COMMENTARY | As a member of one of the largest wrestling forums on the internet, I see posts and thread topics that discuss the state of wrestling as a whole. Many of those posts seem to paint wrestling as something that was once popular, but has gone down in quality since the mid 2000’s. The target of this criticism is the WWE, wrestling’s biggest company.
Now, if you ask anybody working for the WWE, they’ll tell you they’re not in the ‘wrasslin’ business, they’re in the ‘Sports Entertainment’ business. The reasons given for the lack of wrestling being used in the WWE’s terminology vary from WWE Chairman Vince McMahon banning the use of words associated with professional wrestling in order to distance themselves from the old school brawls of the past, to Executive Vice President of Television Production Kevin Dunn coming up with those terms because of his distaste for actual professional wrestling. Dunn is also McMahon’s right hand man when it comes to the television broadcasts and has been a part of the WWE for nearly 20 years. Whatever the case may be, the WWE doesn’t see itself as a wrestling company and that’s very evident.
Since the Attitude Era, which ran from 1997 – 2002, there has been sharp decline in viewership for WWE programming. Mind you, the Attitude Era seen stars like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, HHH, Mankind, and numerous other polarizing characters that pushed the envelope on what was tasteful and what was too far in regards to the content. Now, the WWE isn’t just PG rated, it’s family and kid friendly. The actions of most of the WWE’s ‘superstars’ – the term used by the WWE to describe their wrestlers – are cartoonish in nature and seem to appeal to a younger audience. This has drawn the ire of many wrestling fans, or as the WWE calls them, members of the WWE Universe. The ratings prove this, but what isn’t understood is why the WWE decides to keep going down this path.
The answer is simple. Revenues equal cold hard cash.
According to the WWE’s corporate website, their primary revenue driver in the third-quarter of 2013 was the Licensing of Televised Content. So despite the poor ratings, advertisers still want in on the action and are willing to pay for it. How much you may ask? The WWE’s revenue increased over nine MILLION dollars from this time last year. This is due to the aforementioned licensing of televised content, WWE Studios – which produces actual feature films consumer products such as licensing, DVD’s, magazines, and music, and Digital Media, which encompasses the WWE.com website, YouTube channel, and the WWE app for smartphones and gaming systems.
The WWE is a publicly traded company, and for anyone to imply it’s in trouble financially because the ratings for certain shows are decreasing would be naïve. This company has too many ways to generate income and it would take a catastrophic hit to do any real damage to this company. Right now, the WWE is focused not just on the entertainment of their product, but the money that can be generated because of it.