Monday, November 2, 2009

Stephanie Speaks Out - Her Critics, Why She's Not On TV

In a rare interview, Stephanie McMahon responds to her critics, specifically noting they used to bother her and how she views them now. She also explains why she's not on television as much as before, if there is a sibling rivalry between her and her brother Shane, the company's main focus for the future, and much more.

THE SHORT INTERVIEW

Danny Flexen managed to grab a few words with WWE bigwig Stephanie McMahon-Levesque at the September 18 weigh-in for the Mayweather vs. Marquez fight in Las Vegas . . .

STEPHANIE, TO BEGIN, can you tell us what all of your WWE job titles are?

I head up Creative Writing, Talent Relations, Talent Brand Management, Live Event Marketing and Live Event Management.

That's some list. What's WWE's main focus in the near future?

We are poised to take off like never before: becoming a truly global brand is the focus right now. Our television programmes are already in over 150 countries and translated into, I think, 30 languages. We have over 15 million viewers and over 15 million page-views per month on wwe.com.

For WWE to grow into a "truly global brand", I assume the company will have to stage more live arena events and television tapings outside the United States and Canada. But how about pay-per-views: do you envisage WWE promoting any from overseas markets?

There will definitely be more live events. The problem with pay-per-view overseas is finding the right times and dates to accommodate the time difference. It also helps if we have big stars from those areas of the world: that helps us make inroads into their countries; a lower-level wrestler does not make much difference. Look at The Great Khali, for example: he's revered in India because he's been the (WWE World) champion.

Does WWE need more headline stars in general to facilitate this expansion?

We have to be cognisant of not spreading ourselves too thin. It can be borderline. We're constantly building new stars, and now we have a five-star training facility in Tampa that should help with that. Steve Keirn is heading that up, and we have Dusty Rhodes helping with character development and mike skills.

I understand that you work long hours in the office and have to go on the road each week for WWE television tapings. Is it difficult to balance this work and travel schedule with being a parent to two young children? That you work for the family business alongside your husband Triple H helps, I imagine.

I take my kids with me on the road, as they are the most important things in my life: I don't like to be away from my kids, and that's part of the reason why you don't see me on-screen as much as before . . . You know, I was always forbidden to marry someone in the business by my dad. But, yes, it's helpful, given we both understand the rigours of our lifestyle.

Do you find it hard to leave your work at work? After all, you are technically your husband's boss.

We actually don't (argue) much at all, except in the business. Sometimes, you can take your work home with you and sometimes you don't. But we always work things out.

What about the schedule for the talent: are they working too many, too few or just the right number of live events?

I think we worked it out . . . I don't have the figures in front of me, but the average days worked per year was actually a lot lower than you'd expect. We always try to keep the balance right, and I know that's something John Laurinaitis is always thinking about. The brand extension means it's worse than it was, but it also means there are more opportunities available for the guys who want to work.

You've taken a lot of flak over the years for the role you play on the WWE writing team. Does it bother you?

It used to . . . But I decided that people are going to think whatever they want to think. I try to do the best I can do. I don't read the dirt sheets at all anymore: they used to really bother me. But the numbers — live event attendances, TV ratings — they tell me what I'm doing right and wrong. We're lucky in that way: we have a focus group in every town we go to every night, so if something's not working, we find out quickly and we can change it. We could be heading in the wrong direction and then completely change it.

Would you care to predict who WWE's next big stars will be?

You know, my dad always says he won't answer that question because he doesn't want to get into trouble, so I think I should say the same. I know who I've got my eyes on, though . . . There's a lot.

Your older brother Shane is WWE's Executive Vice President, Global Media. As driven people in positions of authority in the same company, is there any sibling rivalry between you?

Our roles don't exactly cross over that much. But I can't deny that we are, and always have been, competitive. Even now, as grown adults, after meetings we still play 'touched you last' - you know, like tag. We'll come out all serious, and then he'll tag me and shout, 'touched you last!' and then run away. (Shane's) the head of the International operation, so our paths cross when we do international live events - but we tend to work well together. I think our type of competition is a good kind: it drives us both on and makes the business better. But I cannot foresee a day when my dad (Vince McMahon) hands over the reins to either of us. He's still very much in charge -- and, trust me, everyone knows it.

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