Every once in a while, former 90s teen movie idol Freddie Prinze, Jr. gives an interview where he talks about pro wrestling and a bunch of people say, “that Freddie Prinze? I didn’t know he worked for WWE”.
So, yep, that Freddie Prinze has done two stints as a member of WWE’s Creative team, and that’s why he was a guest on last week’s Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast.
Mr. Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a couple of interesting to things to say to Sam about his boss, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon that are sure to drive some internet conversation.
In making a case that, despite vocal fan criticism on the internet, McMahon is actually creating the best possible wrestling show most of the time, Prinze puts Vince in some pretty lofty artistic company:
Vince is always going to do what Vince does. And, honestly, I know people don’t agree with this, but he really does know best.
Imagine if Jimi Hendrix was alive today. People would reach out to him on social media and they would tell him what kind of music to make. It would literally be the movie Misery, where Kathy Bates is like, ‘No, she’s not dead. You’re going to bring her back. I don’t care what book you wrote. You’re going to bring her back right now!’ And that’s what social media is, so they want to have a voice, they feel they have a voice in the match with the ‘Yes! No! Yeah! 1, 2, ahh!’
They feel they have a voice [but] you don’t. Are you entitled to it? Sure. Is it ever going to get heard? It shouldn’t.
Picasso didn’t hate whales. He just didn’t paint any. Like, he did what he wanted to do because he’s the artist. Vince is the painter. It’s Vince’s toy box. They are his toys. It’s cool he invites you over twice a week to watch him play, but they’re his. He doesn’t take his ball and go home. He’ll punch you in the face and play his game that you didn’t want to play on your dead chest.
That’s what the artist does. Jimi Hendrix would laugh at you if you said, ‘Man, I just want a pop song.'
There’s some good points in the quote - and probably the most accurate description of Vince’s relationship with the WWE Universe in the bit about his playing with his toys on our “dead chest” - but the counter points which remain are the flagging ratings and flat house show attendance of the “art” McMahon is creating.
He’s correct in pointing out the voice social media has given the audience and how many use it, and even that Vince’s track record of creating entertaining shows is pretty good. But to use probably the best example from Freddie’s string of analogies, Paul Sheldon’s Misery books were still topping the bestseller charts (in the Stephen King universe), even if Annie Wilkies wasn’t alone in hating the way he killed off the lead character.
Prinze also confirms and argues in favor of McMahon’s reasoning for not pushing cruiserweight-types as his top acts:
I want you to believe in the indy guys and the guys coming [from NXT], but just remember only certain guys get to hold the title. Oh, you’ve got to be the right type. The small guys, their story is climbing the mountain. It’s not reaching the mountaintop. They’re Sisyphus. They roll the boulder up only to have it thrown all the way back down.
Shawn Michaels was a rare exception because his body would not break. Rey Mysterio is an exception that proves the rule. He’s not an exception to the rule. He got hurt. The demands of a champion... Daniel Bryan, is another great example of what they have to do to their body 325 days a year without good sleeping conditions, without great physical therapy, without the means to rest between matches because you’re just on another plane in coach flying somewhere.
It is gruelling and destructive and that’s why Vince wants to keep the belt on bigger guys because historically they’ve been able to last longer and remain healthier.
Again, good points, but... McMahon is the person who can adapt the “destructive” schedule and workload so he doesn’t need to have a big men (and/or a literal genetic freak like John Cena) as his only options for the marquee.
Check out the whole podcast for more - including a great-if-unsurprising story about Vince not knowing who Richard Pryor is - on The SRWP.
In the meantime, let’s get the discussion/debate started!