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Posted in: Requesting Flyby
REQUESTING FLYBY: Five Changes WWE Must Make To Restore Fan Confidence
By Maverick
Oct 5, 2017 - 6:05:05 AM

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Five Changes WWE Must Make To Restore Fan Confidence

Greetings dear readers, and let me just apologise for the lack of columns lately. Work has been something of a Braun Strowman path of destruction lately, but having spoken extensively to my colleague ‘Plan on LOP Radio’s Friday night show The Right Of The Pond over the past three weeks about our current issues with the product, I felt compelled to write something for my loyal readers about what I see as the problems and what can be done about them. While I'm not sure I go as far as our good friend The Doc in saying that hardcore fans are ready to turn in their cards, I do think that the company are in severe danger of slipping into an extended period of 2010 level mediocrity, and at a time when they have what is perhaps their deepest ever talent pool, that would be a creative disaster. Autopilot pro wrestling is never any fun for anyone, after all. So, here are the changes I would like to see WWE make to restore the confidence of the fans and improve the consistency of the products quality.

1) Roster Positioning and Roster Management

A healthy pro wrestling company understands its roster and how best to deploy it. Like medieval society, a roster is a pyramid structure with less people at the top level than the bottom level, and with equivalent proportions at each level in between. A roster that works well also has a balance of heels and faces, and a range of styles and personalities. WWE chose to move back to a brand extension structure in order to better position the huge range of talent it had, and yet, the rosters are as badly designed as I can remember. I'm not one for conspiracies, but the justification for having so many top stars on Raw purely because it has a third hour is extremely flimsy, especially as Raw also has the cruiserweights (this problem will only grow worse if Kevin Owens really does go back to Raw). Having so many heavy hitters leads to a preponderance of multi man Universal Title matches, and a huge array of big matches being given away for free on Monday nights because they feel the need to get these guys on the show every week. Meanwhile, Smackdown has a jobber as WWE Champion, a main eventer as United States champion and a roster full of midcarders it can't use properly. Sami Zayn, Tye Dillinger, Baron Corbin, Tyler Breeze, Chad Gable, Rusev and Dolph Ziggler is a group of talent that you should be able to deploy imaginatively to have the kind of matches we remember from the first brand extension’s early days, but none of them are given that kind of platform, instead being rolled out as sacrificial lambs to the point where their credibility is shot to bits. Neither roster is balanced, neither roster has a proper hierarchy, and neither roster delivers consistently interesting television. I've always been on record as saying that a brand extension can work- but only if the rosters and writing are right.

2) Say Goodbye To The Part Timers- For Good

Three recent feuds involving the OVW Class of 2002 illustrate what I'm talking about here. Long time readers and listeners will know that I have always been fiercely against Wrestlemania each year being nothing more than a platform for stars that have already had that huge moment many times before. A whole generation of wrestlers who got hot between 2008 and 2012 never made it to the top of the company because of the glass ceiling of veterans and part timers above them, and while Punk and Bryan arguably broke through that ceiling, and while The Shield guys and Owens followed through the hole, WWE have recently repaired it with reinforced glass, or maybe that kayfabe “bullet proof lexane” they always say they use in the Elimination Chamber. Quite simply, John Cena spent the summer with the largest shovel the wrestling world has yet seen. Having politicked backstage to have Baron Corbin’s push torpedoed by a Money In The Bank briefcase loss and a comprehensive fisting at Summerslam, he then indulged himself in a disgustingly unoriginal worked shoot angle with Roman Reigns in which he parroted back certain IWC opinions just so he could feel like the indy darling for a change. He followed that up with an absolutely horrible match with Reigns which was an extension of the ridiculous finisher and kick out heavy style he has been exhausting the world with since 2014. And let's not forget burying Miz at Wrestlemania and allowing WWE to indulge him with a pointless title win at the Rumble just to soothe his gargantuan ego. Time to go, John. Time to go. Hollywood wants you, just go. Wrestling doesn't need you. Wrestling had moved on from you. Just go. As for Randy Orton, who couldn't look more bored if he tried, get that guy the hell out of here. He's not had a good match in about three years. I cannot for the life of me understand why a great talent like Rusev is doing job duty to a man who adds literally nothing to the product. Then there's Brock Lesnar, who wrestles the same match every time he's on a pay-per-view, and is laughing his way to the bank with the absolute minimum of effort. Let him walk in April and spare us another three years of this nonsense. And he can take Paul Heyman with him.

3) Go Back To Old School Writing And Booking

It’s interesting to note that the stories which have been well received recently are all, overwhelmingly, ones that employed an obviously old school method of writing and booking. Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho’s friendship began as an uneasy alliance between egotists, developed into the ultimate way for Kevin Owens to cheaply retain his title pay-per-view after pay-per-view, and finally splintered when Owens’ fetid jealousy got the better of him. A full nine months was invested in the development of the story and its payoff at Wrestlemania and Payback. That is exactly what fans want to see. It gave us one last example of the greatness of Jericho to cherish, and gave Owens a rub that he needed. That is one scenario where I was happy to make an exception to my distaste for part timers (indeed, the story largely worked so well because Jericho worked a full time schedule, including live events). Another example is the Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins reunion, which was one of the most compelling and emotive storytelling arcs in a long time. Building off five full years of history, the writers teased the fans with a will-they-won’t-they structure, culminating in a fist bump that echoed around the world and a glorious pair of matches at Summerslam and No Mercy against The Bar. WWE’s minor leagues, meanwhile, have this kind of storytelling nous nailed down. The recent heel turn of Enzo Amore on the cruiserweight division follows a full year of Neville being patiently booked as the dominant force on 205 Live. By assaulting Enzo despite a no contact clause, WWE neatly send Neville back into the main roster singles ranks and simultaneously create Enzo as a kind of Mini Miz whose mouth writes cheques his wrestling can’t cash. Finally, the recent build up of Roderick Strong in NXT used vignettes about his troubled upbringing to parlay into a gritty underdog story against Bobby Roode. He may have lost the match, but he won the hearts of the masses. That is storytelling, right there. I’ve given four examples of how WWE can still turn on the magic when they try. So let’s have enough of short term nonsense and random booking, and put together a well constructed television to pay-per-view arc every single time.

4) Enough With The Ratings Quick Fixes

You know when WWE had their highest ratings? The Attitude Era. You know what they didn’t do in the Attitude Era? Constantly try to patch up the product with “draws”. Obviously, a top six of Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Mick Foley, The Undertaker and Kurt Angle is handy to have at any time, but the reason those guys were so over was because they were consistently handled in the manner I discussed in point three and not constantly hamstrung by random stars of the past being parachuted in to “boost ratings”. Last autumn, WWE based a whole programme around Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar, basically because they were both available in a video game, a programme which included Goldberg squashing Kevin Owens at Fast Lane. John Cena’s lamentable “free agent” schtick has led to him taking up inordinate amounts of TV time that younger stars need and deserve. And why the company continually think that Shane McMahon jumping off things is a draw is beyond me completely. If you want TV ratings (which are honestly not the best guide these days anyway, given that many people will consume the weekly shows via other media, rather than live at 8 EST) to improve, you have to put on television that people want to watch, and come back to week after week. The last time that happened was during the peak of The Authority storyline, when there was a unified creative approach and proper roster management and positioning. WWE have to think long term, rather than wondering perpetually what to do to compete against Monday Night Football THIS WEEK. I am fanatically against the rumoured Shield reunion precisely for that reason. It’s only being floated because WWE are desperate to find a quick fix, so something which should be incredibly special, a huge deal, is happening way too soon, with no logic, in a rushed fashion.

5) Gimmick Pay-Per-Views Must Come To An End

Now, before any smartass gets on my case about this, I’m not referring to Royal Rumble or Survivor Series, which have over 25 years of history behind them. I’m talking about the habit from 2010 onwards of putting on pay-per-views based around a match type and having to force the storylines to conform towards them. Hell in a Cell, once only used for the most epic of feuds, is now a yearly event, where each successive cell match is more bland and unoriginal than the last. Elimination Chamber has become pigeonholed as a pre-Mania curveball and nothing more. There hasn’t been a decent chamber match in years. TLC is just an excuse for people to fall through things, although I must say that as gimmick shows go, it’s been more successful than some of the others. Extreme Rules has hits and misses, depending on whether the match merited whatever gimmick it’s been given. Money In The Bank is a dead horse being flogged, as I wrote last summer. Sorry to harp on this, but these specialist match types need to be freed from the constraints of certain times of year and instead used only when a certain feud merits it. I have greatly enjoyed the return of old pay-per-view names like Backlash and No Mercy; I would like to see this expanded so that the surviving gimmick shows- Hell in a Cell, TLC, Extreme Rules, Money In The Bank and Elimination Chamber - are replaced by Unforgiven, Fully Loaded, Vengeance and so on, with the booking and writing doing what’s right for the story. It is, I think, the reason why NXT is so popular amongst hardcore fans: The Revival epics against American Alpha and DIY gradually upped the intensity level to the point where they HAD to end with some form of extreme stipulation. That is just how pro wrestling should work.

So, that’s my list...I’m sure you all have yours, so why not share in the comments section down below?

Until next time, this is Maverick, requesting flyby!