If you ever needed more proof that WWE as a company and Vince McMahon as an owner are out-of-touch with today's entertainment, you need look no further than the company forcing their talent to stop participating in livestream gaming. We've covered this topic a few times over the past month ever since the decree came down from on high, as Vince basically put an ultimatum in front of every WWE contracted wrestler and told them if they didn't shut down their channels, they could face fines or suspensions or other punishments. So far the only holdout against all of this has been Paige, continuing to stream under her real name Saraya (as of when this is being written). We'll see how that pans out, but there appears to be more to this than just wrestlers making money in their spare time.
Right now, the rumor mill is saying WWE is looking to cut a deal with Twitch and have its own streaming channel. In which they will, more than likely, take all of these people who have been streaming on their own and force them to do it at times they want, taking in the majority of the cash and only giving the talent a slice of what they were originally getting across Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook Gaming. Which, according to a few reports, was upwards of $50k a month for some. (That slice, incidentally, counts against each wrester's downside guarantee on their contracts, effectively giving them no extra earnings.) From a business standpoint, yeah, it makes sense WWE would do that. You see a bunch of people under your brand making what is essentially millions a month collectively just playing video games… Of course, you're going to steal their idea and make them do it exclusively for you. That's what WWE has been doing for years. Whenever someone was making money for a wrestling company elsewhere, WWE offered them a contract and essentially got that talent to come work for them. It shouldn't surprise anyone that this is just the same idea, slightly modified 35 years later in a new medium.
However, the biggest thing WWE hasn't really counted on is the thing they're currently ignoring when it comes to their TV product: fan reaction. We're not going to waste your time sourcing out a dozen articles across the board for this so we'll just keep it simple by saying WWE has been in a consistent rating drop since 2001. There have been peaks, but Raw is currently doing worse numbers than its previous lowest point in 1996, with Smackdown and NXT doing no better. There's A LOT that went into that drop, especially in the past five years. But there's an argument to be made that a good chunk of it comes from the company ignoring fan reactions and complaints, which turned them off from the product. Primarily because they're catering to the whims of an audience of one in whatever McMahon wants to do on TV. And if we're right, this next move may just be another Undertaker-sized nail in their coffin.
The difference between WWE on TV and the WWE talent on Twitch is that people KNOW what's going on directly from the talent themselves about all of this. They don't need to read a dirt sheet for this news. Everyone has been pretty candid that they were forced by the company to shut down their popular channels, where all they were doing was hanging out, playing games, and interacting with fans. And that interaction is the key factor that the company has probably hurt. Fans may be willing to suspend disbelief for the narrative on TV, but collectively, we're not stupid when it comes to seeing someone's boss treat them poorly and force them to stop having fun. People were having fun hanging out with AJ Styles and Austin Creed because it was just them doing what they wanted to do without anyone telling them what to do. They offered up subscriptions to see more because it was something different. Something organic. Something fun. And as we've learned from multiple interviews on Talk Is Jericho from the past two years, working for WWE these days is not fun. (We recommend the Jon Moxley interview as a starting point.)
WWE, who at this point should just be called We Want Everything, or We're Wringing Everyone, have proved through their actions on this that they're not concerned with fun or what the fans think of them. The company, more specifically McMahon, just sees all the money these people are making, and now they want a cut of it during a point in time where the wrestling business is low. It also shows how out-of-touch they are with modern forms of online entertainment. If the Twitch deal is really in the works for a single-run channel, that means the company is either arrogant or over-confident that they can just re-create what their talent did by putting 10 different people into one channel and assuming they'll get the same results multiplied. That kind of move is greedy and unmistakable enough to turn fans off from ever wanting to interact with any of the potential Twitch streams WWE probably has planned for the future. Let alone giving them money in subscriptions or donations.
If the talent is smart, they'll decline to participate and just count down the days until their contracts are up or they eventually get fired in April 2021 as WWE did to several people this year. Then re-open their channels with a sub-a-thon and move on from We're Woefully Exploitative. Because let's be honest. If they were making good money playing games under their real names without WWE's help or promotion… Chances are a lot of those men and women now have a way out that doesn't entirely involve beating their bodies up for a living. In many cases, it may not be as much as they're getting in their current contracts, but it sounds a hell of a lot more fun than working for WWE right now.