring when commercial breaks take place–we get forced to “un-tune-out”.

When it was Jim Ross (or Joey Styles, or anyone who places more value in in-ring action than stupid things like Twitter Trending Topics) on lead announcing duties, the commentary added a narrative layer to the action, which we, as wrestling fans, accepted. So when he threw us to the commercials, we accepted the suspense they were portraying on-screen. It didn’t feel insulting.