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This month marks the 25th Anniversary of Bruce Mitchell becoming a Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter columnist. No single person has influenced the editorial tone and direction of the Torch brand over the years than Bruce, who brought a hard-hitting, supremely well-informed, speak-truth-to-power approach to his writing. He went after sacred cows out of the gate, such as the beloved among “smart fans” (today’s “Internet fans” or “IWC,” I suppose) Eddie Gilbert and Jim Cornette. He also went hard after people in positions of authority and power who were abusing or misusing that power, or just not delivering a worthy product. He has also applauded and paid tribute to the greatest moments and movements in pro wrestling over the last 25 years, with a style of writing that has yet to be matched anywhere, I contend (despite Bill Simmons’s arrogant and uninformed contention last year that no one wrote at a high level about pro wrestling until his “Masked Man” columnist came along).
To celebrate and highlight Bruce’s stellar 25 years of influential and eloquent truth-telling about this fascinating industry, we’ll be featuring a single column from each of the last 25 years each of the first 25 days this month. His long-form columns were a pioneer approach to pro wrestling journalism, and the next 25 years you’ll experience a slice of what it is that has earned Bruce Mitchell widespread recognition within the industry over the years as being “Pro Wrestling’s Most Respected Columnist.” We began on Oct. 1st with his very first column, from Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter #89 (cover dated Oct. 5, 1990).
Today we feature his column from the May 28, 2014 edition of the Pro Wrestling Torch Weekly Newsletter (#1357) in which Mitchell wrote about WWE’s publicizing of their charitable efforts, and a new strategy post-NBCU TV deal being finalized.
NOTE: VIP members can access hundreds of Mitchell columns and audio shows instantly in the BRUCE MITCHELL LIBRARY here, part of the massive unmatched online archives of insider wrestling coverage from over the past 28 years.
ORIGINAL HEADLINE: “WWE and what decent people do ”
TORCH NEWSLETTER #1357
COVER DATE: May 28, 2014
One other thing WWE can do if they want to build a reputation as major league as NASCAR or soccer is act like decent people do when it comes to their charitable efforts. WWE has spent the last several years all-out pushing their own reputations as responsible corporate citizens as if that reputation was one of their main event Superstars. It was the wrong approach to take.
WWE needs to take a lesson from decent people everywhere when it comes to their charitable efforts. Shoving their charitable efforts down viewers’ and, more importantly, their hoped-for corporate partners’ throats goes against what decent people and rich people and big corporations have known for generations – you give back a little of what you have with a light touch.
WWE found out that their bevy of heavy-handed public service commercials lauding and congratulating themselves on what great public citizens they were didn’t do much to change their most important clientèle’s perceptions of them. NBCU and all the other cable networks that bid for WWE programming this contract cycle saw WWE not as major league sports entertainment, but as cheap programming with a sullied reputation.
Even Higher Heroes, Tribute to the Troops, Susan G. Koman Race For The Cure, Be a Star, Make-A-Wish, and Special Olympics pushed as hard as WWE knew how to push were no match for perception that years and years of low-rent vulgarity in all its aspects (and don’t be fooled by the end of the Attitude Era, in most folks’ eyes WWE is still vulgar), steroid/PED scandals, and wrestler deaths (and yes, Ultimate Warrior counts here) created. WWE didn’t get the contract their audience numbers warranted in comparison to the numbers of NASCAR and soccer, maybe even considering the demographics of those audiences.
Constantly exploiting John Cena’s visits with sick and dying Make-A-Wish children by showing footage with them on television crossed the lines of bad taste. Tying Cena’s record for Make-A-Wish visits with his on-air character went well past what any rich and famous celebrity has ever done with a charity (Jerry Lewis included.) Always putting WWE Superstars front and center in videos touting the charities, making WWE and their Superstars the real focus, leaves the viewers they want paying attention the most with one question:
Why is WWE trying so hard?
…And then they remembered the vulgarity, the PEDs, and the deaths.
WWE took the pro wrestling solution – hype, hype, hype – in getting over the idea that they turned respectable. They should have taken the long view. If they wanted to be seen as respectable, if they still want to be seen this way, they should handle their charity work the way the decent do – subtly and much more quietly.
WWE has to understand that they have to stay out of trouble for years and years (and as long as the leader of the company is appearing on the cover of Muscle and Fitness “Bigger and Better at 44,” those problems aren’t that far away) while they work slowly brick by brick to more quietly do their good works. WWE needs to do what decent people do – let other people discover the good you’re doing in the world.
It’ll take time, something that WWE has now that they are locked into their new NBCU contract, but letting John Cena do his work behind the scenes, letting local TV stations cover the Be a Star visits to local school (and being aware of their responsibility to their younger audience to not celebrate bullies in their storylines but give them their comeuppance), pick one cause at a time to support on-air, and make the charity the focus, not the Superstars, will help WWE begin to build a more solid reputation of decency and respectability, one they can more easily sell to cable television networks the next time those all-important contracts come up.
CHECK OUT PREVIOUS YEARS’ SELECTIONS OF BRUCE MITCHELL COLUMNS OVER THE LAST 25 YEARS: CLICK HERE