As I think about it more, I realize today what WWE is missing and their biggest mistakes. I grew up watching the tail end of the Attitude Era, and after comparing the earlier bits to what the WWE is today I think I have a solid idea of how WWE can improve their product, without necessarily just throwing in blood and swearing. They could, but on the current product, it would still suck (see TNA). There are at least 5 major things WWE is doing wrong, and I’d like to point them out and correct them. I know WWE writers probably don’t read these boards or give a damn, but I felt like expressing my views, as I am a creative writer myself, and there’s a lot of glaring errors on their part that make their product just make ends meet instead of evolving.
I apologize in advance for the long windedness of this post, but here we go. Here are some key points and factors:
Wrapping it all up:
- Formulaic writing. The format of Raw these days can often be summed up like so:
- Two or more wrestlers have a conflict.
- The GM (anonymous or otherwise) interrupts and schedules an otherwise meaningless match for the main event.
- Occasional backstage scenes intermixed with brief and uninspired midcard matches and feuds
- The match happens and either ends in the face winning clean or the heel cheating and stealing the win or getting DQ’d.
- Sometimes a main event segment happens with the GM announcing a match for next week or the Pay Per View.
I understand you have to set up the angles and all, but the biggest problem is it’s very scripted and tends not to feel like it’s dynamic. Once the main event angle for the night is set up, all you really get is some backstage scenes that don’t really do much. In the Attitude Era, the show really tended to –revolve- around the main angle, and new twists and turns would happen, and most importantly, other wrestlers would get involved. Stone Cold wasn’t the only wrestler feuding against the Corporation, other guys were, such as Mick Foley, DX, etc. These days it tends to feel like all feuds are in their own little universe. There’s no intermingling of storylines or any sense of complexity. It just feels contrived and scripted. It’s just enough to get them along and sell tickets, but it doesn’t improve the product.
How WWE Can Fix It: Keep a fresh rotation of creative writers. Fire the current head writers, as they’re not doing a very good job. Encourage out of the box thinking and always think how you can get other wrestlers involved in a major angle if the scope of the storyline calls for it.
- Overscripted promos. Now, I’ve got no problem with WWE wanting their wrestlers to stick to what they want. The problem is, they want them to recite almost the EXACT lines and it really shows, and sounds unnatural, when someone like Randy Orton says something like:
The wrestlers (and announcers) are FORCED to regurgitate exposition and material constantly to remind us what’s happening, and use stilted terms and words (like WWE Universe). Even the best promo guys in the company have to do this and have to stick tightly to a script (don’t say fans, don’t say wrestling!) There’s little to no room for improve or wrestler creativity. For guys like CM Punk who can make a shit script into gold, it’s fine, but still not the best they can do. For someone like Morrison who isn’t the most natural on the mic, it sounds as forced as hell, and overall, it sounds like everyone talks in the same voice. This does not help. It only hurts, especially newcomers. The best promos in history were of the wrestler’s own invention, and completely ad-libbed (Austin 3:16 ring a bell?)
“What am I going to do when I face John Cena at the Royal Rumble for the WWE Championship? Well, I’m going to hit him with the RKO, and pin him in that very ring, and celebrate in front of the entire WWE universe!”
How WWE Can Fix It: Don’t eliminate the script altogether, but instead turn it into a general guideline and have bullet points. Accept reasonable ideas from wrestlers who want to have more input on their character, and allow for some level of ad libbing and spontaneity.
- Heels are SEVERELY handcuffed and feuds are not built properly. The biggest problem with feuds these days is that there seems to be a sense of giving the audience instant gratification. Faces will win clean on TV 90% of the time it seems. I can’t count the amount of times a midcard heel has been given the standard ‘good try!’ match against John Cena only to come up short when he shrugs off their offense for the past 10 minutes and AAs or STFs them for the victory. But that’s just talking about individual matches. Entire feuds are booked all wrong. Most heels these days are made out to seem like, in a fair fight, the face would dominate them easily. The heel might get a standard token beatdown or cheat to win a match here or there, but more often then not the heel will look CLEARLY like he has no chance. Or, In the rare occasion that the heel does manage to go into the PPV without looking like a chump, the face will just win and kill the suspense of the angle. It would be like if, in a fantasy RPG, the first time you met the villain, you beat the crap out of him instead of vice versa. They always go for just a –little- heel heat instead of REALLY committing and making a star. I know people hated the InVasion storyline, but at least the heels won the first big match against Team WWF!
And it’s not even the fact that they’re made to look like the face has their number. It’s not just the main face, it’s every face. If Miz can’t beat Jerry Lawler on his own (a retired wrestler), how the hell do we even buy him as a threat to Randy Orton? I know they’re running an undeserving champ angle, but he has to at least look like a threat in the ring, a guy who can get it done against normal guys and only resorts to cheating against superfaces when things are looking grim.
How WWE Can Fix it: Go all the way with feuds and pushes. Don’t half ass the building of a heel, you need to make the audience REALLY want their blood instead of always being sure the face will win the day in the end anyway. What if, for example, Sheamus beat Cena cleanly in a regular match the first time they met for the title? Up until this point, he had been booked as a monster, but he had to win the title in a controversial table match. What if Cena was beaten, horribly, with no excuses, and had to recoup and retrain himself? They could have run a storyline with him fighting to come back better than ever, and trying to receive the rematch he feels he deserves, while Sheamus annihilates challenger after challenger? Instead, they give him a crappy reign that ends randomly in the Elimination Chamber, and turned him into a coward who runs from a fair fight.
What if, instead of having Cena (surprise surprise) overcome the odds at SummerSlam against team Nexus, they had him eventually lose the match? It would have given Nexus a HUGE rub, Cena would be blameless because after all, it was 2 on 1 by the end, and you’d have a catapult for a truly devastating team. No, instead we have Cena win, and the Barrett has to come out the next night and try to get heel heat back with a promo, while Cena comes out on the stage and calls them names. THIS IS NOT HOW YOU DO IT. Unless a storyline calls for it, a heel should never have to be on the defensive. If WWE changes this mentality, I guarantee they will put more asses in the seats.
- Lack of ‘true’ gimmicks and poor midcard direction. Now I don’t want everyone to come out in stupid gimmicks, but I’d at least like the writing team to give people something good to work with. Some sort of a theme or motif. Gangrel and the Brood were midcarders in the Attitude Era, but they were over, because they had a cool gimmick. You knew who they were just from the start of the music, their entrance, their attire…The Oddities weren’t going anywhere, but they had a hell of an entrance the crowd could get into as well.
But now we’ve got the most standard gimmicks. All R-Truth does is cut the worst rap in the world when he comes out to the ring and that’s all he does. He doesn’t wear any unique attire; he doesn’t have any sort of in ring style or moves the crowd can identify with. The gimmicks they do have rarely, if ever, extend beyond their entrances. Nobody comes off as being their character.
And for the rest, we have guys that just come out to a fake general ring name with no gimmick other than being an intense up and comer, cocky young upstart, or big guy that dominates stuff. Yay. There is little thought put into the debut of a wrestler or tag team other than giving them a name and maybe a weak gimmick and throwing them to the wolves. Remember Y2J’s debut? Yeah, that was much better, wasn’t it?
How WWE Can Fix it: Put more thought into a debuting wrestler, and always be sure to have some sort of starting storyline in mind for them to get over. It takes a hell of a good wrestler to get over without ANY direction, and even then, the diamonds in the rough might not get to shine because they aren’t allowed to showcase their true talents. Give good, thoughtful gimmicks, give a direction, write more midcard storylines, etc. This may be the most important. John Cena, Triple H, Randy Orton, Edge, and Undertaker aren’t going to be able to carry the company forever. If they’re hurting for top names when they’re gone, then what the hell is going to happen to the WWE?
- PPV Oversaturation. This is a shorter and simpler point, but I think I speak for everyone when I say ‘less is more’. The way it is now, you’re expected to fork over 45 dollars every month just to keep up with the storyline, and take a gamble on something that might or might not be good, depending on how the writers are feeling this month’s PPV. There’s only ever enough time for a standard monthly build. Sometimes even less (there were 2 PPVs last year within 2 weeks of each other!) It’s no wonder buy rates are down, because people can’t afford to pay 45 dollars a month, and they don’t want to, either. And I sure as hell don't.
How WWE Can Fix it: Chop out at least 4 or 5 PPVs, and build towards the remaining ones. Remove the ‘gimmick’ PPVs because those tie the writers’ hands into writing the feud to somehow make sense in say, Hell in a Cell even if it shouldn’t be at that level. This means more time to build angles, including better midcard feuds, and more buys to make up for the lost PPVs.
I know Vince McMahon is a man set in his ways. He wouldn’t follow this advice if it was a message from above. Some people may say Vince knows what he is doing, and that’s how he got this far. That might be true, and there is a lot Vince is doing right. He knows how to promote, at least. The video packages for the WWE are the best of any company. But there’s also a lot Vince is doing wrong, and he’s forgotten what brought him to the dance in the first place. These are just my opinions and the changes I would implement personally. Maybe not this year, or next, or after that, but someday, I am hoping WWE will fix these mistakes and bring back what made wrestling good in the first place.