All That's New Is Old Again
Endeavor's Purchase of WWE returns Vince McMahon to control of the company
Back in January I wrote about how the potential sale of the WWE was an existential threat to the future of the company. Specifically, I wrote.
If McMahon does take over creative, it would destabilize the product heading toward its most important time of the year, the build to Wrestlemania. Ratings would suffer and lower ratings which negatively impact the media deals that McMahon claims are so important to him and urgently required his return
Little did I know how right I was.
With the sale of the WWE to Endeavor, WWE is being paired up with UFC in a new company to be traded publicly under the stock symbol TKO. The problem for WWE and WWE fans is that McMahon will be the Executive Chairman of the new company and, ultimately, the top boss for the WWE creative product.
Triple H gave a speech on Monday night that indicate nothing was changing despite the sale of the company.
But before the words were out of his mouth it became apparent that the truth was a little bit less rosy, as throughout the evening it was clear that Vince was back in charge. The result? One of the worst RAW After Mania shows that anybody could remember.
According to Mike Johnson of PWInsider, shortly before WWE RAW started last night, there were “a number of late rewrites” ordered for the show. This has been very uncommon in the Triple H creative regime since taking over creative for the company in late July.
These changes continued well into the show and reportedly came directly from Mr. McMahon, who, once again, has his own office backstage at the show. Multiple sources at RAW last night informed Johnson that there was “no doubt that Vince was firmly back in charge.”
While Triple H started the night running headsets for RAW, McMahon became “more and more involved” as the person running the show as the episode went on. The former WWE owner was seen in the gorilla position for the majority of last night’s show overseeing the product.
Talents who spoke with Johnson last night sighted a “huge negative shift in morale” as things had reverted to how they were before Triple H took over creative last July. One person went as far as to say that things felt “nuked.”
The question now is “what happens next.”
There is no doubt htat the quality of WWE programming improved drastically with Triple H in charge of creative without his father-in-law looming over his shoulder. The ratings and the popularity of the brand increased with the improved product. Talents that may not have otherwise returned to WWE, like Johnny Gargano, Karrion Kross, or even Bray Wyatt, may not have returned to the company without Hunter being charge of the product.
On top of it, the build to Wrestlemania was praised across the industry and the match card had the highest amount of anticipation for a Wrestlemania card in some time.
Things were going well with Triple H running creative. Now all that is in flux, at best, and has been destroyed at worst.
The Dirt Sheets, of course, will continue to run wild with speculation about what happens next. About who might want their release. About WWE losing the chance to sign “Switchblade” Jay White. About booking again being changed on the fly during a show.
Will the ratings follow? As I wrote in January.
Wrestling is a cyclical business. And notwithstanding the growth of All Elite Wrestling during its four years as a product, WWE remains the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to professional wrestling. It’s the name brand that gets the highest market share. But there is also a certain trickle-down success that happens when professional wrestling is on TV and getting good to decent ratings.
Basically, the better WWE does, the better other wrestling companies do. A rising tide that truly lifts all boats.
That rising tide sure did lift boats over Wrestlemania weekend with wrestling content as far as the eye can see. But if the tide is heading down with Vince back in charge, it will do tremendous damage to the business.
Vince McMahon has a two year employment contract with WWE. He also, ultimately, reports to Endeavor boss Ari Emanuel as Endeavor is the primary shareholder of the new company. McMahon’s doesn’t have quite the free reign he used to. But despite the sale of the company to an outside entity, all that’s new is truly old again. And the bad old days of WWE content appear to have returned.