George Lucas is one of the most prolific storytellers of his generation. The Star Wars franchise is much more than a series of films; it’s become modern mythology, completely ingrained into the American consciousness. The long lasting impact that his work has had arguably puts Lucas on par with Mark Twain and perhaps even Shakespeare; that’s how important Star Wars has been and how much it’s meant to so many people.
Sound familiar? The fact is that many pro wrestling fans have been saying the same thing about another creative genius, Vince McMahon. At first glance, the only thing that Lucas and McMahon have in common is that they share a fairly large percentage of the same audience. In other words, fanboys be loving some Star Wars. And yes, I’m one of them.
But as the years have gone by, it occurs to me that some very interesting parallels can be drawn between the careers of Vince McMahon and George Lucas. I can’t lie here, when I realized there was a connection between the two universes happening, I geeked out a little. Okay, I geeked out a lot. Told you I was a fanboy.
Both men began with nothing but a vision. Lucas was fighting the established system in Hollywood, while Vince was fighting the territory system in pro wrestling. Each man could have done fairly well just by falling in line and accepting how the world was. But they wanted more. They believed there was more to be had, that settling for the status quo was not the answer.
And neither man would stop until he got what he wanted. Star Wars was released and Lucas was seen as the visionary that he was. WrestleMania happened and McMahon was labeled a genius. They were both ahead of their time, able to see the future and they made it happen. Doors opened for both men that had previously been sealed shut. The world was their oyster and they became gods among men.
But now McMahon and Lucas have something else in common. Now, they’re seen as being separated creatively from their audience, unable to reconnect with what the fans really want to see. The success of the original trilogy did nothing for the second trilogy; Star Wars fans were not impressed. The content was not as cutting edge, it was more kid friendly and the story was more diluted. Somewhere along the way, Lucas lost his magic and now his creation is being handed off to the next generation.
If this does not perfectly describe Vince McMahon, I’m not sure what does. McMahon’s WWE was a monster hit throughout the years, especially after the end of The Monday Night Wars. His company was seemingly on the right track and he had conquered the wrestling world. But since then, WWE has lost quite a bit of its luster. Now, fans want something more and they don’t want it from Vince.
Lucas and McMahon are seen as arrogant, stubborn and pretentious. Instead of truly listening to the fans and trying to produce material to make them happy, Lucas kept making movies that seemed to entertain only him. Vince keeps producing TV that is doing much the same right now. And fans on both sides are none too happy about it.
But the problem is no one seems to listen. WWE fans have been dealing with this for years but it has grown exponentially worse recently. And the argument can be made that it doesn’t have to go down like that. After all, Vince would be nothing without the fans right?
Therein lies one of the major similarities between these two brilliant minds; each man has let his own genius get in the way of common sense. The prevailing notion among fans of both genres is that without them, neither man would have two pennies to rub together. Only, they don’t see it that way. To them, their creations are so good and so groundbreaking that just the storytelling itself is enough to carry it through and be successful.
But all of that Star Wars merchandise has not sat on store shelves for nearly 40 years gathering dust. And theaters had to fill up for each film before the next one could be made. Lucas didn’t make that money on his own; the audience had to embrace the material and fall in love with both the story and the actors for him to become stinking rich. WWE fans had to fall in love with the talent and the product for McMahon’s family to be financially secure for years to come.
And both sets of fans have basically been told their opinion doesn’t mean much. The Star Wars franchise is moving ahead with new films and a new director in JJ Abrams. And he’s surely feeling the pressure to deliver because the message from fans is clear; don’t screw it up worse than George did.
You have to believe the same will be said if and when WWE is handed to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. The question is can they fix it? Will they be able to get the company back to its former glory and move past the era in which WWE has stood still and become stale? Or will Vince’s vision that once saved the company but now has it in a time warp prevail?