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Gavin Armstrong



What happened While I Was Away?

I can't believe it! After a 2 1/2 month holiday (well deserved if I may say so myself!) without watching, hearing or reading about wrestling, what do I discover on my return? Only that Vince McMahon is attempting to buy WCW, Kurt Angle is the WWF Champ, Rikishi was the driver, Yokozuna is dead, William Regal is the Euro Champ, Billy Gun has returned and still sucks, Juvi pops a few pills in Australia and ends up naked and released, Russo is off our screens (Yeah!), AND he could be released (Oh Yeah!), Scott Hall is released (About time!), Bret Hart is released (Predictable?), Rock's dad is involved in a sex scandal, Davey Boy Smith is arrested for threatening to kill his wife and sister in-law, WWF and the Harts reach a settlement over Owens death and the most shocking news of them all....CRZ vs. Sean Shannon could end up in court (That'll be bigger than OJ I tell ya!).

Well that will teach me to go on holiday! Anyway, moving on.

Wrestling With Sun Tzu's The Art Of War

The battle for ratings supremacy between the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) is often referred to as a 'war' (although it could be over very soon!). I thought it would be an interesting idea to analyse this 'war' with the greatest book written about warfare, Sun Tzu's "The Art Of War". But first.

A Brief History of Sun Tzu and the Art Of War
Sun Tzu's book "The Art of War" was written 2500 year ago by Sun Wu, a militarist and strategist. It summarises practical war experience in the form of military ideas. It occupies a significant position in the history of Chinese and foreign military and strategy. The original book only contains 13 chapters with over 5000 Chinese characters, but it is a masterpieces and renowned throughout the world. Apart from being used by many of the world's top military generals it has also become admired by the corporate world, who use it for strategies on effective corporate management.

The books thirteen chapters contain a series of ideas of "clever combat" compatible with objective law. The phrase "clever combat" refers to wining the greatest victory in the best way by defeating your competitors/enemies and occupying their market by using the most effective measures.

So after that brief history lesson, here are the best 'ideas of clever combat' that I think have a role with the wrestling industry. I've taken one principle from each of the thirteen chapters and added an explanation underneath as to how I think it relates to a wrestling company. Here we go...

1. Laying Plans
"22. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant."
This principle has affected both promotions at various times of the 'war'. Whilst the opponent was actually weak and not pretending to be, heads of both companies have become arrogant when the opposition was in this weakened position. This resulted in them not taking the opponent seriously, allowing the weaker opponent the opportunity to catch and surpass them in the ratings war. The point they should always remember is that the opposition may not always be that weak.

2. Waging War
" 9. Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy. Thus the army will have food enough for its needs."
If you can forage the enemy of its resources and keep your own intact then two things will happen. One, that your business and employees will have enough to run itself. Secondly and most importantly, your enemy will be weaker as a result of losing his. The most important resource that can be stolen is obviously the workers, as without them there can be are no wrestling company.
3. Attack by Stratagem
"2. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."
A key principle is that all wars have their casualties. Even if you manage to prevail in the fights and battles against your enemies, you will still have lost something that you originally had. Whether this is employees, money or something of that ilk. Therefore the best leaders are the ones who can break the resistance and defeat the enemy without losing so much that a victory is only that in name.

4. Tactical Dispositions
"16. The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success."
In order for either company to gain success and control it, this is an idea that should be applied ruthlessly. Without employees strictly adhering to the 'moral law', then it becomes possible for the inmates to run the asylum as has been seen previously. With a leader having the strength to discipline all workers in the same way, regardless of their respective roles in said companies, it becomes possible to foster a climate where no one individual believes that they are bigger than the company. If so, then this will lead to that individual(s) becoming selfish in their decisions and not caring about the state of the overall company.

5. Energy
"21. The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals. Hence his ability to pick out the right men and utilise combined energy."
This is another important principle. Your promotion will only succeed in the long run by hiring the right people and utilising their combined talents and energy. When the heads of either organisation has tried to take on too much responsibility, it has resulted in stress and mistakes being made. Combining the talents of a number of individuals and not relying on one man or woman not only leads to better decision making, but also has the added benefit of not placing undue stress on one individual in particular.
6. Weak Points and Strong
"30. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak."
Pretty much self-explanatory. If the opposition is strong then it's best to avoid them. However, once they do begin to falter and become weak then is the time to launch an attack as they will or could be too weak to resist this assault.

7. Manoeuvring
"12. We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbours."
Pretty much self-explanatory again. Any alliances that are proposed must be fully explored. All negative and positive aspects of any alliance must be fully weighed up with the primary goal being the affect it will have on your companies' finances and its employees. Failure to do so could result in the destruction of your company in the long run. As always, short-term gain could lead to long time lost.

8. Variation in Tactics
" 9. If, on the other hand, in the midst of difficulties we are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune."
Again self-explanatory but very important. All wrestling promotions go through periods of difficulty at one stage or another. However, opportunities may appear which could lift the company out of them. A good leader will always seek out an advantage in any difficult situation and then it is up to them to seize it.

9. The Army on the March
"35. The sight of men whispering together in small knots or speaking in subdued tones points to disaffection amongst the rank and file."
This could be one of the first signs of problems building within the organisation. When employees feel disaffected with the company, they will often begin talking with one another secretly or quietly and gossip is likely to be spread. This in turn can lead to fiction becoming fact and in extreme cases can result in attempts of mutiny to oust the current head of the company by those individuals who seek power for themselves.

10. Terrain
"18. When the general is weak and without authority; when his orders are not clear and distinct; when there are no fixes duties assigned to officers and men, and the ranks are formed in a slovenly haphazard manner, the result is utter disorganisation."
Another fairly obvious principle. If the leader is weak and lacking authority or is not clear in their orders. If employees have no fixed roles or are not sure of what their role actually entails. If there is a lack of drive or effort from them, then the company will become disorganised and unable to work efficiently and defeat itself.

11. The Nine Situations
" 32. The principle on which to manage an army is to set up one standard of courage which all must reach."
By setting a high standards for the top roles and positions within your company, it will lead to your employees working hard to achieve those top spots. As is often said "The cream will always rise to the top".

12. The Attack by Fire
"16. Hence the saying: The enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources."
A long term plan or road map is essential in the wrestling business. The company must have an idea of the direction into which it is heading. Be it from a financial standpoint or a creative one. In essence, short time plans instead of long ones, which would include booking angles on the fly with no long-term stroryline ideas or hastily rushed/short time business deals, generally manifest themselves with long term problems. This could mean difficult to follow storylines from constant heel/face changes and weekly title changes or expensive business deals that result in no obvious benefits whatsoever and end up in the long run costing more than gained.

Secondly, a good leader will constantly invest in their resources, whether it involves investing in audio/video equipment, staff and their working facilities, in ring equipment or anything else that is an integral part of the business. A failure to do so will result in poor production facilities and values, poor working facilities and therefore disgruntled staff amongst other things.

13. The Use of Spies
"18. Be subtle! be subtle! And use your spies for every kind of business."
An important aspect of the wrestling industry in general. Although it may not be talked about (the Internet has become almost a spying facility itself!), spying on the opposition is absolutely essential. If you know what the other company's plans are in advance, then pre-emptive strikes or defences can be employed to undermine the opposition's attacks and defences. However care must be taken that the spies keep low profiles and are not discovered as false information can be fed to them, which would negate any advantage gained.

To view a complete translation of Sun Tzu's "The Art Of War" click below.
The Art Of War By Sun Tzu

And Next Weeks Column is: The Power Of The J.O.B.

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Gavin Armstrong
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