Episode 345 of 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 JR reveals that he believes Vince McMahon would sell WWE and explains why he thinks McMahon would sell. Ross also looks at the biggest challenge AEW faces, why he loves working for Tony Khan, if there’s anything we don’t know about the night The Undertaker threw Mick Foley off the top of Hell in the Cell, his reaction to hiring WWE and firing Adnan Virk and much more.
Following Ross, John Ourand of Sports business journal joins the podcast. Ourand talks about NBA playoff qualifications, the difficult visual experience this year’s US Open was, whether Vince McMahon would sell WWE, and more.
The podcast closes with the new weekly segment Traina Thoughts.
The following transcript is an excerpt from The SI Media podcast. Listen to the full episode on podcast players everywhere or in SI.com.
Jimmy Traina: If you don’t mind, I’ll ask you to play some kind of psychologist / psychiatrist here for a minute, because obviously, you know Vince very well. And Vince, I see him as a fan, he doesn’t concede often. So when you moved to NXT, what did you think of? Vince wasn’t happy and did he? Or do you think Vince is just thinking strictly business, this is better for us, we have to?
Jim Ross: I think the latter, due to the growth of the NXT brand, due to its ongoing relationship with NBCUniversal. I think that, logically speaking and removing personalities and emotions, it was the best they could do. It is the best thing you can do with your relationship that could generate a larger audience. And again, fans don’t have to make a decision. I can tell you that I’m sure you pissed off reading every week; we don’t beat them every week; I don’t want to exaggerate.
JT: Most of the weeks.
JR: But most weeks, we were the number one pro wrestling show seen on Wednesday nights. And I know he didn’t take it as a good thing. He is very competitive and is used to being the bull of the woods. He is used to doing what he wants 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 at the end of the day, it was the right decision for everyone involved.
JT: I don’t want to ask you a lot of questions about WWE and the current product since you are not there, but I have to ask you a question, then we can continue. … They’ve had a lot of talent cutbacks, a lot of cutbacks in the office … the hiring of Nick Khan and the restructuring. And there are many rumors that are preparing to sell. No one would know the answer to this question better than you. I mean, would Vince ever sell?
JR: Yes, I think I would. I think I would.
JT: Do you think they are preparing to sell now?
JR: I do not know. It certainly seems to lean that way. But I have nothing concrete to base that on other than entrepreneurs who have been involved in sales and acquisitions and things of this nature. [say], you know, overhead is being cut. Much of that is not payroll. His payroll has skyrocketed. Some of those guys that got knocked out in the last round of cuts, some of them were million-plus players. So you have those guys, do the math again and it makes a bit of sense that they might be traveling that road. The McMahon family, their grandchildren, the grandchildren of the grandchildren are never going to worry about money. And I always thought Paul Levesque would run the company, but Vince decided to walk away. The problem is, and I believe it, that Vince will never walk away. It will be a tragic day when he is no longer the head of WWE because he will have passed away. He’s there for life and he’s, you know, a great grandfather, a father. You know, it’s only in his blood; is what they do. It’s like his name is Barnum or Bailey. This is what we do. So … but I think the company is not impossible to buy. But I don’t know for sure how all of that is ever going to work out. I don’t know, but I think it seems like there might be some rumors to that effect. And again, it may not be there. This can become more efficient. They may have different leadership and a different board, whether their executive team says we need to become an increasingly efficient brand.
JT: I know I’m going to ask for a follow-up on that, because I know that I said leave like this. But I have to ask him for a follow-up, because obviously I mean, listen, I think most people who pay attention feel the way you do, that Vince will never walk away. Vince is doing that until his last day. So what I find interesting is: if they were sold, why? … Maybe you can share some ideas. I don’t know if you know, but why did Paul Levesque and Stephanie [McMahon] Do you want the company to be sold one day? I … would have assumed they wanted it. I don’t know how that works in terms of family and stuff, but I would still be surprised if it sold, just because I would have thought those two would have taken it and executed it.
JR: Well, I think you have a very valid point. But what happens is that whoever buys, let’s say he sells. It has to be sold with the thought in mind that I have people in place to run it. It is a very unique genre. It would be like saying, I want to buy an NFL team, but I don’t see the game. I don’t understand football. How many boys are there on the side? Oh, 11. Okay, I didn’t know. I know that’s absurd, but the bottom line is that professional wrestling is such a unique animal that it takes a special breed, special background, special wishes to make it work. Because it doesn’t look like anything else. Our audience now, with social media as it is and things of that nature, is certainly more educated. They have more information, there is more information flow, and wrestling fans finally have something to carry their flag with.
You know, people are paying close attention. And like I said before, social media is the key to that deal. So if I were to sell WWE and let’s say Amazon, I would rule it out. That does not mean anything; is a name. It could be Acme Brick Company and Wile E. Coyote will be affected. I do not know. The bottom line is who better to manage it than Triple H and his wife. The DNA is there, the experience is there, Vince has given them a great opportunity to gain more experience in management, senior management.
The key in this whole deal, if you look at your situation, it is no different than ours and AEW. The two components that we have to protect are our talent and television. One without the other does not make money. So I think in any case if it were to be sold it would be a huge win for everyone involved, especially the family. And Triple H and Stephanie would have to look for different jobs. I see them standing there and running it, that would be ideal. … This is all speculative.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.