Battleground was a breaking point for me as a fan. From this point onwards, Iím breaking my usual routine when it comes to watching WWEís PPVs. Iím from the UK so Iím not staying up till 4 a.m. in the morning to watch a WWE show. I stay away from anything wrestling-related to avoid results and watch the show the next day after work. That had been my routine, probably dating back to around 2002 or 2003 on a monthly basis. I never missed one. They were appointment viewing.
Iíll never forget the sheer heartbreak at waking up the morning after WrestleMania 20, no school to have to get through, then setting up the VHS tape only to find that I hadnít rewound the tape and it only recorded the first few minutes at the end of the tape. Or the time when I was so excited all day at school to get home and watch the 2006 Royal Rumble to see who won and then as I was coming out of school I overheard some kids talking about Rey Mysterio winning the Rumble. My legs almost stopped working such was the pain. Iím done with that routine now. From now on, Iím not watching these PPVs in full. Iím just going to cherry pick the matches that I want to watch and then only watch anything else if it gets rave reviews.
So I was watching Battleground and I got up to the A.J. Styles vs. Kevin Owens match and, after that, I was done. I started thinking to myself, why am I watching this show? Out of some form of blind loyalty? To what? To whom? So I can turn around and agree with other people about how we all wished we didnít spend over 30 minutes of our life on that Punjabi Prison mess? So I just turned it off and watched something else.
And thatís what Iím going to do with these shows from now on. If Iím not bothered about watching a match I just wonít. Iíll skip it until I get to something that I do want to watch. And if thereís nothing on the show that I really want to watch, or what I do want to watch is a foregone conclusion as far as the result goes, Iíll just read the results beforehand, check out some reviews of the show, and let them dictate how much of the show I see. As a result Iíll have so much more time to spend watching something else. Thereís so much good wrestling to watch either from the present era or from previous eras, why are we all sitting through a 28 minute Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal match? Did we all have some warped perception of reality and expect it to be good?
When it comes to Summerslam Iíll definitely watch the Universal Title match unspoiled because that ticks both the boxes for what I want from a match in 2017: Potential to be a great match without a foregone conclusion. As for everything else? Iíve sat through my last below-average Jinder Mahal match. Natalya vs. Naomi sure isnít worthy of my time. Another New Day vs. Usos match should be good. Kevin Owens matches do nothing for me anymore so heís on the skip pile. Whatever trash Bray Wyatt is involved in goes in the bin. Same for Dean Ambrose. Big Cass vs. Big Show can join them. Bayley vs. Alexa and Neville vs. Tozawa Iíll probably check out because I like all four acts, but I have no hopes for them being memorable matches.
So with all of that said, what are the reasons why Iíve tapped out to WWEís stranglehold and what can they learn from it? These are all primarily focused on the Smackdown side of things, but you can apply a lot of the points made to the Raw half too. The Raw PPVs at least benefit from a much better roster of talent that gets used to its full potential. Watching guys such as Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman, Sasha Banks, and Cesaro in good matches with crap finishes that donít mean anything is at least better than watching Jinder Mahal, Randy Orton, Naomi, and Lana in crap matches with crap finishes that donít mean anything.
(1) Nothing Matters
Thereís just nothing to get invested in as a fan because nothing matters. There are no journeys that wrestlers go on that we as fans get to tag along with. Thereís no natural progression in terms of character developments from one key event to the next. The outcomes of the matches donít even matter in the slightest because who gets pushed coming out of the next show may as well be drawn out of a hat. Thereís no ďoh this guy is picking up some momentum letís see where this goes.Ē Thereís no ďoh this guy is improving before my very eyes letís see where he goes from here.Ē Thereís no ďoh that was a big win for so and so, I bet that assures them of a bigger match on the next card.Ē Absolutely nothing that happens on these shows matters.
Aiden English beat Tye Dillinger. So? Aiden English still wonít mean anything and it just ensures that Tye Dillinger wonít mean anything either. The New Day won the tag belts. Hot match but the title change doesnít mean anything. The Usos had their turn holding the belts and now itís New Dayís turn again. When their turn is over itíll be someone elseís turn. Being a champion doesnít mean anything when everyone gets to be a champion. Natayla won the number one contendership match. I guess itís her turn to be in the title match, just like it will soon be Carmellaís turn, and in time Charlotte and Becky will each get their turn as well. The same goes for A.J. vs Owens. Thereís no equity in any of the belts to provide any sort of rub to whoever holds them.
Nakamura and Corbin was the epitome of nothing matters. We sit through 12 minutes of bearhugs and terrible striking for the old the heel doesnít care about losing the match finish. Oh, and we got the match two days later with an actual finish. Just to make us feel even more embarrassed for watching this show. How are we supposed to get invested in these matches if we donít trust there to be a decisive finish where something is achieved?
Cena beat Rusev. In fairness, Cena is a rare case of being an actual attraction for WWE and he should be losing very sparingly, even at this stage of his career. Plus Rusev isnít in for a big push right now with Jinder on top. But still, it didnít really matter a great deal, it was just a placeholder program before Cena likely works with Jinder at Summerslam. Sami Zayn beating Mike Kanellis falls under the same line as Aiden English beating Tye Dillinger. Theyíll trade wins and none of them will mean anything to the future of either guy.
And finally Jinder retained the title but it doesnít mean anything because nobody views him as being a champion or even one of the top guys in the company. Heís not a champion, heís just a guy holding a prop. He never picks up a decisive win where heís the better guy so we as viewers keep having to sit through all the unimpressive indecisive finishes.
So if nothing that happens on these shows matters then why should I care? Why should I even watch? For match quality? Itís not like the shows are producing these killer matches that make up for the relevant flaws of irrelevancy. Getting a title shot doesnít make you special when everyone gets a turn at some point. Being a champion doesnít mean anything when thereís no equity in any of the belts. Winning a match in the midcard doesnít mean anything because the concept of momentum and working your way up the card isnít there. Acts just suddenly get pushes out of nowhere because someone decides so and it has to happen all in a matter of weeks. So whatís the hook for watching these shows?
(2) What Are These Garbage Finishes Building To?
Remember how a rivalry used to start off with a regular match and then the intensity and the hatred would grow and youíd build towards them blowing the feud off in a big gimmick match where you let them loose on each other in an environment that allows them to kick the violence up to another gear. Remember when youíd get excited because a Hell In A Cell Match was announced. Remember finding out there was going to be a Street Fight and just assuming it would enhance the quality of the match.
Thereís none of that anymore. In fact getting a gimmick added to your match pretty much guarantees a worse match than you would have had working under traditional rules. Even the marquee gimmick matches such as Hell In A Cell, Last Man Standing, or Elimination Chamber donít get anyone excited anymore. And what do these rivalries build to now? Games of strategy. Yaaaaaay!
I am so done with these garbage gimmick matches that are more like someone competing on Ninja Warrior than in a professional wrestling match. And weíve had so many of them in the last few months. Thereís been Bayley and Alexa fighting to get a stick off a pole. Thereís been The Hardys and Sheamus & Cesaro playing a moronically played game of escape the cage. Weíve had Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman trying to place the other into a vehicle. And now we get John Cena and Rusev trying to complete an obstacle course ending with a flag planting and Randy Orton and Jinder Mahal playing a more advanced version of the game The Hardys and Sheamus & Cesaro were playing the other month.
And every single one of them is just so insulting to anyone watching with their brain switched on. I get that wrestling relies a lot on the suspension of disbelief. The irish whip is silly but we can put up with it because itís a means to an end. Thereís no positives from the stupidly contrived spots in these matches. Iím just begging for someone to make a total mockery of them and in a cage match as soon as the match starts just run straight up the cage and down the other side and win. I mean itís not like theyíre wrestling matches where you have to wrestle. All you need to do is escape.
Gimmick matches should be a significant drawing card. You should be able to announce a Cage Match and see a significant uptake in anticipation for the show. But that only works if you make them mean something and you ensure they add some sort of added value to the match. A feud leading to a gimmick match doesnít ensure a drastically different style of match and more importantly, it doesnít ensure that the viewers get a decisive outcome. Nowadays thereís a stupid out for every big match so none of the finishes, even in a gimmick match, mean anything. You do a Cage Match and thereís still interference 100% of the time. You do a No DQ Match and it just enables them to have someone interfere and render the match and the finish meaningless. They do a Hell In A Cell Match nowadays and itís not something thatís usually all that great of a match.
So when Iím sitting through a garbage finish to the opening match of a program like Nakamura vs Corbin or The New Day vs The Usos last month, why am I just accepting of the garbage non-finishes? Because they wonít lead to anything worthwhile. Theyíll just lead to another garbage finish in a different context or if weíre a lucky, a convoluted obstacle course challenge.
(3) A Lack of Talent
Thereís just so few real quality acts on the Smackdown roster right now. If we quickly run through the card it will illustrate this problem.
Aiden English is an undercard comedy act. Itís a role that all rosters should have somebody occupying, but unfortunately WWE have no idea how to effectively use an act like that and even if they did itís not an act thatís drawing you into a show. Tye Dillinger isnít someone you rely on to have memorable matches and hot programs. Heís a role player that should be used to get other people over. Which again, is a position on the roster that should be filled but none one thatís getting people excited about the show.
The New Day and The Usos are obvious talents but what on earth do they both do afterwards? Baron Corbin has something but the reality is that they havenít found a way of getting him genuinely over yet or a way of working an entertaining match around his strengths. Nakamura still hasnít produced anything good. That A.J. Styles guy is kinda good. I donít need to see Kevin Owens wrestle anymore but Iím not going to pretend that heís not an attraction. Rusev is a strong talent and Cena is Cena. Sami Zayn is obviously great but heís never doing anything important. I donít agree with people that say that Randy has been unmotivated during the Jinder program but the reality is that Orton isnít someone who naturally gets you excited about what theyíre doing. And then thereís Jinder Mahal working long main event matchesÖ
And as for the women. They have a very serious issue with talent. Iím all for the women being given more time to showcase their talents but only if they have talent. The women being featured more isnít a good thing if the women are Naomi, Carmella, Tamina and Lana. The reality is that Tamina and Lana just arenít at all good and nobody needs to see them working extended matches, especially when Charlotte and Becky are being used as glorified background characters. Which leads into my next pointÖ
(4) The Best Talent Playing Second Fiddle
Itís one thing when thereís not a whole lot of talent on the show but itís something else entirely when what good talent you do have are playing second fiddle, not even to average performers but to bad ones.
Charlotte has been on Smackdown for four months now and I canít name one significant thing that sheís done. She came over and got attacked by heels so suddenly she was a babyface and we were supposed to root for her because she got attacked by the other bad guys. Okay then. Maybe it would have had a chance if it was the catalyst into her becoming the face of the division but it was the catalyst for what? Getting Natalya, Carmella and Tamina over? Even if sheís not going to be the focal point of the division you can still at least be doing something significant with one of the best talents WWE had last year, male or female. Instead her run on Smackdown has amounted to just being a body in two disappointing ladder matches and a random match on Smackdown with Naomi and another with Becky.
Beckyís in the same boat too. I donít think sheís a super talent in the sense that she still wrestles to the level of her opponent but sheís a rare case of being a babyface who is actually liked by the vast majority of the audience. Yet sheís spent the last year doing much of nothing other than putting over Alexa Bliss in forgettable matches. Meanwhile Naomi, Carmella, Tamina and Lana who all still canít put together a respectable match get featured more than the two acts who last year were one of the most effective heels in Charlotte and one of the most effective babyfaces in Becky that WWE had.
And then at the top of the card you have Jinder Mahal. Everything that has needed to be said about Jinderís push has been said so I wonít say anything more about it here. Jinder being in lengthy featured matches wouldnít be half as bad if a) the rest of the show was really hot and b) he wasnít taking that spot away from much more deserving acts. But when youíve got a product that is struggling and instead of making use of the talents of acts like Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Sami Zayn and Chad Gable, the show is cluttered up with lengthy promos and matches from Jinder Mahal and Lana, it just compounds an existing problem even further.
If this was 2000 and the whole show was hot and they tried something like this Jinder Mahal push it would still be bad but it wouldnít be having half the damage on the show as it is now because the positives on the show would be far outweighing the negatives. Instead weíre currently faced with a show where the negatives produced from subpar performers are far outweighing any of the positives coming from the rest of the show.
(5) Too Many Shows
WWE has had issues with their product for years now. All these problems that Iíve brought up since I started this column arenít new things that have suddenly popped up. Theyíve been around for years. And yes thereís a breaking point for everyone that often takes a long period of time to reach, especially if youíre really a fan of something and you have been for a long period of time. The sheer volume of these shows however is going to be the finishing blow for a lot of fans who are on their last legs with the current product.
Itís as if youíre in a relationship and you know the hopes for the future of it arenít great for reasons a, b, and c. But youíve been together for a long time and deep down you want it to work. You remember the good times, get all nostalgic, and talk yourself into believing that theyíll come around again. Itís just a bad patch, things will get better if you stick it out. And then you take a holiday together and instead of just spending time with each other at the weekend and bit at night, youíre spending every minute of every day with one another. Suddenly, the little things that have always annoyed you just a little make you feel like punching a wall. The little quirks they do that make you roll your eyes suddenly make you want to scream, and in no time at all you just canít take it anymore because itís every single day. Thereís no break where you get to go to work or spend a night out with your mates instead.
And thatís what these WWE PPVs are starting to feel like. Every two to three weeks the same constant disappointment and annoyance until eventually you do what Iíve done and you sit down and think to yourself, ďWhy am I doing this to myselfĒ This isnít good for me. I could be spending my time on something more enjoyable.Ē
If the shows were still monthly, I could maybe put up with them. But theyíre like every other week as of late and the same pattern will kick in again after Summerslam and itís just too much to take of something that you just donít enjoy. Thereís only so many head shots you can take before you go down for the count and when it comes to these Smackdown shows, Iím lying dead on the mat at a nine count with no hopes of getting up.
So barring content that really grabs my attention, Iím out. Iíve taken enough punishment in this abusive one-sided relationship. Iím going to stand up for myself and say enough is enough. Those two to three hours every other week Iím giving back to myself. Thatís time that I can spend watching something better. Maybe Iíll watch some more Roddy Piper promos. Maybe Iíll watch some more amazing discoveries on nwaondemand.com. Maybe Iíll decide itís time I watched more Lou Thesz matches to determine how good of a worker he was. I donít know how Iíll spend it, but I can pretty much guarantee itíll be more enjoyable than watching a product that I donít like anymore.