WWE | Pro Wrestling

WWE’s Essential Pursuit of Money & its Struggling Model for Success

The other day I was casually debating about pro wrestling with some colleagues of mine and I was asked my opinion on a topic. As a WWE analyst, this is a fairly common thing for me as I have pro wrestling in my mouth more than a politician has lies in his.

I was asked the question of just exactly which tag team was the greatest of all time. It’s a loaded query, to be sure and can be based on any number of different criteria. Those criteria can include title runs, ability in the ring, number of great matches worked and so on. But for me there was only one area that truly mattered and only one team that met all the vital criteria.

The Road Warriors are the best tag team of all time because they made more money than anyone else.

Don’t misunderstand me here; despite how long I’ve been writing and analyzing the WWE product, the truth is that I started as just a fan.

As a kid enjoying the matches live and on TV, money is the last thing I would have ever associated with the excitement I was feeling as Dusty Rhodes was fighting one on four against Ric Flair and The Horsemen. The only thing I cared about was whether or not Magnum TA could defeat Nikita Koloff or just how exactly Jimmy Valiant would be able to fight back the challenge of Paul Jones and his army.

So admitting out loud that pro wrestling is all about the money is actually not something that I personally thought I would ever hear myself say. But the hard truth is that I’m not a kid anymore.

At the end of the day, the money is all that matters. In the case of Hawk and Animal, no other tag team made more profit for themselves and for the promotions they worked for. And you had better believe that a great amount of pride went into that for the Chicago made Warriors as well.

This is the key for any pro wrestling talent. Because while main event matches are great, championships are nice to have and a generous amount of spotlight is good to work in, if he’s not making a dime then he’s wasting not only his time but also the time of the promoter investing in him.

However in the case of WWE, individual success is not always determined by the gate that the company earns on any given night. The reason for that is because the WWE model is usually based upon the overall success of one Superstar; everyone else falls in line right behind him.

That very definition directly applies to the man that helped bring mainstream crossover success to WWE, Hulk Hogan. In Hogan’s era, he was the top guy. He was the main money maker for Vince McMahon in every way that mattered; ticket sales, merchandise sales and the aforementioned pop culture crossover which was priceless to the boss.

The rest of the then-WWF locker room was full of great workers like Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, Jake Roberts, Ted Dibiase and Curt Hennig. They were just some of the men responsible for making the WWF as entertaining as it was.

But as strong as they were and as capable of carrying matches as they were, all of these men became nothing more than role players. They were the supporting cast, the Chicago Bulls behind Hulk Hogan’s Michael Jordan. Each man had a hand in making Hulk Hogan successful because despite how much money he was responsible for bringing in, Hogan had to wrestle someone.

And a good number of the men he worked made him into the main event star that fans believed him to be.

For me, this is the primary connection between Hogan and John Cena. Because, while Cena has unquestionably worked very hard to get the notoriety and success he has today, it is the company around him that supports him that makes it all possible. Without his own top notch supporting cast to job out whenever the need arises, Cena would not be the main event star that he is today.

But the truth is that the typical model for WWE success has not exactly been on the right track and it seems to be getting worse. The fact is that while Cena is still obviously the top guy, he is more hated today than he was five years ago. And even though the company likes to promote the fact that the crowd is split on him, I believe that it’s becoming a problem behind the scenes.

The truth is that WWE’s ratings are not holding steady. The past few months have been rough for them and even though much of that time saw John on the shelf with injury, the news is still not very encouraging.

That’s because the company moved ahead with Daniel Bryan, who got over to the moon with fans. Watching the live crowds react to Bryan on Raw gave the impression that it was working. Indeed, it seemed as though WWE would be able to roll right along and create a new main event player in the meantime. However when the numbers came in, they were not good.

The fact is that WWE’s game plan may no longer be working. It could be that the possibility of turning John Cena heel, which was considered to be an impossible move by many, is perhaps actually being seriously debated behind closed doors as we speak. And the reason for the change would of course be money.

A Cena heel turn could bring more viewers, viewers bring ratings and ratings bring money. And at the end of the day, money is all that matters in the industry.

And I’m still not happy saying it out loud.

Tom Clark is a WWE Featured Columnist & Consultant for Bleacher Report, a Contributor for JBL’s Layfield Report and a Contributor for Whatculture.com

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomclarkbr

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Tom Clark

Tom Clark can regularly be found on Camel Clutch Blog. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online at https://tomclarksmainevent.libsyn.com/

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