WWE has several particular problems facing it. The one most notable in business news is the lackluster performance of the WWE Network and the new TV deal not being the cash cow they expected which has lead to Vince McMahon losing millions and now shareholders suing. Those issues I can’t rightfully speak on, though I do believe if the McMahons were removed and the company sold to appease these people WWE would falter and collapse in the United States. That’s a different discussion. I want to speak on WWE’s product problems.
NEXT BIG STAR: WWE needs new stars. The company knows and the people backstage know. So why are they having so many issues? One of the reasons is the difference in perspective between Vince and his son-in-law Triple H. If the dirt sheets are to be believed they are currently debating 2015 Wrestlemania’s main event. Vince in favor of Lesner vs. The Rock and H in favor of Lesner vs. Reings. Lesner is a part timer and the Rock even more so. Reings is positioned right now as one of the new big draws and has been booked as a beast, gaining his biggest singles win over WWE superstar and multiple time champion Randy Orton. Logic dictates Reings should be the one, so why not? This seems to be a weird point in WWE right now. You need new stars and Reigns beating Lesner would help cement WWE’s future. Reigns and his former Shield mates all have a lot of steam behind them. Reigns looks good and Rollins has the Money in the Bank shot at the title when he wants. WWE has done good to position him as a top mid level heel with the chance of breaking out to be a top tier heel. Then there is Ambrose who also has a lot of buzz. The reaction to the man has been electric and it makes you wonder why the dirt sheets are reporting “WWE doesn’t see him as ready for the main event.” Ambrose is about to go film a movie and if that does well, that could give him a bit more cred in the back. However, why should a movie do for him what his work in the WWE should? If you’re talking looks, he has a good enough look that there are almost as many women swooning over him as there are women swooning over Reigns and Rollins. He also separates himself from those two by being a better mic worker (I’d put Reigns second and Rollins third, though Rollins is fine). You can argue wrestling skill but Ambrose has been at it longer than Reigns so he is more seasoned as a singles wrestler who can go twenty or thirty minutes. Reigns recent match with Orton was his longest singles encounter to date. Rollins might be more flashy but Ambrose has the dynamism that seems to connect. Ambrose is just as ready to push up the ladder as the other two. All three are ready-so why stall?
I don’t just want to single out those three, there is also Bray Wyatt who is becoming a victim of WWE’s short sighted booking. He’s had a damn fine year and a major feud with Cena. Yet WWE just let Cena run roughshod through him and his family to make Cena look strong for his rematch with Lesner. Why? WWE should have removed Cena from the show after he lost. I don’t hate Cena but it would have been a much more effective game plan. Rumors are Cena will be taking time off soon but that doesn’t excuse this action. Feeding a superstar who is connecting with the audience to your top guy is stupid. In fact, after the Cena feud, WWE has put a halt to Wyatt for the most part, Its pretty painful to watch. Wyatt has the voice and a unique style, what is WWE doing? At least its not as bad as what they did to Ryback. Ryback was over. Ryback was ready to be the next big thing but WWE stuck o their plan. A plan set a year in advance. Rock beats Cena at Mania, Rock beats Punk at Rumble for title, Cena beats Rock at Mania for title. People wanted Ryback to beat Punk. People wanted Ryback to win Rumble. WWE fucked up and Ryback was almost buried. However, there seems to be a spark building back but will WWE follow through with it?
Other stars to suffer would be Cesaro-a man who was on point to be the big thing but after taking him from the Real Americans and hooking him with Heyman something happened. Heyman got removed form the story and dirt sheets were saying WWE was not wanting Cesaro as a face so they told him to stop doing his fan favorite move. Some of the NXT call ups seems to be stalling with Adam Rose going missing and people wondering of Bo Dallas push is being halted already at orders of Vince. At least Paige seems to be having momentum still. WWE has the talent, but they are slaves to their one big narrative or their personal preferences and attitudes have halted the buzz behind superstars. Even if the fans are into them. This is a top problem that will be solved by simply trying. I’m not saying give the next buzz guy the title right away-but give them something. Give them big feuds, give them the IC title and make it mean something or do like Rollins-Money in the Bank briefcase. Maybe, and they’ve done this once before, making it something you can compete for. Its about trying.
NARRATIVE: One of the other major problems WWE faces is narrative. WWE has a problem with story structure. They work from a top down ideal, the problem is it doesn’t quite go down the roster. It stays settled at the main title and a handful of individuals. The rest of the roster is mostly in disarray. Now, to be fair WWE has done a decent job at the top. Sure certain decisions and, okay, pretty dumb, but WWE has done a credible job over the last couple years with that belt.
Now once you get passed the title picture and the big stars its a rocky road of short term feuds, wrestlers spinning their wheels, and no push on other titles. WWE’s Intercontinental belt-held by legends, is now seen as a bit of a death sentence. Specifically for wrestlers WWE doesn’t know what to do with and instead of pushing them through strong feuds they just move from opponent to opponent. Take the Intercontinental title right now. It has right now been just traded from former WWE champ the Miz to former World champ Dolph Ziggler. Miz was once the face of the company ut something happened. He has fallen quite a bit spending several years turning his wheels in the midcard. Dolph Ziggler, a fan favorite who was on the verge of being the full blown star for the company, had a concussion and WWE’s terrible booking in response sent him on a spiral he’s been fighting back up from with strong performances. The match these two had was good but had little build and no aftermath. The IC title is a prop that isn’t given any real time.
Thats just one belt. The US title has had better days. Its another belt passed around. Current champion Sheamus won the title months ago and right now I have a hard time remembering his last title defense. Sheamus was once being molded as the face of the company and even had a couple title runs but bad booking and weak storylines hit him hard. Sheamus for a guy who was the next big thing did not get much to do after his World Title win over Daniel Bryan-who in loss would shoot up the roster as a big star. Of course right now Sheamus might be engaged in a feud with Cesaro-a wrestler who was poised for big things but WWE stalled on. Both men have had a couple run ins and displayed some in ring chemistry-so maybe it’ll work or WWE will follow through for a couple of months and then one will go on to have a decent win/loss TV record and the other defending the title against temporaries until time to drop the belt. Much like Dean Ambrose. Ambrose won the title when the Shield was hot but their respective title runs were an after thought. Shield was a big deal because of trios matches or because of their treatment of big stars. Ambrose held the US title for 351 days, the longest reign since Rick Rude in 1991 and the longest under the WWE banner. Yet in all that time Ambrose had very few title matches. Ambrose lost it in a battle royale to Sheamus. A rather anti-climatic loss for a long and dull reign.
The Divas title is more like WWE guaranteeing a female wrestler time. Its true WWE has been trying to increase the time spent on showcasing the ladies but WWE has a very rocky road focusing on the ladies and even given them good stories that don’t involve being crazy or promiscuous. Seriously, a strong athletic feud is a rarity in the Divas division. On the plus side the tag titles have had some its best years of late compared to a long stretch of not being important. Not that every decision has been good but the division itself has had more competition.
These are examples of failings when it comes to their titles which should be important. Its a clear sign of a lot of their failings overall. They start and stop feuds. Rarely do they develop and grow. Unless its major stars, they are allowed to have longer feuds when they are not in the title picture but wrestlers starting out on the main roster or midcarders who need direction-a big feud can be beneficial. Right now WWE has done a good job of showcasing Rusev and his feud with Jack Swagger has done well for both of them. Its connected with the audience. It’s worked pretty well for having a starting point and a build over weeks and months. The question is how will it end? WWE has a habit more often of not sticking the landing. Its a wait and see.
WWE writers are partially to blame but leadership up top is also to blame. They have the ability to correct and shape. Their basically editors and they are doing a lousy job. They need a more cohesive vision.
NETWORK: The Network is a great idea that has not lived up to its potential. Just recently is WWE including all the Monday Nitros from WCW which has been a sore point with fans. From there maybe we’ll get Thunder and Saturday Main Event. There is also still weird streaming troubles. I’d also like for the site (I watch on my browser) to remember my place on shows if I decide to cut out. Seriously, big wrestling events are about 3 hours and there’s a lot to watch but I also have several hobbies so time for just rewatching shows is limited. I know one PPV I watched has book marks to allow me to jump but that wasn’t present on every PPV I watched. Maybe its changed and I need to give the site another look through.
These are mostly minor complaints but I think what WWE really needs to do is up the original programming. WWE does put up old documentaries but I find myself rushing to WWE Network for the new exclusives. The recent Road to Summerslam: Shield and the Daniel Bryan special after Mania. All excellent pieces. WWE needs more original content. Simple things can improve the experience and would help greatly.
RACE: A few years ago it became a story about WWE’s Latino fanbase was growing and WWE were looking into maximizing it. They have failed. The most active Latino wrestlers on the show are the ladies and as such their time is limited and their stories are usually lackluster. Right now you have the Colons, now Los Matadores, wrestling on Main Event and being overshadowed by Torito-the little wrestler in a bull costume. The current Sin Cara and former Hunico has been more active on NXT with developmental Kalisto. Maybe WWE will make them a tag team? Oh wait-NXT live shows have Kalisto teaming with yet-to-debut on NXT TV Solomon Crowe. Who else? Rey Mysterio? Injured and wanting out of his contract but WWE put an extension on it. WWE has made so many budget cuts and layoffs it makes you wonder why they not just let him out. Alberto Del Rio? Fired for slapping a man for a racist comments. Now in Mexico telling mainstream news media WWE employs racists and are trying to ban him from wrestling in the US for a year. Now WWE has done good by Latino wrestlers in the past and even with Del Rio but right now-they are looking very bad.
What about other races? People bring up that no black wrestler has held the WWE title. Its a half truth. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is part black-his father Rocky Johnson a wrestler. However his mom is Samoan and her father, Peter Maivia of the Anoa’i Family, a legendary family of Samoan wrestlers. This family includes the aforementioned Roman Reigns as well as current Tag Champs the Usos. Each of those wrestlers fathers worked for WWE and were also related to the late Umaga and Yokozuna. WWE loves second generation wrestlers, but they love this wrestling Dynasty.
Looking at WWE’s current crop of black wrestlers and ones form the last five years it is head scratching. So much talent that seems wasted. Big E seemed to have some momentum but stalled. Kofi Kingston has been a midcard standard, rarely getting close to being in the main event. Who else? Xavier Woods got called up from NXT and has done little. They were suppose to start a stable but WWE almost dropped it a day later, have now put a hold on it because they’re not sure. R-Truth, for a moment a few years back seemed to be finally have steam when he went heel with Little Jimmy, helping push the buy rate for a PPV against then champ Cena but WWE turned him and burned it out. WWE has a strong black audience but have not put the ball in the court of any of the stars. It doesn’t help some get saddled with dumb gimmicks or stereotypes. Maybe Willie Mack, SoCal indy wrestler rumored to WWE, can bring a little something. A large wrestler who is incredibly athletic. However WWE did have the opportunity to hire who many call the best high flier int he world-Ricochet-and chose not to. A man in so much demand on the indys and has Japans top promotion looking to sign him away from the smaller DragonGate. Anyone who has seen Ricochet scratches their head as to how this happened.
How about Asian wrestlers? WWE signed Japanese superstar KENTA. … Yeah… WWE has not had a lot of Asian wrestlers and have screwed up on a few of those. Japan is one of the biggest wrestling markets in the world and there are rumors that WWE now wants to tap in an Asian market but I don’t really see that happening. WWE needs to avoid focusing on race unless they treat it with the up most respect. Del Rio was proudly Mexican, a great use of his background. Remember Mexicools? No? They were bad examples of using race to promote wrestlers. Cryme Tyme? Cool entrance aside that was a mixed bag.
WWE has a number of issues standing in their way of maximizing their fanbase. They still, for the most part, put out a strong product if you’re a WWE fan. However to expand their fanbase or recapture audience they lost when the US wrestling market crashed post WCW and ECW they need to work out a number of details. They need to cut out problematic elements inside the system. They need to really get behind potential new stars and also hop on the bandwagon of superstars the audience is liking. They can’t stall on potential. They have to pay respect to the watchers.