I have been asked the past week: Will there be a different tone with the WWE because Vince McMahon retired and is no longer in control? This has been a difficult question to answer and for many reasons.
One part is the impact Vince McMahon had with the resurgence of pro wrestling in the 1980’s that continues with a worldwide television audience, sold out venues, creation of superstars including Hulk Hogan, “The Rock” (Dwayne Johnson), Stone Cold Steve Austin, and John Cena.
And there was “The Undertaker” who became an icon, a phenom and superstar because of the Vince McMahon creation. There will never be another make believe creation like the Undertaker, who also made a lot of money and brought profit to the WWE empire.
There were many more that arrived and left. The WWE became a billion dollar industry of sports/entertainment and continues to profit. The Vince McMahon creation of live television programming, Pay-Per-View events. and growth with streaming networks put the pro wrestling industry in another direction.
WrestleMania, another creation of Vince McMahon, is an annual event now showcased world wide and performed two consecutive nights before capacity crowds in outdoor stadiums. There was an epic event, March 29, 1987, when Hulk Hogan slammed Andre the Giant to the mat (WrestleMania III) before 93,173 fans at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan. WWE confirmed it was the largest indoor event in North America.
This was one of many legacies of Vince McMahon. He put pro wrestling back on the map.
But last week the legacy of McMahon came to a sudden end, a retirement and shock to the wrestling industry. The landscape of sports entertainment changed because the WWE publicly traded company of stockholders were put in a bad position.
Their leader is under investigation into alleged misconduct and reports of having an affair with a co-worker he would later terminate. Vince McMahon was losing the match with reports of paying millions of dollars to cover up the damage. Reports circulated he was using company funds to protect his image and the WWE empire.
So, when asked, I respond with not being stunned about the allegations which surfaced in a Wall Street Journal report and more to come that will add fuel to the fire of that, bad and ugly.
Recall, the steroid era of the 1980’s, what was then the WWF. Vince McMahon was implicated with steroid distribution to his superstars, a time when pro wrestling and the WWF started their resurgence. Pro wrestling was now considered sports entertainment and no longer a make believe.
The Federal Government versus Vince McMahon gained National attention, thus the reality of a pro wrestling industry was revealed to be nasty and dirty. McMahon would be vindicated, though a doctor was implicated and took the fall for steroid distribution.
Then, Vince McMahon survived. He continued to expand his universe and WWE became more of a global empire of sports entertainment. This was no longer old school pro wrestling and following in the path of his father, the late Vincent J. McMahon. There was that competitive Monday Night War time, good competition with WCW on the rival Turner TBS Network, an adversary that McMahon would beat.
Later, Vince McMahon would stun the industry. The complexion changed then, as he purchased the rights to WCW and their library of videos. The script also unfolding on television as his son Shane would be in a WCW ring on a simulcast with “Monday Night RAW.”
Then, because of the WWE global entity there was opportunity. More independent promoters and media exposure. Pro wrestling began a brief mainstream push, now it is more than ever. That era opened doors for pro wrestling talk.
Remember, “Keep It In The Ring” at 3am on New York sports talk radio WFAN. Jody McDonald and I were the hosts, attributed of course to the exposure of the WWE and Vince McMahon empire.
But as all of this was ongoing, there was also talk of how the complexion of this industry had changed because of demographics and the exposure. Pro wrestling was no longer old school and went to the extreme.
Backstage, the business continued. There was also the sleazy and nasty part of a pro wrestling industry that would leak through the sheets and not as quickly as it does today with social media.
Former superstars, some I got to know well, and we still connect from time to time, said this was inevitable. They witnessed certain circumstances, the good and bad, though grateful to have worked with an icon that gave them an opportunity.
There is a good side of Vince McMahon. Believe it or not, he always had passion for the business and took good care of his superstars on the WWE roster. I heard first hand accounts of going beyond when a former or current superstar fell on difficult times.
I experienced a time when a real Iranian, the great “Iron Sheik” had one too many, and Vince McMahon intervened. You either go for rehab or the famed McMahon motto would be reality of “You’re Fired.” At the time, the Sheik and Hulk Hogan feud was contentious, generating a lot of revenue at the gate and on pay-per-view.
So here we are, many years later. The Vince McMahon era that was successful and nasty has come to an abrupt end. He would become this evil and ruthless character in the ring, eventually working himself into the script that added to his popularity.
I am sad to see him go. Millions of worldwide fans are sad to see him leave and under the circumstances that quickly changed the scope of WWE and the pro wrestling landscape.
So, you ask what will change? Days before the planned departure of McMahon, WWE “Monday Night RAW”, his longtime venture with the NBC owned USA Network, converted its television rating from TV-PG to TV-14.
Monday evening, at a sold out Madison Square Garden in New York City, a home for the WWE, there was a difference on the USA Network “Monday Night RAW” telecast. Creative control was different and there was an obvious change
The moves were different in the ring. Talent went more extreme with a superstar and a rose of red blood, because it was once red turns to green that always propelled ratings and made more revenue for the product.
Vince McMahon no longer had creative control or say with the final script. That was a change and “Triple H” his real life Son-In Law, well let’s say this was his type of brand.
Regardless, the Vince McMahon era and legacy he built for the WWE is over. There was the good and the bad. There was also the ugly that suddenly has changed the complexion of an always controversial pro wrestling industry.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 10pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.