I ask that not in the hopes of causing a stir. Can a wrestling promotion that has abandoned basic booking principles in favor of instant gratification on a weekly basis still be considered a legitimate wrestling promotion?
1. Who are the two guys fighting?
2. Why are they fighting?
3. What's at stake for both men?
It's not rocket science. You take a wrestler, and then you create a reason why he has to fight another wrestler. Then you manufacture a set of events that's going to intensify the drama and raise the anticipation for their eventual match up. It's called storytelling. What you don't do is anything that might jeopardize the momentum of the climax. Luke Skywalker's confrontation with Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back wouldn't have been as highly anticipated had we already seen Obi-Wan defeat Vader in the first film. We fear Vader because we know what he's capable of and we're not sure if Luke is ready to face him. Had we witnessed Vader getting his ass kicked at a prior point, we would have had no urge to see Luke overcome his trials and triumph. Instead these two character are kept apart for the duration of an entire film and a half... and by the time they finally meet the audience is foaming at the mouth to see what happens next. Furthermore, their fight had actual consequences. They didn't just pick things up the next night on RAW like nothing had ever happened. Luke lost his hand, found out Vader was his father, and had to wait through an entire other film to get his rematch.
I'm not exactly sure when it might have happened, but somewhere along the line it got to the point where it became a requirement for each and every wrestler... ahem, I mean superstar... on the roster had to have their own set of "antics".
For those who are unsure:
antics (noun): foolish, outrageous, or amusing behavior.
You know it wasn't always like that. I mean sure, Hulk Hogan may have had his own set of catchphrases and his own set of crowd pandering gestures... but it's not like he went out there and tried to do standup for 15 minutes in front of a live crowd. He'd get interviewed by Mean Gene, he'd cut his promo, and then he went out there and wrestled. It was like that with everyone even, not just the huge stars. Take a guy like Texas Tornado even. He'd talk for a minute or two backstage, and then he went out there and did his thing. That's all that was required of him. And you know what? These guys still got over.
These days superstars are asked to be more than just wrestlers. They're asked to be MC's. Alberto Del Rio - in a past era - might have been able to get over. All he would have to do is play up his arrogant heel persona in a pre-taped interview where he bad mouthed CM Punk, maybe interfere in a match here and there... and before you know it people can't wait to see CM Punk get his hands on him. Now that's not going to happen. Now Del Rio has to go out on live television and not only further a storyline off the cuff, but also hold the attention of a live crowd and a live home viewing audience for several minutes at a time. Alberto Del Rio is not Steve Martin. He's not a MC. He's a wrestler. You wanna know why Robert DeNiro doesn't host the Oscars? Because he'd put people to sleep too.
And what does CM Punk have to do? Simple. All he has to do is rag on his foe and tell jokes. He comes out week after week, no matter the opponent, no matter the situation... and it's his job to make the audience laugh. Forget any real storytelling or any real angles involved, he's gonna try and entertain the live crowd and get them cheering. Same with Cena. He just goes out there, smiles, and starts reeling off one liners. Which brings me back to my original point. At what point does it stop being a wrestling promotion and at what point does it become a glorified variety show? You have your good guys and your bad guys, you have your sing along catchphrases, you have your jokes, you have your recurring cast of characters, your celebrity guest host... and POOF! You have Monday Night Raw.
WWE's modern "booking" method of a title match:
1. Contrive a reason why two superstars need to square off.
2. Have them verbally exchange words week after week, usually involving childish insults.
3. Have them participate in some type of tag match where they're on opposite sides.
4. More jokes.
5. Non-title singles match between the two at the tail end of the first hour of the RAW leading up to the PPV.
6. Match at PPV.
7. Regardless of outcome, verbal exchange the next night on RAW. Possibly even a match.
8. Probable rematch in 3 weeks at next PPV.
9. Repeat steps 2-8.
Nothing is ever at stake. Nothing leads into anything. There's no reason for anything that happens. Even the grand events like Wrestlemania no longer act as grand events, just mere bumps in the road. Instead of it being the biggest night of the year, it turns into the most expensive RAW of the year.
WWE, wrestling show or sitcom?