Vince McMahon and WWE executives may be on the way to convincing investors to believe in them again. WWE stock is clawing its way back to its pre-WWE Network high, but while investors may be slowly regaining their faith in the pro wrestling behemoth, there is one crucial segment that has yet to fully come on board: the fans.
The fans, known collectively as the WWE Universe, have had a hard road this year. Daniel Bryan, the wrestler that the WWE Universe backed in spite of Vince McMahon’s penchant for pushing 6’2″ muscular body builders, became a rallying point for fans long complaining of seeing the same old story lines week after week. To everyone’s surprise, Bryan won two matches at Wrestlemania to become the WWE Champion. It was exciting, gratifying, and exactly what the fans wanted. Then an injury forced Bryan out of the ring with no word yet on a return date.
Vince McMahon and WWE officials seemed to resist the storyline rut for a time. They broke up popular heel stable The Shield in an attempt to create three viable first tier wrestlers, and may have been successful. Rumors swirled around the WWE universe that Roman Reigns was the newly-anointed top baby face, complete with a potential main event slot at Wrestlemania.
Then another injury (this time a hernia suffered by Reigns) derailed Plan B. Now the rumors suggest that the current champion, Brock Lesnar, won’t defend the title until January at the earliest, and will face default top baby face John Cena. It’s a match the WWE Universe has already seen, most recently at SummerSlam in August. It’s worth noting that WWE fans weren’t interested then; ratings for Summerslam were down from the same even last year. In 2013, Vince McMahon said that the Summerslam main even, John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan, wasn’t the “right attraction” to explain the disappointing numbers. What does that say about this year’s main event?
There was a time when the WWE Universe was blissfully unaware of Vince McMahon. Then the controversial “Montreal Screwjob” created the evil and ruthless Mr. McMahon character. Mr. McMahon has been officially retired, and the WWE Universe has always been told that Vince McMahon isn’t like the Mr. McMahon character, but fans aren’t buying it. Not when the company’s, and therefore Vince McMahon’s, default position seems to be more of the same thing fans have already said they don’t want.
Joe Johnson, senior writer at The Bleach Report, has a simple fix for Vince: stand down and step aside. In his op-ed, Johnson calls out McMahon for focusing on the WWE product rather than the wrestlers who create it. This focus, according to Johnson, creates a situation where wrestlers with the potential to carry the WWE forward (Johnson cites Bray Watt, Cody Rhodes, and Seth Rollins, among others) are treated as an afterthought, while John Cena continues to be the main focal point. According to Johnson, the only thing that can save the WWE now is a regime change, to Triple H.
Vince McMahon has so far shown no signs of being willing to step aside. Meanwhile, wrestlers keep coming forward to sing the praises of Triple H and how he does business, and the WWE Universe tunes in week after week to Monday Night Raw hoping for something better than what they’ve been getting.