Over the last few years, WWE’s popularity has been up and down. What once was at the forefront of both sports AND entertainment has now became an afterthought in the mainstream.
Now that is not to say it isn’t still popular. It does still have a major following as it is the biggest show in town in a very lucrative industry.
But with other options such as Impact Wrestling, AEW, NJPW, NWA Powerrr and more rising the ranks, WWE is no longer the only way to go and over time we are seeing more and more people cancel their Network subscriptions and go elsewhere.
There are certainly many factors that have led to this happening. Various controversies and things happening outside of the squared circle are affecting people’s decisions on this, but one of the biggest reasons people are looking elsewhere is the quality of programming that World Wrestling Entertainment is putting out there.
Before we look at that, just a quick note: I am by no means trying to discredit the hard work of anyone who works in WWE. I have the utmost respect for everyone that works there, and I am simply looking to provide some constructive criticism on what I can see going wrong within the product itself.
So, one of the biggest things right off the bat is the endless cycle WWE seem to have fallen into with characters and storylines. What I mean here is that it seems they have a rinse-and-repeat method of trying something out and if it doesn’t instantly become popular or ‘over’, so they scratch it.
The problem with this method though is they never really seem to go all the way with it. A good comparison for what I am talking about is Chris Jericho in AEW. When he does something that becomes a meme online or people find it funny, they go (pardon the pun) ‘All In’ on it.
I watched Dynamite last week where he put a traffic cone on his head and laughed like a witch. The next day he announced on Twitter that the t-shirt was available online. They are capitalising on something that the fans enjoyed.
While we’re talking about Jericho and AEW, another thing they are doing really well is the use of social media. It just makes sense. Look at Becky Lynch or even Zack Ryder as more examples of getting over with the use of social media. It’s because it is so popular it is a way to engage a large audience. I mean, even my Granny has a Facebook account.
This is where WWE can fix the problem. That moment with Jericho and the traffic cone was not scripted. It was not forced upon us. It was a genuine, organic, moment that was legitimately funny.
I know not everyone is going to be Chris Jericho but herein lies the problem with WWE. I feel that it takes itself a little too seriously. So much of the show is about serious storytelling, which for the most part, they do well.
But at the end of the day, wrestling is silly. It just is, at its very core. It is silly in the best way.
I mean last Sunday night I watched Rey Mysterio get thrown off a roof and then the following night there he was in a match on Raw. There is nothing wrong with embracing the silliness. But the thing that is key to comedy is that you cannot force it.
I know it has become cliché at this point but look back to the Attitude Era. The reason everyone loves it so much, aside from nostalgia, is the craziness of it all. Plus, the other thing to bear in mind is that not everything is going to be the most famous thing in the company.
For all the Attitude Era gets praised, it had a lot of things fall flat on its face. When I look back at it however, what I notice is that every time there is a superstar on my TV they are going all in on their gimmick and trying to get it over. Of course, there are things from that era that just would not fly on today’s child friendly PG product, but you can have comedy and push the boundaries, without airing live sex celebrations and swearing in every promo.
The way to fix the problem is to find the balance. There is a massive place for comedy in a wrestling show, but I do not want six matches with Orange Cassidy featured in all of them.
What I think WWE needs to remember is one thing not working does not mean scrap it. While it’s true Shorty G merchandise wasn’t exactly flying off the shelf, who would have thought R-Truth and his 24/7, 7 Eleven, I95 SOUTH, European Television Championship would’ve become so popular?
I read an interview with R-Truth where he talks about how he wanted to make this title matter. He told Yahoo Sports: “From day one when they introduced it to us I had my eyes set on it and wanting to take the title to the level that it is now and beyond.”
When the title first was introduced it was far from popular, but the effort and attention that was put in to it is what has taken it so far.
This is where I would make the change. Give performers a bit more creative freedom. Especially with the landscape the way it is in WWE today, most of the talent currently there has a long history and lots of experience behind them.
Guys like AJ Styles, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, just to name a few. Let them use it while providing a looser guide of this is the end point and these are the key points we want to hit along the way. They can do the rest.
It gives it that feeling of realness. I’m sorry but I could never picture Roman Reigns in real life calling anyone a “snivelling little suck up sellout full of sufferin’ succotash, son”
The thing with wrestling nowadays is the fans know it is scripted. They know it is predetermined. Gone are the days of kayfabe. Therefore, this needs to be addressed.
If something is going to come across as silly, lean into it. Because as I said, wrestling is silly, so you are as well embracing that fact. And if you allow the roster to be genuine and real, it makes it a lot easier for fans to connect with them as people rather than a script.
Things like at Money in the Bank, if you had Baron Corbin drop the briefcase to Otis because he broke that mirror and has bad luck. This can lead into a Bad Luck Baron gimmick. I also saw Simon Miller from What Culture suggest AJ Styles getting thrown off the roof at MITB and start an invincible AJ gimmick. Things like that are just the right amount of silly.
Multiple reports recently have said that Vince McMahon has a “f*** it” approach currently to what is being presented and I feel like it is doing a service. I for one, absolutely loved the Money in the Bank matches.
The whole experience was so entertaining and Asuka in particular is a comedy genius. I audibly laughed at her in the elevator dancing around. I tweeted shortly after “give Asuka all the titles” because I connected with her and wanted to see more.
But when I say finding the balance of funny and serious, while Asuka entertained with her dancing and shouting, Shayna Baszler cut a great promo on Raw the next night saying “I signed up for a ladder match and lost a food fight… I’ll show them a real fight” and you just know those two could have a hell of a match.
I know it is ironic to say in a critical piece, but one thing to bear in mind is to not focus too much on the criticism. As good as it is to listen to your fans, people online will always shout louder about things they dislike than things they do like. If Vince simply loosens the reigns slightly, we could see a much more fun and entertaining product.
That’s what I always see whenever I compare WWE and AEW for example is the talent in AEW just seem to be having so much more ‘fun’ and because they are in more control of what they are doing, they feel attached to the product therefore more motivated to make it better.
Again, this article is completely my opinion and my 2 cents about how I think WWE could make their shows a bit more enjoyable. If you have any thoughts on this let me know on Twitter @lewis_brown99.