ULTIMATE INSIGHT: Consistency, Continuity, and Collateral Damage
By Ian Patrick Gagnon
Anyone who is a current fan of WWE programming in 2016 may feel like, the majority of the time, it leaves much to be desired. They could feel like watching RAW or SmackDown is sometimes like trying to sip a rancid, sour glass of milk on a blistering 100-degree summer afternoon. Many may think wrestling has become so stale and played out that it could never return to its old form of exciting matches, compelling rivalries and in-depth storytelling. Others believe all of the greatest wrestlers have already had their time in the spotlight and no one, or nothing else, could ever really measure up to those “good old days.” Every fan seems to have a theory, just like me. I can’t buy that it’s any one thing that has brought WWE, or wrestling in general, out of the mainstream spotlight and into virtual irrelevance; it’s clearly a multitude of things. Lack of continuity and consistency from week to week is a huge problem that will plague a 2 to 3 hour broadcast and encourage viewers to swiftly change their channels to something a bit more interesting—THIS IS SHAMEFUL!
Every great period or “era” of wrestling, whether it be the infamous boom of the mid 80’s or the “Monday Night Wars” and “Attitude Era” of the late 90’s, as a fan you felt like there wasn’t anything else in this world that would be better than watching and being a part of that revolutionary time in wrestling history! In the late 1990’s when wrestling was at its all-time peak, entire families would get together on Tuesday nights excited to discuss the epic night of action they had gathered around the television to watch the night before. Co-workers and classmates alike, adults and children were infected with the wrestling buzz. Fans couldn’t wait to get to work or school to vicariously relive their favorite Monday night show with their wrestling pals. So, what has happened that has made the WWE not put the same kind of excitement and shock into the product? Have they become so complacent without any real competition that they are satisfied with anchoring their brand on a mediocre, cliché show about wrestling? Or is it possible that with the WWE Network in full swing, and the need to constantly be creating new content for subscribers, the same kind of efforts and time can’t be put into the fundamental aspects of “sports entertainment,” like controversial subject matter, shocking and original content, unpredictable rivalries and matchups, and the ULTIMATE GOAL of always leaving the viewers wanting more? It seems fair to think that maybe the WWE is juggling too many things at once and it’s hurting the core product, weekly shows, and pay per views.
With the monumental and blockbuster return of Shane McMahon on RAW this past Monday, WWE has clearly taken a huge step in the right direction. The thunderous roar of the crowd as soon as “Shane O’Mac’s” music hit was clear evidence that this was going to be something special the fans have been surely longing for, including myself. It’s not totally clear what direction will be taken with Shane back, or whether it will be long or short-term. There is a real risk booking The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon inside Hell in a Cell at WrestleMania. The jury is definitely out on whether or not this can be an exciting match considering The Undertaker will be 51 years old, and only wrestles once or twice a year, and Shane, now 46 years old, who hasn’t stepped in the “squared circle” for a match in over in over half a decade. The match does have potential to be special, thrilling, and historic, but I can’t reason why The Undertaker would even take this match. Has he sold his soul to Vince McMahon? Or, are we supposed to believe that he’s taking petty payoffs now? At this point it’s not feasible that The Undertaker would have anything to gain from taking the match so it’s imperative that WWE has planned an exceptional story to build this match and Undertaker’s place in all of it.
At least WWE has gotten most of it right thus far for WrestleMania, with Triple H vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose in a no-holds-barred street fight. These are two of the matches I deemed absolutely necessary for a successful show this year in my last article however, I still feel like Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker inside Hell in a Cell would be far better than the match that has been booked. There needs to be more consistency with every storyline and every show from week to week, which is what has been lacking so much in these shows lately. The Undertaker is returning to RAW this Monday, and we better have a damn good reason why he is going to face Shane at WrestleMania. These two men need to be on every Monday Night RAW from now to April 3rd to build this match the right way. Period. Great foundations were laid for the other two main events last Monday as Ambrose and Reigns both received vicious beatings from their respective counterparts; it felt like the perfect sparks to start getting these matches resonating with the fans. Such a great job was done on RAW building these matches but again, these rivalries need to intensify each week consistently with continuity to the climax on April 3rd, 2016 in Dallas, TX. The WWE must maintain the momentum they have created with these three WrestleMania bouts.
Too much talent is becoming completely irrelevant and immensely lost in the sports entertainment shuffle. The WWE has booked these “Big 3” matches so where does that leave EVERYBODY ELSE? The United States and Tag Team Championships have become almost non-existent in the shows as of late, and it’s certainly not a good thing with WrestleMania fast approaching. These Champions, and their championships, need to gain prominence now more than ever. I don’t think anyone really wants to see Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio again, it’s played out now! Maybe a Kalisto vs. Neville match for WrestleMania would be spectacular, in my opinion. The New Day needs a solid rivalry heading into the big event, and it appears as though WWE is pushing Chris Jericho and AJ Styles as a legitimate tag team that will most likely challenge The New Day for the belts at AT&T Stadium. Aside from the three matches already slated to take place at “Mania”, the rest of the card is a complete mystery at this point. Who knows what kind of match Kevin Owens will get for his Intercontinental Championship. I think “KO” is so good that any match he has turns out to be awesome, regardless of who he wrestles so it’s just a matter of who the WWE pits against him over the next few weeks. A Ladder Match would be the best option for Owens at WrestleMania, especially with the right opponent like AJ Styles or Chris Jericho. It will be interesting to see how these title matches play out in the coming weeks, and how the rest of the card will unfold.
With so many stars currently lost in translation and crowding the back seat on this winding “Road to WrestleMania”, it’s obvious the WWE is scrambling at the last minute trying to put together a great show and this is a product of the inconsistent shows that have led the way to this point. Everybody who is a “Superstar” for WWE deserves a chance to be a draw for the promotion. If they made it to the WWE, it’s for a reason; they only want the very best in the world. The bottom line is that nobody can be the “best” without being given opportunities. Every guy and girl in that locker room needs to be given more opportunities and creative freedom with their characters and roles in the show to flourish their potential and move the product forward. Having an injury ridden roster, NOW is the time for WWE to give chances to all these talents that wouldn’t have otherwise gotten one. Stay consistent instead of having a guy in one role on a particular show and then completely forgetting it the next week by moving on to something different altogether. Characters need to be on the shows every week, instead of once or twice, from time to time. If a storyline or “angle” begins, then it needs to end! It cannot be expected to be forgotten about and then move on to the next thing. It hurts the business; it makes fans change their channels; it hurts the creativity and drive within the talents; and most importantly, it shrinks the fan base! The same efforts have to be put into EVERY show to give wrestling another mainstream surge and win back fans.
We love wrestling, please don’t make us hate it!!
By: Ian Patrick Gagnon