There was a time when the WWE used to about wrestling. There was a time the WWE used to be about shock value. There was a time the WWE used to be about championships, real moments, kayfabe (the secrets behind wrestling) and continuity. There was a time that the WWE used to care.
These are all things that you’ll hear from wrestling fans who are of the glass is half empty variety. And, there are a lot of those fans. No matter what the WWE does nowadays, there will be someone ready to criticize, bash, and speak negatively about what they’re watching week after week. They can’t seem to help it. Yet, they watch.
The WWE is aware that fans are loyal. Perhaps, in a way, it’s led to some complacency. After all, these glass if half empty members of the WWE Universe are not entirely incorrect. There are many things that used to mean something in wrestling that don’t mean much anymore.
But what are those things that have fans in such an uproar? What is the WWE doing (or not doing) that motivates loyal viewers to reach out on the internet and openly bash the product they love so dearly?
Below are 15 things that used to mean something in the WWE, but no longer do. From titles to tag teams, this list spans back years and in some cases days. Some things got lost in the changing of eras. Some have to go to keep with company policy. But, some should still be a part of wrestling and in that respect, the WWE is failing.
15. Fan Reaction
When the WWE Universe speaks, the WWE listens. At least, that’s what the company wants you to believe. The idea that who the fans get behind and who they dislike dictates who the WWE pushes is extremely far from reality.
Take Roman Reigns for example. Because Vince McMahon sees dollar signs every time he looks at Reigns, the WWE has crammed him down the WWE Universe’s collective throats until the fans learn to accept him. In a way, they did the same with John Cena and countless other superstars. There was a time that stars became forces in the industry because fans made the WWE stand up a listen. Stone Cold Steve Austin, CM Punk, and Daniel Bryan are just a few of the names that had such strong fan followings, it changed the course of their careers. Those were times the WWE actually listened to the fans.
14. Strong Stables
If you thought that strong stables meant anything anymore, just take a look at the Wyatt Family or The Shield and describe how relevant they are in current WWE storylines. Then think back to the last time the WWE had a true stable of characters that made an impact and it lasted longer than a few months. It doesn’t really exist anymore and it doesn’t seem to be something the WWE writers use as a tool.
For some inexplicable reason, the WWE doesn’t stick to stables. Both the Wyatts and The Shield were the hottest thing to enter the WWE in years and the company either broke them up or let them fall apart. Long gone are the days of D-X, Evolution, The Nexus, The Straight Edge Society, the nWo or The Brood. Instead, fans get The League of Nations or The Social Outcasts. It’s a massively missed opportunity and kind of pathetic really. Maybe SAnitY will be the next true stable, but it’s not looking like it.
Understandably, the WWE has limited if not completely removed blood or blading from storylines and matches to keep with the PG product they’re trying to promote. With that comes a real loss in terms of building animosity between two opponents. When used properly, a little bit of blood can be a powerful tool used to add drama and emotion to an already brutal bout. It can turn a good match into a great match.
It’s not something that needs to be done often. In fact, it’s something that should be used rarely, but to completely try and remove it from all programming takes away a lot of what used to make the WWE exciting. Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, and Steve Austin gave the fans some of the most emotional moments in history using blood as an emotional technique.
12. Intercontinental Title
Perhaps putting the Intercontinental Championship back around the waist of The Miz is a step in the right direction, but the title itself hasn’t meant much in the WWE since the days of Mr. Perfect, Bret Hart, The Honky Tonk Man and others who made those championship matches must-see. Even the WWE itself does a lousy job of making the title feel important.
It seems no matter who holds the belt, where the matches are placed on the card doesn’t bode well for any superstar trying to make it relevant. How can anyone expect that the title to be taken seriously when it’s continually on the undercard or pre-show for major events? The answer is they can’t and until the WWE does something about it, the Intercontinental Title will continue to feel second-rate. If not for Kevin Owens, the U.S. Title was on it’s way to the same fate.
11. Storyline Continuity
Whether it was the imposter Kane, Adam Rose’s bunny, McMahon’s $1 million dollar giveaways, Hornswoggle as McMahon’s illegitimate son, GTV or the unlimited and unexplained Bella turns, the WWE just simply dropped storylines for no reason at all. This isn’t something that would have flown back in the day. It has become difficult to understand why the WWE seems to think fans won’t notice.
The only thing that’s worse than dropping an angle is that from month to month, even week to week, people who hate each other are suddenly on the same team and people who were friends became enemies for really no reason at all. The WWE Universe doesn’t know why and it’s rarely explained, it just is what it is. It leads to fewer rivalries that matter and real grudge matches are a thing of the past.
10. Fresh Matches
This is a challenge that the WWE will face from now until the distant future and it’s not something most fans have a solution for, but as long as the WWE pumps out as much programming as they do, fans will continue to see the same people facing the same people in match after match. Even in the Superstar Shakeup, the WWE moved people from the same show and had them feud on the new show. Why?
Fresh matches and feuds are the key to gripping new storylines and angles the WWE Universe can get invested in. Even years ago the WWE used to realize this and brought in new talent on a regular basis to take on their biggest names. There was a time that the WWE would introduce a big bad monster every few months to take on their champ Hulk Hogan. Hogan would almost always prevail, but fans didn’t care. It was a new heel to face their babyface champ and it worked.
Everyone knows now that the WWE isn’t real. That’s not been a secret for years. Those wrestlers who still believe in keeping kayfabe (staying in character and not revealing what goes on behind the curtain) need to catch up with the times. That said, the WWE could use a little touch of kayfabe to its advantage.
In a time that everyone knows the wrestlers hang out and are close friends (even during their feuds) the WWE could seize an opportunity to blur the lines. Two feuding wrestlers can act like they don’t like each other. Use social media to lash out, put them in positions where the comments feel a bit too real or don’t let them hang out for a couple months. If the WWE Universe thinks there is legit heat between two people, especially in a time where everyone likes each other, it could sell like hotcakes. Look at the few times the WWE have done it recently. The Miz and Daniel Bryan or The Miz and John Cena were some of the most interesting moments in recent memory.
8. Creative PPVs
It’s difficult to determine what shows mean anything any longer. The WWE has so many pay per views that outside of WrestleMania, SummerSlam and the Royal Rumble, is there a single show that is can’t miss? From the about to happen Great Balls of Fire event to Backlash, No Mercy or a host of other PPVs that are so pointless people wonder why the WWE even has them, the company needs to get back to selling shows that have a large buildup or the results carry forward and matter.
Even the Royal Rumble, which is largely marketed as the PPV where the winner gets a main event shot at WrestleMania, has become an event that is more about surprises than legit feuds and the recently chosen winners have been questionable at best.
7. The Element of Suprise
Today, there are three ways the WWE may surprise you. First is with returning or incoming wrestlers at the Royal Rumble. Second is with the draft. The third is the Monday night after WrestleMania. That seems to be pretty much the only time that the WWE will tease you with a debut, a return or a mystery opponent.
Not long ago — especially during the WCW vs WWE days — there was rarely a week that went by when you didn’t tune in expecting to have someone show up or something surprise you that you weren’t expecting. In fact, if you missed one week of programming, you risked missing history. With the WWE able to hire wrestlers on a per appearance contract and being the only real show in town, they have no real excuse. That the element of suprise is no longer a part of WWE storytelling is perhaps a result of the internet and how hard it is to keep a secret.
6. Tag Team Wrestling
In the ’80s and ’90s, some of the biggest single’s competitors first came after being a part of a bonafide tag team. Today, tag teams seem to be built when the WWE can’t figure out what to do with two single’s wrestlers. The WWE seems to be trying in recent years to rebuild and redefine the tag team division and returns of teams like the Hardy Boys should help, but they’ve since reverted back to teams like Sheamus and Cesaro or pairings like Heath Slater and Rhyno to lead the tag team ranks. Even teams like The New Day are a team of three and not a traditional tag team as defined in the old days.
Anytime the WWE brings in a team that has an opportunity to really become important (see Gallows and Anderson), the WWE buries them before they have a chance to gain any steam. It’s a matter of time before teams like American Alpha or The Revival become largely irrelevant (if they haven’t already).
In today’s WWE, a good match means that each wrestler has kicked out of the other’s finishing maneuvers two or three times before someone finally gets a pin. Take for example the Goldberg and Brock Lesnar matchup at WrestleMania 33 this past year. Lesnar kicked out of spears and jackhammers while Goldberg kicked out of F5’s. That would have been unthinkable in either wrestler’s heyday.
There was never a time in the rise of guys like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Jake Roberts or The Undertaker that someone kicked out of their respective finishers and if they did, it was a huge and marketable storyline unto itself. Basically, if a wrestler escaped a finisher, it was huge news. Today, it’s nothing more than a part of any lengthy match.
4. Faces and Heels
It’s not so much that having true heels facing true babyfaces is important, but the loss of any distinguishable allegiances or personalities make it difficult for the WWE to get wrestlers truly hated or truly loved. Today, wrestlers are only truly hated when the fans don’t agree with the company’s decision. As such, the company seems completely fine with letting performers like John Cena and Roman Reigns walk the line as tweeners and the WWE suggests that they’re simply happy with the WWE Universe reacting.
There are very few wrestlers left who understand the art of being hated or loved. For example, Chris Jericho is a rare breed because he will not sell merchandise of his own when he’s a heel character. He believes that it makes no sense for fans to wear his gear and show their support when he’s supposed to be hated. He’s one of the few true heels left. But, when he’s a babyface, he comes up with some of the most creative ways to get fans to cheer for him.
3. The Referee Knock Out
When is the last instance a WWE match had a good ole’ fashioned referee knock out? There was a time that when the WWE booked a match that was to end in a suspicious fashion, one of the best ways to make it so a wrestler could get away with breaking the rules was for a referee to “accidentally” get knocked down and out of the action. Once that happened, wrestlers could break the rules. It was a simple idea, but it worked wonderfully.
Today, it’s a rarely used technique and wrestling matches don’t abide by the rules much. Wrestlers wander outside of the ring with free will. Count-outs are almost non-existent. Disqualifications don’t happen often and the referees play a vastly different role in the storylines. In fact, they’re almost always ignored. Instead, the WWE tries to outthink themselves. It isn’t needed and a simple revert back to some of the rules of years ago could make for much more interesting programming.
2. Hall of Fame
The WWE Hall of Fame has quickly become a mockery. Nowadays, the company has realized that with one headliner, they can get away with pumping in a variety of undeserving fillers. Worse yet, any glance at the list of recent inductees will make you realize someone was getting lazy when they omitted certain wrestlers to put in names like Rikishi, Drew Carrey, The Godfather or Beth Phoenix (not that those performers don’t deserve consideration at some point).
How the WWE can miss people like Lou Thesz or Owen Hart has people baffled. That the WWE took so long to induct people like Randy Savage or Bruno Sammartino also shows that the WWE Hall of Fame is not alway about who is the most deserving, but that politics still play a major role in the decision-making process.
1. Winning Streaks
The moment the WWE decided to take away The Undertaker’s winning streak at WrestleMania, nothing was scared. When the person who defeated him was then pinned in seconds by an older, out of shape Goldberg was undeniably odd. That a now part-time John Cena will probably unseat Ric Flair as the most winning heavyweight champion of all time is, to some, disturbing. That Asuka has passed Goldberg’s undefeated streak and it’s been barely referenced by the WWE it is astonishing. That tag teams and other championships are kept on performers just to advertise the fact that they could be the longest reigning champs, only to have them lose the titles moments later completely shames former accomplishments.
These are just a few examples of ways the WWE has decided that winning streaks aren’t nearly as important as they’d like you to believe they are. There are some records that should never be broken. The WWE believes the opposite.
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