Brian Damage, Craig Wilson, Jamie Lithgow, Lowlife Louie and Amerigo Diehl
Hot on the heels of the WWE signing a multi-million dollar deal with FOX, in today’s Sunday Sermon, with news of Vince McMahon’s estimated fortune, we ask how important it really is for the company to listen to the views of the fans that make up its universe.
Brian: This past week it was announced that WWE signed a huge multi-million dollar deal with FOX to air Smackdown Live on Friday nights starting in October 2019. Between the deals, Vince McMahon signed with both NBC Universal and FOX for the airing rights to air Raw and Smackdown respectively, it is estimated that Vince McMahon is now worth over 2 billion dollars!
He is now equal to how much his longtime nemesis Ted Turner was worth during the whole Monday Night Wars. With all this money in McMahon’s bank account and with advertisers and television deals coming at a record pace for the WWE, does Vince McMahon really have to listen to his fan base anymore?
When the Attitude era began, Vince was in dire straits. He needed to do something and one thing was giving in to fan demands for a more edgier product. Now Vince is in the driver’s seat. Does he really need to listen to his universe and stop pushing this guy and push that guy…or can he just throw anything he wants out there?
Craig: I guess, to a certain point, Vince can do whatever he wants. I mean, if the product was woeful – late WCW standard with the same storylines for years – then maybe, as fans drifted away, then those at the TV stations may start to take notice. But can we really see that happening? WrestleMania was huge, Network numbers are very strong and NXT is smoking hot and showing no sign of let up. Ultimately, there’s a very large wrestling audience in America, and despite the success of various indies etc, who don’t have much beyond the WWE to satisfy their wrestling need.
Vince McMahon has never been stronger but, at the same time, he’s where he is because of the WWE fanbase. Surely there’s only much we’d take before we riot, right?!
Jamie: Basically Vince and WWE need to listen to the feedback they receive and adapt accordingly. Problem is, us fans tend to believe we are either the only ones providing that critique or we are the most influential. I would imagine that the feedback WWE has been getting from its sponsors, partners and broadcasters is pretty damn positive right now so the company is ploughing ahead with a strategy that is clearly working, in a business sense. So I wouldn’t say Vince can do what he wants, but I’d suggest that he doesn’t really have to pay too much attention to live audience feedback these days.
On the flip side, WWE and Vince would do well to keep fans onside. As we’ve seen in recent years, huge organisations (bigger than WWE) are capable of complacency or could be one slip-up away from disaster. I bet Mark Zuckerberg is thanking his lucky stars that Facebook is so popular and ingrained in people’s lives that it can take the current battering it is getting in the press and still be able to recover…. probably. Here in the UK it has been announced that Marks & Spencer is up shit creek. As far as I was aware that company was still king of the high street, but that’s what complacency can do to an organisation. Facebook’s loyal users and M&S’ loyal customers will keep them going, as will WWE’s most hardcore of fans if/when the going gets tough.
Lowlife Louie: At this point in time there is no serious competition on the horizon. Impact in all it’s various incarnations has been around for a long time but it does not pose a serious threat. R.O.H and NJPW are an alternative but do not have enough coverage to compete at the level WCW did.
200 million dollars a year to air wrestling is a lot of money. I’m sure Vince and Co. Know this. It may stimulate them to put out a competing product, but if the fans are still attending and still buying merchandise I don’t think he has any urgency to give the fans what they want
I’ll take my experience on the Indies. Usually (not always)a promoter will book a show to cater to his likes. That being said I’m sure Vince has booked to his liking since 1984. Which has not been a bad thing in general but lately has sorely lacked any real emotions.
Brian: Interesting points Louie and I agree with you wholeheartedly. What is pushing Vince McMahon now that he has all this money and power at his disposal? The advertisers like what they see and fans are still showing up and buying their merchandise. The networks want more and more of the WWE’s product. That is why Raw and now Smackdown Live are going to be mini pay per views at 3 hours a piece. They also made the announcement that actual pay per views will now be 4 hours each. that’s a total of 10 hours of WWE programming in a week (Not counting NXT or 205 Live) To me, that is overkill, I love pro wrestling but even the most die-hard fan needs a break once and a while.
I always believed that you should have the fans wanting to see more and that gets them to tune in each week. Now with 6 plus hours every week, not including pay per views, what will get them to watch everything every week. It seems like it’ll be more of a chore than something as a fan you’d look forward to. The WWE has the roster of talented wrestlers to put on great shows…but then we get things like this past week with Sami Zayn interviewing Bobby Lashley’s “sisters.”
Amerigo: The way I compare it is the last job I had before I began teaching was at the Home Depot. One of my biggest complaints was that they did so much business, due mainly to eliminating the competition, that they made money no matter how bad certain aspects had become. I see similarities with the current WWE product. Sure there are small promotions out there, but you are basically stuck with whatever Vince decides to put on TV that week. If the matches are not particularly good, or the storylines are dull, you either put up with it or change the channel. We all know, that most days even boring wrestling, is better than no wrestling. There is no competition, forcing the WWE to up its game a notch. Whether you liked the Attitude Era or not, the constant rating battle forced the WWE to come up with new ideas, and fresh storylines.
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.