HOW TO FIX WWE TV

Right now, for a variety of reasons, WWE is in… well if not a crisis it’s not in a terrific place is it? WWE’S down turn in their TV product for me can be traced back to even before the current pandemic changed the entire face of WWE and the wrestling business as a whole. And what makes this all harder to take is that just a few months ago WWE seemed like the ‘cool’ promotion once again… take January’s Royal Rumble for example. Overall for me watching I don’t think me and my friends in Huddersfield have enjoyed a WWE PPV that much for a long time, no more so than the EXCEPTIONAL Men’s Rumble… I mean EDGE returning from retirement, the fantastic story told by Brock Lesnar and everything that came with his involvement, and of course the beast-conquering Drew McIntyre getting the big W at the end… not long after that NXT followed up with one of the best TakeOver’s for some time (which given their lofty standard says so much). Heading towards WrestleMania in 2020 set for Tampa Bay we had the prospect of Lesnar vs McIntyre in the main event, rumours of a dream match between The Undertaker and AJ Styles, and the long-awaited grudge match of Randy Orton and Edge… add to that the potential of the FINAL fight between Tomasso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano at the proposed TakeOver that was to come before it… AND a Hall of Fame ceremony headlined by Batista, and featuring the likes of The Bella Twins and Japanese legend Jushin Liger.. My oh My was I looking forward to WWE putting on one of the more memorable Mania weekend’s in wrestling history… and then… well the latest Saudi show happened and gOLDberg stole the Universal title from The Fiend… but we were quickly supplemented for that travesty with the prospect of Bray Wyatt finally getting his revenge on John Cena, so everything LOOKED to be ok… and then… well that little Virus changed the world, and professional wrestling.

Given the unique circumstances, and everything that had to either be completely changed of altered as a result of the Pandemic, I generally felt that WrestleMania this year was a fun two-night event. I enjoyed myself both nights. And, they didn’t do this obviously, but I expressed my opinion to a few people that I felt given the momentum and where everything stood at the time, and given WrestleMania is traditionally seen as the end of one WWE ‘season’ and the next night’s Raw seen as the beginning of the next, I felt that WWE should have taken a break. Put day to day new programming on hold. YES I get nobody knows (and we still don’t) how long it will be until we get people back in arenas, so the question would then be how long does WWE ‘break’ for… but they have HUNDREDS of hours of archive footage, documentaries and other such content they could put in it’s place… and YES I get legally maybe given contracts and such with the TV companies might not allow X amount of non-live shows or archive stuff, but that was my idea then and I stand by it.

WWE for me since WrestleMania has been… well it’s been odd. Tonnes of cutbacks and people fired, maybe it had to be done maybe it didn’t, but that’s another issue… there were people let got that for me it’s a travesty that a space for them couldn’t be found… Gallows and Anderson go from tag team champion contenders and alongside AJ STYLES in The OC and a part of the night one MAIN EVENT of WrestleMania… FIRED… RUSEV, one of the most underutilised and wasted TOP LEVEL talents in the business of the last few years… FIRED… Countless hugely knowledgeable producers like Lance Storm, Shane Helms and even MIKE CHIODA who had become somewhat of a company institution… FIRED!!!

I remember on the first WWE TV PC show of the ‘pandemic’ era, Triple H dominated on screen in a very light-hearted and entertaining SmackDown. He led the line that WWE was hoping to be an escape from the madness that the world had become. I needed that. We all needed our escape… but… they’ve at times not just insulted our intelligence, but honestly infuriated me at times with just some ludicrous booking. Classic WWE you might say, but more shined a light on it now given that ratings on TV are at an ALL TIME low. And it’s getting worse and worse and the TV product shows absolutely no sign of changing. How much the decision by Vince McMahon to remove Paul Heyman from the creative head position of Monday Night Raw and install Bruce Prichard instead, combining his role as head creative of SmackDown, will steady the ship and change fortunes remains to be seen. But given some of the dross and classic-Vince pleasing toilet humour we have seen from the Prichard SmackDown shows (King Corbin being covered in DOG FOOD comes to mind right away)… I get Paul Heyman isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (see the latest comments by AJ Styles and Gallows & Anderson for that), but he builds people into stars, he has long-term stories… sure not always hits (Lana-Lashley-Rusev) but the track record isn’t bad… Drew, Asuka, Street Profits, Aleister Black, Apollo Crews… all of these have seen an upturn in fortunes since Heyman took charge…

I was saying to a few people I was giving WWE a pass during the pandemic era as times were certainly… different… but then I see AEW. Dynamite each week is a fun show at worst, the wrestling is good, they actually acknowledge that COVID-19 exists, and they do their bit to try and give us some escapism, and their big Pandemic-era PPV was a super-fun show that featured a great world title match between (and shout if these names ring a bell) a guy once called Dean Ambrose and the former Luke Harper as Jon Moxley and Brodie Lee had a solid world title match. Then they did the excellently put together and super-fun Stadium Stampede Match that was awesome… compare All Out to the recent WWE Extreme Rules show…

WE HAD (in ONE show… the SAME PPV): A guy getting his EYE BALL POPPED OUT (yep, they ‘did’ that), a women’s title match ending with someone’s friend putting on a ref shirt and counting the pin so the challenger literally stole the title belt, a championship match not happening and instead the challenger coming out and cutting a promo and awarding himself the new title belt, a WWE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH where the challenger had every single rule in his favour and yet he still got beat (BURIED)… and on top of that each week on Raw they bring out people like RIC FLAIR (A MAN IN HIS 70s BY THE WAY… think about that and COVID-19… oh and his wife tested positive by the way)… they put on BIG SHOW VS RANDY ORTON IN 2020 as a TV main event… my GOD… And in classic WWE style they bring up Matt Riddle (one of the most popular NXT stars) to SmackDown… and a month or so in they’ve already beaten him clean in a big title match… cool…

Basically I think WWE is in a proper crisis right now. Particularly Monday Night Raw. And WWE like they always do are going back to what they know… they bring out the old guys and they do the most odd and bizarre and wacky booking to try and grab some attention. That’s not cool. That’s not listening to what the people want. Extreme Rules at times reminded me of a company I have read books on and gone back and watched A LOT of shows of… this might be the worst thing I can say about the TV right now but it reminded me of 1999/2000 WCW. Just seriously not cool, not interesting and just downright stupid. It’s 2020, I don’t need to see a storyline all about a guy getting his EYE BALL pulled out… come on guys, it’s hard enough to keep people interested in wrestling at the best of times but if you’ve got BULLSHIT like that on your shows… my fucking GOD… These fuckers are beyond lucky they have multi-million and long term TV deals with USA and FOX… but it’s notable that Sky in Italy just dropped WWE in favour of AEW… not HUGE but notable… they NEED to sort this out NOW!!!

And you may disagree… but I’ve got some suggestions…

  • Acknowledge that COVID-19 is a thing, and give us reasons to forget all about it

It was only a small thing, but during one of their shows the AEW commentator Excalibur cut a really great speech acknowledging the current situation we were all in, added to the recent passing of Hana Kimura (a top japanese female wrestler who took her own life, largely down to negativity she received online), and he basically told use all that they hoped AEW would be an escape for them and to put smiles on faces in these dark times. And they went out and put on some great wrestling, some fun stories and I genuinely had fun watching it… and for a few hours I forgot all about lockdown and the pandemic. WrestleMania I did that… Extreme Rules? Not so much. I had my intelligence insulted and I was frustrated. I don’t think any of us need anything else to be getting mad about right now, so no wonder less people than ever are watching the tv shows now. They don’t even say COVID-19 on TV hardly, just tell us you’re doing everything you can to keep your performers and staff safe, tell us your going to put on a fun and great and compelling TV show… then actually DO IT!!! We need cheering up. SO CHEER US UP!

  • Get a roster of people… and stick to it!

So I get this may not be as easy as it sounds given people can fail a test or not want to travel etc… but in recent weeks we’ve seen people like Bianca Belair and Shayna Baszler spend weeks off of TV… meanwhile the likes of Big Show, Christian and Ric Flair are wheeled out for apparent storyline reasons… yet somehow I don’t think many will remember the two week run of Big Show in years to come… I’m just saying surely WWE should concentrate on making and sustaining newer stars rather than focusing on the past? Of course we know this is far from a new problem for WWE… but if they start pushing newer people NOW then once we are back in full arenas people will be clamouring to see and get behind people like Belair and Baszler, and maybe even get more behind Drew as champion now they have the chance. I just think now is a better time than ever for WWE to build new people, which is why the removal of Heyman is such a disappointment, aside from the reasoning for it behind the scenes…

  • LOGICAL and REALISTIC matches & finishes

The amount of times I’ve either read of written myself with regards to WWE matches, particularly recently, something along the lines of “great match until the finish which really took it down”… Asuka vs Sasha this past Sunday was a very good match with a bullshit ending that was confusing as heck, infuriating in fact. What’s the point in doing the hard work to let us all down at the end? I’m sure they have reasons for that particular example storyline wise, but come on… they must be able to come up with better shit than that… surely??? And as for the Rollins vs Rey stuff? None of that horse crap, ever again. I could even go as far as the Money In The Bank match/matches a couple of months back… was a bit random wasn’t it? Can’t lie and say I wouldn’t have preferred just your standard ladder matches rather than the convoluted mess we got… I get they want to be different and do something that’s gonna get headlines, but is there any need to be different for the sake of it? If it ain’t broke don’t try and fix it… right? Come on WWE it really ain’t all that hard!!!

  • ENOUGH of the cinematic matches

Ok so we are all agreed that the Boneyard and FireFly Funhouse “matches” from WrestleMania weekend were great, yes? Well if nothing else WWE haven’t come close to those epics since. Maybe down to the fact each of those had a plethora of people working on them for weeks at a time, and with a host of different creative influences making every little detail make sense and relate to the story told. Since then WWE have tried again and again to produce just as epic pieces, but for me haven’t come close. MITB as I’ve said just felt like a mess, you can’t even call it a match for me. Whatever the heck the whole Street Profits/Viking Raiders/Tozawa and the ninjas THING was from Backlash was awful. Even the Wyatt Swamp Fight (and I am an avid Bray Wyatt fan) whilst for me personally was fine, I could see why people thought it was trash. Just knock them on the head WWE. Sure, maybe we don’t want wrestling after wrestling on a show and difference is good… but it’s taken until now for these cinematic matches to become a big thing in WWE and we lasted for long enough without them relatively fine… on the whole and since Mania they’ve not been good, and have just taken up time overall. Enough of them. You’re wasting our time now.

  • Build a strong card for SummerSlam!

Now this is where I give myself a little creative license, and this is more down to opinion more than any of the points I will make I feel, but the creative on WWE TV at the moment feels so flat and the same. I feel like I’ve seen Aleister Black vs Seth Rollins built as a dream match a handful of times now. And we’ve had MVP and Lashley prance around in recent weeks as if they’re the big dogs, when what have they done? Lashley lost his WWE title match and MVP awarded himself the United States Championship… great… now what? Well here’s a few ideas I have for Raw, just to get the ball rolling, and after this (god please forgive me) is down to them to decide where they go: Drew vs Orton for the title, Andrade & Garza vs Street Profits for the tag titles, Rollins against Samoa Joe (because as good as he is as a colour commentator if he’s anywhere else but in that ring it’s such a waste) and Asuka vs Baszler as your matches for SummerSlam. I also heard rumours about MVP, Lashley and Shelton Benjamin doing a modern day Nation of Domination gimmick. Which is both relevant in 2020 and interesting, and I feel given modern times it would be tough to keep that gimmick as a heel team for very long so they’d need to tread very carefully. For SmackDown they NEED to get far far away from that awful Sheamus – Jeff Hardy storyline for starters. Then looks like they’re going The Fiend vs Braun for the title (who or what after that is anyone’s guess), Id go with Big E vs AJ Styles for the IC title given it looks like E will get a singles run with Woods and now Kofi out and I think this would be a super fun and new match up, I’d have Matt Riddle squash King Corbin on a big stage like a SummerSlam to really kick start his main roster run, You could go Cesaro and Nakamura vs The Luchas of Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado for the SD tags in what would just be a great wrestling match… but for me, and this is dream world stuff at this stage, but for me the main event (and it would have been perfect for a Boston SummerSlam that never was…) but I think in the weeks that remain, they need to do the first of a few between Bayley and Sasha Banks for the SmackDown women’s title. It’s early and I’m sure that’s the direction they are heading for the future. But why not at SummerSlam? It’s one of the big shows of the year… why not? There’s just a few ideas which I think people would be in to and it would just liven up the TV we have in the meantime before the PPV on August 22nd…

  • We need to talk about Otis…

I bet until last night’s SmackDown when they aired a vignette staying that Mandy Rose and her beau Otis would be returning next week for the latest chapter in their ‘love story’ , you all kind of forgot about them. And the fact that Otis is the holder of the Money In The Bank briefcase!!! Yes the same briefcase that earns you a world title match whenever you like… I know at the time it was all fun and we all cheered that somebody different, and a guy that had worked his way up and gained a very organic following through the whole Mandy-Dolph-Sonya story, but let’s get serious… could you honestly see Otis defeating either Braun Strowman or The Fiend for the Universal Championship? The answer is no. And I know it’s harsh, but he’s just not ready. And you could tell much more of a more app and longer term story with him if he were to lose the opportunity rather than be squashed by Braun or The Fiend in a title match. I just don’t feel it will do Otis any good right now to do a one and done feud or match for a world title. It’d be pointless and a proper burial, would be similar to when Corbin lost his cash in. So if I don’t want Otis to have the case, then who? Well… I’ve someone else in mind… BAY BAY!!!

  • Make the main roster UNDISPUTED

ITS TIME! It really really is. Adam Cole having lost the NXT Championship may go down as the greatest holder of that title there has been. Add to that the accomplishments of Fish, O’Reilly and Strong and it’s safe to say that Era have owned NXT. So now I feel is the time to conquer the main land… and first target I’d say should be the naive yet courageous Otis. There’s so much you could do with the story and so many elements that I think would truly shock the SmackDown system; have Era flirt with Mandy (an easy one), you’ve got Tucker and him being jealous or annoyed at his friend’s success, or if you don’t want to do a direct feud have just a minor fall out due to Era interference, and eventually have Cole win the briefcase from Otis and go from there. You could even have Sonya Deville gain more revenge on her former best friend and become the long awaited female member of the Undisputed Era? Further a field I’d have a tag title programme between Era and Heavy Machinery as Adam Cole was off in pursuit of a world title… what a time to be alive that would be…

And off the top of my head those are just the ideas I’ve come up with. Not fool proof sure but they’d make the tv show more entertaining I’ve no doubt. There’s a few minor changes I’d do right away as well like getting people looking into the camera and just making the people that are put into the crowd act more natural. I may be wrong but it feels the dynamite crowds are just watching the show, it feels like the WWE pandemic era crowds are given directions and it comes across as very false at times. I’d protect people more too, this past week we had Aleister Black lose (he shouldn’t be losing full stop, he’s a future world champion) and then Andrade and Angel Garza lose to the tag champions and then be announced in a number one contenders match for the next week… WHAT!?

There’s a lot of things WWE should and needs to change right now. Hopefully someone somewhere does something… or else this incredibly alarming fall in TV ratings and the quality of the weekly product is only going to get worse and worse… and it may not hurt them today, tomorrow or even for the next few years… but don’t think it can’t get any worse and drop to new lows. It can. But it cannot be allowed to happen.

Please WWE. Save yourself before it’s too late!!!

Josh.

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