Hello and welcome to My Pinterest Is Piledrivers. I am James A. Sawyer, and this is where I be.
So I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of the WWE product right now. We seem to be in somewhat of a lull in the business. TNA is, as always, a lukewarm mess and even the critic’s choice ROH isn’t what it used to be. Thanks, WWE poaching and Gabe firing! For every Paul Heyman returning and Kofi pushing and Team Hell No-ing… there’s a Ryback, a Ryder burial, a continued Cena domination, etc etc…
Now I wrote a ten-part column last spring regarding ways to fix the WWE. That was obviously largely a fantasy list as I’m not gonna hold my breath for things like an ending to “punishment” and intercompany bullying and certainly not holding my breath for health plans and life education classes. (Although it looks like they heeded my call for a revamped tag team division and the commentary has gotten better. Thanks, Lawler’s heart! Look, he’s fine. Go yell at Blair.) What I thought I’d do with this column is to do quick and easy ways for the WWE to improve the product. Let’s face it, as much as we want them to, they’re not going to reduce Cena’s role or go back to TV-14 and 2-hour shows. (Although for the record I’m fine with TV-PG.)
No more 2-minute matches
This. What is this? You’ve got two talented athletes, both more skilled in the ring than in promo work, and yet you still give them all of three minutes? You have a three hour Raw program, not to mention two hour Smackdowns and one hour Main Events, and you still have three minute matches, with all that time to fill? If anything, now would be the time to have longer matches to try to take up time and, oh I don’t know, get some of these guys over with ringwork? Start training the audience to like and expect longer matches? To have some of the superstars who struggle with workrate and storyteling learn from some of the more capable guys like William Regal, Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, etc? Just a thought.
Furthermore, two minute matches do nothing. They don’t make the guy winning look that tough if it only took a minimal effort to win, and they certainly don’t do a lot for the guy being beaten in two minutes except making it look as if he should work in another profession.
Say what you want about WCW (start with the commentary “This should, uh… this should be great!”) but they at least gave some of their midcard weight and importance with longer matches and hard-fought title defenses. Oh, and listen to that crowd. They’re reacting better to a WCW cruiserweight defense between a former Flock member and a luchador than the crowd at Hell In A Cell in a world title match. Ouch.
New youth movements
Okay, obviously guys like The Miz and Cody Rhodes are a little directionless right now. They’re bringing in newer guys like Brodus Clay, Damian Sandow and Antonio Cesaro, but… what about these guys?
This dude is already more entertaining than 98% of the roster.
How is Derrick Bateman not teaming with Santino or in 3MB yet? Or at the very least having matches on Smackdown with Yoshi Tatsu and Tyson Kidd? He looks like comedy superstar Andy Samberg and he’s actually legitimately funny.
Here’s the both of them on a clip from NXT, along with Dolph (funniest guy on the panel) Ziggler. How come the most entertaining WWE shows are the ones that are the most informal that they assume nobody watches? Is there some correlation we don’t know about? Johnny Curtis and Derrick Bateman both are young, charismatic, self-aware, seem to have a genuine love for the business and seem to have a good head on their shoulders.
Nah… let’s put the big weird one in a 1980s Run-DMC outfit and count the money coming in.
Keep the commentary good
This is the best the commentary has been in a while, and while not great, it’s better. I never realized how good JBL is behind the desk. He references history, sports, geography. He can do play-by-play, he can do color. Frankly the WWE should pay him whatever he wants to take over for the King on Raw. Lawler can do Smackdown or Main Event. While Jim Ross is there, maybe he can mentor one of the potential replacements of himself or… shudder… Michael Cole. I don’t know who that’d be, whether it’s Matt Striker, Justin Roberts, Faceless Guy #3, Blandon Routh, whoever.
Let the people speak
How fans become fans is showing the personality of your personalities. And the way to do that is mic work. Not everyone is good at this. As good as Kofi is in the ring, he’s a little “eh” on the mic. That’s okay. Practice. How you get good at things is repetition and practice. Some guys, like Dolph above, could actually be really good on the mic with opportunity and time. Give it to them. Reward people like Cody Rhodes, who actually took acting classes in order to better himself as a performer. Like him or not, that’s admirable.
The two most over guys right now are CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. They are the best in the ring and talking about being in the ring. This is likely not a coincidence. The WWE hired Punk and Bryan while they were in their mid-to-late twenties after they wrestled internationally and in the smaller companies for close to a decade each. This gave them time, exposure to cult followings, and the chance to be mentored by guys like Regal, Raven and Guerrero.
A lot of the bland, cookie cutter guys right now are that way because all they’ve known is OVW and the WWE. The lack of competition has pushed the industry through a factory system where individuality is stomped under corporatism. This is bad. Start looking more towards experienced guys. Start bringing up Kassius “Chris Hero” Ohno and Seth “Tyler Black” Rollins. And start giving them better names.
New brushes sweep clean
I know that, for some reason, Vince is big on hiring rejected comedians and soap opera writers. It might be okay to have one or two on the staff, but overall… that’s not such a good thing. It leads people to put the in-ring action on the backburner in favor of love triangles involving people we don’t care about. I would fathom to guess that the average wrestling fan wants to see wrestlers wrestle and not watch half-an-hour of the behind-the-scenes machinations of Vicki Guerrero and John Cena. Just a thought.
I know I’ve said (or at least thought) that I don’t like the idea of people getting fired, but sometimes to make an omelet you gotta break some eggs. They can get back to standup and web series, and former bookers and pros who actually know how the business works can get back to what they do best… running the business. No more hiring people who will roll their eyes when they say who they write for, or excitedly tell their friends “hey, I write wrasslin’ now! Ain’t that kitschy? Remember that Slim Jim guy that was in Spider-Man?”
(Honestly, there was a podcast where a former WWE writer described trying to push a “Harry Potter” babyface idea. C’mon.)
These are all things that can be done in a day. The same day. And these are all things that will help the product at no one’s expense. They’d help backstage, onscreen, behind the scenes and in the stands. I know that the WWE is fine, and they’re not in danger of losing money, and blah blah blah… but something has to be said about professional pride. I mean, it can’t feel good that ratings are dropping along with buyrates. And that’s not a good sign of long-term future success.
I’m only trying to help here.
Tags: Antonio Cesaro, brodus clay, Chris Hero, cm punk, Cody Rhodes, Damian Sandow, Daniel Bryan, derrick bateman, Dolph Ziggler, Eddie Guerrero, jbl, Jerry "the King" Lawler, john cena, johnny curtis, Kassius Ohno, raven, Santino Marella, seth rollins, Tyler Black, Tyson Kidd, WCW, William Regal, WWE, yoshi tatsu