COMMENTARY | One of the most memorable recurring WWE segments in recent history is Vince McMahon publicly telling one of his employees, "You're fired!"
This is not a new concept in professional wrestling, although its execution has evolved in recent years. In the past, a wrestler being fired as part of a storyline was often called a Loser Leave Town match. This was typically a prelude to a planned tour of Europe or Japan. It could also have been a wrestler's last match in a particular territory before moving to a new promotion. A more elaborate twist sometimes saw the "fired" wrestler return under a mask a couple of weeks later.
Among the gold struck by Vince McMahon in the Attitude Era was the simple, but powerful "You're Fired!" catchphrase. In the WWE, the simplest things seem to catch on the best and McMahon's public terminations were no exception. The list of WWE wrestlers and other employees that McMahon has fired in this manner could fill an entire pro wrestling hall of fame. The list of "fired" WWE dignitaries includes Paul Heyman, Mick Foley, and Steve Austin.
However, this wrestling storyline has lost its luster in recent years. Although it could be nothing more than experienced wrestling fans getting tired of seeing the same storylines on television over and over again, I believe the problem is that the "You're Fired!" storyline isn't being executed properly.
The first problem is that the executives carrying out the public firings just aren't as charismatic as Vince McMahon is. There is something about McMahon's bulging eyes, sinister look, red face, and gravelly voice that cannot be matched by the likes of Eric Bischoff, John Laurinaitis, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon. When Vince McMahon told a WWE wrestler, "You're Fired!" I always felt terrified that he'd happily do the same to me if he were my boss.
The other problem is that wrestling fans are a lot "smarter" today than they were in the past. Thanks to the internet, many fans know what's going to happen before the storylines even play out. Spoilers proliferate throughout the internet for taped wrestling events and live events are not immune to inside sources giving away information. Unlike the Loser Leave Town matches of the past, today's fans know when injuries and storylines are responsible for firings.
Obviously, the recent public firing of Big Show in the WWE is what inspired this article. This has to be the worst "You're Fired!" storyline in wrestling history. The biggest problem with Big Show's firing is that no one honestly believed Big Show had been fired. Although wrestling is scripted, the storylines must still be believable to make the drama work. I doubt any wrestling fans over the age of 10 honestly thought Big Show had really been fired.
If the WWE honestly wanted fans to believe Big Show had been fired, then Raw and Smackdown should not have aired endless highlights of his latest disgraces. All experienced fans know that whenever a wrestler leaves a promotion these days, he is almost never mentioned or shown on television by his former employer.
To make matters worse, Big Show somehow got back into the arena after being fired. I know Big Show is a big man and he could probably force his way past a guard, but how can you explain his entrance music playing when he walked back to the ring? There was no way I could emotionally invest in Big Show being fired when the storyline's execution was so poorly carried out.
Unfortunately, TNA is not immune to terrible "You're Fired!" storylines either. Although it isn't exactly the same thing, a similar scenario is currently playing out with respect to AJ Styles. In this case, Styles allegedly left TNA with its World Heavyweight Championship after failing a sign a new contract. Meanwhile, the TNA announcers continue to talk about Styles on Impact Wrestling, Dixie Carter mentions him backstage, and video packages of Styles' title defenses outside of TNA are shown throughout the show.
When Ric Flair left WCW as NWA World Heavyweight Champion, WCW did not air highlights of his activities in the WWF. It's just common sense that if writers expect fans to believe even an inkling of a "You're Fired!" storyline, they should start by not mentioning or showing that wrestler on television for a while. But even then, smart wrestling fans would still go online and find out whether that wrestler had really been fired or not.
Not everything in wrestling needs to be a completely original storyline. But Vince McMahon needs to look this old wrestling angle in the eyes and say, "You're fired!"
Patrick Michael lives in New Orleans and has always been a big fan of pro wrestling. Patrick's favorite wrestling promotion was Mid-South Wrestling back in the 1980s. Patrick's favorite wrestling angle of all-time was the NWO and his favorite wrestler is Roddy Piper. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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