Vince McMahon is the king of professional wrestling. His company is the largest and most popular in the world, and nothing has ever stood in the way of McMahon getting what he wants. But after all these years of being on top, I have to wonder just how hard McMahon and WWE are fighting to stay on top.
It seems a silly notion to question McMahon’s drive. The man has made a very comfortable living proving his critics wrong—and doing so in a very big way. He has history on his side, after all.
WrestleMania was a huge risk, one that could have ended disastrously for WWE. It was not guaranteed that mixing the wrestling business with Hollywood would bring more fans to the table or that the additional exposure would lead to more credibility. But Vince took a gamble, believing in his vision and counting on his talent to deliver.
The rest, of course, is history.
When Vince announced to the world that professional wrestling was actually just entertainment, he shook the very foundations of the industry. Many fans, myself included, were disgusted by this very public admission that took the heavily maintained veil of secrecy and ripped it in half.
And once again, McMahon was one step ahead of everyone else.
When WWE became more adult with its themes and characters, giving birth to the Attitude Era, sponsors flinched and critics pounced. WWE Superstars said and did some very controversial things, all in a shock campaign targeted at defeating WCW. How did all of that work out for McMahon?
Ask Eric Bischoff.
Bottom line? When McMahon sets his sights on something, do not bet against him. You will lose nearly every time.
Notice I said “nearly.” We won’t talk about the XFL or the forthcoming WWE Network.
Despite all the success that WWE has had in the industry, there are moments when I question if McMahon's legendary drive to win actually still exists.
Maybe it’s the inherent redundancy that comes from a weekly televised pro wrestling program that causes the WWE product to appear stale at times. After all, we do see the same faces every week, and there are only so many different matchups to keep fans' interest at a high level.
Or perhaps it’s the infamous PG Era that is the problem. With no blood, very little coarse language and silly storylines that are consistently aimed at the younger audience, it can all be too much for some fans. The debates over the positive and negative aspects of the company’s current image rage every day; maybe that is the reason WWE often seems stagnant.
I believe, however, that the biggest issue causing McMahon and WWE to perhaps not fight as hard as they have in the past is the fact that they do not have any legitimate competition.
With all due respect to TNA, I personally feel that Vince does not see them as a threat. That’s not to say he’s not aware of them, just that they are not enough of a presence for him to change the way he does business.
For WWE, it’s just another day at the office.
Of course, as we have already established, the Attitude Era represented a whole new way of presenting the WWE product in a style that allowed them to move ahead of WCW. The Atlanta-based promotion backed McMahon into a corner, and he came out swinging.
But now, there’s nothing to swing against. Nothing except mediocrity.
The Monday Night Wars were arguably the most exciting time the business has ever known. The main reason for that is because both WWE and WCW were pushing each other to get better, and to deliver more, every time each company was on the air.
Competition is good for business. And it’s great for fans.
WWE would not be the worldwide company, the mega success story that it is, had it not been for that competition. All the steps it had taken on its way to domination in the industry would have been for nothing if it had not been able to conquer WCW. WWE overcame its greatest competition to become the best in the world.
Does that mean that WWE as we know it now will never change? Does it mean that its ability to innovate, surprise and entertain will continue to come sporadically? Will we ever see the intense drama and excitement that came from WWE’s war with WCW again, or does WWE need another challenger to push it to that level?
For me, the WWE is still full of possibilities. Its veteran Superstars, combined with the impressive young talent pool that it currently has, could lead it anywhere in the future and will most likely keep it at the top of the pro wrestling business.
And at the end of the day, Vince McMahon is still in charge. He is still the creative visionary that led WWE to the top of the heap, and if he has anything to say about it, WWE will continue to keep pushing to improve.
McMahon's a fighter. It’s what he does. And he should not stop now.