As we reported in our Rumor Roundup post last Friday, it was a chaotic night for the WWE creative team last Monday, as Vince McMahon demanded a rewrite of the entire script for Monday Night Raw at about 6:40 p.m., less than 90 minutes before the show went on the air, which meant that parts of the episode were being written as it was actually going on.
This led to recently released WWE writer Kevin Marshall calling in to Wrestling Observer Live yesterday evening in order to give some perspective on the writing process in the company. He argued that the story of such a last minute rewrite of Raw was indicative of how Vince McMahon is currently micromanaging the WWE product to death:
"Basically everything is micromanaged to death and I know there is a lot of talk of 'they' over there when we talk about the writing process for the show. It is no secret that the buck stops with Vince, but when I was there, and I guess that this started sometime before even I started there back last October, he was micromanaging everything to death. Basically you're sitting there trying to write for him and you're trying to figure out what he wants. The job became very quickly trying to figure out what Vince is thinking and then having him tell you he's changed his mind. So when we talk about the show being rewritten as it's happening, what I need people to know is that that show was likely written well in advance and there was an attempt at it, but either nothing was approved or everything got scrapped and rewritten by the man himself."
The overriding theme here of having to write for an audience of one, rather than the wider WWE Universe, and the challenges and frustrations that inevitably brings seems to be a common complaint amongst former WWE writers. However, the fact that Vince is more hands on than ever, gives credence to Triple H's argument that his father-in-law will never retire and that he himself isn't being groomed to take over the company and its creative control anytime soon.
The uncertainty may be the hardest thing for WWE creative personnel to handle. Marshall called Vince McMahon's reaction to their finalized scripts "a crapshoot" with some days ordering on the spot overhauls and other times the production meetings would go so smoothly they'd be over in 30 minutes to an hour.
Part of the problem, as Marshall mentions, is that the creative team has become so sprawling that they now have two subdivisions: one that works at WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, full time, coming up with ideas and writing scripts ("the home team"), and another one that goes to all the television tapings with Vince, who help to produce and direct the pre-taped segments for these shows, as well as contribute to all the brainstorming and scriptwriting ("the road team"). Inevitably, this leads to people stepping on each others toes and having to be a jack of all trades, but a master of none.
According to Marshall, there is a fairly widespread recognition within WWE that the creative team needs structural change and streamlining, but whenever someone tries to instigate change to make the process more efficient they eventually run into an obstacle and nothing ever gets done about it.
Marshall also made an impassioned plea in defense of WWE writers when asked a question from Mike Sempervive about what is the biggest misconception by fans about the WWE creative team:
"Well, I think the biggest misconception is that we sit around and we decide who gets pushed and who doesn't, that we sit there and lay out what the tent poles are going to be for the year, like 'hey, John Cena should win the title, blah blah blah'. We don't make those decisions, we don't make those calls on finishes, we don't sit there and hold talent back.
I think that's the biggest misconception is the idea that we just sit around and we bury talent and we try to come up with ideas to make everybody look stupid. That's certainly not the case! Just speaking from a writer's perspective, I never met anybody who was in the business of trying to make somebody else look bad. I think it's very easy when you watch our product, and I think just when you watch professional wrestling in general, to get the impression that wow, they're really going out of their way to make this guy look stupid.
It's really just a combination of things: 1) There's a lot of politics that goes on behind the scenes that the creative team is not in control of; [and] 2) There are certain guys that probably are their own worst enemy, as we all are, myself included.
It's a lot, lot harder than it looks, especially when you have a limited roster, which when you thumb through it on WWE.com that roster looks huge, [but] when you lay it down on a piece of paper and you have to fill like sixteen segments for Monday and then twelve for Tuesday, which is Smackdown, and then you have Main Event and Superstars and everything, it's really, really hard."
The take home message: if you don't like the big picture direction of WWE, then blame Vince McMahon and his powerful inner circle, not the people who write the words to fit their vision.
Despite these complaints, Marshall honestly admitted that he'd return to WWE in a heartbeat because he loves pro wrestling too damn much. It's good to hear that his eyeopening WWE experience didn't dampen his enthusiasm for the business like so many before him.