The word’s been out about WWE bringing in a lot of fresh blood in backstage roles lately. The names have been reported, and even things like start dates and brand assignments have been covered on the dirt screens.
Still, the company releasing the above video touting their hiring of veteran wrestlers as producers is an interesting move.
But when I say veteran, maybe I should say “but not too veteran”, as within hours of this video’s release, Pro Wrestling Sheet reported (and PWInsider confirmed) that Arn Anderson has left WWE. Sheet’s headline claims he was “let go”, but their story doesn’t confirm a reason for the 60 year old Anderson’s exit. Insider only refers to it as a “departure”, but notes his leaving has led to speculation by WWE insiders that “other ‘old guard’ producers may also be on the way out.”
It sheds a bit more light on the welcome video. At first, I was just struck by the novelty of seeing folks we thought were Impact Wrestling lifers like Chris Parks (aka Abyss, aka Joseph Park) and Sonjay Dutt with the WWE logo in the corner is still a bit jarring. Parks is even shown holding up a TNA title (the Legends/Global/Television/King of the Mountain belt, I believe). It’s been confirmed one of the items covered in last year’s meetings between Impact and WWE officials was The ‘E using TNA footage and images in their productions, but still. Even in a week where Jeremy Borash was on-screen for NXT, it’s crazy to see Abyss clotheslining D-Von in his Aces & Eights cut on WWE’s YouTube channel.
Impact’s not the only company with a poached producer featured. Shane Helms apparently wasn’t under contract to Ring of Honor when WWE came a-calling, but that’s the last place fans who follow the business at that level of detail knew him from.
Letting fans see old faces like the Hurricane and Shawn Daivari, or Hall of Famer Jeff Jarrett, is probably a draw. But as fascinating as it is for process wonks to get confirmation Jarrett is working backstage in addition to his occasional on-screen appearances, is there demand for a video on producers? WWE’s never released one of these before, to my knowledge, and it feels very “inside baseball”.
Before word hit that Double-A was out, my colleagues Kyle Decker & Henry Casey wondered if this was just a way to say, “See, it’s not just talent wanting to leave! We’re hiring, and people want to work here! We’re still the most important thing in the business!”
That could still be a big part of it. But for it also seems to be a way to signal to fans they’re serious about taking a new approach to producing their television.
Color me skeptical. As long as the decision makers at the top are the same (namely Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn), I’ll believe Raw or SmackDown are substantively different when I see it - and a new approach to camera direction would be a great step, more than “different former wrestlers backstage”.
In the meantime, thanks for the memories, Arn! And welcome aboard, Mssrs. Daivari, Dutt, Helms, Jarrett & Parks!
Now please make Raw a more consistently entertaining experience.