In 1982, Vincent K. McMahon (commonly just Vince McMahon) purchased Capitol Wrestling Group and the WWWF from his father, Vincent J. McMahon. Between 1954 and 1982, the elder McMahon built his version of the WWWF around the old territory idea of how wrestling promotions were run. Business was good, as the WWWF had long been regarded as one of the crown jewel territories because it was among the first promotions to split gate dollars with talent and controlled the New York market, and Vincent J. McMahon was very happy to keep the status quo.
However, the younger McMahon had a larger vision for not just the WWWF, but for the wrestling business as a whole that his father could not or did not want to see. In fact, “Junior”, as his father’s friends called him, changed the business so drastically that even he admitted to Sports Illustrated in 1991 “Had my father known what I was going to do, he never would have sold his stock to me.”
As fans, we’ve been able to watch that vision turn into reality, as Vincent K. McMahon would turn the world upside down again and again, turning his father’s regional promotion into one of the largest entertainment companies in the world. Along the way, he has given us some of the most memorable characters, moments, and storylines in the history of the sport. He has also pushed the now WWE to the forefront of innovation, re-writing the book on how wrestling is marketed and produced.
Truly Vince McMahon is one of the most innovative, creative minds in the history of entertainment and the father of modern wrestling (insert genetic jackhammer joke here).
Except he’s killing WWE and needs to go.
Now, I know someone is rolling their eyes at this, frantically getting ready to type something about “WWE revenue year over year”, “#LOLZWUTAMARK”, “You don’t understand wrestling” etc. but just take a minute and keep reading.
Vincent K McMahon is 72 years old, 3 years older than his father when he passed away as a result of pancreatic cancer and 5 years older than his father was when he was bought out. Some of the same things in regard to presentation and being overly reliant on old ways of doing things that the younger Vince held against the older are now somewhat afflicting the current WWE.
Brock Lesnar as an attraction-type champion is a bad and antiquated approach. Attractions worked when the WWE didn’t produce so many hours of content each week. That’s not to say wrestlers as attractions can’t draw. Attraction matchups still work, look at the interest in the Undertaker or HHH’s yearly WrestleMania matchup, but it’s a really bad look to have all this content, but not be able to feature one of your top 2 champions.
The same can be said of the repetitive, dogmatic approach to Roman Reigns booking. I like Roman. I think he’s an excellent performer, good looking, popular with kids. He ticks all the “top guy” boxes. He is SUPER over without question. But Vince and creative have tried out every single approach to cementing him as champion without giving that character time to breathe with the fans. Think about it (or maybe, more appropriately, Always #UseYourHead): he’s tried the dominant Hogan booking, the bad-boy Austin booking, the screwed over by the Authority booking, and now the scrappy underdog booking with Roman all to NO AVAIL.
I could go further with this, but by now you are already thinking of other examples of the WWE’s repetitive approach to main roster booking and production.
Truthfully, the best parts of WWE right now are NXT and lately 205 Live, both Triple H’s pet projects. Triple H smartly seems to have built both to more closely resemble the style and tone of promotions like ROH, New Japan, and PWG which are currently popular among younger and international fans alike.
Perhaps most troubling is when NXT stars get to the main roster, many struggle because Vince’s approach is so very different. As de facto god of all things wrestling for the main roster, Vince has to be held responsible for the product’s inability to evolve.
It’s really simple business. Any business that can’t grow its talent to success will always have trouble on multiple fronts and eventually will endure long-term difficulty. Mid-level talent and below will continue to do just enough to stay around because they are just happy to get a paycheck. Good players who feel abandoned, mishandled, or ignored will leave, taking their talent elsewhere and succeeding when given a platform that is better suited to their strength (see also: Cody Rhodes).
When the growth problem becomes most debilitating is when the talent exodus eventually breeds a more competitive market. What’s worse is the eventual whisper campaign against your company which impacts the ability to attract new up and coming talent. Right now, WWE can still cover their imperfections with the promise of a bigger paycheck for young, starving performers eager to make it to the big stage.
But if what continually occurs is that they fail not because of their lack of skill or an inability to connect with the crowd but because of a failure to connect with a septuagenarian who rules with an iron fist, eventually the chorus of bad experiences gets loud enough to drown out the siren’s call of the money. The consequence becomes inevitable and your company goes from being stocked deep with young talent to having to hire the 3rd, 4th, and 5th best candidate in order to fill a roster (see also: The Island of Misfit Toys that was mid-90’s WWE or the later days of WCW).
Predictably the product suffers, market share shrinks, and one of two things happens: the company changes course radically and bounces back (late 90s WWE) or your former fans serenade you with a rousing rendition of Vince’s favorite song as the lights go dark for good.
A wiser man than I once said “Enough is enough. It’s time for a change.”
Vince has to go.
Just don’t blow him up in a limo this time.
The Exposed Turnbuckle: Carmella is Awful(ly Good)
by: Mike Neon
I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant at first when the IIconics debuted on Smackdown Live, pummeled Charlotte Flair, and Carmella ran down to cash in the “Money In The Bank” briefcase. If you read this column on a regular basis, you know that treachery is my “drug of choice”, but I couldn’t help but wonder how Carmella who mostly seemed like a “background player” to me would handle the biggest spotlight in the women’s division on one of the biggest stages in professional wrestling.
Now, as we head into Summer Slam, after multiple successful title defenses and months of shining in the spotlight, I have never been more sure of the fact that “Mella is Money.” The “Staten Island Princess” has taken her “moonwalking, trash talking,” act to a whole new level, that even I had not anticipated.
She is a like a Lodi Valley Cabernet-Zinfandel circa 2013 (which was just a prime year for red wines from northern California) a perfect blend. The best parts of “old school” heel and “new age” Internet troll, coming together in a way that makes modern day sports entertainment so enjoyable for a great many fans. If you aren’t following her on social media (@CarmellaWWE on twitter) you are missing half of the magic.
Like it or not, in this new era of sports entertainment, social media savvy is becoming an increasingly important skill for wrestlers at every level of the industry. Twitter, Youtube, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitch, and Facebook have very much changed the ability for wrestlers to “put themselves out there”, sell merchandise, interact with their fan bases and even enhance their finances.
Social Media also allows a place for wrestlers to fill in their storylines, develop their characters, and escalate their feuds, which is extremely smart in such a competitive industry, overflowing with much more talent than available screen time.
I was fortunate enough this week to actually have an opportunity to prove my hypothesis, as I have a friend from work who is extremely into all forms and promotions of professional wrestling, but also completely abhors and refuses to take part in any form of social media.
He told me that he couldn’t stand Carmella. I told him “good”, that’s how you should react initially. “Now, let’s take a moment to examine the nuances of her performance.”
He agreed that she plays the role of “the heel” and generates “heat” in a proficient manner in the amount of screen time she receives during weekly episodes of Smackdown Live and Pay-Per-View events, and then I exposed him to her work on twitter.
I showed him various tweets and her quick witted and hilarious responses to haters. Mella is Money, but she’s also Teflon. She’s a technician of snark, and the “excellence of execution” when it comes to analyzing, reversing and locking her “haters” into submission, which usually results in the author deleting their posts.
After seeing these examples, It clicked for him. “So she’s doing the old school “Honkey Tonk Man“, paper champion angle, but with a new twist of being an “Internet troll”, instead of an “Elvis impersonator” he asked.
“Yes, that’s the beauty of it.”
“When you get in an online argument with someone else, the stereotypical (and comforting) thought is to imagine them as a “basement dwelling neckbeard” who lives in their parents basement. Except in this case, the M. Knight Shyamalan twist is that, the “keyboard warrior” you would try to dismiss, by insulting their appearance, social status or occupation, is a beautiful, fashionable and extremely athletic woman, who is in one of the top spots in the top promotion in the world.
Carmella has used this time in the spotlight efficiently, to build her brand and move her merchandise. If you don’t believe me, follow her on social media and look at all the fans sending pictures of them wearing her gear from the WWE store. She is very good at being supportive and grateful to those fans who truly enjoy her, and quick to take the “haters” down a notch or two.
Social Media interaction is relatively new to the wrestling business, but now and in the future, it’s incredibly important and “The princess of Staten Island” has proved that she is one of the best when it comes to capitalizing on this, and is building a bright future for herself.
There is no falsehood when she says “Mella is Money” because her stock is rising fast, due to the time and effort she puts in with the WWE universe.
Follow Mike Neon: @TheRealMikeNeon
and @neoncolossem to see art and opinions
Can Velveteen Dream Work as Face?
When you look at the landscape of NXT I don’t think there is anyone who is as over as the Velveteen Dream. A gimmick that could easily have flopped has become one of the most encapsulating characters in the entire company. A lot of that is down to the charisma and the commitment of Patrick Clark to make the gimmick work.
When you look at the gimmick it natural feels like a heel because he’s so obsessed with the spotlight and getting all the attention for himself. If you didn’t know that and you tuned in to NXT, you could be forgiven for thinking he was a face. The Dream seems to have captured the attention of the fans ever since Takeover War Games when he put on a match of the year candidate with Aleister Black. Ever since then the reactions for him have just gotten louder.
I think this was a combination of The Dream’s charisma and the fact that the match with Black was better than anyone could have expected.
This has me thinking: Could the Velveteen Dream work as a face?
He’s certainly popular enough to warrant a face turn. It’s just a matter of how you turn him. You can’t just have him come out one-week high fiving kids and giving generic babyface promos.
There are certain characters whose gimmick can work as both a heel or a face and don’t really need to change much about them. The Rock was pretty much the same when he was a heel or face he would still cut biting promos and still use all his memorable catchphrases.
If you have the dream come out still acting the same way but just cut promos on heels and use parody heels in his entrance gear he natural made the switch from heel to face. You don’t have to change much about his character. Allow him to acknowledge the thunderous cheers he’s getting every week. Just imagine Face Velveteen Dream going against heels like Adam Cole, Lars Sullivan or even Tomasso Ciampa.
On this weeks NXT Dream cut a pre-taped promo recapping his Takeover matches and promising to put on another show stealer in Brooklyn. When you look at the current storylines it seems like they might be building to Velveteen Dream vs EC3 for Brooklyn.
Logic would dictate that Dream would be the heel since he abounded EC3 in their tag match at the UK Tournament. EC3 has a right to be angry but he’s another guy whose character is suited to being a heel.
Both guys are over with the crowd, but I have a felling Dream will be the more over of the two especially in Brooklyn. I’m not sure how they’ll handle it but I have confidence in NXT to pull of something good. It wouldn’t be the first time the Dream defied expectations.
As fun as a Dream face turn would be I think it’s sometime away because when he gets called up I think he’ll be heel for his first few months to allow the main roster audience to get an idea of the character. If he can get over with that audience maybe then he’ll turn face. He’s defiantly talented enough to pull it off.
Top 5: Annoying Crowd Reactions
I think we all can agree that one of the biggest obstacles to enjoying pro wrestling in 2018 is other wrestling fans. Social media is bad enough, as everybody with an account can express their terrible views on everything & shout down those of us that think rationally. Even worse? The fans that attend the televised events. It seems like most wrestling crowds insist on making themselves the stars of the show. Now that everybody’s so smart, they have to prove just how smart they are by making hilarious chants & telling us who they like & who they don’t like whenever possible.
The thing most discussed about Sunday’s Extreme Rules? The crowd crapping all over the Seth Rollins/Dolph Ziggler main event match by counting down to zero with the clock at the end of every minute. Rollins & Ziggler are guys that “smart” fans have been asking to main event as long as I can remember. They get the chance, and that’s the treatment they get from the Pittsburgh fans.
Here are the Top 5 Most Annoying Crowd Reactions.
We don’t hear this one nearly as much as we used to, which is a good thing. Once upon a time, you couldn’t get through a promo without the crowd chiming in during the pauses. Stone Cold Steve Austin unleashed a beast that nearly swallowed the business whole.
Now it seems like it only happens during foreign-born performers’ promos, which is worse in a lot of ways. Alexa Bliss gets it sometimes too. At least they’re not doing it during the National Anthem, could you imagine how upset the President would get over that nowadays?
4. THIS IS AWESOME
I feel like most of the problems with today’s wrestling crowds can be traced back to whenever the “This is Awesome” chant originated. It was part of a change from fans supporting particular wrestlers to cheering for high spots & cool moves regardless of who was doing them. I know I’m being an old fuddy-duddy here, but I preferred it back in the days when fans at least acted like they were genuinely interested in their favorite wrestlers’ well-being instead of going on about how awesome the whole thing was. I mean, did you hear World Cup crowds chanting “This is Awesome” in their native languages? Of course not.
“You Deserve It” is another one that needs to die a painful death, though I thought it was appropriate twice recently: When Miz gave Dean Ambrose a participation award, and when Tommaso Ciampa got power bombed on the floor by Johnny Gargano. The first one was funny, and the second one was telling a heel they deserved a beating. Good stuff.
3. CM Punk!
He’s not coming back, dudes. Certainly not anytime soon. I was ok with people chanting the Straight Edge Savior’s name soon after he left, and at people like the Authority. It was akin to when WCW fans chanted “We Want Flair” at the 1991 Bash right after the Naitch left the company. It was ok then. Enough time has passed where there’s no real reason to do it.
Let it go!
Any random chant can fit into this category too. You know, the hilarious matches where fans start chanting for announcers & whoever else they can think of, whether it fits the occasion or not. It stopped being funny several years ago but that doesn’t stop some people.
2. Chanting for favorite wrestlers during other matches, then sitting on your hands during their actual match
The loudest “Rusev Day” chant of Sunday night didn’t happen during his match with AJ Styles. It was in the middle of the Roman Reigns vs. Bobby Lashley match. See, the fans wore themselves out during that one, so by the time the Bulgarian Brute was out there wrestling everybody was trying not to fall asleep. Jim Ross credits drinking. I credit the length of the show. Either way it’s not a great look for a crowd.
1. Booing Roman Reigns
I know. You think you’re really cool when you boo WWE’s top star. You’re sticking it to the man! What these fans fail to realize is that by screaming themselves silly during Roman’s match, they’re rendering themselves silent for the rest of the show. If you really wanted to stick it to the man & show that Roman Reigns isn’t a main event level talent, you’d go to the concession stand during his match. Or you’d leave. Better yet, sit on your hands like you do the rest of the night.
But you don’t. You’re the loudest you are all night when Roman Reigns comes out. That’s because he’s the Big Dog. Don’t boo it. Embrace it. You know you’ll end up respecting him in a decade or so anyway.