The Return of WWE Random Thoughts: Looking at the WWE Culture and Product

William GulloCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2012

Who exactly is the target market for the WWE and its current product? The simple answer is kids and families, but what does that even mean? It means we now get everyone's favorite "PG" label stamped on the product, it means more of a goofy, colorful version of John Cena, a robustly boring and bland version of Sheamus, touts, corny tweets and a plethora of kids wearing John Cena shirts with CM Punk wrist bands.

These random thoughts.These moments of clarity that ignite a passionate firestorm of beliefs, ideas, visions and nightmares all pertaining to the WWE product and its rampaging, corporate trainwreck of misguided shareholders who wouldn't know a good wrestling promotion if it slapped them in the face.

That and the fact that we all know the WWE is currently suffocating themselves in a political game of backdoor agendas, socially acceptable products and promotions aimed at seeking some sort of weird credibility from those that wanted to shut them down during the "darker years" of the company and a business model that I can only describe as a drunk monkey flinging darts at a dart board of ideas.

Oh, so we're going to continue to green light these straight-to-DVD movies? OK cool! Who'd we get to star in this inspired piece of masterpiece film making? Randy don't say! How can this not fail! I'm gonna go to the papers and report this blockbuster announcement! 

You want to make the WWE brand a publicly traded company? Are you sure outside investors won't try to hinder our philosophies, culture, trademarks and appearance? Are you sure that we know what we're doing outside of being a wrestling promotion? Film, sports (the XFL), cable channels, music? These business ventures don't sound like a giant waste of time, effort, energy and money? Should we really spread our resources across all those platforms when our base product (wrestling) continues to grow less and less culturally relevant?

Yeah, sorry, you're right! Put the gun down, Vince! I'll shut my mouth and go see if John Cena is available to star in "The Chaperone 4."

Actually, in all honesty, the WWE (within the context of the past calendar year) has been pretty damn entertaining in numerous ways. The only obvious problem that I can still see with the product is its disjointed and often horrendous usage of the "good guy" and "bad guy" imaginary line that has always divided the product for decades.

That and the fact that the WWE still sells violence under the asinine title of "sports entertainment" while marketing it to kids and families, but the good guy/bad guy thing is growing increasingly annoying.

Yes, I understand that in order for there to be a story there needs to be a hero and villain. Yes, I understand that this is the way the WWE has run its business for over a half-century. Yes, I understand that society's moral character and foundation is based in the belief that good always triumphs over evil. Yes, I understand that in order to appeal to a wide variety of ages and races it's always best to side on the air of the mainstream demographic.

But that doesn't mean I need to have Sheamus and his atrociously boring character shoved down my throat. Can I get an "Amen!"

We all know by now that the WWE Universe is already starting to revolt against the entire notion of "We cheer for who the WWE wants us to cheer for" and instead has adopted a brand new philosophy based around the idea of cheering for the wrestlers they either relate to, find entertaining, have superior wrestling skills or simply based on the look and feel of a younger talent. 

The above statement also has some sort of weird, reverse side effect that I will now officially dub "The Sheamus Effect." It's a simple theory that follows the rules, ideas and concepts of the new "cheering philosophy" found in today's WWE, but instead of individuals cheering for their own respective wrestlers, it seems as though there's a growing contingent of fans that simply "boo" the wrestlers the WWE are trying (desperately at times) to shove in our faces as...faces.

Who exactly is the target market for the WWE and its current product?

The simple answer is kids and families, but what does that even mean? Sure, it means we now get everyone's favorite "PG" label stamped on the product, it means more of a goofy, colorful version of John Cena, a robustly boring and bland version of Sheamus, touts, corny tweets and a plethora of kids wearing John Cena shirts with CM Punk wrist bands.

But it also, more importantly, means that the WWE has created, along with its imaginary line of good/evil, an imaginary ceiling of opportunity for those that just so happen to be placed on the evil side of the roster line.

The fact of the matter is that unless your name is CM Punk (who technically still resides floating around the middle of the good/evil line), your opportunity to surpass one of the proclaimed "good guys" is far and few between.

If you're labeled a heel, you might as well know you're either not winning the big one, or you'll win, but quickly lose in order to maintain the balance between the WWE universe and society's stance on socially acceptable behavior, morals and conduct. 

And shouldn't someone in the WWE headquarters, who I'm assuming graduated college with a degree in marketing, say to someone "You know, kids will most likely like whatever you tell them to like. As long as it's fast moving, colorful and loud, we could sell them anything we damn well please."

So, why the big charade and parade of dumbed-down entertainment when the company obviously sees its bottom line dwindle right before their very eyes?

Some will point the finger to Linda McMahon and her campaign run for a Senate seat, others will point the finger to Vince McMahon, who's once-golden touch on the industry now seems outdated and out-of-touch, and others will simply stand by the fact that professional wrestling, in general, already peaked in the late 90's and has plateaued to what we see today.

And a strong-willed, overly-emphatic portion of the fanbase will blame John Cena and his Power Ranger collection of shirts, five moves and Superman-like way of constantly winning.

Does the WWE have any moral obligation to be socially and culturally responsible for the product they put on television?

If their program and product is aimed at kids, they do, but in general? Absolutely not!

Which is why, for the life of me, I have yet to grasp this cultural change in the product, but I'm pretty positive that someday (whether that be one year, five years, 10 years or when I'm sitting in a retirement home eating steak through a straw) the WWE will eventually go back to its TV-14 days and experience a gritty re-birth that will actually make Monday Night Raw...raw.

I was discussing this topic with a friend of mine over a couple of brewskis when we stumbled upon the exact target market the WWE should promote its product to. I'm not sure if it was the beers or our college educated brains that came up with this epiphany, but it's pretty freaking mind blowing nonetheless.

The WWE should market its product to...wait for it...professional wrestling fans!

It's a fact (all right, maybe just a highly-regarded opinion) that there are two types of people in this world: those that like professional wrestling and those that don't. You're either going to watch the product or not, and anything the WWE tries to sell you in the meantime is no longer aimed at you (the adult wrestling fan who's stuck by the company for years), but aimed at drawing in more families that never watched or liked wrestling in the first place. 

There were kids in the front row loving the product when Stone Cold was flipping the bird, pounding beers and wreaking havoc just like there are kids in the front row watching John Cena change his shirt color every five months just to up merchandise sales.

There were kids in the front row screaming at Triple H when he was beating a bloodied and battered Rock, just like there are kids in the front row that are screaming at whoever the hell is beating up Santino this week.

If we could all duo a collective face palm at this time, maybe someone in Connecticut will hear the loud, thunderous dud of their bottom line dropping.

And now for some random thoughts...  


Random Thought No. 1

First and foremost, I'd like to wish Jerry "The King" Lawler a safe and speedy recovery. Long live the King!

Random Thought No. 2

For those of you who all of a sudden have a new-found respect for Michael Cole after the way he handled the Lawler incident with class, humanity and an over pouring show of sadness, concern and respect for a close friend of his, I'd like to know if you can tell the difference virtual reality and reality...

I mean, seriously! We all know Cole is a raging jerk on television because (imagine all this in caps lock) it's the WWE! A television program built around good guys and bad guys! He's obviously not as rambunctious, condescending and mean-spirited in real life like he portrays on...television!

I'm sure that every heel in the WWE is the same way outside the ring as they are inside the ring...especially Damien Sandow.

Random Thought No. 3

Daniel Bryan and Kane are the greatest tag-team champions I've seen since...Kofi and Evan Bourne? Oh man, the tag team division really did suck for a long time! I remember the good old days of the Hardy Boys, Edge and Christian and the Dudleys. I always loved when the tag titles were in the spotlight.

Whether it was the Big Show and the Undertaker, The Rock and Sock Connection, the Brothers of Destruction or Billy and Chuck, the WWE is a better place when top-tier superstars are competing as teams in order to become the tag team champions.

Here's hoping we get more of this in the future and this doesn't turn into...whatever you want to call it when the WWE is being the WWE...

Random Thought No. 4

How funny was it when the WWE completely and collectively trolled everyone with the false finish between Punk and Cena at Night of Champions? The answer...hilarious!

My friend/roommate (a big John Cena supporter) acted like the Red Sox won the World Series before having his heart ripped out in mere seconds to my complete amusement. I've never seen someone run the gauntlet of emotions faster in my life! 

I , on the other hand, went from actual sheer anger that I just witnessed Cena pin Punk clean to a huge sigh of relief to laughing out loud at my friend.

Isn't that emotional roller coaster and investment of your soul what wrestling is all about? Well done, WWE, well done.

Random Thought No. 5

We had a Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan flashback at Night of Champions if you're old enough to know what I'm talking about.

It's nice to see the WWE give an actual storyline to the Divas division. Especially one that has some pop culture relevance behind it. It'll be interesting to see how this story is developed...if developed at all. 

Random Thought No. 6

Booker T and AJ are absolutely, positively horrendous as the respective GM's for Smackdown and Raw ! There, I said it...

Why is A.J skipping around to crappy theme music when she's suppose to be in an authoritative figure? Riddle me that, WWE creative!

Why is Booker T on some kind of power kick and pseudo-banning perfectly fine wrestling moves? Is the Brogue Kick worse then the Pedigree? The Go to Sleep? Isn't the Cobra basically a judo chop to the jugular? Great, now I have a headache! Thanks, Booker T! 

Here's hoping Paul Heyman eventually takes control and fires them both.

Random Thought No. 7  

There's a couple of things you just don't do in the world of professional wrestling...

You don't tell Chris Jericho to go back to Toronto...

You don't get in the way of Stone Cold Steve Austin...

You don't scream "Yes!" at Daniel Bryan...

And you don't promote the WWE to a bunch of freaking kids!


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