WWE has been making an effort to reach a “different” audience over the past couple of decades. While in the 90s and early 2000s WWE was focused on providing a more edgy product, it’s been evident that their focus has been changing with the times. Themes of empowerment and positivity have especially been at the forefront of this “new” version of WWE. Women’s equality efforts and gay friendly superstars are some examples of the new era shining through. This all inclusive programming has been a positive step for the business, as treating others with respect and without prejudice should be at the forefront of any company’s agenda. On the other hand, this is an entertainment company and we’ve gotten away from that a little bit.
While WWE’s mission statement has always been to put smiles on people’s faces, I wonder if they’ve taken it a little too far at times at the expense of the core product. The WWE Network was a first of its kind streaming service for the time, which Vince McMahon has put a tremendous amount of stock into. It was groundbreaking when it released back in 2014. When you take a look at WWE’s competitors such as Disney, only now are they starting to roll out their own “On Demand” services. On the flip side of this innovation has been the increased need to diversify, branch out and try new things both inside and out of the ring. During an interview with Jon Moxley aka Dean Ambrose, on Chris Jericho’s podcast it was made even more widely apparent that there are “too many cooks in the kitchen,” backstage. Core fans have felt alienated from what they originally became invested in, and the blame is going to Vince McMahon. While I don’t believe that Vince McMahon is out of touch, I do believe his priorities have changed. As a result the show continues to suffer. Ticket sales and ratings have been down, and WWE (Vince McMahon) is taking notice. While the McMahon family admitting that “they weren’t doing their job” a few months ago on RAW was a nice sentiment, the resulting Wildcard Rule has done nothing but water down the product even further. Now a change is being made that people are excited about; a change that could change the landscape of WWE forever.
Two men who revolutionized the industry in numerous ways are being brought back into the pro wrestling game to work directly under Vince McMahon. Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff are back in town to take on the newly devised roles of “Executive Director” for RAW and SmackDown respectively. While changes are on the horizon, it’s unrealistic to expect radical changes right off the bat.
The underlying problem, in my evaluation as a devote wrestling fan of ten plus years has been inconsistency and lack of direction in the core writing. Essentially it’s the quality of the promos, storylines and so forth that’s just not up to par. While some fans will argue that scripted promos are killing the business, I disagree. I can assure you that there have been many successful and widely acclaimed storylines that utilized plenty of scripted promos throughout the years, but of course the writing was also of a higher quality then. I am hopeful that with these new signings, superstars will have more convincing content to work with. The increased direction should foster an environment of interest amongst both the fans and superstars. Bischoff and Heyman have a history of doing whatever it takes and going against the societal grain if necessary, which is just what WWE needs at the moment.
While there will always be pitfalls, but this latest pair of signings is a step in the right direction. The importance of the deal really shines through when you realize that you’ve got two men who the fans know and respect. They are both synonymous with one word – change. To further highlight the importance of the deal and just how seriously Vince McMahon is taking this, take a look at how there are two minds representing two separate shows. The fact that WWE has invented a brand new position for these individuals also speaks volumes to me. The positions are not supplementary and will require two bold and distinct visions. Working directly under Vince, they will provide the core creative direction on each of their individual shows. When taking everything into account, it can be surmised that we are likely going to end up back with the more traditional brand split, and for that I am very optimistic.
Fox will be working alongside Eric Bischoff on SmackDown as the entire landscape of WWE (hopefully) changes and evolves into the next era. It’s not clear yet how these creative changes will play out on TV, but we do understand that the FOX network executives will be looking for a very sports oriented product. Could this mean that RAW focuses more on soap opera and story driven elements while SmackDown provides more of a showtime boxing type of feel? I think it’s a very distinct possibility, but we’ll have to tune in to find out. There has never been a more interesting time to be a wrestling fan, and I’m excited to see what changes await WWE.
An Analysis, by Nathan Taber