World Wrestling Entertainment Chairman Vince McMahon has obviously gotten a lot right over the past several decades. Under the guidance of McMahon, what was formerly known as the World Wrestling Federation became the biggest professional wrestling organization in the world. The WWF then defeated World Championship Wrestling in the battle known as the “Monday Night Wars,” and the company that is now commonly referred to as WWE is a multimedia superpower that produces hours of television on a weekly basis. The WWE has also been involved in movies and music releases, and the company is on the verge of having a meaningful relationship with ESPN.
For all of the successes that the company has had, those who have been in charge of the WWE also likely have plenty of regrets. Some of the regrettable decisions that have been made by those within the WWE have resulted in some storylines that were unfortunate, but that also did not cause long-term harm. One of those storyline regrets, however, involves an opportunity that was thoroughly wasted by the WWE. It has been a decade and a half since the events of that one decision played out on WWE television, and the company is still dealing with the ramifications of those choices.
Then, there are the regrets that put the WWE in international headlines for awful reasons. Diehard fans of the WWE can likely already guess the one that tops the list. A life was lost at a WWE pay-per-view event in 1999 largely because of a choice that put a performer in danger. Any positive that could have come from that one spot was never worth the risk of the stunt, and that was proven when things went horribly wrong. Of all of the regrets that could make such a list, the death of Owen Hart is the one that stands out more so than any other. That tragedy could have easily been avoided.
15. Not Charging More For WrestleMania
One does not need to be a business expert to understand that the WWE offering any live WrestleMania for $9.99 or even for free for new users of the WWE Network (assuming that the company will continue the practice of new customers having free access to the WWE Network) is not wise. WrestleMania is the biggest single wrestling event of the year. Fans flock to bars or spend up to $60 to watch it via pay-per-view. The WWE should absolutely offer WrestleMania via the WWE Network, but at an extra cost even for subscribers. There has to be a way for the WWE to make more money off of these events.
14. Turning “Stone Cold” Heel
“Worst call I’ve ever made other than refusing to job to Brock Lesnar at Atlanta. But, you know, that was my idea. Vince always likes to do something big at WrestleMania. He didn’t have anything big planned.” This was how “Stone Cold” Steve Austin once explained to decision for him to turn heel and align with Vince McMahon at WrestleMania X7. Austin was on fire as a babyface at that point of his career, and the WWE audience did not want to see him turn heel at that time. It was a massive mistake made by the company, and the Austin character was never again as popular as he was leading up to that show.
13. The Diva’s Revolution
What the company has called the “Diva’s Revolution,” one that has played out on television shows in 2015, is not a bad idea on its own. The way that the WWE has written out the storylines has been the main problem. This supposed Diva’s Revolution has thus far not done many positive things for the women who are involved. There is still time to save this idea and make it one that gets over among casual viewers and also those who prefer NXT to what occurs on Raw. Hopefully the WWE regrets the way things have gone, and then changes the course of this revolution.
12. Failing to Win WCW Viewers
This one may, as it pertains to business, top the list of WWE regrets. The possibility exists that those who were loyal only to World Championship Wrestling were never going to become WWE fans once WCW closed its doors. It still would have been nice to see the WWE attempt to earn the trust and also the money of those potential customers. The company instead did next to nothing to try to turn WCW fans into WWE viewers, and pro wrestling has never again been as hot as it was when both WCW and the WWE were earning high ratings on Monday nights.
11. Making SmackDown Irrelevant
SmackDown is a completely miss-able and irrelevant program as of October 2015. Nothing significant happens during those shows, and anything of merit that does occur is reviewed on the following edition of Raw. This is a rather odd way to handle a program that is supported by advertisements that need to be seen by eyes for them to be worth anything. SmackDown will be moving to USA Network in 2016. That station is going to want the WWE show to bring in big ratings. The WWE will have to change the way that storylines play out on SmackDown for that to be a possibility.
10. The Nexus
Remember when it appeared as if the WWE has its own version of a New World Order storyline when “The Nexus” invaded and cleaned house? That was fun while it lasted. It was also over almost as quickly as it began. That the WWE wasted this opportunity would, on its own, be enough to make it on a list of regrets. The only real star to emerge from the original Nexus is Daniel Bryan, who cannot physically work inside of WWE rings as of the posting of this piece. We’ll never know what could have been had the Nexus been treated differently, and that may be the biggest regret to come from this one.
9. ECW Rebrand
There are two assumptions that WWE fans could make about the company’s handling of the rebirth of Extreme Championship Wrestling: Either the WWE purposely wanted to bury ECW forevermore, or the company regrets the way that it booked that “rebrand.” At least something positive emerged from that horrible idea. The end of the ECW show brought with it the original NXT, and the current version of NXT is arguably the best thing the WWE has going for it as of October 2015. Here’s a hot take for you: The current NXT is better than the original ECW. Discuss among yourselves.
8. CM Punk
It is a safe bet that those running the WWE probably do not have a lot of positive feelings toward CM Punk these days. Still, the company would have been better off treating CM Punk differently over the past couple of years. Maybe, then, Punk would not have walked out on the company and on wrestling to link up with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Perhaps, in that scenario, Punk would not have gone on a podcast to say rather unflattering things about the company. Say whatever you will about Punk’s abilities as a heel or as a babyface. The WWE could probably use him as a performer.
7. Not Replacing John Cena
The WWE has built two strong babyfaces over the past decade. One is John Cena, the top “good guy” in the company. The other is Daniel Bryan. Cena is on the verge of taking some time away from the company, and Bryan cannot get medically cleared to return to the ring. By not doing enough to build a significant second babyface to work shows, the WWE has been tempting fate. That may come back to negatively affect the company during the fall months of 2015 if neither Cena nor Bryan are around for lengthy periods of time.
6. The Invasion
The pro wrestling world changed forever in March of 2001 when WCW had its final hours of live television before the company’s demise. It was the WWE that was left standing as the last massive wrestling company in North America, and the organization had a chance to make history and also a ton of money from an “Invasion” storyline that featured former WCW and Extreme Championship Wrestling talents working at WWE shows. The company botched that story in just about every way imaginable, and the WWE left a lot of money on the table in the process.
5. The Vince McMahon “Death”
There are some things that simply do not belong in the fantasy world of the WWE. Death is one of them. The WWE went against that logic when the company went with a storyline that involved the “death” of Vince McMahon. That ended up being a horrible look for the WWE when news broke that Chris Benoit, his wife and child had legitimately been found dead. It should not have taken that real-life tragedy, one that became worldwide news, to show McMahon and others within the WWE that having such a storyline play out on television would be a negative for the company.
4. The Chris Benoit Tribute
The wrestling world was shocked and saddened to learn about the deaths of Chris Benoit, his wife and his young son in June of 2007. A tribute show to the life and career of Benoit aired on WWE Raw before investigators found out what had really happened inside of the wrestler’s home. We now know, after the fact, that there were indications that Benoit was the man responsible for all three of those deaths before the tribute ever aired. The WWE understandably pulled that tribute from repeat editions of Raw, but the damage had already been done. The company had unintentionally honored a murderer.
3. Continuing “Over the Edge”
Tragedy had struck at the 1999 Over the Edge show when Owen Hart plummeted to his death in front of the fans in attendance. It is understandable that everybody within the WWE on that night was frozen in shock and sadness immediately after Hart was taken from the ring. There nevertheless are times when “the show must go on” is a mantra that has to be tossed aside. Over the Edge was one of those times, but the WWE instead continued the pay-per-view up through the planned conclusion of the show. That will be among the top regrets in WWE history for as long as the company exists.
2. Ignoring Certain Things
That the WWE made changes to the company’s “Wellness Policy” following the deaths of performers such as Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit offered another reminder that the company and the wrestling industry, as a whole, cared far too little about the overall conditions of performers for far too long. The WWE is a different and, in many ways, a better company than it was a decade ago. Wrestlers who work for the organization are better off for it. It is, however, too bad that so many wrestlers had to be lost at young ages before such changes were implemented. Maybe some of those guys could have been saved.
1. Death of Owen Hart
It is baffling, looking back on what occurred at the 1999 Over the Edge pay-per-view event, that nobody from the WWE stepped in and stopped Owen Hart from beginning the stunt that would result in his tragic and horrifying death. What is maybe most upsetting of all is that neither the company nor Hart would have gained much of anything had everything gone according to plan. Hart was not, after all, going to become a main-eventer or a world champion the following night. Everything about it was foolish and unnecessary, and thus the death of Owen Hart tops the list of the top WWE regrets.