4/5 Barnett's WWE Raw is Blog 3: A Conflict of Visions
By Jake Barnett
In this edition of Raw is Blog, we examine two of booking decisions made on Raw, and how they show conflicting visions among WWE's Creative Team.
Moment 1: Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan - Sin Cara Debuts
I was completely conflicted by this moment. For full disclosure, I should admit that I am a huge fan of Daniel Bryan (Danielson) and I've always felt that WWE hasn't taken his talents seriously enough. But tonight was especially depressing for me as a fan of his work around the world, specifically ROH, prior to his entry into the WWE. We saw him buried on commentary throughout the match. Michael Cole has never respected him on commentary, so I'm numb to that now, but Booker and Josh Mathews were both terribly negative on him throughout the entire match. That and the fact that he was for all intents and purposes squashed made no sense.
He had a much better match with Sheamus when he lost the title just a few weeks ago. So I thought to myself that I could expect a pretty competitive rematch, right?
Oh, how wrong I was. I felt robbed as a fan, because I know what both of those guys are capable of, and you have what amounted to emasculation of a guy like Bryan, who hasn't been treated like a big deal by WWE since he captured the US Title several months ago. Not only were both men robbed of an opportunity to have a match on the WrestleMania card, but it appears as of now that Bryan has hit the skids in the WWE game of chutes and ladders.
Luckily for me, however, the post-match revived me a bit. I have been excited about the debut of Sin Cara's (Mistico) debut in the WWE since it was announced in Mexico City prior to WrestleMania. I've always thought he was an amazing talent, and I was hoping that WWE could find a way to get him on their roster going back a year or more. After what was a very scary moment when he almost missed his trampoline springboard into the ring, he recovered and delivered the most exciting display of acrobatics that we’ve seen in the WWE in quite some time. If I were Rey Mysterio, I would be very pleased that I was on a different brand than Sin Cara. It was every bit as exciting a debut as I could have hoped for. Sin Cara has arrived, and I hope for my own selfish sake that he ends up on Smackdown very soon.
So what does this segment tell us about WWE Booking? Well, for one, it tells us that WWE is booking most of their card week to week. I don't think anybody was surprised to see Daniel Bryan lose the US Title to the rebounding Sheamus, but I was surprised to see how weak the follow up was, and how badly they blew the rematch. It's almost as if they did the title change with no plan in mind. And if they did have a plan, why did it change? Of all the matches to leave off the WrestleMania card, why choose Sheamus vs. Bryan? It's disappointing for me on a couple of levels.
For one, I have no idea what Daniel Bryan does from here. Secondly, it casts doubt in my mind whether creative has a long term plan for anybody outside of a few select main event talents. Where is the vision that you would expect from a company that does hundreds of millions of dollars every year in revenue? If they keep the ball rolling with Sin Cara and put the US Title on him, does anyone have confidence that they can do it in a way that would keep Sheamus strong? If they keep the title on Sheamus, what do they do with Sin Cara?
It seems like an add juxtaposition to put your debuting talent, who you want to be a success, against one of the guys on your card who is currently being rebuilt. Part of me hopes for Daniel Bryan to show an edge and attack both men, in order to set up an Extreme Rules 3-Way Dance; because at least that would allow you to put the belt on Sin Cara in a way that can potentially get all three guys in the match over.
Moment 2: The Rock Challenges John Cena for WrestleMania 28
There are going to be a lot of opinions about this all over the web for the next weeks and months, so here’s how I see it. It is an especially ballsy move to book a match a year in advance, especially the main event of WrestleMania, when we know there are so many variables that can happen in a year’s time.
I’m sure WWE has thought about many of them, like injuries and what not, but I’m curious as to how they will be able to keep interest in a feud through the year when both The Rock and Cena appeared magnanimous with each other at the close of last night’s show. Am I supposed to believe that WWE can really hold interest in a feud between two fan favorites for an entire year? Or will it be a different Rock or a different John Cena that enters WrestleMania 28? That might be the greatest intrigue of it all.
Perhaps the most compelling thing about this move to book potentially two of the biggest matches, the other being Triple H stating he’s waiting for The Undertaker, is that it shows the conflict in long term vision between the Main Event scene and the rest of the card that has been apparent to me for some time now. The divas all the way up the mid-card are a pretty generic and interchangeable group of athletes, who are all gifted and talented people, yet they languish because their personalities are not developed enough, or they are not experienced enough to work with the wide range of styles and ability that are present on the WWE roster.
What are the conclusions that I drew from this? Well, the first conclusion is that WWE needs to take some of its own advice. Superstars from HBK to Chris Jericho to Triple H to Vince McMahon have all expressed consternation over the fact that the WWE has failed to create new stars. It has also been spoken about at length all over the internet by others who analyze the Pro Wrestling business as a hobby or professionally. WWE must make a commitment to pushing new talent, and must do so immediately. Perhaps after Extreme Rules winds down and WWE has to start building new stories, they can hit the reset button again and try to get some focus in its young talent.
The second conclusion I drew from this is that the WWE desperately needs to reduce the number of PPV’s they show per year. WWE has 13 PPV events per year, and I think that could be paired down to 8 if WWE was serious about revitalizing it’s brand and it’s fan base. It would allow WWE an extra 1 to 2 weeks between each PPV event, allowing for extra build times for big matches, more air time for young talents to develop their characters, and longer recuperating times between the often longer and more brutal PPV matches that can cause injuries and shorten careers. The issue with running 13 PPV events per year is not that they are incapable of it; it’s that the long term consequences are not worth the short term spike in revenue they have received as a result of it.
We see this all the time in entertainment. When TV writers come up with a successful series, all of a sudden we have spinoffs that interchange new stars in similar roles doing similar things, and they cross their fingers that the audience carries over and the overexposure of the concept doesn’t cause the viewership of both shows to collapse or split. I think the WWE is crossing into similar territory with their TV and PPV model, because as the hours of TV and PPV add up, overall viewership has not married with the increase in camera exposure. My hope is that WWE reduces its PPV schedule and expands its talent development programs in order to improve its product.
All the expansion and growth the WWE had in the last 15 years has been because the product was strong, and the fans were excited at the prospect of paying to see more wrestling. In order to battle the down economy and lack of fresh stars, WWE may need to contract some of that growth until a point where the product will support it again. As a fan who is fond of the product and many of the talents in it, I hope they do.
If you have questions, comments, or concerns with this blog, please contact me by email at email@example.com or on twitter @barnettjake.
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