Admittedly, I’m a mark. Not the kind of mark who buys replica championship belts. But perhaps worse than that, I will read practically anything written about professional wrestling. Even if I’m only reading rumors or someone’s presumably-biased description of a live event.
When you have that level of passion for wrestling, storylines and reality likely blend together more than they should. You find yourself wondering why Wrestler A is in the upper-card while Wrestler B never gets the shot they deserve. Rather than realizing that the term “deserve” itself is subjective, and that you may be projecting your own worries and insecurities onto what’s supposed to be entertainment…an escape from your daily stresses.
Like many, I was annoyed with the end of results of the 2015 Royal Rumble match. I joined the #CancelWWENetwork brigade and cancelled my subscription to the WWE Network the morning after. I laughed at how miserably Roman Reigns was received, and how not even The Rock could get him over. This was an example of what the Germans call “schadenfreude.”
But then I spent a lot of the next 72 hours listening to wrestling-themed podcasts…
In hearing everyone from Peter Rosenberg, David Shoemaker, Steve Austin, Wade Keller, Chris Jericho, Jim Ross, Court Bauer and…well, you get the point…I do spend too much time listening to wrestling podcasts…but at least I don’t listen to Bill Goldberg’s podcast because…wait, what was I talking about?
Oh, yeah, I realized that this wasn’t “the worst Royal Rumble ever,” and that notions that “the WWE doesn’t care about its fans” are largely missing the mark, I mean, point.
Instead, here are some things to consider, a combination of thoughts expressed on the aforementioned podcasts and/or thought up by yours truly:
- Creative is entirely subjective. “Monday Night Raw” and “Saturday Night Live” have a lot in common. Besides being two of the longest running shows on television, how often do you hear critics saying that both “used to be” great? Remember when Will Ferrell and the rest of the mid-90s new cast joined SNL and everyone longed for Dana Carvey, Chris Farley, Adam Sandler and Mike Myers? Then everyone longed for Will Ferrell and that cast when they were gone? Oversimplifying it, yes, but DX and the NWO didn’t always make filler-free television. As Yogi Berra once said: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
- The Triple Threat main event with John Cena, Brock Lesnar and Seth Lesnar was a stand-out match. A lot of folks — myself included — were expecting a Rollins cash-in of the Money In The Bank briefcase, resulting in a title change, which did not happen. Nor did the expectation of Cena winning his 16th world championship. In turn, we had something of a surprise ending paired with an exciting main event match.
- The fact that Lesnar was cheered at the Royal Rumble while Roman Reigns was booed, and how this was all acknowledged on the following night’s “Raw,” leaves the door open for creative over the next two months. A double-turn is a possibility. Furthermore, if the Lesnar-Reigns main event at this year’s Wrestlemania seems stale, expect Heyman to step it up with his usually-excellent promos.
- If Reigns wins the title at Wrestlemania as a babyface and enough fans turn on him, perhaps a fun heel character would be created. After all, “Die, Rocky, Die” ultimately led to a heel so enjoyable to watch that he turned face organically.
- Daniel Bryan isn’t slated to main event Wrestlemania, nor are Dean Ambrose or Dolph Ziggler, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of the whole picture. Injuries and logistical possibilities, you’re still going to see them on television. You’re still going to see them on house shows. And they still stand a chance to main event future events like Summerslam and Survivor Series. This is only one Wrestlemania we’re talking about, and for all we know, WWE may quickly realize that Roman Reigns is not “the guy.”
- Duds like Adam Rose and The Ascension aside, NXT (and its previous FCW incarnation) is in place to develop new talent. The Shield, The Wyatt Family and Rusev are just three recent examples of call-ups within the past few years. The NXT weekly show has been enjoyable — or at least more enjoyable for me than “RAW” or “Smackdown” as of late — and there’s plenty of talent on there deserving of a call-up, including Enzo Amore, Sasha Banks, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Charlotte, and Adrian Neville.
- Beyond NXT, there are plenty of other sources for your wrestling fix. On television alone, there’s currently TNA, Ring Of Honor, Lucha Underground and New Japan. And that’s without counting regional broadcasts like Lucha Azteca and Reality Of Wrestling. Or active regional promotions like Global Force Wrestling (currently seeking a TV deal), Pro Wrestling Guerilla, Chikara, Pro Wrestling Syndicate, and Evolve. Or AWA re-runs on ESPN. Or new exclusive content to the WWE Network and YouTube.
This is a fun time to be a wrestling fan. Most events you’d want to watch from the past are available online in some form. Most active talent can be reached through social media, and undoubtedly the people doing the writing and booking directly catch your feedback. But most importantly, WWE fans do have plenty of alternatives in case they are seeking a different kind of product.
However, my only concern is that Curtis Axel gets his well-deserved title shot at Wrestlemania 31. If not, time to revive a well-needed hashtag: #CancelWWENetwork.
Tags: Brock Lesnar, Daniel Bryan