A Bad Week in Stamford

WWE Corporate

AS I SEE IT: A Bad Week in Stamford
Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets
http://pwbts.com

Well, Vince McMahon didn’t have a very good week.

His world champion needed neck surgery, although it turned out to have been successful and apparently fairly minor.

He got his TV deal…but with his current TV partner, NBC/Comcast…and it wasn’t anything near to the increase in rights fees he boasted that he’d get.

His company re-calculated upward the break-even point for the WWE Network to offset the loss of DIRECTV and DISH Network PPV revenue to 1.4 million subscribers from 1 million.

WWE stock value tanked as a result, making Vince McMahon no longer a billionaire… again.

Investors are calling on his Board of Directors to replace the executive management team of the company.

And later today, he’ll have to face a conference call with his investors about all of the above.

Not a very good week.

Somehow I’d rather not be working for WWE in Stamford, CT right later today, or at the very least, when WWE returns from its European tour next week. Heads are going to roll, and the heads rolling won’t be Vince McMahon’s, or heads of anyone named Levesque or McMahon.

I’m no stock expert, but it sounds to me like a lot of investors speculated that they were going to get some great windfall from a new technology applied to WWE programming and TV rights fees, and were essentially gambling. They lost, so are blaming Vince McMahon. They didn’t study one unfortunate truth.

That truth is the age old one of the image of professional wrestling and professional wrestling fans. In terms of TV, despite wrestling ratings blowing away the ratings of types of sports programming that has recently received large increases in TV rights fees, wrestling fans have a low-rent reputation with mainstream advertisers. They always have. That fact didn’t change. Those brokers who worked with WWE clearly didn’t understand that fact, and overpromised to WWE management what they thought the outcomes would be. So Vince McMahon will have to answer for that later this morning.

Then there’s the fallout from DIRECTV and Dish pulling WWE PPVs. I honestly don’t understand their doing so this soon. In a year, if WWE Network is successful, I could have seen it. Cable providers using InDemand has (for the vast majority) been smart enough to realize they have no programming to replace it, so are continuing to run it. If you’re Comcast (which has and will continue to carry WWE PPVs), you make out all ways. You get the TV programming and PPV revenue from the broadcast side of the company, and you get Internet customers who view WWE Network via their computers, tablets, and other devices.

Then there’s Bryan Danielson. The timing couldn’t have been worse for this injury, first on a personal level for Danielson who ascended the heights of his profession, and both the heights and depths of his real life, with his marriage, then unexpected death of his father, then an injury. Then there’s WWE.

It’s hard to tell how long he’ll actually be out. Estimates run two to three months. If the belt is taken off of Daniel Bryan tonight, all the semi-carefully built momentum to build his character goes right down the crapper, regardless of the circumstance. Tonight’s RAW from London, England (actually this afternoon in the United States, where spoilers will easily be available, and the decision may determine how many eyeballs are actually watching the show hours later) will feature an announcement on what WWE is doing with the belt.

Let’s assume they do the usual thing, and take the belt off of Danielson. Then, who do you put the belt on?

John Cena? He’s busy attempting to do emotionally complex promos, and being beaten on by Bray Wyatt.

Evolution? They’re busy with The Shield.

Kane? Please. He’s been “Monster Kane”, then “Corporate Kane”, and is now “Monster Kane” again. Let WWE put the belt on him, and the fan base will take a big steaming thermonuclear dump all over it.

Someone else? Who has WWE given credibility to on its roster who could hold the belt in Danielson’s absence? Answer: no one, unless WWE has figured out a way to bring Brock Lesnar back fulltime for two months.

Instead of those bad ideas, here’s a suggestion: UFC uses the vehicle of “interim champions” when one of its champions is injured. In wrestling-speak, an “interim champion” is really no different than a number one contender, but doesn’t sound as hackneyed and without meaning as number one contenders have become. Why not try that?

Being WWE, they’d have to call it something else, since they won’t acknowledge copying UFC. This allows for the “unification” of the interim and regular titles in two-three months, the same way UFC does it.

God forbid, try SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Please. Most of us will know the decision before we decide to turn on RAW tonight…there is this thing called the Internet that a number of fans use to access your PPV and other programming on.

Until next time….

— Bob Magee

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