WWE Is Out of the Wrestling Game

Wrestling is fake. Everyone knows it. Whether you are a fan or not, you know that what you are watching is meant to be pre-scripted entertainment. Wrestling has been predetermined for over a century, dating back it’s it’s time on circus sideshows to entertain rubes. But the presentation of legitimate sport existed long beyond that, into the golden days of television, all the way through the rise of Hulk Hogan in the mid 80’s. All of that changed in 1989. Vince McMahon, long known as the king of the squared circle, the man who helmed a regional wrestling company from his father and turned it into the apex of the sport, is the one who killed it.

That is when Vince decided that, to avoid regulation from various state sporting committees, he would announce to the world that wrestling was fake. It was predetermined. It was just a show. He did so in a New Jersey court to avoid having to deal with local governing bodies. The curtain had been officially pulled back. We saw how the sausage was being made. It was all an act. Whether the larger wrestling community wanted the world to know that kayfabe had been killed, the blood was on McMahon’s hands and he would ride the concept of “sports entertainment” to a financial windfall, recognition worldwide, and two failed football leagues.

The WWE has always been a family business. Vince stays in the everyday functions on the business, to the detriment of the product some would say, even at the age of 75. Of course, it’s not the wrestling business. It hasn’t for a long time. And with the announcement today that the WWE would be shutting down their proprietary network and pawning it off to NBC Universal for one billion dollars over five years, they aren’t even in the business of making moments that they can promote or create long term connections between their product and the fans.

They are just content creators for someone else, now.

Without their own product to promote for themselves on their network, they are exclusively making product on Mondays and Wednesdays, along with whatever they previously did to build up their network, for NBC Universal. They are making content on Fridays for Fox. With the pandemic, they found a business model that allows them to no longer have to do house shows (shows on off nights in smaller venues to drum up interest for the product), or even travel as much. They stayed profitable throughout the pandemic by changing their business model and centralizing their base in Florida. Outside of occasional overseas tours, there is no reason to believe they will ever go back to their normal tour schedule. They aren’t even creating content for the paying public who want that experience.

They are Kim Kardashian trying to sell some bullshit perfume on her Instagram. They are Chuck Lorre making a slew of terrible television shows. Every time you hear a godforsaken Imagine Dragons song that is used to sell a video game, that’s just a crappy band creating content. There is no attachment to it. There is no feeling of pride or joy about it. There is no real commitment to it. It’s just all content being made for someone else.

When it started in 2014, WWE Network was largely seen by wrestling fans as a triumph. Gone were the days of paying 50 dollars to watch the biggest events. It was a part of the 9.99 monthly fee. Beyond that, every WWF/WWE/WCW/ECW show ever made was on the network, encapsulated in the cost. Over the past 84 months of it’s existence, they built a wrestling fan’s dream streaming site. Every piece of nostalgia was at your fingertips.

But WWE never knew how to market the product. In the press release announcing the deal between WWE and NBC Universal, it noted that there were 1.1 million subscribers in the United States. In selling their product during investment calls, higher ups for the company would constantly tout the growth of the network in terms of users. Then again, it wasn’t hard to sell a wrestling product to wrestling fans. The failure of appealing to non-current fans largely fell at the feet of a company that was becoming unable to market their product to their own fans. The company has struggled for years to create new fans. Their demographics have largely skewed older and male, in spite of years of effort to bring in a younger audience, making their product more PG, alienating many fans. Their inability to know who or what they are over the past few years has shown, and you need look no farther than their weekly television numbers.

In fact, the falling ratings are what makes this deal even more stunning. The product isn’t bringing eyes to the product. As content creators, WWE is more Fuck Jerry than Thursday Lines. They are living in the past without a clear understanding how to make their product better and move forward. And NBC Universal gave them a billion dollars so they could be the WWE’s content aggregator!

Of course, this was sold as a victory to wrestling fans. Unfortunately, that is not the case. While they hyped up the fact that people on the Network currently would save five dollars per month, they are also forcing commercials down your throat. Oh, you want to watch an old Randy Savage match? Well watch this McDonalds commercial. Remember Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 3? Well you had better like Buick, because you are getting a 90 second commercial about their newest crossover vehicle your aunt will buy. You can pay your way out of commercials by spend 10 dollars per month, which would be the same price as fans are paying for the network now, so it would be a wash, plus, you get The Office. Here is the other problem, though…

The Peacock app kind of sucks.

Every media company is now trying to force out their own apps, realizing that cable is like investing in Myspace. There is a land grab for people’s eyes. Lost in all of that is the fact that most of these apps exist to get product out, not to be functional.

One thing that WWE Network had going for it was that, in spite of having an insanely robust back collection of matches and shows to view, they were easily findable. The search functions worked well and if you could get past them trying to force you to watch some awful sketch show by Edge and Christian, you had content at your fingertips with ease.

The Peacock app is not that. By not being a standalone wrestling site, Peacock will have wrestling be a small part of it. Just like Featured Films and Current TV. It will create levels you have to go through just to get to anything you want to watch. The search function for television is also limited.

I did some basic searches to see if there was any functionality.

First, I searched for Hulk Hogan, a person that NBC used to heavily market during the heyday of Saturday Night Main Event, and has been in numerous movies, and is actually in content that Peacock has already uploaded.

Welp, that didn’t work. Another person that is in content in here already and also has a history as a producer is former WCW head Eric Bischoff. Let’s check on him.

Okay, screw this. We are going to the source. The first thing that pops up when you go to the small section for wrestling is “Monday Night Wars” the incredibly one sided self-congratulatory circle jerk dedicated to Vince McMahon with all of the subtlety of a Mussolini War Parade. Vince is heavily felated throughout. He also appears in the Steve Austin Broken Skull Ranch Sessions…you know what, fuck this, he created all of this. He is literally the reason for the season, he must be on here.

Okay, i’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt here. The WWE thing is brand new. They have been spending all of their time hyping the fact that The Office is now on Peacock…

Oh for fucks sake.

Needless to say, there is going to be a hell of a growth curve for Peacock to get people interested in WWE on the app. The key to this entire deal should be the combining of Peacock’s pre-existing users with the wealth of WWE programming. Or they could use this is as an opportunity to kickstart the WWE product to a new fanbase with exciting storylines for potential fans. Of course, none of that will ever happen. WWE already got paid. They are content creators now!

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