The WWE is going through a rough patch right now. I’m not saying they’re in trouble. I’m not even sure what “in trouble” means at this point anyway. What, they’re going to close the doors and call it a day? Of course not.
Everyone knows about it now and no matter how many times Monday Night Raw may feature a good match or intriguing promo, no one can stop talking about it. WWE is in a tough place right now and nothing seems to be getting any better for them.
How did this happen? How did the company that took on every competitor that stood in its way and leave them trampled under foot, find that mediocrity would lead to this? The easy answer is that the lack of competition has left them stale and clueless as to what the average pro wrestling fan wants.
During The Monday Night Wars, WWE was dialed in. There was no wondering what fans wanted or who they wanted to see, the company knew. Stone Cold Steve Austin wasn’t elevated to the top because that was the plan. He rose up because that’s what the fans demanded.
Vince was on the spot; WWE was right there and answered practically everything the crowds wanted. That’s not to say they always got it right of course. WWE had quite a few misses during that era; the ball was dropped more than once.
But the company was seen as being ahead of the curve. Fans watched WWE programming and could not wait to see what would happen next. The product was fun, it was edgy and it was always surprising. There was no room and no time to grow stale.
That was then, this is now. Fans can sit back and mourn the loss of WCW and long for the days of the Attitude Era but that will not bring either one back. WWE was indeed in a fight for survival and that’s exactly what they did; they survived.
Pro wrestling’s explosion in popularity will probably never happen again, nor will the insanely high ratings WWE enjoyed during those days. There’s no reason to blame WWE for that, either. It was a great time to be a fan but most of us have moved on and those that haven’t are probably long gone.
It hasn’t been all doom and gloom since WWE won the war, there have been some bright spots in the years since then. It’s not as though the company died the day after WCW shut down. But a lot of what we’re seeing now likely stems from those events.
The arrogance WWE displays at times is astounding. Daniel Bryan did not win the Royal Rumble when it was obvious fans wanted him to. Almost every episode of Raw begins with either Seth Rollins or The Authority cutting a 10 minute long promo. The Bella Twins dominate the Divas division to the point that a talent like Natalya can’t get on TV.
All of this is nothing; it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Yet in every example, WWE sees the problem but does nothing to fix it. Instead, Triple H comes out on live TV to criticize fans that complain while Stephanie McMahon’s Twitter account says “I play a bad guy on TV.” The Bellas are featured in a storyline that airs fans’ grievances against them yet it all ends up making Charlotte look like a fool. It’s like The Authority clocks in to “play” at being a wrestling company instead of actually being one.
In every instance, the company continues to thumb its nose at fans. Therein lays the real issue at the core of what’s wrong with WWE; the dialogue between the company and the fans has changed. WWE’s message used to be “sit back and have fun, you won’t believe what we do next.” Now, that message is “we know what’s best and every time you complain, you just show your ignorance; we’ve got this.”
The former was an open form of communication, a great way for the fans to be verbal and be heard on a variety of topics. The latter has all but slammed the door on us and left everyone wondering how it ever got this bad.
The boys in the locker room may not see it. The daily grind of WWE tends to take over and anything coming from online is chalked up to being nothing but shortsighted whining. We’re all just armchair bookers, with no real clue how to run a pro wrestling company. Sound familiar?
Until that changes then it’s a good possibility nothing will change.