Kevin Nash and Vince McMahon Discussion
As the Royal Rumble looms over the world of Pro Wrestling and with WrestleMania Season around the corner, discussions about the state of the industry always come up and allow the fans to reflect on the business providing them with an opportunity to vent their frustrations about the product, cheer for their favorites, and hypothesize about who will be the next big thing.
Despite this enthusiastic fandom, it is essential to fairly evaluate the industry and see where there is room for and a need for improvements. During a recent episode of “The Ross Report Podcast” starring Jim Ross, the former WWF and WCW World Champion, Kevin Nash, discussed a conversation he once had with Vince McMahon about the state of the business and the differences between the product now and that of the Attitude Era.
Nash would comment, “I remember one time I was talking to Vince – it wasn’t the last WrestleMania, I think it was the one before – and I just asked him how things were. And he goes, ‘The thing that’s changed more than anything, [is] back when you broke in here in the fed, it was a shark tank. Like, everybody went after that top prize, and it was a battle. Now, [wrestlers] wait for him to come around with a sword and anoint them.’ It’s just not the same anymore.”
This statement can easily be dismissed as an aging veteran attempting to put over his own time in the business but if you examine what he actually said, you would see that what is really happening is very apparent. Nash didn’t claim that the Attitude Era had better performers. Nor did he reference the Monday Night Wars. He didn’t even put himself over as a huge draw as World Heavyweight Champion. Instead, he referenced Vince McMahon’s comments in a manner that illustrates his frustrations with the current state of affairs and that underscores one of the biggest reasons that despite record profits for WWE, live event attendance, weekly television ratings, and pay per view buys have slipped a great deal for a fairly consistent period of time.
The simple truth is that talent these days are wrapped up in more things that distract them from the in ring product and thus we have a less engaging program to watch each week and are struggling to be motivated to tune into Raw and Smackdown Live when we are going to see the same matches week in and week out.
In the WWE alone, there are a pantheon of revenue streams these days. You have their house shows, television programming, merchandising second to none, toys, games, replica belts, and even their own streaming network channel that you can subscribe to for the low monthly price of $9.99. Those fail to include WWE Films and the variety of other industries that the WWE find themselves invested in.
This has allowed talent to make more money and have more exposure than ever before which is a huge problem.
Why is this happening?
The simple answer is that wrestlers are not focused in the same way they were during the Attitude Era or any era before that. These days, wrestlers are concerned with their contracts, creative input into their characters, moving merchandise, starring in the next Marine Movie, pushing t-shirt sales at Hot Topic, or putting on the best show each night. None of those things are a bad thing per se. However, it is far different than the wrestlers of the past.
For those who were around before the Attitude Era, you may remember interviews with Ric Flair putting over his next match with whatever flash in the pan talent he was set to face. He would sell the match, put over his opponent, and then turn his attention to the rest of the locker room who wanted “his” World Heavyweight Championship. Every talent that did a promo would come out and stake their claim and voice their desire to be the World Heavyweight Champion. It didn’t matter if you were the smallest guy on the show, you still wanted to “be the man”.
When was the last time you heard someone like TJP talk about being World Heavyweight Champion? Have you ever seen Gallows or Anderson mention the title? You have one guy who voices his desire each week on social media and he isn’t “over” enough for Vince McMahon to give him a run with the title but at least he says it.
When you look at Vince McMahon’s comments, what you should see is that Vince would love for every guy in the company to go out there every day and leave it all out there. He would love to have those same guys come to the back and tell him that they are on a mission to prove to him that they can be world champion. He would be absolutely thrilled for them to get over with the crowds with their in ring ability, mic skills, and their demeanor when they head to the ring. Unfortunately, as McMahon is stating above, talents seem to want to wait to be chosen for their path to the championship.
Is this a WWE Phenomenon?
The biggest concern is that this is not just in WWE! When you watch a match on an Impact Wrestling broadcast, there are a host of characters who are working the most ridiculous angles each week. Lucha Underground, which is a great product, is focused on high spots and bazaar characters. Ring of Honor has potentially the most prestigious title in North America and it is because their #1 championship is desired by all who wrestle for them. Even New Japan Pro Wrestling has this issue as someone like Hiroshi Tanahashi seems complacent being the IWGP Intercontinental Champion rather than pursuing the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. A desire to be world champion should be felt from more than the challenger of the month. Talents from the bottom of the show to the top of the show should all be chasing the champion no matter who it is.
The solution is a complex one. Talents in WWE are rushed to the main roster only to be completely misused and recycled repeatedly (Bo Dallas Anyone?). The reality is that the in ring quality would be significantly better if instead of bringing up new talents just for the sake of the fan pop, they would instead bring up the talents who have expressed the desire to be world champion. They should elevate those who they feel they can build a company around in the future. With all of the classes offered at the performance center, they should include a class that emphasizes how to being passion to the business and a true desire to be world champion. If a talent doesn’t have that desire when they get to the main roster, then they are doomed to mediocrity (Shinsuke Nakamura).
It is time to go back to a more traditional
model. Have a mid-level star come out every once in a while and with no story line build, proclaim their desire to be world champion. Allow them to have
a match with the champion just to show the fans that there is something new to
watch each week. Until WWE and other promotions start to instill the value of
desire in their performers, wrestling will continue to under perform. The
quality of the matches each week will be less inspiring. Most importantly, the
business as a whole will miss out on some of the greatest action of all time as
dream matches won’t materialize the way they used to and eventually the parity
in the business will leave us with less legends and fewer favorites.
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