Anyone who consider themselves a hardcore wrestling fan has been asking this question for years now, really since the PG “Let’s go Cena! CENA SUCKS!!!” era began. Per Dave Meltzer on Wrestling Observer Radio talking about Eva Marie’s return to Monday Night RAW, this really does sum up WWE in a nutshell right now because they truly thought Eva Marie of all people would get a babyface pop upon her return to TV. Here’s an excerpt from Meltzer on his show:
“It’s like, you can never predict the audience, no matter how smart you are. And WWE.. you know, sometimes they can and sometimes they can’t, especially now. But this one? This one was a no-brainer. And the idea that they didn’t figure it out.. This was one where I was really surprised how they didn’t figure this out. This was an easy one. It is the typical WWE, they’re trying to go right, but they can’t help themselves from going left. They think that she (Eva) is so hot that everyone is going to like her. It didn’t work in NXT and it obviously didn’t work tonight. People have so much access to photos of hot women, that being a hot woman who can’t wrestle it doesn’t mean shit anymore. There was a time when it did with Tammy Sytch and Sable. But times change. If Braun Strowman showed up in the Hogan era, they could have done Wrestlemania with him and match would have sucked, but they would have drawn big money.”
What Dave Meltzer says is so key here. WWE for some reason can’t shake off the fact that the majority of wrestling fans no longer care about the looks of the performers, so long as they can wrestle a good match in the ring. The extremely high quality of the independent circuit is large and part the reason for that, along with other major promotions like New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, Lucha Underground and EVOLVE, wrestling fans are becoming more accustomed to higher athleticism, crazier moves, unique characters and an overall better product in the ring. WWE however is still stuck in this early 90s philosophy that the most important thing is having hot girls, jacked up guys and tall monsters. But if they cannot wrestle at an even decent quality, they will not get over very well with the core fanbase that anyone with half a brain can figure out WWE is ignoring.
It’s comical to me that WWE is operating under the presumption that their current product will get over with the fans. There’s some truth to that but the problem is the fans that they are getting over with are the fans that honestly don’t really matter much in the scheme of things. The crowd WWE is marketing to is obviously kids and women. Well to quickly debunk that, it’s very apparent to me that you’ll never be able to get wrestling over with middle-aged women unless they were fans as kids, so marketing to the 30-54 female crowd is absolutely pointless. Keep Total Divas, I really don’t care, it can be its own separate entity and it’ll be fine, but it doesn’t need to spill into the main product like Brie Bella having a match with Summer Rae on RAW because of a verbal disagreement because of scooters (not fucking joking). As for the kids, let’s be honest here, kids will cheer for anyone if they win a lot. Are they really cheering for John Cena and Roman Reigns because they think they’re cool, no they think they’re cool because they win all the time. If Zack Ryder won 90% of his matches, they’d cheer for him too.
The proof is in the numbers. Taking from a WWE-official release showing their viewership in 2014, only 33% of their viewers are female and only 21% are under the age of 18. Their core demographic by the numbers are male and over the age over 50, being the highest at 35%, while 18-34 make up 23% and the final 21% are 35-49. And as we all know, once you get to a certain age, especially past 18, you don’t want to be partaking in content geared to children because quite frankly, it’s boring, repetitive and just plain shit. And when these (mainly men) fans get older and they see the product evolve everywhere except the company that’s supposed to be the best of them all, of course it pisses them off.
One could argue that if the product is geared towards children, the adult audience should be taking a step back and understanding that the product isn’t for them. But here’s the problem with that argument: The wrestling audience in WWE has always been at best a 25% child audience. Do the math, at all times during WWE’s history, the overwhelming majority of their fanbase are adults. Should you not be concentrating the most on your main demographic? That’s pretty standard business practices and you don’t need a degree in business to figure that out. And the idea that parents will pay exorbitant amounts of money for their kids on WWE merchandise is a pipe dream. They’ll buy for a couple years and then their kid will get bored, as kids always do and then the money train stops. These 50+ old fans, they’ve been around for 30+ years and often have more disposable income. To ignore them is just plain stupid.
It’s become blatantly obvious that Vince McMahon and the yes-men underneath him have completely lost touch with their fanbase. They might be turning a profit, but they could be making so much more money if they built a higher quality product, not a “better looking” product that’s PC and caters to everyone. WWE, the sport of professional wrestling will never be for everyone, the Austin-era is the closest you’ll ever get to wrestling being popular in the general public.
The level-headed of the hardcore fans understand that you want to include everyone and that’s an admirable goal to have, no one’s denying that. But if your core fanbase isn’t behind what you’re doing, you’re doing it wrong. Get your core fanbase back into the product at full-speed and then try to slowly slip in things to attract outside viewers, see what works, see what the core fanbase immediately is against. Find that balance, because the “balance” that you’re running right now is so lopsided I’m surprised your children and women fanbase aren’t drowning in the metaphorical ocean.
And to finish off with where we started, how did you possibly believe Eva Marie would get cheered, WWE?! NXT is not its own fanbase, it’s the core fanbase only at these events, they also happen to go to the main shows too, y’know. Eva Marie is pretty, let’s not deny her that (though the pounds of makeup help her a lot), but she’s been in the company for 4 years now and is still a worse wrestler than some of the newest talent in the performance center right now. Hell, I think the Tough Enough girls can give her a run for her money. Your core fanbase isn’t just into hot girls anymore, WWE. Take a look at Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks. They’re absolutely stunning women, but they’re also the best at their craft. Trish and Lita were the same way, they were hot women and the best female wrestlers on TV, that’s why they worked so well. Just being sexy isn’t going to work anymore, it’s why guys like Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman aren’t working out either, just looking big and strong or big and scary isn’t enough anymore. You have to be good in the ring as well, it’s why guys like Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose and likely Finn Balor will be when he’s called up, fans love those characters not because they’re cool, but because they’re cool and can wrestle circles around people.
Figure it out, WWE. It’s obvious this WrestleMania will be a bad one for you, the boos will be loud and clear. Make this the last year you guys run into this issue. It’s not hard to solve the problem when a bunch of idiot wrestling fans like me can figure it out.