Whether you thought that Jon Stewart’s involvement in this past week’s WWE Raw was a successful segment for the show or not, it’s fact that whenever the WWE are able to bring in a celebrity, it brings more eyes to the product. We need not look further than The Rock’s involvement in the product for evidence of this – yes, he is a former WWE Champion but in the eyes of the general public, he’s a celebrity. When someone is flicking through the channels and they see The Rock on live TV, they’re going to want to see what happens.
Now, celebrities have been a regular feature of professional wrestling since the early WrestleMania events, with the very first mainstream trace of a celebrity participating in professional wrestling being in the early 1980s when Andy Kaufman began his feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler. This continued through the years of WrestleMania.
The obvious issue is that there are two types of celebrities in terms of their relationship with professional wrestling – those who watch and those who don’t. It tends to be quite obvious when we, as an audience, catch one of these celebrity appearances who is a true fan of the product and who is just there to promote a product.
Celebrity involvement in professional wrestling – especially over the past however many years since they began with the Raw Guest Hosts – has been met with mixed reviews from the audience. These types of segments are very difficult to watch. They are poorly written, poorly executed, and only serve to harm all involved. There have been notable exceptions of course but overall, the execution of some of these ideas has not been adequate.
The Jon Stewart segments on WWE Raw, for example, have garnered primarily negative reviews though there are some who enjoyed the appearance surely. Stewart has publicly declared himself a fan of the WWE, has used multiple superstars on The Daily Show, and is the type of celebrity that the WWE wants to reach out in order to attract.
Gillian Jacobs, Noel Gallagher, Daniel Radcliffe, Adam Sandler, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Owen Wilson, Stephen King, Billy Corgan, and Jim Carrey are all celebrities that have at one time or another declared their love for professional wrestling yet very few of these have ever been seen anywhere near the WWE.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that these names run the gamut as far as the type of celebrity they are however the WWE has never discriminated in the past. Why not involve celebrities that actually care about the product into the fold to help elevate their ratings – the Jon Stewart media attention didn’t translate to a huge jump in ratings however no doubt it brought some new eyes to the product. Statistically speaking, some of those new eyes are bound to stay and hang around for a few weeks at least.
If the WWE can invite legitimate fans of the company into the fold for stories that don’t begin and end in one night, it may be a way to attract new eyes to the product in a way unlike anything that’s ever been seen before. Let’s face it. No celebrity is ever going to have the opportunity to play in an NFL game, fight in a UFC cage, or shoot a hoop in the NBA. In the world of the WWE however, they can be protected and they can be given the opportunity to elevate the professional wrestlers around them in a way where everyone benefits. The greatest example of this would be Mike Tyson’s involvement in WrestleMania XIV.
It’s hard to say if the WWE will ever take this approach to incorporating celebrities into their storylines. For the time being, there are two things that are blatantly obvious – a) the way that celebrities are being used currently is in a very ineffective and unentertaining way and b) because of that, there are little to no benefits being seen from their involvement.