So what did that Tweet from Vince McMahon mean, the one where he said “E is for Entertainment” above a gif of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon dancing goofily with The New Day on Raw?My first thought was that he got a kick out of it, thought it was entertaining, and decided as one of his handful of infrequent monthly Tweets, to point out that this is part of the WWE product that brings smiles to people’s faces. Vince has used that phrase for decades – that WWE “is all about bringing smiles to people’s faces.” I’m not sure if it pre-dates their early-1990s corporate mantra during the scandal years that then WWF public relations head Steve Planamenta repeated over and over to me and other media members that “WWE is wholesome family entertainment.” Both of them represent McMahon’s mission to let everyone know that he’s not a “pro ‘rasslin'” promoter like those old regional promoters in those smoke filled buildings before the mid-1980s. He’s not a con man presenting fake fights as real fights. He’s an entertainer who brings smiles to people’s faces with wholesome family knee-slappin’ fun “entertainment.”
Of course, if it were “just that,” it’s frustrating because the actual matches WWE builds around should be considered part of what’s “entertaining” also. This idea of labelling The Authority dancing with The New Day as “Entertainment” suggests that “Wrestling” is something other than “Entertainment.” As if WWE stand for “World of Wrestling and Entertainment.” Like McDonalds is home to “Hamburgers and French Fries.” But imagine if McDonald’s advertised that they were home to “Hamburgers and Food,” which indicates that they don’t consider their hamburgers to actually be “food.” You have to believe in the core of what your chosen business sells or else you shouldn’t be in that business.
I’ve heard many people say that you “need entertainment mixed in with the wrestling matches to keep people engaged.” That approach has contributed to the demise of wrestling companies over the years because any promotion that thinks wrestling isn’t ultimately the most entertaining aspect of the business they are involved in is doomed to fail. You can’t succeed as a pro wrestling company if you don’t think pro wrestling is entertaining any more than a fast food chain can succeed if it markets its top selling item as something other than food.
He might also have Tweeted it because he thinks black people dancing is entertaining, just like he thought R-Truth joking gregariously about shoplifting and being a bad student was entertaining, and The Godfather saying “pimping ain’t easy” was entertaining, and naming a team of two black men Cryme Tyme was entertaining, and on and on.
He also might have been sending a message to detractors within the company that it was a good idea to have two (most often) heel authority figures smiling and dancing with a popular tag team act who lately are getting more and more cheers for their over-the-top cheerfulness and exuberance no matter what comes their way. Perhaps that person was Triple H, who did not look the least bit enthusiastic or engaged in that segment. And for good reason. I’ve been told there are times Triple H has entered Vince McMahon’s office with his chest puffed out ready to make his case for or against something, and walks out looking frustrated and beaten down. Maybe this is one of those situations where he disagreed with Vince, and Vince wanted to establish who still runs the place.
When the “entertainment” you present completely contradicts the constitution of the character you are featuring in that situation, your “entertainment” becomes counter-productive. Talking sense into Vince McMahon, a 70 year old one-time billionaire (who is still filthy rich) who is going to do what he finds fun at every opportunity regardless of its merits in regards to the health of his company because he is convinced those two are one in the same (or close enough to not matter), is a losing battle. As multiple ex-WWE writers have told me on the PWTorch Livecast in recent years, the job of being a WWE creative team member is to write for an audience of one – Vince McMahon. Your job isn’t to draw ratings or get wrestlers over or sell tickets. Your job is to entertain Vince McMahon. So if someone behind the scenes disputed the wisdom of having Triple H and Stephane dance with New Day, choosing to show that gif as one of his infrequent Tweets sent a message that he’s the boss and what he said worked because, dammit, “E is for Entertainment!
Maybe it was all of the above. The fact that one of his infrequent Tweets highlighted that moment on Raw and included the stamp that it was “Entertaining” says something, though, and I think it’s a window into an attitude and vision that is hurting WWE.
NOTE: Bruce Mitchell & I discussed this on the 94 minute VIP Bruce Mitchell Audio Show posted earlier this weekend. Bruce Mitchell & Travis Byrant discussed this on Friday’s PWTorch Livecast, also.
(Wade Keller has published the Pro Wrestling Torch Weekly Newsletter since 1987. He is a frequent guest analyst on the Steve Austin Show. He hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series in the 2000s. He hosted the Pro Wrestling Focus radio show in the early 1990s, all of which are available to VIP members to download or stream from the PWTorch VIP website archives. He has interviewed some of pro wrestling history’s biggest names in their longest-ever insider style interviews including Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Vince McMahon, Lou Thesz, Jerry Lawler, Jake Roberts, and dozens of others over the last 28 years covering pro wrestling. He can be heard every day on the VIP Keller Hotline analyzing the latest news, reviewing Raw, and answering VIP member questions. He also hosts the PWTorch Livecast every Tuesday and Thursday at www.PWTorchLivecast.com. He is a National Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame Journalist, Class of 2015.)