For over 30 years, the WWE Universe has been the peak of the sports entertainment world. Not only that, but Vince McMahon’s empire has had few true rivals challenging his place as the top executive in pro wrestling. Aside from the 84 long weeks when WCW Monday Night defeated Monday Night Raw in the ratings, it’s been smooth sailing for McMahon and his company from the first WrestleMania onward, and his superstars have thus always felt secure they were genuinely working for the best wrestling promotion in the world when they signed their names on WWE contracts.
Recently, however, things have been changing for McMahon, WWE, and indeed the entire wrestling world. For a cavalcade of reasons we’re about to list, the WWE Universe has been loosening its stranglehold on pro wrestling, to the extent some fans are worried this may mean the end of McMahon’s dynasty. Of course, there are also a large number of fans frothing at the mouths even imagining a version of sports entertainment without Vince McMahon at the top, seeing this dramatic change as the best news the industry has heard in decades.
Truth be told, no matter what we’re about to say in this article, there’s little chance WWE will up and vanish any time in the near future. Even if things continue to get worse, McMahon and company have more than enough resources to keep their baby alive, by hook or by crook, for many years to come. This won’t stop high-profile superstars from quitting their jobs, though; nor will it stop the many fans who are changing the channel on a rapid basis. To find out why, keep reading for 15 shocking signs WWE is a rapidly sinking ship.
15. The Way They Treat Wrestlers Is Catching Up To Them
Whether you happen to enjoy the product WWE produces or not, chances are, you wouldn’t want to work there. For all his success, Vince McMahon is eccentric, at times even borderline insane — the type of person who just about anybody would have trouble calling his or her boss. More than a mere difficult personality, McMahon also expects way more from his employees than is reasonable. WWE superstars largely need to pay for their own travel, rapidly depleting the amount they get paid, and far worse than that, they don’t even get health insurance. WWE handles medical costs related to any in-ring accidents as is legally required, but if wrestlers get hurt or simply sick outside the ring, they’re on their own financially. These are just two ways WWE superstars are treated worse than the average employee, and if they don’t change things soon, up-and-coming wrestlers won’t want to work there knowing how poorly they’ll be treated.
14. Superstars Are Already Jumping Off
In the past year alone, WWE has seen over a half-dozen superstars either leave the company willingly or express their joy when their contracts were over. Neville, Jack Swagger, Alberto Del Rio, Cody Rhodes, and Ryback — all superstars who had been booked in main events and treated like relatively big deals, felt like WWE simply wasn’t worth their time anymore. The Dudley Boys and Austin Aries were slightly different in that they were let out of their contracts, but they were similarly overjoyed at escaping the sports entertainment empire, announcing such online. Rumor has it, there are also a modest number of current WWE employees seeking out Rhodes’s council on how to follow in all of the earlier-mentioned superstars’ footsteps. Let’s not forget, we’re also not too far removed from CM Punk’s infamous WWE exit in 2014, as he was the true spark starting this fire. No matter where it began, the point is, five years ago, no one would dare speak out against the McMahons, let alone leave the company. Now, they have no fear in doing so, knowing their prospects are better elsewhere.
13. Aggressive Ignorance About What Fans Want
Once upon a time, if WWE fans booed the ever-loving crap out of something, Vince McMahon and his executives would realize something was wrong. We’re not talking about when a villain gets told they’re jerks; we’re talking about matches Michael Cole is treating like five-star classics while the crowd at hand is loudly chanting about how both participants in the match suck. When this happens during the main event of WrestleMania, it should be pretty obvious the average WWE audience member isn’t happy with what the company is doing. And yet, the fact Roman Reigns has been hearing these chants for years, no matter which opponent he’s up against, hasn’t clued Vince on the fact that Reigns isn’t working as a top babyface. Emphatic returns by John Cena are getting similar treatments, with it practically expected the whole arena will be chanting about how he sucks each time the announcers and the WWE promotional machine give him a hero’s welcome. Vince and company know they’re lying to fans’ faces and pretending the opposite of reality is true; they just don’t care anymore. In turns, wrestling fans have stopped caring about them.
12. Predictability Has Become The Norm
Despite being predetermined, professional wrestling has the capability to be one of the most surprising and exciting forms of entertainment in the world. Well, in theory, anyway, as modern-day WWE has pretty much thrown this concept out the door. Quite frankly, for any given Pay-Per-View, the average WWE fan can easily predict who’s going to win every single match on the card and how. The better ones can probably also guess the exact length of matches and what the announcers will say when it happens. The bigger the event, the more predictable it is, with fans already able to predict the main event of WrestleMania 34 more than five months before it’s even going to take place. Spoiler alert: Roman Reigns beats Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship, and John Cena beats Jinder Mahal. No one needs this next spoiler, but it’s also worth noting fans will be bored to tears in the buildup to both. Hey, we hope we’re wrong here, but don’t be surprised when that’s exactly what happens.
11. The Writers Have Pretty Much Given Up
Were Vince McMahon the only person working behind the scenes for WWE, this decline in quality would make perfect sense. The man is now 72 years old, and he’s been out of touch with pop culture for well over a decade. That said, Vince is at least self-aware enough with regard to this issue that he hires dozens of younger writers and producers who are more in tune with the needs and desires of the average TV viewer. And then, defying all expectation, he ignores everything they say and does what he wants anyway. Quite frankly, knowing this trend, it’s hard to blame the writers for the fact they eventually grew tired of McMahon’s whims and basically gave up on doing their jobs. According to WWE expat Cody Rhodes, whenever he pitched new ideas to the writers, they outright ignored him, and several others have made similar statements. When the creative team isn’t even trying to put on an interesting show, there’s really not much the wrestlers can do on their own, leading to an all-around uninspired product.
10. Competition Is Slowly Starting To Rise
Since WCW went out of business in 2001, WWE hasn’t just been the biggest name in sports entertainment; they’ve pretty much been the only name in sports entertainment. While independent wrestling promotions still exist, none had any more than local TV shows that were extremely hard for would-be fans to track down. Sure, there was also NWA: TNA/Impact Wrestling/GFW, but the sad truth was that company was always way too mismanaged to truly be a threat to WWE. In all fairness, there’s still no company that truly can stand against Vince McMahon in the near future, but the market is more prime than ever for such an organization to step up. Ring of Honor has slowly been rising, New Japan Pro Wrestling could look to expand internationally, and Lucha Underground is proving wrestling can still be an incredibly creative medium in the right hands. There’s also always the potential for wealthy investors like Ted Turner to help one of these companies out or start their own, giving yet another option for the many wrestlers and fans tired of WWE’s nonsense.
9. Keeping Old Stars Past Their Expiration Date
Less than seven full months removed from The Undertaker leaving his hat and cloak in the ring following a loss at WrestleMania 33, there are rumors he’s getting ready for another comeback. Fueling these rumors is the fact the Dead Man’s onscreen brother, Kane, recently made his own return, despite his ongoing bid to become the mayor of Knox County, Tennessee. Quite frankly, neither of these wrestlers have any business lacing up their boots for WWE anymore, and political aspirations have nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, the company also doesn’t really have much of a choice but to keep dusting the cobwebs off these older superstars and begging them to come back because fans simply don’t care about anyone on the main roster the same way about stars of yesteryear. The downside here is that they never will because those old stars are still around to get all the attention. Eventually, fans will even get tired of Kane, The Undertaker, and other wrestlers pushing 50, and WWE will legitimately have no one left.
8. Shuffling The Deck Chairs On The Titanic
While WWE insiders would probably try to argue articles like this one exaggerate, to say the least, most people within the company are nonetheless aware things haven’t exactly been perfect as of late. Bizarrely, however, it seems like they’re choosing to do almost nothing about it. The closest thing WWE has done to making a concerted effort at changing things up in recent months has been the Superstar Shakeup, when a handful of prominent Raw and SmackDown superstars were traded between brands. This is a textbook example of the old expression “shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic,” a phrase meaning to focus on switching around irrelevant details when the ship is going down. It has the dual result of not making anything better or not helping in any way and also wasting all of the company’s resources, preventing it from finding actual solutions.
7. WrestleMania Is Consistently The Worst Show Of The Year
Call it the “Showcase of Immortals,” the “Grandest Stage of Them All,” “the biggest sports entertainment spectacular of the year,” or simply “WrestleMania,” but one thing about the WWE flagship program has been shockingly true for at least the past three years: it’s been absolutely atrocious from top to bottom. Also, they all lasted somewhere around seven hours, meaning the worst show WWE put on that year felt like it would never end. In all fairness, the buy rates, attendance records, and box office gates of these shows have all been somewhere between phenomenal and unbelievable, with WrestleMania 32, in particular, setting a new attendance record of 101,000 fans packed into one arena — all of whom were totally silent during the main event, of course, except to boo their lungs out at the allegedly triumphant moment that closed out the show. When the biggest show of the year is also the worst, absolutely everyone with even a mild interest in WWE will see firsthand just how bad it is, and before long, they’ll all stop watching.
6. The WWE Championship Is Meaningless
On May 21, 2017, WWE made one of the strangest choices in recent memory by crowning Jinder Mahal the WWE Champion. For years prior to that day, Mahal had been treated like an absolute jobber, rarely winning a single match of note in his six years in the company. The sudden promotion came entirely out of nowhere, and five whole months later, fans still don’t accept Mahal in the role WWE gave him. Jinder has since retained his gold against Randy Orton, AJ Styles, John Cena, and Shinsuke Nakamura, all of whom are far more beloved superstars who would actually make sense as the company’s top superstar. Even so, fans still just don’t care about the guy at all, and there’s no wonder why, as he has no particular talent inside the ring and is increasingly racist and otherwise offensive on the microphone. The longer Jinder has the title, the less fans will care about SmackDown and WWE in general.
5. They Build Wrestlers Up Just To Bring Them Down
Even at its worst, WWE has a way of occasionally striking gold and creating moments of pro wrestling greatness that will be remembered forever. Recently, they achieved such several times during the rise of Braun Strowman, a monstrous athlete who easily could become one of the company’s next top stars. Strowman tipped over an ambulance, threw a bunch of chairs at Brock Lesnar, and looked like he was going to be a really big deal… until a second bout with Lesnar ended in his speedy defeat to little aplomb. Shinsuke Nakamura is a much different performer from Strowman, but he’s gone through a similar experience in being one of the few SmackDown superstars to truly stand out, only to repeatedly lose to the boring and forgettable Jinder Mahal. Both cases show WWE making a habit of making superstars the old-fashioned way solely to waste all their potential star power for the preordained “top stars” no one actually likes. Should men like Strowman, Nakamura, or others get wise to the trend and follow the superstars who’ve been jumping ship, this will provide Vince’s rising competition with all the stars they need.
4. SmackDown Attendance Is Plummeting
For reasons that don’t always make sense, there’s simply nothing WWE can do about the fact SmackDown is seen as a secondary program to Monday Night Raw. Even during numerous roster splits, Raw has always been treated like the A-Show and SmackDown the B-Show — if not within the company, then definitely by fans. We know this because of the ratings, for one, and in recent months, the attendance figures have been speaking for themselves. One can hardly tell on television thanks to the hard camera always facing the same section of the audience, but SmackDown’s crowds have been depressingly small lately, with as much as half of the arenas completely empty. Thus far, WWE has done absolutely nothing in response to this trend, with Jinder Mahal still reigning as the brand’s champion and main star and the same few superstars trading the US Championship back and forth. Raw attendance figures are still decent, but the fact a live TV show could turn into a disaster if the camera points the wrong way is obviously not a good thing.
3. Ratings Are Reaching Record Lows
WWE fans have been hearing this one ever since the Attitude Era began to fade, and yet it remains true to this day. The ratings for every WWE television show airing today, from Raw to SmackDown to smaller shows like Main Event, are all reaching record low numbers in just about every category. Granted, the same is true for just about everything airing on TV today, as audiences simply aren’t the same as they used to be thanks to the Internet. WWE has something to combat this, however, with their WWE Network theoretically increasing in numbers while people transition there from the traditional broadcast networks, but this hasn’t quite been happening. Raw and SmackDown still can’t air on the WWE Network live due to contractual issues with USA Network, meaning fans are simply choosing not to watch the shows at all anymore — never a good sign for an entertainment company of any variety.
2. WWE Keeps Staying The Course
Truth be told, none of the criticisms against WWE made in this article are all that new or unique. People have been saying the same things for decades now, including some of the most high-profile sports entertainment critics around like those at the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. No matter how loudly or repeatedly we levy these complaints, though, Vince McMahon and his executives simply refuse to do anything about them. As a whole, WWE is completely content continuing to do whatever they want, bucking to the whims and desires of Vince personally long before ever taking the audience into consideration. Even if someone in the company reads our article and decides he wants to do something, Vince would inevitably overrule him and think the real solution is to give John Cena and Roman Reigns more airtime. There’s simply no getting it through to him that things aren’t working.
1. Vince McMahon Can’t Live Forever
Despite everything this list has said, WWE still has an ace up its sleeves that will keep it afloat into the indefinite future: Vince McMahon. No matter how bad things get, there will always be wrestlers, fans, and investors who see the name McMahon and think dollar signs. More than that, to many people, McMahon represents perfection in sports entertainment, with many people still willing to swear by his product as the best thing on TV to this day. That this group is slightly dwindling in recent years doesn’t really matter to the true WWE diehards, who will keep supporting McMahon and his company forever… or until Vince dies, that is. It isn’t exactly pleasant to think about, but the fact is, at 72 years old, Vince simply won’t be around forever. People are already questioning if his age might be affecting the product and if this means he might retire, but he steadfastly refuses the idea — and with good reason. Vince is worried WWE might just collapse without his name on top of it, and while the implosion won’t be immediate, there could be some small truth in his fears.
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