Unless you’re a complete sycophant, it’s hard to watch WWE regularly. If it wasn’t, would AEW have been able to thrive like it has? Quite frankly, and it’s an old complaint, there’s just too much of it. Five hours a week is a ton, and that’s before you even get to NXT. And they’re not all that good at filling all that time, and haven’t been for a long while. There’s a lot of us who just drop in to matches we see are coming on Twitter that we think will be good, and most of the PPVs PLEs.
It’s never been much of a mystery why. Whatever gets onto the screen, we know has been passed through a Vince McMahon filter first. It’s always been clear that even at his advanced age and looser and looser grip on reality, Vince is running the show. And there’s always a reminder in case you forget.
Vince loves Roman Reigns, so he has been headlining shows for six or seven years now. He loves Brock Lesnar, so he’s allowed to drop in whenever he feels like picking up a check with several zeroes on it, even when every fan feels like it’s predictable and lazy. Vince doesn’t like tag team wrestling, so there’s basically three men’s tag teams and the women’s tag team division is…well, this. Vince loves Theory, so he gets a push far beyond his actual ability. Vince didn’t like NXT getting its ass kicked in the ratings by AEW, so it was remade in his image.
And fans all understood that. Maybe it was your thing, maybe it wasn’t. It’s one vision of wrestling on TV, and whether you could take it or leave it was acceptable and essentially harmless. That’s how everything should be, regardless of whatever screaming wrestling fans tell you on the internet.
But with last week’s expected news that there was far more to Vince’s payments to various women who worked for him, for various reasons from merely keeping an office tryst quiet to actual sexual assault, that harmless nature of Vince’s perception of wrestling has curdled. Because what are you really watching now?
It was one thing when I just didn’t care for Vince’s vision of a show and company. It’s quite another when he’s using it as a shield and a platform to either tell all of us he didn’t do these things, or more likely, that it doesn’t matter if he did. He’s still in charge of the only thing that most people care about, the shows, and that’s all that matters to him and to his most ardent fans. Based on the cheers, at least, because most WWE fans could give a flying fuck if he’s CEO or not. That’s not the stuff we see.
We know a lot of the talent is upset about how the shows are being used as a safe haven for Vince, or that they’re expected to participate in it. Because they’re aware that more than a few fans are going to have their feelings on the whole company turned. How many? Hard to say, certainly not enough to ever make a real change within the company, which only feeds Vince’s ego that nothing he did matters. Certainly the amount of money he paid out doesn’t matter to him, and he’s making it clear whatever threat he faces from his own board doesn’t either.
It’s not that I don’t love Bianca Belair, Seth Rollins, Drew McIntyre, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn or a host of others. There’s no shortage of talent, obviously. And it’s not their fault they’re being positioned as this canopy for some truly awful actions by their boss. They almost certainly hate it as much as we do, but they also have a job to do. They don’t like to watch the whole thing poisoned to cover for Vince either.
The jumping the shark of grossness though will come tonight when Theory wrestles Riddle, two guys who have had their first names dropped partially, or entirely, so it’s even harder to google the accusations thrown at them. It was one thing when the company pretty much ignored those accusations, as awful as they are. We’ve seen this move before. But now knowing what we know about Vince, was it simply ignoring those accusations or did he feel a kinship with those two that helped to result in their push to the top of the card? The fact that we’ll never know doesn’t help anything. Even that perception being easily connected whether it’s the case or not sullies the whole company.
But this is Vince’s world where stature outranks what follows you if it’s big enough. Vince can put himself on TV the same day as it becomes public what a true creep he is. Theory and Riddle can wrestle for the biggest spots in the company. Nash Carter, merely on NXT, gets immediately released after accusations of domestic abuse. Not that that isn’t correct, but he only qualified for a firing in WWE’s, or VWE’s world, because he was low enough on the food chain. Would the same have happened had he been tag champ on the main roster? You wonder.
The WWE Universe is large, but it feels increasingly like a more unwelcoming place to more and more when it’s being used as a vehicle for one man to minimize or even erase the terrible things he’s done, and having that influence who gets pushed and who doesn’t. Are Riddle’s and Theory’s push an attempt to tell all of us that our concerns and feelings are meaningless to them? It certainly feels that way now. A lot of Vince’s booking and decisions aren’t just in the fashion of what he thinks he’s best for WWE, but issuing a middle finger to anyone who might criticize for whatever reason. That’s part of the reason why Lesnar is brought back again and again. Charlotte has been booked in that way at times. Roman’s initial rise to yearly Mania main-eventer definitely had a fuck-you-fans quotient to it.
And now it all feels like Vince’s middle finger being extended, especially when he’s on TV pretty much to literally do that. It doesn’t matter that Vince allegedly assaulted or mistreated many women who worked for him. He’s running things on TV, he’s putting similar creeps on TV because he can and wants to, and everyone else will cover for him because they have to, and there’s more than enough fans who will eat it up so that no one’s uneasiness or outright disgust will ever reach him or matter to him.
WWE was already a hard watch. VWE is nearly impossible.