WWE has a really strained relationship with its hardcore fan base don’t they? It’s a really weird relationship because whatever they do, they’re prone to pissing fans off (myself included). Lord knows how the relationship got this bad but the year 2009 probably has a lot to do with it, anyway that’s digressing from the point. A few eras ago fans were eating the WWE product for breakfast, they absolutely loved what they were being provided with and it seemed like the creative team at the company cared about providing compelling television.
It is a very different time for the WWE and when looking back at it, what they’re feeding to their fans now was expected. In 1999 WWE became a publicly traded company, which (when I thought about it) was an attempt to break into the world of mainstream sports. Every sport that is mainstream is credible (as corrupt as they might be), football, tennis and athletics are some examples this. WWE was a company that built itself on people beating each other up and whilst that’s really fucking cool, it can’t translate to the public as well as the other sports because it’s way more brutal (at least that’s the image that’s given).
WWE has always shown signs of going in this direction; the golden era of wrestling is a great example of this because every wrestler at that point was a cartoon character and it ended up with one particular cartoon character launching the company to heights that it previously dreamed of. WWE has continuously distanced itself from wrestling, referring to itself as sports entertainment and placing a particular amount of focus on the spectacle rather than the wrestling.
Looking at these factors (and there are a lot more), it becomes obvious that the product of WWE was going to decline because by becoming mainstream it decided to focus on a younger audience since that’s where the money lies. Children can’t distinguish the difference between good and bad wrestling, they only really care about something that excites (which is why the product is so promo heavy) whereas teenagers and adults are able to analyze the product which is probably part of the reason that the wrestling was so much better in the Ruthless Aggression era.
Now, when looking at the relationship between WWE and the fans, all of the things written go a long towards explaining it because WWE are in a position where they have to find a way to keep hardcore fans (mostly teenage and older males) happy whilst making sure that casual fans (kids & most women) are still invested in the product. WWE, more specifically Vince McMahon doesn’t like being told what to do (which is understandable) and the hardcore fan base are known very well for being armchair bookers (I do this too), it’s not easy for WWE to ignore it’s hardcore fan base, they tried to do it with Daniel Bryan and were forced to put the WWE world heavyweight championship on him. The WWE doesn’t listen to hardcore fans often, and to be honest why should they? The hardcore fans can turn on any wrestler in a heartbeat so it’s really hard to find a wrestler to sell to them.
“Do what’s best for business.” This is a term that’s come to define the WWE and the truth is that what the hardcore fans want isn’t what’s best for business. Had Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro and many other wrestlers on that roster joined the roster at a later time then there would be a huge possibility of WWE using those guys to connect with all fans especially given that most wrestlers these days sport an athletic build.
Anyway with all of that being said I reckon that the WWE’s relationship with fans will improve, especially with what’s going on in NXT.