In Defense of WWE
March 26, 2007 by David Barker
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I have been a wrestling fan my entire life. Since the day I was born, I grew up watching and loving professional wrestling. I know, and socialize, with a lot of wrestling fans. I browse http://www.OnlineWorldofWrestling.com on a regular basis and read almost every column. I hear everything every fan I come in contact with has to say, and I must say I'm tired. I am tired of the same, "The WWE sucks." Statement, or "Cena shouldn't be champion, Batista shouldn't be Champion, they can't wrestle." Even better, "They should push so and so." I'm here to do my very best to defend Vince McMahon and the WWE's decisions.
The WWE is a publicly traded company. They have stock holders they have to answer to. Vince McMahon can not just do what ever he wants to do, because he has to answer to the Board of Directors. While Vince McMahon may have almost unlimited freedom now, he does not own the WWE anymore, he just owns the most stock which makes him the majority shareholder. He has to make sure the decisions he make are the right ones, he does not want a major backlash from his Board of Directors, or his share holders.
Also, the WWE is on a major cable network that is owned by NBC Universal. This adds on the pressure of making sure you don't anger your network, because if the WWE violates their contract with NBC Universal, specially the USA Network, they can get booted off of television. This means the WWE has to make sure their ad sales stay up as well as their ratings, because the network cares the most about revenue and ratings. This pressure of ad sales puts Vince McMahon and the WWE in another awkward position, because they can't just do whatever they want. They have to make sure the people who are buying ad time are happy with the product, because if the product isn't what the ad-buyers want, they aren't going to buy ad time.
This brings us to ratings. Ratings are very important to staying in a prime time spot on Monday Nights- a great night to be on television, especially prime time television, because most of the year it runs almost unopposed by any major television show. They only time it really comes up against any sort of trouble is when Monday Night Football is on, which is only during part of the year. If ratings drop significantly, Vince McMahon is going to have to answer for it, and part of that could be that he'd be bumped from his prime time slot on Monday nights, and forced to a less than desirable time slot for his programming. Therefore, Vince McMahon has to keep his ratings up, which means he has to limit some of his decisions.
But, perhaps the largest reason Vince McMahon makes the decisions he does is merchandise and ticket sales. WWE does not make their most money because of ratings or their stocks. They make money off of merchandise and ticket sales. To do this, Vince McMahon has to appeal to the 'casual' fan. Vince McMahon has to build his shows in a certain way as to attract the casual fans. He has to market certain wrestlers certain ways to make money. And, let me let everyone in on a little secret, the people that sell the most merchandise are the people getting the most air time. There is a reason Trevor Murdoch and Lance Cade wrestle on Heat, and John Cena wrestles on Pay Per View Main Events.
This idea of merchandising actually brings me to what I want to talk about the most: who gets pushed and why. Vince McMahon is a business man, and a very good one at that. Vince McMahon knows that he has to do whatever he can to make sure he maximizes his revenue. To do this, Vince McMahon has to take people that have something he can market, and market to the extreme. That's why DX had t-shirts, Jerseys, skull caps, wrist bands, glow sticks, and every thing else under the sun. DX is a merchandising machine, as is John Cena and Batista. Vince McMahon packages John Cena and Batista in a way to make sure they sell merchandise, because there is something about each of them that get's people's attention. Sure, you might never see John Cena get down on the mat and go hold for hold with Bryan Danielson. Batista might never cut riveting promos that keep people on the edge of their seats, but both of them sell tickets and merchandise. Jamie Noble, who I'm a big fan of, doesn't sell merchandise, so he doesn't get to main event WWE programming.
Merchandising and ticket sales are so important to the WWE, and rightly so. Vince McMahon doesn't care about people who trash talk him, but don't buy any merchandise for the wrestler's they want to see get pushed. You know who does buy merchandise? Casual fans and they do it in abundance. Jamie Noble could probably never sell out Madison Square Garden, but John Cena can. Vince McMahon might not always put the better "wrestler" over, but he doesn't have to. Vince McMahon pushes the people who are going to make him the most money. No offense to Dean Malenko, but as great of a technical wrestler he is, I'm not going to buy a Dean Malenko t-shirt, I'm not going to run out to see Dean Malenko headline a show. I believe most people will probably agree with me that they're not going to travel out of their way to see Dean Malenko main event a pay per view, but a lot of fans will pour into a building to see Triple H wrestle, or John Cena wrestle, because they get drawn into them, there is something about them that makes people want to watch them.
This something is a built in charisma that draws people to them. John Cena might not be the best pound for pound technical wrestler in the history of the business, but he as an air about him that lets you know he's something special. Lance Storm, on the other hand, is an incredible technical wrestler, but honestly, I was never that excited to see Lance Storm wrestle- except his ECW One Night Stand 2005 match against Jericho and his ROH Title match against Bryan Danielson. Lance Storm will die, and might be remembered and might not, but when John Cena dies, he'll be remembered by wrestling fans, because he was the focus of the show for multiple years, is going to headline at least three WrestleMania's- my guess is he'll headline more.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is simple. Money. Vince McMahon wants to make money, because Vince McMahon wants to keep the WWE open and successful, and he wants to pay the people he employs. Do you think Jamie Noble really cares whether or not he headlines WrestleMania? Probably not, he might want to, but it doesn't really concern him. He doesn't really care whether or not he's the focus of their shows, as long as he gets paid. You know how I know this? He was released, was a main-eventer in Ring of Honor, but yet he went back to being on the under-card of the WWE. Wrestlers want to make money, they want to pay their bills, they want to live comfortably, so they don't care that John Cena and Batista main event- because John Cena and Batista sell tickets, John Cena and Batista get people to come to the shows, John Cena and Batista make the company money, and if John Cena and Batista make money for the company, the rest of the guys get paid, and they want to get paid.
That's not to say that it rests solely on John Cena and Batista to sell tickets, but your World Champion needs to be your top draw for the most part, and should draw in most of your crowd.
Anyway, that was my attempt to defend the WWE and some of their decisions, and try and help some people who may have forgotten that the WWE is a global corporation that is trying to make money remember that the WWE can afford to push people just because they know more moves than anyone else, or people they've been around for a long time. The WWE has to push people who will make them money. It's that simple.
by David Barker (View/Submit your feedback here)..
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