For the longest time, the WWE has been the defining company for professional wrestling. With the days of the territories and the Monday Night Wars long gone, the WWE has become the most notable company for professional wrestling on earth. And for good reason, as some of the biggest names in sports entertainment have emerged from the company. Household names like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Macho Man Randy Savage, and other well-known wrestlers were either original Superstars made in the WWE or were changed up a bit and promoted in a way that made them into the legends we now revere them as. With years of good wrestling, memorable encounters, and millions of dollars made, the WWE is internationally known as the biggest wrestling company in the world. And perhaps it’s because of the WWE’s secure place on top that they have been producing a lackluster product over the years.
Ever since the end of The Attitude Era, the popularity for the WWE has been on a decline, but that decline was somewhat expected as shows rarely stay largely popular for years upon years. However, since 2012, the buzz and popularity around professional wrestling have been on a more severe decline than ever before. And while most people think that the WWE has some good things going for it, it clearly isn’t enough to provoke the interest of the masses.
And so, this article will examine why the WWE’s shows are at an all-time low and may very well be the worst it’s ever been.
15 Too Much Content, Little to No Quality
Back in the day, WWE PPVs used to feel like big events that you were excited to see. While they did go a little overboard during the years of the brand split with the sheer number of shows, they still seemed as if they were trying their best to put out quality entertainment with stacked cards to entice TV viewers to buy the PPV. With the creation of the WWE Network, the company now offers these PPVs for a very, low price and the quality of the shows feels almost exactly the same as the cost. Not only has the quality of PPVs gone down, but the quality of all their other shows has decreased as well. Raw is a three-hour chore rather than exciting TV, SmackDown has become irrelevant, and most of the WWE Network specials do little to nothing to advance the show.
Plus, with the news of more PPVs coming this year as a result of the brand split, the WWE will have a ton of events but little to nothing interesting happening on them as history has shown. And as long as their obsession with putting out content exceeds their need for making quality shows, the more PPVs will only mean more subpar shows.
14 They'll Never Have Competition Again
The Monday Night Wars were the result of WCW Monday Nitro beating Monday Night Raw in the ratings so badly that the WWE was forced to work harder to create stars, memorable encounters, and all the things needed for fans to watch their show instead. That competition allowed truly talented individuals like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Triple H, The Rock, and other wrestlers to show their skills.
Today, the WWE safely puts out a weak product knowing that there will never be significant competition for them again because they have become the juggernaut of sports entertainment in the United States. No indie wrestling companies, regardless of how highly praised, will ever have the money, time, and fan base to compete with the WWE. And with no real competition, the WWE knows that fans of wrestling will probably tune in no matter what they think about the current product. And to some degree, that is true as the ratings haven’t gone below a two…yet.
13 PG Product Limits the Show
Another major reason why the WWE product has seen a decline is due to the nature of the show. While The Attitude Era and Ruthless Aggression Era wrestling focused on catering to teenagers and adults, today’s product is aimed for kids. This has severely impacted the WWE and has led to goofier gimmicks, more control over what the wrestlers say, and pseudo-hardcore matches.
Wrestlers who would probably do much better with more freedom are restricted to memorizing lines, wrestlers billed as being lunatics come off more as goofballs, and wrestlers who would thrive using hardcore spots and weapons have to settle for the same old spots that are constantly repeated. And perhaps the worst thing about all the sacrifices the WWE has made to aim their product at children is the fact that the biggest portion of their audience is still teenagers and adults. So clearly, the teenagers and adults are the main ones supporting the product, but they are being ignored in favor of children, who spend more on merch.
One of the things that helps wrestlers get over is the excitement and energy the commentators put into selling what was going on. Great commentators like Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Jim Ross, Joey Styles, Paul Heyman, and others have contributed greatly to the shows by making everything sound epic, even when it was something over the top.
The same cannot be said for today’s commentary as the WWE now has a three-man booth with commentators who either say irrelevant things, mispronounce moves and mistake wrestlers, or just don’t offer anything of substance to the show. And instead of adding to epic moments, they tend to take away from them. A great example would be Shane McMahon preparing to hit the elbow from the top of the cell at WrestleMania while the commentators did nothing to bring up his bravery, his high-risk style, his children at ringside, or anything else that would help the match. Aside from fixing storylines and characters, the WWE needs to change the commentators or how they commentate desperately.
11 The Crowd Either Hijack Shows or Don't Care
In the past eras of the WWE, almost every arena was filled with fans who were pumped to see some of their favorite Superstars cut promos and wrestle. Fans were emotionally invested in the little things, like the relationship between Macho Man Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth to the point where they were brought to tears when the duo got back together.
Fast forward to the present and the fans today either want to hijack the show and make it about them or they don’t care about anything, but the marquee guys. The only time that they can get a lively crowd is to go to a city where the wrestling fans are smarter than average, but then the WWE has to worry about those crowds tendencies to hijack segments, as well as their tendency to boo faces and cheer heels. Now some of this is the fault of the fans for being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, but the majority of the blame falls on the WWE for not giving the wrestlers great characters, promos, long enough match time, and enough hype beforehand to feel important to the fans in attendance.
10 Storylines are Way Too Predictable
If you were asked to name a good recent storyline from WWE that was unpredictable (in a good way), what would you say? The CM Punk-John Cena feud? Other than that, what feuds would you say have been good and unpredictable. The truth is, most of the WWE storylines now are way too easy to predict and as a result the product is stale. The reason why fans didn’t want to really see Triple H and Roman Reigns was because the story was poorly booked and they knew exactly what would happen. Even the feel-good storylines, like Daniel Bryan vs. The Authority at WrestleMania, are extremely easy to predict.
Wrestling storylines used to have a bit more excitement because the shows were booked in such a way that you couldn’t always tell what was going to happen. These days, the WWE doesn’t take any real risk or chances and as a result the show is stagnant. Every storyline is safe and predictable and when it’s not predictable, it typically isn’t good.
9 The Women's Division is Still Kinda Bad
When three of the Four Horsewomen got called up to the main roster, fans of women’s wrestling were hoping that the Divas Division in the WWE would change for the better. And while there have been some improvements over this past year, the fact remains that the Women’s Division isn’t that much better than it was before. The only things that have really changed are their championship belt and the length of some of matches, but the majority of their problems are still there.
Only a few of the women have character, some of their promos aren’t that good, their acting hasn’t improved, and most of the matches themselves aren’t that interesting. The only women who truly matter on the show are Charlotte and Sasha Banks and as a result of this, the WWE seems to be waiting until SummerSlam for them to face each other. Ironically enough, the changes the WWE made to the Women’s Division has resulted in them having the same problems the rest of the roster has. And if they can’t book the men right, it’s highly unlikely that the women will be booked right either.
8 Promos Are Bad Across the Board
It has become almost a requirement of hardcore fans to constantly bash Roman Reigns for his skills on the mic. And while Reigns is not very good when it comes to promos, the truth is that the majority of this roster aren’t really any better. The bar has been lowered with what people consider good promos to the point where simply talking without stuttering is now thought of as a good promo. No one really says anything that makes you laugh or sounds catchy like wrestlers used to. Even today’s wrestlers who are hailed as great promo cutters don’t really hold a candle to great promo guys like Mick Foley, The Rock, Macho Man Randy Savage, Stone Cold, and others.
Take the greatest promos done by Kevin Owens or Dean Ambrose and compare them to some of the great promo cutters of the past and it’ll become blatantly obvious the difference in their abilities. Now this may be due to the scripts everyone is forced to read, but the fact remains that these wrestlers aren’t delivering in the areas they need to.
7 Veterans/Part-Timers Outshine the Main Roster
WWE used to be great with bringing in legends and using them to the best of their ability while protecting the stars with potential on the current roster. Today, the part-timers and veterans are so much better than the rest of the roster that it’s quite frankly embarrassing. Very few wrestlers stack up to the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, Triple H, and Chris Jericho in regards to being the total package and the ones that are close have yet to have been given credibility to matter to the show.
Kevin Owens, for example, had a fantastic debut year by beating John Cena in his first ever match and had a nice run as the Intercontinental Championship, but has yet to really build upon that since. WWE’s reliance on these part-timers has been so strong that the WWE have reportedly attempted to recruit old WWE Superstars to help with the star power of the show. Maybe it’s because the past generation is better or maybe it’s the WWE’s fault for not doing enough with the current generation, but they’ll never know unless they give them a chance.
6 Little to No Legitimate Stars
The WWE has little to no stars on the roster who didn’t come from any pre-existing era in the WWE. John Cena and Randy Orton are both wrestlers from The Ruthless Aggression Era who stayed with the WWE through the new eras. The closest thing the WWE has to stars are the members of The Shield and even they don’t seem to be doing much for the company. Seth Rollins as champion caused a big ratings decline, Roman Reigns as champion caused a bigger ratings decline, and Dean Ambrose doesn’t seem to be doing any better so far.
Past eras would be filled with talented wrestlers who had good characters and wrestling ability, while today’s roster’s only claim to fame is that the quality of the matches on average has increased, which really hasn't done that much in the grand scheme of things. This is no one’s fault but the WWE’s for scripting these wrestlers so much and squandering the opportunities to make new stars. And if they can’t create any new stars soon, the company might see an even bigger decline in the future.
5 More Focus on Matches Than Stories
In the past, the WWE was always good at having great stories while still having really good matches. In fact, this belief in good wrestling, drama, twists and turns, and all the other thing that the WWE did, is probably why Vince McMahon refers to the WWE as the Sports Entertainment business rather than just the wrestling business. However, looking at the WWE today, there has been a bit of a paradigm shift in how the WWE goes about doing things.
Nowadays, the WWE seems to care more about the quality of the match rather than the storylines and character. The match is the ultimate pay off to whatever story occurs, but the buildup and story heading into a match is what gets people invested. As stated earlier, the storylines are basic and predictable to the point where you pretty much know how everything will happen after one segment. Many people claim that this roster is more talented than any roster in WWE history and if that’s true, then focusing on the match quality is irrelevant. Most of the talent on the roster is average or above in the ring, so focusing on making characters better would probably help boost the ratings.
4 Ratings Are Terrible
WWE television is not being received well by the casual fan base and the evidence of that is in the severe decline of the ratings and viewership. The ratings this year have been some of the lowest in the company’s history and seem to reach new historic lows each week. While the WWE hasn’t had Attitude Era ratings in a long time, the company used to consistently get between three and four million in viewership with an average of about three in the ratings. In 2016 alone, the ratings heading into WrestleMania were down significantly from just last year and after WrestleMania the ratings decline has been so bad that the WWE is heading to less than a two in the ratings.
Many wrestling fans claim that this is the fault of the WWE pushing Roman Reigns and making him the focal point, but with Dean Ambrose now the WWE Champion and Reigns out due to his suspension, the ratings still haven’t increased. Some fans even attempt to claim that TV ratings don’t matter, but that doesn’t explain the high ratings of the NBA Finals, American Ninja Warrior, The Walking Dead, and all the other shows on at similar times. Whether WWE needs an off season to keep the show fresh or if they're pushing the wrong people, the fans clearly aren’t satisfied.
3 Raw is Too Long
One hour of wrestling is quick and easy to watch, two hours of wrestling is fine as well, but three hours of wrestling is too long for a week-to-week basis. Even for a good show, three hours would still be pushing it, but for the show to be as consistently bad as it is and for it to be as long as it is means that the show isn’t as fun nor is it easy to get through. Everyone thought that going to three hours in 2012 would mean that some of the lower card guys would have the chance to shine and that storylines would be more detailed, but that has yet to happen in the five years that Raw has been a three-hour show.
Now, the return of the brand split and separate creative teams may help the shows go smoother, but if history is any indicator then this probably won’t change much of anything.
2 They're Way Too Stubborn
The WWE used to be great at promoting the right wrestlers at the right time because when they saw that something wasn’t working as well as they needed it to, the WWE changed some things around to make it work. A perfect example would be how the WWE originally wanted Randy Orton to be the one to beat Triple H for the title, but the company had to change their plans and use Batista instead because that was the better story. Today, the WWE would benefit greatly from a few character changes, but they refuse to do so at the expense of the wrestlers.
Roman Reigns, who seems much more comfortable in a heel role, has been forced to act like a clean cut babyface. Rollins, whom everyone was ready to accept as a babyface, was forced to revert back to his heel persona. WWE’s habit of following through with their plans rather than the best course of action has been one of the biggest reasons as to why the show is so predictable, why there is no buzz around the current product, and why little to no new stars have been created. And as long as they are stuck in their ways, the product will either remain stagnant or decline even more.
1 No Effort
Whether it’s because they're waiting until the brand split begins or if they really have no ideas right now, recent shows by the WWE seem completely devoid of effort. Wrestlers contradict themselves week in and week out, most matches are just rematches with the exact same stipulation as before, and there is nothing to get excited about. It’s one thing to have a bad show every once in a while, but the sheer consistency of these bad shows indicates that no one is really trying.
A great example would be the Raw episode for the 4th of July and how they didn’t even try to have a good show. The current roster may not be as good as previous ones as far as star power goes, but surely more can be done than what they’re currently doing.
Overall, the WWE needs to try a lot harder to make interesting storylines, memorable encounters, better characters, and make WWE must-see TV again. Otherwise, the flagship shows of professional wrestling on TV may be gone in the future. This brand split will be a huge part in dictating the WWE's future, so let's hope for the best.