Professional wrestling, and the WWE in particular, could be considered a live-action soap opera or a variety show of sorts.
Since it’s inception, it has been built on, and revolved around the wrestling match. Two competitors may step into the ring to face each other in a basic one on one affair, or they may fight in a Steel Cage, or even a ring surrounded by the raging flames of the Inferno Match. Tag Team, Triple Threat, First Blood, Hardcore, Last man Standing, Handicap, and Iron Man matches are just a tiny fraction compared to the vast array that have been woven into the fabric of the industry. Men and women settle scores, and bring their differences and affliction to its breaking point within the four sides of ring ropes. In the grand scheme of things, the match is the destination, and everything else is just a part of the journey to it.
Every rivalry, story-line, or angle is the driving force that builds up, and promotes the match; which should always be meaningful and have a certain, specific value to the overall development and unravelling of the show. Whether it’s supposed to put a talent “over”, or start a rivalry, or even act as a building block to promote a bigger and better fight down the road; every match must have a purpose, and serve that purpose. You cannot build a house without a foundation and a frame, walls and a roof, or plumbing and electrical; so on the same token, you can’t possibly have a successful show about wrestling without having matches that serve particular purposes. A match should ultimately be like a puzzle piece that is paramount to the complete picture.
This has been the standard in the WWE since the beginning, but has somehow gotten shifted to the back burner recently. We seem to be living in the generation of “I win one, then you win one”, and so on and so forth, which is like a swift kick to the “bread basket” of every viewer, and every fan. We want to be so interested and compelled, that we have to keep our eyes glued to the television because there isn’t a chance we could ever miss a single second. On Superbowl Sunday, football fans aren’t going to feel like they don’t care about watching the big game. During the NBA Playoffs, basketball fans aren’t going to say “I’ll just skip my favorite team’s game”. However, during an episode of RAW it may be very easy to change the channel. The emotional investment and drama of an entire season all culminating at the end of a year is what sports are made of. It’s what makes fans love their sports, and stay loyal to them. These elements are always consistent from year to year in every sport, except professional wrestling and the WWE!
All of the best feuds in the history of the business have been built on great matches, and then eventually climaxed in great matches. So what the hell happened to this philosophy and train of thought in the WWE? I don’t understand how having The Big Show and Kevin Owens taking turns riding the top rope to eventual, lackluster count-outs for each other in back to back weeks is any type of service to the show. I think it’s actually an all-around disservice to the show, and everyone involved in it. There is no reason to want to watch this type of garbage when it’s happening for no reason, other than to kill time on a show that’s probably too long in the first place. We want unpredictability, and content that we can latch our emotions onto, not stuff we can laugh at, and dismiss as a crap-fest. Have they forgotten that wrestling really is so much more, and so much better than that? I can tell you exactly what it’s been feeling like as of late, and that’s all filler, no thriller, and no killer! There’s no more shock and awe, repetitive matches with zero meaning to the show, and what feels like bare minimal efforts being put into the details of the product on television. Everything and everyone at the WWE must be feeling the tremors from this right now with stocks and ratings down, sales and attendance at shows is down, and the fan base is shrinking rapidly. It’s all certainly challenging and testing the WWE right down to their roots.
Either the WWE starts making the necessary changes, and being fluent with every show, every angle, every story-line, and every match; or they can start their slow and steady decline into self-induced demise. Somebody please tell these people at WWE to go back to the basics first, before starting things that don’t really make sense, and never seem to have a clear ending anyway. If I said that I didn’t see the longest, drawn out, and most uneventful angle unfold between Goldust and R-Truth over the last month and a half, I would say “please look me in my eyes and call me a liar”. The whole thing is just awkward and confusing. These two guys are so talented, and so much better than this, and it’s pathetic to see their talents wasted in such a way; especially when the initial idea was good, but it’s just a case of the ball being dropped on this one. You can call me crazy, but I would think that it has to be pretty tough to work a legitimate angle in the WWE for 6 to 8 straight weeks, when there are no matches involving both men. One of the guys coming down and doing color-commentary, or just standing outside the ring during the others match is totally pointless. This might “do it” for some fans, but it definitely doesn’t work for me. It means nothing when it’s done pretty much every week. Why not put them in a tag team match together one week, and then have one be the special guest referee in the other’s match the next week? This is just an example off the top of my head, and it’s still seriously more intriguing than the current plot. It’s a perfect example of mismanagement, and sweeping great performers under the carpet, and into the realm of indifference.
I want to be clear that I’m not blaming the wrestlers, or anyone in particular at the WWE. I’m observing as a fan; a writer; a critic; and someone who has a profound love and passion for professional wrestling. I’ve been watching wrestling since I was 3 years of age, and this is the lamest I’ve ever seen the WWE get, being in the midst of this so called “PG Era”. I personally don’t believe that WWE killed wrestling by telling everyone that it’s always been a “work”, and it’s all planned out. I knew this when I was 5 years old and it didn’t change my huge interest in it, or love for it. Kids basically know that their comic book heroes like Superman and Ironman are not real, but that doesn’t make these characters not awesome, or any less impactful. Comic book heroes are as prevalent, if not more prevalent in society, now more than they ever have been. That is because the driving forces behind these things are doing it right and staying consistent, always crossing their T’s and dotting their I’s. I’m able to draw these comparisons because to me, professional wrestling has always been like a live, real life comic book. The point is that if Batman was taking nights off, and constantly forgot where he parked his Bat Mobile, everybody would think batman was a silly joke; kind of the way most people are looking at the sport of professional wrestling and the WWE nowadays.
As a fan, it pains me deeply to see that the WWE is at the forefront of the industry today, just like they have been for the last 35 years, but neglect to fully utilize all of their resources. They have lost the lifeblood, and backbone of what makes professional wrestling great. I don’t want to see the fall of the WWE empire, but if they keep shoveling dirt over their goldmine, it will eventually, and inevitably vanish and dissolve. Solid structures aren’t built on unsettled foundations and warped boards; so it’s time for the WWE to reassess, restructure, and rebuild the product and brand before it’s too late.
Weebles may wobble and not fall down, but wobbly legs shake and buckle, enabling the rest to collapse, and come crumbling down.
By: Ian Patrick Gagnon