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.
News From Cook’s Corner 1.17.22: Gory Self-Mutilation
AEW tried to catch lightning in a bottle for the second time. Did it work? What other news struck last week?
Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! We’ve got a short column for you this week, which most of you were probably expecting when the Cincinnati Bengals actually on a playoff game. Nah, I didn’t party too much, just had an allergic reaction with my eye again. We’ve done this before. This time I’m pretty sure it had something to do with cleaning my bookshelf and rearranging my books. Hadn’t done that in awhile, so there was a ton of duct. Sitting down and looking at a computer screen sucks, so we have to limit it as much as possible.
There’s still a couple things that warrant discussion though, so let’s get to it.
WWE On The Offensive
Looks like this week’s top stories are about WWE trying to do things to undermine wrestling promotions. We start with Major League Wrestling, who has filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against WWE claiming that WWE has interfered with their ability to make various media rights deals.
Some of the highlights:
-Former WWE executive Susan Levison allegedly warned an executive from VICE that Vince McMahon was “pissed” they were airing MLW programming. MLW claims that WWE had leverage over VICE due to the Dark Side of the Ring series often being focused on WWE subject matter.
-MLW alleges that when WWE found out about their agreement with Tubi, WWE threatened to stop doing business with Fox. The fallout from the Tubi agreement falling through led to a drop in ticket sales & event cancellations & delays.
-As an example of WWE’s anticompetitive behavior, MLW cited AEW being held out of two arenas in the Cincinnati market due to pressure from WWE. Jon Moxley wrote in his book that the Heritage Bank Center on Cincy’s riverfront refused to book AEW due to WWE influence. I don’t know the other, could be the BB&T Arena across the river on the campus of Northern Kentucky University where WWE has held house shows. AEW wound up running the Fifth Third Arena on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, and outdrew the Raw taping held at the HBC just prior.
-Apparently starting in early 2020, WWE started trying to poach MLW wrestlers that were under contract, and aired footage of an MLW wrestler without MLW’s consent. (Somebody would have to fill me in on this one, I haven’t the slightest idea who this would be.) MLW also claims that WWE sought to prevent wrestlers from working with MLW by refusing to hire wrestlers that had worked there, and that one MLW wrestler demanded to be released early from his contract so he could join WWE.
Do I think that at least some of these allegations are true? Having followed pro wrestling for over thirty years and having read up on the history of WWE…you betcha!
I don’t think there’s a question that WWE has resorted to any means necessary to drive potential competitors out of their market. They’ve been doing this since taking most of the territories’ top stars back in the mid-1980s. It’s been a monopoly for nearly two decades for a reason. The main question I have: Will a judge actually care, or will they throw it out of court because it’s silly pro wrestling?
How do you think WWE slips under the radar on things that other media companies & sports leagues actually have to deal with? People have been trained to not take WWE seriously. As much as people like us obsess over the rasslin’ business, people that don’t “get it” are happy to ignore it. Vince McMahon can do any darn thing he wants, and the reaction from folks outside the wrestling bubble will be non-existent. It’s wrestling! To outsiders, the whole damn thing is an outlaw mudshow.
AEW = Gory Self-Mutilation
The Toronto Sun did an article on All Elite Wrestling over the weekend, talking about their status as a competitor to WWE. They asked WWE for comment & got one:
“If you look at the gory self-mutilation that bloodied several women in the December 31 event on TNT, it quickly becomes clear that these are very different businesses. We had an edgier product in the `Attitude’ era and in a 2022 world, we don’t believe that type of dangerous and brutal display is appealing to network partners, sponsors, venues, children, or the general public as a whole.”
A few notes here:
1. I’ve been doing this stuff longer than I care to admit, and I never thought of asking WWE for comment on something. Should I start asking people for comments on topics I’m writing about? I doubt I’d get any answers, but it might be worth a shot.
2. This has been WWE’s strategy when asked about AEW for some time now. We remember Vince McMahon using the phrase “Blood & Guts” to describe the promotion on a conference call. They know that people get squeamish about blood, especially when it comes to blood coming from women. The Fabulous Moolah never busted anybody open on television, and she trained most of the women for years. People aren’t used to seeing it, and they often get uncomfortable with things they aren’t used to seeing.
3. Most people find other people bleeding pretty gross. There’s a reason why deathmatch wrestling is a niche produxct. People that love it really, really love it, but it’s a very small percentage of the marketplace.
4. WWE’s belief is that advertisers & media companies aren’t big on blood, so they make sure to mention AEW’s apparent lust for the red stuff whenever the subject comes up. Their hope is that advertisers will shy away from advertising with AEW, and media companies won’t give AEW big money when their current deal with WarnerMedia is up.
5. Thus far, whenever Tony Khan is criticized on something, he doubles down on it. So there’s a pretty good chance that we’re going to see even more matches with female bleeding. AEW’s female workers seem happy to do it.
— The Bunny 🐇 (@AllieWrestling) January 15, 2022
6. WWE could be called out as being hypocritical on this front, but there aren’t many people that will hold them accountable.
It’ll be interesting to see how this goes. All I know for sure is that the smack talk between these two promotions and their fans is just beginning. Think it’s tocic now? Wait a couple of years.
Welp, that’s all for this week. Thanks for reading! Join me later in the week for some Divisional Round picks. Until then, keep your stick on the ice.
In Memoriam: Pete was a longtime reader from back in the day. From my dealings with him he was a kind person that knew how to use his head. When you’ve written things on the Internet as long as I have, you learn that’s a rare thing. From what I’ve read from people that knew him in real life, he was the same way off the computer. Sadly he passed away from cancer on Friday night. Pete was always about serving others, as he was a U.S. Air Force veteran & a regular blood donor. He will be missed.
NXT 2021 Year in Review: NXT UK!!!
With the OG NXT rebranding and losing a lot of credibility, at least NXT UK has been consistent! Brad brings his NXT UK awards!
Let’s give out some special awards to the very best hour on the entire WWE Network.
Honorable Mention Most Improved: Mark Coffey
Most Improved is one of my favorite awards. I love watching wrestlers get better. This year, Mark wasn’t just decaf Joe. He showed his personality. Playful little bugger seems like the kind of guy you’d want to have a pint with. Even got a short run as a singles guy. Mark’s growth was definitely one of the highlights of the best overall year in the history of NXT UK.
Most Improved Male Wrestler: Oliver Carter
When Carter first showed up, it was obvious why he was in a tag team, eating all the pins. I don’t know who the trainers are in NXT UK, but someone put in overtime with Carter. Every week, he’s hitting new and exciting moves in the ring. He’s showing more fire on the mic. It’s only a matter of time before Ashton Smith gets jealous and turns on him.
Most improved Female Wrestler: Stevie Turner
Her first few matches made me wonder what anyone saw in her. Now I see it. She’s a real loony character, a female Dean Ambrose. She gets rambling about the Fourth Dimension and I’m not sure even she knows where that boat is sailing to. Add to that a significantly increased move set and Turner has legit championship aspirations.
Most Underrated: Kenny Williams
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. If Williams was built like Drew Mcintyre, he would be on RawDown yesterday. I appreciate a smaller guy who doesn’t rely entirely on the flippy dip and acrobatics. Williams is a big bully in a small man’s body. The Scum of the Earth is ready to infect 2022.
Best talker: Sam Thunderstorm Gradwell
Gradwell might be the best promo guy in all of NXT. He’s solid gold on the mic AND Twitter. He tweeted that WALTER versus Dragunov II is “Unruly Baboon versus Deadly Panda.” I still don’t know which is which, but it sounds fabulous. Now get on that, you bunch of yogurts!
Best Character: Isla Dawn
I prefer personality over character. I don’t want SNL skit rejects. I want to believe there is no separation between who they are in the ring and outside of it. Isla Dawn is the exception. She goes into a trance. She’s collecting trophies from her opponents and doesn’t even care about wins and losses. I’m inclined to believe she’s not a witch in real life, but you never know.
Best Sidekick: Sha Samuels
With just a dry erase board & marker, the East End Bookie adds so much depth to Noam Dar, an already amazing personality. Unlike the terribly awkward pairing of La Familia, I get the feeling Dar and Samuels really are best buds. They seem to bring out the best in each other. I can’t wait for them to go after the tag team titles.
Best Announcer: Andy Shepherd
He’s not just the best in NXT UK, he’s the best in NXT. Period. He takes everything Nigel McGuinness throws at him and he throws it right back, but he does it with an understated eloquence not typically found in rasslin. Shepherd earns the highest praise I can give an announcer: he sounds like a fan watching the show, shooting the shit with his buddies.
Most Improved Division: The Women’s Division
NXT still has the best women’s division. It’s now a little further east. In the past, it was Kay Lee Ray. That’s it. Not anymore. The addition of Meiko Satomura and Blair Davenport. The growth of Amale, Stevie Turner and Aoife Valkryie. The Nina Samuels Show. The steady veteran presence of Jinny and Isla Dawn. The division is not deep, but every week they continue to grow and put on quality matches. It started as obligatory, because you have to have a women’s division. They have since earned their spot. Much respect to the women of NXT UK.
Up next, saving the best for last: 2021 NXT Matches of the Year
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