Print Is Dead But Professional Wrestling Is Not

vince russoSad news that the WWE Magazine division is no more, a casualty of a changing world and a shortfall in WWE Network subscribers. Many titles are struggling on newsstands and there might be a day in our lifetimes where we see no more printed magazines of any kind. We could have all-digital versions of “People”, “Sports Illustrated” and “Vanity Fair” one day, but why not WWE Publications?

Why did it have to go away?

This was not the first time that WWE Publications was on the chopping block. Before I started with the company, there was talk about outsourcing the magazine. How did it survive and remain in-house?

Vince Russo.

One of the things Vince never gets credit for is helping save the magazine(s) back around 1995. Much like he did when Vince McMahon wanted bold ideas to reenergize a tepid TV product in 1997, Vince Russo put his hand up and fought for the product to remain in-house. If it had been outsourced, chances are it wouldn’t have made the next round of budget cuts.

If the magazines went away before that meeting in 1997, without Russo having “Raw Magazine” to use as a template for what McMahon should do with his Raw TV show, we might not have ever had the “Attitude Era”.

Russo gets knocked for a lot of things, deservedly so, but for this, he should get a plaque on the wall. In his words and style of writing, it took “BALLZ” for Russo to stand up and help save the magazines but on the final day of July in 2014, the time for a WWE-produced printed magazine had come to an end.

But why did it have to end now? As I said, the industry is down overall but WWE Publication’s demise falls at the feet of Vince McMahon, Triple H and the leadership in the company. Since the end of the Attitude Era and the conclusion of the Monday Night Wars, the WWE has been unable to create enough stars and captivating storylines to keep the millions of fans who have since walked away from the WWE’s brand of entertainment.

I was on the staff of Titan Sports’ Publications from June, 1997 until early 2000. We saw tremendous gains in circulation when I was there because the TV product was hot, even though at the time, the magazines weren’t as widely distributed as they are today. You couldn’t find the “WWF Magazine” in supermarket checkout lines, for example. The subscriber base grew, distribution widened and there was enough demand to move “Raw Magazine” from bi-monthly to monthly in 1998, joining “WWF Magazine” and a total of 24 new issues a year.

This wouldn’t have happened if the TV product wasn’t hot.  Why did they talk about outsourcing Publications in 1994/1995? Because the TV product sucked and business was down. Not a coincidence.

Without stars, rivalries, issues and interest, the WWE will continue to contract.

So stubborn in their belief that Sports-Entertainment is the way forward, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the WWE is managing their own decline the best way they know how.

But it’s time for a new, bold approach and shaking the dust off the same TV formula the WWE has had since 1997 is the first step.

Professional Wrestling should be embraced, real personalities should be emphasized and script writers should be shunned.

Control is nice but when it squeezes the life out of the product, constricting growth, it’s time to loosen up a little.

Allow the young, new, fresh and different athletes of today to take the wheel. Stop keeping assets hidden in NXT forever.

Don’t reboot but reload and if they don’t work out, get someone else in there. The WWE will never suffer for a lack of talent.

One last word, to all the men and women in the WWE who lost their jobs on the last day of July in 2014, just know that brighter days lie ahead for you. There is a plan for each of us and we walk each day and get closer to knowing the answers. Make the most of the opportunity you have been given. When I lost my job in March of 2003, I thought my life was over but it had only just begun.

What are some of your fondest memories or favorite covers from WWE Publications? Let me know on Twitter @RealKevinKelly