The Wrestling Backfire: The Problems With WWE’s Booking

CB wrote a fantastic piece a couple of weeks ago on how WWE’s creative staff is like the Miami Heat of angles: they can start hot but cannot finish. He used a picture perfect example backing up his statement by talking about how poorly the WWE booked the Nexus angle. The Nexus angle isn’t the only feud the WWE’s creative staff has botched. They’ve botched almost every hot feud they’ve had going except the Jeff Hardy and CM Punk feud back in 2009. But the only reason they booked that properly and allowed the right wrestler to go over was because Hardy was leaving the company. And nothing meaningful came out of it for long-term success either. CM Punk was buried by the Undertaker and then shipped back to the mid card where he had to spend a year working his way back up to the main event and reestablish some momentum.

I know what you’re thinking about and that is the Jericho-HBK, HBK-Undertaker, and CM Punk-John Cena angles.  I do believe the Jericho and HBK feud was perfectly booked. The heat was off the charts, everything was done right and the matches lived up to the hype. However, the WWE writers had nothing to do with their feud. They both wrote it themselves. The same goes with the HBK and Undertaker stuff. That was all their idea, and the same with CM Punk and John Cena. In fact, the only decision the wrestlers didn’t make and WWE did was the one that killed the angle and that was bringing back CM Punk way too soon.

After Russo’s departure from the WWF, Chris Kreski took over. Kreski came up with the some compelling, long-term, and heavily layered angles, which were a major reason WWF was at one of its all-time peaks. His method to his madness was a storyboard that allowed him to see how the angle has developed from its start to end. This, of course, prevented many angles from not making sense and eliminated plot holes in them.

In late 2000, Stephanie took over and Kreski was demoted, and for someone with very little knowledge about the business, it was shocking and appalling that Stephanie McMahon took over. Ever since Stephanie has taken over, WWE’s ratings and buy rates have gone down the tubes.

You see, before Stephanie McMahon, writers would challenge Vince McMahon on ideas. Sometimes they would win the argument and sometimes they wouldn’t, but now they have to run it past Stephanie. When she was just starting her job, they were more able to dispute and out argue her, but now she just believes she’s above them.

She has also decided to hire writers from late night shows and others who have little knowledge about the wrestling business and has hired “yes men”, meaning writers who are writing to impress her rather than develop their own ideas and agree with everything she says. As a result, the product has become vanilla because of the staff’s philosophies and ideas. A former writer once said that the best way to keep a job in WWE is not to say anything in the meetings because they’ll mock your ideas if they don’t agree with them. All WWE is doing is wasting money by  hiring writers who all think the same. If you’re going to develop a writing system like the WWE has, you need people with unique perspectives on wrestling because the product becomes less stale due to different ideas on gimmicks, angles, matches, etc.

The WWE needs a no man. When Jim Cornette and Paul Heyman were on the creative team, they would argue with Vince McMahon about his ideas. They would explain to him why something doesn’t work and this helped McMahon realize the flaws in something he might have done. Nowadays, there aren’t many people – if any – who will stand up to McMahon or anyone higher than them and that allows illogical or dumb stuff to go on TV all the time.

Michael Hayes, Bryan Gewirtz and others have been on the creative staff for about 7 years. The average booker’s ideas become stale in six months. There’s no denying that those two haven’t worked their tails off for this company, but it’s time for them to step down and do something else in the company, because having the same creative lead writers for that long makes the product repetitive and suffer from lazy booking.  The WWE could do what Memphis Wrestling did back in the 80s and that was having someone write for 6 months and then switch with someone else. This way the product will always feel fresh and different.

Lastly, the WWE needs to cut down on how many people are on the roster. Some of the most successful companies had one booker. The WWE has around 40. I’m not saying they should go back to one because that would void my argument about hiring people who think differently, but when they are so many people putting their 2 cents on something, it renders the purpose of the original idea.

In conclusion: WWE has a lot of problems in their creative staff. The biggest is there are too many writers who all think the same. If people are writing angles just to impress the boss, the product is obviously going to become stale. They also need to hire different writers who all think differently and most importantly know something about wrestling. Nothing good comes out of a person writing for wrestling that knows very little about it. It would be like me writing Superman comics. On top of that, they need to shift in new writers and their roles so nobody gets burnt out and thus the product becomes stale. And ultimately hire people who have credibility in wrestling like a Jim Cornette or Paul Heyman to be able to stand up to the McMahon family and point out something’s flaws.

Ric Flair vs. Jerry Lawler Raw 2004

I never knew this match happen. Anyway, I wish wrestlers would watch this match to see how it’s done. The biggest bump of the match is a back body drop, but they have the crowd in the palm of their hands because of them playing their roles / characters to the crowd perfectly. There’s also some great psychology in this match at the end when Lawler tweaks his knee and Flair acts like a shark smelling blood in the water by capitalizing on it. Now, imagine wrestlers who are more conditioned and athletic doing this in their matches. Without a doubt, they would be amazing matches.

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