Now that the “historic” 1,000th episode of Raw is behind us, I wanted to give my state of the WWE address. It’d be too easy to sit here and drink up the Kool-Aid that WWE gives us every week and say “it’s the best thing ever”, but the fact is that WWE is in need of a shake-up, even although they’re doing a lot of things right just now.
The major champions (Punk & Sheamus) are being booked strongly and they’re in the middle of long title reigns, but for everything they do right, they take two steps backwards and make decisions or statements that are just nonsensical. This might come off as a rant, and some of you might say “You’re never happy”, which you’re entitled to do.
I’ve been a fan of wrestling for over 20 years and some of the crap I’ve been watching over the last 6 months just isn’t good enough. There are lots of reasons to be fearful/unhappy/pissed off with WWE’s direction, so I’m going to try and spread this out into five specific things that I need to get off my chest.
1 – Triple H’s comments over the weekend that “it’s a struggle to find new talent”
That’s the biggest load of horse-sh*t that I’ve heard come out of the mouth of a WWE executive. It’s a struggle to find “new talent”? There are tons of talented superstars on the main roster, in FCW and across the world that are talented and charismatic enough to be a success in WWE.
Look at the current roster. Wrestlers like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus, Cody Rhodes, Christian, Chris Jericho, The Miz, Zack Ryder and Rey Mysterio are all talented, charismatic wrestlers, but because they don’t kiss Vince McMahon’s ass like John Cena and Hulk Hogan have done, then their pushes are shorter and less sustained, which is a crock.
WWE developmental, down in FCW, is full of talented wrestlers that have proven experience in the ring. Men like Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Xavier Woods, Kassius Ohno and Antonio Cesaro have all got YEARS of wrestling experience across the world, but because they don’t fit “WWE’s mould”, they’re kept in developmental for years until WWE decides that “they’re ready”.
All of the wrestlers I’ve mentioned aren’t bodybuilders that they’ve plucked out of a magazine that don’t know how to wrestle. These men (as well as some of the ladies on the main and FCW rosters) know how to get it done in the ring and they have charisma. If they didn’t have something about them, then WWE wouldn’t have signed them in the first place.
I’d rather watch a 30 minute wrestling match between Rollins and Ambrose, or Ziggler and Bryan, than watch a 10 second squash match with Ryback/Brodus Clay. I’d rather watch an entertaining match between Rhodes and Ryder than watch another Kane/Big Show match that bores me to tears.
It seems as if HHH’s definition of talent means whoever can shove their head so far up Vince McMahon’s ass that they become the same person. That’s not what talent is.
2 – WWE’s condescending attitude to their fans
Just because WWE is the most successful wrestling company doesn’t mean that their product is the best. In fact, TNA is STREETS AHEAD of WWE’s product right now. Why’s that? It’s because TNA appreciate every single one of their fans, whereas WWE takes theirs for granted. WWE think that they can put any old sh*t out there and fans will accept it. Maybe that explains why they get a ratings pop when a legend returns, but when they leave, the ratings drop again?
I’ll give you an example. Over a year ago, an under-used wrestler decided to take a risk and started his own YouTube mini-series. He took jabs at WWE for not giving him a chance on the main roster. It got so popular that within 3 months, fans at arenas across the world started bringing signs in support of him. That guy was Zack Ryder. Ryder committed a cardinal sin in the eyes of the WWE office: he got over without the machine behind him.
How dare he??!!?! His charisma and ability to entertain shone through his mini-series and fans started getting behind him, but because WWE had no part in it, they decided to shaft him. Towards the end of last year, Ryder was arguably one of the most over babyfaces in the WWE. During the United States title match at Survivor series (between Ziggler and Morrison), the New York crowd were all over Morrison and Ziggler, chanting loudly for Ryder.
Eventually, Ryder got his “shot” at the big-time and he won the US Title from Ziggler at the TLC PPV. Within five weeks, he lost the belt and was effectively Kane’s bitch between January and March. It was WWE’s way of saying, “yeah, you made him, but we can break him!” Very clever Vince, instead of investing time into a character that’s already over, you’ll continue to push characters that nobody cares about and waste everyone’s time. I’m talking about Ryback and Alberto del Rio specifically.
That’s another thing. Alberto del Rio is probably the blandest character on WWE TV. Del Rio’s ring announcer is more over with the crowd than he is. A manager/valet/announcer is supposed to compliment their talent, not overshadow them. I don’t think that Ricardo Rodriguez is anything special, but he’s connecting with the live audience more than del Rio, which should be a concern for WWE management.
Just look at a live crowd on PPV or on Raw when del Rio’s talking. It’s as if they couldn’t care less about what he’s saying. Then, when you watch him on Smackdown when he’s talking, the camera shots of the crowd don’t show them reacting to del Rio, but there’s still crowd noise being piped in. That’s a sure-fire sign that something is wrong.
I’m not saying that del Rio can’t go in the ring, because he can, but his overall character isn’t good enough to be a main-eventer. The JBL character worked because Bradshaw was the kind of heel that could talk on the mic and incite the crowd enough to make them want to pay to see him get his ass kicked. That’s the heel’s job. Del Rio doesn’t do that. He just bores me to tears.
WWE have invested heavily into del Rio over the last two years and to be honest, I don’t think he’s worth it. His character is bland, he can barely cut a decent promo and he’s just not connecting with a live WWE crowd. That’s why he was shipped back to Smackdown earlier this year, so they can create heat for him. I’ve been wrong before, and I probably will be again, but to me, del Rio is bland, boring and brutal to listen to. His gimmick is mid-card at best and I think it’s time WWE realised that and stopped forcing us to accept mediocre as main-event.
In my opinion, Vince McMahon has completely changed. He used to pride himself on taking risks and thinking outside the box. Now, he’s surrounded himself with Yes men and he’s gutless.TNA on the other hand have taken a lot of risks over the last few weeks.
They’ve gone live with their Impact shows, they’re pushing untried talent on TV and guess what? Shock, horror, they listened to their fans and made Austin Aries the World Heavyweight Champion. Aries got over, so TNA gave him a shot. Ryder got over, so WWE buried him. It goes to show how out of touch Vince McMahon is with reality and it’s about time he either stepped away altogether or got a grip and started taking risks again. Otherwise, we’re gonna be taken for granted as long as we put up with this crap.
3 – WWE’s refusal to update John Cena’s character
In my opinion, there are two reasons why John Cena gets as much crap from fans as he does. One is the fact that we’ve heard the same old shtick from him for the last seven years. Count them. Since 2005, we’ve had the same promos, the same lame jokes and the same facial expressions that just make him look like a god-damn clown.
The second thing is the fact that he’s booked like Superman. I’m gonna ask everyone reading this a question. Have you EVER wanted to see a rematch that involves John Cena? I haven’t. Why? Because you know he’s gonna win. This isn’t just me ranting about John Cena, it’s about WWE as a whole. I’ve got another example to back up what I’m saying.
Since April 2007, 2 men have managed to get a clean pin on John Cena. By a clean pin, I mean in a match where there were no run-ins, no disqualifications and no gimmicks. The 2 men that have beaten him are Shawn Michaels and The Rock. You’re all gonna say “What about Miz? What about Orton? What about R-Truth? What about CM Punk?”. My answer is “run-in”, “gimmick”, “run-in and gimmick” and “run-in”.
It’s got to the point now where even when he’s not the champion, Cena is still main-eventing Raw and PPV’s. If it’s in a meaningful feud, against someone like Brock Lesnar or The Rock, then I understand it. Lately, his feuds with Kane, John Laurinaitis, Big Show and even a TV match against Michael Cole have all main-evented a televised WWE production. There’s no need for it.
If someone can explain to me how in the hell that makes any sense, then you’re a better fan than I am. I understand that John Cena is WWE’s cash-cow and that he’s their main guy. Fine, no problem. If he’s your main guy, put the title on him and then have him main-event. Nobody could argue with that. What we can argue with is the fact that a meaningless match with a General Manager headlined a PPV ahead of the WWE Championship. That’s bull.
The latest example came at WWE’s last PPV, Money in the Bank. Now, the WWE Title has often been touted (no pun intended) as the most prestigious title in all of sports-entertainment. It’s hard to argue that point. You know what makes it difficult to understand? If the WWE Title is so valuable, why was winning the contract for it more important than the belt itself.
More importantly, why was John Cena booked to win that match? It’s not like he needed it. He’s now won every title/gimmick match that he’s ever been in. Royal Rumbles, Elimination Chambers, Money in the Bank matches, you name it, he’s done it. The only thing left for him to do is to win the King of the Ring! Seriously..
You know what might help? If WWE made Cena look vulnerable once in a while, or if they put as much energy into pushing someone else the same way they’ve pushed Cena. Nobody on the current roster has had a more sustained, prolonged push on WWE TV than John Cena. He’s been rammed down our throats for the last 7.5 years and been involved in title feuds for most of that. I’ve got no doubt that Cena works his ass off, inside and outside the ring, for WWE and he deserves all the success he’s had.
What I don’t agree with is the fact that he’s booked like he’s invincible and there’s nobody else on the full-time roster that’s at his level. That’s why WWE had to get The Rock back to go against him. Cena isn’t a stupid man. He knows that when he retires, the wrestling business will move on. WWE has just as much responsibility as John does for ensuring that there are superstars in the wings ready to take over from him.
This goes back to something I said earlier about Vince McMahon being gutless and out-of-touch. He’ll go with someone else for a little while, like The Miz or Sheamus, but at the first sign of a ratings drop, he craps his pants and goes back to the “tried and true” method of Cena. Well I’ve got news for ya Vince. You know some of those shows with low ratings? It isn’t just the wrestlers who make the show good or bad: it’s the booking, it’s the storylines, it’s the overall performance, it’s outside factors like what Raw is up against, whether it’s NBA or NFL. John Cena has been in some of the worst main-events of all-time, but he doesn’t get the blame. Someone else pays for it.
Another example for you is the poor buyrates for Survivor Series. You know why they were so bad, despite The Rock returning? It’s because on the Raw before the PPV, you booked Cena like Superman again. He beat Miz and R-Truth on his own in a handicap match, so why should fans pay £20/$45 to watch their tag-match at the PPV? Who got heat for the poor buyrates? Cena? No. Rock? Don’t be stupid. It was Miz. The guy who was booked to look weak paid the price. It’s nonsense.
I’m about to say something that’s gonna get me a lot of heat from everyone out there, but I don’t really care. It’s getting to the point now where I’m hoping that Cena gets injured. Not because I think it’s his fault, but because it’ll force Vince McMahon to grow some balls and push other stars in Cena’s place. Mind you, he’s probably so stupid that he’d just bring back HHH and push him instead.
4 – The biggest episode in Raw history didn’t feature Stone Cold Steve Austin
(Writer’s note: This part of the article was written before news broke of Austin’s knee surgery, although I still reckon the point I’ve made is valid)
If you were to single out one man who’s responsible for the WWE still being in business today, it’d probably be Stone Cold Steve Austin.
If he hadn’t have grabbed that microphone in 1996 and delivered his Austin 3:16 promo, the WWE wouldn’t exist. It’s as cut and dried as that. You talk about Hogan breaking attendance records, well guess what? Austin broke live attendance records, TV ratings records and PPV buyrate records in the space of five years (allowing for two years of injuries between 1996 and 2003).
Last weekend, I sat down and watched the Invasion PPV from 2001. Listening to the reactions of the crowd back then made me realise just how much wrestling has changed. The crowd went apesh*t for everyone involved in that main-event. In a match that involved The Rock, Chris Jericho and Undertaker, guess who got the loudest of the lot? It was Austin. People genuinely loved him because everything he did was believable.
He had the ability to work the crowd. He could look weak or strong and you went into every match wanting him to win, but you knew there was just as much chance of him losing. I have never heard a crowd get as amped like they did when Austin was at his peak. He was untouchable. He was something that was completely different to anything we’d seen before and nobody will ever be able to do what Austin did ever again.
Yet, for some reason, whether it was down to Austin or WWE, he wasn’t on last night’s 1000th episode of Raw. That’s a complete and utter joke. WWE, and Austin, have known for over 2 years when the 1000th episode of Raw would be, so they should both have put contingency plans in place to make sure that the biggest star in Raw history would be there.
As a lifelong fan, I felt cheated that Austin wasn’t there last night on Raw. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the show, but to hear that glass break would’ve been the icing on the cake. A lot of people are confused, pissed off and frustrated that there was no Austin moment last night. I’m one of them. To have a 1000th episode celebrating the success of your flagship show without your biggest ever superstar is just mind-boggling.
5 – CM Punk’s run as champion and the reaction to his “heel turn”
This is kinda two points in one, so I’ll do them one at a time. The first thing is Punk’s run as champion. Since winning the title at Survivor Series, CM Punk has headlined one PPV. He headlined the TLC PPV in December. He has yet to main-event a PPV this year, which is down to WWE’s belief that Cena in the main-event will save their buyrates.
I’m going to shock you with some stats! The first (and so far only) PPV that CM Punk main-evented as WWE Champion, without Cena on the show, was the TLC PPV in 2011. TLC 2011 drew 182,000 buys worldwide. Compare that to another B-level gimmick PPV, Elimination Chamber 2012. That PPV, with Cena in the main-event against Kane, drew just 178,000 buys worldwide.
I don’t have any more comparisons, because WWE hasn’t booked Punk in another PPV main-event since. Going by facts and head-to-head in two similar gimmick PPVs, Punk was more of a draw than Cena. I understand that Cena vs Rock at Mania and Cena vs Brock at Extreme Rules were “bigger” feuds, but can you seriously tell me that Punk/Bryan shouldn’t have closed the show ahead of Cena/Laurinaitis or Cena/Show? That’s nonsense.
CM Punk’s eight-month long title reign has been completely undermined by the leader of the Cenation and its hurt the credibility of the WWE Championship. Basically it says “this title only means something if John Cena’s involved.” I’m sorry, I know the belt is effectively a prop, but if you expect the fans to believe in someone as a champion, then the belt has to be defended in the main-event. Otherwise, it means the same as the mid-card titles: nothing.
While I’m at it, when Punk loses the title, it should not be to someone like John Cena or The Rock. They don’t need the rub and it makes Punk look weak if he loses to either a 10-time or a 7-time WWE Champion. After building Punk as champion for this long, whoever beats him should be someone that needs the rub. It should be a star of the future. Daniel Bryan, The Miz, Cody Rhodes, someone like that. At this point in their careers, neither Rock or Cena need the title and it’s a joke if WWE goes down that route.
The other part of this whole equation is the reaction to CM Punk’s “heel turn” on Twitter. Now, did John Cena become a heel when he attacked The Rock? No, but because Punk did it, he’s now “a bad guy”? I don’t think Punk ever turned face. Punk was just Punk. He just exploded at a time when a lot of people were pissed off with the WWE and the fans related to a lot of what he said.
Of all the things that Punk brought up last summer, what has actually changed? Nothing. Cena’s still viewed by WWE, whether he’s champion or not, as the best in the world. He main-events Raw, he main-events house shows and he main-events PPV’s. Last summer he said he was pissed off that Rock was in the main-event at Wrestlemania, and what’s gonna happen next year? Rock will main-event Wrestlemania again. As much as you don’t want to admit it, Punk makes a lot of sense and a lot of fans relate to him.
You can almost hear everyone who jumped on the Punk bandwagon last year when Punk was “cool” jumping off again. Someone even said on Twitter last night that: “Punk’s just lost a fan”. Do you think Punk actually cares whether he’s loved or hated? I don’t, and I don’t think he’s turned heel. He’s there day in and day out busting his ass for the WWE, and there’s logic behind what he did last night. People might not like what happened, but they’ve used John Cena to do it.
Another factor to consider in this whole “Punk’s a bad guy now” situation is Stone Cold Steve Austin. Over the last few years, everyone’s speculated that Austin’s got one more match left in him and he’s even said himself that he’d only do it if the storyline and build were right. He’s said that he’d love to face Punk if Punk was a heel, so this might be the first step in building to a Punk/Austin match. The dynamic for that match would be something that we’ve never seen before and if there’s anyone who could help Austin to perform at the best of his ability, then it’s the current WWE Champion, CM Punk.
For what it’s worth, that’s my state of the WWE address. To say I’m frustrated right now is an understatement. The fans deserve better than we’re getting and it’s up to Vince McMahon to do something about it. Create exciting storylines, give us believable characters and most of all, stop relying on John Cena and use him to help create new stars. He’s been involved in as many TV shows and PPV’s with poor buyrates and ratings as anyone else on the roster, so it’s about time WWE changed things up a little.
Other things that need to be looked at are how they treat their fans and how they use their developmental system. The fans are the lifeblood of the WWE and to treat them like idiots is insulting. If it wasn’t for “idiots” like us, Vince would have nothing. He should remember that and give us something to look forward to. As for developmental, I’ve made my thoughts on that pretty clear. Wrestlers that can wrestle should be brought up to the roster as quickly as possible. If that means there needs to be cuts from the main roster, then it’s gotta be done. If someone’s stale, freshen them up or ship them out. There are plenty of talented wrestlers out there who’ll never get the chance because they don’t look the way WWE thinks they should look.
What do you guys think? Whether you agree or disagree with me, get in touch on Twitter @georgec1982 or leave a comment below. I’ve spent a lot of time writing this, but it needed to be said. It’s not because I think I know what’s best for WWE. If I did, then I’d be in charge, but I’m not. I’m just a passionate fan that’s pissed off and looking for WWE to give me a reason to keep watching. Right now, watching WWE feels like a chore and it shouldn’t be like that.
I’ll be back next week with the latest edition of “From Across the Pond”, so until then, thanks for sticking with me. Post your thoughts, comments and opinions below!
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