WWE is a global phenomenon. The bank accounts are bulging, they have more sponsors than Ric Flair has ex-wives. They’re not going out of business anytime soon. However, not everything is rosy in the Vince McMahon kingdom. Ratings are at an all-time low (they weren’t even this low with King Mabel on top), fan interest is dwindling rapidly, and the creativity is nonexistent. But they can stem the tide by just doing two little things…
WWE hit mainstream stardom in the 1980s thanks to the explosion of Hulkamania, but the failed evolution of The New Generation in the early 1990s threatened to kill the business forever. Bret Hart fans can claim he’s the greatest all they want, but the numbers don’t lie. He did not draw.
Neither did Diesel. Neither did Shawn Michaels. Which is why that particular era sucked.
With WCW and the New World Order taking wrestling by storm, and ECW revolutionising sports-entertainment, WWE and Vince McMahon were in danger of being left behind. They needed to do something, and they needed to do it quickly. Enter Vince Russo and the most lucrative and ground-breaking era in WWE history – The Attitude Era.
Vince Russo haters will be first to jump on the bandwagon and throw a bevvy of excuses my way as to why Russo was a flop and nothing more than a Vince McMahon puppet. Three things debunk that right away…
- With Russo writing the show, WWE generated the highest weekly ratings in the history of Monday Night Raw.
- If Vince McMahon is such a great filter, why has WWE sucked for the better part of twenty years?
- Russo also helped elevate Nitro’s numbers in his first three months on the job in WCW, and his figures in TNA are a company record.
So what made that particular era in WWE history so great? Well, for one, they actually had a head writer who knew what it took to bring eyeballs to the show. They had a legendary cast of performers that Vince McMahon is still trying to replace over 20 years later.
Everything was chaotic, in a good way. You couldn’t afford to miss a second of the action, unlike today where all of Raw and Smackdown’s “highlights” are shown completely free on YouTube the following day, sometimes even sooner. Failing that get on any social media platform and have WWE tell you exactly what’s going on, along with videos too. And McMahon wonders why the ratings keep plummeting.
The internet was a thing back in the late-90s but it was still a fad that had yet to take on with the global universe, which helped the Attitude Era immensely. I don’t care how good of creative Russo came up with, if social media and the IWC was around breaking all the news, it wouldn’t have been getting close to 10 million viewers on a weekly basis, that’s for sure.
Imagine if you knew beforehand that Stone Cold Steve Austin was going to drive a beer truck into the arena, or force Vince McMahon to wet his pants, or even that he was gonna topple Kane the next night after King Of The Ring? The point is, you wouldn’t have needed to watch it if you knew what was going to happen beforehand and the videos would be uploaded online moments after the fact.
The internet has been both heaven and hell for entertainment in general, but more so professional wrestling than anything else. The IWC, for whatever reason, seem to enjoy spoiling big events and returns just to get more hits to their website. But what they don’t realise is that the more they do this the more the industry they earn a living from dies. The irony in its truest form.
My advice to them is that they call themselves journalists, so act like it. Talk about WWE’s relationship with the Saudi government, talk about Vince McMahon’s treatment of wrestlers in their private lives, speak about a wrestling union, try and change the industry you claim to love so much. Make a difference. Trust me, you’re not going to do that by telling me Edge is returning at the Royal Rumble.
Some reading this may claim hypocrisy on my part. However, I never give spoilers away. I don’t see the point. It would be the same as telling someone on their way to the cinema the ending to the movie they’re about to watch and expecting them to thank you for it. It just doesn’t make sense. I just give opinions on topics and share my love for wrestling.
I want to see wrestling, and WWE in particular, return to its glory days. To do that they certainly need a new creative direction that doesn’t involve endless false finishes and Baron Corbin main events. They also need the IWC to work with them, and not give things away. Maybe in return, WWE can allow some of its superstars to do more interviews. Whatever the case, something needs to change.
I’m not even convinced Vince McMahon cares that his ratings are in the toilet. Why should he when networks keep throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at him to broadcast Raw and Smackdown? In his mind, it would be ludicrous to change. WWE has never been so poorly watched or written, yet it’s the most profitable it has ever been. Go figure.
We all want wrestling to return to its former glories. It’s not just a matter of getting better creative, albeit that’s a major part of proceedings. It’s also about the internet spoiling things for the sake of spoiling things and trying to act smart. They make most of it up and when it doesn’t happen they just claim Vince McMahon changed his mind, not that it was never actually on the cards in the first place. But if they admit that their credibility is dead so that’s never going to happen.
Everyone tries to fantasy book WWE to get it back to its heyday. I think I’ve even done a few pieces on it. But it’s missing the point entirely. The ratings will not improve until WWE stop giving away free videos of everything that’s happening on their shows minutes after they happen, and the IWC stay away from spoiling results and returns. Until either of those things happen, ratings and interest will continue to nosedive and before we know it, WrestleMania will soon be held in an old warehouse with no fans. Oh, wait a minute…