World Wrestling Entertainment is the leading provider for sports entertainment in the world, entertaining millions for 50 years, turning pro wrestling into a global phenomenon in the process. However the famed Stamford, Conn.-based Corporation has been under fire recently from a good majority of its fans. In this day in age, fans have the power to voice their opinions, reactions and demands via social media. For almost three years, WWE has done a pretty solid job at making decisions appeasing the fans for the most part. Yet in the past year or so, WWE has diverged from its path and gone in a direction that seemingly ignores the voices of the millions. The question has now been posed, do the fans matter anymore?
Now it is obvious that the fans matter to the male and female gladiators who step into the ring night in and night out to entertain and win over hearts. It is a known fact that fans are the ones who decide whether you’re in or out. For years this has stood true in the examples of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley and, more recently, Daniel Bryan.
While Austin and Foley were given their opportunities to lead the company, Daniel Bryan seems to be disregarded despite his overwhelming popularity. Bryan was named WWE’s Superstar of the Year in 2013 by the fans in a landslide victory, and is clearly the most demanded superstar in the company. However, the corporate side of WWE doesn’t see things the same way as the fans do. Corporate doesn’t believe that Daniel Bryan is a big enough name to sell tickets as compared to John Cena, Batista or Randy Orton. This is a ridiculous claim to say the least, and the fans have been growing impatient with the WWE ignoring Daniel Bryan’s popularity. At the January pay-per-view, Royal Rumble, things came to a head.
Not only did Bryan not win the Rumble match (the biggest match of the year), he was left out of it in favor of the returning 45-year-old Batista, who had not competed in a match in over four years. This left fans aggravated and sent the Internet Wrestling Community, into a fury. Batista winning the Rumble was a scene that was much too familiar to the IWC and fans everywhere, as a similar scenario occurred at the 2013 Royal Rumble, regarding Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson ending Phil “CM Punk” Brooks’ 434-day reign as WWE Champion. This year, however, took the cake. The complaints weren’t only from the fans, but former wrestlers as well, such as Mick Foley. The situation would only get hotter when CM Punk walked out on the company the following night, before Raw went on the air.
The reason for Brooks’ departure remains unknown, but a majority of the IWC have supported him, just like in 2011 when he voiced his distaste for the company and left. Back then, his contract was legitimately expiring and they turned the real-life scenario between Brooks and the company, into a storyline which saw him leave with the WWE title in his hometown of Chicago. However this time things are different. Brooks simply left and hasn’t been heard from since. While WWE Owner Vince McMahon desperately wants to get Brooks to return, C.O.O. Paul “Triple H” Levesque doesn’t feel as adamant. Levesque isn’t favored by the IWC by any means. The job Levesque and his wife have done, not only regarding Brooks or Bryan, in general has been questioned and received much tension. Some reasons include the continuation of rivalries that fans are tired of and the burying of talented superstars such as Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger and Damian Sandow.
The truth is, no matter how upset the fans get, the WWE will always triumph its voices in decision-making. While the IWC claims it will “boycott” until certain changes are made, it will continue to discuss WWE, adding to its social relevance. It’s a battle that the WWE will seemingly always win. The WWE is a global presence that will continue to grow no matter what, but there is no denying that the fans are the most important factor in the WWE’s growth and success. It’s a love/hate relationship that has spanned 50 years but will always thrive, like Hogan in his prime.