Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter have made headlines lately, as their controversial characters have drawn criticism from across conservative media outlets. Most notably has been Glenn Beck's criticism of the company.
Beck has been very vocal in his opposition to WWE's handling of the storyline, as have many others in the media. But as they say, all publicity is good publicity. This storyline has arguably generated more buzz in the mainstream media than the Rock vs. Cena rematch so far.
WWE ran with the controversy, even sending Michael Cole to Beck's offices to try and coax a response. So far, Beck has declined any involvement.
WWE may feel they have a potential goldmine with this storyline, but they run the risk of taking it too far. In fact, they may already have. Here are five reasons why this storyline, and WWE's attempts to goad a response from Glenn Beck, have gone too far.
The mainstream media may be picking up the Jack Swagger/Zeb Colter controversy, but live crowds don't appear to care.
With Alberto Del Rio being as popular as he is these days, you'd expect that live crowds would boo loudly when Swagger and Colter speak. But that's just not what we've seen.
Fans seem conflicted and torn (more on this later). They seem more interested in cheering Del Rio, who has become a good face in WWE, than booing Swagger and Colter.
And what's more, is that there aren't any signs in the audience calling out Beck. You'd think that a story getting as much attention as it is would pique the interest of fans. But it hasn't.
Fans just don't seem interested.
Like many WWE storylines and gimmicks, the Swagger/Colter/Beck controversy will have a short run (slide picture very related).
Not that Swagger and Colter will not be entertaining. But it's uncommon for gimmicks based on current events to last very long. And after a while, either WWE will receive so many complaints about the story they will have to repackage Swagger, or an already indifferent fanbase may just tune out altogether.
WWE has to be careful, because right now the story is getting attention. If they have plans to bring Beck in for WrestleMania, they had better keep the storyline interesting or any Beck appearance will fall flat.
One thing Vince McMahon has always wanted is mainstream attention. That's why Vince made The Rock WWE Champion again, and it's why he wants to pursue Glenn Beck.
What Vince risks is that he and WWE may start to come off looking desperate. Much like during the "celebrity guest host" time period on Raw, relentlessly perusing mainstream talent to try and generate buzz makes WWE look like it's desperate for attention.
If WWE is not careful, they could end up generating enough genuine hostility toward the Swagger and Colter characters that WWE has to pull the plug. If that happens, Swagger and Colter would have to be repackaged, if WWE brought them back at all.
Even though Beck has perhaps lost some of his clout over the past two years, he still has a sizable audience that will, in many cases, get on board with his causes. If he were to launch a write-in campaign or boycott of WWE, WWE may have no choice but to get rid of the story altogether.
While no fan wants to see another Muhammad Hassan-style situation occur where anyone would basically be out of wrestling for good, WWE runs that risk by continuing their pursuit of Beck.
As with any entertainment enterprise, WWE is dependent on its fans for its continued existence. WWE is playing with fire with this storyline and is risking alienating big segments of their audience.
Americans of Hispanic descent are the fastest-growing demographic in America, and they make up a large segment of WWE viewership. Many longtime fans, Hispanic or not, will remember JBL physically preventing illegal immigrants from crossing the US-Mexico border. That goes to show this story is not exactly new and uncharted.
At the same time, Hispanics continue to become a bigger and bigger part of the WWE Universe. And the bigger role Hispanics play in viewership and merchandise sales, the more likely WWE fans are to take serious offense.
But Hispanics aren't the only fans with issues with the storyline. Another large part of the WWE audience resides in the Deep South and heartland states, where Tea Party views are very popular. The Tea Party, a group that already feels marginalized, could take issue with being demonized. Glenn Beck certainly did.
What's more, Swagger and Colter aren't really saying anything outside the normal realm of Tea Party beliefs. That creates confusion in WWE audiences. Fans who identify with the Tea Party may be unwilling to boo characters that generally are ideologically similar to themselves.
While Hispanic fans will definitely cheer Del Rio and have generally booed Swagger and Colter, audiences as a whole have not really reacted the way fans usually do to big heel characters. WWE may well be creating racial divisions within its own audience.
Despite the obvious flaws in the storyline (Del Rio is rich and thus has never taken a handout, nor did he come here illegally), Swagger and Colter will likely continue in their current characters for some time while feuding with Del Rio. Whether this storyline as a whole, including the pursuit of Glenn Beck, lasts remains to be seen.
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