When Aleister Black hopped onto Thea Trinidad‘s (the former WWE star, Zelina Vega) Twitch stream this week, plenty expected some negative remarks against the WWE and Vince McMahon, in particular. After all, Black had been released by the WWE mere hours before; just three weeks into a character reboot which looked to be re-igniting his career. With Thea Trinidad, Black’s real-life wife, inviting him to talk about it, it goes without saying that the Twitch stream probably received a boost in viewership from wrestling fans hoping for a WWE trashing. Of course, this did not happen. For all the mistreatment of Black and his character, he mostly expressed generosity towards the WWE and Vince. After all, why wouldn’t he? He turned Black – now Tommy End once more – into a millionaire; giving him the opportunity of a lifetime to live out his dream – where he traveled the world, made money and, most importantly of all, met his wife. It should not be surprising that Black is grateful and thinks fondly of his time in the WWE.
Following the announced released – which also saw Ruby Riott, Braun Strowman, Lana and Buddy Murphy lose their jobs – Dave Meltzer noted on Wrestling Observer Radio that the release of Black (and Buddy Murphy) is largely down to McMahon not “getting” the in-ring style he works. Whereas Black’s style is a relatively unique (and impressive) MMA and wrestling hybrid, it doesn’t translate as well to the “WWE style” – a more rigid, entertainment based brand of wrestling. If the report is true and McMahon does not see anything in this newer brand of wrestling, this poses problems for the company’s future. Let’s explore why.
Before I forget, a special mention goes to @HeymanHustle for always having my back, and to this day acts like a mentor to me. Since day one Paul was in my corner.
— Tommy End (@WWEAleister) June 3, 2021
Aleister Black Is Not The Only One Working This Style
It goes without saying that whereas Aleister Black is one of the more notable workers working this style, he is not the only one. The independent circuit features many wrestlers who have combined the traditional pro wrestling style with MMA elements – with strikes (particularly kicks) being a key part of the modus operandi. It is arguably one of the more common styles outside of the WWE today. Therefore, this poses problems. With many of the WWE’s talent coming from the indies, there is going to come a time when the majority of new recruits to the WWE Performance Center work this hard-hitting style. Either Vince McMahon himself is going to have to adapt and welcome these workers to continue working their style, with WWE’s mixed in there too, or many more recruits are going to fail – eventually leaving the WWE with the problem of a talent vacuum.
Wrestling Fans Have Evolved With the Wrestlers
It is not only the professional wrestlers who have taken to the MMA hybrid style of work. In 2021, wrestling is more accessible than ever before. The internet has allowed vast amounts of fans across the world to access wrestling in other markets. Particularly, the Japanese market – where puroresu, strong style is key – has been explored and enjoyed by many. With the hard-hitting aspect of Japanese wrestling – which is perhaps most similar to Black’s system of work – being explored so thoroughly, those same fans who then tune into WWE’s slower, more rigidly repetitive style, are going to be unimpressed in comparison. The WWE needs to involve with the times and unfortunately, its in-ring philosophy has not. They employ dozens of very talented wrestlers – some of whom may be the best in the world – but they are watered down and unable to work how they, and we as fans, would like. The WWE style may indeed be safer, especially given the grueling WWE schedule, but changes can occur without adding more physical wear and tear. Merely adopting elements of Black’s style would be a nice change of pace.
It Confirms Vince McMahon Is Out Of Touch
This perhaps goes without saying. Whereas he is, undoubtedly, a genius; who consolidated the market and overcame every obstacle he and the WWE have faced over the years, his biggest problem is the disconnect between what he enjoys and what fans enjoy. Indeed, there are “casual” fans who will enjoy most of what is put in front of them, but record low viewership shows this number continues to grow smaller. For years, the “hardcore” fans who enjoy other brands of wrestling in addition to the WWE have been branded “internet fans” – well, nearly every wrestling fan has access to the internet now. We are all “internet fans”. Therefore, it is important that Vince McMahon, Bruce Prichard and everyone else on creative takes this into account. Fans are clamoring for entertaining wrestling, not sports entertainment. Allowing wrestlers to work like Black and the other big non-WWE names of the day – such as Kenny Omega – is one of the key things WWE needs to not only freshen up, but to win fans back. With fans expected to return to arenas next month (July 16), there is no better time to start making changes now.
Unfortunately, Nothing Will Change
The sad reality is that nothing will change. Vince McMahon is a notoriously stubborn (sometimes his best trait) businessman who does what he wants. Whereas the trait is often problematic now, it has previously been what has kept him in business. Whereas some welcome changes have arrived in the WWE in recent years – WWE Network, working with another company’s top star (Chris Jericho) and possible discussions with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) – the WWE style is unlikely to change. If Vince McMahon believes something works, then it works. If he believes the sky is green, you better go with it. So long as he thinks this way and is irrespective of change, nothing will change. Workers like Aleister Black will always fail to succeed in the WWE so long as McMahon does not recognize the potential of their work styles.
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