by Kevin D’Hooge
Is WWE a monopoly in professional wrestling?
“IT’S SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT NOT WRESTLING!!!” – Vincent Kennedy McMahon
…Sorry Vince. Why is WWE the only global name in the industry (no offense Global Force Wrestling)? Why has every wrestling organization that has directly competed with WWE fallen by the wayside?
The Economic Times defines a monopoly as “A market structure characterized by a single seller, selling a unique product in the market. In a monopoly market, the seller faces no competition, as he (or “she”…just in case PC Principal is reading this) is the sole seller of goods with no close substitute.”
That doesn’t sound quite like WWE. There are countless professional wrestling organizations across the globe. The only difference is that WWE has seemingly eclipsed the “umbrella” of wrestling. Also, the guy calling all the shots is a billionaire.
Vince McMahon has affirmed numerous times that he runs a sports entertainment company (including earlier in this article); it was his father who ran WWE as a wrestling company. WWE is now a film production company, an on-demand streaming network and a publicly-traded corporation. Oh yeah and sometimes they wrestle.
On the Stone Cold podcast last winter, McMahon said when he purchased WCW in 2001 he no longer saw other wrestling companies as competition; his competition was everything else on television. Sports-related or not.
This is how we ended up with Total Divas and timeless “film classics” such as The Marine and See No Evil.
Let’s compare WWE with other sports. If you think about all of the major sports organizations outside of wrestling (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, UFC), there really aren’t any noteworthy competitors.
These 5 companies are essentially monopolies. They not only control the market for their sports, but they can acquire the best talent around because money talks.
Wrestling seems to be the outlier here.
The difference between WWE and the indies is that there is as much talent in the indies (if not more) as there is in WWE.
While on Talk is Jericho, Dean Ambrose reflected on past conversations with Dusty Rhodes. Ambrose recollected that Rhodes warned him that he would never feel the rush of the indies ever again after entering WWE.
Rhodes explained that in the indies you have to earn the respect of the crowd and get yourself over every single night. On the national stage (WWE) everybody already knows who you are; you’re expected to perform to the crowd’s expectations.
Among other reasons, independent wrestlers choose to remain so for the thrill of it and for the freedom. They do not want corporate restrictions. For independent wrestlers, sacrificing happiness isn’t always worth the money.
While there have been indie-to-WWE success stories (CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins) there have been just as many that haven’t panned out full-throttle just yet (Ambrose, Luke Harper, Cesaro).
How can independent wrestling compete with WWE and do they even want to? Further, how do we feel about wrestlers going from the indies to WWE?
At the end of the day everything’s about money. I can’t fault someone for jumping at the opportunity to make millions and to perform in front of the whole world.
At the same time, with the flood of talent in independent wrestling, is it feasible to package wrestlers and organizations together to make an indie super group? What if that super group just followed in WWE’s footsteps and became a one-trick cash grabbing pony? Or what if Ted Turner Jr. sprouted up out of nowhere and decided to buy out all the indie talent and suddenly gave birth to WCW 2.0?
Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! I think I’m getting too far ahead of myself here. I’m answering questions with more questions!
The appeal of anything independent (music, films, wrestling, etc.) is the rawness, the ambition, the boldness, and most importantly, the purity. These factors are lost when a larger stage is present.
In his infamous 2011 pipe bomb, CM Punk exclaimed, “…after I’m gone, you’re still going to pour money into [WWE]. I’m just a spoke on the wheel. The wheel is going to keep turning and I understand that. Vince McMahon is going to make money despite himself.”
It’s ok to support WWE. Just know that there’s other wrestling out there. Take a chance on indie wrestling. Maybe you’ll see the light. I know I have. And I can’t look away.