Today the wrestling world is in a state of celebration. No, not because Seth Rollins was able to snatch the WWE United States Championship away from John Cena; there’s celebration for the creative genius Vince McMahon’s birthday. On this truly red letter day for the wrestling world, I, a humble internet columnist, present Vincent Kennedy McMahon with a gift. The gift of an unpopular opinion: Vince McMahon isn’t out of touch, you (the internet fan) is out of touch.
Owning and operating a multi-million dollar company isn’t easy, especially when your fan base is completely fickle. Let’s take a look at some of the past examples of wrestlers that the fans couldn’t get enough of, at first, and then completely fell out of love with once WWE picked up on them.
The first name that comes to mind is Zack Ryder. Zack Ryder, for anyone who doesn’t know or forgot, is the guy who got himself over with the fans all on his own. When WWE wouldn’t give him time on any of their television programs, Ryder took to the internet with his own web-series “Z! True Long Island Story.” I remember watching most of the videos he put out. He was entertaining, he was funny, he was fresh and he was doing it all with a wink to the IWC (Internet Wrestling Community).
Despite the fact that, at the time, Ryder wasn’t who the WWE was looking to push; the fans’ collective voice would be heard: WE WANT RYDER! After some time, and some chants that would not be ignored, the WWE decided to give the fans what they asked for: Ryder got his push. At the July 2011 pay-per-view event TLC: Table, Ladders, and Chairs; Ryder was successful in capturing the United States Championship from then champion Dolph Ziggler. After presenting their fans with what they had been long clamoring for, the response WWE received was one of disinterest. The fans who had once chanted “WE WANT RYDER” from the start of the show to the end of it, now fell silent. Ryder would find himself relegated to the third tier shows and pre-shows after losing the United States title.
A far more recent fan favorite that would get tossed aside by the fans is Roman Reigns. Reigns and his two Shield brethren, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, at one time were some of the most well received talent on the card. Even when they were supposed to be the bad guys, the fans would go nuts whenever they’d triple Powerbomb someone they accused of injustice. Like with any faction, the countdown began to when the Shield would split up. It’s at that time that every fan starts to imagine who will explode into superstardom and who will get left behind. Growing in popularity amongst the fans was Reigns. He was the strong, cool silent type that let his actions speak for him. And those actions were simple yet powerful: A spear, and a Superman Punch.
At the 2014 Royal Rumble, Reigns entered in at the half-way point: entrant number 15. The crowd erupted as the muscle of the Shield made his way down towards the ring. Roman would go on to set the record for the most single match eliminations with 12, just eeking past Kane’s record of 11 eliminations set in 2001. The very next year, Roman Reigns would enter at number 19. This time around though, Reigns had his eyes set on something much bigger than the single match elimination record: winning the rumble. Sure enough, once he tossed Kane and Big Show (the other two final members of the Royal Rumble) over the top, he was met with a chorus of jeers and boos from the crowd. By virtue of winning the Royal Rumble, Reigns was awarded a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania 31 against Brock Lesnar. The popular opinion online was that Roman wasn’t anywhere near ready for the opportunity at the time.
The last example to present is probably the biggest. He’s a guy that was, at one point, one of the most well received wrestlers ever. He’s a guy that has pretty much done all there is to do in the WWE. He’s a guy that is now the most polarizing figure in all of wrestling. And his name is…
After an impressive debut victory against my personal all time favorite wrestler, Kurt Angle, Cena would sort of flounder on the SmackDown! brand. That is until on October 31, 2002 when he attended the Halloween party dressed as Vanilla Ice. This seemingly one off bit would go on to lead to John Cena’s heel turn and his biggest gimmick, which would eventually be evolved into the Cena we see today. During his heel run he would rap freestyles about his opponents that would be absolutely gobbled up by the audience. Cena eventually won the crowd over and started to get cheered. They demanded more and more of him. He would get his first championship opportunity against Brock Lesnar at Backlash 2003. Obviously he would come up short in his first championship match, but we know that wouldn’t always be the case.
No space has to be used here to go over the current fan reaction of John Cena. Cena has now been a part of the roster for 12 years, and it’s completely understandable that some people would be tired of seeing him on top. However, he is a huge draw for the company in merchandise alone; not even mentioning his cross media appeal. I can’t even begin to get into the fact that Cena is an absolute workhorse and is deserving of everything he’s ascertained in the WWE.
It’s easy to point the finger of blame at Vince McMahon, he sits atop the WWE Universe. However, people need to remember that when you point a finger at someone, three more point right back at you. The WWE has catered to their very wide and varied demographic, and was met with disinterest and clamoring for their next chosen “internet darling.” It’s impossible for them to keep up with the IWC’s constant changing of opinions. Seemingly overnight, the crowd can and has forgotten one wrestler in favor for another one.
Every single time Vince and Co. give us, the fans, what we say we want: it gets rejected. Vince is deemed out of touch because he has no idea what the fans of the modern era want. How can we expect him to know what we want, when WE don’t even know what we want?
Is Vince McMahon out of touch? NO! You are!
Feature Image Credit: Inquisitr.com