Currently furloughed WWE producer Shane Helms appeared on a recent episode of The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast where he and Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor discussed WWE's third-party edict that was exclusively reported on by Wrestling Inc. Wrestling Inc. has also reported that WWE has threatened to take over talents' Twitch accounts, and Helms gave his thoughts on the situation from both a talent and a promoter perspective.
"It's one of those things that kind of sucks, but at the same time, [I'm] not be surprised," Helms said. "I'm trying to look at both sides of the issue. I see the talents going, 'hey, this will have nothing to do with it. This is our money,' but then I also look at the promoter side of it, the guy who's taking all the risks to build these people. It's money. It's his platform. A lot of these people, their name value exists on a platform that he created.
"If I want somebody to be a heel on my show but then on social media, all they're doing is trying to do all this babyface stuff to attract babyface fans, which is going to be counterproductive to what I'm doing on their show. As a promotor, I can see going, 'man, don't these guys get it' because I even did this when I did my Gregory Helms turn on SmackDown. My social media became heel. I didn't want the fans then."
Helms spoke more on how wrestling is unique in that many fans still see him as his Hurricane character as opposed to fans seeing an actor like Tom Hanks as just Tom Hanks. He reiterated that he understood from a promotor perspective how social media can be counterproductive to the TV product.
"That's the one thing that separates us from all these other forms of entertainment and artistry, and I think fans still miss that," Helms stated. "I think fans miss that uniqueness, and I'll see some talents now like, 'yeah, this is who I am, but this is my character on TV.' But that's not what wrestling fans want from us. I mean, that's one of the things that makes us unique.
"When a wrestling fan sees me, they still see Hurricane. When I see Tom Hanks, I see Tom Hanks. I never think about a character he is, but when fans see me, they see Hurricane. When I see Steve Austin, I see Stone Cold to this day. He's been in movies. He's been on talk shows, but we still see Stone Cold. So I think your social media is counterproductive to who you are on the television product. I can see a promoter not liking that, especially if he's the one that built you."
Helms believes that is one part of the edict and that the other is financially motivated. He used an example from his earlier time as a talent in WWE where he was writing for his website at the same time WWE was starting their own social media app. He recalled as a talent that he wanted a financial stake if he were to be involved in WWE's project since he was already doing something that generated money for him.
"I think that's one part of it. The other part of it is, I think, the money," Helms noted. "'Hey, they're making money off a name I built?' So I kind of can see both of them, but I think they just need to work together because if there are other ways and avenues to make money and talents can help make these things possible, then they can work together. 'Hey, I brought this to the table. Give me a little bit more chunk of the change here.' I remember I used to write these blogs on my website, and we get all these hits, all these hits, all these hits. And then the WWE, they had the WWE Universe at the time, which was their version of what social media was. They tried to create their own Myspace, or their own Facebook, but they couldn't control it because people are just insane.
"They're going to post whatever they want to, but I remember they wanted me to write blogs for that, and I was like, 'OK, well if you're getting ad revenue, then I should get a piece of that right?' But then they didn't want to pay me for it. I was like, 'OK, well, I'll just keep writing on my own website, and I'll keep all the money myself. I've been there, and their social media presence wasn't that big of a deal at the time, so it wasn't an issue, but I've been that talent that, 'hey, I'm doing this myself, making my own money. If you want me to do this for you, I need a bigger piece of this pie here.'"
Helms also recalled what WWE did after he declined to write for their social platform. He said that he had to take down WWE images. Helms also admitted that this current third-party situation is complicated as both sides have a plausible argument for their motivations.
"Like I said, their social media wasn't their thing, and it wasn't the WWE Network. It just wasn't that big of a deal," Helms noted. "I think they were just like, 'alright, we'll just try to get somebody else to write them, write particular blogs or whatever,' but I was just like, 'anything I do that generates revenue, I should get a piece of.' So I see that as a talent, but I also see that as a company, I think there was a point where they didn't want anything WWE on my website, and I was like, OK.
"And I remember redesigning it so that all you saw was my face and stuff like that. You never saw a WWE image, but I had so many images it didn't matter. I was just like, 'OK, I won't advertise the company I work for. If y'all think that's doing the right thing, I won't do that.' I said, 'y'all going to be fine.' It's a weird, tricky situation. I don't have a clear-cut answer, but I see the arguments on both sides, and I don't know who's right or wrong."
Helms noted that from a promoter perspective, exclusive deals lose their purpose if talent go elsewhere. He also noted that there are no live events but the downsides guarantees are still good, so talent are making good money without having to do much work. Helms prefaced that he is not taking a side in the debate but admitted that the situation does seem like a "you need to do what I tell you to do" situation.
"When you sign somebody to an exclusive deal, that whole part of that exclusivity is you only want people to have access for them on your show," Helms pointed out. "So this person goes out and gives access to themselves on all these other platforms, that kind of goes away from what you're trying to do, and some of those contracts, especially now, when nobody's really working a lot, there's not a lot of live events, but some of those downsides are still pretty good.
"So when you got people making a lot of money to do very little and now they're going out and diluting their worth by exposing themselves from a different platform, I can see how that would bother WWE. Not saying what they did was the right approach because I really don't know all the black and white about it at all, but it sounds a little like, 'you need to do what I tell you to do.'"
Shane'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.