For seemingly as long as I can recall, another report surfaced recently that the WWE is in a panic over the latest ratings.
The second thing I consider is a quote I’ve heard various times, mostly from Vince Russo (huge grain of salt needed here). Paraphrasing here, but it basically goes that Russo, Vince and the rest of creative would constantly challenge themselves to better the show that they had put on the last week. I don’t know if it’s true because Russo is one of the biggest liars in wrestling, but you would certainly hope it was.
Having said that, it’s clear here that lack of effort isn’t the culprit, despite what your favorite internet critic says. No, it’s come down to three things: impatience, a lack of stars and a lack of focus in areas other than the main event scene. I’ll take a look at each of these and how the WWE can possibly fix the problem.
How many pushes have been aborted at the drop of a hat? How many solid performers were ruined because they briefly got a push only to have it deflated quicker than a flat tire? A perfect example of this is Bo Dallas. Creative was supposedly very high on his gimmick coming out of NXT, but after a short while on the main roster, Vince got bored with the gimmick and moved on to something else. Why? Why not give these guys a set time and storyline to show their stuff and then see where they are when they come out the other side? WWE Creative is incredibly frustrating in that way because it looks like they’re really in the corner of a few guys only to forget about them entirely a week later.
Unless the WWE suddenly has something hotter to put in place (they never do), what’s the harm in letting these guys continue to have a little success and develop as characters to see how the crowd will respond to them? It’s almost as if the WWE debuts a new character, expects it to be instantly over and bails when that’s not the case.
Lack of star power
The lack of star power is going to sound like a rant against John Cena, but hear me out. Back in the early ‘90s, part of the problem the WWE (then WWF) ran into was a lack of heavy-hitters on the top of the card. Hogan was stale, but there wasn’t a lot there to replace him with. Ultimate Warrior couldn’t be depended upon, it was thought that Macho Man Randy Savage was at the end of his rope and there wasn’t much behind Hogan in terms of main event faces. Eventually, Vince had no choice but to push new guys and that’s how Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and The Undertaker became the faces of the company during the mid-‘90s.
The company is in a similar place now with Cena. He’s been the unquestioned golden boy since 2005. Roman Reigns aside, the company hasn’t really done much to make stars unless they got really lucky to have a scorching hot angle (Summer of Punk) or a guy with overwhelming crowd support (Daniel Bryan). Even with those two, the natural was and still is to default to Cena. When the fans already know that Cena will win each and every time, it makes it easier for them to click over to something else instead of watching Raw.
Part of this is due to Cena himself. Historically, top guys in wrestling do not want to do anything that they think may contribute to them relinquishing their top spot. Cena doesn’t want to make any of the faces look great because he fears they may come for his spot. I get that, but if the business is thriving, everyone is making more money for it. Steve Austin certainly wasn’t hurt by The Rock, Mankind, Triple H and The Undertaker. If anything, when he feuded with those guys, it just became more interesting because they were legitimate enough threats that you didn’t automatically know what would happen.
Having more than one star to take on the burden of being a top star makes life easier for everyone else, makes the show more interesting and, more likely than not, makes everyone else a whole hell of a lot more money.
Lack of focus
As for the lack of focus, this is what I mean: they’ll have at least semi-clearly defined stories in place for at least one set of divas, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, another main-event level feud and maybe one mid-card feud. The rest is just a grab bag of aborted stories with no clear idea of what’s happening, distraction finishes, several matches until the pay-per-view showdown and just a general lack of concern for the other portions of the card.
In the Attitude Era days, it wasn’t just Stone Cold that was getting all of the stories. No, there would be an ongoing tag team or stable beef, an undercard beef (usually over the Intercontinental Title), another story further down the card, so on and so forth. It helped make those undercard or mid-card guys more interesting because they had context to show off their character. It wasn’t “go out and wrestle Alberto Del Rio for the next 18 weeks.”
A good start to fix this would be returning prestige to the IC title again. Have someone win it and not only hold it for 6 or more months, but put on dramatic, entertaining matches to make the belt mean something. All it is now is something to build up to, then a slew of non-title losses for the champion. It’s like those that get pushed lose that push the second they get the belt. As if creative doesn’t know what to do when they’ve crowned the champion.
Just as importantly: build up the tag team division. Maybe the most money isn’t made through teams, but a competitive tag division can get people to watch just for that reason alone. How many people became fans during the Attitude Era because of the Hardy Boyz and Edge & Christian doing crazy shit? All areas of the show should seem important, because not every fan is there to root for the main guys.
Overall, the biggest issue is a lack of competition. WWE doesn’t have to worry for their place in the business because they are the business. They don’t have to put the best product possible on because, to hell with you, you’ll watch it. Where else are you going to go, especially now that TNA (which was a tire fire anyway) is off the air?
When the WWE looks as though they care about their whole show, that’s when people will start coming back in droves.
[amazon_link id=”B00JHH1YAW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]WWE The Paul Heyman Story[/amazon_link]