Like every other professional sporting or entertainment product, professional wrestling is an opportunity for people to watch individuals do things that they themselves are unable to do. However, wrestling, particularly as it is presented by WWE, while mostly being a great form of entertainment, sometimes presents things, or asks fans to accept things, that make the product difficult to watch and enjoy. This piece is not talking so much about the presentation of the matches, because there will always be good matches as well as matchups that do not work so well. This is about so much more.
There are some things in professional wrestling, especially in WWE, that sometimes make fans want to turn the channel to another wrestling company, or to the flavor-of-the-month reality show (i.e Real Housewives of …). It is common knowledge that everything that is presented is courtesy of WWE owner Vince McMahon, and he has stated that he knows what the fans want more than they do, but even Vincent Kennedy McMahon is wrong sometimes. There are some things that WWE simply does not need, because these things, at times, simply make the product difficult to watch, and a product that is difficult to watch is even harder to enjoy.
15 15. Three-Man Announce Teams
Along with heel commentators not being necessary, there is really no place for three-man announce teams anymore. In the past, the three-man team consisted of a play-by-play guy who called the action in the ring, a baby face commentator who extolled the virtues of the good guys, and the heel commentator who did the opposite. Today’s WWE requires the commentators to be “storytellers”, discussing story lines and other segments while occasionally talking about the match in the ring, and this does not require three men.
Two men could sufficiently talk about story lines and the match in the ring when something significant happens. This worked well with Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon, and works today with Jim Ross and Josh Barnett on the NJPW broadcasts. With only two men, whenever there was a guest at the broadcast table, there wouldn’t be four voices trying to get in over each other and the broadcasts would sound much smoother. Simply put, what Vince requires from commentators can easily be accomplished with two men, and would work better than three.
14 14. Unnecessary Face/Heel Turns
If two men are feuding and the perceived hatred has been built up over time, and the big match is the blow-off of the feud, then the hatred is perfectly placed. However, when two babyfaces are challenging for a title, one does not have to experience a mini-turn just to add intrigue to the match. Two athletes should be able to compete for a top prize without the addition of hatred into the competition. One man defending a title against another man who covets the crown can happen between two friends in a sportsman like manner.
HBK was one of the most popular wrestlers in the company when he challenged Hulk Hogan. But instead of two popular wrestlers facing each other to determine who the best was, Michaels turned heel on Hogan, got booed, and wrestled a heel match, only to shake Hogan’s hand and thank him for the opportunity once it was over. This could have happened without the unnecessary turn. Again, two good guys should be able to face each other from time to time without one of them having to temporarily turn just to make the match more “interesting”.
13 13. Comedy Segments With No Real Purpose
The Harlem Globetrotters are sports entertainment. They mix their basketball skill with comedy bits, but the comedy almost always ends with the ball going into the basket. Professional wrestling, as presented by WWE, is also considered sports entertainment, primarily because of the excess number of backstage skits. What is perhaps the most unnecessary of the entertainment portion of the shows is the purposeless comedy vignettes. The parties that end in food fights, and guys like Santino Marella and R-Truth playing the fool in situations that do not lead to matches, could be made into a comedy-style show for the WWE Network, but have no place on a wrestling show.
On a wrestling show, everything that is done should eventually lead to a match, and this type of filler truly has no place. It is bad enough that WWE fills up so much time with recap videos, but when they also throw in the comedy sketches, fans can’t help but wonder how many matches could have filled those spaces, especially when the shows include matches that are plus or minus one minute long. Twenty minutes of seemingly unnecessary content followed by a one minute match comes off as if the creators of the show have their priorities out of order.
12 12. Repetitive Matches Between Feuding Opponents Before PPV
Leading into ECW’s Barely Legal 1997 PPV card, Taz and Sabu were feuding to see who the top guy in ECW was, aside from the champion. What made this feud so special was the fact that these two men feuded with each other for over a year without ever touching one another. They were able to develop intrigue for their eventual match with pull-aparts, promos and matches against the allies of each other. By the time that they had their match, the fans were eager to see them fight, and they didn’t disappoint.
Today, especially in WWE, guys who are feuding fight each other in some form nearly every week on television. With so much contact between the two guys, by the time that they have their PPV match, there is not much that they can do to one another that hasn’t already been done, either during a match or in an attack. If contact were kept to a minimum, then the PPV matches would offer much more that hasn’t been seen, and even a subpar match would seem better because of the unknown elements that could be brought into the encounter.
11 11. 50/50 Booking in Feuds
Once the two feuding men finally have their match, there will invariably be a winner and a loser. Sadly, in WWE, unless the match is for a title, the winner of match one will almost always be the loser of match two and vice versa. This type of booking, 50/50 booking, makes feuds and WWE television, at times, boring and unpredictable. Fans can often guess what is going to happen based on what previously happened, and WWE is not shy about airing recap videos to remind fans of what has already happened.
Having opponents constantly trade victories means that the matches are predictable, and that there is no true winner of the feud when it is over. Winning the blow-off match no longer has the same meaning that it used to. Today, victory in the last match just means that the wrestler was able to tie the score, meaning that not only is there no true winner in the feud, but neither wrestler gains from the experience.
10 10. Gratuitous Triple Threat and Fatal Four Way Matches
The purpose of Triple Threat and Fatal Four Way matches is that a situation involves more than two wrestlers, and all of them have a stake in the spoils of the match. What makes these types of matches bad is that WWE feels that having a person not win without actually being the loser lessens the impact of not winning on the person not involved in the decision. However, this could still be achieved the way that ECW used to; with the Three-Way Dance.
In this format, everyone is defeated (pin or submission), and the last man standing is the ultimate winner. This was, in a three-way, the person who was the first one defeated is still strong because it took two wrestlers to defeat him, whereas, not being the loser in a Triple Threat means that the wrestler was simply not involved in the outcome. It does not make the wrestler stronger as all it does is eliminate the person from the storyline.
9 9. Finisher Kickouts
A finishing move is supposed to be just that; a move that is so potent that when it is executed on an opponent, the victim is incapacitated and loses the match. When a wrestler kicks out of another wrestler’s finisher, instead of making the wrestler look stronger, it makes the move look weak, and makes fans wonder how the move defeats some wrestlers and fails against others. There are ways to use finishers without diminishing them and without insulting the fans’ intelligence.
In other companies, particularly in New Japan, finishers are used with care. In matches, finishers are countered, hit near the ropes, or hit after a ref bump. Either way, the matches do not end because the finishers are not hit cleanly. Once a finisher is hit cleanly in the middle of the ring with a conscious ref, the match ends, and there is no kicking out. This way, the move maintains its integrity, and wrestlers don’t look weak because the wrestler survived until he or she couldn’t any longer.
8 8. False Rhetoric in the Internet Era
When Randy Orton was preparing to face Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2016, the WWE announcers told the fans that this match was going to be the first time that Orton and Lesnar had faced each other. The reality was that the two men had faced each other on an episode of SmackDown in 2002 when Brock was champion facing a young Orton. The sad reality was that WWE tried to pass this information off as fact in an era when any information can be gleaned from the internet, and the fans knew that the announcers were not telling the truth.
In the kayfabe era of professional wrestling, announcers could say whatever they wanted because the fans had no idea what was fact and what was hype. However, in the internet era, when information is readily available on nearly every topic, it is not smart to try to fool the fans when the truth can be found with a few clicks. Again, it is an insult to the fans’ intelligence, and it is unnecessary. Stating that it was their first match in 14 years would have made the match just as intriguing.
7 7. Heels Forgetting How to Wrestle
Many babyface wrestlers are excellent in-ring performers who can execute the most difficult moves with relative ease. However, when these men or women become heels, suddenly, many of them forget how to wrestle and try to get by on only heel tactics. They are presented in this way even though talented heel wrestlers like Paul Orndorff, Rick Rude and Seth Rollins were quite effective in their roles.
Sometimes, having a heel who is a better wrestler than his opponent can generate much more heat, because being able to talk a good game and then back it up can be an asset to a character. However WWE likes to have heels who don't do anything but kick and punch, but when they are turned, they suddenly become a technical master. During his time, Ric Flair was the best wrestler, but as a heel he was also a cheater, and this made him nearly impossible to overcome.
6 6. Heel Commentators, Even When It's Not Warranted
For perhaps as long as professional wrestling has been televised, there have been color commentators who have favored the heel wrestlers at the behest of the good guys. Sometimes the heel commentators were entertaining, like Bobby Heenan or New Generation era Jerry Lawler, but other times they were simply annoying, like JBL or Attitude era Jerry Lawler. With Vince stating that there are no “good guys” or “bad guys”, just shades of gray, then is there really a need for heel commentators?
The purpose of the heel commentator is to play up the virtues of the bad guy, and to paint the food guy as the cheater, all while the bad guy is noticeably cheating. However, in the practically everything goes environment of today’s professional wrestling, heels simply so not get heat through dirty tactics like eye pokes and foreign objects anymore. Since this is the case, then heel commentators who pretend that this is not happening are just not necessary.
5 5. Flavor of the Month Title Challengers
The pursuit of a title in wrestling can be an exciting ride that ebbs and flows to a conclusion, whether or not the challenger wins the title. WWE does not feel this way, especially with the top titles on their shows. WWE feels that at each PPV, that is each month, there should be a new challenger to the titles. In other words, stories between champion and challenger have to start and end within 4-5 weeks, and this is not enough time to create a memorable saga.
Having a new challenger every month also means that the champion blows through the company or the brand too quickly, and after a short while, there will be no logical challengers for the title. This creates frequent title changes, or a champion who has trouble drawing because he has done everything, and there is nothing left or the fans to see. If Vince McMahon believes that he “makes movies” with his performers, then his “movies” should include compelling stories as opposed to quick hits that don’t amount to anything meaningful.
4 4. African-American Wrestlers with Dancing Entrances
The Junkyard Dog, Tony Atlas, Koko B Ware. R-Truth. Naomi. Rich Swann and Cryme Tyme have all spent time in WWE. What unites them is the fact that they are all African-American professional wrestling stars, and that, as presented by WWE, they all had entrances that required them to sing, dance or rap their ways to the ring. Other wrestlers have entrances that make them look tough, but these and other black stars have entrances that only make them look like clowns.
If someone is coming out for a match, seemingly, they would be focused on the matter at hand, and would not have time to rap a song or do a dance. However, in WWE, black wrestlers come to the ring singing and dancing in anticipation of getting punched in the face, which doesn’t make much sense. Sure, it is entertainment, but Bobby Lashley and Jay Lethal in ROH come to the ring as confident wrestlers, and not like vaudeville stars.
3 3. Escape Cage Matches
In wrestling, cage matches were used whenever either someone kept interfering in matches between two individuals, or whenever the cowardly heel champion kept leaving the ring, allowing himself to be counted out. Inside of the cage, the two wrestlers fought, there was no interference or running away, and a decision was reached. In an effort to be different, cage matches were changed to where the winner could be declared either by climbing out of the cage or by going through a door. This does not make sense because if the point now is to leave the cage, then why be in a cage in the first place?
What’s worse is the fact that WWE introduced the blue bars cage in the 80s because Hulk Hogan had trouble climbing a chain-linked fence. The opening in the bars were so wide that bad guys could easily slip foreign objects into the cage, rendering the cage even more meaningless, if such a thing is possible. If a cage match is supposed to end a feud, then a climbing contest or a race to a door does not prove who the better wrestler is.
2 2. Gimmick Match PPVs
In accordance with cage matches supposedly being the end of feuds, seemingly, featured matches at gimmick match PPVs should also serve the same purpose. However, because WWE has these types of PPVs on the regular schedule (Hell in the Cell, Extreme Rules, TLC, etc.), sometimes the gimmick match is the first or second match of a feud. Not since the writings of Russo have feuds been rushed through so quickly, but the presence of these shows makes it necessary.
Feuds should not go from first contact to a TLC match or a Cell match, because hatred should not increase exponentially as this is not good storytelling. These things should increase gradually, leading to the violent blow-off match after several encounters. WWE paints itself into a corner each time one of these cards is next, but the company’s collective ego will not allow them to admit that the violent matches so early in feuds do not make sense to the narratives.
1 1. Contract Signings
Again, the age of the internet makes certain things ridiculous and unnecessary, and the staged contract signings is one of those things. Internet-savvy fans all know when matches are booked, and they also know that all of the wrestlers are signed to the company. This means that they perform when and where they are instructed, and in whatever matches are created for them. So when there is a contract signing for a match held, it is another insult to the intelligence of the fans.
Everyone knows that the contract signing is just an excuse to create intrigue for a feud with a fight or a pull-apart, but as earlier stated, too much pre-match contact between combatants is not always a good thing. Even in the instances when wrestlers break the fourth wall and state that there will be no violence during the contract signing, there is usually a fight of some sort. With the high number of authority figures on WWE television (something else that could have been on this list), all that is needed is for someone to come out and announce a match, and the wrestlers would be obligated to comply, without the necessity of a contract signing.
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