Wrestling fans could be forgiven for having a feeling of deja vu the morning after the 2015 Royal Rumble. Following the mauling the live crowd gave the 2014 edition of the event, surely 2015 couldn’t be any worse? Alas , not only was the said crowd as unreceptive to the PPV, but the Twitter hash tag #cancelWWENetwork trended worldwide for several hours after the event, forcing the WWE to rush out an anniucement claiming that Network subscriptions had hit the 1 million mark.
Obviously much has been written about the events and what they portend for the WWE; the following is no attempt at an exhaustive analysis, but rather addresses a few things that stood out for me from the whole affair…
The Court of the Tsar – much has been made of how it’s now clear that ‘Vince is out of touch’; but the truth is this has been the case for years. Like many dictators, Vince lives in a bubble, surrounded by yes-men such as Kevin Dunn. The only ‘resistance’ that the real world provides to what he’s told largely comes in the form of TV ratings and stock prices. If it is indeed the case that the WWE Network has hit 1 million subscribers – and personal I’m not entirely convinced about those numbers – then Vince’s attitude is likely to be “what’s the problem? A few local difficulties in Philly?” This idea that Vince is purposely sabotaging his product just to piss the fans off is not beyond the bounds of possibility; but I suspect the truth is he’s so far removed from popular opinion he is legitimately surprised about the backlash.
WWE FC – the divided reactions of fans to the #CancelWWENetwork episode reminded me of the situations recently at both Arsenal and West Ham: where fans were (literally) fighting among themselves over whether their respective managers should be sacked or not. In many ways WWE does resemble a football club, in that although in theory in theory it’s a ‘brand’ or a ‘product’, it inspires the kind of loyalty that you don’t display towards say, Persil. Indeed, like many football fans, many WWE loyalists pride themselves on supporting the product particularly when it’s bad – a variation on the “you’ve gotta get behind the lads” rubbish you hear from fans even when there team’s performances clearly don’t warrant such backing. You can take the football parallel further – just as pissed off fans of a big team will protest by going to watch a smaller team – Manchester United fans going to watch FC United of Manchester for example – so annoyed WWE fans can go off and watch NJPW, ROH, or even TNA if they get really desperate (zing!).
Too Big to Fail? – it shows the measure of dominance that WWE has that despite woefully underperforming creatively for many years now, the company itself is fairly stable in terms of its financial viability. The general feeling is that even if Stephanie was booked to hold the WWE title for a year at some point, the company will still be around for Wrestlemania 40. Then again, ten years is a long time in wrestling. The WWE could never go pop like WCW….could it?