In the shoot sports world, having your boss say they're happy with your work when things aren't going well is often seen as a bad sign for players, coaches and general managers.
There's even a cliche among fans and journalists for it...the "dreaded vote of confidence".
Somehow, I don't think this is the same thing, but I couldn't help but think of it when I read this article in the New York Post Business section entitled, "Is WWE down for the count?"
Author Richard Morgan runs through the numbers we've been discussing here...ratings drops of 500,000 to a million viewers since August, widespread criticism from fans about lackluster stories...and he reached out to the company who broadcasts Raw and SmackDown on their networks for comment.
It's that response the brought to mind the "dreaded vote of confidence":
"WWE programming delivers one of the most massive live audiences in cable on a weekly basis and is consistently a top performer for our networks," NBCU told The Post.
Even in an article obviously looking to capitalize on current doom-and-gloom predictions for Vince McMahon's company, Morgan ends by noting that WWE's stock is up 41% for the year, so the sky isn't totally falling.
The Comcast-owned media giant is likely as pleased as their statement to the Post indicates. Programming that draws a live audience is a valuable commodity, and they're not likely to walk away from something that delivers that.
But the current numbers, and negative press from widely read outfits like NYP, aren't going to help WWE when they're back at a negotiated table with NBCU in the future. And it won't help bring other suitors to Stamford with sweeter offers.
Though things may not be as bad as his critics try to make it seem, all told, McMahon would like to see the ratings improve so that no one is going to NBCUniversal for comments that elicit a "vote of confidence".
Dreaded or not.