As reported just days ago, the WWE have announced that they are canceling Talking Smack as a weekly program on the WWE Network. This sad news came as a huge shock to fans and WWE talent alike. Even the program's hosts Renee Young and Daniel Bryan were caught off-guard, only hearing of the sudden programming decision via Twitter.
Now as more details emerge, it seems that the decision for canceling the beloved post-show program has little to do with ratings, and goes all the way to the top.
According to Sports Illustrated columnist Justin Barrasso, the decision came directly from Vince McMahon, despite the show's popularity with WWE fans. Sources close to the situation reported that McMahon was unhappy with the show and strongly believed it did not serve the company’s best interests.
Talking Smack generated headlines through its open, unscripted forum, including seminal moments for The Miz and greatly enhanced the recent heel turn for The Usos. But it was that very unscripted nature that McMahon took issue with, as it lent the show a genuine unpredictability, beyond his control.
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Despite increasingly irregular appearances at WWE events, McMahon remains the singular voice of his company. Though absent from WWE televised programming, McMahon is by no means detached from his product. However, although he remains looped in on every key detail, the 70-year-old is just not as physically present as he once was.
WWE offered the following statement on Friday, stating, “We continuously review WWE Network’s programming line-up based on a variety of factors, including viewership and subscriber research. Talking Smack and Raw Talk will air following pay-per-view events, and Tuesday will continue to feature 205 Live.”
But despite the stated plans for occasional Talking Smack shows, the long-term plan, per McMahon, is to eradicate the program altogether.
It's clear many are unhappy with the show's abrupt end. It truly seemed like WWE's talents benefited from the free-form outlet it provided. The unscripted style has been a breath of fresh air in the modern wrestling era where the majority of what comes out of a superstar's mouth was penned by a team of WWE writers. Furthermore, Young and Bryan have a great chemistry with all the WWE Superstars and Bryan, especially, had an effortless way to make it feel as if he were free to operate without the WWE pulling the strings.
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However, Bryan has increasingly expressed interest in leaving the WWE for the competition when his contract is up. Despite prior concerns regarding his health condition, he may make good on those threats if the company continues to deny his wishes to return to in-ring action.
Following her removal from the cast of Total Divas, and the announcement that her backstage interview program Unfiltered With Renee Young has also been effectively canceled by the WWE Network, could this spell an impending departure for the beloved commentary personality from the company?
We'll have to wait and see, but this doesn't bode well for either host. WWE appears to be in fat trimming mode. But the cancellation of Talking Smack is especially frustrating in the context of how the company responds to fans wishes with clear indifference, almost as if punishment for wanting to view the product in a way that isn't necessarily Vince's vision.