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The Vince Problem

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Vince McMahon Stooge

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.


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News

News From Cook’s Corner 9.27.21: Held Under Extreme Rules

New gimmicks, no gimmicks, bad gimmicks…show gimmicks. Cook breaks out the gimmick bag and funnily enough, it’s all News worthy! Check it out!

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Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! I’m Steve Cook, and frankly I’m not sure what’s going on around here. The Bengals beating the Steelers by double digits surely qualifies as one of those signs of the apocalypse. Though, I’ve seen so many signs of the apocalypse by now that it should have already happened.

(Wouldn’t it be hilarious if it came sometime between my typing this and getting it posted? Nobody would be around to notice that I called it, but I could at least take some satisfaction in it.)

Quick Programming Note: There will be no News From Cook’s Corner next Monday, as I’ll be out of town for work this Friday, Saturday & Sunday. The Week 4 NFL Gambling Picks will drop on Thursday, then you probably won’t read me on here until the Week 5 NFL Gambling Picks. Or if something tremendously important comes up. I never rule anything out, but I am looking forward to a few days away from staring at my computer and hoping words appear eventually.

Owen Hart’s Legacy Honored By AEW

This news broke just after last week’s News column was submitted, and I want to talk about it here because it’s pretty great. AEW & the Owen Hart Foundation reached an agreement where AEW would honor Owen’s legacy a number of different ways. One will be an annual tournament known as the Owen Hart Cup. Hart will also be featured in AEW’s upcoming video game, along with action figures, apparel, posters & other items.

Last week we talked about some of the fallout of the Dark Side of the Ring episode about the Plane Ride From Hell & the negative effect its had on some folks. On the flip side of that, the episode on Owen Hart featuring his family has largely had a positive effect. Doing the show and seeing the feedback from Owen’s fans helped Dr. Martha Hart realize that her late husband still had many fans that cared deeply for him. She also discovered there was a way for those fans to honor Owen that wouldn’t allow World Wrestling Entertainment, the company that set up the events leading to Owen’s passing, to make money off of his name.

I would comment on some of the negative opinion circulating online about this, but it’s not like anybody with an ounce of credibility expressed such things. I know it’s 2021 and the in vogue thing is to pick a side and spend all day telling you how the other side is wrong, but I’d still like to think there are some things we should be able to agree on. Honoring Owen Hart is one of those things, as should be honoring the wishes of his family. We hope AEW proves as up to the task as they appear to be.

Rampage No Longer Moving

It’s official that AEW Dynamite will be moving to TBS on January 5. TNT released their NHL schedule last week, which revealed that double headers will take place the first two weeks of the season, then 10 PM games will air from October 27 until December 29 with Dynamite as the presumptive lead-in. None of those games feature the Nashville Predators, because TNT doesn’t want to make things easy for me.

AEW Rampage was originally scheduled to move to TBS at the same time, but will be staying at its current slot on TNT. Rampage’s ratings in a time slot where people allegedly go out and do things have been impressive, and there won’t be NHL or NBA games on the station except during the playoffs. Tony Khan is happy with the idea of having shows on both channels, and it’s won’t be like WWE’s Fox/USA relationship where people get mad because Roman Reigns isn’t on their show or because they don’t want to promote a streaming service they don’t own. TBS/TNT heat is mostly limited to arguments over who has to clean the office microwave.

TBS Championship?

Speaking of TBS, Andrew Zarian reported that AEW will be establishing a secondary championship for their women’s roster, & will call it the TBS Championship. See, I’d been wondering if they would change the TNT Championship’s name when Dynamite moved to TBS, but with Rampage staying there we won’t have to worry about that confusion.

One definitely wonders if AEW’s women’s roster can support two championships, but they already kind of did that for a minute when Thunder Rosa & Serena Deeb were making defenses of the NWA World Women’s Championship. That title hasn’t been mentioned on TV since Kamille won it, with the exception of a segment building up Leyla Hirsch challenging for it at NWA Empowerrr.

The best argument for a second women’s championship in AEW? Simple: Dr. Britt Baker shouldn’t be losing their Women’s Championship any time soon. Gotta give the other women something to fight for.

Shane Thorne Wants Us To Know His New Gimmick Is His Idea

So word came out this week that Shane Thorne is doing an Outback Jack/Aussie gimmick in his dark matches. I hadn’t really had time to form an opinion on a gimmick I hadn’t seen yet when Thorne took to the Interweb to let us know not to blame WWE for it:

We’ve said it before, but the whole trend of workers taking to the Interweb to let us know that WWE writers aren’t to blame for whatever they’re doing now & it’s Actually Good is rather odd. That being said, a stereotypical Aussie gimmick at least has to be better than being part of Retribution.

Joe Gacy’s New Gimmick Is Already His Old Gimmick

Thorne can only hope his Crocodile Dundee character has a longer shelf-life than that of Joe Gacy’s recent contribution to NXT 2.0. Gacy appeared on last Tuesday’s episode to wrestle Cameron Grimes and introduce his new persona, that of a man that doesn’t need male privilege talking about conflict resolution & safe spaces and hugging his opponents after their match ends. This seems to have lasted all of one match, as the clips were pulled from WWE’s YouTube page and all references to it were removed from other social media outlets.

It seems that this was one of those things that certain audiences liked a lot, as Fox News & the New York Post were all about WWE taking a shot at the woke left. The assumption is that this media attention led to WWE pulling the character, as WWE really doesn’t want politics to seep into their presentation for a litany of reasons. For what it’s worth, I don’t think any left-wing outlets even noticed whatever was happening on NXT 2.0, so Joe Gacy’s cancellation was definitely thanks to the right-wingers.

I do wonder if the character had much of a long term future. It’s tough to challenge for championships and be in favor of conflict resolution over conflict.

Let’s Get Extreme!

Extreme Rules went down Sunday night. I have to be honest with you folks. I made it through two matches of this show and tapped out. Now, some of my peeps at offtheteam.com frequently comment about how the LED lighting & camera cuts and all that stuff that have become trademarks of WWE television. It doesn’t typically bother me as much, but for whatever reason, the neon green & yellow all over the screen had quite the negative effect on my old man eyes and I had to turn the darn thing off.

That isn’t really a knock, to be honest. I know that kids love bright lights & special effects and all of these things that old people like me with declining vision can’t take. Better to market to them, as they have many more years of WWE viewing in their future than I do. Here’s what happened on the show in case you were wondering:

Liv Morgan beat Carmella on the Kickoff Show: Liv is over with the WWE Universe and has more upside than Carmella at this point. Nothing against Carmella, she seems like a friendly gal, but it seems like we’ve already seen her best while Liv still has room to improve.

The New Day defeated Bobby Lashley, AJ Styles & Omos: This match is one of those things that’s a sign of the difference between pro wrestling then & pro wrestling now. Back in my day, PPV matches were supposed to be built to for a certain period of time. Wrestling groups that threw stuff together the day of the show were mocked, because who was going to put their money down if there wasn’t anything announced? Here in 2021, nobody cares. They’ve either already subscribed to Peacock or they haven’t. So what if nobody knew this was happening before it happened?

-It was a good match, which is what the Internet crowd cares about.
-The New Day was there, which is what the live crowd cared about.
-Lashley, Styles & Omos got to do something instead of nothing, so we feel good for them.

It’s completely against anything the experts would describe as “good booking”, but that isn’t what WWE is about, and their fans aren’t bothered by it. I’ve already spent too much time on something that was fun, but was just something to fill time until Lashley challenged Big E to a title match on Raw.

The Usos defended the SmackDown Tag Team Championships against the Street Profits: I felt bad for my buddy that bet on the Street Profits based off my tip. In my defense, my idea was that this would be a hot opener that would feature a happy ending to get the crowd excited. I wasn’t aware they were going to book something with the main event acts on Raw to fill that spot. Once I saw it going on second, I knew my goose was cooked. Well, not mine since I can’t legally gamble on these things.

Match was good, but those darn lights were too distracting, and when I saw what was coming up next…well…

Charlotte Flair retained the Raw Women’s Championship against Alexa Bliss: There was actually a finish to this one. The spooky nonsense would be saved for later. I still dislike Alexa’s current act, but people keep telling me it’s Actually Good for Reasons, and I don’t care enough to argue with them since the whole thing is easy enough to ignore. Shockingly, Alexa lost in her hometown. Who would have guessed?

Damian Priest defended the US Championship against Jeff Hardy & Sheamus: We went over how this was the obvious outcome, and the right outcome. Not much else to say here, other than the fans getting behind Jeff Hardy speaks well for a guy that’s been booked into a state worse than oblivion for most of the past few months. People gonna like who they like. Well, not me. I’m pretty fickle.

Bianca Belair beat Becky Lynch by disqualification when Sasha Banks interfered: I suspect these three won’t be on the same show for too long, so expect a triple threat match on this week’s SmackDown. Should be a good one.

Roman Reigns retained the Universal Championship against Demon King Finn Balor: Reigns put on a mask to brawl through the crowd. On one hand, it’s smart, but on the other hand it establishes masking up as a heel move. And here I thought WWE wanted to stay out of politics. The Demon demoned up with red lighting like he was the Fiend or something, and was on the verge of winning with a double stomp when…the top rope broke. Certainly a different choice. People will tell you that this keeps Demon Finn Balor strong, but does it really? Dude lost because of a broken ring rope. He’d be stronger if he lost because it was Roman Freaking Reigns.

So that was Extreme Rules. Raw comes to downtown Cincinnati tomorrow, which means I have to deal with WWE semi trucks along with anti-vaxx truckers trying to shut down interstates. Fun!

Well, that’s all we have time for this week. Thanks for reading, and until whenever we come back with more news, keep your stick on the ice.


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Opinion

Random NXT Stuff 2.0: Worlds Collide

Brad gives his 2.0 cents about some Worlds Collide fantasy booking! So the NXT opinion isn’t over…just…different. Check it out!

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It’s time to fantasy book NXT Worlds Collide, the mashup special that always produces top quality matches. And I renamed my column. Catchy, right? 

Noam Dar Nxt Uk GIF - Noam Dar Nxt Uk - Discover & Share GIFs

6. Noam Dar versus Swerve Scott for the North American Championship – Dar deserves a bigger platform so the entire world can experience his greatness. It might as well be for a title. The personality clash between these two would produce more fireworks than any bloated, overproduced WrestleMania opener. 

Dakota Kai Reveals Reason She Dyed Her Hair Pink, An Excited Asuka Records Video Message Backstage For Io Shirai | EWrestling

5. Meiko Satomura versus Dakota Kai for the NXT UK Women’s Championship – Champion versus champion is too easy and lacks drama. Kai can hold her own against Satomura, and it is entirely believable that she could win and move to NXT UK. That is the extra level of storytelling and drama we wouldn’t get with Satomura versus Raquel Gonzalez. And I’m still a Dakota Guy.

Kenny Williams | WWE

4. Johnny Gargano versus Kenny Williams versus Jordan Devlin – I love triple threat matches. I love all three of these guys. I love that the winner of this match gets a title shot of his choosing on either NXT brand. 

WWE Marquee Matches: NXT TakeOver: Chicago 2017 (WWE Network Exclusive) - YouTube

3. Tyler Bate versus Pete Dunne for the Heritage Cup – So much history between two of the founding fathers of British Strong Style. This rivalry should be Flair/Steamboat of British wrestling. Let’s add another chapter to what I hope is a very long story between two of the best wrestlers on the planet.

Various News: Tommaso Ciampa Wants 'Goldie' Back, The Miz Promotes 'Philly Is Awesome' Shirt, EVOLVE 131 Video Recap | 411MANIA

2. Tommaso Ciampa versus Ijla Dragunov – Remember when I said champ versus champ would lack drama? Forget that. I want to see these two stiff shot the stuffing out of each other to see who is the roughest, toughest, most violent champion in the company. And in the spirit of NXT 2.0, they are also fighting for control of Cameron Grimes’ estate, because he’s currently MIA after his one-man space flight goes horribly wrong.     

Interview With . . . Pretty Deadly | Inside The Ropes
1. MSK versus Pretty Deadly – The main event. Yes, the main event. I want to headline a show with the two best tag teams in a place where tag team wrestling still gets the respect it deserves. For now. Both teams have been absolutely crushing it in 2021. It really is too close to say who has been better, so we might as well settle it in the ring. And it might as well be for the first time ever winner takes both titles.  


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