World Wrestling Entertainment has found an interesting new way to start searching for its talent pool online. Wrestling companies have often been criticized for not taking into account a knowledge of professional wrestling in hiring practices, as wrestling promoters often hire writers from television or Hollywood, sportscasters for local markets, and wrestlers with "the look," whether or not the talent has a deep and abiding passion for 'rasslin' or not.
What usually results? The hardcore fan base knows when someone is hired for cosmetic reasons versus actual ones, and the best performers turn out almost always to be the one with the deepest passion for the product. What does that mean? It means that the best potential wrestling announcers would probably be those kids who grew up watching wrestling and turned the sound down to pretend they were calling matches. The best wrestlers are the guys who grew up watching the competitors from years past. And the best writers are ones who actually know the history of professional wrestling. In short, the best talent pool out there is the fans. That's not to say that sportscasters, Hollywood writers, and college athletes aren't good in these positions--they already have a track record of being very talented. But it almost always makes a difference if they are also lifelong fans.
WWE is taking advantage of this through the main page on its Web site, at least as far as in-ring talent is concerned. The main page has a "Tryouts" button, which links to a page listing WWE tryouts and requesting that fans who believe they have what it takes to fill out an online application and show up to the scheduled tryouts. The questionnaire emphasizes having experience in professional wrestling and "why you should be a WWE superstar." For me, I see this as a step in the right direction and exactly the kind of thing that the entertainment industry should be encouraging. Who knows a product better than the fans? And, contrary to popular belief, the fan base of pro wrestling includes not just kids and couch potatoes but a lot of motivated and talented people who could easily make the transition from "audience" to "performer"--which, in pro wrestling, can sometimes be a nebulous dividing line, anyway.