What CEOs Can Learn From Pro Wrestlers
The official greeting of teenage Canadian boys in ‘99, when I was in the 8th grade, was not a wave, handshake or fist bump.
It was a cross armed x chop, or more casually, a one armed x chop, combined with a hip thrust and the words,
It was our hello, our goodbye, our battle cry.
Monday nights were sacred. WWE's Raw wasn't just a show; it was our weekly sermon, with superstars like Goldberg as our saints. I remember donning my Goldberg T-shirt, a prized possession from my brother, and practising his signature moves on our rainy trampoline.
The school was our ring, where phrases like “Nugget,” a nod to Owen Hart, bounced off lockers like a wrestler hitting the ropes. We were all part of this dance, from the big kids to the little guys, each finding someone smaller to enact our wrestling fantasies.
Pay-per-view events featured the best matches, but my parents refused to indulge us. These nights, I’d obsessively log on to early wrestling websites. Updates crawled in on our 56.6k dialup modem.
Over the Edge, a pay-per-view event scheduled for May 23, 1999, promised to be incredible. It featured Undertaker vs Stone Cold for the WWE championship. The Rock was set to battle Triple H. The Intercontinental belt was up for grabs as well, with Owen Hart challenging the Godfather.
By the time Over the Edge began, my modem was running hot from frequent logins, and my sister was screaming at me to get off the phone. Then I read something ominous. Owen Hart had fallen into the ring from the rafters after a harness malfunction.
Scant details were available. I kept logging back on for updates. An hour later, announcer Jerry Lawler confirmed 34 year old Hart had been killed in the accident, having fallen 78 feet. It felt like I had lost a family member. Wrestling lost its sheen after that.
Fast forward to tonight, and I'm at a WWE Smackdown event, trying to reconnect with that wide-eyed teen. The President’s Club at Rogers Arena is a far cry from those simple Monday nights. Seats are a staggering $75K per year. It’s as posh as anything I’ve experienced in live events, and the service is amazing.
Tickets with the best parking in the stadium. Up a flight of hardwood stairs, enter a beautiful restaurant and bar with room for about 50 patrons. It’s right below the bleachers, behind the benches. On either end the players walk to and from their locker rooms. All food is included, and we ordered wagyu and ribeye steaks to our table, cooked to perfection. Curtains open to a priority seating area with ringside views. From where I park to where we sit is a mere 100 paces.
Rockford, a retired wrestler in our group, narrates the event with the wisdom of a ring veteran. His insights are golden, yet the spectacle doesn't quite capture the magic of yesteryears.
There’s no Stone Cold fighting his boss, kicking ass and drinking beers. Vince McMahon’s retired. Steroids are gone too.
But what can I expect? I’m not following the storylines, and I’m a grown up now.
Every time I’m in a major sporting arena, I think about CEO.CA, the stock market website I created. I always envisioned CEO.CA being like a stadium of stock speculators, and the CEOs the wrestlers, vying for the adulation (and investment) of fans.
Here's the thing – CEOs could learn a thing or two from pro wrestling. Like the larger-than-life personas of the WWE, business leaders need to engage their audience. It's not just about the message; it's about the drama, the story, the connection.
Years ago, we produced Subscriber Summit conferences alongside newsletter writers Eric Coffin and Keith Schaefer. I once pitched Eric and Keith on hiring some wrestlers to spice up our corporate presentations. My idea was to have a wrestler pose as a disgruntled investor, heckle my speech, and slam me into a conference table. Then have another one come to my defence and brawl. Drama, excitement, unforgettable - but my colleagues didn't quite catch my vision.
So, as I sit here, savouring the finest wagyu, I can't help but feel that both the wrestling world and the corporate sphere have something in common. It's not just about what you do; it's about how you make people feel while you do it. Maybe it's time for more CEOs to step into the ring and show some real personality.
PS - Andrew Nelson, CFO at Westward Gold (I’m a shareholder), gets it (Example).