Tuesday, April 3, 2007

I believe in McMahonism

I thoroughly enjoyed the McMahon video that we watched last night, even though parts of it were vague and confusing. If the purpose of watching this video is to learn to differentiate between Vince and his onscreen character, I wouldn't recommend watching it. The distinction is never really made, and all you get are different opinions on what his family and employees think. And even they can't agree at times, so who's to say? We've heard that the most successful characters are those who are just themselves with the "volume turned up," and that seems to define Vince perfectly.

Most old-timers slam on him a lot for changing the name of the game that is wrestling, but my own opinion is that he does what he has to do to protect his business. He innovated and fought it out with WCW to remain standing in the end. Isn't that the American way? Isn't ruthless competition something you have to have if you want to be successful in a ruthless and cutthroat business world? Vince has an ego, sure, but who doesn't? One need look no further to Donald Trump to see that having an ego comes with the package. Vince had it, and he had ambition and a vision that no one else in his time had. Yes, at times he strays from what he should and he has quirky, if not creepy storyline ideas.

But the thing with Vince is that he'll do anything to have his company succeed. If you need proof, that sick landing on the table in the cage match with Austin should suffice. I agree with Austin - there was zero need for Vince to do that, and I think it makes it so much easier to work for him and take those kinds of risks for him because you know he'd do it too. There aren't many sixty-year-old guys who will take a ladder in the face by Shawn Michaels and get put through a table, except for maybe Ric Flair when he gets there. Vince did what he had to do, and if no one else was ready to compete with him, that doesn't come back to him. He did what any successful businessman would do these days - he competed, and he won. Yes, he pissed a lot of people off, but at the end of the day, he definitely got the last laugh.


Joshua Shea said...

1) He has a huge ego and sense of self-worth.
2) His tastes and humor mirror that of most 13-year-old boys.

Okay, now that we've got beyond two character traits most would see as negatives, you're not going to find a whole lot else when it comes to being one of the smartest businessmen of the last half of the 20th Century. Anybody who can take an idea, next to no money, and turn it into a billion-dollar, publicly traded company.

It wasn't until I was watching Entertainment Tonight just before Wrestlemania that I found out the big guy in the salmon and canary suits was more than just the commentator. I think it actually caused me to watch it differently, knowing that the guy who couldn't quit saying "What a maneuver!" when he didn't know the name of the move, owned the whole thing.

Now, his face and name are synonymous with the WWE, as much so as Hulk Hogan, Austin and The Rock. Unlike them though, he will never leave for greener pastures, which is all the more reason to remain as a public visible face.

As much as I love Ric Flair, I might push it and say that Vince McMahon was a better wrestler at 58 than Flair currently is. Compare their bodies and you'll see what a life of partying after the matches does vs. sticking to business and keeping your bdy in shape. Vince could pass for 50. Losing the hair makes him look even younger. I don't think he should wrestle though. That's what the wrestlers are for. I wouldn't respect by boss at Burger King more if he came to make fries. I'd just wonder why he was doing that when there was more important stuff to do.

I do want to see Vince succeed at something besides wrestling before his time is done. While we applaud his risk taking, what has he done that didn't involve wrestling? His bodybuilding group folded, the XFL folded and he hasn't produced a successful movie yet. I don't think the WWE stock is ever going to rise above it's opening day price unless he succeeds in something else.

If Vince were to die tomorrow, how would the landscape of the WWE change? It's interesting to consider from both a business and creative point of view.

Luis Tenorio said...

I really think Vince has innovated in the business and taken it into new directions. The idea of acknowledging that this was entertainment did not make him many friends within the business but I think the fans responded positively. Vince put it best, people did not like having their intelligence insulted. The fans knew they were a part of the story as much as anyone else and Vince let them know they were appreciated for that.
Yeah, the old promoters do seem to still be angry at Vince because of what he did. But it was business. They were not business men and did not know how to compete. They were ex-wrestlers who thought their bubble would always be protected. What I think is the biggest proof that Vince was not wrong in expanding the business is that he was able to take what he dished out. Surviving the war with WCW should have showed those old promoters that if you were a promoter first, you would survive.
I do think that Vince should be appreciated for his willingness to do anything for the business, even though sometimes if might be going a little too far. I read about that incest angle, not a great idea. But look at what he has done. THat first cage match with Austin at St Valentine's Day Massacre shows how much punishment he is willing to take. Having his head buried in large asses like Rikishi's and the Big Show's also give him that kind of military commander attitude: "I will not have my men do something I would not be willing to do myself." And recently having his head shaved, it shows he is still dedicated to the business and always will be.
As for what Joshua brings up, yeah, it would be hard to think of a WWE without Vince McMahon. I think the only one who could fill his shoes is Shane McMahon. He seems to be willing to put his body on the line as much as anyone and the fans boo him almost as much as Mr McMahon. Triple H will be getting into that position of being part of what runs that company but I think he will have the role Ric Flair does but at a grander scale.

Anonymous said...

Vince is an innovator and has accomplished more than anyone else in wrestling, becoming the be-all and end-all, which is great. But I think some of his critics are right when they say that this consolidation of the industry is not exactly good for wrestling overall, as there are so few independent territories for the wrestlers to learn their craft and practice in front of crowds, before they reach 'the Big Time', the WWE. Before, with all sorts of smaller companies all over the country competing with each other, wrestlers had to 'pay their dues' and work for years on the road, honing their skills until they grabbed the attention of the WWE, so that most of their talent back then were real road veterans, instead of green kids who have barely been in the ring for a year, as it seems nowadays. Hopefully some other company will rise up sometime and give Vince some rivalry, if only to give talent a chance to learn and experience outside the WWE mega-machine.

Omar said...

I definitely have to say it was entertaining to watch the McMahon video. All of his antics and wild stunts that he's pulled over the years have, at times, been really outrageous and, more often than not, really unnecessary (an ass-kissing club?).

Nevertheless, it is hard not to be entertained by McMahon's persona. And that is, after all, what he was after--entertainment. McMahon is in the business of entertainment, it's what he's been doing most of his life. He knows how to command heat among crowds and he's willing to try new things to keep his audience wanting more, almost as he does.

McMahon does come off as a jerk, but when it comes down to it, he is simply a businessman who does what he has to to make his product sell.

Sam Ford said...

Speaking of Vince as a performer, rumor has it Rey Misterio will be next in line for a big push on his return, and that it will be Vince/Rey at Summerslam, based on what Vince did to Rey on Smackdown a few weeks back.

As for Vince, I think that the issue is that the fans in general know his hangups so well because they've become so public: his sick sense of humor, his ego, his idea that bigger is better. On the other hand, the push he gives to guys like Rey and Eddie circumvent anyone who would think of Vince as racist, as never pushing smaller guys, etc.

If WWE really does want to go ahead with international expansion, it will be interested to see how this tempers the xenophobia wrestling has always played with, including Vince, since the WWE is already becoming a brand with as much or more international appeal than domestic.

But a lot of good comments here that we will further in our discussion this afternoon.

narwood said...

I concur that Vince is uber cool.

Carolina - There may have been zero need for Vince to take that fall, but there's never a NEED for anyone to do anything, short of eating, sleeping, and keeping warm. What should the breaking point be, and why does Vince seem to have a different perception than Austin and you do?

Joshua - Why do you want to see Vince succeed at something else? Just to push the WWE further? (Which is ironically the best motivation for Vince to do it, and yet also makes it not 'something else' but 'expansion.') And what might this be?

Luis - You're incautiously spouting generalizations as fact. But my question is: why do you believe that Vince has done everything for 'the business' rather than 'for himself' ?

Omar - Right on. But again, what do you mean by 'businessman?'

Joshua Shea said...

I want to see Vince succeed at something else because for all the idol worship we're throwing at him, he really never has, at least not on a grand scale.

I like the guy, I'm rooting for the guy, and I bet you anything in the world he knows he's conquered wrestling and wants something else.

I'm guessing whatever it is, he wants it to be on a national or international level and for it, and him, to be taken seriously, since he never has.

Anonymous said...

What Josh points out reminds me of the trifecta I always cite about Ted Turner, Vince and Eric Bischoff. I always saw Bischoff has someone who had a little bit of what Vince had, but really wanted to be Vince. I see Vince as someone who has a little of what Ted Turner has, but wants to be Ted. It explains his fascination with the guy (BTW, the "McMahon" DVD does not tell the whole Turner-McMahon story. Not that some of McMahon's gripes with Turner weren't legitimate but contrary to what Shane will tell you, the WWF on Saturday night on TBS was not a "huge success").

I think Vince does not get credit as an entreprenuer but as a "wrestling entrepreneur." And it (quite rightly, I would say) drives him crazy because no one calls Donald Trump a "real estate mogul." They just call him a mogul and leave him at that. It's as though many who credit McMahon still want to link him to the carnies even as they compliment him.

I'm not sure what type of venture Vince would need to drop the "just wrestling" stigma. In fact, I'm not sure anything would do.

David O'Hara said...

joshua - I love Flair too, and I don't think he should be wrestling full-time right now, if at all. But to say that McMahon is a better wrestler right now than Flair is a bad comparison based on what is expected of both men as performers and it also ignores history and each man's particular situation.

Sure, Flair's body shows his age, but do you really think Vince looks the way he does (once or twice a year without a shirt) naturally?! Flair, on the other hand, never took steroids. Furthermore, Flair wrestles a full-time road schedule; Vince wrestles a few times a year if that. And Flair has been wrestling full time for over thirty years. Vince only has a handful of actual wrestling matches under his belt that were spread out over a period of eight or nine years.

Moreover, I think peoples' expectations in general are for Flair to get in the ring and look/wrestle as well as he did in 1988, or at least recreate that greatness on a smaller scale. He has a very high ceiling as he is one of the greatest performers of all time. Vince was never a great technical in-ring performer so I don't think the expectations are nearly in the same league.

Also, you said, "I like the guy." Are you sure you watched that DVD? ;)