FATP: Taken For Granted

Guess who’s back?! Haha! Indeed. I’ve been far too quiet for far too long and now’s the time for me to break my silence!

Unless it’s just me being exceptionally harsh (which isn’t all that unusual to be honest), a lot of WWE fans in particular, seem to be tremendously frustrated at the amount of sub-par PPV’s that good ol’ Vinnie Mac’s multi-billion dollar sports-entertainment juggernaut have been throwing at us over the past 12-18 months.

What are the reasons for that? Well, there might be a few so instead of me just bitching about how crap the PPVs are, I’m going to spend the next 5-10 minutes of your time trying to analyse why so many of WWE’s PPV offerings are so poor, and what they can do to get us interested enough to part with our well-earned cash. Get yourself a drink, light up a cigarette, quieten down the noise and buckle up for the ride!

WWE’s Short-Sightedness

Problem: A lot of the time, there appears to be a severe lack of long-term creative direction in the WWE. In fact, most of the time, it seems like they go week to week instead of having a long-term goal and that’s beginning to show in the form of dwindling TV ratings and PPV buys.

No one superstar is to blame, or is responsible for, WWE’s success or failure in terms of getting people interested in the product. If there’s a compelling reason to watch the program, then they’ll watch. If there isn’t, then they won’t. It’s that simple.

I don’t pretend to know about the ins and outs of the wrestling business. I’m just a fan, like you. But I know what’s been successful in the past, and it’s having a long-term goal. Sadly, that doesn’t happen to often these days. Maybe it’s a problem with society as a whole. We want satisfaction and we want it now, if not yesterday. We’re not prepared to wait.

Solution: Sacrifice short-term success for long-term investment. Far too often, WWE will pull the trigger with a superstar/storyline and if it doesn’t get over immediately, they’re binned and something else is put in place.

Just consider the number of wrestlers who have had pushes that haven’t worked for one reason or another (lack of charisma, mic skills, backstage politicking), and have been left to flounder in obscurity. Sin Cara, Tensai, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, Drew McIntyre and Kofi Kingston’s pushes are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

Perseverance is the key. Wrestlers/storylines need the proper time, investment and above all patience from management in order for them to be a success. Give something a few months to a year and see if it works. If it doesn’t, then try something different. 3-4 weeks isn’t long enough for a storyline/wrestler to get over. And most of all, you don’t have to like someone to know and appreciate that they can make money for you if the fans believe in them. Just a thought…

Unrealistic Expectations

Problem: I think that the superstars of today are compared to those of the Attitude Era far too often. It’s ridiculous to compare the two rosters.

First of all, rightly or wrongly, the WWE landscape is FAR more structured these days and the wrestlers often don’t have the freedom to express themselves. I think WWE are more concerned with what their sponsors/investors/shareholders have to say instead of what the fans want. Ultimately, it’s the fans who are responsible for the vast majority of WWE’s income – through merchandise sales, live event revenue and PPV buys. Yes, sponsors/investors/shareholders play their part, but it’s the fans who have kept WWE where they are.

Secondly, the WWE (sometimes) have a very condescending opinion of their fans. They think that they know what us (the fans) want to see, both in terms of wrestlers and storylines. The latest rumours on the net are a prime example of that.

Depending on who you believe, WWE are blaming Daniel Bryan for the poor SummerSlam buyrates. I’d suggest that WWE management take a long, hard look in the mirror and realise that the way they booked the storyline meant that it didn’t have the momentum it should have, which is why less people bought the PPV. It’s nothing to do with Daniel Bryan’s “size” or lack thereof. It’s to do with them not having a clue how the PPV business works in 2013.

I’m going to credit @MFXDuckman for this next comparison. He recently said on one of his fine MFX podcasts (along with his fellow cohort Sir Ian Trumps) that the reason why UFC and boxing PPVs do better buys is because the stories are better. There’s a reason why Floyd Mayweather’s boxing matches do incredible numbers, and it’s because people want to see him fight his opponent. It’s got hee-haw to do with him being small/large. It’s to do with his personality, charisma and talent.

The sooner WWE realise that forcing jacked-up guys like Ryback (what an unmitigated disaster his push has been by the way!) on us isn’t the answer, and allowing us to make up our own minds is the way forward, maybe interest in the business will increase. Which leads me to…

Solution: Don’t patronise us. We know which superstars we like. And we know which ones we don’t. Anyone who sits and watches Raw will have their own favourites and the ones they dislike. Almost every opinion will be different.

For example, you can hear crickets chirping and see the tumbleweed blowing past when my good friend Juan Bland Latino (a.k.a. Latino Sheeeet), Alberto del Rio enters the arena. The only crowd reaction he used to draw came from his ring announcer, Ricardo Rodriguez. When Ricardo was taken away from Alberto to “greener” pastures, the only reaction Alberto draws from the crowd, apart from sheer apathy or indifference, is when he slaps his leg when he delivers that kick to the head. That’s it. Nothing else.

Yet, for some bizarre reason, WWE have persevered with him because of the mistaken belief that he’ll draw in some Latino viewers. With the greatest of respect, you don’t like/dislike a wrestler because they’re black/white/Latino/Asian. You like/dislike them because of their character, mic skills or ability. Your colour/creed has nothing to do with it. Not in this day and age. At least not in my view.

The ultimate example I can use in terms of the fans “making their own choice” and being right comes in the form of one Stone Cold Steve Austin. WWE gave him “The Ringmaster” as a gimmick. Austin (by his own admission) struggled and it wasn’t until the fans reacted to his stunning (pun intended) Austin 3:16 promo at the 1996 King of the Ring, that he caught fire. The fans chose Austin and he went on to become one of the most successful wrestlers of all-time. You could even argue that the WWE as it stands today wouldn’t exist if the fans hadn’t have got behind Stone Cold.

CM Punk is another example. Someone who’d been held back because Paul Heyman liked him, yet when he goes out and becomes an amplified version of himself, and cuts that promo in June 2011, the crowd goes nuts and look at him now (despite HHH’s best on-screen efforts later on that summer). He’s arguably the top guy in the company from the fans’ perspective.

Nobody can deny that the lack of genuine characters is one of the reasons why ratings and buyrates are down. I guess what I’m saying is that WWE shouldn’t expect their current superstars to be as successful as their Attitude Era counterparts, but they should at least give them the chance to show the fans their real personalities. If they don’t get over then, then at least WWE can say they tried.

Laziness/Taking The Fans For Granted

Problem: The heading of this section pretty much says it all. What’s that? You want me to explain it? Sigh… Fine. OK then.

I think part of it is down to WWE’s laziness, but… I don’t think it’s deliberate. At least not from creative’s point of view. If you had as much TV to produce, and a boss as pedantic as Vince McMahon is, then you’d be burnt out wouldn’t you?!

The best example I can give you about that is the earlier-than-expected return of John Cena. Instead of WWE management having the patience that I talked about earlier to build new stars to help them cope in Cena’s absence, they went back to the only thing they know – John Cena – and it hasn’t worked. Interest in the business hasn’t increased dramatically.

The excuse that detractors often throw out that the ratings are hardly ever bad when Cena’s there doesn’t hold any water any more. He’s been back for several weeks (and his return was hyped for a few weeks before that) and yet there’s been no discernable change in the ratings. What that means is that the ratings would be roughly the same whether he’s there or not. Two men draw an increase in ratings/buyrates – Brock Lesnar and The Rock. Nobody else. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. And WWE are responsible for that. It’s time they took the responsibility for that, instead of blaming other factors/people.

As far as taking the fans for granted is concerned, that statement pretty much explains itself. I’m firmly of the belief that some members of WWE management don’t care about the quality of the product they put out, because they know that there is a hardcore element of their fanbase that will watch their TV programmes, buy their merchandise, go to live events and buy PPVs regardless of how good/bad the product is. And it’s true.

I’ve said everything in that paragraph countless times before, either in articles or on podcasts. Let’s be clear about this. If I didn’t help my friend to run his wrestling website, then I doubt I’d watch regularly, if at all. Don’t get me wrong. I love the wrestling business, but I don’t love what WWE serves up more often than not. Why? Because I’m sick and tired of my time and money being taken for granted.

Solution: For me, some of you will tell me to either shut up or stop watching. And some of you delightful people have in the past! ;)

Seriously though, I think there needs to be major changes in the way that WWE’s creative team is structured. I think there’s too many heads in there and whatever they come up with isn’t deemed good enough by the boss who, incidentally, is out of touch with today’s wrestling fan. I’d cut down on the number of people on creative, which would streamline the ideas and improve the quality of the product. At least hopefully!

In terms of taking us for granted, that one’s easy to fix.

If ratings and buyrates continue to dwindle or stagnate, then I’d call on WWE to conduct focus groups with casual wrestling fans. Find out what keeps them interested and find out what turns them off. Use them to discover what the problems are with the product. Then take that information and feed it to selected wrestling fans who regularly watch their TV product/PPVs/live events. I’d bet that the things those two sets of fans like and dislike would be largely similar. It would be easy to do. But it all comes down to one man’s say so… Over to you Vince!

You know what else WWE could do to stop us feeling like we’re taken for granted? How about actually advertising more than 3 matches the week before a PPV? It might just be me, but if I’m going to pay £20 to order a PPV, I’d like to know what I’m paying for before I spend my money. Otherwise, it’s getting streamed/downloaded.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable for us to expect WWE to announce a more comprehensive card. It’s not as if they’re stretched for TV time. Talking of which…

There’s Too Much WWE Product

Problem: Simply put, I think WWE produces too much wrestling content.

For example, here in the UK, WWE airs 8 different programs on a weekly basis: Raw, SmackDown, NXT, Total Divas, Vintage Collection (a show that airs classic WWF/E and WCW matches), Superstars, This Week in WWE (a highlight show of Raw & SmackDown’s main stories) and AfterBurn (a SmackDown highlights show).

Those 8 shows take up 11.5 hours of TV time. 2.5 of those hours are clip shows, so they don’t really need to be written. 9 of those hours however, DO have to be written. That’s 9 hours of wrestling product. Who in their right mind has 9 spare hours to watch wrestling? In ONE week?!?! It’s madness. God knows how much TV they produce wherever you’re reading this!

Solution: WWE need to streamline their product and cut down on the sheer amount of TV they produce. It’s as simple as that. It burns out fans and it’s got to burn out the people who are writing the shows!

If they produce less TV, it will keep the writers fresher which should, in turn, make the shows they do produce a little bit better for all of us! I could make the time to sit down and watch 5 hours of great wrestling a week, but I’m sure you’ll all agree that it feels like a full-time job just keeping up with all the TV that WWE produce right now! And a lot of it isn’t that great.

So ladies and germs, there we have it!

You’ve just read what I think the problems are that WWE have right now, and how I’d go about solving them. It all seems to make perfect sense to me and hopefully, you won’t think I’ve just spent the last few minutes just bitching about WWE without being constructive. For the first time in my life, I reckon I’ve tried to be a little bit more balanced about their problems!

If WWE at least tried to address some of these issues, maybe I’d be more inclined to part with my time and spend what limited funds I do have to feel good about watching their product!

I was actually inspired to write this after reading David Outlaw’s… wait… I’ve never called him that in my life! Start again… Thanks to big Davie Oooooooooooooooooh for the inspiration to write this. He actually went over this a wee bit in his latest article on SLTD Wrestling talking about Survivor Series, which you can read here. Cheers buddy!

Also thanks to @MFXDuckman for his boxing/UFC comparison that he used on an episode of the MFX Podcast. You can subscribe to them on iTunes here and don’t forget folks! Help those f**king nerds make some goddamn money to keep the funnies coming! Visit the MFX merch store by clicking here.

I don’t know when I’ll write again, but feel free to join us on SLTD Radio this coming Thursday (21st November 2013) for our Survivor Series special, where we’ll talk our favourite Survivor Series matches/events/memories/PPVs, and preview whatever matches that WWE have decided to book in advance! Search for SLTD Radio on Spreaker to find us. The show starts at 8:30pm UK time.

(PLEASE NOTE: There will be NO TNA chat on the show this week, or any coverage of British wrestling)

See you then!

  • Punk fan

    Send this to The WWE main office. This is an extremely well written blog. I am serious. I have been saying the exact same thing to many of my wrestling friends.

    • SudarshanBS

      As a fan of wrestling since my childhood, I completely agree with what the article says, and your views as well.
      But hypothetically speaking, even if this article is sent to the WWE HQ, I am sure Vince (or anyone) will throw it away and Triple H and Steph will make genuine attempts to make sure that the article and author are buried.
      WWE doesn’t like facts. They like ‘yes men’ who are a** kissers, who nod to everything that Vince and family says.

  • Rey Ca$h

    George, I actually agree with most of what you said here. I appreciate that you didn’t go full on “WWE Sux” like a lot of columnists, and instead wrote positive criticisms, which actually resonate. However, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t disagree with something ;-)
    WWE Short Sightedness – Sin Cara isn’t over because he can’t walk without getting hurt. We give Rey Mysterio shit because he’s always hurt, but he wrestled almost 20 years in front of mainstream companies and fans before he became truly brittle. Can you remember the last month long stretch that Sin Cara has been healthy. And Kofi Kingston has wrestled the same match every time since his first match on WWECW. He’s literally the new Rob Van Dam. Nothing bothers him, couldn’t care less, wrestles the exact same and is purely high spots. Other than that, the other guys have been given up on to an extent. Although Dolph deserved it. Forget how talented he is for a second. If I went to the media and talked massive shit about my company and how I’m underutilized and how I don’t like the structure, I’d be fired in a heart beat. And I’m don’t work for a global entity. Vince respects people who have the balls to tell him how they feel. But to his face. Not through interviews.
    Unrealistic Expectations – I’m the biggest Floyd Mayweather fan in the world, but…if there was a heavyweight that was SOMEWHAT interesting, Floyd wouldn’t be the most popular fighter in the world. It’s just the world we live in. Floyd is an amazing promoter and makes you want to see his fights, but he’s prospered from the fact that he’s the only boxer in the world (sans Pacquaio) who makes you care. Good heavyweights instantly make you care. Just the facts man. And race/creed does have a major part in how fans care about the product. I will forever love MVP as one of my favorite wrestlers because he was the first dude I saw since Booker T that I could say “damn, he’s like me”. To this day, I’d mark harder if I met MVP than I would if I met Austin or Undertaker. True story.
    Laziness/Taking The Fans For Granted – John Cena is a ratings draw. He’s only doing one segment a night, instead of the obligatory 2-3 segments he was doing before. So, technically, no full time wrestler is going to pop the rating unless he’s seen multiple times in the show. And I’d argue, if dude was genuinely healthy, they’d have been stupid not to have brought him back. Why leave your cash cow, who’s actually healthy, on the shelf? Despite the fact that to older fans he’s stale, he’s still the biggest and most popular star we have.
    Too Much WWE Product – I totally agree with you, however in this whole “WWE Universe” thing, it makes sense. Look how many NFL shows there are. Or NBA shows. They have their own networks, so they need all those shows. WWE is trying to create a “universe” where they matter more than 2-3 days a week. Plus, most of the shows cater to different people. Total Divas is for women and reality lovers. Raw is the flag ship. Smackdown is the “wrestling” show. NXT is the future. SuperStars and Main Event are the spots for lesser pushed wrestlers to get time to shine. And then you have the recap shows. All different things for different people.
    Anyway man, I’m bored as hell early in the morning, and I really enjoyed this, so I wanted to give you some feedback.

  • SudarshanBS

    Excellent article…!!!