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Hello, boys and girls. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) here. Live and in stereo.
No return engagements. No encore. And this time, absolutely no requests.
I hope you’re ready, because I’m about to tell you the story of the WWE’s life in the last 17 years. More specifically, why WWE is declining. And if you’re reading this column, you’ve helped enable one of the reasons why.
I’m not saying which tape brings you as a fan into the story. But fear not, if you’re reading this lovely column, what you’ve enabled will pop up… I promise.
Now, why would a dying promotion lie?
The rules are pretty simple. There are only two. Rule number one: You read. Number two: You pass it on. Hopefully, neither one will be easy for you.
13 REASONS WHY – WWE EDITION
#13 – Ready Triple H? You were a fine replacement in the Main Event when “Stone Cold” Steve Austin left the WWE to have surgery and you gave us a tremendous year 2000 of wrestling. As a heel, you sold for everyone and briefly resembled Ric Flair with the way you made us believe that anyone could steal your WWE Championship. But then as Steve Austin returned for his spot, you became paranoid at the same time you were cozying up to the daugher of the WWE chief. The closest replication of Ric Flair in his peak was quickly eroding and everyone (except for the Undertaker) has to bow down to you. You could see the dominance beginning during 2001 when you oddly beat Steve Austin on a Pay Per View just before Wrestlemania 17 and then murdered Jeff Hardy for the IC title. It was sad to see your quad injury, but you came back during 2002 with promise… Your comeback was nice and we loved your work with Shawn Michaels… But what explains the slaughtering of Kane, Rob Van Dam, Scott Steiner, Eugene, and Booker T? While your work putting over John Cena and Batista was quite nice and you were mostly generous at Wrestlemania… What explains your 2011 work against CM Punk? Your at times thin-skin can get the best of you and you stopped the next big superstar from landing in wrestling.
Now, HHH… You’re early in these tapes because you’ve done well in your role EVP of Talent Relations and helping to build NXT into a valid brand. Furthermore, you’re in a tough spot… You HAVE to be loyal to Vince McMahon… He gave you your wrestling career, career after the in-ring stuff, wealth of millions, and his daughter’s hand. I can fully understand your role in the WWE, but some of your actions deserve the attention.
#12 – I hate to do it, as you’re one of my favorite wrestlers in the modern era. John Cena you deserve a tape because of what you didn’t do for the wrestling industry. No, I’m not talking about how generous you are in putting over wrestlers like Brock Lesnar, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, and AJ Styles… Nope. You’re also a legitimate superstar and a great spokesperson for the WWE to the mainstream. What makes you earn a tape is what you haven’t done for the wrestling industry or other wrestlers. Just like Hulk Hogan ratting out the other wrestlers attempting to form a union during the mid 1980s, you never challenged WWE management to do better on Creative or for other wrestlers. For example, after you put over CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, you sat back and watched their momentum after your hard work get destroyed. Why didn’t you say something to Vince? Why didn’t you request more extensive programs with both? Why didn’t you stick up for other wrestlers who have potential, like Cesaro who gave you great matches, instead of putting your head in the sand? You have the stroke to make a difference backstage but you won’t use it…
#11 – You’d think that after 13 World Titles, you’d be one of the all-time great superstars… Right? Well, not really Randy Orton. You have all of the talent in the world as a in-ring worker but emotionally, you’re out of it at times. I’ll grant you the weird issues working with Triple H and I’d fully agree that the Wrestlemania 25 loss was damaging… But what do you have to show for your 15 year career with almost 1 World Title on average per year? Furthermore, your backstage behavior and attention from the Wellness Policy has had a detrimental effect on the WWE particularly when the WWE just hands you another World Title reign after a problem. Being a third-generation wrestler and being friends with the right people backstage has kept him up top and has probably eliminated any hunger or motivation to remain great while on top. It’s a shame, as it’s hard to deny Orton as an athlete or pure in-ring talent…
#10 – This is more along the lines of needing to do more… Shane McMahon, why did you give up on the WWE? You let your younger sister and her husband push you around. Sure, I admire your desire to remain a family man and not let the wrestling business run your life like Vince & Stephanie… But the WWE needed your leadership. From the late 1980s until we began seeing your character appear more often during 1998, you were being groomed to become a leader. You were involved with various operations in the office and backstage during that decade that seemed to be grooming you to one day take over for Vince. Instead, you let your younger sister “grab that brass ring”. Worse yet, you were unfocused because you put too much into your part-time wrestling career instead of running the WWE. WWE should be yours right now and you would have made a good CEO/President but your lack of focus during the 2000s negated that.
#9 – WWE is a Corporation, but so is the company who hosts them on television, Comcast/NBC/Universal, namely for the USA Network programming. Every corporation cares too much about image but in the cast of Comcast overseeing the WWE, they have either been too restrictive or overexposed the WWE. The PG-Era is part of Comcast’s pushing as everything has become “safe” or politically correct. Everybody panicked after the Benoit murders and it implemented changes across the WWE product. Worse yet, Comcast’s own issues dealing with lost Cable/Satellite subscribers and the rise of Netflix that eats away at their re-run market has caused desperation at USA Network. Hence, the 3rd hour to RAW… Think about how difficult it is for the WWE to write 5 hours of television each week and if there’s a Pay Per View, 8 hours or more! The censoring of any adult themed content and overexposed the WWE product has caused some damage. That, and Total Divas/Bellas on the E! Network… It’s like a magician revealing his/her tricks before a show happens. Why would anyone want to do that?
#8 – I am part of this one, but I don’t feel that I deserve to be on the “tapes”. I’ve done my part speaking out on the WWE for the past 18+ years… But THE WRESTLING MEDIA – Magazines, Newsletters, and the Internet deserves its own tape. In my opinion, there just isn’t enough media challenging the WWE and its business practices. Many are exceptionally nice to the WWE to remain in their good graces and to keep access to that promotion. For example, when CM Punk was quickly getting destroyed during 2011 or Daniel Bryan during 2013, it took a while for many call the WWE out for its actions handling those talents. As an early adopter for both, I took tremendous heat from other writers and it was sweet vindication to see the same writers echoing what I said. Then, you look at Magazines and Newsletters… Might as well be called WWE propaganda with the way it’s extremely pro-WWE and doesn’t call out BS of the McMahons or the rest of the industry. Then again, they need access to survive… If maybe the Wrestling Media was as agressive and demanding as the Sports or Political Media, maybe the McMahons would have a fire lit under them to improve… Instead, having total enablers causes the WWE to not understand what’s possibly wrong with their promotion or the WWE has no idea how to please you, the fans.
#7 – Granted, the act you followed was very difficult… John Laurinaitis, you followed the “architect of the Attitude Era” in Jim Ross as VP of Talent Relations. Very tough to do… But the WWE developmental system didn’t restock the WWE roster that well during the late 2000s and early 2010s under Johnny Ace’s rule. His best signings were from Ring of Honor, but the operations of the developmental system was questionable. The Ohio Valley Wrestling territory eroded quickly with Laurinaitis and the early days of FCW/NXT were rough following the move away from OVW. The true “WWE developmental system” was Ring of Honor, as John’s occasional signings from that independent promotion. The bigger problem with Laurinaitis was how much of a yes-man he was to Vince McMahon whereas Jim Ross before him had the balls to challenge Vince.
#6 – Lovely Linda, Linda McMahon. You were CEO/President of the WWE from 1994 through 2009 and presided over an era that saw WWE rebound its growth but also enable some bad behavior that occurred during the 2000s. It took you until Eddie Guerrero’s death during late 2005 to wake up to create a Wellness Policy during early 2006. However, it would take Benoit’s deadly actions to finally begin taking better care of their performers. As CEO/President, she should questioned the rest of the WWE Management team as ratings and attendance were declining since the company’s peak during 2000, particularly from 2001-2004. Then again, her husband and daughter were in charge of the operations of the company and nepotism strikes again. Total enabler of bad choices by her family members.
#5 – Ah yes, Stephanie McMahon. In some ways, I don’t blame you whatsoever. You’re just a communications major and you can’t help it that your father, Vince McMahon, wants you to somehow inherit the business. You were barely out of college when daddy made you Lead Writer of the WWE and that soon became EVP of Creative. Throughout the 2000s you changed the Creative landscape of the WWE and not in a good way. Because you couldn’t write storylines, you hired many former soap opera/television writers to pick up the slack. But who wants to work the long WWE schedule on the road? Thus, you’re not getting Hollywood’s best… The 2001 WCW/ECW Invasion Angle should have caused yo to lose your job, but again, nepotism. Worst of all, however, is that you enabled some bad stuff to go down in the WWE as a female on the sideline, watching on… You attempt to take credit for the “Divas Revolution” yet you presided over a decade as EVP of Creative when women were degraded and actually attacked by male wrestlers. Later, you’d act as a spokesperson for anti-bullying campaigns yet you play a bully on screen. Why are you such a hypocrite? While I can understand the nepotism to allow you to become a powerful individual in the WWE, the personal double standards that you’ve set for yourself has hurt the WWE.
#4 – It’s hard to knock you, Kevin Dunn, because the “look” of the WWE television product and the many Blu Ray/DVD videos are really nice. From a pure television production standpoint, Dunn gets the job done… However, from his influence on Vince McMahon, Creative direction of the WWE, and the talent assessment of wrestlers, Dunn has harmed the WWE. Like Vince, he’s very obsessed with look rather than actual ability or intangibles. Take for instance right now, he doesn’t like the accent of Becky Lynch. Instead of maybe helping the WWE to promote diversity with a really talented female worker, Dunn is trying to restrict Lynch from speaking. Much of the horndog stuff with the Divas during the 2000s was heavily promoted by Dunn via the Divas Search Contest and the Tough Enough shows added nothing to the WWE. Dunn is too obsessed with the look of the talents on WWE programming that he doesn’t realize that people in the arenas are watching the product in the ring. RAW and Smackdown have become unwatchable over the last decade and Dunn’s influence over the creative direction and talent have helped cause this problem. Just sit in the production truck and make the show look great, period. Thank you.
#3 – I really hate to put you so high on the list, but you, Vince McMahon, used to be a visionary and a pioneer for the business. We still see glimpses of that from time to time as the WWE Network was brilliant as was the use of Brock Lesnar for the last few years… But you’ve changed your backstage culture from having a great support system of wrestling minds during the late 1990s (Russo, Pritchard, Briscoe, Patterson, Ross, Cornette) to placing your young communications major of a daughter in charge of the Creative Team during late 2000. While you are most critical against any other writer or creative team member, bad ideas or creative directions from Stephanie were ignored. Furthermore, by having your daughter and a whole bunch of yes-men to her and yourself, nobody has the courage to stand to you, Vince. Thus, your bad ideas get through and Stephanie’s bad ideas went unchecked. Furthermore, Vince has been intoxicated by the corporate structure and seems to do more in the interests of the WWE Corporation rather than its fans. As CEO/President, Vince could influence change across the wrestling industry rather than forcing the stale produce he enjoys. The Roman Empire will crumble the WWE.
#2 – I don’t know what the hell went through your head during June 2007. How could you murder your own family, Chris Benoit? I understand the head injury problem looming and reportedly the alcohol abuse following Eddie’s death, but I could see nothing that could cause me to harm or even kill my own family. Even with Eddie’s passing, you still had tons of friends in the wrestling business and family on the outside. Why didn’t you reach out to someone? You had the support group there and you just didn’t use it… Nancy and your son did not deserve what happened to them. Maybe your actions might have saved many other wrestlers who were going downhill fast and woke up the WWE to put more teeth and accountability in their Wellness Policy, but Benoit’s actions changed the wrestling business forever. It caused the Corporate WWE to go overboard and implement policies to significantly change its product. Gone was any storylines that were adult themed and in was the PG-Era to present a more family friendly WWE. An individual’s actions scared an entire corporation to tighten its bolts and reduce the quality of its product.
#1 – You may be listening to this tape and wondering “hey, Dixie Carter didn’t murder anybody? How could she be worse than Benoit?” Benoit affected 2007 and the reputation of the business for about 1-2 years following that. For 14 years, Dixie was in charge of running the TNA Impact promotion and ran it into the ground. You could ask “how does this affect WWE” and my answer is simple: COMPETITION. What makes the pro wrestling industry grow is actual competition. Promotions competing against each other causes the creative spark to create captivating storylines but also options for wrestler movements. For example when WCW existed alongside WWE, wrestlers disgruntled from one promotion could get a nice paying job and top spot in another promotion. Furthermore, the loss of a key free agent forces the losing promotion to invent new ways to create brand new stars. WWE lost Kevin Nash and Scott Hall during 1996, Bret Hart during 1997… No problem, as they had Steve Austin, Rock, Triple H, and Mick Foley ready to push hard to the top. Under Dixie’s leadership and with many creative minds swing through the promotion (Bischoff, Mantell, Cornette, Russo), nothing mattered… TNA has been through 4 Cable/Satellite channels now in the United States with never really being a challenge to the WWE. Its LACK of competition has caused the WWE to become complacent and wrestlers in the WWE to become “numb” yes man to anything WWE scripts.
So here we are with a WWE in decline, with a loss in viewership and houseshow attendance being low at the moment. WWE Network is nice, but the erosion in the last 17 years cannot be denied. Each of the 13 Reasons Why are what caused the WWE and/or the pro wrestling industry to lose its popularity.
So, now you know.
In case you’re wondering what on earth the above theme is about, there’s a book called 13 Reasons Why that was recently converted into a 13 episode miniseries on Netflix. Both are worth checking out. It’s about a teenage girl named Hannah Baker who commits suicide and she records 7 cassettes (13 sides, leaving 1 side blank) of each reason or person that caused her to make that tragic decision to kill herself. It’s well worth checking out, either medium.
SO JUST CHILL… ‘TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!
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