Since the rise of mixed martial arts and, in particular, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, coincidentally or otherwise WWE ratings have been in decline.
Now, your writer doesn’t believe there are many outside factors that have ever harmed the WWF (in, say, the mid-1990’s) or WWE in recent years – the downturn in business has only ever coincided with a downturn in the product quality itself; the theory of outside forces harming business is merely one which Vince McMahon throws out to shareholders in hopes they’ll eat it up.
The problem here is with Vince’s blatant hypocrisy.
In 2010, McMahon certainly took the approach of rejecting UFC as competition that could have harmed his WrestleMania Pay-Per-View buyrate, saying, “You’re talking about two completely different audiences. The UFC audience is more of a boxing audience than an entertainment audience.”
And yet, when CM Punk wanted to attend a UFC event to accompany one of their top MMA stars, he was prevented from doing so, reportedly by McMahon’s office. Since UFC signed with Fox, they’ve slowed down their pursuit of their own MMA-based television channel, which some believe was the reason for such a terribly rash announcement of the WWE Network announced to launch in spring of 2012 and, as I write, still yet to materialise, with plans still very vague.
Vince shows his famous insecurities again when it comes to UFC, and he protests too much in claiming they aren’t competition. Who is he really trying to convince?
When WCW was battling with the WWF in the Monday Night War, McMahon would still often be heard claiming that Ted Turner’s company weren’t competition because WCW were “in the wrasslin’ business,” while the WWF, he said, “make movies.” Many of us are fully aware of Vince’s fawning love for Hollywood glitz and glamour and credibility, but in claiming his product was more akin to that brand of showbusiness thus wasn’t competing with its ratings rivals WCW was absurd.
And, as I’ve written before, the more McMahon remains in self-denial about being a born-and-bred pro wrestling promoter, the more “wrasslin'” he himself seems to Hollywood. Even WWE Hall of Famer Mike Tyson comes across as more progressive and in-keeping with the Hollywood crowd that throws fundraisers for Barack Obama, than Vince and his old school tax-hating, deregulation-seeking Republican candidate wife Linda. All the while the right-wingers hate the McMahons for their inherently liberal product of simulated violence and sexual undertones. It’s a doomed approach.
And yet even after his conquer of WCW, where he bought what he suddenly referred to as his competition when announcing the deal on Monday Night Raw, along came TNA – and while not as successful as WCW, certainly the second major pro wrestling promotion in the United States – they weren’t competition either: “My concern with TNA is not in terms of competition,” said Vince. “My concern with TNA is that they are TV-14, and we are PG. They have to change with the times. I think some of the things they do on television are reprehensible.” This from the man who created the “Kiss My Ass” club and pushed D-Generation X, in addition to airing a segment where Triple H supposedly had sex with a corpse. But he has “changed with the times,” so he can now judge, even while calling for Kane to have a three-foot long penis in his WWE movie.
Instead of claiming changes to WWE are due to aiming for a more “sophisticated” product, Vince would do well to accept that both sports and entertainment are potential competition, because they’re all on television and all battling for ratings, while at the same time focusing on his own product rather than he and his wife spending millions of their personal fortunes on getting her political power so they can increase their profits. What would likely also please their shareholders far more, too, would be less airtime on “Standing up for
Linda WWE,” and more dedicated to creating and elevating stars within a clear and coherent product that has direction. As I’ve also written before, with no WCW breathing down their necks, they can afford to settle for the status quo, Super Cena, and political aspirations while behaving like a dog at a dinner table seeking attention from a Hollywood that will never accept them, no matter how many more dozens of their writers they bring in to spoil the broth.
It’s funny, also, how Brock Lesnar was so sought-after – and so easily re-transitioned – to the WWE from a UFC that Vince McMahon claims is not competition. It’s a good thing for Vince’s psyche, though. Because the more he dismisses all these other competitors, the easier it will continue to be to take as so many of them surpass his own “sophisticated” product.