The Rise and Fall of World Wrestling Entertainment
Something big has been brewing in the McMahon-Levesque camp, and if all the recent changes are really just the tip of the iceberg, we could be looking at a completely new generation of World Wrestling Entertainment. Oh, excuse me… WWE, Inc. That's right, the same family that popularized theatrical grappling, coined it “professional wrestling”, and evolved it into what we know today as Sports Entertainment has succeeded in completely removing all traces of “sport” from their name. The WWE is now just a three letter company with no meaning behind its name. When your friend asks what the logo on your Nexus shirt stands for…you won't have an answer! And for all you skeptics rolling your eyes thinking it's just a name change…brace yourself.
For a long time we've heard the rumors that Vince has wanted to somehow remove the “wrestling” name from his family's business. Honestly, after the deaths of dozens of athletes in the past decade, professional wrestling bears the weight of a very heavy burden. It's not surprising that Vince wants to move away from the pre-conceptions of the media and mainstream ridicule. I don't blame him. Hell, if he had done it sooner, perhaps his wife would have a different job right now… I don't believe that this name change is a stand-alone incident. It's just another step (albeit a large one) towards being a company of pure entertainment. And if that happens… well, let's just say Ring of Honor may be finding a network sooner than people think.
The Rock's return and all the PG-14 material that followed may have fooled people into believing some sort of Attitude Era rebirth was upon us. When Triple H cracked Undertaker's skull with that blatant chair shot to the head, many people's suspicions grew. But the chair shot was probably Trips' idea to add drama to the real main even of WrestleMania, and the Rock's usage of the word “ass” is nothing but temporary fan service. One last hurrah for the old school fans longing for more cursing and violence in their wrestling experience. If you way that up against the obvious signs staring us in the face for the past two years, you almost feel shame for not seeing it sooner…
Celebrities have always been a part of the WWE's way of doing things. Ever since the very first WrestleMania stars have been flooding in to sell tickets and promote events to the world outside of Hulkamania. Snooki in a match with guys like John Morrison and Dolph Ziggler should come as no surprise to anyone. It's been happening for years, and it will continue happening as long as people pay to see it. But the celebrity guest host concept changed a lot of things. Week after week a different star from a different genre and era of entertainment came to Monday Night Raw. Even though most of the segments were awkward garbage and the live fans couldn't care less, Vince stuck to it. For a VERY LONG TIME. Even though the ratings didn't show any signs of improvement and the value of the WWE's product was dangerously close to hitting TNA levels of suck, Vince stuck to it. There is nothing that will stop Vince McMahon from turning the WWE into a mainstream source of entertainment. Unfortunately for him, I don't see today's audience catching on like they did back in the 80s. He's going to spend a billion dollars to change a name, bring in celebrities, have more gimmicks, and at the end of the day… be in the same place he was last year. Pee Wee Herman and a terrible product.
The Rock's return has nothing to do with wrestling. Booking The Rock vs. John Cena at WrestleMania 28 twelve months early is a brilliant tactic for somebody looking to captivate on mainstream entertainment. Take a name like Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and put him in the ring with one of the most popular pre-teen megastars in the world today, and you have an almost guaranteed recipe for success (I say almost because you have to keep Cena healthy and the Rock interested). Not only will the wrestling fans buy it because it's one of the last dream matches we have left to see, but I guarantee you Vince will put it out on every major news media outlet in the world if he has his way. Rock vs. Cena isn't a wrestling contest, it's a publicity stunt, and we're all going to buy into it. And if the wrestling world wasn't so completely saturated today, it would probably have the same effect that Hogan vs. Andre did at WrestleMania III. But it won't…because wrestling isn't new and cool anymore. But maybe that's why Vince wants to reinvent the WWE's image so badly. You can't sell crap in a bag. But if you put crap in a iPhone 4 box it'll fly off the shelves.
Don't get me wrong. Most of what I've said so far has been negative mud-slinging against the titan of pro wrestling, but I do have some faith in the WWE. Vince McMahon has reinvented professional wrestling once or twice before, and there's no doubt in my mind that he could do it again and come out with an even better product. I just don't know that I want to be around to watch the WWE become even MORE about cheap gimmicks and Fruity Pebble jokes than it already is. In the 80s pro wrestling was a new form of entertainment that people flocked to see because there was nothing like it out there. In 2011 we've got televisions and video game consoles in every room of the house. We've got Netflix bringing us unlimited movies wherever we go. I don't need a new source of entertainment in my life, I've got all of that within 10 feet of me right now. I watch wrestling because I love wrestling. There's very little of that going on in the WWE these days, and I don't see it getting any better. Label me a cynic, but #iwantwrestling.
On a side note…I'd also look for Chris Jericho to get a new offer in the next few months… If the WWE wants him around because he's a phenomenal pro wrestler, how much more will they want him now that he's a pseudo-celebrity dancer?
Mike Killam is a resident of the North Suburbs of Chicago and enjoys long walks on the beach, gazing at the smog-filled skies, and talking to you. That's right…you. Send all your mail to MikeKillam@gmail.com and follow the NEW new Twitter account @killeReview (the old one had to die…don't ask questions).