Just a few weeks ago, I penned an article about the decline of viewership across the board of the WWE product and explained some of the possible reasons for the slip in the ratings. Instead of a spontaneous and organic presentation, the reported rigid scripting of the television shows seemed stale. I also discussed how the illogical attempts at a short-term solution to boost numbers only muddied up the waters even further than the angles that don’t keep viewers in the first place.
Granted, that was just my two cents on the subject based on my opinion of the show, and to be fair, the interpretation of professional wrestling can be very subjective.
However, Jon Moxley’s appearance on the “Talk is Jericho” podcast revealed that much of the speculation around the management of the sports entertainment empire is justified by actual discontent from the performers under contract. It was an intriguing, revealing, and somewhat concerning look into the process of the WWE system. Some might compare Moxley’s vent session to that of CM Punk’s infamous post-WWE podcast that resulted in a lengthy lawsuit, but what the former Dean Ambrose expressed seemed more based on his experiences than simply sour grapes. Keep in mind, Ambrose opted not to resigned with the company, he didn’t walk out, but rather worked the duration of his contract, which gives his explanation for his departure more objectivity.
Still, some of his revelations about the sports entertainment empire will make you shake your head. Specifically, how uncomfortable he was with the use of Roman Reign’s real-life health problems in heel promos. I’ve said this many times before, but if the WWE has to use such low brow tactics to get heat than the writing team might need to place a higher priority on the quality of the product. In fact, Ambrose mentioned that there was a particular line that he completely refused to use about Roman’s condition because of how distasteful he thought it was to be said on TV. Speaking of scripts, Ambrose also detailed how the process under the WWE banner works and that one of his main gripes with the company was the subpar writing. He explained that on one occasion he was so dissatisfied with the script he was given for that night’s television that he told the writer that brought it to him to “hire actors” if they wanted the promo delivered verbatim on Raw. Obviously, the weekly broadcast is a major product and there are definitely certain time cues that must be used to allow for the commercials and advertisements that are a part of the reason WWE was offered such major TV deals. At the same time, the biggest stars in the history of the industry brought their particular style to promos, and it’s very possible that the format of the current system actually hinders the ability of a talent to get over as much as possible with the audience, which might be why the company lacks legitimate money-drawing stars.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the podcast was Moxley’s take on Vince McMahon, the owner that took the WWF from a regional north east promotion and made the WWE into the global publicly-traded company it is today. Moxley referred to Vince an “alleged genius” and an “old man” that doesn’t know what’s over with the crowd. The notion that Vince is behind the times is nothing new and a common complaint on social media when jaded fans don’t agree with the direction of the product. However, Moxley’s direct approach to this subject sounded like it had more validity to it because he had specific experience to speak on it. While Vince’s dedication and work ethic can’t be questioned, the possibility that the company he built might be better without his approval of every aspect is somewhat uncharted territory. Despite some of the valid criticisms of his decisions over the years, there was always a sense of stability with Vince running the show, mostly because of the previously mentioned work ethic. Obviously, the organization will be stable for years because of the amount of money generated, but it’s still an odd suggestion for Vince not to be involved in the company he created. That being said, if Vince isn’t the best director of the promotion at this point, it creates a unique problem for the company because he will work for the rest of his life so it’s doubtful there will be a drastic change in the structure of the product. Vince has bet right a lot more often than wrong throughout his ownership, but perhaps it would be beneficial for someone to limit the amount of cringe worthy segments that somehow get booked for TV.
Some of the lame segments that made Ambrose look “sitcom crazy” instead of legitimately dangerous more or less ruined his chances to be pushed as a top-tier star in the company. This scripting didn’t maximize his potential or his ability as a performer. Moxley called these type of segments embarrassing and depressing, which contributed to his decision not to renew his contract. Quite simply, Vince’s immature sense of humor isn’t entertaining to anyone except him and in this scenario, it might’ve been one of the factors that led to one of his main stars to leave the company. Another interesting quote from Moxley was, “they take wrestling away from you,” which ultimately speaks to the main difference between a sports entertainment company and a pro wrestling company. As I’ve written before, the WWE monopoly created an unintended sense of complacency around the organization and the assembly line structure basically sanitizes much of TV product. It’s very possible that Jon Moxley could reach his fullest potential under the All Elite Wrestling banner simply because he will have the freedom to make the most of the opportunities there. The biggest question from all of this is, has the current WWE structure gotten too far away from the format that allowed some of the most popular eras for the company? More specifically, could a writer have truly scripted success for Stone Cold or The Rock in the Attitude Era?
Finally, it was notable that Ambrose said that Vince “paid Brock millions to ruin his company.” This is something that I have to agree with, even if it’s not at that level, considering that I wrote an article two years ago about the diminishing returns of the Lesnar experiment. More than anything, the “limited schedule for rare appearance” theory became a justification for weekly TV without a champion to build angles. But, later this week Brock is scheduled to be involved in the title picture at the Saudi show so clearly McMahon thinks Lesnar is worth the investment. At this point, I’m not sure what the big payoff is supposed to be with Brock because much of the shine has worn off of him and the way he’s booked has become repetitive and stale.
Again, none of this is doom for the WWE because the company will be stable for years, but Moxley’s explanation for his departure gives credibility to some of the criticism of the current product. It also allows for an intriguing situation in the future if AEW gets off the ground, will some talent decide to work there instead? If AEW allows for more options for talent it could provide better opportunities and a possible shift of the industry.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta