Last week, WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley took to Facebook to express his continued anger and disappointment with WWE’s product, saying he is “one of those people on the verge of becoming a former WWE fan.”
The comments caused an intense discussion across the Internet. Ratings are at a 20-year low and things don’t seem to be changing any time soon, but WWE makes a lot of money. Former WWE Champions are threatening to turn their back on the show out of boredom and frustration, but nearly every wrestler competing on the independents wants to end up there. What’s the answer? Is it just different perspectives? Different priorities? An entertainment product changing with the times and leaving the people with old reasons to love it behind?
Foley continued his comments in a Facebook post on Monday, saying that the November 30 edition of Raw could be his last as a WWE fan. The major reason? WWE snuffing out a performer’s ability to try, create, and “go down swinging” if something doesn’t work.
FINAL RAW FOR FOLEY?
WWE is at a real crossroads. Allow me to paraphrase Albert Einstein, who said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results”. Wrestling historians can argue about when the #AttitudeEra in wrestling officially began. But for me, it will always be at a meeting called by Mr McMahon in the Spring of 1997, where he admitted that what had worked for them for so long in the past (I interpreted that to mean one-dimensional characters that tended to be job-related) was no longer working, and that if they were going to survive, the wrestlers themselves were going to have to step up, and help create those dimensions that would establish the emotional bond between the wrestlers and the fans – part of the lifeblood of professional wrestling.
Today’s WWE Superstars (I’m including the women here, since the term “Diva” had its time, and that time is done) are at a distinct disadvantage in some ways. They can’t flip birds, and use the colorful language. They can’t bleed – even when the situation seems ripe for it. Man, Roman Reigns’s life would be so much easier if he could survive vicious assaults the way guys in my era did. But all the blood, the language and the violence paled in comparison to the real secret weapon of the Attitude Era; the FREEDOM TO CREATE…THE FREEDOM TO TRY…THE FREEDOM TO FAIL – the idea that going down swinging (I hope I’m not losing you guys in all the non-baseball playing countries) was almost as important as hitting the ball out of the park – as long as you took your best swings. There’s a difference between playing to win, and playing not to lose: one breeds confidence, the other breeds fear.It’s the difference between cutting the type of promos Stone Cold Steve Austin and Dwayne The Rock Johnson gave, and the cookie-cutter approach all too often employed these days by WWE creative. One style allowed for creativity and emotion. The other calls for memorization and recitation.
I hope I don’t sound like I’m picking on WWE. There is a big part of me that loves this company, and always will. Why else would I be up at 4:15 am, writing things that are likely to banish me deeper and deeper into the WWE doghouse? One of my favorite wrestlers proposed a storyline that would allow me a four of five week storyline that would allow me to dig in deep, and swing for the fences – and in the process, maybe advance a few of the super-talented but underutilized athletes on the roster. I would love to do it….but I doubt it’s going to happen. After all, I might want to do something crazy like go out there without a script, and try to create some real emotion – in other words, the type of thing that saved WWE in the late 90’s.
The talent pool has never been deeper. But the creative flow is stagnant…and it’s been stinking for a while. I quoted Einstein to begin this thing. Let me conclude with the immortal words of Owen Heart: “Enough’s enough: it’s time for a change!”
In the comments of that same post, Foley explained that he’s not just screaming into the abyss … he’s offered to work for WWE for free to make the show better.
It’s frustrating. I live 90 minutes from WWE headquarters (less without traffic). They know I’ve offered to come in, for free, and give them my honest opinions. I have nothing to lose by telling them the truth. I don’t work for them. If they don’t like what I have to say, I get in my car and drive home. No big deal. But at least they get a different perspective.
If nothing else, WWE should jump on Mick’s natural ability to cut a believable promo and have him teach people to say what they feel on the fly, instead of lurching through pre-written speeches about “sufferin’ succotash” and bad breath. Regardless, let’s hope tonight’s Raw — featuring Roman Reigns as he prepares to face Sheamus in a TLC match at, well, TLC — keeps Foley watching.