Let’s make this clear: I am not a Vince McMahon hater. Vince is obviously a visionary who bleeds wrestling (or sports entertainment as he calls it). No one thought WrestleMania was possible, not even the people in the WWE. Vince’s genius made that vision a reality. From day one he has never stopped pushing forward. He has an uncanny ability to revitalize the industry when it grows stagnant. He survived a steroid scandal and an all-out war with WCW because the man lives and breathes his product. Hogan once said that if he had a great idea at 3 a.m. on a Friday night, Vince would answer his call on the first ring. WCW on the other hand, had regular office hours, and it could wait until Monday morning. This dedication is the reason his empire outlasted the competition, and still stands high above everyone else.
Vince is human. For all of his great ideas, there were obviously bad ones. Pat Patterson was a valuable resource, helping weed out the ideas bad for wrestling, but he wasn’t always around. McMahon’s juvenile sense of humour is legendary, and could get the best of him when Patterson’s voice of reason wasn’t enough. I’ve mentioned before how on Steve Austin’s podcast Vince went into great detail describing the joy of pushing people into a pool. This was a grown man, a grandfather, the head of a billion dollar company, speaking about the look in a person’s eyes before they got soaked. I feel it explains a lot.
So with this article I want to list the top 10 reasons that point to Vince losing touch. I think there are easily ten other reasons why he still has his finger on the pulse, but that’s for another day. For now we’ll focus on the present and recent past. The ideas and philosophies that suggest the nearly 70-year-old man may not understand his fan base (or at least the part that I’m in). Let the judging begin.
10. “The Brass Ring”
McMahon stated that today’s wrestlers don’t have the same ambition as they used to. That John Cena had been at the top for so long because he was the only one truly willing to work for it. This has been taken as a slap in the face by many fans. While Cena may have a great attendance record, his “work” in the ring is fairly clumsy and mediocre. Vince came off sounding like a cynical old man when he blamed the current generation (“millennials”) for not wanting to fail.
To his credit he did rattle off fan favorites like Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt as a few that are “chomping at the bit”. Yet it’s obvious anyone not named Cena, Orton or Reigns is at a great disadvantage. Apparently there is a size minimum for this brass ring as Vince has predictably pushed the biggest looking guy (Reigns) out of the next generation. Bryan did eventually get back into the WrestleMania XXX card where he belonged but Vince was left with no choice after the WWE Universe forced a rewrite.
The comment was an insult to the most talented performers he has that are continually shafted.
9. Calling it “sports entertainment”
Vince first admitted wrestling was “entertainment” to avoid interference from the gaming and boxing commission. But since the World Wildlife Fund won their court case for use of the brand WWF, it’s become an obsession. His interview with Steve Austin got a little awkward when the two argued over the term. Austin agreed that parts of the show are sports entertainment, but what he did in the ring was wrestling. Vince quickly countered, telling him that’s what his grandfather did.
Look, we all know that it’s entertainment, but so is football or any other sport people pay to watch. The NFL doesn’t call it sports entertainment, and no wrestling fan calls it sports entertainment either. Vince should understand we are going to call it “wrestling” and leave the issue alone.
8. Not Enough Wrestling
In their telling interview, Austin brought up the issue that there is far too much story before an actual wrestling match. Vince responded that without that story no one would care about the match. The crucial thing Vince is forgetting is that the best stories are always told in the ring. Not in a B-grade soap opera wannabe storyline. There are five hours between Raw and Smackdown to fill and there are still wrestlers complaining of not having enough ring time. Vince has confused the dressing with the main dish, and it needs to be reversed. In the end, it’s always going to be about the moments in the ring, and he needs to understand that again.
7. Mishandling of Roman Reigns
This one is two-sided. Vince was listening to the fans when they supported the Shield. They were an incredible stable who had a fantastic run before he decided to give them a chance as singles wrestlers. Out of the three it was surprising when Reigns was the one who got the biggest push, but not when you look into his past. Sid Justice received the same massive push with his similar intimidating physique, mediocre mic work and limited ring skills. His decision to push Reigns this hard so soon has exposed his flaws.
No longer able to be a silent killer doing a third of the work, he was thrown in the main event of ‘Mania, easily the most important match of the year. Fans were loudly booing Reigns in the main event in favor of the guy who not too long ago, was the company’s biggest heel in Brock Lesnar. Fans were actually cheering when Rollins won the title, relieved that it wasn’t Reigns.
Oh and remember those horrendously cartoonish Reigns promos earlier in the year? Guess who wrote them; ol’ Vinny Mac.
6. PG era
It can’t always be the Attitude Era, and that era was far from perfect. But how much longer can this one go on for? The combination of Linda McMahon’s government ambitions and the pressure from the TV networks caused Vince to severely neuter his product. We definitely don’t need to see a penis being chopped off or perverted characters like Beaver Cleavage, but wrestling desperately needs an edge. Vince was smart to keep Lesnar. After CM Punk left, Brock’s been the best symbol of “attitude” the company has left.
With Lesnar off TV, presumably until SummerSlam season, Vince should use this time to start pushing the envelope a little more.
5. Undertaker loses his streak
The Undertaker’s WrestleMania undefeated streak was legendary. It was often the highlight of each year’s card. It crossed over to the mainstream media. And then it ended. Sure it got a huge shock value, but what was the point? Brock Lesnar was already incredibly over with the fans as a destruction machine. Breaking the streak added to that, but he would have been just fine without it. The Undertaker most likely has just one or two more matches left in him. He could have easily walked off into the sunset with the streak intact. It would have been gold watch to his wrestling retirement. A thank you from Vince to his most loyal soldier, who stuck with the company through it’s darkest times and gave so many memorable moments. Vince loves to push things forward, but sometimes change for the sake of change is wrong. That time was wrong.
Wrestling fans know how the business works and can easily see who is getting the “push”. Sheamus received a massive one and many fans wondered how much of that had to do with his workout buddy, Vince’s son-in-law Triple H. Sheamus had some interesting heel moments, but his face phase was generic, boring, and cheesy. The lame jokes and boring brawling don’t hold a candle to the skills of a Dolph Ziggler or Dean Ambrose, yet those two patiently wait their turn. CM Punk had some interesting comments (as usual) about the WWE’s obsession with getting Seamus on the cover of their video game. The game developer was as puzzled as the fans were.
Let’s see if Sheamus’s recent heel turn revitalizes him a little, but the fact is he has always had trouble drawing a passionate reaction from the fans.
3. Diva matches
The WWE has always flirted with a women’s division in the modern era, but has never gone all the way. Alundra Blayze had a small run, wrestling a lot of Japanese ladies, but when she dumped the title in rival WCW’s trash can on live TV, it put a damper on things. The Trish Stratus and Lita era combined sex appeal with solid matches and built some momentum for the women. The current crop is an odd mix. In NXT, the women are given long enough matches to tell a story and are responding with high quality bouts.
The WWE however, puts a higher priority on a sexy entrance and gives the poor girls under five minutes of actual ring time. Some fans may say the matches are boring and are only good for a bathroom break, but these women could change minds if they were only given a chance. These Divas are so smart they actually used the lack of ring time to build heat. Nikki Bella said that the 30-second Diva match that launched #givedivasachance was planned by her and the three females involved. They rightfully assumed a 30-second surprise would accomplish so much more than a four minute match ever could.
Vince responded to #givedivasachance by saying “we hear you, keep watching”.
Hearing and doing are obviously two separate things.
2. Overscripted promos
The greatest gimmicks and promos have always come from a place of truth. WCW didn’t know to use Mark Calaway “he never smiled”. The WWE played into that part of his personality and he became The Undertaker. Steve Austin is a legitimate badass. ECW gave him a chance to naturally develop his anti-authority figure when his gimmick centered around being fired by Eric Bischoff. His WWE character exploded when he was finally allowed to tap into that. Even John Cena managed to be entertaining was at his most entertaining when he utilized his skills of rapping and pissing people off. Arguably the greatest promo ever was CM Punk’s truth-loaded pipe bomb. It worked because the performer was coming from a place of honesty.
Today’s product is so obviously over-scripted it’s cringe worthy. Wrestlers are not great actors, so don’t make them do it. What they should be trained to do, if they’re not already, is to be great improvisers. While the best wrestling has always contained elements of a soap opera, it should never become one.
Vince needs to realize that TV writers don’t belong on his team. He needs to get back in touch with the roots of the business in order to push forward.
1. Commentary Teams (Michael Cole)
Perhaps we were spoiled with so many years of Jim Ross and Gorilla Monsoon. Heck I could even go for some vintage McMahon over Cole. Cole is flat-out mediocre. A commentator is supposed to elevate the action, letting you know why it’s exciting. Their voice should be completely in sync with the with the match, matching the highs and lows. Instead, Cole gives the opposite. Most of the time he’s ignoring the match and talking about some off-topic drivel. When he does pay attention he has the incredible ability to make even the most dangerous high-spot or compelling ring psychology sound dry, clinical, and boring. He sounds like he’s calling a golf tournament most of the time. Vintage Cole.
Vince needs new blood calling the action. It’s the most coveted broadcasting job in wrestling, and Cole simply doesn’t cut it. It would be very easy to find at least dozens of talented candidates to compete for the hallowed position.
In defense of Cole and his broadcast partners, he is clearly fed practically every line by McMahon and anybody would find it hard to do commentary if the most powerful man in the wrestling business was in your ear every second. Just ask Mick Foley.
Please Vince, if you take any suggestions from the fans, let it be this one. I could watch John Cena vs Roman Reigns at every PPV main event if someone as good as JR was calling it.
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