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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I try not to complain about creative. However, over the course of the past few months, they've made so many horrible mistakes that I am just shocked. I just can not figure out who is behind these awful decisions. Is it Vince McMahon changing his mind and I have read he tends to do, or is it a group of soap opera writers sitting in creative who would not know how to properly tell a story based around a central conflict rather than twist after "shocking" twist?

It's not as if you need to use various story building models for every feud. Most feuds can go by without much work. For example, Sheamus vs. Morrison. They came up with some awful Santino centered lead-in, which was completely unnecessary. After they got past that hump, the actual feud progression went by just fine (minus Morrison mic blunders) without any real story building. Where creative fails is with big feuds (and not having feuds for the undercard.) Feuds involving two titanic personalities, one of the world titles, or that encompass an entire brand (or maybe the company), require a lot more work. These feuds are intended to be epic. So maybe a basic understanding of what makes something epic might help with the failures we have seen over the past year.

I'm going to start at the most basic model of the epic progression, the three act build. Many stage productions are made in three acts, but the more common example of these in today's society is actually the trilogy. Most epic trilogies, be they the original Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, heck, even Pirates of the Carribean, follow a general progession through their three parts. I have a lot more examples of this in books, but it's more likely that people have seen these movies than read what book examples I might use. Anway, back to the progression.

The first act (or movie) establishes the characters and the conflict. There is a lot of freedom in this first act. How large the conflict, who wins, what it entails, none of these are as important as setting the stage for the next two acts. The second act is very, very important. In the second act, the bad guys win. They don't just barely win, or squeak by with a victory, they make things seem hopeless for the good guys. In the Empire Strikes Back, Vader chops off Lukes hand and sells Han Solo to Jabba the Hut. In Pirates of the Carribean, Captain Jack Sparrow and the ships are swallowed by a giant kraken. In the Two Towers (mind you I don't remember the movies that well so I have to go by the books), Frodo is captured by Saurons troops and Gondor is about to be invaded by a much larger near unbeatable force. This is the act that sets up for the power of the climax in the third act. In fact, the bad guys must seem to hold the upper-hand throughout the third act until the good guys, by the advantages of their virtues, manage to pull out an amazing victory in the climax.

In 2010, we had a big storyline occur in Nexus. However, it immediately fell apart when the second act fizzled. Wade Barrett did not win. He did not win the title at all. In fact, the best he got was either when Cena was forced to join Nexus, where he did nothing at all to help Nexus, or when he was fired and stayed away for, oh wait, he didn't. Of course they rushed the end of the angle at that point, Wade Barrett already appeared completely ineffectual. It would be like if in The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke showed up at the city where Vader took over, he proceeded to whoop Vader and all his troops and send them packing. Who would care at that point? Who would want to watch the third movie?

This same problem can be attributed to both brands on the build up to Wrestlemania. This is Wrestlemania, it's supposed to be the climax for the year. The only problem is, our major storyline this year has already been ruined, and no bad guys looks strong enough for the climax to draw interest. The Miz is a beatable champion. There is nothing wrong with that character. What is wrong is he is beatable by Jerry Lawler and his back up he uses to win are the guy who couldn't even place in the last 3 in the second season of NXT (being shown up by McGulli-whatever, Husky Harris, and Kaval who spent his post NXT time jobbing on the B show), and Michael Cole, the smallest and least physically impressive of the commentators. Forget wanting to see Miz deposed, I'm still waiting for him to seem like someone that needs to be deposed. Cm Punk and the New Nexus reached their pinnacle in the Royal Rumble when they controlled the ring for a few minutes before being completely dismantled by John Cena.

Over on Smackdown, the B show, Wade Barrett, after being buried by John Cena, created the Corre, which not only hasn't had their big victory, they haven't really made any impact at all. Dolph Ziggler hasn't had his big victory yet, even having all the decks stacked in his favor. The only bad guy with any victory to talk of has been Alberto Del Rio, who won the Royal Rumble. Well that's impressive, sure, but since he hasn't done anything else to show dominance, it's not enough yet. There is still a chance to build up Alberto Del Rio before Wrestlemania to create tension for the climax, but looking at the rest of the heels, I find it very unlikely.

Now, the three act formula is not the only way to go about creating an epic storyline, but it's something that you go about expanding upon, adding complications and sub-stories, not something that you generally scrap completely (face v face showdowns work differently.) The most important thing about this set up, is epic storylines are how you make new stars. In a time where they are trying to push the youth, they are not doing it correctly. Heels are legitimized by the strength of their second act victory and their third act reign. This does not mean they need to win clean, or seem as strong as their face counterpart, but rather than must simply seem despicable and dominant, through whatever means necessary. Heroes are made through their third act victory, based on how they overcome. This means the stronger the heel, the bigger the face if made by overcoming.

Wrestlemania is designed to be this climax. The last time they utilized the basic components of the three act progression at Wrestlemania to create new stars, they made their two biggest stars for years. At Wrestlemania 21, Batista and John Cena ended the oppressive reigns of HHH and JBL respectively. If they want to sell PPVs and merchandise, wnat to raise ratings, and they want to make new stars, they should remember how to make an epic story.

P.S. Yes I am well aware that they also need to work on better characters, and utilizing lower card talent, including having actual feuds for them. I was just commenting on the most mind-bogglingly awful decisions I've seen lately.
 

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WWE sucks at writing feuds. I know. It's painful. Especially when they squander easy opportunities.

I'll refer to Batista/Cena as the perfect example of a three act feud being wasted. The first act concentrated on Cena's character taking issues with being seen as a product by Vince McMahon. He cites wrestlers he respects like Batista, Shawn and Undertaker also not taking to such ideals. Then this is followed by Batista striking a deal with Vince because he's jealous of Cena. Cena then feels fear for the first time and doubts he can win. Finally, after four years, we see something new and compelling with Cena.

Raw before Wrestlemania, Cena magically overcomes his doubt and Wrestlemania (the culmination of the first act) has him winning via tap-out. Feud is then dragged on for another month and a half through the final two acts with the bad guy chasing the good guy. And the good guy doing things he never does normally (attacking the bad guy when he's down).

An average writer would have taken that feud and pulled off a great fued over several months leading to a huge pay-off.

Other examples of wasted potential are Triple H/Orton from Wrestlemania 25. Believe me when I say this was a hot feud. It was getting some excellent viewership numbers for its segments. But at Wrestlemania, they killed it. Then they dragged its corpse for another month and went into the second act of injuring Triple H (but too little, too late). Then the third act was with Triple H's return and transition into the Legacy feud.

Another example of wasted potential would be the Nexus/Cena angle as you mentioned. One can write a thousand words describing how poorly executed this was.

Another great example of wasted potential would be Batista/Undertaker from 2007. Smackdown was doing crazy gates and bumps in viewership. But this feud only succeeded due to starpower and both men putting on great performances. How screwed would creative be had Batista/Taker not worked their asses off in their matches? Yet they couldn't work an easy story between these two to build excitement and hype.

WWE creative sucks, plain and simple. They have their hits though few and far between. But their misses are painful to see. Especially when you have feuds that write themselves. It honestly makes you think there are people there with little understanding of narrative structure.

We understand WWE is essentially a soap opera. We're not expecting some great characters and writing. But the three act structure exists for a reason and really, it does work with most of WWE's feuds (it's rare they ever have to get more complex than that). And what's saving WWE for a long time now has been match-quality. It's a shame that we don't often get the storyline quality to match that.
 

· Student of the game? I am the f***in' Game!!
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Incredible post.

My sentiments exactly. Yess I look and no heels are of any threat to the good guys. Wheres the big pay off?

Barret sparked the most buzz and was by far the most deadly threat WWE has ever dealt with of last year and Cena kills him off.

CM Punk has yet to recover from Big Show and Rey.

Miz looks about as vulnerable as fish in a barrel.

And etc.

Point is WWE fails to make obstacles for the good guys. Wheres the triumphant victories? What happened to real accomplishments from defeating a foe?

Strong contenders vs. Strong champions = buyrates. People aren't gonna pay for dq finishes that can be spotted a mile away,.
 

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Excellent post @OP

I completely agree, it's just as if they've either omitted the second act entirely, or they have switched the roles and have the faces dominating the second act, while heels never get their third act triumph.
 

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storytelling is supposed be about guys that no matter how bad they really are as wrestlers can keep the match interesting and involving and eventful

guys like Undertaker and Alex Shane and Spud and Ravenand quite a few minis, guys that lack in the workrate department yet HAVE ACTUAL MOVESETS THAT THEY UTILISE TO THE FULL LIKE IT REALLY MATTERED and play the physical role as good as cutscenes of Link from LOZ

NOT a bunch of undertrained phone-ins doing headlocks and restholds and weak punches for 15 minutes straight while resorting to weak rehased scenearios that make the match drag worse than The Duchess Of Queensbury
 

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Great post. Yes, the WWE is pretty bad at booking 101. I'm not sure if this is a product of having too many "hollywood" writers on board and not enough pure wrestling guys or what, but it's a problem. Actually, it's probably their biggest problem give that all other problems - poor PPV buyrates, titles not meaning anything, etc. - are derived from it.

Barrett being killed by Cena before WM being one of the biggest blunders in recent memory, given that that match could had been a huge payoff had they just held off on it. Instead they blew their wad on a meaningless "chairs match" of all things, and we're left with the inferior Miz/Cena match for WM.

Ziggler is another example. If he wins the title next week it will be a travesty. From a booking standpoint what does that do? Ziggler looks like shit because as usual he has to have a million chances to win and all the cards in his favor (not to mention that he hasn't done anything to significantly hurt the babyface. It'd be like rewriting Star Wars where Darth Vader is a blundering idiot who never manages to hurt anyone or do anything right), Edge (your babyface who you are building to a WM main event btw) looks stupid, and the title will eventually just change hands back to Edge anyway, so the title becomes even more devalued. So who benefits? No one. So that's why WWE will probably go through with it.

And just to make clear, this isn't about pushing certain guys or not pushing certain guys. That's a different issue. This is about the fact that, once you begin storylines, there are certain logical things you should do have them payout in the biggest way possible. This is true for novels, movies, whatever. For whatever reason WWE creative tends to completely ignore these things, and it's painfully obvious in every aspect of their product.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
While I rag on WWE for this, this has been a problem in wrestling for a long time. WCW in the past, and TNA currently are really bad about messing up the climax. The entire point of this is to build up to the climax. When you build up the villains, and then botch the pay-off or have no pay-off, the effect turns out even worse. 1997 Starrcade, the Fingerpoke of Doom, the entire Main Even Mafia run, these are things that hurt the product worse than failing to build rising tension for the pay-off. On the bright side, WWE does not have a long storied history of doing this.

My main concern is that WWE is trying to build up new stars. Using this structure as a starting point is the best way to do that. It makes the heels look strong, and more importantly, it's the absolute best way to make a new face other than building up a heel and then turning them. If they plan on pulling the trigger with John Morrison or Kofi Kingston (or even Daniel Bryan) anytime soon, this would be the best way to get them over. For example, 1997 Survivor Series would be considered the second act victory for the main villain leading up to Wrestlemania 14. Try to imagine the rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin to the title without Vince McMahon as he became after the screw job. I rest my case.
 

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Fantastic posts by OP and The CC. Btw, how about that 'bigger picture'?
 

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Great post.

The thing is these days most of WWE's writers are hollywood and tv writers who know little to nothing about wrestling and how to structure a fued like the old days.In the old days they had bloodfueds where you felt the two wrestlers where gonna kill each other .These days the fueds are just wacky and over the top and rely on twist and turns and shock value like many tv shows ,movies etc.It's the writers faults no one elses,but this is what Vince wants .We always know Vince wanted to try and break into Hollywood ,but to me WWE would always been seen as Hollywood's retarted brother.

My main complaint about writing is they don't have enough focus on the belts.Some fueds make the belt seem irrelevant like the Orton /Cena fued when Orton was heel .This fued did not need any man to have the belt at all it seemed that irrelevant.They should threat it like a real sport like boxing ,mma etc where the belts are the main focus of booking and almost every fued revolves around the belts without the storyline being wacky and over the top .If X wrestler is the champion and Y wrestler wants the belts the fued should be based around the belt not because X killed Y's dog or slept with Y's wife.
 

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Thanks for writing this OP. Was fun to read. I love reading about writing and creative processes. I never thought about the whole 3 act story and it's really interesting. I hope someone at WWE creative reads this post.

I think the biggest problem at WWE right now is Vince and Steph ( for being his kid ) are seen as legends. The writers just automatically go along with anything the McMahons say. Someone needs to stand up to them and show them how badly they are ruining the whole creative process.
 

· Inappropriately tinkly music.
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Only real decent stories Ive seen in the last few years were Punk/Jeff and Shawn/Jericho. And those were mostly due to the individual performances.
Jericho tends to elevate whatever feud he's in just through his little storytelling touches. For example, feuding with Rey could have just been the standard "let's try to take Rey's mask" feud (and was, at its core), but the little details like Jericho hiding out amongst the kids in the crowd and lying prone for the 619 to nab the mask were just genius.

The problem with WWE feuds is that it's mostly just moments you remember: Batista's kissing babies promo, Punk singing Happy Birthday, Orton kissing Stephanie, etc. I couldn't tell you much of what actually started the feuds, or happened throughout.
 

· Celestial Messiah
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The feud I enjoy seeing most are the ones based on real, logical storyline progression, real emotions, and true hatred.

Thats why I loved Punk vs jeff and Shawn vs Jericho so much. They were clashes of personality. Both Shawn and Jeff's hypocrisy and flaws. Jericho and Punk's descents in madness. No unnecessary swerves or retarded twists. Just two men, trying to destroy each other wrestler.

Wrestling doesnt need to be complicated.
 

· There is no duty we so much underrate as... being
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Someone needs to send this OP and entire thread to Vincent Kennedy McMahon.

I completely agree. It's sad that quite a number of people on this board could book WWE better than the people who are paid to do it. But that is truly the state of things.

How do you screw up something like Cena/Nexus? How do you make it into a parody of itself, and then make a concept that nearly everyone was in love with as a fan and make it into a joke ("New Nexus"/"Corre")? Is Wade Barrett a midcarder now? Where's the payoff to his revolution?

It's completely wrong booking. Old-time classic booking may have gone overboard in doing so, but one of the key goals was to stretch feuds and programs out for as long as they could go. WWE is still--to a much, much lesser extent than TNA, but nevertheless--stuck in the Attitude Era's "hurry, hurry, hurry" style of program-pacing. And even then they at least endeavored to pay off the huge overarching angles of the time at the biggest show of the year (Austin's Rise at Wrestlemania XIV with the Kane/Undertaker angle, Austin/McMahon at Wrestlemania XV, even though it ended up continuing for a while afterward, Rock/Triple H at Wrestlemania XVI even if it continued on and was a bit screwed up by their overbooking, Austin/Rock the following year, etceteras).

These days it's like they have a big angle that starts off in June or so, play with it for months, move on to something else and then start up a whole new list of programs for Wrestlemania around Royal Rumble time. Cena tends to have foes who reach back to the past in some way or another, like Batista last year and Miz this year, but generally everyone just starts all over again like from a "refresh" button being hit, paired off against guys they haven't feuded with or at least haven't for a while. And even when WWE tells a decent or good story like the eventual break-up of Legacy, which was teased to the point that it became anticlimactic regardless, they don't consider the follow-through, which is one reason why Rhodes had to start all over against from scratch on Smackdown and DiBiase was given a character that doesn't even begin to suit him. And on and on it goes.
 

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It's not just in wrestling either these days, especially in things geared towards younger people, there's no threat or danger and it's all happy in the end, gearing kids towards no conflict or disappointment. Just look at games today also, you can't "die" or get held up too much, it turns people into whiny complainers when they face any setbacks. WWE acts like kids will just stop watching if Cena loses for 2 weeks in a row it's just silly, let Cena get destroyed for awhile then his comeback payout will be so much more and last longer. Like the OP said it's simple storytelling, you need credible villains,
 

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Yes I look and no heels are of any threat to the good guys.
"But, but, but they have to turn Randy Orton face because he´s getting pops."

"And the kids want to see the good guys win all the time, because they like repitition. It`s genius."

"And why even complain about it? It´s just wrestling. You only look like a nerd if you complain."

"I mean, ten minutes of Hornswoggle at the rumble is so funny and way better than the Cena/Punk/Barrett storyline."

Those are just a few examples of what I read on this very forum when someone complains about WWE creative.
 

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I agree with everything the OP posted. I would also add (dont know if this was mentioned by anyone else) butI think WWE's other major problem with stories is that they dont follow through with anything. if a story doesnt draw imediated (sp?) attention they change their minds and do something else which leaves everyone wondering "what happened?"

Good example is the the whole Miz/Orton and Cena/Punk thing going on now. Its like at the Royal Rumble everyone just switched opponents and it doesnt even make sense and there was no conclusion to the previous storyline.
 

· Inappropriately tinkly music.
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It's not just in wrestling either these days, especially in things geared towards younger people, there's no threat or danger and it's all happy in the end, gearing kids towards no conflict or disappointment. Just look at games today also, you can't "die" or get held up too much, it turns people into whiny complainers when they face any setbacks. WWE acts like kids will just stop watching if Cena loses for 2 weeks in a row it's just silly, let Cena get destroyed for awhile then his comeback payout will be so much more and last longer. Like the OP said it's simple storytelling, you need credible villains,
Eh. The 80s and early 90s were just as kid-focused, and there was plenty of threat to faces back then. Randy Savage was bitten by a fucking snake. It's the writers being dumbasses and aiming for easy payoffs and cheap pops, rather than actual engagement with a story.
 

· Purebred Powerhouse
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Excellent opening post.

With that being said, I'd actually like to expand on your notion. Yes, most wrestling angles are falling flat lately, and it has a lot to do with what you mentioned. However, there's more to it than that.

Pro wrestling, at its core, is a play on emotions. It's staged theatre, designed to evoke genuine emotion. That's the one major advantage pro wrestling should have over MMA these days, yet Dana White & the UFC are running circles around every pro wrestling promotion in this category. It's just a staggering phenomenon when you seriously think about it.

The obstacles placed before the babyfaces just don't seem substantial enough. The villains don't seem ruthless enough. There's no major conflict that feels sincere enough. Without those factors, the writers aren't going to evoke any genuine emotion from their audience. And that's what hinders the product the most.

Pro wrestling is a giant play on the emotions of its fanbase. It makes the biggest difference of all, because it can stir a reaction. It can make waves.

The Rock N Wrestling Era began when Hulk Hogan stepped up as an unstoppable, patriotic superhero to the masses. His ability to sell a beating & then overcome the odds is what sold tickets.

The Attitude Era was sold on the back of anti-heroes, but it really took off like a rocket once Austin opposed authority. This resonated with fans (and pop culture at the time), because it tugged on genuine emotional strings.

Ideals need to be challenged. I'm not talking about shades of grey or any of that shit. But relationships, friendships, and partnerships should be built, broken, and exploited more often. If everyone turns, then it loses its meaning. If nobody is trustworthy, then no turn can ever mean ANYTHING. People have come to expect everyone to turn on anyone.

These are just a few things that could help to restructure the overall business. Gimmicks, stipulations, and the like need to be reigned in and put under a microscope. Turns should be logical and meaningful. Otherwise, don't do them. If it isn't going to incite a reaction from the fans, then it probably isn't worth the effort.

I could go on & on. I know I'm rambling at this point, but I'm a firm believer that this subject could be a huge difference-maker for the business.

Pro wrestling is at its absolute best when it tugs at the most basic human emotions. Swerves, crash TV segments, camera angles, and all that shit can fall to the wayside. At the end of the day, if the writers aren't evoking any real emotion from its fanbase, then they are failing to create the sort of attention they should aspire to ALWAYS maintain in the first place.
 

· Student of the game? I am the f***in' Game!!
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You don't even need story driven angles to evoke emotion. WM23 featured 2 great main events that had hardly any buzz worthy storyline but yet that was enough to get this forum stirring. People thought Batista was gonna end the streak. Not only because Batista was a heavily protected face but because both Undertaker and Batista were booked like equals. And I swear 100% of the forum was sure HBK was gonna beat Cena.

The ending to a highly anticipated match are enough for a pay off. As repetitive as the latter programs were in its build up, its the pay offs that counted in the end. You build real top contenders vs. one another, people will want to see the finish to the fake scripted matches.

If you don't have credibility in your 'world class' atheletes, you make it up with story driven angles. WWE has trouble with both; they have neither. They have neither to compensate for the other. Miz has done nothing to convince me that he can beat Cena. Its the equivalent of roadkill vs. freight train. Nobody wants to see that in fake pro wrestling because its fake. Nobody is really getting hurt.
 
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