Hitting the Ropes – the Season of Boring

We’re entering the “Season of Giving” which is a welcomed relief for wrestling fans.  Fortunately the “Season of Boring” is now behind us.  As JR likes to say “business is about to pick up!”  Thank God.

Thanksgiving is now one of my favorite holidays.  It’s not just because the Dallas Cowboys are always are on TV, or because I eat like I’m the third member of the Natural Disasters.  Nope, it’s because it feels like Thanksgiving is the official start of Wrestlemania season.

I know there is another pay-per-view in a few weeks.  I think it is “Tables, Ladders, and Chairs”, or maybe it is “Bragging Rights”, or “Hell in a Cell”, or “Money in the Elimination Chamber with Extreme Rules”.  After a while all the WWE PPV’s start to sound like the titles of James Bond movies: “Tomorrow Never Knows When the World is Not Enough to Die”.  Even though there are 11-12 pay-per-views every year it is really starting to feel like one 2-3 of them really matter.

I’m not saying that each pay-per-view doesn’t feature some great wrestling, or that each show doesn’t have 1-2 matches that are, as we say, “worth the money”.  And I’m also not saying that the wrestlers themselves aren’t killing themselves to produce quality matches.  I do believe that each wrestler goes to the ring trying to do their very best.

But I’m talking about history, and when you look back at WWE history, VERY rarely do you remember what happened at “Bragging Rights”, “Elimination Chamber”, or the others.  Don’t believe me?  Without looking on the Internet, what was the main event from Extreme Rules 2011?  Good luck.  And how many pay-per-views don’t even exist anymore?

Think back to Extreme Rules this past April.  For some reason Brock Lesnar was booked to lose to John Cena.  The match was fine, but what did that do for either guy?  What did the match do for the WWE?  The feud never went any further.  The match really didn’t make “sense”.  You bring back Brock Lesnar so that he can lose his first match clean (under Extreme Rules guidelines).  What?

The pay-per-views these past few months exemplify exactly what I am talking about.  The wrestling has been fine but the results, the main component of WWE’s storytelling, have been inconsequential.  From a grass roots standpoint look at the lack of title changes in recent months.  I like long, meaningful championship reigns, but the lack of title changes since summertime is pretty interesting.  I know the Miz lost his Intercontinental belt to Kofi, but the Intercontinental championship lost its glamour a long, long time ago (don’t believe me, watch Wrestlemania III).

I also know Big Show won the World Heavyweight championship, but did that feel important to you?  Where is the impact?

For my money only two of the shows are “must see TV”: the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania.  All of the other shows are basically filler…one title defense or gimmick match after another, most no better than what we see each week on Monday Night Raw.  Of course there are exceptions.  CM Punk’s victory over John Cena at “Money in the Bank” in 2011 was special.  That match holds up.  It was as good as WWE can offer.  Sadly those matches are few and far between.

Even two of the most historic shows, SummerSlam and Survivor Series, have been marginalized.  SummerSlam did good business for the WWE this past year, mainly due to the Brock Lesnar – Triple H match-up.  In general I thought it was a good show, but what was its historical importance.  After the show Triple H returned to the corporate offices and Brock returned to….I don’t know, somewhere, just waiting for Vince to use him again.  And honestly can you name 1-2 other matches on the card anymore?

Survivor Series has really gotten lost in the shuffle.  When the show made its debut in 1987 it featured “teams of five striving to survive!”  These were very unique matches at the time, and the show was actually on Thanksgiving, so it felt extra important.  Now we are lucky to get one “traditional” Survivor Series match on the entire card.  The show lost its place in history and that’s a shame.

Who do I blame for all of this?  The WWE itself.  One problem is the sheer number of pay-per-views.  Having these shows every month forces the company to “build” their storylines quickly.  Then the WWE rarely books definitive results because they need to keep rolling into the next show.  Are you really surprised that CM Punk and Ryback are headed towards their 3rd straight pay-per-view match (with each featuring a certain gimmick – Hell in a Cell, triple threat, and now TLC).  It seems like Ryback just made his debut and now he is headlining pay-per-views with the world champion?

Another problem is the actual cost of the shows.  Look, I understand the WWE’s need to generate revenue.  In general I have no problem with that.  But after a while all the pay-per-view shows start to blend together, so I’m not paying $59.99 every month.  I imagine that I would watch them if they were on cable television but that seems like an awful lot of money for these transitional (read – unimportant) shows.

NOTE: I know the pay-per-view shows are streamed somewhere on the Internet, but as I’ve written before, I’ve been a WWE fan since 1985 and I like supporting the product.  If the show is worthwhile I have no problem paying money for the programming.  So I’m either in or out.

Another problem facing the WWE right now is the 3 hours of Raw we see every week.  In some respects the 3 hours are fine because it allows certain members of the roster to be showcased who otherwise would be cut from the show.  It’s nice to see the tag team division regain some traction (although I don’t find the many of the current teams interesting) and the Divas are actually allowed to wrestle for more than 2 minutes.

But after watching 3 hours on Monday night I’m pretty much satisfied for the week.  I’ve gotten my WWE fix.  I started watching Main Event but now I just read the results.  Same with Smackdown.  (And don’t even mention Saturday Morning Slam…).  I don’t really feel like I’m missing anything because most of the roster is on Monday nights anyway.

I understand that the business has changed since I was a kid, and that the WWE has changed with the times.  The monthly pay-per-views and longer weekly shows are a byproduct of the WWE’s need to answer to their investors.  So I will just have to deal with these things if I want to keep being a fan.

But to me the biggest problem with the current WWE product is how they’ve used the Rock.  Right after Wrestlemania 27 it was announced that the Rock would face John Cena in the main event of Wrestlemania 28.  A full year away!  I love the Rock.  And I even like John Cena.  But announcing a match 12 months in advance seemed to render the other matches throughout the year as less significant.  Part of the fun of watching wrestling is not knowing where we will end up.  Rock-Cena in Miami was fine but it was hard to maintain energy for 12 months.

Then it was announced that the Rock would challenge the WWE champion at this coming year’s Royal Rumble.  C’mon, again?  Not only does this undervalue the full-time performers on the roster, but do you really think “Rock vs. Ryback” is the match Vince was talking about?  The Rock is facing CM Punk in January, and while I am excited for that match, it doesn’t make me care as much about this coming week’s show.

The Royal Rumble has always been one of my favorite dates on the calendar.  I like the fact that the winner of the Rumble is guaranteed a championship match at Wrestlemania (well, unless the WWE changes their mind and screws that person at the Extreme Elimination Chamber in the Bank, whatever the February show is called).  But now the Rumble feels a little less special too because we all know the Rock is moving on to the main event Wrestlemania 29, most likely with the WWE title around his waist.

So I guess the Rumble winner will challenge for the world heavyweight championship in New York.  But wasn’t the fun NOT knowing which champion the winner would challenge?

More and more it seems like the WWE is treading water until the Rock is reintroduced next month.  I like him, and I’ll be excited to see his matches.  But maybe more than anything I’ll be excited that the WWE will matter again.

Well, at least until April.

— David B. (@dlb19338)