One thing is for sure: These are uncertain times for WWE.
Ratings of flagship show Raw are woefully stagnant and not even the on-screen return of The Rock can improve them.
While this year’s WrestleMania (which sees Rock and John Cena headline in one of the promotion’s biggest matches ever) is expected to a big buy rate, PPV numbers in general have been slowly eroding and are expected to continue to do so.
WWE’s beleaguered movie division, WWE Studios, has turned into such a money-losing fiasco over the past year, even higher-ups in the company no longer try to put a brave face on it.
They are also trying to get their network off the ground—one of their most costly outside endeavours ever—in the face of major clearance and staffing issues.
To make matters worse, they are fast running out of top-line stars with Edge and Shawn Michaels retiring in the past two years, established wrestlers like The Undertaker and Triple H winding down in-ring duties and present stars like Mark Henry reportedly growing fed up with management and stating his wish to pursue a career in acting.
However, one thing that may provide comfort to worried wrestling fans is the knowledge that, in the future, Paul “Triple H” Levesque and his wife Stephanie McMahon Levesque will be taking a far more active role in the company and eventually, when Vince McMahon either retires or passes on, have the job of running the entire thing.
This is not just a theory or a rumour. Indeed, per numerous reports, this is a process already underway, as HHH becomes far more involved in the day-to-day running of WWE. In arguably his first real political move, he fired FCW developmental head Ty Bailey, reportedly in an attempt to reinvigorate WWE’s floundering and failing training system.
Of course, with news of this transition, people have been quick to pounce and find fault with this. Noting HHH’s political games in the past and the erratic and often counter-productive work of the booking team Stephanie has headed over the past decade, these critics predict doom and gloom for WWE after Vince is out of the picture.
However, I believe these people are misguided in these beliefs and are likely letting their past resentment of the married couple cloud their judgement.
First of all, who else is there to run the company when Vince is gone?
Shane McMahon may have been a possibility at one point, but the prodigal son resigned from the company years ago and is busy with his role as COO of China Broadband Inc.
Even if he had stuck around, we were never given much of an indication of his creative leanings beyond the fact he was a big fan of the MTV show Jackass and interested in MMA.
Indeed, Dave Meltzer has noted on his (subscribers-only) show Wrestling Observer Radio that many current and former WWE writers have confided to him that the vast majority of Shane's ideas for the booking team when he was still in the company were "crazy," with some even calling him "worse than Vince Russo."
Nor were we ever given any real indication of how he would fare running the company, whereas HHH has internally been receiving good reviews for his work with talent so far.
As Vince McMahon’s daughter and son-in-law, Stephanie and Hunter are likely the only people Vince feels close enough with to let run the company after he’s out of the picture and, with their combined knowledge of the various aspects of WWE business, probably the only people cut out to do so.
Another aspect to consider when critiquing HHH and Stephanie’s much-maligned booking contributions in the past is that they were often not the ones calling the shots. An erratic Vince McMahon was, however. No wonder the booking has been woeful, with Vince’s annoying habit of changing his mind all the time and the lack of fixed direction.
Hopefully, with Stephanie and Hunter having total power, we’d get a simpler, better planned-out product that went in one direction and stuck with it. Not one at the mercy of an out-of-touch billionaire who doesn’t really know how to book properly anymore.
Additionally, while HHH may have protected himself as a wrestler and politicked hugely in the past (something even I as a HHH fan will not deny), that was when he was a featured performer eager to protect his spot. When running the company, he will be different; he has no reason to want to hold down the younger guys anymore. It is now in his best interest for the company to create new stars and succeed.
Another hugely beneficial thing about HHH in power will be the lack of distracting and money-losing outside projects.
As everyone knows, Vince is desperate to be a success at anything other than wrestling. This is why we’ve had the failed restaurant, the failed bodybuilding company, the failed football league and the failed movie division. All these projects were a waste of valuable time, money and resources that WWE could have better focused elsewhere.
Hunter, thankfully, doesn’t appear to have Vince’s inferiority complex. A lifelong wrestling fan, he loves the business and seems content to run WWE to the best of his abilities rather than wasting his time irresponsibly trying to chase some Hollywood dream.
To conclude, it is easy to criticize the upcoming takeover in WWE and claim HHH and his wife have no clue what they’re doing and will drive the company into the ground, but these assertions ignore the knowledge Hunter and his wife have about WWE and the experience they have already cultivated in the day-to-day running of the promotion.
Nothing is assured, of course, and we’ll have to wait and see whether a post-Vince WWE can be successful, but with the shrewd Hunter playing such a a pivotal role, people should feel a little better about the future.
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