Lutz's Blog: Examining what is and is not a problem on the current WWE landscape
By Jeffrey Lutz
WWE is messing up a lot right now. Storylines and angles seem to go nowhere, wrestlers who become popular on their own merits are stalled by management, and the two-decade trend of on-air authority figures seems primed to go at least another 20 years.
Still, some television network -- and maybe a lot of television networks -- will line up to acquire the rights to Monday Night Raw when WWE's contract with USA expires. Sponsors and partnerships remain strong an consistent. Social media has been a useful (or overused) tool by WWE to market its product. Fans may not like the direction away from what actually happens in the ring, and ratings and pay-per-view buyrates are accurate indicators of the growing apathy, but not everything WWE is doing is wrong.
The good, however, is outweighing the bad. Nonetheless, here is my best attempt to separate those categories within WWE as it stands.
Not a Problem: The Effort
As much as the product often seems mailed in at times, especially when it comes to the timeliness of writing the weekly television shows, I trust Vince McMahon, Triple H and company enough to know that they're putting in an honest effort. The ineptitude that burnout and a lack of awareness produces is evident, but I can't bring myself to say that WWE isn't trying.
Unfortunately, WWE doesn't seem to trust itself. Although occasionally angles remain consistent, it's become a tradition to tune into Raw every Monday to see how firmly WWE has pressed the reset button. Sometimes storylines are scrapped altogether, sometimes they're more subtly pushed aside, but it seems rare that fans are actually treated to a resolution of anything happening in the WWE beyond world-title feuds. Even those, though, have been rendered relatively meaningless by the frequent teases for Daniel Bryan and the hurried nature with which WWE is putting forth a championship unification match.
My intention, though, was not to criticize WWE even when writing about something positive. So while I wish WWE would practice more long-term booking and a trust in itself and its audience, the effort is there -- especially from the wrestlers themselves. Triple H has an unparalleled passion for the business, and when he becomes as savvy with the on-air product as he has been on the corporate side, WWE could make a quick turnaround.
Problem: The Announcers
I do a fun little weekly radio show, and a message delivered frequently in that industry is that shows are about the audience, not the talent. Since the WWE announcers are presenting the product to the television viewers, it is their responsibility to shift the focus away from themselves and toward what the audience wants. Unfortunately, Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler and JBL don't take that responsibility seriously, nor does McMahon as their producer.
I don't care about the Raw announcing trio's off-the-cuff banter, and their forced laughter cuts through me like a switchblade. By taking attention away from the performers and the storylines, the announcers are putting it solely on themselves, no matter what they're talking about. It's a distraction. If WWE wants to lessen the impact of hardcore matches by allowing the announcers to laugh about the carnage they cause, then WWE shouldn't have hardcore matches in the first place. I understand that Michael Cole's duties as lead play-by-play guy are endless as he promotes every side venture WWE has to offer, but he doesn't get to use the rest of the time being a shill for himself.
Not a Problem: The PG rating
Make no mistake that WWE is a product aimed primarily at children -- go to a house show if you don't believe it. Still, there is plenty there for teenagers and adults as long as WWE continues to create characters older fans can relate to, believe in and become intrigued by. There are plenty of those on the roster, so there is no reason for more experienced viewers to turn away because of who is on television.
Of all the criticisms of Raw, I never hear that if C.M. Punk was allowed to keep his "douchebag" blast in last week's promo, the show would have been more enjoyable. Saying "ass" or "hell" or "bitch" doesn't necessarily make the product any edgier, and it's not an effective mask for a lacking product, so WWE is smart not to use it even if it could. The best television is character driven.
I know exactly who Homer Simpson is -- dated reference, I know, but that dude still has it. I don't know who Bray Wyatt is. I'm still not sure what Dean Ambrose really stands for. I know Punk, John Cena and Triple H, but those are performers who are allowed to refine their characters on their own. Granting that freedom to other wrestlers who can handle it would immediately improve the show.
Problem: Too much crossover
In the beginning of the Authority storyline, it was fun that the angle carried into the midcard. Now, it's just becoming watered down because it seems like practically everyone is involved. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon have moved on from the Rhodes brothers, Bryan, Big Show and others, but those wrestlers are still in off-shoots of a feud with the Authority. Now Cena and C.M. Punk are involved because how could they not be when their company is being threatened by rogue leadership?
WWE didn't have much of a choice but to include its two of its top three babyfaces in the angle because it backed itself into a corner. Cena had gone through all credible opponents, partially because WWE hasn't given him any lately, and Punk was languishing in no-man's land after taking care of the only Paul Heyman Guys left. So now not only do we have rushed feuds, we have Triple H working his way up the WWE pecking order, matching himself with WWE's biggest stars without ever wrestling and never getting what's coming to him. WWE had to book a unification match, because without its top heel engaging physically, nothing is really at stake.
Problem: Bad News Barrett
Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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