By reader request on the awesome Vince McMahon doesnâ€™t care about Black People, by Daniel Douglas here we will explain why Vince McMahon missed a great, black young talent like Elijah Burke. The reason isnâ€™t because Vince doesnâ€™t care about black people, or that heâ€™s lazyâ€¦ the answer is Vince doesnâ€™t care about his talent.
Over on 57talk.com, there is a great interview with Dusty Foley, a former WWF jobber. Foley suggests that after the late 80s, Vince McMahon learned a lesson. He learned that if his WWF was the attraction, not the wrestlers in it, then he never had to worry about talent again. He has and had other worries, but from then on, Vince made the majority of his talent, particularly underneath, utterly interchangeable. Now people arenâ€™t wrestling fans, theyâ€™re WWE fans, and while they might have their favorites, those are all from the four of five that Vince has allowed to get over and become stars (weâ€™ll examine why later). People donâ€™t come to shows to see certain stars, they come to see the WWE spectacle. That might not make for the best product for the discerning fan, but it is good business.
In the late 80s, when Vince had successfully branded himself, he was paying big bucks to a lot of stars. Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Rick Rude, Ultimate Warrior, Andre the Giant, Honky Tonk Man, Tag Teams like the Hart Foundation and Demolition, Ted Dibiase, Dusty Rhodes, Jake Roberts, Roddy Piper and probably more (but you get the idea) were main eventing sold out house shows. These guys were legit stars and because they were on top, would earn a great deal of money. Of course, Vince also had the top guys of various promotions working underneath on his shows, like Tito Santana, The Rockers, and Hacksaw Duggan, all of whom were the favorites of many and could definitely have made a great living in the territories. As such, they were all paid heft salaries, so while business was booming, so were costs. Of course, at that time, Vince was in take-over mode, and such practices were necessitated to drive the opposition out of business. The same is clearly true in the Attitude Era, where Vince again embraced making a full card of stars. Thatâ€™s all well and good, but what about the era in between and after.
Those eras were not characterized by a great deal of talent throughout the card, but a focus on talent and marketing of the top of the card. When WWE (then WWF) was in full control, like they are now, they didnâ€™t need to worry about getting everyone to their shows. They had and have a core fanbase of wrestling fans that will support them. What the WWE needs from these fans is, first, for them to tune in to see television shows at enough of a clip to keep business good. This is easy with the branding of the show, as you can see by the fact that ratings donâ€™t go up or down a huge deal based on who is on the show. Attending house shows works under much the same principle. Now, at these shows, or on the web, the WWE wants fans to pay for merchandise. Now, a fan who goes to a show, wants to buy a shirt and anyone searching for a wrestling shirt online is pretty clearly going to buy one. These are a captive audience, so they donâ€™t need a huge variety of options. The WWE keeps a certain, small number of stars, because these are walking pieces of add revenue. If they had more guys as stars, theyâ€™d get not much less revenue, since they already sell out most of their arenas to people who are buying whatever the merchandise is from the star of the day. These stars are also the only ones who really need the focus on television, since theyâ€™re the ones youâ€™ll be buying merchandise of, theyâ€™re your favorite, and theyâ€™re the one youâ€™ll be potentially buying a Pay Per View to see. For a mark, it doesnâ€™t matter if youâ€™ve seen Cena vs. Orton 200 times, all that matters is Orton is a bastard you want to see killed and Cena, whose gear you own in support of, is just the man to do it.
Making new stars puts several kinks in the machine. First and foremost, it means paying them all more. The WWEâ€™s top guys are the only ones making huge money, so more top guys means more expenditure. Sure, they generate some of that back, but not in add revenue- people who want wrestling shirts are already getting them and not in show attendance or ratings- those only go up marginally, not offsetting the cost in promotion of and paying of these new top guys.
Because of this, the WWE doesnâ€™t need to force itself to make new stars or have a compelling midcard. A compelling midcard might let too many stars, who demand to be paid, walk away or cost the WWE profit, then all of that push is lost money. Of course, the occasional John Cena or CM Punk arises, where they get a gimmick that gets so over they become new stars and are elevated along with those already there, but those are protected. And there are those Vince likes for one reason or another, like Ted Dibiase, who are groomed to be stars as a current group readies to depart (nearing the retirement of Undertaker, Batista and Shawn Michaels), but with a crop of very similar wrestlers, Vince can wait for the cream of the crop to separate itself. In the meantime, anyone who falls out of line, no matter how talented they might be, whether Elijah Burke, Mr. Kennedy, Kenny Doane, or Lance Cade, can be gotten rid of. So long as they werenâ€™t stars yet, the marks donâ€™t really care, and Vince hires multitudes of wrestlers of a certain mold, so they arenâ€™t really missed. These wrestlers in the mid-card donâ€™t have to be good or know how to talk or anything of the sort. Theyâ€™re replicable cogs until they get over enough to be in the upper mid-card because they donâ€™t have to be anyoneâ€™s favorite, all they have to do is appeal to certain segments of the audience. Elijah Burke isnâ€™t important because, potential star or not, his demographic is covered. Once creative, Dusty Rhodes at that point on ECW I believe, lost interest in him, he became just an unused cog in the machine. Did he have potential? Sure, but so do a lot of other guys that could be pushed just the same. Meanwhile, the black urban demographic is covered by Cryme Tyme or MVP, Carribean Islanders are covered by Kofi, Hispanics by Rey, and so on. Freaks cheer CM Punk or Jeff Hardy, while jocks get behind a Jack Swagger. So long as every demographic is covered on the main two shows, the guys in the spots donâ€™t matter.
So, maybe Elijah Burke showed he didnâ€™t have the head to be a big star because Vince McMahon hated the Kreflo Dollar ripoff gimmick he came up with. Maybe he failed a wellness test, mouthed off to the wrong person, or, just maybe, Dusty Rhodes got distracted, meant to come up with an angle for Burke and forgot. In the end, it didnâ€™t matter to the WWE which of these it was, only that he wasnâ€™t over and a star yet and his demographic was covered. For not having him, the WWE isnâ€™t selling any less merchandise to black youths, let alone any other demographic. They have the same stars and use the mid-card in the same manner as they would with him. They didnâ€™t make him big enough to matter without the WWE machine. Itâ€™s about profit, not race. Elijah Burke didnâ€™t stand out as marketable enough to be a star in Vince McMahonâ€™s eyes and wasnâ€™t worth caring about. So, Elijah Burke was gone. And the WWE machine churned on.
Tags: a modest blog, Elijah Burke, WWE