Last year I tried to round up all the Pulse Wrestling writers for a mega roundtable thingy and the result was this.
In the past twelve months on Pulse we’ve seen a lot of talk about who the “next Cena/Austin/Hogan” will be for the WWE, we’ve also seen the company add two weekly shows, a bunch of youtube pre/post shows, live reactions during the ad-breaks via the WWE APP and now a reality show on E!. The company is expanding, or at least trying to, so the question I posed to the rest of Pulse Wrestling was:
“What do you lot want to see in the next WWE era?”
“If they overhauled the company like they claim to have done in the 90’s (because Vince has taught us that after hogan left, the company transported it’s self to mid-1996 via a time machine and the “New Generation” thing never happened), what would you want it to be like?”
The answers, in no particular order of importance, are as follows…
BLAIR A. DOUGLAS
What’s up, party people?
Idea 1: Heels Can Win Feuds
This just kind of explains itself. I’m not exactly sure when it became a rule that heels couldn’t win any major feuds in the first place, and it’s not like that rule doesn’t have exceptions (this is one of the many, many, many reasons The Shield storyline may be the best one they’ve done in years), but it is more or less the rule. It’s part of the reason why there aren’t any credible heels, and… yet again… having the winners and losers be less clear-cut, I feel, would make the show less predictable and boring.
Idea 2: Less Simple Storylines
One of the things that I’ve noticed the most about the story lines in WWE is how simple they are now. At one point earlier this year during the recap tour, Shaemus, in one episode of RAW, was involved in a verbal spar with Wade Barrett and interfered in a match against The Shield, and this legitimately confused people, which legitimately confused me. “What feud is Shaemus meant to be in?!” Come on, people. Shaemus can’t do more than one thing at once? Is that too much for him? Is that too much for YOU? If so, then this article might be a little much for you. Maybe you should stick to articles with pictures.
Shaemus had an issue with The Shield for a very long time, and also had been battling Barrett off and on. There was NO reason why he couldn’t do two things at once. The same thing happened not long ago when The Shield battled Team Hell No & Undertaker, and then went after Cena at the end of the show. Some people seemed to have an issue with this as well, and sorry, but I just don’t get it. I think part of the issue was that they felt like this hurt Shield’s victory against Hell No and Undertaker, which is silly on it’s own when Shield has won every major match about main-eventers, but I think most people felt that since Shield was supposed to be going in to a feud for the tag titles, that there was no reason for them to be there. Well, Shield has been fucking with both Cena and Ryback for months. Are the tag-title belts somehow a reason to stop?
Remember when the nWo showed up in WCW? The Horsemen, who were at least semi-heels at the time, battled the nWo, who were also heels, more or less the entire time. At the same time, they battled the Dungeon Of Doom which centred around Benoit and Sullivan, and had an internal strife between Jarrett and Mongo. And somewhere around there, Piper took over the group when Flair got injured which led to a feud between them down the road. All of this happened around the same time the Horsemen were fighting nWo.
So I’ll just ask the question – why CAN’T people do more than one thing at once on the show? There’s nothing wrong with doing feuds one at a time, in the more traditional sense. But now, that’s all the show is, all the time, and I think that’s a large part of what makes it so predictable. Shake things up a little, make it less obvious and have people wonder what’s going on and who is going to do what.
Idea 3: Don’t Push Wrestlers Before The Crowd Accepts Them
Again, this one kind of explains itself. I don’t know how accurate it would be to say that WWE didn’t do as much of this in the past as they do now, but I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch. Feature the wrestlers on the show in a minor capacity, and if the crowd enjoys them, push them a little bit and see what happens. If the crowd gets sick of them or it turns out to be short-term, then you can turf them or shoot them down the card or put them wherever you think they might belong. I think it’s only within the last few years that wrestlers seem to show up on RAW and can be in a main-event picture literally weeks later – this happened with both Barrett and Shaemus, and even if they didn’t suck (they do) I think it’s awfully difficult for the audience to accept pushing someone that new that fast.
Idea 4: Having Matches For The Sake Of Having Them
Another thing I see pretty frequently is that when wrestlers have matches without a storyline, some people get irritated. This is another thing I don’t understand. “Why are they having a match?” I’m not exactly sure when this happened, but I think it would just be nice to gave at least one or two matches on your average PPV card be just because. Say Ziggler has the title – just have Del Rio announced as the number-one contender on RAW, and let them both fight some worthy foes on the way to the PPV. Let the match sell itself.
Don’t get me wrong, storylines are necessary and I’m not saying this should be done from top-to-bottom on the show. This is something that would be a nice touch if done for one or two of the matches on the show, even if some of them are the smaller matches. You could even use the match you’ve made (Del Rio and Ziggler, for example) to START a storyline between the two. Maybe Del Rio just falls short, and goes for a rematch – maybe they wrestle a few times and Ziggler squeaks by each time, legit with no shenanigans? Each time they had a match you’d think that maybe, just maybe, he can get it this time. And maybe he doesn’t, and maybe, let’s say… Cessaro has been on a roll, so he’s announced as the new number-one contender after Del Rio gets a few shots. Del Rio wants one more, so attacks Cessaro – heel turn.
Even in terms of my “Less Simple Storylines” idea, Cessaro can still get his match against Ziggler, and can have it while everyone knows he still has an issue with Cessaro. Yet I guarantee if this happened, people would complain. Anyway, in terms of this idea, the point was that you should be able to just announce a match or who is a number-one contender without having to have some storyline reason why a match is taking place. Have the match be the story itself, or use it to create a story. It’s not like they haven’t played their “attack someone from behind, cost someone a match, brawl backstage, spar on mic” storyline to death by this point anyway. Again… I feel like it would make the show a lot less boring as a whole. Create some intrigue.
Idea 5: Fire The Divas
Explain to me one actual, honest thing you’ll miss about them, and I’ll retract this.
I have many things about WWE that I’d like to see changed in order to make the company more enjoyable to me. But, I don’t really see the point in them altering the company to cater to what I want out of a wrestling show. I’m 31 years old and without children. I’m not their target audience. In the last two years I’ve come to grips with what the WWE is. I can DVR random RAWs and only stop to watch if they have a good match. I buy two new DVDs a year. Whatever show they have that they tend to surprise and pull out all the stops (MITB 2011 and Extreme Rules 2012, rather obviously), and then I buy their best of PPV matches set.
From a match quality perspective, all that I really care about, the last two years are probably better than ’99-’02. So, from that perspective, I actually think they are doing things right. And, I thought last year was a huge step up from 2011.
1. Daniel Bryan in singles matchups.
The exception being a few matches with The Shield, although, the RAW stuff was rather forgettable, I just don’t think Bryan adds a ton in tag matches, but, in almost any scenario, he gives you an enjoyable match in a singles environment. Believe it or not, but, this suggestion is not entirely based on my love for the guy’s matches from Ring of Honor. He is just extremely adaptable. And, that helps in almost any circumstance. You can put him in a five minute match or a 15 minute match and he’s going to make it work to a higher degree than anyone else on the roster. I’d love for him to have 20-30 minute matches every week, but, it’s not even about that. He can fill whatever WWE needs match-wise, and that’s something a guy like Randy Orton, or even a Christian, could never do.
2. Smaller venues.
If you ask me for what I’d change about wrestling…at any point, ever, I’m going to include this. I’m not arguing against large venues. I am saying that wrestling in an intimate setting is going to help.
Everyone loves the post-Mania RAW crowd. Why is that crowd so great? Because Mania takes 70k fans or whatever, and only 15k of them can be there the NEXT night, you’re only going to get the people who really, really want to be there.
Wrestling as a family activity is great. This isn’t a criticism of that. But, there are so damn many shows each year that you can afford to replicate the concept of what happens in the post Mania RAW without trying too hard. Just have a show in a hot location, like, say, Chicago, but, run a RAW taping at a venue that fits like 4k people in and tape Smackdown at the big venue the next day. The result is that you’ll probably get a rabid 4,000 fans at the live RAW and they’ll give off a vibe of, “fuck, this is a place I want to be.”
3. Make the three hour show three distinct hours.
The biggest problem that I think the WWE has in the last year-ish that The Rock and Brock Lesnar have been back around for is that they don’t necessarily have a clear image. Do you want to still cater to just children? Or, do you want to get back the fans from the Attitude era that you lost and maybe bring in new fans of that age group? As in, Attitude era fans were in the 15-21 age and now, are, well, not. Do you want us old fucks, or do you want kids to watch, or do you want wrestling to be cool to kids in high school?
If you at least structure the show in a way that gives a clear vision in each of those blocks, I think you’re better off. If a little kid can watch the show in that first hour and you get the goofy whatever the fuck ever stuff little kids would tune in for, like Cena being dumb-Cena, and Ryback. Then transition the second hour into having a good match or two that the older folks are going to tune in for, and maybe the kids as well. Then end with a third hour of over the top Attitude Era-esque programming, maybe that works. I don’t know how well they can pull that off. But, RAW only really works on DVR where you can use fast forward, but, if you had these things distinctly set up so that instead of people watching a show on FF they decided to tune in for that particular hour, it seems like you’d do better in terms of making advertising revenue.
4. Keep putting out awesome DVDs.
Bought the In Your House DVD set this weekend. It’s pretty phenomenal thus far, to be honest. And, really, how good was that ’95-’96 era? Not very, right? Feels a little like this current era with a lot less television? But, the period does come away with some decent matches in isolation. Jeff Jarrett against Shawn Michaels? Yeah. I’ll take that.
They put out a Bret Hart DVD a few months ago that has two matches between Bret Hart and Dynamite Kid. It’s not exactly something I’m into, but, come on, they’re doing some really good things with their DVD collection in terms of offering something for everyone.
5. Just make it less rigid.
I started this piece talking about how WWE shouldn’t conform their shows to what I want. I’ve tried to keep that in mind for these suggestions. I’m trying to suggest things that aren’t drastic changes within their current structure.
One thing can mask a ton of current problems, and that’s to just throw structure out. At times, they come really close to that with the Shield, but, even The Shield they’ve made to feel generic in recent months. If people are surprised by what comes next on a consistent basis, then they’re going to give it a bit more attention than they would otherwise.
That’s the thing that truly set the Attitude era apart. Seriously, do you think at any point Billy Gunn and the Road Dogg were entertaining or good? They masked the flaws of so many people by having a who knows what is coming next attitude with the entire roster. And, it helped make the middle tiered and lower tiered wrestlers look, well, not so damn awful. You don’t have to replicate the Attitude era in terms of content. At all. Just don’t make so every time someone tunes in, it feels like they are watching the same thing as they watched last week.
1. New commentary teams please.
Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler should be phased out and replaced. WWE now have much more capable people at their disposal and if there is to be a new “era” it should be with a newer, fresher broadcast team.
Michael Cole isn’t really a good commentator. And he’s not really a good character either. And with Jerry Lawler, it just feels very outdated and embarrassing now. It’s time to take ol’ Lawler out to the shed.
Again, WWE have more competent people to fill these positions. I would rather have Scott Stanford or Tony Dawson doing competant “play by play” announcing with JBL, Lord Steven Regal, and that other guy. You know? Yeah, him.
And, I know Gene Okerlund’s role as backstage interviewer is hard to fill but WWE have about 20 years to find somebody decent.
2. We should be able to win prizes by watching.
WWE are often two years behind when it comes to embracing popular culture, and their recent take up and use of social media and online platforms shows this. Their drastic over use of Twitter hashtagging makes their shows seem like a 1998 Geocities website.
Their app is pointless. People don’t care about voting for things when they know it’ll have no effect on the outcome. (see political elections)
And Tout? I know more people who use Google+ than Tout. (just wait till 2014 when WWE discoveries Google+)
You want people to watch Raw with a “second screen”? Make it worth their while…or don’t bother.
3. Those guitars which are like double guitars.
Tag teams haven’t been the same since the late 90s, when the tag belts became a way of teaming up the top stars for 3 day long title runs.
In the past few years, the WWE has slapped together pretty much every employee that they can’t think of reason to employ into a randomly assigned tag team. Which clearly holds little entertainment value for anyone involved.
Before all that, a tag team was a great storytelling resource to have and produced some of the finest wrestling performers we’ve known.
WWE should spend a year or two building a few great tag teams, who learn how to perform and get an audience reaction.
4. Compelling, well-produced storylines with interesting characters
The television shows which I (and I assume most rational, intelligent people) watch regularly are those which feature plots that are involving and characters whom I want to continue to learning about. I need to be given the feeling that I want to see what might happen next.
With WWE, nothing seems to mean anything anymore. There is no conflict. The characters float from one hackneyed promo to the next and have matches where the audience isn’t sure for who to root.
You can’t make heroes from characters who have nothing to strive for and nothing to fight back from.
5a. Another Summerslam held at Wembley Stadium
Seriously, is it so hard to hold one of the PPV shows in another country again? Everyone knows Summerslam 92 was the best wrestling show ever staged.
5b. Make the PPVs seem special
The company has settled into the business model of holding a PPV show toward the end of each month. It’s a relic of the one-upmanship of the “Monday Night Wars”. Monday Night Raw had to improve to compete. PPVs had to run monthly to compete. Yet, there is no competition any more. And it’s all gotten exceedingly stale.
For some years now, WWE has expected fans to pay and watch a show that have little to no differences between the usual weekly televised shows. Even Wrestlemania, beyond its Undertaker match and expensive stage set, it effectively no different to any other wrestling show held throughout the year.
So, either cut back on the PPVs and make each a bigger deal again. Or put a great deal more effort into making the PPVs something of a spectacle.
So, what do I want to see from the WWE in the next “era” of professional wrestling? Have we given this new era a name yet? We ought to call it the “Social Media Era,” because they are completely obsessed with getting their name out there in the Twitterverse, the Blogosphere, the, umm, Toutopolis, the … uhh, App … Appainterwebi— … they’re very into the social media and online stuff these days, is basically what I’m trying to say here. I swear to God, watching Raw this past Monday was like watching a three-hour commercial for the WWE App. And of course the completely insightful and legit twitter crawl across the bottom of the screen is always nice. I guess it’s not going away, so there’s probably no point in bitching about it, but I did anyway.
Well, if you read my column (when I actually get one done these days), you know I’m all about the history thing, and I think that this is a good case for “if you want to know where you’re going, you’ve got to know where you’ve been.” And in this case, I think the WWE needs to look back over the past 20 years, from the post-Hogan era through the rebuilding of the largely sucky and Kliq-filled mid-90s to the Attitude Era to the post-Austin Era to the Rise of John Cena and the PG Era to whatever it is we are heading toward now. What worked, what didn’t work, what can be taken from that and applied in a way that is relevant to today’s audience? I mean, assuming they are, you know, trying to please their audience (they are trying to please their audience, right? Right?). So, with all that said here are the 5 things I would like to see from the WWE in the new, as yet unnamed, era.
1) The re-establishment of the importance of championships
I’m going to channel my inner Grumpy Old Man here, but back in my younger days, titles meant something. Even if it was the NWA TV Title, the AWA Southern Heavyweight Title, or the WWF Women’s Tag Team Titles, when there was a title match, it seemed important. When a wrestler won a title, he was seen as having “made it,” at least to some extent, and it was a big deal. The first time I ever saw a “real” (as in, at the time AWA, NWA, or WWF) world title change (basically) live, it was when Ron Garvin upset Ric Flair on NWA Worldwide to win the belt. Never mind the whole crappy situation surrounding that (which I knew nothing about at the time), it was huge. I also once saw a UWF show where all three major titles changed hands on the same card. I was freaking out. I even marked out when my favourite Memphis-based wrestlers Paul Diamond and Pat Tanaka won the AWA World Tag Titles, as little as those meant by the time that happened. The WWE has completely devalued every one of its titles, with the possible exception of the WWE Title itself. I don’t know how to say this any other way, so plain and simple, having your champions lose is stupid, stupid, stupid. It was happening before this, but I have seen every title holder in the organization get pinned or tap out at least once. Antonio Cesaro’s lengthy U.S. Title run was completely irrelevant and meaningless, because he lost nearly every televised match he was in for months before losing the title to Kofi Kingston, who I’ve not seen win, so when he loses the title, who cares? I really can’t believe how worthless being Intercontinental Champion has become. This is a title that used to main event house shows all over the country. So many people paid to see Randy Savage defend that belt. Thousands went to WWF shows to see if the Honkytonk Man would finally get his comeuppance (and that he never did, yet people still showed up to see him get his ass kicked shows just how much heat the title had). It mattered that he was champion and people desperately wanted to see him lose. Ultimate Warrior’s 30-second squash to finally take the belt off of him is still an awesome mark-out memory from my youth. There are a lot of options here. Unify the I-C and U.S. belts, make one of them exclusive to Main Event or NXT (or both), or just put them on guys the WWE brass have pegged as blue chip prospects and then LET THEM WIN THEIR MATCHES!!! Ryback could very easily have gotten the Goldberg treatment. Squash his way to the Intercontinental Title, then give him some defenses in longer matches, and finally, when the time comes, give him the WWE Title. Have a tournament or a battle royal or TLC match to crown a new champ, and make it a new guy being groomed for the future (say Dean Ambrose), and LET HIM WIN HIS MATCHES. There are a thousand ways to make someone look like a contender for a title other than beating the current champion in a non-title match. Bottom line: Strong champions make titles more important and make title changes more exciting.
Look, I’m no masochist, but blood is just part of the pro wrestling experience. I know they’re skewing their product toward kids (or at least the parents of kids), but it just isn’t Hell in a Cell or a Last Man Standing Match when there’s no blood. Yes, it’s theatrical and I have heard that blading can be a health risk, but there’s something about seeing the blood flow that sucks a person into that suspension of disbelief that one truly needs to get the most out of wrestling. Picture the epic Bret Hart-Steve Austin Wrestlemania match, only Austin isn’t bleeding. Yes, you’re talking about two of the best in the business, and maybe they could have pulled it off, but that visual, that bloody mask on Austin’s agonized face is what sold the whole thing. I’m not asking for IWA Death Match, buckets of blood here, but in cases where there’s a particularly heated feud or a match where weapons are involved and it makes sense, let them bleed. How awesome was it to see a bloodied Brock Lesnar a while back? How ridiculous will it be when Brock and HHH bounce each other all over the steel cage at Extreme Rules and no one bleeds? How ridiculous will it be to have an ENTIRE PAY-PER-VIEW called Extreme Rules and no one bleeds?
3) The passing of the torch
Let’s face it, unless someone with heretofore unseen talents suddenly emerges from the mid-card, the “Next Big Thing” is a crap shoot. John Cena has become overexposed and is proving to be quite injury-prone. It’s looking like Hulk Hogan in 1993, and if you recall, once Hogan left, the WWF really struggled to rebuild. No offence to guys like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Lex Luger, and Kevin Nash (well except Nash. He killed my beloved WCW, so he can die in a fire), but The Undertaker was really about all that the kiddies were popping for during a three-year period there, and even ‘Taker was bogged down in ridiculous urn-stealing “Villain of the Month” storylines (completely unlike the recent urn-stealing “Mocking Your Friend’s Death” angle that played out with CM Punk). And the crappy thing was that Hogan wouldn’t do the right thing and put Bret (or even Savage, for Christ’s sakes) over on his way out, instead dropping the belt to Yokozuna, who drew exactly dick as champ). So, let’s not make that mistake again, m’kay? Cena’s the champ, right? I mean the WWE Champion (as in the one title that really matters). He’s got nothing left to prove at this point. Give him a nice long run as champ. It doesn’t have to be this particular reign, just whenever it is that he’s ready to move down from being “The Guy” for the WWE. In fact, if the big match for WMXXX is Cena-Taker, wait until all of that is out of the way. Anyway, you’ve got a year or two, so figure it out now. It might be a matter of really pushing five or six guys and see who takes the ball and runs with it. Ryback, Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, the guys from The Shield, Cody Rhodes? Someone in developmental? What the hell ever happened to Joe Hennig? Obviously, someone is going to be headlining Wrestlemania 35, and it ain’t gonna be Cena, HHH, Brock Lesnar, The Rock, Undertaker, Big Show, Kane, Ric Flair, Stone Cold, Mark Henry, Sheamus, Rey Mysterio, or Chris Jericho. CM Punk and Randy Orton could easily still be around and relevant (or at least around). Will Wade Barrett, Kofi Kingston, Fandango, Ryback, Damien Sandow, Brodus Clay, 3MB, Antonio Cesaro, The Miz, Jack Swagger, or Big E Langston even be around by then? Back during the rise of Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, Edge and Eddy Guerrerro to the main event scene, Vince McMahon gave his “Ruthless Aggression” speech as a sort of announcement that these up and comers were taking over the top spots on the show. It’s time for that kind of push again. You can kind of, almost, maybe, sort of see it a little, with Fandango being put over hard against Jericho, the Shield being booked so strong, and even Ryback getting his many title shots (will he become this generation’s Lex Luger?). Ziggler winning the World Title can also be seen as a step in this direction, and if I had to pick someone right now as the new face of the promotion it would be him (but just a terrible ring name for the job).
4) The return of managers and stables
I wrote a whole column about this several months ago, so I really feel strong about this one. It’s a staple of the business that goes back decades. Managers have been around forever. First as legitimate handlers, then later as mouthpieces for workers who weren’t necessarily good on the mic (or their gimmick necessitated not speaking, like say in Kamala’s case), and then finally as an easy “tool” for running match interference for heels or simply being part of a wrestler’s gimmick (like Paul Bearer for ‘Taker or Chyna for HHH). There does finally appear to be some good news on the horizon. Paul Heyman has been excellent as a mouthpiece for Lesnar and Punk (though I’m not sure either actually “need” him). I love that AJ and Big E Langston have become Ziggler’s entourage, and Dutch is doing a fine job as Swagger’s Uncle Zeb (although Swagger is a giant douche and can die in the same fire as Kevin Nash). And everyone loves Ricardo Rodriguez! The Shield and for all their ineptitude, 3MB, are a good three-man unit. I’d prefer four to a group, but the Freebirds worked just fine with three (although they often had a fourth “member,” like a manager or valet type). I would still absolutely love for Ric Flair to bring a new generation of Horsemen to the WWE, but they’d need someone to feud with to really make it special (and to be able to have a big WarGames revival to blow it off at some point). Maybe if The Shield added a fourth member? JBL could head up a stable as well and still do commentary, ala Bobby Heenan back in the day. In fact, I almost like that better than the Horsemen idea (almost). In fact, this leads directly to my last thing…
5) Better utilization of the “Legends” and embracing the “real” history
Okay, I think we all can think of examples of the WWE rewriting, revising, or outright ignoring its own history. Sometimes it’s for legit reasons (say, for example Chris Benoit’s sad story, or god-awful angles involving necrophilia or hand-birthing), but sometimes it’s just petty or even somewhat legitimate grudges or other crap. I can think of no better example of this than the little opening blurb that starts every episode of every WWE program and DVD. Right now it’s the “WWE: Today, Tomorrow, Forever” thing, and it changes every so often, but every single time I see it, I think about who they leave out. These days, unless something has changed, Bruno Sammartino has been nowhere to be found (usually Freddy Blassie is the big-name old timer). Hulk Hogan has been ignored (with Andre representing that era). No Macho Man either (Flair’s there though, even though Savage meant much more to that time period than Flair ever did in the WWF). Jake Roberts, Ricky Steamboat, Honkytonk Man, Diesel, Razor, Yokozuna, Demolition, the Road Warriors, Tito Santana, Bobby Heenan, JYD, Eddy, Angle? Is Roddy Piper even on there? I don’t think so. I know we’re talking about split second images, but it just irks me. You can make the argument that Hogan and Angle are currently employed by the closest thing the WWE has to real same-industry competition, but pretending that Hulk Hogan isn’t simply THE reason the WWE even exists today and not even giving him a 0.5 second clip on the opening graphic is just wrong (and I’m no Hogan fan). So, look, there are dozens of the old guys who would have a lot to offer on screen with the new talent and, just by being around backstage, a lot to offer behind the scenes. You could bring in someone like, say Raven, and have him bring a cadre of new misfits into the WWE, hardcore misanthropic youth that don’t play by societies rules (I hear John Morrison is possibly making a return. Think of the trippy stuff they could do together). Jake Roberts could play that role as well. Arn Anderson could always cut a great promo. Give him some young charges to represent. Have Bret Hart lead a “Dungeon of Doom” stable of technical whizzes. Use the legends as judges for title matches, special referees, guest commentators, managers, or expert analysts for big matches. Anything, really. And for the love of God, put Randy Savage in the Hall of Fame. Even with Bruno in, without the Macho Man, the Hall of Fame is a joke. Next to Hogan and Piper, I reckon Savage made more money for Vince than anyone from 1985 to 1995.
Well, that’s my list. I guess it’s not in any particular order. And I didn’t include things that everyone has been sounding off about forever: Rebuild the tag division, John Cena heel turn, less of the “cowardly heel” meme, a return to the Attitude Era. I will go ahead and throw in a quick “Bonus 5″ to make it a Top 10 list. Here goes: 6) Never do the “guy who’s feuding with the other guy comes out during the other guy’s match and stand on the ramp, thus leading to a fluke roll-up loss” ending ever again, 7) Longer matches with clean finishes. With 7 or 8 hours of unique programming every week, this just makes sense, 8) the end of HHH as an in-ring performer. His gimmick and his real-life role are completely contradictory, 9) fewer pay-per-views. TNA did it. WWE won’t do it (unless the WWE Network ever actually launches), and 10) Please stop with the social media blitzkrieg. I’ll watch your show. I’ll order a few pay-per views per year. I’ll even by a WWE t-shirt or two for my kids. If I want to explore the WWE Universe any more in depth than that, I know where to look now. You can stop it. Please.
Yes this is probably the most obvious one on my list, but how awesome is it when a guy like Ryback or CM Punk can pull out something from years past and give their seemingly unexpected character turn a purpose? Ryback attacked Cena because Cena never helped him with The Shield despite Ryback always being there when Cena needed him. Is it the best storyline? No, but it worked for giving Ryback a motive. If continuity was paid close enough attention to, then it would make a lot of long time watchers not cringe so much when Cena and Orton decide to team up just for the hell of it after them having a blood feud a few years back. CM Punk attacked Randy Orton a few years ago seemingly without any reason for it. The next week he would reveal that the reasoning was from Night of Champions a few years back when Orton, MANU, and the rest of the Legacy faction jumped him. That move cost Punk the title as he was replaced in the Champion Scramble match later in the evening. Just those few things that WWE addressed and it lead to meaningful attacks and storylines. I’d like to see some grudges hold up after the feud and PPV match are over. Sheamus, despite being a good guy now, should never want to team up with John Cena after he ended his first title run. Unless Cena actually did something to help Sheamus and earn his trust back, which he didn’t.
2. More Characters/ Engaging Personalities
Am I saying we need more Brodus Clays and Fandangos? Absolutely not. But how hyped are you when Alex Riley comes out? Pretty hyped actually? Ok well how about Curt Hawkins? Remember that guy? Ezekiel Jackson? Justin Gabriel? Kofi Kingston? The Miz? Well no matter how hyped you are with any of them, you have to admit that their characters are either non-existent or flat out boring. You may hate guys like Brodus Clay and Fandango, but imagine if they could actually wrestle (more on that in a moment) and were given time to? Would it really matter how silly or outlandish their characters were? However, if they can wrestle yet don’t have an interesting gimmick what do they become? Stale, boring, and quite frankly why should you care? I think anyone who comes down to the ring should have some sort of personality. Hell start with the names. The Miz is a great name just because it’s not a boring two name set-up. The Rock is something you’ll never forget. However how easy is it to get confused names like Justin Gabriel, Curt Hawkins, Alex Riley, Tyson Kidd, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Darren Young, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, and Zack Ryder mixed up? The characters name should tell you something well before seeing them. The Undertaker, The Big Show, Rey Mysterio, The Rock, CM Punk, Kane, The Great Khali all put images in your head before you even see them! Maybe I’m alone in this, but just the looks, styles, and names should be more diverse to help these talents set themselves apart from the pack.
3. More Wrestlers That Can Actually… Wrestle
The more I watch Sheamus, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, and Jack Swagger, the more I want to quit change the channel. Not because of their characters because Sandow’s character is fantastic and well… okay the rest might be because of their characters. But besides their characters, their wrestling techniques are so similar and so cookie cutter boring. What’s bad is that Alberto del Rio has almost fallen into the same trap. Seriously, del Rio has a 10-Count of strikes in the ropes just like Sheamus. But imagine if these guys could wrestle the way that Antonio Cesaro, CM Punk, and Daniel Bryan can? Hell even if they could wrestle the way that Zack Ryder does! No, Ryder is not a technician by any means, but he fights with energy and desire and that’s what is most important. He takes advantage of every moment on the screen whereas these others seem to either just go through the motions or bring absolutely nothing innovative to the table. The last time Wade did something important/different was when he lead The Corre. But now we have guys like Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Big E Langston, and more squirming their way to the top so maybe we’ll get a better top class of the mid-card.
4. Do Something With John Friggin’ Cena
If you watch wrestling and are above the age of say 12, then this probably rings true with you as well. JUST DO SOMETHING WITH HIM THAT’S INTERESTING! Don’t. I repeat DO NOT, put him in another feud to last three years and not really advance much in that time. Wanna know why Cena/Brock worked so well? Because they built it up for three or four weeks. No more. Although they could have had another PPV match following that. Wanna know why most were sick of Rock/Cena before the first confrontation? A) Because they built it up for a whole year. B) Because almost nothing changed in that time. Rock called John some names, John remained the better man by not calling Rock names back. It was just boring and The Rock was gone a lot during it so they didn’t have that many face-to-face confrontations. But the John Cena ‘Superman’ gimmick has long run its course. It’s time to either turn Cena heel or maybe actually have him have a bad year. You know one where he actually loses, doesn’t get a belt, doesn’t main event every PPV? Just do SOMETHING with his character, because it’s long past due for a change for him.
5. The Part Timer Situation
Yuck. The Part Timer situation seemed to start with The Undertaker and just escalate from there. The Undertaker made sense as a part timer because of A) his age and B) his health. Plus he adds so much to the WrestleMania cards. Imagine the last five Manias without him being on it? It would have arguably taken the best match off of each of those respective cards. Now let’s look at the others: Triple H, The Rock, and Brock Lesnar. Sure you could say Jericho is one too, but he wrestles on free TV so he’s practically a regular. The Rock came back and it was a big thing. In fact, two years ago, Rock was the calling card for WrestleMania 27 and he wasn’t even scheduled to fight. Now The Rock was a great addition and added some great moments with John Cena, but that match should not have been announced. It should have been kept stewing, where is The Rock? Is he coming back? Etc. Brock Lesnar and Triple H are just a weird thing. They show up, beat the hell out of each other, disappear and then play show tag as HHH will be on one show and then Brock the next. The biggest issue I have with these arrangements is that they aren’t elevating talent in the slightest. Sure Rock is putting over John, but John doesn’t need it! Punk could use it. Ryback could use it. Cesaro, Bryan, Wade, Sandow, Cody, Sheamus, or any younger talent could use that bump a lot better than Cena. To wrap things up, I don’t mind the part timers being a part of the show moving forward, but they need to elevate talent or all of this in a few years will be all for naught.
Personally, I don’t want to see an ‘Era’ as such, because that defines and clouds all value judgements on anything happening. And I have a small problem with this in that eras are only identifiable after the fact
normally. The people at the end of the nineteenth century didn’t say to one another, “Gosh, this Victorian Era is rather pish, what?” Likewise, the ‘Attitude’ Era was only named as such in hindsight. I suppose people are calling what we’re seeing now the ‘PG Era’, but that’s lazy because wrestling was PG in the 1980s as well.
Having said that, here’s what I think could conceivably come to pass once HHH takes the reins. Of course, this makes a lot of huge assumptions, but it would certainly be a new ‘Era’.
1) A return to the roots of wrestling as a sport. Yes, we know it has predetermined results, yes we know moves are practised and things are done to minimise risk. But wrestling is so much a product of the media now that it needs to be more than just a glorified stunt show. I think this ‘Era’ will be slightly more sport-orientated in its approach.
2) This leads on to a change in title belts. Tag Titles will probably not change, but I think weight limit belts will come back. Come back? Yes. One of the first live events I went to had the Australasian Middleweight Title as its main event.
3) This also means smaller wrestlers will get more of a chance to shine, so more wrestlers will actually be able to get over. Say we take today’s roster, you’d gave Ryback, Henry, Big Show, Langston, Lesnar in the heavyweight class (275lb plus), Ziggler, Jericho, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase in the middleweight ranks (220-275lb), and Bryan (though I’d have to check his weight), Kidd and Gabriel in the cruiserweights (220lb and under). Sure, they can go up a weight division, but not down. Imagine if Rey Mysterio, cruiserweight champ, had won the middleweight belt as well, and then the heavyweight one. Next he’s beaten by Kane, so Kane gets the heavyweight belt, but Rey is still champ in two other divisions. Mixing of weight division competitors would be rare, maybe only happening at the Royal Rumble and in the tag title ranks on a regular basis.
4) The crossover from other sports, therefore, may be stronger, giving a little more credence to wrestling as a legitimate athletic activity/pursuit. A footballer, sure, he could come in now with training and be a heavyweight. But let’s say some martial artist coming in at 200lbs in the cruiserweight division could fight and look like he belonged there without being forced to battle some huge slug in the ring. WCW did a little of this, but they mixed their weight divisions so often it became a moot point. And having rankings, like WCW did, but actually use them. Have a reason for spectators/audiences to get behind wrestlers and what they are doing.
5) Even though results are predetermined, the overall ‘Era’ would be one of media legitimacy, not freak show fringe dwelling. The episodic TV nature of shows like Raw would remain, but it would go from being a standard soap opera to one focused a lot more on the sporting aspect, going back towards a male-orientated pastime, like it was in the ‘Attitude’ Era. The kids are still catered for (as they drive a lot of merchandise sales), but it may mean a longer term investment by them in the product.
Now, I’m not saying this is what I would necessarily want to see, but I feel that with the continual growth of MMA and the fact less of the audience is hanging around for the long term (apparently; this is guesswork) the way to keep the product fresh and strong and engender brand loyalty (which is what the marketing world is all about today), they may have to do something radical, and why not this?
1. Re-invest in the mid-card belts.
We go through these ebbs and flows of the mid-card belts meaning something or nothing, lately it’s been more of nothing. A possible vein to move towards would be to either unify the two or dissolve one (probably US) and possibly create an actual internet champion and utilize that on all the pre-shows or straight-to-internet shows like Superstars.
2. Re-invest in current talent.
Part of the reason the main roster isn’t over is because they don’t get a moment to shine on the brightest stages. Sure, Vince has to see profit off PPV buys but that means maybe bring back one or two part-timers. However, this past Wrestlemania seemed to be a showdown of the part-timers and not even giving the full-time roster a chance. Yes, there are some wrestlers that are a waste of a roster spot but I feel like a lot of them would be a pleasant surprise if they were given the camera-time or have creative to stop being lazy. I’m sorry but the term “we’ve got nothing for you” is a poor excuse.
3. Dive more into the “reality era.”
We started seeing more and more of it in the 2011 rise of CM Punk but WWE’s curtain has been pulled back more and more and we’re seeing an increase of storylines involving the “business” side of things or the backstage politics. I say lets incorporate more of that. Sure, they don’t have to be actual events that are currently going on backstage because that’s blurring a certain line and we don’t always need to know how the sausage gets made. What I’m proposing is they use more of the wrestlers’ actual life stories or use a series of backstage events that happened in the past. The entire audience has smartened up to it, even some of the kids, and it’s a good time for WWE to stop insulting everyone’s intelligence.
4. End the “Did you know” title cards.
No other sport or entertainment industry does this because they let their product speak for itself. Being your own fluffer is never appealing.
5. Unify the top-card belts.
When was the last time (not counting the Ziggler-philes) we were actually invested in a WHC situation? Probably when Daniel Bryan had it, right? Entertaining WHC title pictures seem to be few and far between these days and there seems to be a decreasing emphasis on Smackdown. Unifying them would open the field up a little more as far as possible contenders for the WWE title and Smackdown can focus on whatever mid-card belt situation we have. This would build up the mid-card to essentially give them their own show (with occasional big-name drop ins for ratings) and we don’t have to see the same rotation of 4 wrestlers with the titles every PPV.
1) WWE renamed iWWE
2) RAW’s theme song changed to Shake It Up by Selena Gomez
3) John Cena should have access to a time machine
4) Whenever John Cena isnt on screen, other characters should ask, “Where’s Cena?”
5) Expand the WWE network idea so that at least four wrestling companies have a show on television.
Hey KON: Thanks for inviting me to participate in your latest roundtable. You have asked me for five things I’d like to see in the next WWE era, so here it goes…
1. For my first request, I’m actually going with something that has reportedly been in the works for some time: END THE TRADITIONAL PPV MODEL.
If/when the WWE Network launches, WWE is heavily considering moving all PPVs except for WrestleMania to its own flagship channel as the primary incentive for people to pay a subscription fee. I am perfectly fine with that and this is something that I think will really be a win-win for WWE and its die hard fans. After all, no one wants to overpay every month for PPVs anymore, and by transitioning these events to stand-alone offerings to “part of the package” inclusions, it will actually make some people feel less critical and more forgiving of the product because they didn’t shell out 40 to 50 bucks to see it.
2. RIP UP THE LINE BY LINE SCRIPTS AND LET THE WRESTLERS IMPROVISE MORE.
Wrestlers are just NOT actors, and so it’s time to rip up the full-length scripts and simply let the men and women in the back have more control over their promos. Sure, they should still have guidelines to move stories along, but they shouldn’t have to memorize every single line either. Just ask Randy Orton about that (see: Post-WrestleMania 29 Raw)
3. MAKE EVERY TITLE SEEM IMPORTANT NOW … OR GET RID OF ALL OF THEM FOR ONE YEAR.
Everyone knows that title belts in wrestling are props that are part of the script, but that doesn’t mean that WWE couldn’t at least try to make them all mean something. If they don’t feel like bothering with that very important piece of the puzzle any more, then I say get rid of EVERY SINGLE title. Yes, even the Big Gold Belt. And yes, even the WWE Championship. They could even do this as a storyline where someone goes rogue and just steals every single championship belt, or an “outside” faction wins all of the belts holds them hostage but never wears the straps. Then, WWE literally goes ONE FULL YEAR with no belts to fight over, and during that time they can see if it actually matters or not. If anything, when they did bring the belts back, they would all have a clean slate and perhaps be more appreciated by the fans, the writers and the wrestlers from that point forward.
My point is this: Instead of props, these belts have served as Creative’s crutches for years. I’d love to see if they could pull off a year of telling stories without them, and if they can’t part of the fun would be seeing them crash and burn.
4. THEY WANT WWE ACTIVE … THEN LET’S GIVE THEM TRUE ACTIVITY.
Rather than have WWE pretend like the fans are in control of anything, I say every week on Raw for a 12 week period, WWE fans get to vote on which wrestler should be fired from the company. No one off limits. No second chances. No loopholes. Just go away and get gone. I wonder how quickly Cena would be voted off, and how WWE would handle such a sudden change in personnel.
5. GIVE SCOTT STEINER AN OPEN MIC FOR 15 MINUTES ON EVERY EPISODE OF RAW.
Do I really have to explain this one? Scott Steiner is just such a loose canon on the mic, and I say giving him an open mic for 15 minutes every week on Raw is better than most 15-minute segments we get as filler these days. Steiner would just put on a clinic every time, or he would be a train wreck that is still wildly entertaining.
MARTIN F. SHAW XIV of FRANCE (KON) (that’ll be me then)
1. DEVELOPENT OF BRANDS
WWE killed off the “brand divide” last month by removing branding from all house shows. It was a smart move. Smackdown and RAW are the same thing at the moment and a lot of talent appears on both shows, so they’d be as well just calling them “WWE LIVE!” or something (ignore that Smackdown is taped for the moment, because the branding only applies to house shows).
I’d like to see three or however many shows, all with a different focus.
NXT currently runs like a classic wresting TV show, complete with backstage promos and play-by-play commentary. Would it be so hard to do something like that with Smackdown? It’s a taped show, so they have the opportunity to splice in backstage promos and, dare I say it, re-dubbed commentary. It’d be more work than they’re currently doing, but it’d help to make Smackdown feel less like a B-show with titles that nobody really wants to chase after.
Before HHH jumped shows in order to dodge jobbing, Smackdown was full of younger guys doing something different to what the established names were doing on RAW. I know a lot of you were not a fan of the brand divide, but what if they actually put thought into it this time?
2. RE-ESTABLISHING THE BRAND DIVIDE
With each show being geared towards different audiences, it makes sense to divide up the roster. Anyone with the classic brawling style belongs on RAW, because that’s what the little jimmies are used to.
Smackdown, if it’s still called “Smackdown”, should showcase younger guys who work a more athletic match style. As bad as Sin Cara was, it wouldn’t have looked half as weird if they’d put him in a match with other luchas.
Having one set of titles for one brawlers on RAW and another set for the more styled wrestlers on Smackdown would automatically restore the WHC as something worth going after, and they could even milk on the whole prestige thing, even though it’s not actually WCW’s Big Gold Belt. It also eliminates the “draft” bullshit.
Mid carders and main-eventers would have clear career paths thanks to this, so it works a lot towards…
3. ESTABLISHING CHARACTERS AND THEIR MOTIVATIONS
What does The Miz want? What are his allegiances, who are his enemies and what’s his long-term goal?
What can you tell me about the character of The Miz right now, without mentioning his attire or finisher?
I keep saying this, but during the Attitude era, everyone had some sort of thing going on with their characters that made them stand out. Tag teams were clear, the mid-card worked as it’s own thing and everyone sold T-shirts.
Jack Swagger is in a feud right now over the WHC and the commentary team have yet to mention his previous relationship with the current champion. It’s almost like the creative department are thinking “he has one thing going on, he can’t possibly have anything other traits”.
We know for a fact that these writers understand the concept of characters, we know that Hayes, Steph, Vince, HHH and whoever else sticks their nose into the creative department has been there at a time when characters were actually characters. They lived through that rough time in the mid 90’s when the “this guy is just a garbage man, this guy is just a dentist” mentality drove fans to seek out other promotions.
If you went to the circus, you’d be fucking annoyed if it was 4 hours of tightrope walking.
4. ESTABLISHING WORKING RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER PROMOTIONS
If The Rock and Brock Lesnar returning taught us anything, it’s that WWE are trying to bring back the older fans who gave up on the product. Lesnar coming back was like UFC vs WWE, except, well, kayfabe and shit, but that same sort of spectacle can be achieved by teaming up with places like NJPW, who are also seeing something of a decline. A working relationship with organisations in Japan, Mexico, etc. would benefit all parties involved and help to make wrestling be seen as an actual thing again.
If WWE actually get a network up and running, having the rights to televise CMLL, AAA, etc. shows would work out quite well for everyone as well.
5. MAKING PPVs worthy of being PPVs
RAW is 3 hours long, PPVs are three hours long. Why should a fan pay to see them? Gimmicks.
WWE PPVS for 2013:
Money in the Bank
Night of Champions
Over the Limit
Hell in a Cell
Drop Payback and Over the Limit, they have no reason to exist.
Combine TLC, Hell in a Cell and Extreme Rules in to one event. TLC and ER have a lot of the same match types, and making HiaC the main event of the show really drives home the fact that this isn’t your average WWE show. If the cost for that would be ridiculously high, combine them with Money in the Bank instead. HiaC doesn’t actually make sense as a yearly event, so it might be worth dropping that PPV completely and just using the Cell when a storyline requires it.
We’re down to the “big four” and three other gimmick PPVs, but the gimmicks are:
Night of Champions, where every match is a title match.
Extreme Rules, the amalgam version with MITB openers and TLC as the main event. A bit ladder heavy, but it’ll work if you only see the ladder once a year.
Elimination Chamber, which tends to have weird matches because they can’t find 6 guys who are fighting for the main belts on each show, but hopefully the above ideas would fix that.
What do we replace the dropped ones with? Well, I’m glad you asked…
INTERPROMOTIONAL SUPERCARD! It’s an obvious one, doesn’t really need explaining.
Eight yearly, meaningful PPVs sounds like a good number to me. Lots of breathing room to flesh out the storylines, build suspense and whatnot.
So, those are the five things I’d love to see, none of which will happen any time soon.
Everyone else had ideas too, so I’d like to thank Blair, CB, Chris Sanders, F.D. Swayze, Jack Newbury, Ralph Hardin, Rhett Davis, Steven Gepp and @WrestlingFacts for taking part.
This has been a list of things Pulse wants to see in WWE’s future, I expect to see your suggestions in the comments.
Tags: Blair A. Douglas, Brock Lesnar, CB, chris sanders, cm punk, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, FD Swayze, john cena, kane, KON, Raw, Smackdown, steven gepp, The Miz, The Rock, triple h, undertaker, vince mcmahon, wrestlemania, WWE