Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Does Vince McMahon hate Canada, or what?

It's clear from seeing Raw this week that WWE Chairman Vince McMahon hasn't exactly had a soft enough spot in his heart for Canada. He had guest host Sgt. Slaughter repeatedly poke fun at our neighbors to the north in 3 skits that were about as amusing as watching paint dry. Slaughter (Robert Remus) might've been better off plugging the #1 movie, "GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra", given his contribution to the GI Joe mythos in the 80's.

At present, there are only 2 Canadian babyfaces (fan favorites) on the roster, Gail Kim, who won her match on Monday, and ECW Champion Christian. Edge, currently on the disabled list, may yet be in line for a face run after nearly five years as a heel (villain). Chris Jericho, who has dual citizenship (born in Long Island, grew up in Winnipeg, trained in Calgary, now lives in Tampa), could've had the Calgary faithful on his side for his main event match vs. John Cena, except for a backstage skit in which he dissed the Canadians for their naivete, as it were. You can't have it both ways, dude.

Over the years, a vast majority of the Canadian grapplers, both male & female, who've worked for WWE in its various incarnations have been cast as villains for one reason or another. Fans in certain provinces of Canada may never forgive McMahon for the Montreal Screwjob at the 1997 Survivor Series, but they can't be too happy with the way their athletes are presented to American audiences. Small wonder, then, that whenever WWE travels to Canada, the "Great White North" is referred to as "Bizarro-Land" because McMahon can't control the fans' emotional ties to their countrymen. It's time McMahon came to the realization, however, that the "WWE Universe", as he likes to refer to his fan base, isn't made up of people with short attention spans exclusively. Older fans will remember angles as far back as, say, 6-7 years ago, and can reference the past in internet discussions.

McMahon knows that even though television ratings are stagnating for his product, there isn't much in terms of legitimate competition. TNA routinely shoots itself in its collective foot by recycling old storylines poached from WWE and/or WCW's past. The Main Event Mafia, for example, is a thinly veiled reincarnation of the New World Order, which was the primary storyline for WCW in its last days (1996-2001), regardless of how many times it was revamped and reimagined. Ring of Honor's deal with HDNet is a little self-defeating, since the network isn't available in much of the country, especially after Time Warner Cable dumped HDNet a few months back in a money dispute, yet added MAV-TV (like HDNet, owned by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban) to replace its sister network on its roster. ROH would be well served to switch to a more accessible network (FX, you see, is looking to be a player in the wrestling business, and......!) within a year's time. Neither company can sustain itself on DVD sales alone in the long term. However, that's no excuse for McMahon to let WWE wallow in poorly written and plotted programs that are more apt to drive viewers away than attract them.

If Vince really cared about the Canadian fans, he'd have signed Canadian born actor Mike Myers ("Austin Powers", "Cat in the Hat", "Wayne's World") to host this week's show, and saved Slaughter for another time. Raw has turned into wrestling's answer to Saturday Night Live because McMahon lets himself be beholden to NBC-Universal's Bonnie Hammer, who's in charge of USA & SyFy. It won't last forever due to the up & down numbers, and those inconsistencies will force a change back to the GM system, probably in time for Wrestlemania 26 next Spring.

As Forrest Gump once observed, "Stupid is as stupid does". Since Vincent K. McMahon has the final say on creative decisions, even though daughter Stephanie might disagree, his poor judgment is reflected in the Hollywood rejects they've hired to write their shows. Now in his 60's, McMahon isn't as sharp creatively as he was 20-25 years ago, but his own ego and pride won't let him accept the reality of how the business has changed around him. Insulating himself in his own, ah, pocket universe may yet be McMahon's undoing, and he'll only have himself to blame, not Canada or anyone else.

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