Media outlet Variety recently called out WWE for its declining popularity and said that investors need to hold Vince McMahon accountable. Alfred Konuwa, wrestling analyst for Forbes.com, weighed in on Variety's comments when he joined The Wrestling Inc Daily podcast.
"That's exactly what we should take from it is that it is a mainstream source with this type of specific information out there. And in addition to Variety that came out yesterday, there was also another report that came out two days ago," said Konuwa. "A research firm – and I think this is an even bigger deal – the fact that research firms on Wall Street that advise investors as to what to invest in, it came out with a very detailed analysis. Usually it's just kind of numbers and other little kind of white lies Vince McMahon tells about, 'Oh, business is fine. Our ratings will be fine.' It blew right past that and it got as specific as saying Paul Heyman had a vision to create new young stars and he's no longer with the company. Now they're down to Bruce Prichard and all of Vince McMahon's old games were called out.
"The fact that this information is now available to investors, it's gonna go a long way in how they perceive WWE because for so long investors were in the dark. I get on these shareholders calls, I'm going to be on today, and even to this day the questions that they ask and the questions that they don't ask about WWE, the things that Vince and company are able to get away with in explaining away why their numbers are going down, those are no longer able to get past the shareholders able to get past mainstream media. And as you can see, shareholders filed a class action lawsuit against WWE earlier this year. Things are really majorly changing in terms of WWE's perception on Wall Street and that's a very scary story."
It's one thing for this story to come out and it's another for there to be actual change within WWE. Konuwa was asked if fans could expect to see real change with either WWE or Vince McMahon.
"We're close. I don't think this time around anything like that's gonna happen. This one feels like the calm before the storm because people are now slowly cracking away at that invincibility complex that Vince McMahon had for so long on Wall Street," stated Konuwa. "So now that these reports that you're talking about and there's a reason they came out right before the investor conference – this is a thing that they're reading to get ready for this meeting. So now that this type of information is out, it's going to be in their minds for months to come.
"Then once football and live sports come back and ravage WWE's ratings to what I think will be cataclysmic proportions, then the third quarter meeting is going to be when stuff hits the fan. That's when there might be like slight demand for Vince to get moved out because he's now done the scapegoat thing for a couple of cycles now, right? Paul Heyman in out and. Eric Bischoff in and out. Bruce Prichard here, same story. They're gonna eventually recognize what's going on."
If Vince were to take a backseat role in WWE, then someone would have to fill his shoes. Triple H is usually thought of as the person to do that and Konuwa discussed Triple H possibly being groomed to take over for Vince.
"Well maybe on one side some investors and the research firm have the same thing where they were saying that Triple H is the type of personality to steer the ship around. But that does not mean that Wall Street would accept that," admitted Konuwa. "That's what's scary about WWE is that maybe Triple H is the guy, but he's not equipped for the role of heir apparent to Vince McMahon.
"In the wrestling world, wrestling fans see him as the next guy up and he would be the natural transition in terms of the face of WWE, but in terms of the experience, in terms of having that financial wizard-czar type personality – and he hasn't even been presented by WWE or anybody publicly as this is the guy that's gonna take over Vince McMahon. This is the number two and only for the wrestling fans who follow the product closely know he's in charge of NXT. Really, the mainstream world knows him as Triple H and they know that he has some power in WWE and some stroke. But WWE needed to do a better job preparing Triple H for that role in terms of financial experience and in terms of selling him to Wall Street. I really don't think that narrative has been out there as much as it should be and that's scary to think of knowing that we're in a global pandemic, he's a 74 year old man where he's one drop away from potentially a disaster in WWE and that stock will go to zero if Vince McMahon is not around or even not well enough to run the company."
As a follow-up, Konuwa was then asked who he thought Wall Street would be more accepting of as WWE's next leader.
"I have two answers and WWE cancelled them: Michelle Wilson and George Barrios," stated Konuwa. "They were the co-presidents who were behind the $2 billion… WWE is a company that is a grease fire when it comes to creatively, when it comes to KPIs. But the only thing that's holding them up is that massive television deal and it's a massive deal. They're making record numbers. That's the work of the co-presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson, who were working side by side with Triple H and Vince but they were the spearhead of those deals."
Konuwa noted that they were the ones propping up WWE's business from a financial standpoint and selling the company to investors.
"So, I think Wall Street would have bought them but they had a disagreement with Vince or some sort, we still don't know what happened. Both of them got fired and nobody replaced them. That's what's scary about that. So, if somehow Wilson and Barrios were able to come back into the company, or they had two wizard types that Wall Street was able to see them succeed, that would have been a great answer for Vince's successor but now that they're not around and Triple H is not enough," said Konuwa.
Alfred Konuwa contributes pro wrestling analysis weekly for Forbes.com. Alfred's full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.