And Another Thing: The WWF - What The World Is Watching 

Posted by Hyatte on 12.17.2000 

You really didn’t think it would last, did you? 

You really didn’t think it would last, did you? 

This infatuation with Professional Wrestling, of course. You really didn’t think the WWF would be the “Darling of the Media” forever, did you? 

Even Seinfeld ended. Even Carson had to retire. And… judging from the current failure of Little Nicky, Get Carter, and The 6th Day, even such one-time sure things like Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone, and Ah-nuld can fail before a fickle audience. Did anyone really think wrestling would stay hot forever? 

They say wrestling is cyclical, in nature. That it always turns round and round, dipping to an all-time low, then rising to an all-time high before sinking again. Well, that applies to pretty much everything in entertainment, and the more times you complete a full revolution only shows that you can stand the test of time and endure. Pro Wrestling, well… let’s just say the WWF since only a fool can’t see that WCW is currently out of the glare of the media spotlight for the time being, has officially ended it’s run at the top and is now careening down towards the very bottom. Now, the question is how long it will take and if the WWF will be able to gain enough momentum to swing itself back to the top. 

Just out of curiosity, who was the first to announce that the party was over? Who has weighed his incite, IQ, and experience and declared that indeed, the WWF is on the way down? 

I bet it was a Web Guy 

Internet Writers. God bless us. Nowhere else will you find such a collection of people so desperate to be taken seriously, to be respected and admired, to be credible. See, most of us do not get paid, and the ones who do certainly can’t live on it. So we do this for the admiration, we do this so we can feel important in this alternate universe known as “cyber-space”. The sad case is that in “real life”, we chug through the day doing what we must to get on; on the Internet, we get to be big shots. Some of us do it through entertainment and attitude (Hello!). Others do it by being reporters and scrambling to get breaking news up first. Most us want to be respected and valued as “Experts”. 

So, one “expert” noticed that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s return to Raw, after a year, did not spike up the ratings. Gathering up his G.E.D educated wits and his years as a faithful watcher of wrestling on TV decreed that it’s all going south from here on out. Naturally, once one “expert” speaks, other “experts” quickly follow suit, because Lord knows how bad they will look if they don’t hop on the bandwagon of “General Consensus Among the Insiders”. You cannot imagine the potential damage to one’s reputation if they don’t join their peers. 

Thus, even though the WWF jumped to a new network that is on considerably less cable outlets than their old one. Even though they are on a Monday, which has suddenly turned into a very hot network commodity filled with awfully popular shows like Everybody Loves Raymond, Ally McBeal, Seventh Heaven, and Monday Night Football, and even though Viacom is currently upset at the WWF and refuses to give much ad space to promoting the show; the general train of thought on the Internet is that the sun is going down on Wrestling and soon, the audience will be gone, save for the hardest of hard-core junkies. 

You know what I say to this? 

I say… who knows? 

They could be right, they could be wrong. I can’t say for sure. Oh, sure, when it comes down to in-ring events, like the time Vince Russo trashed Hogan and told him to go to hell, THOSE are the times when opinions count (and invariably, those are the times when the “Experts” keep suspiciously mum), but when it comes to foreseeing the future of the business, I’ve yet to come across one single “journalist” who has any business making predictions. The truth is, it’s too damn soon to tell. The TV season started late. People were impatient to see the new shows roll out. It was only natural that there would be a drop in viewership, especially when it starts the new season on a new channel that doesn’t reach the audience that the old one did. If the WWF was still on USA, then I would be more receptive to this theory. For the time being, it’s smarter just to sit back and observe for a while longer. Unfortunately, jumping to conclusions is, in a nutshell, what the Internet is all about. 

This is not to say, that the Internet is wrong. Just that it may be right, just for the wrong reasons. 

The truth is that the WWF is venturing dangerously close to being… passй, and that will send the business tumbling down. The thing that gets me is, they really have no one to blame but themselves. 

Spinning circles spin the Circle 

The WWF has gone soft. That much is certain. It might have happened suddenly, or so gradually that no one noticed until it was almost complete. Either way, the spirit of the “WWF Attitude” is gone. What remains is quite a bit like what the WWF was in the early 90’s. Not as cartoony as it was in the 80’s, but without the edge of the late 90’s. It was, and now is again, a mixture of solid wrestling and rather silly gimmicks. Gone is the defiance. Gone is the aura of being the “Detroit Pistons” and/or “The Oakland Raiders” of sports entertainment. No more will a samurai sword threaten the Big Valbowski. No more will a Pimp make getting girls to have sex for a price seem fun. Crotch chops are a thing of the past. “Suck it” is a naughty phrase again. “Ass” is a no no. “Mr. Ass” is a definite no no. Bide your time, wait until the Censor goes to take a pi… whiz, and maybe, just maybe, you can say “piss” on national TV, but only once. You can still smell what the Rock is cooking, but so long as it hasn’t been recently shoved up some unfortunate soul’s candy buttocks. “Austin 3:16”? Not on this show pal. The WWF has come full circle, content wise-and if you believe that, gimme a heck yeah. 

The question is, why? Well, near as I can tell, there are two potential reasons. One probable and the other possible. 

The possible reason is that it was all a work from day one. From the moment Vince McMahon appeared on Raw one fateful Monday and announced that the WWF will be going in a new direction away from the days of “good guys and bad guys” (sniffling with enough contempt to suggest that those days are for the old WCW dinosaurs who were currently beating the pants off the WWF at the time), to the moment Billy Gunn stopped being the Ass man and started being “The One”, it was all planned out as only a temporary change to get viewers off Nitro and back on Raw. Is it possible? Is Vince McMahon Machiavellian enough to pull off such an ambitious game plan that lasted a good four years? Well, contrary to what other people would like to think, McMahon is definitely smart enough to pull it off. The only problem with this theory is that as smart as McMahon is, he isn’t the best actor around. He certainly seemed to be enjoying his product, and he damn sure enjoyed his newfound role as the “Heel Owner”. One of the best attractions to McMahon on-air was that he obviously loved what he was doing. He was having fun being the Head Bad Boy in a company filled with them, and I like to think that if he had his druthers, he’d keep it going. 

So, I think the WWF changed because of something more probable. 

It changed for the bigger picture. 

Amid the booing and the cheering, it’s easy to forget the WWF is a business. It’s a moneymaking enterprise whose primary goal is to get those green pieces of legal tender out of your wallet. In turn, they take that money and grow bigger, which gets even more green out of us. Get enough green and other businesses become interested. Once they get interested, you join up with them and pull unbelievable amounts of cash out of our hands. Plus, advertisers, who earn their living judging how to get the maximum amount of dollars out of the audience, will give the WWF and their new business partner a massive amount of money to put their commercials on the WWF programming in order to get the most amount of money from the most amount of specific people who would enjoy their product. It goes around and around like that with the only constant being getting the cash out of our hands. With that in mind, the WWF hooked up with Viacom, a corporate entity if there ever was one. 

Now, I’m sure that to properly summarize the contract between the WWF and Viacom, which I bet is roughly as thick as a typical Chinese phonebook, one would need a microscope, a full calendar year, and a team of Lawyers on hand to translate. I won’t even try to claim I know anything about the details, but it all boils down to synergy. Viacom owns MTV. Viacom owns CBS. Viacom owns Paramount pictures. Viacom owns publishing house, music companies, video chains… among other things. All in one corporate mega-family, and all at the WWF’s fingertips. In return, Viacom gets a mega-successful wrestling company, the only one that really matters, actually. They get an extremely loyal target audience filled with a 12-35 year old white male demographic, the highest rated cable television show in history to help re-launch their cable network, and a whole bunch of insanely popular “wrestling celebrities” who are just drooling to appear on various CBS shows. On paper, it looks like a match made in Heaven. 

The problem is, the more you grow, the bigger your problems get. 

There are people who do not like wrestling. These people sometimes band together and form an Alliance. With one unified goal in mind, this Alliance organizes itself to a point where it can present itself as a genuine threat to that which it opposes and those who would support it. Give them an easy to remember name, such as the “PTC”, and they become legitimate. Give them a strong leader, such as Brent Bozell, and they become worrisome. Give them a celebrity to publicly support them, such as Steve Allen, and they became intimidating. Especially to advertisers who’s very livelihood depends on appealing to consumers. 

Ironically, had the WWF stayed a sports entertaining island unto itself, it could have probably handled this Alliance. It had the numbers, higher than anything else on basic cable could reach. It had the support of the USA Network, who really had nothing else going, and it was a perfect example of totalitarianism. They answered to no one but themselves. The company rose and fell, lived or died on the McMahon family. In this state, the Parents Television Council could only serve as a minor annoyance, the Fly that keeps buzzing around the Potato salad during cookouts. 

Then Vince decided to create a football team. He also decided to make the WWF a public company. He also decided that the best way to break his “Superstars” into other entertainment arenas while still maintaining a strong hold over them was to hook up with a multi-media conglomerate that saw the huge 12-34 male target audience and craved it. Thus, Viacom get into bed with the WWF and Vince went from being a struggling millionaire to a full-fledged billionaire. All was right with the world. 

Well, except for that damn Fly, which is now an Elephant. Suddenly, the annoyance has become an epic migraine that a whole crate of Codeine can’t hold back. 

See, now when they lose and advertiser, people get nervous. If Burger King pulls out of RAW and Smackdown, that’s one thing. But what if the PTC convinces them to pull their ads off the entire CBS network? It probably won’t happen, but not even the mighty Viacom can afford to even risk it. So, they tell McMahon, “Look, this is only going to work out if we keep the PTC off our backs. We’ll support you to a certain extent, but you have to keep things within reason. It’s tough to stand by you if you have old women flashing her breasts and birthing hands during a wrestling show. Do you understand, Vince?” 

McMahon, who once would have laughed these people right out of his office, puffed out his chest, considered all the money, glory, and media opportunities that are now within his immediate grasp for the first time in twenty years, and said, “Oh Heck Yeah!” 

Thus, the Attitude dies a quiet death. 

Now, the question is, how far do the PTC’s intentions really go? Do they want the WWF off the air entirely, or will they just be happy with the toned down version? They know that they’ve already have Vince by the short hairs, they brag about it quite boldly on their web site. They’ve managed to convince three big sponsors to drop their ads on Smackdown in only one month. Will they stop? They certainly don’t have to now. Especially since Steve Allen, that celebrity who supported them and made them intimidating has recently passed on. He’s dead. Now, not only is he a celebrity, he is a martyr. 

Give them a martyr and they become frightening. 

So, the attitude is gone, and chunks of viewers go with it. If Vince tries to re-start the controversy, the PTC has more power to do more damage. No one at Viacom can be too thrilled with the WWF’s ratings right now, but Vince can’t give them what they want without giving the fans what they want so everyone’s spinning around and around in many different circles which work in unison to spin one giant circle. The giant circle being the cyclical nature of professional wrestling, which history has proven, is a real thing. It’s huge, then it sinks, it’s huge, then it sinks… taking roughly a decade for one, ironically vicious revolution to complete itself and start fresh. 

You really didn’t think it would last, did you? 

This infatuation with Professional Wrestling, of course. You really didn’t think the WWF would be the “Darling of the Media” forever, did you? 

This is Hyatte too