Former WWE Executive and current TV producer Court Bauer (find him on twitter at @CourtBauer) exclusively provides Wrestling Inc. with insight on what went down behind the scenes at WWE concerning one of if not the most elusive and involved Hall of Fame/legends deals ever put together.
NOTE: I have ZERO interest in returning to WWE and would never consider overtures if such occurred. My journey in pro wrestling has come to a close and enjoy life after wrestling way too much to go backwards. I still have a passion for it and perhaps like you, enjoy chopping it up about what's happening in the business. I just calls them like I sees them. Hope you enjoy.
This Monday WWE blasted out a press release and had Paul Levesque (Triple H) and Bruno Sammartino do a few select interviews including with ESPN.com. The premise was Bruno Sammartino finally going WWE's Hall of Fame but the real story is infinitely more interesting about WWE's future: WWE is portraying this as a story about Bruno but the real narrative is Levesque's ascension within the global entertainment juggernaut that is WWE.
The way WWE deployed the Bruno story is VERY telling about the future of the kingdom and who will be positioned where. It was masterfully crafted. Levesque comes across like a revelation within the WWE organization, with the press releases and media he's done suggesting Paul Levesque is ushering in an era of advanced drug testing and a more wholesome environment for the talent. He also comes across VERY likable as well as a true mover and shaker. It's positively brilliant by WWE as the majority of people will find this to be a very good indicator of WWE's future post Vince McMahon.
Whether that's true or not, we shall see, but the reality is Paul Levesque put a MAJOR punctuation on his emergence as the heir to the throne with this move. This is not a game changer for their business or for WWE customers but it is very revealing. Plus, it gives shareholders and WWE's media partners tempered confidence in WWE's succession strategy.
Further cementing how confident Vince McMahon is in Levesque is the financials behind it. Bruno didn't come cheap. Numbers tossed around like $50,000 are erroneous and far, far removed from the real number that it took to close the deal. But that deal didn't come together easily for Levesque. He had to work for it and it didn't happen overnight. Levesque pressed Vince hard to make the deal happen for months and months, with Vince ultimately acquiescing. That's very telling. And yes, Levesque deserves the trust and various resources of Vince McMahon more than anyone else in WWE, perhaps ever.
The last 12 months have been an amazing story. Levesque's work with NXT has been universally well received and he's tasked exceptional people like Gerald Brisco to aggressively recruit prospects at the amateur wrestling and MMA level - improved ten fold from the dark days under Johnny Ace.
Levesque has also become more hands on in implanting changes in TV production (Kevin Dunn's sacred castle within the WWE kingdom) with TV crew now learning alongside developmental wrestlers in Florida at NXT. Then there is his expanded involvement in creative and in the weekly production of WWE's TV tapings. Just look at roster and creative from 2009/2010 and compare it to WWE today. It's night and day. Sure, the product isn't flawless but it has certainly improved (it'd be infinitely better if RAW was 2 hours and there was overall less product on TV).
Paul Levesque's efforts have all been very logical and speaks volumes for where things are headed and frankly, I'm impressed. Sure, there have been a few bumps in the road (i.e., Sin Cara, Kharma, etc) but that happens and of course, he hasn't weathered any nasty storms like Vince has endured but that'll come in time, too.
As for Bruno, wrestling is a business - a TOUGH one at that - and he will be making good money on this deal. I don't fault Bruno for what he did. Sure, Bruno is surely a break glass emergency chess piece god forbid the next horrendous WWE PR situation but there's much more to it than that.
Bruno will solidify his legacy for for his family and be celebrated by WWE for generations to come as Hulk Hogan's relevance diminishes within Titan Towers to the point that I suspect that by the time Levesque is in charge, Hogan will be a blur on videos and packages, which is unfortunate. And, if they were to do anything with Bruno for archival purposes, NOW is the time. He is a freak of nature for his age but the realities of age and health are looming for Bruno.
Congrats to Bruno Sammartino and all of his fans. It's a long overdo celebration of an iconic New York sports star. As a New Yorker, I'm very happy with how this transaction went. I'm sure Levesque and Bruno are too.
Starting in professional wrestling in 1997, Court Bauer would serve as a talent liaison for All Japan Pro Wrestling before founding Major League Wrestling (MLW) in 2002. In 2005, Bauer joined WWE as a creative executive, leaving in 2007 to work within MMA. Today, Bauer works as a TV/film producer and brand developer. You can listen to Court on MLW Radio - a weekly podcast every Sunday night with co-hosts Konnan and Saint Laurent at MLW.com.