MTG and WWE or “Amping Up the Pro Tour”

Harry Ryttenberg (@mrfridays) and I were discussing this video the other day as a kickass example of how to make an entrance.

And it jogged my memory back to the last Pro Tour, when I suggested (on Twitter) that Magic really needed to get its act together re: entrances and theme music. Right now, the PT webcasts basically exclude anything cool. There’s no hype, no added drama, and the play-by-play – while very professional – has no edge to it. (This is by corporate choice.) Thus Harry and I decided that the notable MTGers needed their own entrances, complete with blaring theme music and video segments.

Making an Entrance
Defunct Japanese MMA organization Pride and WWE have had the best entrances ever (and the Chicago Bulls). For whatever reason, they understand how to use music, lights, and video to increase the tension way beyond where it normally would be. Don’t understand?  Try these on for size:

(The actual live intros start at 5:45 or so). I saw this one the first time it aired on pay-per-view and it made my hairs stand on end. I only watched the next one on youtube and haven’t been a WWE fan since it was called the WWF, but this ALSO made my hair stand on end.

From the sublime

to the surreal (Genki Sudo is fucking awesome)

to the downright creepy

these set the stage for everything you are about to watch. If the Undertaker didn’t have his entrance, he’d just be an ugly seven-foot tall dude in tights walking into the ring.

Now obviously Pride and WWE spend millions and millions on production budgets, but they’ve been doing this sort of thing for decades and used to have much cheaper budgets. For Magic, even if you played some sort of fantastic highlights video for all the stars (complete with awesome theme music) and then a more generic one for the n00bs, I think you’d get a huge improvement.

Pre-Match Interviews for the Quarterfinals
Have you ever seen the pre-fight interviews for boxing or MMA? Basically, some interviewer goes to the dressing room of each competitor before the fight to ask about what strategies they might employ against each other, how they feel before the fight, some animosity that came out during the lead up to the fight, etc.

It seems like Magic could certainly do something like this to play before the Top 8 matches.  You know the annoyingly same Top 8 profiles people do again and again? Why not make those video? Tell us about your QF opponent. Is there anyone in this Top 8 you have a rivalry with/you really want to beat? Encourage some gloating/story telling from the weekend. This will also help in star-building, because we’ll get one more chance to see personality behind the guys slinging cards. Language barriers would certainly cause some problems, but it feels like there is so much more that could be done to create some tension beyond what happens when the cards are being played.

Speaking of which, I think we could use some more flair in the announcing department. Rich Hagon was chosen because he spoke more to the common man than the Pro Tour player (and likely because he has a spiffy English accent), but this man certainly gave us some of the more memorable lines from Pro Tour coverage ever:

Osyp and Gabe Walls contributed to one of the more mythical and entertaining pieces of booth coverage from Magic’s past at U.S. Nationals 2004, but it was never televised outside of the venue. Needless to say, they were hilarious and not particularly family friendly, causing Chris Galvin (former VP of Organized Play*) to walk back stage, steam coming out of his ears, and shout “Get Them Out of the Booth!” in the quietest shouting voice you have ever heard. It was scary. Magic might not have been ready for that at the time, but I think there’s space for something more in that vein now.

Seriously, compare our current combo to Osyp and then that to some of the classic WWF combinations

Why can’t we amp it up a little? When Skaff was around, Wizards wasn’t afraid to flirt with a serious amount of camp in pursuit of marketing and entertainment bang…

So why can’t we get a heel and straight man relationship? Why can’t we play up the rivalries more (like Sperling and PVDDR disliking each other, or Wise and Benafel back in the day, or Mike Long and anyone, but particularly YMG)? There’s a vast amount of entertainment value just waiting to be erm… tapped.

The guys who are most likely to end up as the great MTG announcers with the cool catch phrases and detailed knowledge of the community they can access for great anecdotes are those that are doing it every other week for SCG/GGS Live. Practice and a little more time will go a long way toward sorting out who is good at creating a compelling live narrative and who is just a donk talking over a Magic match. I don’t generally have the time to watch the live streams, but they are certainly better at creating incredible moments for the audience at home than text is, whether it’s Craig Jones flipping a Lightning Helix off the top (which was Olivier Ruel’s idea), Nassif’s Cruel Ultimatum, or something like Kenny Mayer casually dropping Battle of Wits into play off his opponent’s Show and Tell. The Magic world is ready for constant video bombardment.

Hopefully all of the coverage production teams are scouring TV and the internet in an attempt to figure out who they should be stealing from. Current coverage of StarCraft events, poker, sports, and WWE (not a sport) have a huge head start, some serious audience crossover, and should be an excellent source of inspiration. Magic is champing at the bit for more video coverage with the entertainment values turned up to 11, but now it’s up to the coverage teams to figure out how to do that while maintaining a tight budget and the integrity of the game.

Firestarter – What theme music/entrance would be appropriate for the following current pros/former MTG greats?

Brian Kibler
Osyp Lebedowicz
Paulo Da Rosa
Mike Long
Kenji Tsumura
Kai Budde
Jon Finkel
Patrick Chapin
Brad Nelson
Conley Woods

Feel free to pick a couple that inspire you and tell me WHY you picked what you did. If you want to shortcut a link to movie montages or youtube along with an explanation, that’s fine too.

@mixedknuts on Twitter

*I believe. Titles are confusing to me.


9 responses to “MTG and WWE or “Amping Up the Pro Tour”

  1. Thanks for this Ted, it’s actually a pretty interesting topic. I’m going to be joining a coverage team for the Jupiter Games events (season 2) starting this summer, and you’ve given me some things to think about. I think it’s probably a little ambitious to think we could have a bunch of entrance theatrics prior to everyone sitting down and quietly playing a match of Magic – it seems like a lot of energy build up for a relatively calm game, and I fear it would do more harm for the players than good for the viewers. On the other hand, a lot of what you said about interviews, commentary, etc. is very good.

    • Thus Spoke Zarathustra is PERFECT for Finkel. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself.

      Although maybe it belongs with Kai, given the German connection.

  2. Knut, I’m for sure in agreement that Magic could use some theatricality in its presentation, but the unfortunate nature of the game is that it’s brutally painful to watch as a spectator.

    If you’re not a follower of the fighting game community, that’s an area that has really taken off in the past two years as far as live streaming and live commentary are concerned, but most Marvel 3 and Street Fighter matches are fast paced affairs that last around 3-5 minutes. Compare that to commentating on a High Tide player going off in Legacy. If you’re the opponent, you’re already bored. If you’re a stream spectator watching, you’re BEYOND bored since you don’t even have investment in the game.

    I’m behind the idea of heel + straight man commentary, and there’s a lot of room to raise the streaming game in general, but Magic as a game suffers from not being a great spectator sport.

  3. One thing that would really help would be for the coverage folks (SCG in particular) to work on making sure the lighting’s good. You end up with a lot of glare off the sleeves, and that makes it hard to see. Those “locker room interviews”? They’re staged and lit to look good.

    Magic’s seldom going to be fast-paced and truly exciting, but good camera-work and lighting would help a ton in making it more playable. After that? Get the players to stop flicking their cards compulsively while on camera.

  4. The question of entrances are an issue in many sports. In the UFC Dana White has consistently resisted it since they moved away from it in the post-Tito Ortiz era. As much as I love a good Genki Sudo, Akihiro Gono, Undertaker or HBK entrance, for some sports it just looks campy. As much as I love MtG, I don’t think that’s what it needs. Could it use some aspect of storylines, interviews, rivalries etc. from other sports? Certainly. There is definitely room for coverage to grow and for promotion of the game’s biggest players to occur, I just don’t think entrances are the way to go.

    That said, major props for the 06 PRIDE OWGP video inclusion, one of the best promotional videos of all time for one of the great tournament finale’s of all time.

    Mailbag question for Friday, inspired by the GP Columbus videos, who are the worst players or the worst performances/plays ever in a GP or Pro Tour top 8?

  5. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what my entrance song would be. I always thought it would be a cool thing for a GP/PT top 8.

    The Chorus to this song is tempting…

    But I’d prob go hip hop, e.g.

  6. The greatest “entrance” in wrestling history, foreshadowed by a countdown clock that had started 680 hours earlier and finally ticked down to zero during a Rock promo:

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