Listening to the fans is the new mantra of WWE, and its authority figures.
Fan reaction comes in different forms, and with experience of working for WWE's creative team, Jimmy Jacobs knows the way WWE thinks. When speaking to Fightful ahead of his January 4 Zelo Pro match against Austin Aries, Jacobs addressed the measure of reaction when it comes to WWE fans.
"When you're talking about fans, it's not a monolith. When you're in the writers room, producers, agents, we can't agree. The idea that the millions of WWE fans have this singular voice, it's kind of a fallacy. How do we measure that voice? Is it in-arena reaction? Maybe. Supporting WWE at a live event is the most expensive way to do it. Those are the most-die hard fans. Can you say something about merchandise sales? Perhaps. Response on the internet? Yeah, there's that, too," said Jacobs. "There's the mysterious, mythical casual fan. The lapsed fan. The fan that we're trying to get beyond the barrier from the people who go to the shows. What do these people theoretically, conceivably, maybe like?"
For many fans who have tuned in weekly for years, they can feel like the show isn't being crafted to what they want, instead hovering towards the hypothetical casual viewer. When it all boils down, it's what Vince McMahon wants. For all of the negative attention McMahon receives for choosing his interests over a broader one, Jimmy Jacobs remembered a 2016 scenario that led to McMahon going for a main event run for a new star in AJ Styles.
"When AJ Styles came into WWE, Vince McMahon was skeptical of him for every reason you might think. He came in at Royal Rumble, got a great reaction when he came in and Vince was still skeptical and said 'well that's just one audience.' Can he talk? What's his character? Does anybody know who he is? All the reasons you would think. But it was Vince McMahon's idea to have AJ work with Roman Reigns a few months later. We had all pitched our ideas and figured you'd want to give him a strong heel. The strong heels we had at that point were Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens, and Vince was like 'we're going with AJ Styles.' You have to give the devil his due in those moments." said Jacobs.
Styles would go on to be a two-time WWE Champion, including a reign that saw him hold the title for over a year. WWE is hoping to retain AJ Styles, who, as we've reported in the past, is looking for a lighter schedule moving forward.
Jacobs would go on to leave WWE the next year and join IMPACT Wrestling, where he's appeared as an on-screen character and helps write the show.
Jimmy Jacobs will appear at Zelo Pro on January 4 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for "Milwaukee Meltdown" at the Pabst Theater, where he faces Austin Aries. You can check out Zelo Pro Wrestling's Youtube channel at this link