As so many organizations that have tried to go up against the juggernaut that is the WWE have learned, the usual parting gift is a dissolving of the organization and a commemorative three-disc DVD or Blu-ray set about the rise and fall of their company.
What happens, however, when a global empire that has dominated the world of sports entertainment since 1980 suddenly begins to disgruntle not only their fans, but also major investors?
In recent years, wrestling fans that have finally hit the age to realize that it’s sports entertainment and not “real” have turned on the characters and company that have done so much to develop it in front of their eyes.
Traditionally, wrestling roles are divided in two archetypes: Faces (heroes) and Heels (villains). Due to weak character development, lack of fresh storylines and (in my opinion the biggest obstacle) a TV-PG rating to adhere to, everyone who is a wrestling purist has turned on the company they once loved.
WWE was able to silence this backlash for quite some time by bringing in fresh faces from smaller promotions like Ring Of Honor and Ohio Valley Wrestling, where due to lack of mass public exposure they are able to have grittier, less “family friendly” matches.
What they didn’t expect was wrestlers like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan becoming so popular with the mass fan base that they would be forced to thrust those stars into main card roles instead of having them around as support.
The time of the underdog – the average sized guy – had arrived.
Then, WWE did what it does best: It ran its work horses into the ground until CM Punk abruptly walked out on the company just before its flagship program, Monday Night Raw, a day after the Royal Rumble that he participated in (entering first and lasting until the final four).
Daniel Bryan finally received the push his fan base demanded, and it culminated at WrestleMania 30, with Bryan first defeating Triple H to qualify for the title match, and then going on to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. His title reign would be short-lived however, as Bryan would require neck surgery to fix a cervical foraminotomy to decompress the nerve root.
We are now plagued with storylines that are just carbon copies of the scripts from the ‘90s with different names. They are rushing young talent out of their developmental brand, NXT Wrestling, and thrusting them into the limelight.
Who knows how long before these talented hopefuls suffer the same mental or physical collapse as those before them?
Just as the product has declined, so has the company’s financial stability. For the last 10 years, Vince McMahon Jr., who built a
global empire out of his grandfather’s company since the ‘80s, has been one of those lucky few to be able to call himself a billionaire.
In one just day last month, that all came crashing down.
With the launch of the WWE Network, a monthly subscription-based channel that offers access to original programming as well as
all the monthly pay-per-views, hopes were high in the front offices, especially with a renewal deal for the TV contract with NBCUniversal. With a 50% increase on their contract with NBCU, investors expected double or triple the existing deal, but the WWE Network couldn’t reach the subscription numbers necessary to break even with the money and time invested. McMahon lost $350 million dollars in less than eight hours as stock plummeted from roughly $20 a share to $11 – roughly 40%.
Could this be part of the reason that, in a very rare move, the WWE released 10 wrestlers and one referee all at once? Granted, none of them were big time players in the ring, but typically WWE only does some minimal house cleaning just after Wrestlemania season or allows contracts to just run their course and opt out of renewal.
As it provided the fall for the likes of ECW, WCW, and AWA, just to name a few, only time will tell if the “Titan of Sports Entertainment” will remain the powerful force it has always presented itself as or if a new “Zeus” will emerge to overthrow the empire, giving us “The Fall of WWE.”
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