Looking Back on… I think I hear a toilet flushing. (WWE, 2003)

(I only have about three of these left, for reference.)

Okay, so the WWE had their 3rd quarter conference call for stockholders a couple of weeks ago, and, as you might expect, shovels were mandatory for the meeting. (I actually kind of like that; subtle, but easy enough to figure out. What? These aren’t all going to be me shitting on my past self.) I found the report funny, so, having nothing noteworthy to write about, wrestling-wise, I thought I’d share the report itself (courtesy of 411wrestling.com), along with my take on it, because I’m that bored. (This would have been before Widro split off into Inside Pulse, I believe, because all the writers I actually wanted to read went with him, so I followed when that happened as a reader.)

The hyphenated parts are the actual news, and the non-hyphenated parts are my commentary.

– Talked about closing the World and how it just wasn’t profitable to keep it running.

Okay, I’ve been to The World. You know WHY it wasn’t profitable? Because they have braindead rhesus monkeys running the damn place. (Also embezzlers. That was kind of a big deal.) Seriously, 80% of the tables were empty, and there was an hour long wait TO EAT. (I am in no way kidding about that.) The merchandise store was a profitable venture in itself, but employees who are competent and use of the massive amount of space they had available would have helped to keep the place making money. As it was, I’m not surprised it was a losing venture; it was the most abysmal attempted eating experience I’ve ever encountered. (Basically so; we went there twice and both times it was a nightmare to get seated, the food was overpriced TGIFridays fare, and you were really only going for the “WWE Experience,” which meant much less in 2003 than it did in 2000.)

– Said that WWE’s “key drivers” are still soft, but that they are happy with the brand extension. (Well THAT wouldn’t last.) Said that ratings and live attendance are slowly turning around. (HAHAHAHA no.)

The brand extension would be worthwhile if new stars were being created. No, Lesnar doesn’t count; they’d have pushed him anyway. (I know that’s a petty as fuck argument against “Brock Lesnar” but to be fair, fucking look at him. They were always going to push Brock Lesnar. Meanwhile, who was main eventing the cards at the beginning of the year? Brock Lesnar, HHH, The Rock, Stone Cold and fucking Hulk Hogan. Who was main eventing at the end of the year? Take away The Rock, Stone Cold and Hogan, and add in Goldberg, the Undertaker and Kane, and that’s it. The only really “interesting” change there was Goldberg, and he was a star long before he came to WWE.) Booker T… he might, let’s see how Wrestlemania fares. (Ohhh God, this match. I’ll probably talk about it later, but in case I don’t, Booker T and HHH were feuding over, and I swear this is true, HHH’s belief that Booker T wasn’t a main-eventer because he was black. The intent was to replicate Harley Race-style heat from the 70’s… except that HHH beat Booker, and essentially proved himself correct, which was the shittiest booking possible for that sort of feud. If you wonder why some people are still mad at HHH today, well, things like that.) And attendance and ratings are “turning around” because people are becoming interested in the product again, because HHH isn’t fucking dummies in caskets anymore, and the wrestling portions of the show are beginning to improve, largely due to wrestlers like Booker, Benoit, Angle, and Gurrerro. (They would eventually hit on some good ideas with the elevation of Benoit and Guerrero the following year before flushing all of that with the mega-push of JBL and the push and rapid turfing out of Randy Orton. They’d fix that the following year with the elevation of Batista and John Cena… and well, we’re still kind of there now, so.)

– Talked about the increase in international business and the upcoming tour of South Africa.

Oh, yeah, there’s a good idea: host a show for five thousand people who speak that clicking language, and who pay for the tickets with their kids. (Wow, that was super racist. Also, Khoisan, past me. Anyway, yes, now I’m aware that South Africa is a multinational country, and… yeah, I got nothing, sorry folks. I just have to own that shit.) Seriously, is Africa a hotbed of wrestling popularity? (At the time, I’m not sure, but now, actually, it kind of is. Several known WWE stars, including Adam Rose and Justin Gabriel nee PJ Black, came from South Africa, and World Wrestling Professionals operates from there, with its own crew of exclusive talent.) Probably not, but neither was India, and the WWE went there, too, so what do I know? (While India as a whole generally seems to be kind of uninterested in wrestling unless there’s representation on-screen, IE Khali at this point, Dubai in specific does huge numbers for WWE as near as I can tell, so it seems to be a good enough way for them to make money.)

– WWE Films is working on a “big project.” McMahon said it is an animated project for TV, and they are working on it with their toy licensee partners. They hope to have the show on the air by 2004.

Hey, anyone remember the WWF cartoon from back in the 80’s? This should be worse. (This, as far as I can recall, did not happen.)

– The World was headed towards a $9 million loss this year.

Ahem: NO SHIT. (Yeah, I got nothing.)

– They went through the financial statement.

“We lost a shitload of money. Vince hopes to regain it by digging in the couch. If that fails, Shane and Stephanie will sell themselves in the streets of Greenwich.” Something like that, I suspect. (More probably “We blame it on the cyclical nature of wrestling, which will turn around any day now, because Vince is awesome.” Sigh.)

QUESTIONS FROM THE INVESTORS:

Or, “Where did my money go, you stupid fucks?!?”

– About cutting costs, they said they are always looking at ways to run their business as efficient as possible. (In other words, the Performance Center and talent cuts.)

Here’s a thought, DON’T HIRE EXPENSIVE SHITTY TALENT! Fire the expensive useless talent you have, hire some unknown good talent, and stop bringing in crappy nostalgia wrestlers for cheap pops. (Meanwhile, the rumor is that they’re working to bring The Rock back for a third year to wrestle, probably against Brock Lesnar or HHH, and I bet they still wonder why CM Punk quit.) Goldberg can go fuck himself, and I did NOT need to see Steiner and Hogan on my TV anymore. (To be fair, I was fine with Goldberg actually being there, but not for the amount of money he was being paid, and the horrible booking they gave him. Hogan did make them a shitload of money for the Rock match, but otherwise, yeah, we didn’t need him wrestling for a full year afterward, let alone winning the title.) Go raid the indies and Japan for some great talent, and quit hiring washed-up has-beens. That’s nice and cost-effective, and lord knows it’s worked before. (It did work again, in fact, as CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Kevin Owens will attest. Sometimes the best ideas always work.)

– Said they are closing to buying two new tape libraries and will add them to video/DVD and TV. These libraries are likely ECW and AWA.

Yeah, because we ALL know how beneficial the WCW tape library has been. (By which I meant, they were doing fuck-all with it. They did eventually wise up and start releasing shit loads of DVD’s with crazy content on them that made shitloads of cash, but the WWE Network isn’t really making money off of the legacy content, strangely enough, so we’re back to it being a waste again I suppose.) If WWE were to release a compilation DVD on Ric Flair, it’d make a killing. (They did, and it did.) The fact that they haven’t yet only signifies how little of a business sense they truly possess. Unless McMahon is thinking of making a wrestling channel (something rumored for years), this is just another waste of money. (He did, and it still is as of right now.)

– WWE’s animated TV show will be a mix of traditional anime as well as Korean animation to provide very detailed facial expressions. The cartoon will feature WWE characters, as well as new characters. WWE is very excited about it.

Take the word “pretty”, to signify the art. Add “sucky”, to signify the concept. “Pretty sucky”. See how easy that is? This is going to be a gigantic shitstorm of abominable bullshit, I don’t know where to start. (Since it never happened, we don’t actually have to go anywhere with it. I don’t know why they didn’t just hire a company to make something anime-like and market that; anime was, at the time, a massively growing market, and kind of still is, and wrestling is often real-life anime anyway, so hell, go all out with it.)

– When asked about the Rock’s future, McMahon said he will be “in and out” of WWE storylines and that he put over new talent this past Monday.

1. He’s not retiring after all. Fair enough, I didn’t want to see him go. (He more or less did, actually; while he showed up for a couple of spot matches here and there to get over feuds like Foley vs Orton, he was otherwise done after putting over Goldberg.)
2. BOOKER T HAS BEEN IN THE FED FAR TOO LONG TO BE CONSIDERED “NEW TALENT”! See, it’s reasons like this why I hate the WWE marketing machine: it’s bereft of anything resembling intelligence. (Also, he jobbed to HHH shortly afterward, which is apparently one of many reasons The Rock was iffy about coming back; he put a lot of effort into putting over a bunch of people, even if his handling of Goldberg was spotty, and then HHH demolished them all, which kind of pissed him off.)

– Said that WWE plans to “test the waters” regarding a PPV split this year. Their goal is to increase the amount of yearly PPVs.

Yeah, because lord KNOWS the present PPV buyrates are astronomical, right? Oh, I forgot, THEY’RE NOT! Again, no brains. This is a money ploy that will blow up in their faces, just watch. (It did, in fact; as Scott Keith said, once you’re trained to not watch something, it’s hard to untrain that. The split brand PPV’s did abysmal numbers, and the WWE eventually shelved the whole thing.)

– Someone pointed out that WCW PPVs failed due to them packing their stars on big shows and making it to where nobody bought the other shows. Linda responded by stressing that they are more creative than WCW.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (snort, wheeze, cough) HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA… heh heh…. Alright, I’m better. God that felt good.

Oh, come on, do I NEED to say anything here? (Over a decade later, and while they’re still in business, they still haven’t made any progress, so they’re creative enough to not die, but not creative enough to improve.)

– WWE will be getting a producers fee for the Girls Gone Wild PPV. Linda said the PPV is March 16th. It is actually March 13th.

Okay, when someone’s paying ME money to market something, I think I’d be sure to do something as simple as REMEMBER THE FUCKING DATE IT’S ON. I dunno, maybe that’s just me, but there you have it. (To be fair, I really don’t think the WWE was very invested in this business deal.)

And I don’t see the logic in marketing yourself with a product like “Girls Gone Wild” ANYTHING when you’re trying to be seen as a SERIOUS corporation. See, it’s things like this that make people question Vince’s intelligence. (From how Keith explained it in… one of his books, I don’t remember which one… that the deal was originally going to be something completely different before the whole of WWE got involved, at which point it just became a shitty beauty show where Snoop Dog got super drunk.)

– Linda said she could not confirm any PPV buyrates.

BECAUSE THEY ALL SUCK, HA HA! Oh, sorry. (Yeah, they’d only get worse as time went on.)

But that’s probably the reason.

– Said both RAW and Smackdown have an average 3.4 rating, but that Smackdown is a broadcast rating and thus has a bigger audience.

For those that are curious, that means two separate things:
1. Smackdown has the POTENTIAL to do better, because more people have access to it.
2. Raw IS doing better, ratings-wise, despite that fact. (Well it depends on what she actually said. What I think I’m interpreting it to mean here is that both shows have an actual 3.4, but the numbers were probably 3.4 and 3.0 or something like that. What I think she actually meant is that both shows have a 3.4 rating, but Smackdown draws more viewers. Which is funny, considering how poorly they treated Smackdown during the brand split for a long time.)

Of course, RAW is REALLY drawing a consistent 2.9, mainly due to the useless feuds they put on our TV, but nevermind. (Oh. Then I have no idea what the fuck she was on about.)

– Said that WWE always keeps a lot of cash on hand incase of an attractive acquisition, but that nothing has come along recently.

Translation: Look for the Xtreme Basketball Association in the coming months. (I think this was around the time they started WWE Films as a serious venture; See No Evil came out in 2006, so it would make sense timeline-wise.)

– WWE has no plans to buy back any of their shares. (I believe that did, in fact, change, though searching doesn’t yield anything, and the only thing I can remember about the stocks is that Stephanie sold a bunch at one point and everyone swore the sky was falling.)

Okay, stockholder speak time: When a company is doing bad, they will often buy back stock to renew the faith of the investors. This has good and bad effects: If you DO buy back your shares, you renew the faith of these investors financially, but they question your capability to do good business otherwise. If you DON’T, they know you’re strong and want to stick things out, but they’re sitting on money-losing pieces of paper. (It’s a little more complex than that, but then, I’m a security analyst, not a stock analyst.)

Of course, the WWE has done both, so I don’t suspect their investors have any faith left, but there you have it. (The stock is apparently worth about $16 a share at this moment, so I mean, it’s better than it was at least.)

– Said that the house show business is showing signs of turning around and things look good for the future.

Translation: Linda’s been hitting the hard stuff. (I don’t have an exact measurement of this, but I believe house business didn’t really improve until the Cena era.)

– WWE wants to pull 850,000 buys for WrestleMania.

From where, their ass? Seriously, that’s a really high buyrate expectation for a company that hasn’t been able to put on a good show all year. Maybe Linda’s an optimist, or maybe she’s just trying to renew investor faith, but with Kurt Angle’s injury just NOW coming to light, a Rock v. Austin re-match and Hogan v. McMahon… I don’t see WM drawing that many buys, even if you count in the replay. (It, in point of fact, did not, though I suspect her expectation was that it would do big numbers because Wrestlemania always does, and 18 did 880K buys. Well, turns out I was being appropriately pessimistic, as 19 drew 560K, making it the lowest drawing Wrestlemania since the Attitude Era, at the very least. The next year’s show did over a million buys, though, but it was a really well booked show, so it makes sense. These days the show really does draw based on the name, though, although with the Network being a subscription service they’re really going to have to start worrying about booking again I think.)

– A caller asked about Heyman being removed from the writing team. Linda dodged the question by saying he is still a valuable member of the team and will serve as consultant. (In the Heyman documentary on the Network, Paul basically said point blank that he’s a dick and he and Vince fought constantly so he was sent home, more or less.)

I’ll cover this another time, but to sum it up now: Heyman won’t be a huge loss. (FUCK YOU PAST ME, Heyman was the ONLY reason Smackdown was as good as it was for as long as it was and without him the show went to shit for a long time.) If he can add ideas to RAW and SD as a consultant, as opposed to just working SD, then more power to him, but, from having personally (more or less) spoken to Shane Douglas, Balls Mahoney, and a few other ECW talents, the man is, at best, talent enhancement. Shane explained it this way “He’d draw an ‘S’ on a piece of paper, and I’d draw ‘hane’. Or, he’d draw a ‘T’, and Tazz would draw the ‘azz’. That’s it. He’d have a basic idea, we’d flesh it out.” (We’d recently had a conversation with Shane Douglas, hence that particular reference. I’ve since come to the conclusion that, while Shane Douglas did make the Franchise character, he was essentially nothing without Heyman, as he proved in three different federations, and while he most certainly did get fucked over bad in WWE and I think he could have been much more than he was in the business, Paul definitely had a hand in making Shane what he was. So, basically, they’re both right, and Heyman is awesome.)

So the man has some great ideas, but he’s not an idea-man per say. (By which I mean he had some good concepts but he wasn’t the guy building everything from the ground up, as opposed to how stupid that sentence actually sounds.)

Final thoughts: If this is how the WWE handles a stockholder meeting, I shudder to think about what they’re doing behind the scenes. I mean, when someone says “Hey, you’re asking people who aren’t willing to pay money now for a product to pay MORE OFTEN for a product, and you think this is a GOOD idea?”, and the best response you can come up with is “Essentially”, then you’re all about fucked. (That’s more or less what they did, and they were more or less fucked until John Cena came along. Seriously, I know we all hate the unmerciful shit out of him, but man without him they were kind of boned.) I mean, this is a meeting that exists, essentially, to increase investor confidence, and you’re telling these investors that you have nothing for them but random attempts at branching off from a weak product with, big shock, MORE weak products, and you have no real idea how to fix the product you have the most experience working on. (Story of their lives.)

In short, it’s like every other business meeting on Earth, more or less. (Well… I was going to say no, but I mean, that’s kind of what I’ve seen in my time so… maybe?)

So what does this mean for us, the fans? A whole lot of nothing, pretty much. Business will continue on as normal, (Yeah.) HHH will hold people down on TV, (OH GOD YEAH.) and nothing of note will occur. (Not until next year, anyway.) Aside from the occasional Chris Benoit/Eddie Gurrerro/whoever else on Smackdown matches we get week after week, there will be nothing to look forward to on TV, and aside from us hoping to see Vince wake up and realize the past, oh, TWO YEARS were all a dream, we as fans have not a hope in hell of seeing that change. (That would change in the next couple years, and then regress until Punk came along.)

On the plus side, Torrie Wilson’s going to be in Playboy. (She was, and she’s very pretty. I still don’t want her to come back to WWE ever again though.)

World Wrestling Entertainment needs an enema.

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