“The longer they continue to bet on an aging prospect, that makes (WWE’s) future a little less stable.” – John Cena
The Dr. of Thuganomics is right, and if you’re an honest WWE fan, you know he’s right. For decades now, becoming a star in the wrestling industry has mostly relied on one question: Do you work for WWE?
In fact, the simple notion that the WWE is the WWE is enough for many fans. There is no need to search beyond said universe, because everything is handed to them in a neatly wrapped package. There’s no real need to build for the future, right?
“This has to be the the best!” said your run-of-the-mill fan. “Look at how much money they made in Q2! Check out their large venues and high production quality. They’re a publicly traded company — that has to mean something!”
But as 2021 rolls along, many fans are finding the truth. A truth where being told something is the best doesn’t mean it’s the best. It’s a truth that billion dollar network deals and mass industry exposure doesn’t equate to a good wrestling product. It’s a truth where the WWE continues to fall behind the curve.
Wrestling has changed, and the WWE isn’t so much in danger of shutting its doors, but losing a lot of relevance in their own industry. John Cena is right, and there are three reasons why…
Reason #1: Non-WWE Wrestlers Can Exist as Their Own Brands
When Matt Cardona was Zack Ryder he made a critical error before being promptly pushed off an entrance ramp in a wheelchair by Kane in 2012: He tried to get himself over.
Sure, it worked to a small extent, but like with many, McMahon never pulled the trigger on Ryder’s own self-made hype. Sans a very random Intercontinental Title win at Wrestlemania 32 (a reign which lasted 1 day), Ryder would accomplish little more in the company before being let go in early 2020.
Fast forward to August 2021, and Matt Cardona has already made an appearance in All Elite Wrestling, is a regular on Impact Wrestling, is the current GCW Champion (in which he won in a blood-ridden deathmatch against Nick Gage), and even stars in a PBR commercial along his wife Chelsea Green. You can argue that Matt Cardona is doing better than Zack Ryder ever was.
More money, More Exposure
With money available for ad revenue via YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook streams, talent isn’t reliant on one source of income anymore. If they so choose, they are able to branch out and work multiple promotions, and publish output to multiple platforms.
Sammy Guevara, Ethan Page, The Elite, Penelope Ford, the list goes on of AEW talent that are able to take in extra income from their own YouTube channels, but more importantly give themselves exposure to wrestling fans on a limitless scale. We continue to see talent exchanges between Impact Wrestling, New Japan, NWA, AEW and more. A talent can exist as their own brand that can work multiple promotions, even if AEW or New Japan is their home base.
And that leads to one major point:
Talent isn’t reliant on air-time on a WWE show to get over. Much in the same light, talent is no longer reliant on WWE creative to become a big deal in the wrestling industry. (unless you still work for WWE, in which case, sorry about your damn luck…)
…and this is huge. Stars then have control over their own destiny and star-making ability, and when the fans get behind you (as we’ve seen in the cases of Orange Cassidy, Jungle Boy and Adam Page), wrestlers no longer need to be a “house-hold name” to be featured on network television in a high profile match.
Which leads to the second reason John Cena is on-point…
Reason #2: Wrestling Shows Aren’t Hard to Produce Anymore
Technology has come a long way. Long gone are the days of requiring $20,000 production cameras and extensive sets to film and produce a polished wrestling show. Long gone are days where the only ways to advertise your product is through radio, television, or word-of-mouth.
Any capable fan has access to literally dozens of wrestling companies in the world without having to wait until Mondays to catch Raw. These fans can simply utilize YouTube or Facebook to keep up a plethora of promotions with ease.
Wrestling has evolved outside of the ring.
Granted, WWE and AEW still utilize heavy set designs and television production cameras, but generally speaking, the cost of cameras, production hardware and advertising via social media is cheaper than it ever has been. Beyond the biggest two companies in the industry which have cable network deals, it’s not terribly expensive to run a wrestling promotion anymore and make it look good.
Hell, give me a $25k and NODQ can literally start their own wrestling promotion with multiple cameras, a decent set, production hardware, a wrestling ring, and audio.
With lower production costs, wrestlers can be paid more, and that’s a great thing. Which leads to the third point which validates Cena’s opinion…
Reason #3: McMahon Has Failed to Create New Stars
John Cena is right. McMahon continues to bet on an aging product to carry them through to annual profit by name alone. Essentially, the WWE universe sacrificed the likes of Bray Wyatt and Malakai Black while inserting a relic like Goldberg into another WWE main event. If you’re a WWE fan, how can you be happy with this?
When new stars aren’t created, there is a continued reliance on what worked over a decade ago. Instead of betting on what talent they currently have, McMahon and company continue to play it safe and predictable.
And fans are starting to become wise to this.
As a fan, if you simply left behind the 5 hours of Raw and Smackdown a week and replaced it with AEW, NXT, MLW, NWA and Impact Wrestling, you would have a more rounded wrestling experience. (NXT still delivers, what can I say?)
You don’t need a corporate conglomerate telling you who to cheer for. You can simply find your own favorites based on a talent’s own personal and unique brand. Stop waiting for McMahon to create new superstars — he hasn’t accomplished as such in nearly a decade or more.
What else can I say? When the golden boy of Stamford understands the problems at Titan Towers, it’s pretty damn clear. WWE continues to fail at evolving with the industry, yet hell bent on pumping their chest out as if their universe is the be-all-end-all of pro wrestling.
And while many WWE diehards are waiting for their new heroes to be formed in a farm system that doesn’t work, I’ll be over here witnessing new stars create themselves before my eyes.
Do yourself a favor: Watch an episode of MLW, NWA, GCW, or ROH. Check out the Indies scene — because where do you think the likes of Seth Rollins, A.J. Styles, Matt Riddle, Samoa Joe, Nikki A.S.H., Dakota Kai and even Becky Lynch made their names before being branded by WWE?
However, this time, the next generation of great Indies talent isn’t confined to one universe to get over. They’re doing it on their own, and this is the continuing trend of the industry. John Cena even knows this. Hustle, loyalty, and respect for that.