Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Does panic really equal change? Only in the WWE

Three weeks ago, Monday Night Raw's ratings fell below 3.0. After this happened for a 2nd week, WWE Chairman-CEO-resident wackjob Vince McMahon, who shouldn't have to worry about these matters anymore, decided he had to return to television. Never mind that 11 months ago, "Mr. McMahon" was removed from the day-to-day operations of the company. Never mind that less than 3 months after that, he returned to turn the tables on son-in-law Triple H and remove him from being an acting GM for Raw, installing long time assistant John Laurinaitis as GM. Two months ago, Laurinaitis added Friday Night Smackdown to his workload. However, he never should've been placed in that position, for the simple reason that he didn't have enough of a screen presence that would have viewers gravitating to him. Quite the contrary. Just like Vickie Guerrero 3 years ago, Laurinaitis and his lies about "people power" sent the ratings into the toilet. Mrs. Guerrero folded under pressure and resigned, only to return 4 months later, back on Smackdown, and plotting anew.

Laurinaitis, meanwhile, had just lost his real-life post as Executive VP-Talent Relations (Triple H took over that job within the last couple of weeks), and the fact that he was overexposed on TV for nearly a year finally convinced McMahon that more changes had to be made. The problem is, he ruined the storyline by inserting himself into the mix for a week.

9 years ago, McMahon undermined his own daughter, Stephanie, by sabotaging her administration as GM of  Smackdown. His actions last October convinced me, and likely many other viewers, that he was doing the same thing to Triple H, only covertly, and played messenger himself just to stick it to HHH, basically saying that the conspiracy that had dogged the "Cerebral Assassin" was his idea, but no one could prove it. Thanks to the incompetence of his writers, McMahon has made sure he comes out of this a hero instead of a pariah. At the No Way Out PPV on Sunday, McMahon personally "fired" Laurinaitis after John Cena had edged out a victory over Big Show in a cage match. Last night, however, Laurinaitis was allowed to say goodbye, and also to give a win back to Cena in the TV main event. He should've been gone a lot sooner than this, but just like Vickie Guerrero, he overstayed his welcome because McMahon stubbornly stuck with him, rather than listen to the viewers and the fans at the arenas. When the ratings fell, that's when the insane chairman finally took action.

So what happens now? Mick Foley, former champion, best-selling author, and aspiring comic, fills in this week. As I commented over on Todd Martin's blog, Smashmouth Driving, I think we're going to see some combination of the following in the run-up to Raw's 1000th episode on July 23, as former GM's or figurehead executives will be brought back. Guerrero, for sure, will get a turn, for better or worse, but she is toxic already. Aside from that.......

Teddy Long, who has had his tenure on Smackdown interrupted three times in the last 4 1/2 years, is likely going to get his old gig back, but not right away. Stephanie McMahon, one of four people to have served as GM on both Raw & Smackdown (Guerrero, Laurinaitis, & Long are the others; Long had a 1-night gig in January 2003 as a sub for Eric Bischoff), almost certainly will make a rare appearance to further her husband's angle with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. William Regal (Commissioner in 2001, GM in 2007-8) will get a look, but they'd be crazy to ask back the worst of them all, sportscaster and former football player Mike Adamle (June-November 2008). Then again, Vince is a few fries shy of a happy meal, anyway, so anything's possible.

One ex-GM who won't be back is Eric Bischoff, still working behind the scenes with TNA. Even with the deals made in recent months that allowed Ric Flair to return for a 2nd induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in April (Christian was at Slammiversary 9 days ago in return), I doubt very seriously that Bischoff will show up for one night. Flair, however, recently was dismissed from TNA after 2 1/2 years, and a 3rd go-round in WWE seems mighty likely at this point. There are a few people on message boards who believe Flair will land the GM's job, and I would guess the appointment will come on July 23, when Raw expands to 3 hours a week. Flair was a figurehead co-owner of the company from November 2001-June 2002, so he fits in perfectly.

They didn't need to have the ratings fall to effect change, though. The problem, as it has always been for the last decade, is Vince McMahon, who refuses to walk away gently into that good night, because he cannot see anyone other than him being in control. As long as he remains in charge, he's stifling Triple H, whose old school background lends itself to opening a door to a return to a more back-to-basics formula for success.

A better writer would've solved a lot of WWE's creative problems long ago, but McMahon doesn't want to teach anyone the basics of the business, never mind the fact that any writer worth his salt can apply his skills to writing a wrestling program by using the simplest method there is, and that is, every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Vince McMahon has forgotten this simple tenet, and doesn't care. His loss, and, unfortunately, it could get worse, if he doesn't embrace reality and walk away now.

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