The McMahon Family’s Return: WWE’s Fresh Start or Recycled Storytelling?

WWE is trying something different with its two major brands. Monday Night Raw delivered something fresh in terms of leadership and the same was true of SmackDown Live the next night. Gone are the program’s General Managers and Commissioners. In their place is the McMahon Family.

Vince, Stephanie, Shane and Triple H are now all assuming joint leadership over both brands. So when a decision is to be made on the air, that decision will presumably be made by one, or more, of the four. This is what WWE believes will right the ship. But is this really a fresh idea, or the same recycled storyline?

Fans expected something big when Vince walked down the ramp on the December 17 edition of Raw. WWE promoted his appearance ad nauseam on social media in the days leading up to the show. Even if fans had not been paying attention all that much, there would have really been no way to miss it. The boss was coming back and he was going to “shake things up.”

But the moment he received a standing ovation and fans cheered for him, was the moment that the entire segment derailed. Vince didn’t do anything wrong of course, but in the grand scheme of things, that opinion is highly debatable. The WWE faithful has complained about Monday Night Raw for the past several weeks and the ratings have reflected their concern. Simply put, the program has not been good. Fans were angry and frustrated. They wanted to know why.

Watch the McMahon Family take charge on Raw:

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So when Vince’s music hit, the crowd should have booed. The reaction should have been so deafening and continuous that he should not have been able to speak. Who could blame the crowd for reacting in that fashion? Standing in the ring was the man responsible for Monday Night Raw’s downslide. This was the perfect opportunity for fans to let their voices be heard. But that did not happen.

By the time the entire McMahon Family was in the ring, fans had relaxed to the point that they were ready to listen. That’s exactly what they did. They listened as Triple H promised that WWE’s fanbase were now the authority. Vince agreed. So did Stephanie and Shane. The quartet is apparently now all babyface and everyone’s mission is clear. Raw and SmackDown belong to the people and they’re going to be the ones to make it happen. But is any of this true?

One of the key problems with this angle is the fact that once again, WWE is trolling the audience. It’s become a time honored tradition for the company, one that was born in conjunction with the information age. From the very beginning of internet chatrooms to the advent of Twitter and Facebook, WWE has used social media to turn the tables on the fans.

If fans are complaining about something, the company uses it on TV. They not only use it, they throw it back at the fans and mock them for complaining in the first place. It’s true that some fans love being unhappy merely for the sake of being unhappy. There can be no denying that fact. But for many others, the main reason for frustration is the inherent need to see the product improve.

Watch Baron Corbin come face to face with The McMahon Family:

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Cohesive storylines and plausible characters that act accordingly, these are the things that fans have been screaming about for years. Every time the company drops the ball on an angle, fans call them out for it. Why? Because it’s fun to whine? Or is it because fans expect so much more from the world’s largest and most successful pro wrestling company? Why not demand the best from Vince McMahon and crew when it’s clear that they are indeed capable of delivering just that?

But wanting to see the company at its finest comes with the territory. Who wants to watch a poorly written pro wrestling show? That was one of the key reasons why WCW went out of business in the first place. Fans didn’t like what they were seeing, so they stopped watching. Times were different then of course, because there was another major company to watch on another channel. However the sentiment is still the same. Fans want to be entertained and WWE has not done the best job of that over the past month.

However the biggest cause for concern with the new McMahon family storyline is the fact that eventually, the whole thing is going to go south. That’s because one, or all, of them are going to turn heel again. It may not happen today and it may not happen tomorrow. But it’s going to happen.

As long as they insist on being characters on TV, they are going to be part of the show. Being part of the show means they’re going to act the part. How long before that part calls for wearing the black hats once again?

Watch Shane’s pep talk to the SmackDown Live locker room:

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The McMahons are obsessed with the idea of the heel corporate authority figure. It’s been the driving narrative since The Attitude Era, when Mister McMahon waged war with Stone Cold Steve Austin. It’s been prevalent in WWE from that point on and it’s likely never going to die.

So when the time comes for two or more of the McMahon family to turn, what happens then? Does WWE go right back to business as usual, with the antagonists winning the day every week on Raw and SmackDown? Will the protagonists constantly be outnumbered and outgunned as always?

There’s simply no reason to believe in any other outcome. While there’s really no way to know for sure, it’s reasonable to assume that WWE is not changing and has no desire to change at all. This new direction is nothing more than a plot device and the only thing fans can do is sit back and see what happens next.

NXT talents are being called up to the main roster and when they get there, they will be subject to the same environment as every established WWE Superstar. The McMahons are the stars of the show. That’s just how it is. Expecting anything more is simply not logical. With any luck, the McMahon family angle will at least be entertaining. Fans should always expect that, even if they can’t always get it.

Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Wrestling Rumors. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on iTunes,YouTube, iHeart Radio, and live every Friday at 12pm EST on Wrestling Rumors Facebook Live

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