Tuesday 6 November 2012

Linda 2012

Today is Linda McMahon’s big day. For the second time in her life Mrs McMahon has spent a significant amount of her own money in an attempt to become a senator for the United State of Connecticut. Her spending across both attempts is apparently close to hitting the $100million mark. Yes, that’s money made almost exclusively from the wrestling business.

The reason Linda’s yearning for a political career is relevant to WWE fans is obvious. Vince McMahon toned down his product to a PG rating from the mid-point of the last decade onwards. It was felt that cutting swearing, skimpy outfits, and heavy blade jobs would help to portray WWE as a more family friendly product. Such an approach was desirable as it was believed that less ammunition would become available for Linda’s political opponents.

The PG direction has led to WWE becoming a less controversial product and allowed the promotion to enter into sponsorship deals with companies that would not have associated with them a decade ago. It has also stopped new footage from the promotion placing Linda in a compromising position. The switch has achieved its two main goals.
Senator... Palpatine?
Unfortunately for Linda questionable footage from the company’s past remains. Many clips still exist that can (and have) cause(d) Linda embarrassment. Top of the list are scenes of her son-in-law simulating sex with a corpse and her husband making a grown woman bark like a dog. Her decision to run in 2010 was silly: she had been WWE’s CEO throughout its lewd era. She is just as accountable as anybody else who worked in a position of power (or who appeared on screen) during that time for the company’s TV output.

I’m not knocking the WWE product pre-PG Era. For that matter I’m not knocking the PG Era itself. Both proved successful for the company. I think their company’s finances over the last several years prove that toning things down when they did was the right move.

I’m not sure it’s still the right direction for the company though. TV ratings have been steadily decreasing over the last several months. Pay-per-view buy rates have been falling for longer. These trends cannot be attributed to any one thing but the creative direction of the company certainly isn’t helping. Most fans agree that a fresh direction is needed for WWE to see its fortunes change. John Cena is said to have confronted Vince McMahon on this subject behind the scenes at RAW a few weeks ago, so it’s clear that the problem is an issue for those within the company as well as those outsiders.

Getting rid of the PG rating is one very effective solution to the problem.

Should Linda win this is not going to happen. WWE will want to stay as clean as possible to avoid any potential trouble for her. The chances of this happening don’t seem great though. The New York Times has given her just an eight per cent chance of winning. Those aren’t good odds.

Vince and Linda have a lot of money but will they be prepared to finance a third attempt if Linda is unsuccessful this year? It’s not impossible (Vince is notoriously unpredictable and bloody-minded) but I wouldn’t say it’s likely. Should Linda lose again the smart thing to do would be to accept defeat gracefully and give up on the idea forever. Spending a further $50million in 2014 would seem a bad move if Linda has lost twice in the previous four years.

I don’t think that a return to the ideals of the Attitude Era is the right direction to take either. As enjoyable as it was it was of its time and, more importantly, it’s been done. It would feel like a shoddy reproduction in 2012. Giving talent more leeway and reintroducing the occasional juice job or bit of profanity could be just what is needed though. If Linda loses there’s a chance that will happen.

The current WWE product is stale. If it’s not changed then the McMahons may be unable to afford a third run at a Senatorial seat in two years’ time, whether they want to make it or not.

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