Let me jump ahead here to be clear: I wasn’t in a place financially to allow the indulgence of AEW’s “Double or Nothing” pay-per-view. And whatever leaked dirt-sheet reports from the smarks bellowing on how amazing it was preceded this article or my decision to no longer contribute to the WWE Network subscriber base. Cool? Cool.
There’s a large part of me that wants to write directly to the smark community right now. To drop all traditional pretense to mansplain in the nicest way possible, the brief history and factual evidence that led my decision and what built this article in the first place. I want to set it aside so I can fill my column inches with pure vitriol and spite.
But I’m older, wiser, and the bitterness isn’t such that I need to level a rant that sadistic anymore. Because while I freely admit I hate-canceled my WWE Network subscription… it was done with a whimper and a sigh. Let me tell you all a tale.
I missed the Money in the Bank pay-per-view due to some day-job travel that otherwise kept me occupied. As it stood, 90% of the card was filler. The only real reason I had interest in the event were the titular MITB matches themselves. And with that, I made the mature decision to just tune in to Monday Night RAW the day after and just accept the results and carry on with the storylines.
And then Brock Lesnar came out with his boombox briefcase, with an ear-to-ear smile.
Look. I get it. Nuclear heat is a thing. One of my personal favorite moments in the last five years was Roman Reigns getting fumed at for 7 minutes post-RAW-After-Mania to which he casually replied “this is my yard now” and the entire arena had an aneurysm. Of course, McMahon never used that correctly to fully heel-turn Roman, and that stagnated his career until he pushed the heat onto Leukemia. But I digress.
7 WWE superstars tossed one another into ladders, tables, chairs, and concrete for twenty-something minutes… all to have Brock “Raptor Scream” Lesnar casually clomp down to the ring, and collect his prize. Win-Lose-or-Draw from here… This was a nail in the coffin for my present fandom of World Wrestling Entertainment. Put a pin in that.
Because no sooner than my ire was near boiling did the WWE cut to a commercial break. And before I could learn how it feels to chew 5 Gum, or learn about Mountain Dew Supernova… I saw an ad for WWE’s Super Showdown in Jeddah. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, that is. You know. The country that forked over hundreds of millions of dollars to showcase their new progressive agenda as a nation. By importing Vince McMahon’s sideshow — save of course for the growing list of talent who refuse to perform in that country — and giving us a showcase that (per the commercial) would “Rival Wrestlemania!”
And with that hyperbole, I clicked over to my WWE Network subscription page, and walked myself through the 7 screens it took to declare my subscription — one that began literally 3 weeks after the Network was open to subscribers — and canceled it dead.
The one-two punch of Brock Lesnar being handed one of the most potent story-telling devices the company has had in its pocket in the very sparse storytelling landscape that is modern-day WWE programming… paired with this declaration and support of the Super Showdown was enough to prove to me that Vince McMahon isn’t losing his faculties. No. He lost them fully, and I’m no longer willing to give him the benefit of doubt. The product of the WWE truly is now in the hands of stock-owners, and those holding the purse strings. And those folks clearly no longer understand the changing environment of the business. This is New Era WWF all over again. The dark days before the birth of The Attitude Era. Except this time, the NWO is actually young, controlling the book, and clearly isn’t finger-poking their way into prominence.
Let me dissect this a bit.
The Money In the Bank briefcase plot-device grants any would-be wielder the ability to demand a title match (either for RAW’s ‘Universal’ Championship, or Smackdown’s ‘WWE Championship’) any time, any place, anywhere. Since its birth, the briefcase cash-in has (more often than not) led to a very amusing chase-and-payoff. With many memorable endings (“The heist of the century!” comes to mind) to rest on its heels. The match and winners often wind up being those would-be glass-ceiling nippers… all awaiting that final push into the top of the card. It is to the WWE what the Intercontinental belt used to be. The perfect stepping stone for a white-meat babyface, or a dastardly device under the employ of a hateful heel. With ‘The Beast Incarnate’ now in possession of the briefcase though… we’re being given the absolute worst-case scenario of the titular prize.
If Brock uses his cash-in successfully… he once-again becomes a part-time champion behind a full-time mouthpiece. A regular staple championship now becomes a prize to be fought over at the leisure of South Dakota’s favorite son. Or, should he lose the cash-in? Well, then 7 superstars will have wrecked their bodies all for a moot point to be made about Lesnar’s ability to draw ticket sales and PPV buys. Spoiler alert? There’s a reason everyone was fine with Lesnar taking a Beast-Slayer nut shot and dropping his cherry strap to Seth Rollins in under 8 minutes at this year’s Wrestlemania. And it’s that same reason giving him the big green briefcase was a slap in the face to the dedicated fanbase truly wanting to see the rise of the next generation of stars to be given the clout of A-Storylines and plots. Instead, we’re being treated to the safe and sanitary same ole’ shit we’ve been eye-rolling over now since Lesnar’s then-actually-eye-catching brutal beatdown of now-part-timer-too John Cena in 2012.
To pile on to that heaping helping of oh lord why, the continued support of Saudi Arabia declaring its prominence somehow equals the largest wrestling event of the year (full stop.) is simply laughable. Any fan worth their salt sees it for what it truly is: A cash grab that casually puffs up a house show to look good for his royal highness. Our main event for this would-be mania? A completely story-less Goldberg facing the Undertaker. Why? Because MBS decreed it. Oh, and Randy Orton vs. HHH will fill the card alongside Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston — a match we’ve not seen in years, but literally happened 1,975,928 times on free TV. This super show, I should add, prevents the women of the WWE from performing. A show that sees active protests from the roster for attending including Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan, and more. For this I should part ways with 10 dollars a month?
I know there’s a counter argument here. That $10 a month for the NXT programming, NXT UK, 205 Live, and sundry archival events deliver the WWE product I truly crave. But the WWE only knows Marc Alan Fishman’s vote one way. And it’s to the tune of $9.99 auto-deducted from my PayPal. As DC’s Bob Wayne used to say… “You vote with your dollars.” And frankly? This is my vote until things improve.
At the beginning of the year, the McMahon family stood soberly in the center of their ring to admit that they knew things weren’t going the way they wanted. They promised that the fans would have a voice. That those we clamored for would be given their opportunities. That we were about to see the changing of the product to match the demand of the fickle fans. In the wake of that announcement, we’ve been given:
Sasha Banks and Bayley’s WWE Women’s Tag Team Title reign end after too short a run. The Revival made the literal butt of jokes — forced to scoot on the ring apron like dogs with worms. The triumphant Becky Two Belts become Becky One Belt By Way of Shenanigans. The wasting of talent like Shinsuke Nakamura, Rusev, Andrade, Ali, and more. The debut of the ugliest title belt since the Hardcore Title — gifting us with worthless dated comedy bits where curtain jerkers chase one another for literally any TV time. Wasting of repackaging like Mojo Rawley. And literally punishing unused talent from seeking success elsewhere, like Luke Harper (and Pac before him).
I am tired of it. And with the rise of counter programming like All Elite Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and more? I no longer feel it necessary to subscribe to a sub-par program. WWE will always remain the “top” of the mountain. But for now… the apex has no view worth seeking. I’ll gladly save my money for a better Sherpa… then, now, and until Vince McMahon just dies.