Jim Cornette has dissected the good and the bad of the legacy of recently retired WWE Chairman and CEO, Vince McMahon.
The retirement of Vince McMahon marks the end of an era in the professional wrestling business. McMahon built WWE from a regional wrestling promotion into an entertainment juggernaut currently worth billions. In the process, he also transformed the wrestling business in many ways.
Legendary manager Jim Cornette has looked at Vince McMahon’s legacy in detail on the latest edition of his podcast, The Jim Cornette Experience.
Cornette began by explaining that McMahon’s legacy really depends on your point of view, saying that he has been “the man” in wrestling for over four decades, but that came at the cost of “the rest of the wrestling business”.
“‘What will Vince McMahon’s legacy be?’ Is a question that I keep hearing people saying or asking. Well, it depends on your point of view, everyone knows what mine is on the style of wrestling. Why couldn’t Bill Watts have won the war?
“But for better or worse, depending on your viewpoint, Vince McMahon has been the man in wrestling for over 40 years. He did what none of the other promoters would do, and as a result of that, he became the only guy doing that thing, was based in New York and knew how to market.
“But what he did killed the rest of the wrestling business forever more. I’ve heard a lot of people say that when they saw the first-class production and all of the bells and whistles [it was better], well no.
“Once you have opened the door and established openly that wrestling was just entertainment, fixed, fake, choreographed, worked… However you want to phrase it, then you have already limited the audience.
“Then it becomes, ‘OK who can do the fake show the best?’ And that was Vince, because he was the only one who would do the move to do an obviously fake show.
“The other promoters made fortunes in their own areas, but they didn’t want wrestling to be that big, to be publicly traded, to be on the 6 o’clock news every night and on the cover of every magazine, because that would have exposed the business, brought scrutiny.
“Everybody would know, especially with social media in the modern day, what the f*ck was going on. They weren’t going to do that, because they wanted to keep their ability to make their money in their territory for the next 20 f*cking years.
He went on to discuss how exposing that wrestling was fixed made a big difference in the industry in the long term.
“A lot of people have said, including some learned observers, it didn’t make any difference when you told people that wrestling was fixed. Well how the f*ck do you figure that?
“There’s only two wrestling promotions, until three years ago there was only one, of any size. It made a lot of difference. You limited your audience to the people who want to watch an obvious show, and are die-hard fans who want to spend a lot of money on it and devote a significant portion of their life to it.
“You lost everybody else who watched an hour of TV a week and would maybe get a ticket once a month and that was the extent of their involvement. When Vince did that, because that was his vision, he wanted showbusiness and to be the Walt Disney of wrestling in 1986.
“Then nobody else could do it, because everybody else’s wrestling was predicated on losing yourself in the moment, and that wasn’t there anymore because everybody knew what the f*ck was going on.
Regarding the creation of the WWE Network, Cornette says while it was a huge success for WWE, it led to problems for smaller companies who relied on pay-per-view.
“It was like Vince was brilliant in establishing the [WWE] Network, and moving everything over to the network. It cost them a fortune until they ended up making hundreds of millions of dollars from Peacock.
“But what it did was put every other wrestling promotion out of the PPV business, except for the ones that will get a 100 to 200,000 buys for AEW, TNA never did that much. Why pay $50 for a PPV when you can get it for $5 a month.
According to Jim Cornette, everything Vince McMahon did was ultimately successful and he ran his business extremely well.
“Everything that Vince did to change the wrestling business to his vision of it was mostly successful. And there are guys that he has paid millions of dollars to, people in far-flung parts of the world know about wrestling. Unfortunately it is just the WWE version of wrestling.
“But Vince has made a company that is now worth around $5 billion, not all of it was honest, but find me a company that is worth $5 billion that was even as honest as Vince has been probably. So you can’t argue the success and the stars that he has made and the money that he has paid people.
“The vision, the visibility of those people who have made movies etc has never been in question. He ran the best business, he found the best people.
“He didn’t do a TNA Dixie Carter and hire a bunch of people fresh from college that didn’t know sh*t from apple butter and couldn’t grab their ass with both hands. He didn’t do the Jim Crockett and keep the same office staff in a converted convenience store when they were on national TV.
“The only thing that most wrestling aficionados have had a problem with is the fake, goofy, sports entertainment, which killed the wrestling business. Again, you couldn’t do sports entertainment better than Vince, because they tried but he got there first and he knew that.
“But you couldn’t do real wrestling anymore, because the biggest promotion is telling everyone it is all fake. So he simultaneously built his company up while dooming everybody else to irrelevancy.
Cornette summed up Vince McMahon’s legacy as being polarising, with some people thinking he was very good, and others very bad. To Cornette, though, McMahon’s success came at the expense of the “ruination of the wrestling business”.
“I think that’s his legacy, to some people he was very very good, and to some people he was very very bad. He was more successful than anybody at what he did, but ultimately that led to the ruination of the wrestling business because you can’t have people taking something seriously when the leader is doing a parody.”
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