Currently, the WWE is in a great state from a business standpoint. Vince McMahon sits atop a billion dollar organization that’s still expanding, still growing, and has no other professional wrestling competition that could put him in jeopardy of going of business. Yes, there’s the small problem of WWE’s ratings and buyrates, still above-average but steadily-decreasing, to worry about, but the WWE still makes an enormous profit from its merchandise sales and gate numbers for global and local house shows. It’s tempting to say that, for WWE, being in a comfortable situation like it is now means that it’s the perfect time to start taking some risks with the product, trying new and exciting things while remaining safe in the knowledge that no cock-up, however colossal, will be big enough to jeopardise its success. The reality, however, is probably a little different. Realistically, when you’re in a situation like the WWE , you probably do everything to keep the ball rolling and don’t take any unwarranted gambles that could be harmful. You just tread water as long as you can. That’s why -sorry guys – a Cena heel turn isn’t happening. The risk isn’t worth the reward (see: Austin, Steve: heel turn circa 2001).
The trouble with adopting a safe business approach, though, is that it’s often pretty dull. When a wrestling company takes few risks and plays it safe, the product can quickly become boring to us “smart” wrestling fans. It doesn’t help that, generally speaking, we lack patience when it comes to these things. We tend to get tired of seeing the same formula play out week after week. Luckily, all of that changes when the WWE embarks on the annual road to WrestleMania. When WrestleMania is around the corner, no matter what kind of wrestling fan you are, you’re watching WWE with your eyes glued to the TV to see what happens next. No wrestling fan can put in words why WrestleMania feels superior to any show. It’s not like it was the first PPV ever, or even the first to call itself the “Granddaddy of ‘em all!”, but the event seems truly special. It really is (usually) the closest thing to professional wrestling’s very own Superbowl.
This year, the build towards WrestleMania had its inconsistencies, yes, but the important matches at least produced a major buzz heading into the big show. And not only did the show deliver from an entertainment standpoint, but also delivered from an unpredictability standpoint too. The WWE produced a pay-per-view that kept fans guessing and discussing with others about where everything will lead. WWE surrounded the biggest show of the year with a special “can’t-miss” aura and kept fans on the edge of their seats. Better yet, the show has also created intriguing cliffhangers coming out of both WrestleMania and the subsequent Monday Night Raw to keep audience interest piqued. After WrestleMania, there were a lot of unsolved questions that fans needed the explanations for. And then after Raw, there were even more unsolved questions and exciting new developments that fans have been eagerly waiting to see addressed this week. In short, everyone is waiting with bated breath to see what the Next Big Thing to happen will be (pun intended!).
With the fallout of Rock vs Cena, the excitement surrounding Brock Lesnar’s re-debut, the thrill of CM Punk retaining his WWE Championship and the accidental super-push of Daniel Bryan, WWE has an incredible upside right now. There’s simply so much good stuff going on, and McMahon seems eager to take advantage of it while he can. After all, when a company is hot, angles and wrestlers get over with the masses exponentially more easily than when the business is slower. At the moment, even WWE’s mistakes seem to be working in the company’s favor. For a recent example, WWE made a mistake by making Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus at ‘Mania way too short, but seemingly as a direct result of being snubbed, Daniel Bryan now receives a greater face pop than 95% of the roster.
With that all being said, a problem in WWE over the last couple years hasn’t been them creating buzz about angles and wrestlers. The issue with many angles in the recent past has been the pay-off. Stories which begin with great promise (Punk vs WWE, Nash vs Punk, and Miz and Truth vs Triple H for example) aren’t allowed to develop and flourish as they should, and are instead squandered and allowed to fall by the wayside. So, it’s not as if we’ve never been down this road before. As recently as last Summer WWE dropped the ball on something incredibly hot.
Nevertheless, the WWE is currently putting out excellent quality stories with heavily dramatic and unforeseeable content, and some of WWE’s bigger problems (lack of big stars/depth, aura, cliffhangers, and versatile angles suitable for all demographics) have vastly improved. Unfortunately, we may never see another Attitude Era again, but if the WWE can consistently do what they’re doing now, we don’t need one to enjoy their product.
Tags: attitude era, Brock Lesnar, john cena, monday night raw, The Rock, wrestlemania, WWE