FATP: WWE’s Midcard – Make Us Care Again
Just when you thought it was safe to trawl through the columns section, FATP makes its return to PWMania.com! It’s been a while since I’ve posted an edition of FATP. Some people have been asking why. I suppose I’d better explain things before I get on with today’s topic.
Roughly 6 weeks ago, I decided to go on an indefinite hiatus from writing about wrestling. It was the week of WWE Elimination Chamber. I’d done my review of the PPV for Wrestling Rambles and written the pieces I’d already scheduled for other sites, but I wasn’t happy. At the state of wrestling in general. Far too many decisions annoyed me and rather than me just sitting bitching about it for you guys to read on a weekly basis, I took some time off. I even stopped watching wrestling.
Those of you who’ve spoken to me on Twitter and through commenting on FATP know that while I don’t always agree with what happens on WWE/TNA TV, I love wrestling. I’ve been a fan for over 20 years and I’ve never taken a break from it before, but I’d reached breaking point. I even went on a Twitter break for God’s sake! I thought that taking a break to get a fresh perspective would help.
Until this week, I’d only sat down and watched 1 piece of wrestling – TNA LockDown. No Raw. No SmackDown. No Impact. Nothing. After catching up on what’s gone on over the last 6 weeks, it’s safe to say that I wish I’d not bothered watching again. Traditionally, this is the time of year when we’re supposed to be excited. It’s the goddamn road to WrestleMania. But this year, it’s more like the road to hell. Some beardy dude wrote a song about that once didn’t he? Anyway…
I’m not excited about WrestleMania 29. Whatsoever. In fact, I’ve already decided that I’m not wasting my money on it. Why? Because 4 of the 6 men in the 3 main-events are part-timers. Why should I pay to watch 4 guys wrestle when they’re not gonna be there for the rest of 2013? It’s pointless. Totally and utterly pointless. That’s besides the fact that we’ve already seen the 3 main-events in some way, shape or form before. Forget Hulk-A-Mania, ReMatch-A-Mania is runnin’ wild brrrotherrrs!
Instead of bitching about ReMatch-A-Mania 29, I wanted to talk about something I’ve noticed a lot lately. Over the last few months, I’ve been watching a lot of Attitude Era PPV’s. I mean a lot. And something struck me. It’s how much the fans cared about mid-carders – guys in and around the Hardcore, Tag-Team and Intercontinental title hunt.
Wrestlers like Rikishi, Val Venis, Too Cool, Goldust, Crash Holly, The New Age Outlaws and a lot more were getting reactions just as loud, or louder, than guys who were main-eventing. The crowds were legit going crazy for these guys and it got me wondering why, with a few exceptions, fans today don’t care as much about mid-carders.
There are obviously a few reasons. Guys like Rikishi, Val Venis, Too Cool, Goldust, Crash Holly and The New Age Outlaws were all great talents in the ring, but they all had bundles of charisma. They were able to stand out from the pack and be unique. You could see their personality shining through in their “gimmick” and it gave fans a reason to care.
The storylines were obviously crafted better than they are today. Guess who was in charge of creative when the Attitude Era kicked off? A man who doesn’t get enough credit for the job he did at that time – Vince Russo. Granted, not everything worked, and Vince McMahon acted as a filter, but Russo still deserves a lot of credit for the shift in direction that the WWF (at the time) went in.
Fast-forward 15 years and obviously the world has changed. Society has changed. Wrestling has changed.
WWE don’t have any serious competition. Its 12 years this week since WWF/E bought WCW to signal the end of the Monday Night Wars. In their eyes, it’s as if WWE don’t have anything to force them to make the product better. There’s no impetus. That’s why the product has suffered over the last decade or so.
There are clearly enough talented wrestlers out there. Some of them haven’t been given a fair shake of the stick, whereas others have remained stale and, I don’t want to say got away with it, but it comes across as if they’re happy to just stick to what they know, instead of trying to freshen things up a bit.
WWE developmental has to take some of the blame for that too. Whenever you see a new wrestler come up to the main roster, more often than not, they walk, talk and act the same. They don’t stand out from the crowd. Goldust stood out from the crowd. The New Age Outlaws stood out from the crowd. The guys they bring up these days are clearly talented enough, but it’s as if WWE don’t give them the freedom to express themselves. It’s like WWE are scared to give these guys the chance. Why not? You’ve got nothing to lose. It’s not like TNA are in a position to overtake WWE. They might be in a few years time, but not now.
Whoever is booking the shows – whether it’s Vince, Steph, HHH or someone else – don’t have the patience to stick with a wrestler’s push either. It’s as if they get bored after 10-12 weeks and just throw the guy to one side. It’s very rare for a wrestler to become a success overnight. It takes time, patience and having the right guy in the right place at the right time. If the bookers don’t have patience with a guy and get bored, how do they expect the fans to get involved and care about the character? It doesn’t make any sense does it?
Mind you, the creative team must be absolutely shattered. I looked in to it the other day and WWE produces something like 9 hours of new TV product every week. There’s even more when you add in the highlight shows like Afterburn and Bottom Line that get shown in the UK. It’s madness to expect the writing team to keep things fresh and interesting when there’s so much TV time to fill.
How many times do you see a match on Raw or SmackDown between two wrestlers that’s just thrown together from absolutely nowhere, with no back-story? It happens every week. Why? Just by planting little seeds explaining the rivalry, it lets fans invest in the wrestlers.
I might just be speaking for myself here, but I want a reason to care about the mid-card in WWE. That’s where the next generation of stars will be from. If we don’t care about them now, why should we when WWE are ready for us to care about them? It’s high time that WWE stopped thinking that the main-event is the be all and end all. They don’t have to put as much effort into building main-eventers. The guys who are there, are there because we have a reason to care about them. Mid-carders are different.
Why did people care as much about mid-carders back in the Attitude Era? Probably because there was less wrestling to watch and the wrestlers were allowed to show their own personality. Right now, apart from a few exceptions, it’s not like that. There’s less patience and less care being taken with how to push a mid-card talent, and it’s a damn shame. For the wrestlers, and for the fans.
That’ll wrap things up for this week. As usual, feel free to contact me with any feedback you’ve got, or any ideas for future columns. FATP will be a little shorter from now on. Hopefully it’ll have the same impact though. I’ll see you back here next week. Until then, thanks for reading.