We’re well into the first week of 2018, and, if you’re like me, your New Year’s Resolutions are already in the midst of a Curt Hawkins-like losing streak. Let’s face it, change is hard. It’s usually easier just to keep going down the path you’re on than to make a radical adjustment to your lifestyle. What’s true for people is true for businesses as well. WWE did a lot of good things in 2017, but it also did some mind-numbingly bad things. Here’s a few ideas for how WWE could make 2018 brighter.
The Professor’s WWE New Year’s Resolutions
Keep the Women in the Spotlight – In 2017, we saw the first-ever women’s Money in the Bank Ladder match. (Though it was initially won by a man. Remember James Ellsworth? Me neither.) The first women’s Royal Rumble match will happen later this month. WWE’s new focus on women’s wrestling is good for gender equality, and it’s good for business. From Raw to SmackDown to NXT, the company has a bevy or top-flight performers. Alexa Bliss and Charlotte Flair had as good a year in the ring as any of the men. WWE has a good thing going. All they have to do is stay the course. It’s arguable that the women’s divisions are better booked than the men’s. All WWE has to do here is stay the course. Seeing women in prominent positions on any card is becoming the new normal.
Better Booking for Recent NXT Champions – As brilliant as WWE has been with the women, it has been equally bad in booking recent NXT call-ups. While Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe are both (rightfully) in the spotlight of SmackDown and Raw respectively, the last few NXT Champions to get the call to the main roster have suffered horrendous booking. Bobby Roode, Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura and, until recently, Sami Zayn have all been booked poorly. Until Zayn was linked with Owens on SmackDown, he spent a long time looking like WWE’s next Dolph Ziggler (a guy who always has, and loses, great matches). Roode, Balor, and Nakamura have looked stronger, but none seems to have a clear direction. It seems like Roode might be the first of this group to get back on track, as he’s in line for a U.S. title shot at the Royal Rumble. There’s even hope that Balor will be resurrected now that he’s dragged Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson out of R-Truth’s basement. Nakamura remains in limbo. He’s crazy over with the crowd, but it seems like the booking team has no idea what to do with him. At this point, only a Royal Rumble win and a feud with AJ Styles might be able to save him. WWE has to recognize that these men spent years outside of this system learning how to get over, and they’re all over. Now, book them in a way that makes them relevant.
Balance the Tag Team Divisions – The tag team division on SmackDown is fantastic. You’ve got the Usos, New Day, Gable and Benjamin, and Aiden English and Rusev all near the top of the card, with the Bludgeon Brothers coming up fast. The Colons should be back soon, the Fashion Police, until recently, were an entertaining act, and the Ascension still has potential if they got a fresh start. On Raw, you have a makeshift tag team (Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan) as champs, the Bar constantly in the hunt, and maybe Gallows and Anderson’s return to relevance now that they’ve rediscovered Balor. Somewhere, the Revival is lurking in the background. WWE needs to revamp the divisons. Send Rusev Day over to Raw, let the Revival out of the basement, repackage the Ascension and maybe call up Authors of Pain from NXT. Then, you’d have tag team matches worth watching on both Monday and Tuesday nights.
Get the Belt Off Brock – For a long, dark part of 2017, Jinder Mahal was the WWE Champion. Fans didn’t hate it, they simply ignored it. Finally, AJ Styles became the savior of the blue brand when he took the belt from Mahal late in the year. Even with Mahal pushed beyond his limits (and beyond all reason), SmackDown’s title scene was still better than Raw’s. Why? Because Brock Lesnar has held the Universal Championship since April of last year, and is likely to hold it until this April at WrestleMania. A year-long title reign in and of itself isn’t a horrible idea. It’s a bad idea here because Lesnar only appears on television about once a month, and only defends the belt on rare occasions. It’s hard to sell the prestige of a belt when fans hardly ever see it. The only good side to this has been that the Intercontinental title has gained prestige and relevance as Raw’s only (televised) championship. Taking the belt off of Lesnar, no matter who wins it (Roman Reigns) automatically makes it more interesting and makes Raw more compelling. The WWE Universe is used to seeing champions every week.
Look to the Future Instead of the Past – While some newer stars like Owens, Styles and Joe, along with Braun Strowman, have spent time in the main events, WWE still has a tendency to rely on stars of the past too often. HHH was one of the last men standing at Survivor Series, Shane McMahon inserts himself into many main events on SmackDown, and most recently, Kane was called out of the Tennessee hills to take the pin in a triple threat match with Strowman and Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. WWE needs to put its trust in this new generation of stars. Instead of always relying on Lesnar, John Cena, Randy Orton and others, let Balor, Nakamura, Zayn, Styles and company take the lead. The wrestling will be better and the product will improve greatly. More importantly, we won’t see HHH rolling out to the ring in his electric wheelchair at WrestlMania 50.
Let Woken Matt Hardy Save Bray Wyatt – Of all the superstars in WWE, no one has suffered more from bad booking than Bray Wyatt. Wyatt’s character, at least in the beginning, was dark and compelling. People may not have known what he was talking about, but they were more than willing to listen. Fast forward a few years, and Wyatt is still doing a good job of playing his role, but countless fits and starts and losses in big matches have taken some of the teeth out of The Eater of Worlds. This is where Woken Matt can save both himself and Wyatt. Hardy’s character is somewhat similar to Bray’s, but with a more comedic style. This feud has great possibilities. Let Hardy do his act, crazy laugh, wild hair and all, and let Wyatt get more and more frustrated as he observes the fans buy into the “delete” chants. He can start talking about how he’s been trying to save the WWE Universe from itself for years, but no one would listen. Then, in comes this clown spewing gibberish, and they’re all in. Wyatt can get darker and darker, then simply destroy Hardy. This would rebuild Bray, and wouldn’t hurt Hardy in the least. His delusional character can simply declare victory, and move on to the next feud, or continue the conflict with Wyatt. Having Bray return to his darker self would give everyone a chance at a new start.
Next week, we’ll discuss who should win both Royal Rumble matches. Until then…..