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July 2018: Does WWE Listen to Their Fans? Does it Matter?


Wrestling is fake. Okay? There, I said it. But what makes pro wrestling so unique is the fan interaction aspect of the genre. But how much influence do the fans actually have on the creative direction of the WWE or the overall direction of the company? Does the WWE listen to their fans? Should they listen to the fans?


Just last Monday on RAW, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon proudly boasted about how much progress the WWE Women’s division has made over the past few years. Stephanie claimed that it was because of the #GiveDivasAChance on social media that WWE started listening to their fan base, launching the “women’s revolution” in WWE that has now led to the creation of “Evolution”, the first ever all-women's WWE pay-per-view.

I don’t doubt that the “WWE Universe” or just society in general, is becoming more sensitive to the equal treatment of women. I also don’t doubt that society is more and more interested in female athletes. I for one am a lot more interested in watching the WWE Women’s division than the men’s and I’m also more interested in watching women’s kickboxing and MMA than I am in watching the men fight. However, I’m not completely convinced that the women’s revolution was started in response to a Twitter trend.


The whole fiasco of the Greatest Royal Rumble PPV was probably proof that all of this was just lip service. Obviously the WWE is a business and not a civil rights organization, so they decided to bite the bullet and deal with fans condemnation of their hypocrisy by taking the cash grab from a nation like Saudi Arabia that is perhaps the most oppressive country in the world towards women. The Greatest Royal Rumble could have ended up pocketing the WWE over an estimated £100,000,000.

Will this obviously sexist business decision be something that fans will forgive and eventually forget after getting so pumped up about the women’s revolution?

I'm Back, Brother

One thing that fans have obviously not forgotten about is Hogan’s racist remarks that got him canned in 2015. WWE has always had an on-again, off-again relationship with the man who spearheaded the company in the 1980’s. Hogan was unwittingly recorded making racist remarks in which he refers to himself being “… racist to a point” and using the “N-word” several times.

WWE is kind of in a catch 22 with welcoming back Hogan. On the one hand, it shows that they are a forgiving company willing to give people a second chance, but on the other hand, WWE prides itself as a company that is accepting of anyone regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or anything else. As such, it seems strange to welcome back a man who they fired for being a racist and a sexual deviant.

As of now, the WWE icon's fans and peers alike seem divided on his return. While some have been welcoming and jubilant of his reinstatement, others have been extremely vocal on their distain for Hogan’s remarks.

Brock vs. Roman … Again

While Triple H and Stephanie claim to have had their eyes and ears wide open when the people demanded a women’s revolution, it seems that they are completely oblivious to how the fans feel about Roman Reigns. From what I can tell, this is not just simply a case of giving the fans some time to warm up to him. It’s not going to happen. At this point there doesn’t seem to be anything left the WWE can possibly do to adore him to the audience.

Let’s face it, at this point Roman Reigns, since splitting up from The Shield, has already main-evented WrestleMania four years in a row, won the Royal Rumble, won a 16-man tournament for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, been a grand slam champion and been given the on-screen seal of approval by just about every major superstar in WWE.


What else is left for Roman Reigns to accomplish? What more could he do to finally gain the fans interest and respect? Who is left for him to work with? Well, maybe if he wrestles Brock Lesnar one more time, it will work. That’s exactly what’s going to happen at SummerSlam this year.

Does It Matter?

Will fans stop watching WWE if they don’t get what they want? Will they stop renewing their WWE Network subscriptions? Will they stop buying t-shirts and posters? Will they stop playing WWE video games? Will they stop watching RAW and Smackdown?


There have been a few instances where fans have seemed pushed to the breaking point, like during the last few Royal Rumbles where they basically booed Roman Reigns out of the building or even at Backlash earlier this year when a number of fans evidently walked out of the main event, which was Reigns vs. Samoa Joe.

However, WWE recently released their revenue for the second quarter and it shows strong financial growth for the company. You can’t argue with success. Making $281.6 million in three months ain’t too shabby.


An Independent Uprising

On the other hand, independent wrestling has been on a massive upswing for the past several years. This may be in part due to the fact that some fans are looking for alternatives to the only real major wrestling organization after the fall of WCW and ECW. The Bullet Club t-shirt has been one of the business' biggest merchandise sellers, the UK wrestling scene has been on fire and has spawned a plethora of top talent and most recently Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks have sold out a 10,000 seat arena in a matter of a few minutes of tickets being put on sale for their upcoming event “All In”. Chris Jericho has also been a one-man self-promotional machine, headlining the Tokyo Dome for New Japan Pro Wrestling in front of over 40,000 people, not to mention his forthcoming wrestling and entertainment event on board a cruise ship.

Does this have WWE sweating? At the very least it has raised a few eyebrows. At this point, I think fans watch WWE because it’s there, not because they have an insatiable passion for it. So as long as the WWE can keep their fan base magnanimous and reasonably receptive to what they are doing, business is going to be okay. The independents won’t cut in too much on what they are doing. If you look at WrestleMania, the indies are still riding the coattails of WWE and not the other way around.


Vince Knows Best

At the end of the day, I think that WWE is aware that the fans want to influence the product. They know there is a very vocal group of fans that sometimes show up to their bigger shows and make themselves known. They know that there are always going to be people, sometimes even large numbers of people, who are not going to be satisfied about what’s being presented on television. But the fans themselves are not the only ones that need to be satisfied in order for WWE to have a successful business. There are also sponsors, share holders, charity organizations, foreign investors, television stations and many other non-fans who also need to be satiated.

Taking all of this into consideration, I think that whether or not the WWE is actually listening to what the fans want, is almost irrelevant. Vince McMahon is someone who, 34 years ago, took a regional wrestling promotion and turned it into a global sports-entertainment juggernaut. His decisions on who to push or who not to push do not always affect the overall success of the company. It turns our that what Mr. McMahon said is actually true:



- Daniel Austin (Don Roid) (blog) (podcast)





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