Vince McMahon, for all of his knowledge and experience of the business has developed a hard headed mentality that he is no longer in the “pro-wrestling” business. He is now in the “sports entertainment” business. His perception is that “pro-wrestling” is passé, something that his father did and that the business has evolved. True, the wrestling of 2015 is light years away from what it was during the 1960’s and 70’s from a production and TV perspective. However, at the core, they are still a WRESTLING company whether they want to admit it or not. It’s almost as if they are ashamed to even have the word “Wrestling” in their name. You never even hear that word on TV anymore, and refer to themselves as “superstars” or worse yet, “performers”. “Wrestler” in the eyes of some, and clearly Vince McMahon is perceived as a derogatory label. He has stubbornly drawn this clear cut line between a “Wrestler” and a “Sports Entertainer”
From my perspective as a 19 year wrestling fan, using the word “performer” or “superstar” actually diminishes the value of what these men and women do on a daily basis inside of the squared circle. I realize that the curtain has been pulled back almost entirely on how the business works and that it’s not “real”, but we don’t need to be reminded of it every time I turn on WWE programming. It’s like watching a movie and being reminded throughout that what you’re watching isn’t really happening. Of course, as an audience and paying customer we want to be entertained. However, we want to emotionally invest in the story that we are watching unfold and feel real emotion in the story that is being told, and I don’t believe we can do that if there are constant reminders from the wrestlers and announcers that what you’re seeing is simply a performance, like a magic show. Entertainment should be a SIDE EFFECT of what you watch.
A perfect example of how WWE programming are over-exposing themselves was during the Ambulance Match between Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose. After a very physical match which saw Wyatt prevail, Michael Cole (Raw’s lead announcer) says “And the WWE Universe is on their feet applauding the incredible performances of these men” As any wrestling fan, and non-wrestling fan knows, of course it was a performance, but we don’t need to be REMINDED on a weekly basis that what we saw has no real-life implications. Any emotional investment that I had during that match was immediately erased by WWE itself. It’s almost as if they have a weekly meeting where Vince reminds everyone “Well, everyone knows what we are doing isn’t real, so let’s acknowledge that on-air and not try to insult the intelligence of people by trying to make them believe it is real”
This philosophy that WWE clearly is following completely contradicts what wrestling fans are looking for. YES, we understand it isn’t real and that it’s ‘entertainment’. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel and outsmart yourselves by letting us know that what you’re doing isn’t real either. Keep it simple, find protagonists and antagonists, tell me why they are fighting, stop scripting their lines and let them tell a STORY. Let the wrestlers be extensions of themselves so that it comes out organic, natural and believable. It’s a simple formula that will entertain us without you having to remind us we are watching a performance. And THAT is best for business.
Until next time.