FATP: Out With The Old, In With The New
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’ve not watched any current wrestling (from either WWE or TNA) for the last 3 weeks because I’m incredibly frustrated with the product at the moment. When I’ve been in that kind of mood before, a lot of you have told me to stop watching or shut up. You’ll be glad to know that I’ve taken your advice and I’ve stopped watching!
However, it makes me feel better when I listen to guys like Dave Meltzer, Jason Powell and Wade Keller (who run 3 of the biggest wrestling sites in the world) struggle to come up with positives to take from what’s been happening lately, specifically in the WWE since the summer. Hell, even (arguably) the biggest star of all-time, Stone Cold Steve Austin, isn’t happy with how things are going.
As far as I can tell, the main problems that people have with the product is that it’s stale, been poorly booked and that there’s a lot of confusion about The Authority’s role and how we’re supposed to react to it.
The main issue I have with what’s going on right now is that it’s the same old faces who are getting TV time/main-event pushes, at a time when WWE (in particular) need to create new stars. It’s something that we notice every year, especially around January/February time when the build to WrestleMania begins.
What do I mean by the same old faces getting TV time/main-event pushes? Well, The Authority are all over WWE’s main-event scene right now, and it’s frustrating a lot of people. Let’s begin by looking at HHH and Stephanie. I understand that in order to establish their heel turn, they’ve had to have a lot of TV time invested in them. But it’s too much.
Since the summer, the feud over the WWE Championship should’ve focused on Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton, but instead, it ended up shining on HHH and I don’t really understand why. There wasn’t really any heat in that feud because HHH was the focus. He was who was screwing with Daniel Bryan. Not Randy Orton.
People wanted to see Daniel Bryan get one over on HHH after all he’d done to stop him winning the title, instead of just wanting to see Daniel Bryan win the belt from Randy Orton. Orton’s almost been a by-stander in this entire charade, and it’s not his fault. He’s been caught up in this crazy situation we’ve got surrounding the WWE Championship right now.
The Authority confuse the living bejesus out of me sometimes. For example, take what happened a few weeks ago with the General Managers of both Raw and SmackDown – Brad Maddox and Vickie Guerrero. Both of whom are, for want of a better phrase, on The Authority’s side, yet, The Authority put their “allies” in situations where they were in peril. Why would the heels put their heel cohorts in dangerous situations? I genuinely don’t understand the reaction that’s supposed to draw from the fans. Are we supposed to boo or cheer? If anyone reading this knows, then feel free to enlighten me. Please!
It’s not just that though. The product’s stale. In honesty, it has been for a while. The stuff that CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and The Shield have done this year has been, for the most part, tremendously entertaining. Bryan and The Shield could have the “Match of the Year” category wrapped up all by themselves to be honest, but as good as that stuff is, the rest of it is just atrocious. I mean seriously. Music/sports themed gimmick matches and Musical Chairs? Sigh…
For several years now, WWE have needed to create new stars. Yet when the going gets tough, they revert back to what they know instead of taking a chance on someone.
I mentioned earlier that the spotlight has been on Triple H in terms of the WWE Championship, and he’s not even a full-time wrestler anymore. He’s a part-timer. Why does he need all this TV time? He’s been a credible, established main-event player since the late 90’s. The same with Big Show. The same with Kane. They’re the 3 guys in there now and they’ve been established stars for the last 15 years.
It’s benefitted nobody else, least of all Randy Orton. Orton’s in his early 30’s – arguably the prime of his career – yet he’s basically a pawn in the “feed HHH’s ego” game (pun intended). Even Orton and Cena (who’s now back and miraculously healed again) have been established for the last 10 years, so where are the WWE’s new stars? Where oh where are they?
We thought they’d done that with Daniel Bryan this summer, but they never really pulled the trigger on him because of some mistaken belief that “big guys draw”. While that may have been the case in the past, I’m not so sure it’s the case in 2013.
A few weeks ago, rumours were that WWE were placing the blame firmly on Daniel Bryan for the poor PPV buyrates for SummerSlam and the following 2 (possibly 3) PPVs. I’m of the belief that if the build to those shows had been better, then more people would’ve been interested in buying them. But it would seem that the WWE Universe, at least those who buy PPVs, are smarter than we give them credit for sometimes.
That’s why the buyrates for the PPVs since the summer have been poor. People aren’t buying them because they’re not engaged in the product. It’s not down to one superstar. It’s down to the product as a whole.
Instead of capitalising on Bryan’s popularity and giving him a clean win over Randy Orton to win the WWE Championship, WWE went with a series of screwy finishes on PPV and it pissed the fans off. I’m OK with doing a screwy finish on Raw/SmackDown, because it might convince some people to watch the following week to see the fall-out. But not on PPV.
WWE PPV’s cost £15-£20 here in the UK most months. I’m not sure how much it costs fans in the US/Canada/elsewhere. The fans have handed over their hard-earned cash and what did they get in return? 3 PPVs in a row with screwy finishes (4 including Survivor Series), and it’s not good enough. PPV matches, especially where one of the main titles is on the line, should have clean, DECISIVE finishes. Not double-KO’s. Not interference. Not crooked refs. Just a clean 1…2…3.
Is it any wonder that some fans are pissed off with the WWE? I don’t think so.
WWE’s latest kneejerk reaction has been to announce a TLC match between Randy Orton and John Cena with both the WWE and World Championships on the line. The match in itself is confusing. Is it a unification match, or is it not? According to WWE’s TLC website, it’s not been confirmed yet. Why not? It’s not difficult. Just say if it is, or it isn’t. It’s surely not too much for us as fans to ask exactly what it is that we’re paying for.
Of course, this confusion has led to discontent between wrestling fans themselves. Those who are annoyed are arguing with those who are happy, especially when it comes to the aforementioned “unification” match?
The fans who are content with the product don’t understand why people are unhappy. Some of them are saying “but you wanted the titles unified”. That’s true, but I think it’s down to the 2 men who are involved in the match in the first place. I said earlier that both Orton and Cena have been established, main-event players for the last decade or so. If the titles are going to be unified again, surely the man to unify the belts should be someone who will benefit from winning the match. I’m not sure what Orton, or Cena for that matter, gets from unifying the titles.
The last time WWE unified the titles, Chris Jericho became the 1st-ever Undisputed WWF/E Champion. He’d never held the WWE Championship before and it meant something because it helped to establish him as a top guy. Cena and Orton are already top guys. Their legacies are almost etched in stone as it is, with 25 WWE/World Championship reigns between them. If WWE are to unify the belts, surely it makes sense for a guy who’s “not quite there yet” to be the one to win it?
At this stage in their careers, guys like Big Show, Cena, HHH, Kane and Orton should be used to help to elevate up-and-coming stars to the next level. They shouldn’t be mainstays at the top end of the card. It’s not as if there isn’t talent in the WWE. We’ve seen some of them rise to the occasion countless times this year already.
I mentioned The Shield earlier and those guys are primed to be the next 3 big WWE stars. Ambrose’s work and style has drawn comparisons to the great Rowdy Roddy Piper, Rollins’ frenetic style is almost unique and Roman Reigns has improved tremendously over the last year or so.
Bray Wyatt’s character is pretty well-defined, but I’d like to see more of him in the ring. We’ve not seen enough of him wrestling on Raw/SmackDown yet. Hopefully we get to see more of him in the coming weeks/months.
Then you’ve got Dolph Ziggler and Damien Sandow – two guys with all the talent in the world, yet they’ve struggled of late.
Ziggler never really got a run with the World Championship in the spring because of a concussion and since his double-turn with Del Rio, he’s not really done a lot. As for Damien Sandow, he’s the first man ever to cash in his MiTB briefcase and lose the match. Yes, John Cena didn’t win the championship when he cashed in on Punk last summer, but he didn’t lose the match. He won by DQ. Sandow was pinned. Clean. And he’s done nothing since.
I feel sorry for Sandow and Ziggler because they deserve so much better. They’re terrific workers with decent mic skills and personality, but they just need the chance to show it and, more importantly, patience from management.
The tag-team division’s in great shape too. The Rhodes Brothers have been terrific lately. Goldust is in great shape and it’s been awesome to see him back to his best. Cody’s come on a lot as well. The Uso’s are amazing to watch. Another great babyface tag-team. Add The Real Americans into the mix along with The Shield and The Wyatts, and it’s a really strong division.
So the talent is there, but it’s as if WWE are scared to let them be themselves. The product is too rigid at times, and it also feels like some of the segments/matches/commentary are designed to amuse Vince McMahon and nobody else.
You know who Vince reminds me of sometimes? The kid at school who used to have all the cool toys. He’d let you look at them, but never play with them. He knew best all the time. That’s what Vince is like. Except he doesn’t know best. The falling ratings and PPV buyrates show that. It’s time someone took an honest, objective look at the WWE product and asked themselves if they’d be willing to spend money to watch it on PPV, or spend 3 hours of their day to watch it on TV.
For the longest time, I wasn’t willing to do that. But I still watched. Now, I’ve legitimately had enough and I won’t watch until there’s a compelling reason to. Give me something to care about, a good story/rivalry and I’ll watch. I genuinely think that right now, a %age of the people who watch the WWE are doing it because it’s a force of habit, not because they actually enjoy it.
Like I said earlier, there are fans out there who are happy with the product. That’s cool. More power to ya. But it seems like there are more frustrated fans with each passing week. Don’t be confused about why some fans are frustrated though. It’s not just mindless negativity or because it’s “cool” to hate the product. We all have something in common – a passion for great wrestling and watching compelling stories. And that’s something we don’t get enough of these days, which is why some fans are frustrated.
WWE are in a tough spot right now. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. But, you can help yourself out and make decisions for the long-term benefit of your company.
WWE have the talent on their books, whether it’s on the main roster or down in NXT. That’s why so many people are frustrated with the product. People who are better qualified than me to talk about it are frustrated with it. The number of people who want change is growing by the week and sooner or later, something has to give.
As far as I can tell, the solution’s simple: out with the old, in with the new – for the long-term benefit of the company.