Thursday, June 19, 2014

The WWE and the Glass Ceiling. by Jon Cain

            Vince McMahon lost a very impressive three hundred and fifty million dollars in only 24 hours.  After signing a contract with NBC/Universal, his company's stock to dropped from the twenty nine dollar mark to nineteen dollars. This is what happens when a CEO of a company chooses not to listen to the people. WWE has been on a steady decline as of late, so this news should be not surprising to anyone. However, I feel this latest bump in the road is more a symptom of a greater illness. 

            We can all agree that the current state of WWE product is significantly under the bar. Ironically the bar they are below is the very bar they set.  I could go into a long explanation of why that is, but that would be off putting to some and the informative nature of it would be lost to others. So to steal a line from the great John Hughes “In the simplest terms, and the most convenient definitions” here we go.  Anytime time you grandstand in wrestling, whatever positive draw you have, at its end you will be met with an even greater time of drought. Simply put: You met the glass ceiling.

            The most modern  example of grandstanding was the attitude era. To some, this is the pinnacle of what the WWE is and could become. This was a point in history were it was cool to be a wrestling fan.  It was the, "kick ass, take names" era of professional wrestling. So many arcing stories and epic  characters and icons that will last a lifetime. However, how much of that was really the WWE? They had to do something, WCW was nipping at their heels -WCW had the roster the budget and more over they were hungrier. This made WWE kick it up a notch out of necessity. 

            I believe that the current condition of WWE is a direct result of  the attitude era. Don't believe me? Look at what unfolded during the Era that was not good for the business as a whole. The first nail in proverbial coffin of the modern WWE was the breaking of kayfabe. Some may or may not know what kayfabe is. In a word kayfabe is illusion. It was the belief that what was going on in the show was real. With things like the infamous curtain call debacle and McMahon claiming WWE isn't wrestling but sports entertainment, kayfabe was all but destroyed. Then with the internet boom came the "smart mark", and sadly the death of kayfabe wasn't far behind. This had consequences that are still felt today. Titles became worthless, characters and gimmicks all but useless. The way matches worked and ran completely turned on its ear. Even the locker room was not safe. 

            Back in the day, if a established star came into to a territory he or she was treated like a king. The locker room was no exception. Now, that is gone. People who came before and blazed a trail are treated like colleagues. There is very little respect and that shows in its product.  People the likes of Ric Flair, George Steele, and even Hulk Hogan deserve their respect. Before kayfabe died, when people like that were in the locker room, it was like being in presence of a god. It was not marking out, it was called respect, and very few have it.

            The second nail in the coffin was the WWE's systematic dismantling of any and all competition. WWE's vast success allowed them to purchase several companies as well as there entire video libraries. The purchases of the libraries was an idea put forth by Jim Ross. The intention was to save the record of every great event in wrestling history, for generations to come. However McMahon saw this not as way to preserve history, but more as a way of cementing his legacy and the WWE legacy as the sole wrestling superpower. However, as they are learning now, what would a superpower be without an axis of evil for which to do battle? No one would read a comic book if all the hero did was sit on his couch and wait for something to happen. The old saying, "Iron sharpens iron," is very true, even in the wrestling business. 

            Which is what leads me into the third nail. After WWE purchased WCW they put up their feet, and hit the cruise control button on their product. This is partly due to arrogance, and inability to follow things up. Let's start with the arrogant side of the coin. They beat everyone that came before them, they were the undisputed champion of The Monday Night Wars. Rather then act like a champion, they choose to strut around like a game cock. The WWE upper management was so busy punishing the flow over talent from WCW, they didn't even notice that they fell from the mountain top.  Rather then use the wealth of talent WCW had, they acted like a 5 year old with action figures.  They fired some, kept others and the ones who really protested to the treatment got blown up in the backyard with a m-80.

            Then, as the Era came to a close, we were greeted with such epic storylines as Mae Young giving birth to a hand, Perry Saturn and Moppy, or my personal favorite, Stone Cold joining Mr McMahon.  Honestly how the hell do you follow up an old bag birthing a hand. In short, you can't, nor should you have to try. WWE and ECW had this same problem, just in different ways. Story wise WWE could not comeback from its self, in the same way ECW couldn't get more violent and hardcore without committing a felony in 26 of the 50 states. Rather then learn from ECW years before WWE did the same stupid mistake. They pushed the envelope so hard in the attitude era, that when they were done, they had no where else left to go.

            So now we have the modern era of WWE . This is a landscape that looks like a cross between Bellator MMA and Dawson's Creek.  It resembles quality wrestling in the same way that Casey Anthony is a mother of the year candidate. The talent bust their humps and get buried or let go. They rely on a few stars and choke out the rest. They push people who are cold as ice and hold back the ones on fire. All because they don't want to a repeat of the attitude era fallout. They are content with being mediocre, and with no competition, they show no signs of changing. There is no reason for them to try. Vince McMahon lost three hundred and fifty million dollars, a third of his income, in twenty four hours and what happened? They gave Seth Rollins a push. The crowd has been chomping at the bit for Roman Reigns, myself included. Still did they listen? Nope. They pushed the one that's lukewarm.  The only thing they have done right lately is pushing Cesaro, and the Cena/Wyatt feud. I would love to say that it was something to do with Daniel Bryan, however due to injury and crap angles that's not happening anytime soon. 

            In closing I would like to say thank you for going through this with me. I know some may agree and some may not. However, you can't argue with ratings and over all approval. The WWE  will more the likely ride this out and be better for it. All we must do is hope , pray and wait.                 

Jon Cain is a former professional wrestler and long-time fan who lives in Daly City, California with his wife and a mountain of custom X-box controllers.

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