The Beauty of a Great Story

Darn it, I like him.  I know, I know.  I’ve been incredibly critical of his promos up to this point and I meant what I said.  Try as I might, I just couldn’t “buy” him.  If you’ve been reading the NXT blog, you know I’m talking about Matt Riddle.  Of course, just as WWE wished, that’s all changed now.  His “Arrival” episode on the WWE Network turned me around.  It told his story incredibly well and now, I can’t hate on him anymore.  Nice job, World Wrestling Entertainment – you converted me.  I saw the human being behind the “bro” and I really like him.  His wife and kids are fun too.  They’re just a family trying to make it in life and be successful.  The Riddles against the world, if you will.  I’m a sucker for stories like that and few tell them better than the conglomerate giant known as WWE.

When WWE wants to make me care and they put the work in, they can largely make that happen.  They tell absolutely incredible stories – stories that make us care.  They can take us on a journey and make us feel like we’re part of it – like it couldn’t even happen effectively if we weren’t there.  It’s quite possible that it actually can’t too.  When they really get it right, WWE is the perfect mix of storytelling and fan.  They tell the story and we participate to make the story even better.  Few do audience participation better than WWE – even if, at times, we don’t feel they do.  We get mad at them and we rag on them.  Would we do that if they hadn’t made us care in the first place?

Of course, part of why they can do all of these things so well is that WWE is swimming in money and can afford to go wherever whenever to tell the story and they can use whatever device they like. WWE can afford to license whatever footage they need to license to further a story too…and they’ll do it.  Matt’s story is taken on the road from his former residence to where he lives in Orlando now.  We learned all about him – from his beginnings right up until today.  Making all of that happen takes an army – and WWE is more than fully-stocked in that regard.  They have all the best technical people to make that story as effective as possible – all the best camera people, the best editors, the best graphic artists, etc.  They even have their own makeup and wardrobe people.  WWE has become completely equal parts wrestling company and fully-featured entertainment company.  Take a look at all their subsidiaries to see just how massive this giant really is.  They have everything covered:

Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling, and the others fight in the same space but WWE doesn’t exist in that space at all; they are in a space unto themselves. These wrestling promotions never get to the next level and seemingly have no clue how to do that either.  No one else can handle great storytelling anywhere near as well as WWE.

For all of the hype of All Elite Wrestling (and it’s really fun hype, by the way, though, as Duke Dre said some time back, the hyperbolic fans are beyond annoying), allow me to inject some hard truth.  AEW has 100 million dollars at their disposal.  WWE’s annual revenue for 2016 was over seven times that amount.  That number would, of course, be significantly higher than that now given the 1 billion dollar Fox deal they signed that gives them Smackdown Live! and maybe even NXT, though the NXT thing is still unsubstantiated.  In short, AEW is not in the same league as WWE.  Will they ever be?  I doubt it and I think they know that too.  They likely aren’t even aiming for that and it would be unwise to do so.  The best they can hope for is happy co-existence and that’s certainly possible.  WWE has nothing to fear with the existence of AEW.  The other promotions?  They have a serious problem that they’ll need to work out so that they can survive.  AEW is really actually only targeting them.  They are purely a wrestling company…just like all the indies they’re currently grabbing talent from.  They’re taking this talent exactly as it is whereas WWE takes indie talent and tweaks it to fit its own storytelling-based entertainment ethos.

In short, WWE occupies their own space where they can’t be compared to anything else.  I’m sure this will upset the anti-WWE/pro Indie darling fans but what’s true is true.  There is WWE and then there is…nothing.