Vince McMahon selling the WWE? Plus, Ross shares some major inside scoops. Also, Ourand hits on the NBA ratings, the U.S. Open and much more.
Episode 345 of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina features two interviews. First up is AEW play-by-play man and senior advisor Jim Ross. The man known as Good Ole J.R. reveals that he thinks Vince McMahon would sell WWE and explains why he thinks McMahon would sell. Ross also discusses the biggest challenge facing AEW, why he loves working for Tony Khan, whether there’s anything we don’t know about the night The Undertaker threw Mick Foley off the top of the Hell in the Cell, his reaction to the WWE’s hiring and firing Adnan Virk and much more.
Following Ross, John Ourand from Sports Business Journal joins the podcast. Ourand talks about the NBA playoff ratings, the difficult viewing experience that was this year’s U.S. Open, whether Vince McMahon would sell WWE and more.
The podcast closes with the new weekly Traina Thoughts segment.
Jimmy Traina: If you don’t mind, I’m going to ask you to play sort of psychologist/psychiatrist here for a minute, because obviously, you know Vince extremely well. And Vince, I’m looking at it as a fan, doesn’t concede often. So when he did move NXT, what did you make of it? Was it Vince wasn’t happy and he did it? Or do you think Vince is just thinking strictly business, this is better for us, we have to do it?
Jim Ross: I think the latter, for the growth of the NXT brand, for their ongoing relationship with NBCUniversal. I think, logically speaking and taking personalities and emotions out of it, it was the best thing for them to do. It’s the best thing for them to do with their relationship that could build a bigger audience. And again, the fans don’t have to make a choice. I can tell you I’m sure it pissed him off to read every week—we don’t beat them every week; I don’t want to exaggerate.
JT: Most weeks.
JR: But more weeks than not, we were the No. 1 watched pro-wrestling show on Wednesday nights. And I know he didn’t take that as in a good way. He’s very competitive and he’s used to being the bull of the woods. He’s used to doing whatever he wants to do and winning. And on Wednesday nights against us, they weren’t winning on a regular basis. I’m sure that bothered him to some degree. But I think that at the end of the day, it was the right decision to make for everybody involved.
JT: I don’t want to ask you a ton of questions on WWE and the current product since you’re not there, but I do have to ask one question, then we can go on with it. … They’ve had a lot of talent cuts, a lot of cuts in the office … the Nick Khan hire and the restructuring. And there’s a lot of rumblings that they’re getting ready to sell. No one would know the answer to this question better than you. I mean, would Vince ever sell?
JR: Yeah, I think it would. I think he would.
JT: Do you think they’re getting ready to sell now?
JR: I don’t know. It certainly seems to be leaning that way. But I’ve got nothing concrete to base that on other than what businesspeople that have been involved in sales and acquisitions and things of this nature [say], you know, they’re cutting their overhead. A lot of that isn’t payroll. Their payroll has ballooned hugely. Some of those guys that got cut the last round of cuts, some of them were million-dollar-plus players. So you get those guys, do the math again and it kind of makes a little bit of sense that they could be traveling that road. The McMahon family, their grandsons, the grandsons’ grandsons are not going to worry about money ever. And I’ve always thought that Paul Levesque would run the company, but Vince decided to step away. The issue is, and I believe this, that Vince is never going to step away. It’ll be a tragic day when he’s no longer the head honcho of WWE because he’ll have passed away. He is there for life and he’s a, you know, great-grandpa, a dad. You know, it’s just in their blood; it’s what they do. It’s like their name was Barnum or Bailey. This is what we do. So … but I do think that the company is not un-buyable. But I don’t know for sure how that’s all going to work out ever. I don’t know, but I do think that it looks as if there could be some rumblings in that regard. And then again, it may not be there. This may be becoming more efficient. They may be having a different leadership and different counsel, whether it’s their executive team to say we need to become a more and more efficient brand.
JT: I know I’m going to ask one follow-up on that, because I know I said just leave at that. But I got to ask a follow-up on it, because I’m obviously I mean, listen, I think most people who pay attention feel the way you do that Vince is never retiring. Vince is doing that until his last day. So what I find interesting is: If they did sell, why? … Maybe you can share some insight. I don’t know if you know, but why would Paul Levesque and Stephanie [McMahon] want the company sold one day? I would … I would have assumed they would have wanted it. I don’t know how that works in terms of family and stuff, but it would still be surprising to me if it got sold, only because I would have thought those two would have taken it and run with it.
JR: Well, I think you make a very valid point. But the thing about it is, is that whomever buys—let’s say it sells. It’s got to be sold with a thought in mind that I have people in place to run it. It is a very unique genre. It’d be like saying, I want to buy an NFL team, but I don’t watch the game. I don’t understand football. How many guys on the side? Oh, 11. O.K. I didn’t know that. I know that’s absurd, but the bottom line is that pro wrestling is such a unique animal that it takes a special breed, special backgrounds, special desires to make it work. Because it’s like nothing else. Our audience now with social media as it is and things of that nature are certainly more educated. They have more information, there’s more information flow and wrestling fans finally have something they can carry their flag around.
You know, people are paying attention in a great way. And like I said earlier, social media is the key to that deal. So if I was going to sell WWE and let’s say Amazon—I’m throwing that out. That don’t mean nothing; it’s a name. I could be Acme Brick Company and Wile E. Coyote gets hit with it. I don’t know. The bottom line is who better to run it than Triple H and his wife. DNA is there, experience is there, Vince has given them a great opportunity to get more experience in management, upper management.
The key thing in this whole deal, if you look at their situation, it’s no different than ours and AEW. The two components that we have to protect are our talent and television. One without the other doesn’t make any money. So I would think that by any stretch that if it did sell, it’d be a huge windfall for all involved, especially the family. And Triple H and Stephanie would have to find different jobs. I see them standing right there and running it, that would be ideal. … All of this is speculative.
Find recent episodes on SI.com.