Tuesday 6 November 2012

My state of address for the WWE in 2012 By Robert Shade

I have just finished watching the Birmingham UK edition of RAW and have also read some comments on face book denigrating those who criticise the WWE product and it made me feel like I had to introduce some straight shooting onto the subject.

WWE is as we all know the leading wrestling promotion in the world and has been for many years, however whilst I watch it religiously on a weekly basis, RAW, Smackdown, NXT and Superstars I know that my viewing habits are exactly that habits and it is quite rare that I actually feel a pang of excitement in anticipation of what I may be about to see on TV.

Every now and then WWE produce a decent moment, it is usually most aptly described as moments as their ability to carry a story properly from start to finish over a period of time has sadly seemingly long gone, each time they actually get hold of an idea which is genuinely exciting they kill it! How about the following over the past couple of years or so, would you agree that the three moments I name below are the 3 best moments on WWE TV in that time period?

1) Arrival of Nexus - Now this was a wonderful few minutes of TV, totally unexpected, the scenes of devastation left were a sight to behold, the execution of the moment was superb and the storyline behind it made sense - roll forwards just a few months, by this time Nexus without a doubt were the biggest thing in wrestling, when watching WWE TV you were waiting for them to come out and wreak havoc but of course they got locked into a storyline with John Cena and as soon as that happened you knew the outcome, within just a few months of their entrance Cena single handedly wiped them all out in his superman act which included quite literally burying a bright future star Wade Barrett under a cavalcade of chairs - the effect of this was that it totally killed Nexus, it totally took out any credibility which any of the Nexus members including Barrett had worked hard to create over the preceding few months and of course it did nothing to elevate either Cena or WWE as people just yawned said we’ve seen him do this before and more people switched off particularly when as part of this storyline Cena left RAW (for about 10 minutes!!!).

Imagine if this had been done differently, say Cena had been buried under the chairs and they had not created ridiculous storylines such as Cena has to leave if he loses (which we all know would not happen so nobody buys into it) or he becomes a slave, but just Cena lost and Nexus buried him and now they move on and they and the individual stars grow bigger, Cena is undamaged such is his reputation with the kids anyway and in overall terms the WWE gains as people still love the Nexus storyline and hey they buried Cena these guys really are special…..

2) CM Punk pipe bombs - What TV, his original speech including reference to being a Paul Heyman guy etc, we all know what he said, in the following weeks he followed up with a series of outlandish and outstanding promo’s including the threat to leave, they actually followed up with this in that absolutely white hot pay per view in Chicago, what an atmosphere and also what anticipation felt by myself and many other global fans in terms of will Punk really leave with the title, then will he really parade it around the indys etc as part of a very powerful storyline, no of course not, first bit just like first bit of Nexus is done really well, second part the follow up, nope, awful, when Punk reappeared on the end of a RAW only 8 days after he had supposedly left for good in an instant it undid all of the good work previously done,again it created a lost of faith in WWE, in Punk and in the entire product, I then had no interest at all in the so called unification of WWE title match he then had with Cena, contrast that with their original meet! Then they allow a part time Triple HHH to defeat the rising hot star CM Punk without even allowing Punk a rematch, what the hell is that about apart from pandering to HHH’s ego it again just damages business.

3) Brock Lesnar return - This was wow, really wow at the end of a really fantastic RAW mainly thanks to the crowd who were not the usual jaded can barely stay awake American crowd but instead were wrestling enthusiasts from around the world who were still in the area following the previous days Wrestlemania, when his music hit and Lesnar appeared I shall never forget it, the match that followed with Cena (yes that man again spot the common theme here…) was awesome, right up until the finish, what on gods sake is the point in bringing back Lesnar the beast Lesnar to then have Cena go over him, again many people lost interest and they lost the golden opportunity to keep some old time viewers who had been attracted back with Lesnar’s return, it was not just the fact that Cena got the pin but also his actions afterwards when he totally failed to sell the Lesnar beating he had supposedly suffered from and just strolled out but on the way he also cut an absurd promo which made absolutely no sense and again included reference to him being off RAW for a while (again spotting a theme here…), of course he appeared absolutely right as rain on the following nights RAW!!!!
Then we had the snore fest of the HHH vs. Lesnar match, it seems sadly absolutely certain that we shall have a rematch for god knows what reason other than clearly HHH has to score a win here, a win which will further dilute Lesnar’s impact as well as turn yet more people off watching the product, I have yet to find anybody who actually wants to see this rematch either but it will happen as the fans do not matter, what matters (to those in the corridors of power) is that Vince’s son in law beats Lesnar even though they know that is so bad for business and just makes no sense at all.

Just think of the matches which Lesnar could have had and at the same time really put across some new talent and made them look a million dollars rather than facing the same old tired faces who gain absolutely nothing by facing Lesnar.

Anybody fancy Lesnar vs. D Bryan? Imagine the build, imagine the actual match as let’s not forget Lesnar is a damn fine technical wrestler as well as a wrecking machine..

Lesnar vs. Sheamus (or Barrett), think what a brawl this would be and if they are to have Lesnar lose then at least make it to a full time up and coming guy not someone already at the very top in Cena or part retired in HHH.

Lesnar vs. Ziggler, just think of the selling Dolph would pull off here….

Moving away from Lesnar, does anybody remember the tripe of the build up to Cena vs. Rock last year, how they spent ages calling each other names and insulting the colour of their clothes and what cereal they ate for breakfast, yes the build truly was that atrocious and the match was not a whole lot better, now it seems they are building to Cena vs. Rock 2 even though it was supposed to be a once in a lifetime event previously but since when did WWE treat its fans with respect or actually stick to any stipulation it ever mentioned!!! Again I am really struggling to find people who actually want to go through all of this again, also just like Lesnar think of the opponents that Rock could face, I am so up for him facing off with Punk for example, proper heel vs. face but more importantly something brand new, yes absolutely fresh!!

On a general point in America WWE has been having problems selling out arenas for some time now for the Smackdown shows, they are having to be clever with the positioning of the cameras to make the arena look full, sometimes it genuinely is but increasingly it is not, with the american house shows again they attract far bigger crowds than any other company but as with Smackdown they are really struggling to fill smaller arenas for house shows which is unprecedented in modern times for the WWE.

On Television in America they have lost approximately half of the fans who were watching the product only 3 years ago, that is some achievement!! If you go back 10 years the viewing figures now are only around 25% of what they were then, in anybodys book that is a huge downfall in business, I know that they are still a hugely profitable company due to having income from so many sources so I am not suggesting that they are about to go under or anything like that as clearly they are not but wrestling whether they like it or not is the staple diet of what they do and the figures scream loud and clear that they are getting a lot wrong.

From my personal perspective I would do the following (I appreciate that not all of this is actually possible due to legal commitments to TV contracts etc).

- Focus heavily upon building new stars and doing it properly - give a wrestler a character then run with it, give him or her time, give them a slow build so that they crowd can identify with them and then run with it once the foundation has been made, one of the chief turn offs now is the same matches so often which is because they have failed to build new stars for so long with recent retirements or guys going part time they are suddenly very exposed at the top of the card.

- Restrict RAW to 2 hours, scrap Superstars and Main Event and the other subsidiary shows which are shown on American television, there is too much on, it just makes people get stale with the product too quickly, in the words of Ryback we should be left with the feeling at the end of a show of ‘Feed Me More!’, with Smackdown I would cut out the almost endless RAW reruns and increase the feeling of Smackdown's importance by having its own theme e.g. cruiserweight title, only show you see diva’s on, tag team matches (I mean the specialist tag teams) and also the secondary belts such as US and IC belts.

Only have one World/WWE title, there are hardly any superstars now who only appear on either RAW or Smackdown, the world title is often put on as a mid card match on PPV’s so if you are going to denigrate it’s value simply get rid of it and just have one main champion, let’s face it in the past few months everybody has considered CM Punk to be ‘The Champion’, Sheamus was barely an afterthought.

Only have a maximum of six PPV’s per year, that way you can build up to them properly and really make them feel and indeed be special, the recent Hell In A Cell PPV was truly dreadful, in fact apart from the main event (and that was only because of the presence of the cell) it just felt like a standard below par RAW, at least in the UK we did not have to pay for it but those who did elsewhere must have been fuming, a number of matches were just thrown in without being advertised as has been the recent trend and even the promoted matches were at best ok, nothing special.

If you have say two months to build to each PPV and also less TV generally weekly then creative can focus far better upon promoting every single match on a PPV and ensuring that every match means something and is anticipated,work can also be put in to ensure that if we have a match that we’ve seen before on free TV such as a random example Ziggler vs. Rhodes, if it is a PPV match do not just have a standard singles match with nothing on the line it has to be different you need to make people part with their money willingly.

As I say I am coming from a fan’s perspective and I do understand that commercially from the WWE perspective what I am suggesting would not go down well but the downturn in the number of people watching WWE continues apace, we recently had the lowest watched RAW for about 15 years.

In the time frame of WWE TV audiences dropping dramatically (as well as some show attendances) in contrast TNA have barely moved, if you do the same comparison for them they are down but only marginally so, they have not lost fans at anything like the same pace as WWE have done and moving onto other wrestling and I can only speak about UK wrestling here as it is what I’ve experienced, crowds for UK indy shows are on the rise with an increasing occurrence of lockouts, the point which I am endeavoring to make here for WWE apologists is that the sharp decline in people watching WWE is not just symptomatic of a wider malaise for wrestling but is actually pretty much unique to that company alone which does strongly suggest that it is WWE who are getting it badly wrong and consistently so as opposed to wrestling going down generally.

The problem is that so many people form their view of wrestling purely from watching the WWE so when that is garbage a lot of people instantly dismiss all wrestling as garbage which is far from the truth so it is important that WWE get it right whether you like them or not, how it changes or what will make them stand back and think hard enough I am not sure as the signs are burning brightly for them that all is not well and has not been for some time, let’s just hope that they sort it out!!

Please follow me on @Shadetheshoot if you enjoyed this article.

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