With the WWE Network and the sheer amount of pay-per-views WWE are pumping out right now, there is more content than ever before. Raw, SmackDown Live, NXT, 205 Live plus everything else they do, WWE just has so much time to fill. As a die hard wrestling fan, you’ll hear no complaints from me. A few problems do arise from having that much programming though. WWE may have a huge team of writers more or less constantly working to produce content to fill that time, but they’re only human, and yes that only human comment also applies to Vince McMahon no matter what he may have you believe. Not everything Vince, Triple H and the rest of the writers come up with is going to be a home run.
The current landscape in WWE right now is a vast one, and if you scan across everything they’re doing you’ll find a lot of great stuff and equally a lot of not to great stuff. On one hand WWE has perhaps the most talented roster they’ve ever had whereas on the other hand some of that incredible talent is being misused. You may watch an fantastic NXT Takeover on a Saturday night only to follow it up with a mediocre main roster pay per view the following evening. What I’m trying to get at is WWE is often evenly split between doing good things and bad things. Here are ten of each that are taking place right now in the company.
20. Right: Asuka’s Streak
Following her Triple Threat win at NXT TakeOver: Chicago, the NXT Women’s Champion Asuka officially overtook Goldberg’s legendary undefeated streak in terms of length of time she has gone since her debut without being beaten. So many male stars like Shinsuke Nakamura and Finn Balor have come and gone while Asuka has been battling all comers in NXT and it has led to her accomplishments being somewhat overshadowed. When you give her the attention she deserves though you soon realize how well WWE is doing with her at the moment. Asuka legitimately seems unbeatable right now and when WWE finally decides to have her lose it will be a landmark moment and whoever pulls it off will become a star themselves over night.
19. Wrong: Shinsuke Nakamura
From the moment I saw Shinsuke Nakamura perform in NXT I fell in love with him. He’s the most charismatic star to walk through the doors of WWE in a long time. That love was also mixed with a feeling of dread however as I was immediately wondering how Vince McMahon would view Shinsuke upon arrival at the main roster. One year later that move has happened, and my fears have been realized. Someone clearly mentioned to Vince that Nakamura is a rock star and that he takes inspiration from Michael Jackson and Mr McMahon has just jumped on those two aspects. I thought it would be impossible to screw up Shinsuke considering how talented he is but so far no good on SmackDown Live. It is early days yet so I’m far from abandoning all hope but something needs to change when it comes to WWE’s booking of Shinsuke Nakamura.
18. Right: The UK Scene
I’m British myself so not only have I been constantly frustrated since I started watching pro wrestling almost 20 years ago that almost everything WWE is so far away, I also know that the amount of talent in British wrestling right now is at an all time high. Quite rightfully WWE are now capitalizing on that. It began with a UK tournament back in January of 2017 that was a roaring success and over the course of the weekend a couple of stars were born, namely Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate. Those two in particular have gone from strength to strength and put on the match of the weekend, maybe the match of the year, at NXT Takeover: Chicago. A weekly show emanating from the UK is apparently in the works but for now I think little and often from WWE is working extremely well.
17. Wrong: 205 Live
One of the main reasons I don’t want WWE to rush into anything with the proposed UK show right now is because of what we’ve seen happen with the cruiserweight division. During the summer of 2016 the hottest thing in wrestling was the Cruiserweight Classic. Following the 32 man tournament many of the competitors signed with WWE. So many in fact that they have since launched a weekly show, 205 Live, that features solely competitors who are 205 pounds or less, so cruiserweights. Fair to say the show has not been a success. Even adding Neville and Austin Aries hasn’t generated much more interest in the brand. It’s a real shame as the men competing on the show are all incredible athletes, but unfortunately the over exposure of them has led to fans simply becoming disinterested.
16. Right: AJ Styles
To my knowledge I can’t think of anybody in the modern era who had a quicker ascent to the top of the pile than AJ Styles. The Phenomenal One even completely bypassed NXT which is something ill afforded to many Superstars these days. Then less than a year after his arrival in WWE he was the company’s champion. It was all very quick and it was all completely warranted. AJ has competed all over the world and is undoubtedly one of the greatest wrestlers on the planet right now so he deservedly needs to be a top guy in WWE. When he talks and competes on SmackDown Live each week you’d be fooled in to thinking he’s been there his whole career. Even though he’s not champion WWE have basically made him SmackDown’s top guy in John Cena’s absence and that is 100% the right decision.
15. Wrong: Tag Team Wrestling
When I was growing up watching wrestling during the late ‘90s and early ‘00s tag team wrestling was awesome. From The Dudleys to Edge and Christian, even rewind back to the generation before that with the likes of The Road Warriors. Tag team wrestling has always been a staple of pro wrestling. In the present day however it really doesn’t mean much at all. The return of the Hardy Boyz at WrestleMania 33 garnered a little interest but even that momentous return is beginning to wear thin. The trouble is I don’t even know exactly what it is that WWE is doing wrong, but whatever it is tag team wrestling is simply uninteresting right now on both Raw and SmackDown Live.
14. Right: Scouting The World
It seems that every day WWE becomes even more of a worldwide brand. In the past you would only see Superstars from another country on WWE if they needed them to play a villainous heel, or simply to be made fun of. While that is still the case in some instances, you can’t fault the sheer amount of work and effort that the company put in to scouting the planet for new talent from all over the world. If it wasn’t for Triple H, William Regal and a whole host of others working in WWE Developmental we wouldn’t have seen half of the wrestlers that we now consider household names in a WWE ring. Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, Hideo Itami, all non-American wrestlers who may never have made it to WWE had they been around during a different time in the business.
13. Wrong: The Secondary Titles
There was a time in WWE where being any kind of champion meant a lot to the man or woman holding that championship. Nowadays the Intercontinental and United States Championships are almost completely overlooked. Honestly before writing this entry I had to rack my brain to remember who actually holds the former of those titles right now. Throughout the 1990s becoming Intercontinental Champion was a proving ground before winning the big one. Stone Cold, The Rock, Shawn Michaels, they all held that once prestigious belt before making it big. Nowadays it’s merely a prop that some Superstars almost forget they even have around their waist. It really is something WWE needs to address so that both of those titles are once again given more meaning.
12. Right: Alexa Bliss
During the summer of 2016 WWE performed a draft and once again split their roster in two. As a part of that draft six talents from NXT were brought up to the main roster. The biggest surprise of those six picks for many of us was most likely Alexa Bliss. Bliss hasn’t made much of a splash in NXT and it felt far too early for her to be on SmackDown Live. As WWE have since proved, that was not the case and when they put their minds to it they can make a star out of whoever they like. In less than a year Alexa has gone on to win three Women’s Championships and is the first female to do so on both brands since the draft.
11. Wrong: The Rest Of The Women’s Division
While Alexa Bliss is the standard bearer for the women of WWE, the rest of the division on both Raw and SmackDown Live is floundering a little bit. WWE really were on a roll with the female side of the business throughout 2016 but in 2017 they’ve dropped the ball a little. Charlotte and Sasha Banks were the best thing on Raw for a long time, now Banks is involved in a throw away feud with Alicia Fox while Flair has not made the impact on Tuesday nights that we thought she might. That second one is especially detrimental following Bliss’s move to Mondays. On SmackDown WWE has regressed back to putting all of the women in the same match together each week so they only need to give them one segment while on Raw as I mentioned, Alexa is the only shining star. WWE really needs to address that considering the Superstar they potentially have in Bayley, they’ve really dropped the ball with their resident hugger.
10. Right: Finn Balor
Harking back to the Nakamura entry from earlier in this list, Finn Balor is another former NXT star that I had the same concerns about. Fortunately WWE and Vince McMahon have clearly seen the value in the Irishman. Last year they of course made Finn their inaugural Universal Champion, but even more recently since Balor’s return from injury they’ve utilized him well. He may not have won his championship back quite yet, but judging by his encounter with Paul Heyman on Raw recently it would seem that Balor may be on a beeline to a showdown with current champ Brock Lesnar. Many fans are on the fence about seeing that match but even if Finn loses, that’s one match I trust WWE to book to make The Demon look strong no matter which way the result goes.
9. Wrong: Too Many Pay Per Views
WWE seem to think that more is always better. Well trust me Vince, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes the tired, old cliché that less is more really does apply, and since the draft I can most definitely attest that less is more applies to WWE pay per views. Thanks to Raw and SmackDown Live having their own unique rosters, most months we are being bombarded with two PPVs a month. Not only is it too much, but it also leaves very little time for stories and rivalries to build between big shows. No sooner had John Cena won his latest WWE Championship at Royal Rumble in 2017, he had to defend it in an Elimination Chamber just two weeks later, leaving only two editions of SmackDown Live to build to what was a huge match. I understand that WWE has a whole Network to fill with content, but please reign it in when it comes to PPVs.
8. Right: Something For Everybody
WWE gets a lot of flack from more hardcore wrestling fans for some of the entertainment based segments they air on television. The more vocal fans will cite that they simply want to see the in ring action, that the influx of talented independent wrestlers currently with the company should be the ones always in the spot light. Well that simply isn’t realistic. WWE is a worldwide brand that is attempting to appeal to an array of demographics all within the same show and like it or not they do that, and they do it well. On the same show that you’ll see Kevin Owens and AJ Styles put on a wrestling clinic, you’ll also see Tyler Breeze threaten The Usos with a mop, plus witness Jinder Mahal become WWE Champion. They have hours upon hours of programming each and every week and for the most part WWE utilize it well in order to appeal to as broad an audience as they possibly can. You might not like every single minute of it but guess what? You’re not supposed to.
7. Wrong: Part Time Talent
Take a look at the match order for WrestleMania 33. There were ten matches on the main card. Of those ten, six of them contained Superstars that you could consider part timers. While I understand that WWE brings those wrestlers in to get as big an audience as possible for their biggest show of the year, to me that is simply not okay. The likes of Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, and even John Cena nowadays just disappear at this time of year and it’s the full time Superstars who maybe didn’t get a prominent place on the WrestleMania card because of those part timers that are left to pick up the pieces. Instead of relying on these big names from the past WWE should be focusing on the wrestlers they have all year round and making them into WrestleMania headliners because trust me, the talent really is already there.
6. Right: Braun Strowman
No one’s recent rise to the top has been more pleasantly surprising than Braun Strowman’s. When The Monster Among Men arrived as a part of the Wyatt Family in 2015 it was safe to say that he wasn’t the greatest wrestler. Fast forward a year and a half and Braun is quite deservedly hovering near the top of the Raw roster. In fact before his untimely injury recently it appeared that Strowman was on the fast track to a Universal Championship showdown with Brock Lesnar. It would even appear that Braun’s injury is being worked in to his persona by WWE. The company have told us that it’ll take around six months for Strowman to return whereas it would appear that in reality the time frame will probably be about half that. If that is the case that will only further Braun’s monstrous persona as he returns from injury well ahead of time to pick up right where he left off.
5. Wrong: Mismatched Champions
Jinder Mahal as WWE Champion is not seen as the best decision by a fair few fans, and that’s putting it mildly. While I personally think Mahal as champ is a breath of fresh air, I can certainly see why his title win has been rejected by an awful lot of fans. The main problem for me if I were to pick one is how much of a mismatch there is between the two champions on Raw and SmackDown Live at the moment. Tuesday nights have a man who was effectively a glorified enhancement talent up until about two months ago while on Raw you have Brock Lesnar, a man who managed to take down Goldberg and is such a big star that he hasn’t even had to show up since his big title win. If WWE really want Raw and SmackDown to be considered equal then it starts with the champion of each brand, and right now they are poles apart.
4. Right: SmackDown Live
While their current champion may be mismatched compared to Raw’s, pretty much everything else SmackDown Live is currently doing makes it a better show than WWE’s supposed flagship. First of all, and maybe most importantly, the blue brand only has two hours of TV to fill each week. Even the most hardened fan will struggle to make it through three hours of Raw each and every Monday. SmackDown on the other hand is a whole hour shorter and let’s be honest, is packed with more popular talent. Between AJ and Owens and Sami and everyone else, it’s hard not to prefer Tuesdays to Mondays when it comes to WWE. Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan are doing a great job as the faces of the brand and I can only see it going from strength to strength.
3. Wrong: Not Keeping Reality And Kayfabe Separate
We’re not stupid. We know that pro wrestling is a pre determined business and that the Superstars who perform on WWE television are effectively actors. However, that being said because of it being live, wrestling is an odd blend of fiction and reality. As wrestling fans we like to believe that the characters wrestlers are portraying in the ring might actually be what he or she is like in real life. That the two Superstars going at it really do hate each other. With the advent of social media it has become increasingly difficult to suspend our disbelief. When we see Charlotte and Becky do battle on TV then post on Instagram about how they’re best friends it really does take away from it all. WWE should enforce some rules and take some sort of stance on this as I truly do believe it wouldn’t be difficult and would very much improve the business.
2. Right: NXT TakeOver
It’s no secret that NXT has been a huge success over the last few years, although most fans would probably confess to finding the weekly show a little slow sometimes despite the brand’s success. What Triple H and the rest of the team at NXT always get right however is their NXT TakeOver shows. They almost always take place on Saturday nights and piggy back on the weekend of a bigger WWE PPV, and pretty much every time blow their main roster peers out of the water. The latest example being TakeOver: Chicago versus Backlash the following night. Every match on the Takeover card delivered with the UK Championship match being a contender for match of the year. Backlash however was a lacklustre show that yes had its moments, but it did not live up to what had gone on in the same building the night before.
1. Wrong: The Push Of Roman Reigns
No prizes for guessing who sits atop the ‘getting it wrong’ side of this list. I don’t know why WWE have been so insistent on digging their heels in with their plans for Roman Reigns, but I think they’re coming dangerously close to people not caring anymore which is even worse than getting booed when you should be cheered. They’ve had so many perfect opportunities to turn The Big Dog heel yet they’ve let them pass by. It seems like such a simple switch to flip, and one that would lead to an incredible run for Roman. I can only imagine that the man himself is itching to turn after how the fans have treated him these past two years. Do it WWE, and do it now because sooner rather than later it really will be too late.
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