An interesting story hit wrestling news yesterday with the news that Vince McMahon and WWE are banning talent from “outside third parties.”
According to the new edict, WWE talent have 30 days to terminate their activities on these channels or they will face fines, suspension, or termination for continued offenses. WWE finds that some people are using their names and likenesses in a detrimental way to the company.
On one hand, I totally understand that WWE wants to control the narrative of the company. The company has been all about controlling every aspect of their product from rehearsing segments and matches before shows to scripting promos. People are mostly using their WWE stage names on these channels. WWE owns those names — that’s their intellectual property. Yes, the people bring the character to life, but the character still belongs to the company.
Where I totally break from the WWE narrative is when they said to the talent that they cannot use their actual names either as they own those, too. How in the world is that legal? What kind of clauses are in these WWE contracts? How can you be classified as an independent contractor and not have the rights to at least use your real life name?
Let’s face it — part of the reason these channels even exist is it’s part of a revenue stream for the talent. Yes, these are creative people sitting at home during a pandemic. They enjoy being creative. However they’re also not touring and doing house shows and getting all the pay and bonuses associated with doing that. They have to make up the difference somewhere, which is where all this comes in.
From a larger perspective, this is a company that is struggling to appear relevant and youthful. Vince McMahon himself said on the July investor’s conference call that the company has an issue making Raw and SmackDown appear youthful, which is why they’re attracting an older, smaller crowd rather than the much desired 18-34 or 18-49 demographic.
How do you reach that younger demographic?
It probably doesn’t hurt to be using the very platforms they’re now banning their talents from. While Twitch’s platform overwhelmingly favors males (over 80% of its user base), nearly half that number is WWE’s key demographic: 18-34. Is having AJ Styles streaming every Wednesday night and introducing himself to new fans really that detrimental to the company? It seems like it could only help.
The narrative is always “Vince is old” or “Vince is out of touch.” Most times with the product and storylines they present, it’s hard to argue. However, business-wise, he’s still appears pretty sharp. This new edict shows that appearances can be deceiving.
To me, this just feels like a 75-year-old man with an older group of people working under him just not getting these newer platforms. It’s silly and makes the company look bad and out of touch. It also raises a number of troubling questions regarding the legality of owning someone’s real name.
Just a super bizarre story in a super bizarre year for WWE and the world in general. What are your thoughts?