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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The PPV Perspective (Extreme Rules 4/29/13) - Where's the Character Development?
By The Doc
Apr 30, 2013 - 10:29:01 PM

In last week's column, the focus was on The Shield taking the next step in their run as a dominant heel faction by establishing a go-to star in the singles ranks flanked by the other two. Interestingly enough, that night that the column was posted, Dean Ambrose wrestled the Undertaker at the Smackdown tapings. I watched the match over the weekend and was quite impressed with the presentation. That could have been a preview of something major coming up this summer or fall, with Ambrose taking the lead and having the ever-dangerous exploits of his running mates a constant reminder to his opponents. The tag titles will likely be claimed first, but based on how strong Ambrose was booked in defeat - and I thought he nearly had the Deadman beat after the low blow, neck crack DDT sequence - I think the WWE was testing the waters for what it would look like for the trio to breakout into the singles ranks. I'd have liked to have seen Ambrose win, but such an endorsement need not yet be made until the WWE are serious about putting The Shield into the main-event. That time may come, but last night was the step I wanted to see them take with those guys. Here's hoping Ambrose beats Kane on Smackdown this Friday.

The following is the highlights of my internal monologue from last night...

Last night's Raw was painfully average. Super C mentioned in his column that there were plenty of "what most wrestling fans watch Raw to see," which is wrestling matches, but I'll gladly dispute that. Anyone that watches Raw to see wrestling matches hasn't been paying attention to 85% of the shows from the past 20 years. Raw is to build compelling storylines that make people want to watch PPV payoffs. If you get some good wrestling along the way, then that's great, but the modern WWE television product is there to hype and promote. Last night, Orton vs. Rhodes and Ziggler vs. Kingston provided two matches that I actually took the time to watch given my desire to see the heels in those equations succeed. The problem was that there was very little to sink your teeth into from the standpoint of the Extreme Rules angles. Ryback was a virtual non-factor. Triple H nor Lesnar were not there, replaced by a video package. The Shield provided the best character work of the night.....and they're not actually booked for the PPV.

My fundamental problem with Raw last night was a problem that has spread across the WWE landscape for a long time, but becomes glaringly obvious on nights like the last when there is so little star power on the program: the WWE seems to be content with disregarding character development as a fundamental part of the process of building new superstars. Dolph Ziggler, in my opinion, is the best example. As covered in TripelR's column, Ziggler's credibility as the champion has been called into question. Perfectly reasonable, as far as I'm concerned (as big a fan of his as I am). What about him right now as the World Champion is different in his presentation from when he was merely the IC or US Champions in 2010 and 2011, respectively? I would argue that the only difference is Big E. AJ is playing the heel manager role. Ziggler's time on the microphone is about where it was two years ago when he was holding the (seemingly) meaningless mid-card belt. My question is: why is the WWE choosing not to treat Ziggler as the World Champion?

There is no question that the role of the World title has changed since the WWE started merging the brands without specifically ending the split. Yet, they have put their promotional machine to work when they put the belt on Daniel Bryan, giving him ample opportunity to speak and get over with the audience. Why not Ziggler? It was NOT Bryan's heralded wrestling that made him so popular, but people's recognition in how hard he had worked to create an engaging personality - something nobody really thought he could do prior to. The WWE put tons of effort into building up Sheamus last year. Why not Ziggler? The Celtic Warrior's babyface character was white meat covered in gobs of mayonnaise. Del Rio was given plenty of chances to speak earlier this year and he's about as interesting on the microphone as my socks. Ziggler has actually proven to have something to say that might get him over, but for some reason he's had two in-ring promos since winning the title and neither of them gave him much of an opportunity to tell a story. What is Ziggler's story? Is there some particular reason that he's not being given one to tell? The two most successful roads to being over are talking and winning clean. Ziggler is doing neither and he's got the big gold belt. This World title "feud" that he's involved in stinks. Now, there's a ladder. Alright, well that guarantees that it'll be an exciting match, but will it matter if nobody gives a hoot about it first?

The WWE seems to be getting part of the equation right with a lot of guys. Ziggler is a helluva bumper, so they've spent the last year giving him high profile opponents to bump for and occasionally defeat. No chances to talk, however, will cost him his ability to get over enough to be a contributing member of the show and will, thus, ensure that he won't be successful as a champion (now or in the future). He has to talk. The puzzling thing with him is that he can, but they aren't letting him. Another example would be Antonio Cesaro, who for months was showcased as a unique in-ring talent that did things that nobody else could do. His character, though, was the typical anti-American nonsense that has not gotten any wrestler over enough to matter beyond a month or few in decades. Naturally, creative lost interest; he wasn't given the chance to be creative. You can't come up with a persona for that guy, Steph? What's the hold up, by the way, with Cody Rhodes getting pushed? He is extremely entertaining within the context of whatever character he's given to play, so come up with a main-event gimmick for him to tackle and let him put his definitive stamp on it like he did with that outstanding masked maniacal character. That guy, in my opinion (and why I spent so much creative writing time on him last year), is a load of money waiting to be made.

Everyone on the show right now but Ryback seems to be going through the motions. The Shield, despite potentially anointing a leader, still haven't said anything new in 6 months. Ziggler doesn't speak. Del Rio is clearly the cardboard, cookie-cutter Latino panderer. Kofi is this generation's RVD. Wade Barrett did what to piss off someone? Cena tries hard, but what more can he do after eight years of being exactly the same? Hate on the guy all you may desire (and I've done my fair share), but Ryback's motivated and hungry and showing it. Bravo, sir. Keep it up; you've got my interest in your title match.

Here's a suggestion for the WWE, for whatever it's worth: take your writing staff and divide it. Take groups of wrestlers and place them in groups A, B, and C. Each group has a writing team dedicated solely to making stories for them. Stephanie directs each by giving them the allotted time for each show (Main Event, Saturday Morning Slam, and, particularly, Raw and Smackdown). Group A is the guys responsible for drawing the PPV numbers - 6 guys, basically. Group B is the guys that make up the mid-card and upper mid-card. Group C is the lower card guys like Zack "I've locked my athleticism in a stupid gimmick" Ryder (Woo Woo, You Should Know it by now, BRO).

There's three blanking hours to fill and not one thing that would make someone spend $45 was done last night. That's unacceptable.

As of last night, I'm heading to the sports bar to see the cage match, the quality of the ladder match, and - more than anything - Ryback challenging Cena for the WWE title. I am not, at this point, inclined to spend money from home.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: If there was one guy on the roster that you could push, if you owned the WWE, who would it be and what character would you have him play?

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