Back during the peak days of the 1990s Chicago Bulls NBA franchise dynasty that won 6 Championships out of 8 years and was lead by Michael Jordan, Jordan himself made an interesting quote when asked about politics. During the early to mid-1990s, political pressure was placed on Jordan to use his celebrity status to help candidates get elected to Congress. However, Jordan refused to openly endorse any Democratic Party candidates and famously stated “Republicans buy sneakers, too“. Instead, Jordan quietly made donations to various Democratic Party candidates.
Why did he do that? Jordan was possibly the biggest celebrity during the 1990s as arguably the best basketball player to walk the planet and also a major star of endorsements. Jordan put NIKE on the map and his branded shoes are still dominating sales. NBA viewership and attendance was NEVER as strong as it was when Jordan and the Bulls were winning repeat championships.
Yes, Jordan was thinking about the business side of things back then… But can you blame him? It’s his job to maximize his earnings on the court, with endorsements, and other ventures. Part of maximizing his earnings was to make watching basketball or buying his endorsed products as INCLUSIVE as humanly possible. As seen by elections for the past 30 years, it’s a close 50/50 split on party selection… So why alienate HALF of your paying customers?
And Jordan makes a great point, as covered in his “Last Dance” documentary… His job is to play basketball and politicians jobs are to elected on their own merits and work hard for whom they represent. If they need his money or endorsement to get elected, then something is wrong with said politician. Plus, Jordan is busy and 100% focused on being the BEST basketball player that he can humanly be. The results speak for themselves… 6 NBA Titles in 8 years and could be 8 in 8 years had he not briefly retired for a season and a half. Jordan put his entire energy into being the best basketball player on the planet along with succeeding with endorsements. Thanks to Jordan, many future basketball players are enjoying major endorsement money.
Am I suggesting that Jordan or other athletes should “stay in their lane” or “shut up and dribble”? No, I’m not. It’s your choice on how you want to express yourself and you have the absolute freedom of speech to do so. However, if you are in a realm that involves PAYING CUSTOMERS, just be aware of your presentation to your customers. Presentation matters on all fronts, not just on how you look, but how you act and what you say.
I believe with Pro Wrestling itself and the wrestlers participating in it, they haven’t been presenting a good product to their customers (or fans). Not just in terms of Creative, In-Ring Action, or how a show is presented, but how Promoters and Wrestlers are acting beyond the ring.
For example, Vince McMahon had to temporarily step down as President/CEO and Board Chairman due to an alleged affair with a paralegal. John Laurinaitis has disappeared from the office and backstage because he was “passed a toy” from Vince with that same employee. Meanwhile, in real life, Vince hired a former sports agent named Nick Khan to be his hatchet man and together, they’ve terminated many wrestlers without any notice and placing their things in garbage bags.
On top of that, the McMahon family are open supporters of Donald Trump. Now, I’m not going to get into the politics, but again, the past few elections have been 50/50. McMahons heavily donated to Trump, Linda McMahon worked for Trump’s campaign, and on top of that, Linda attempted to become a United States Senator, twice, with WWE money funding her campaigns as a Republican. With a 50/50 split in the country voting one way or another, the WWE and the McMahon family are advertising WHO they support and that’s contrary to what the other 50% of the country votes for.
End result? RAW used to draw over 4 million viewers, now they are consistently under 2 million. They are struggling to sell tickets for Houseshows and television shows, particularly without John Cena.
Tony Khan openly advertises himself as the President of AEW and he takes to Twitter to give his opinions often. He has been seen getting in verbal fights with other wrestler entities along with anyone challenging him on his NFL or Soccer clubs. On top of that, his family donates to 1 party openly and it’s a large sum of money. He’s way too open with how AEW operates and how matches are scripted. The EVPs that he hired, Cody/Young Bucks/Kenny Omega, used to be way too open on how wrestling was booked, how props were used, and how scripted everything was.
And then you have the Pro Wrestlers themselves…
Always going to Social Media like a bunch of teenagers.
With wrestlers, you’ll either get drama, too much of their personal life, or their political views.
Why don’t they just put their middle fingers up to their paying customers’ faces and say “WE DON’T WANT YOUR MONEY!!!”.
The Undertaker retired during 2020 and for most of his nearly 30 year career, you knew little about him personally. For interviews, he actually stayed in character and would be very selective of where he appeared. He kept to himself in his personal life to avoid any exposure and differences to his character. Undertaker never used Social Media until his career ended. The end result? We believed in his character and wanted to pay money to see it. Even when the Undertaker was doing supernatural stuff that was clearly produced with special effects, we wanted more. We WANTED to believe in the Undertaker.
The only time that the Undertaker stumbled was during the early 2000s with the BikerTaker gimmick and it wasn’t so much the look of the character, but it was getting his then-wife Sara involved. Remember, he had “Sara” tattooed on his neck and DDP was stalking her in an angle (voiced over by Vince McMahon, hilariously). By 2004, the Undertaker went back to being focused on his character by returning to his “Deadman” gimmick and he tightened the bolts on what you knew about him. He enjoyed 16 straight years of great business, particularly at Wrestlemanias, and meanwhile, he had a personal life that you barely heard about and he was even heavily involved in politics but you didn’t know it either.
The rest of the WWE roster needs to LEARN from the Undertaker on how to do it and how to maximize your character’s presentation to the fans.
No, we get Pro Wrestlers going on their Instragram or Twitter to:
(a) Advertising their real names.
(b) Showing everything in their personal life, even if that conflicts with a storyline.
(c) Openly attacking other wrestlers, even if on the same roster!
(d) Stating their political views while marginalizing others with different political views.
(e) Giving fans too much interaction on Social Media. Less is more!
For one, it’s a branding issue when your Social Media account has your real name but your character is named something different entirely. Last time I checked, we didn’t know the real names of Diesel and Razor Ramon during the 1990s and the second they became Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in WCW, while acting virtually the same as their WWE characters, we were fine moving on to new names. Wrestlers on Social Media are creating complete brand confusion because it’s openly showing that WWE or AEW names are clearly not real.
For the record, I’m 100% fine with how Miz & Maryse present themselves on WWE television versus Social Media. If you look at how Maryse operates, she is showing herself as 100% devoted to her husband and being parents to their daughters along with additional hot pictures of herself of whatever she was wearing on WWE television. Since 2016, Miz and Maryse work as a team on everything BUT what you see on Social Media MATCHES what you see on television. Both Miz and Maryse are 100% confident in their own skin both in and out of the ring and their characters versus their real life does not have that many mismatches.
Compare that to Alexa Bliss and Bray Wyatt/Fiend using Social Media versus their WWE Characters. While Bliss was portraying that she was possessed by Bray Wyatt and had supernatural abilities, she’s showing pictures on Instagram of her dates with her boyfriend or crying hysterically about the loss of her pet pig. That is 100% contrary to the character that she’s attempting to sell PAYING CUSTOMERS on television. Meanwhile, Bray Wyatt is attempting to push himself as a psychopath with his funhouse sketches and then wearing the mask to be the Fiend… But then you look at his Social Media and it’s the complete opposite. He’s showing pictures of his personal life, his new family, etc., and that is 100% contrary to his WWE character.
John Cena is one of the greatest draws of all time, as I have him only behind Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan as the top drawing WWE stars (the Rock has drawn more outside of the WWE in Hollywood and Rock always needed Austin). From 2004 through 2014, Cena carried the WWE on his back even when the roster began to thin with many retirements or wrestlers moving on after 2009. Cena, too, got bit by the Hollywood bug but he was always a draw when he came back. However, it was when we started seeing him on Total Divas or Total Bellas when the cracks in the armor came out. On WWE television, he’s confident and likable… At his home with Nikki Bella, he has OCD and is narcissistic. How Cena was portrayed on those E! shows hurt his WWE brand and things were made worse with that cringeworthy proposal at Wrestlemania. You know who didn’t look bad through that Wrestlemania? Miz and Maryse who are 100% authentic together and lampooned Cena and Nikki perfectly.
I don’t believe Matt Hardy has been the same since the whole Lita/Edge affair. He was the one who revealed it to the world on a Podcast and it totally backfired on him. Edge and Lita embraced it and sold it as characters while handled it by exposing it on an internet Podcast instead of delivering multiple knuckle sandwiches to the guy who was banging his girlfriend. Because again, your paying customers see you as CHARACTERS and they don’t want to know your real life drama. This is what differentiates YOU as larger-than-life characters versus everyday people.
How did Stone Cold Steve Austin hit a low popularity point in his career during 2002? The walkouts were one thing, as those were unprofessional exits from the company, but the revealing of drinking issues and domestic abuse were another. The bloom ripped off the rose for Austin then and it was total cringe seeing him as a non-wrestling character during 2003.
And what on earth is with everybody attacking each other on Social Media? The Ronda Rousey and Natalya Neidhart stuff is complete cringe. SAVE IT FOR TELEVISION, fools! And then you have Athena and Jade Cargill talking about “paying dues” against each other on Twitter. What do you mean “paying dues”? Are you saying that there is a process in which a wrestler is pushed? Why not just openly advertise that what you’re doing is scripted television production and not a portrayed sporting event? At the end of the day, NOBODY makes money from Social Media, as anybody can open an account. Talking smack on Social Media doesn’t put butts in seats or more eyeballs on television.
Then you have the case of CM Punk. Punk was potentially the #1 babyface in Pro Wrestling during 2011 thanks to the “Summer of Punk” stuff. Then, the WWE screwed him Creatively by burying him with bad booking starting with SummerSlam 2011’s HHH/Nash burial with Alberto Del Rio and then Punk lost repeatedly at every Pay Per View since including Triple H pinning him, Del Rio pinning him, and then teaming with Triple H to eat the pin against Miz/R-Truth. CM Punk would then regain the WWE Title at Survivor Series 2011 after Alberto Del Rio failed to draw since beating Punk at SummerSlam…
While the Creative Destruction of CM Punk harmed him from SummerSlam 2011 through Survivor Series 2011, Punk was WWE champion from November 2011 through January 2013. But if you look at the numbers, Punk’s run as WWE Champion didn’t draw as well as it could have. Granted, he wasn’t always main eventing as champion. I’ll give you that point but I argued that as well back then. However, the CM Punk that you see on television is different than the CM Punk on Twitter. In wrestling, Punk is a character and stays on point in terms of wrestling context for his battles against good or evil. On Twitter, he’ll argue with people, get snarky with them, and is quite forceful about his political beliefs. In my view, once CM Punk became very popular during 2011, so did his Twitter followers and their expectations that what they followed was exactly what they enjoyed on a wrestling program. However, Punk on Twitter is contrary to what you see on television and probably shocked many newer fans following him.
I also believe that Punk’s Social Media presence has limited the drawing ability in All Elite Wrestling (AEW). Once you got his anti-WWE stuff out of the way, fans quickly realized that this was a guy playing a character on television but getting snarky with them on Twitter or quite forceful with his political opinions on Twitter. I over-estimated him as a draw and not realizing how he wasn’t inclusive of ALL wrestling fans to enjoy him. No, in fact, he’s angered a lot of fans for seeing the real Punk behind the mask. On my end, I tend to ignore wrestlers on Social Media because I don’t want to peak behind the curtain. But many, many fans do and are quite active on Social Media as a form of communication or expression. So when they see a different CM Punk on Twitter versus AEW television, it’s a turn off.
Then, CM Punk wears “Abortion Rights are Human Rights” and “Get Your Own (Ovaries) Then Tell It What To Do” shirts on AEW television!
Tony Khan, are you out of your mind? You might as well flush money down the toilet for letting Punk do that on YOUR television show. Again, I’m not against wrestlers expressing themselves or having free speech… BUT THIS IS A BUSINESS WHERE YOU TRY TO MAXIMIZE PAYING CUSTOMERS!!!!!!!!!!
When you piss off your paying customers by having your CHARACTER inject your politics onto the entertainment realm, you’re going to see business that won’t expand.
Ask the NBA. Ask them how their viewership has flatlined thanks to a heavy injection of one-sided politics into their games and causes. NFL, too, though the NFL phased out many of the heavily over-exposed political things that the NBA still does to this day.
NBA, NFL, WWE, and AEW… You are forms of entertainment and you’re making loads of money by putting on an entertaining product. Your goal is to maximize the # of viewers or # of butts in seats to watch your shows or games. On top of that, you pay the players or wrestlers millions to perform. Where are your standards at for not only shows are presented, but how the performers present themselves?
Go to any workplace… There are Policies and Dress Codes at EVERY workplace, which include not only how you LOOK but how you act. Obviously, you cannot say vulgar or threatening things at work, but anything can now be alleged as harassment INCLUDING political speech. People are getting terminated, left and right, by being too aggressive with their politics at work. Your job is to perform the work as indicated and to serve your customers. So what happens when someone is ordering food and the cashier has an Abortion themed shirt on? Oh wait, that wouldn’t happen in most cases because there is a dress code. For the various places I’ve worked on, the dress codes have expressed that shirts “should have no words or phrases” on them at work.
Just look at Chris Jericho. He was AEW’s first World Champion and we all celebrated him as such. In my view, he helped legitimize AEW from the start during 2019. Then as 2020 rolled around, what started happening? Jericho began expressing his political views, having softball interviews with Pro-Trumpers, and then it was revealed that Jericho donated heavily to Donald Trump’s campaign. On top of that, Jericho took the bait over criticisms that Jim Cornette threw at him and created extra drama online. The end result? 2020 wasn’t a good year for Jericho and because of the other revealing things about, fans began to nitpick things about Jericho such as his weight and conditioning. Then, it was revealed that his actual wife and mother-in-law attended the January 6th, 2021 protests… Thus, 2021 was another tough year for Jericho’s image.
That spills over into my last argument is that Pro Wrestlers (and Tony Khan), through Social Media, are giving fans TOO MUCH. Less is more… Create some kind of mystery with fans about who you are but also the access they have to that wrestler. The idea of “Law of Diminishing Returns” sets in, as if you give a wrestling fan too much access, it changes the expectations of the fans to that wrestler. Instead of being “larger than life” they become “just like me”. Hey, the Young Bucks play video games just like me!
Pro wrestling is already over-exposed with 3 hours of RAW on Monday, 2 hours of NXT on Tuesday, 2 hours of AEW Dynamite on Wednesday, 2 hours of Smackdown on Friday, and Pay Per Views on Sundays. So why on earth are you giving fans more on Social Media? Not only that, but confusion over how your character differs from your personal life, insulting them with your politics, and creating unnecessary and poorly edited drama with other wrestlers or promotions? The reason the NFL thrives and keeps growing is because there is LESS of it to offer with just 17 weeks and only 1 day with a full slate of games (with just 1 game on Monday and Thursday) while most of the players are busy preparing for the next game to flood us with Social Media drama.
For Pro Wrestling to succeed, there needs to be a suspension of disbelief on fans. However, if the wrestling fans are seeing too much of a character’s personal life, drama, or politics on Social Media, it will confuse them and question the brand of wrestling that they are watching. On top of that, the elections have split 50/50 for the past 30 years between both the Democrat and Republican parties. So why on earth would any Pro Wrestler want to piss off half of their audience by posting something political on social media that isn’t written professionally and belittles anyone with an opposing viewpoint?
It is HOW you are wording it, folks… And most entertainers posting about politics refuse to ever hear about an opposing viewpoint or actually get in arguments online with others. Again, it’s all about maximizing the revenue and with more revenue, then you can invest in politics heavily through donations or participating heavily yourself once you’ve retired.
Michael Jordan was right… He was 100% focused on basketball and that was his job. Politicians have their own jobs, too. If you need an endorsement from a celebrity to win an election, then maybe you ought to look at your own stances on issues.
I’m a big CM Punk fan… Just read any of my columns dating back to 2011. I was the one who wrote “CM Punk Was Buried” after Triple H defeated him at Night of Champions 2011 and Punk famously snarked at me by saying “buried in money? I’ve got a snorkel” on Twitter during September 20th, 2011 at 5:00pm. On top of that, I wrote a column for NoDQ entitled “Thank God CM Punk has Returned to Pro Wrestling and Joined All Elite Wrestling (AEW)” which was very excited for CM Punk’s return to Pro Wrestling during August 2021. After that, I was one of the many who bought CM Punk based merchandise from Pro Wrestling Tees in support of Punk’s return.
However, what returned was an older version of CM Punk who is still arguing with people on Twitter and heavily presenting his political opinion. Then, his political opinions joined him via T-Shirts on AEW television. That’s why his return popped the viewership briefly but then fans were reminded of why they began to dislike Punk during 2012 despite being a babyface then. I’m guessing that WWE saw Punk’s issues on Social Media and thought to turn him heel, as champion, later during 2012.
Look, I’m don’t want to be that “shut up and dribble” or “shut up and wrestle” kind of person… That’s NOT what I’m saying. I’m just stating facts that if you want maximize your earnings as an athlete or entertainer, realize that you have paying customers in place on both sides of the political aisle. If you want to generate wealth from paying customers, then be as inclusive as possible.
What many Leagues or Promotions need to realize is that their products are ESCAPES for many people, as they hear about politics all day long from the news. They are also working hard for a living, as well. Most just want to grab a cold drink and be entertained for a few hours. Is that really a hard enough ask?
However, when you begin to mix in politics with sports or other entertainment realms, you are risking alienating 50% of the audience particularly if your presentation of said politics is smug or belittles the opposite side. If you still want to “use your platform” to demonstrate your political views, just understand that others make money from that platform too and you’re risking abandoning loyal and paying customers.
At the very least, learn HOW to present your political views to possibly engage thought or conversations with any opposing views.
Let’s look at Abortion, for example… Right now, the Left or Right take their views and will demonize each other for either being Pro-Life or Pro-Choice. On one side, it’s about protecting babies and on the other, it’s protecting women. Yet, there is NEVER a compromise in the middle which is where most Americans are. What often causes an Abortion, besides assault or incest, is unexpected pregnancies. When you are in the heat of the moment, things happen… We’re nothing but mammals and we do it like the animals on the Discovery Channel. So why not make enhance access to preventative measures to reduce unexpected pregnancies? It’s that simple…
But instead, the argument is presented on Social Media that if you are one way or the other, YOU’RE WRONG and you don’t care about babies or women!
See what I did there? You cannot tell which way I am, politically, about this abortion issue, because I did NOT demonize what your stand was. Instead, I tried to offer a solution to reduce the issue even coming up or mattering. More condoms for everyone!
And I have always tried to keep politics OUT of my columns… Why? Because I want you to come back and read more columns. See how that works? I understand my audience…
I just believe that Social Media has made Pro Wrestling WORSE because wrestlers are over-exposing the business, over-exposing their personal lives to ruin their characters, and belittling people for their political beliefs. Instead, they should maximize the amount of revenue that they can pull from wrestling fans and then use said revenues to finance a candidate or eventually become a politician themselves later.
Money talks and BS walks. Money will open the doors for you to be more effective politically, so generate that money NOW while you are still in the physical primes of your life and then use that money to make your political voice LOUDER to make a real impact.
However, if you use your Social Media or other platforms to advertise behind the scenes stuff, present yourself as being 100% contrary to your wrestling character, or get too emotional and aggressive with your political views… You’ll lose customers and never get them back. Then, you would earn extra revenue to support a politician that you believe would help serve you well.
Think that I’m joking? Look at The Rock right now. He doesn’t often give his political views and in may ways, you don’t know which party he belongs (probably Democrat from recent leanings). The Rock is making millions from his movies and is possibly the most marketable celebrity out there. He has legitimately talked about running for President someday and he’ll probably win. Why? Because he has MASS APPEAL because he presents himself as professional, likable, and always with a warm personality. Just watch this video and that’s all you need to see. The Rock will become President, if he really wants to, because EVERYBODY likes him. Furthermore, he won’t belittle you because of who you are or what you believe… He’ll try to get you to join Team Rock and work together to make things better.
Be like the Rock or the Undertaker, guys… There is a reason why both are considered the best EVER to do it in the wrestling business and beyond.
Back to the Retirement Home I go… This is only the 5th column that I have written for the year, compared to the two-a-week pace that I was on previously with LoP and NoDQ. When I feel like writing, I’ll just do it as needed… Think of me like South Park and their Paramount+ special deal.
It’s hard to just walk away from being the best opinionated wrestling content provider ever seen on the internet…
So just chill… Till the next episode!