World Wrestling Entertainment unofficially kicked off what is currently being referred to as its “New Era” following the WrestleMania 32 show that aired in the spring of 2016. Roman Reigns was once again crowned as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, a decision that was met with mixed reactions among pockets of the fan base. That title has since been changed to the WWE Championship due to the fact that the much-maligned brand split of old will be returning during the current summer months. Raw and SmackDown will be shows separate from each other for some time, and this will lead to wrestlers linked to the NXT brand receiving call-ups to the main roster so that they can be drafted to one of those shows.
Wrestling fans cannot be blamed for feeling skeptical about the WWE going in this direction. We have, after all, already seen a WWE version of a brand split and we know how that movie ends. The hope, moving forward, is that those tasked with executing storylines have learned from mistakes made last decade and will get things right this time around. There are, of course, a plethora of booking decisions that would theoretically set the WWE up for success. Some of them have to do with which wrestlers are featured on which brand, while others have more to do with programming than with the in-ring product. In a perfect world, those of us in charge of making such important choices would be able to decide the length of a certain program that airs live every Monday night.
15 Get Ronda Rousey
We understand that this technically is not a booking decision as of the posting of this piece, but we are in charge in this fictitious world and thus we are running with the idea. Ronda Rousey is a known fan of professional wrestling, a legitimate Ultimate Fighting Championship Superstar and somebody who is seemingly winding-down her fighting career, even if she does decide to make a return to the cage before the end of 2016.
We are signing Ronda Rousey, we are making her the female version of Brock Lesnar and we are establishing a plan that involves Rousey being an unstoppable monster for years to come. Rousey not only generates attention on social media and from sports websites such as ESPN, but Rousey would be one of the biggest female stars in the history of the company, and having her eventually drop the title down the road would make a future star. No offense to Paige VanZant, but we’ll take Rousey and Rousey alone for now.
14 American Alpha Become Stars
NXT is filled with an excess of talent. Many of those wrestlers should be on the active roster even before the draft the precedes the brand split takes place. American Alpha may, all things considered, sit atop the list. The duo of Chad Gable and Jason Jordan make for the best overall team signed by the WWE today and the two can go with the best of them inside of the ring. Sure, American Alpha may need some work on the microphone. We have a solution for that: Kurt Angle.
It seems, at this point, that Kurt Angle will never again wrestle inside of a WWE ring. We wouldn’t need Angle to wrestle to serve as a mentor both on-screen and behind the scenes for the two future stars. One of the first things we are doing is legitimizing the company’s tag team division by putting the straps on American Alpha.
13 Use Shinsuke Nakamura Correctly
There was no reason, even before he signed with the WWE, that anybody should have believed that Shinsuke Nakamura could not elevate anybody on the roster just by having a match with that person. Nakamura has left no doubt of that during his brief, albeit memorable, stint in NXT. We’re obviously calling Nakamura up to the main roster immediately.
While it would be silly to use Nakamura on every show because he is such an attraction, we will provide him with a slow build all the way to the top of a brand. We’d even be willing to start Nakamura off feuding with the likes of The Social Outcasts. Admit that it would be both funny and awesome to see Nakamura deliver a knee that sends Bo Dallas all the way back down to NXT. Come to think of it, that leads us to our next booking decision.
12 Use NXT
NXT exists for multiple reasons. It is a developmental system for up-and-comers and also for established talents who need to adapt to what the WWE wants from performers. NXT is also a stand-alone brand responsible for touring shows. Why not, then, have NXT serve as a second chance for wrestlers who maybe did not originally make it on the main roster?
The company has already done this with Rhyno. We would be willing to have Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel and others also work on NXT shows to provide assistance for others and also to replace talents who are called up to the main roster. Yes, the WWE needs bodies with the brand split, but that split will likely strip NXT of much of its major talent. The WWE should not necessarily have to raid every independent promotion such as Ring of Honor just to sign wrestlers. Besides, not everybody on a wrestling roster can be a World Champion and main eventer.
11 Turn Seth Rollins
The WWE had a perfect storyline presented to it when Seth Rollins went down to a serious knee injury in November 2015. Rollins had to forfeit his title even though he never lost a match, and Seth working to return to full fitness and make it back to the ring to win back his title is enough to make for one of the top babyfaces in the WWE.
The organization dropped the ball, however, and kept Rollins a heel. We are righting that wrong. We’ll begin by showing different portions of the special on Rollins’ comeback that aired on the WWE Network. We’ll then have Rollins work with and defeat some of the top heels in the WWE. Pockets of fans are already treating Rollins as a babyface during the summer, so we are going to let him run with the ball and even see if he can take the spot occupied by Roman Reigns.
10 The Club
It is almost hard to imagine that some fans could have doubted that A.J. Styles could play a good heel in the WWE as leader of “The Club.” We love the idea of a faction of outsiders joining together to form a heel stable, so much so that we are going to add to The Club to a point.
Austin Aries is ready for prime time today and he would make for a fantastic addition to The Club. Bobby Roode could also work. Unlike World Championship Wrestling and even the WWE, we know our history and are not doomed to repeat it. We will not allow The Club to become watered down before we abandon the idea. For the next year or so, however, The Club would serve as maybe the top heel faction in all of the WWE. Yes, that means Styles will eventually become a champion of one of the brands.
9 Female Wrestlers on One Show
Remember that we are booking in a world where the brand split exists and also where the WWE is pushing female Superstars as equals to their male counterparts. While NXT has churned out several noteworthy women’s wrestlers over the past several years, the overall division is not nearly deep enough to split it up among two different shows. Thus, we are putting the women on either Raw or SmackDown and then giving them adequate time to shine on television and during special events such as a pay-per-view card.
The long-term goal here is to one day have two women feature in a WWE main event, which has already happened in NXT. We may even try to recreate Bayley versus Sasha Banks, but this time in front of a much larger worldwide audience.
8 Split Up the New Day... For Now
We can actually see the disappointment and even anger in the eyes of those of you rushing to the comments section to respond to this portion of the piece. Sorry guys and gals, but New Day ran its course some time ago. Those three wrestlers deserve so much credit for taking a joke of a gimmick and turning it into something that fans around the world embraced.
As of July 2016, however, there is now not much more to do with the idea. We’re breaking New Day up and putting different members on different brands to ensure that fans will realize the gimmick is gone for good. Remember that you don’t know what you’ve got until it's gone and you can’t miss New Day until the faction is off of your televisions. We promise to bring New Day back in due time, but we’re first going to see if any of the three can swim against the current on his own.
7 Finn Balor
It does not take a market expert to see Finn Balor has the “it factor” required to draw attention to casual fans and also to sell merchandise to adults and children. Bringing Balor up to the main roster immediately is a must, if only because he has nothing else to do in NXT.
While we believe Balor has the goods to be a top star in the company, Balor's character would not go undefeated for all that long. Finn’s “Demon” character, however, should and would stay unbeaten for a significant amount of time, perhaps even past WrestleMania 33. This would make that portion of Balor’s character special and even separate from the individual who would cut promos and wrestle on television shows. It also allows us to save a Balor loss for one of the biggest events of the year, and that loss would theoretically allow a different wrestle to gain momentum.
6 Samoa Joe vs. Brock Lesnar
This is admittedly no long-term answer for any company, let alone for the WWE. Booking this feud is nevertheless one of the first things we are doing if given the opportunity. No championship would even have to be on the line to make Samoa Joe versus Brock Lesnar fun. The two monsters would simply have “mean guy matches” over and over again, and every one of those contests would delight fans. As we will mention later in this piece, Lesnar would only be used for special occasions. That makes this feud all the better, as it could theoretically be spread out over years. Assuming that Lesnar only has so much left in the tank or that he may consider making more of a full-time return to the UFC, Joe would have to emerge victorious when all is said and done.
Having Joe defeat Lesnar would hopefully, in the eyes of fans, produce a new top heel who could main event any show of the year.
5 Properly Use Bray Wyatt
Maybe the biggest mistake made by the WWE during the current decade involved the mishandling of Bray Wyatt. Wyatt could have been this era’s version of The Undertaker, a character straight out of the 1980s but one that remained over among fans because the person playing the role could sell it inside of the ring and on the microphone.
Just as the WWE rehabilitated Brock Lesnar after having Lesnar lose to John Cena for reasons that still make zero sense, we believe that we can save Wyatt. Even if The Undertaker has, in fact, decided to remain retired for good, Wyatt could be responsible for finishing off a supernatural character for good: We’re looking at you, Demon Kane. Wyatt may never be a draw worthy of holding a WWE Championship for a year. That’s fine. Neither was The Undertaker, but his entrances and his matches nevertheless remained special for decades.
4 Let Roman be Roman
Roman Reigns doesn’t actually suck, regardless of what anybody may say or think about the matter. The problem with the babyface turn of Reigns, other than the fact that some fans prefer Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose over Reigns, is that Reigns was positioned to be the next John Cena. There is only one person who is able to perfectly play the Cena role.
The WWE was never going to strike gold a second time with a similar character, especially when the Reigns character is the one tasked with pulling off that goal. Reigns is good in the ring and he can be solid on the microphone if he is allowed to play more of a “tweener” role than of a complete babyface. No, Reigns probably isn’t the next “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, but he should, to borrow his line, play a character who is neither a good guy or a bad guy. That is more true than ever now that we know Reigns earned a suspension due to violating the WWE Wellness Policy.
3 Keep Brock Lesnar Special
You do not need to possess inside knowledge on buyrates, television ratings and merchandise sales to see that some of the shine is off of the figurative apple as it pertains to Brock Lesnar. This was unavoidable in some ways, as the WWE never intended on making Lesnar this unstoppable force who won every match and who headlined every major show.
With that said, Lesnar can still be kept special and be featured in a plethora of never-before-seen contests. The WWE seemingly understands this, as the company has scheduled Lesnar to wrestle Randy Orton as SummerSlam assuming that Lesnar does not suffer a serious physical injury when facing Mark Hunt at UFC 200. Lesnar should have one more run with the WWE Championship before eventually putting over a hoped-to-be future star and no, we aren’t talking about Roman Reigns. We promise we wouldn’t do that to you.
2 No Multiple Monthly Pay-Per-Views
Even hearing pro wrestling journalists such as Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez suggest that the WWE is going to use the brand split as a reason to have multiple monthly pay-per-view is enough, to steal a phrase once used by Owen Hart, to make our blue blood boil. One reason NXT became such a fan favorite among viewers is that the brand followed a classic formula for building feuds. Storylines have months to grow before a Takeover show and those Takeover shows only occur a handful of times per year.
The upcoming brand split presents the WWE with an opportunity to follow this booking pattern for both Raw and SmackDown. Six Raw special events coupled with six similar SmackDown shows is more than enough. Heck, even that may be too much in the long run assuming that NXT will continue on in its current path for the foreseeable future.
1 Length of Raw
In this simulation, we are given control of more than just storylines and who gets to be a champion of a specific brand. We also get to work with NBC and decide the lengths of the shows that air on USA Network. It is hardly a hot take to suggest that three hours is too long for any weekly wrestling show regardless of how good or how bad Raw may be at any stretch of time.
Viewers currently have to watch between 12-15 hours of live programming if they do not want to miss anything, and that does not include SmackDown, NXT or any other shows that air on television or on the WWE Network. It is all too much. The best way to improve the New Era in the WWE is to drop Raw back down to two hours. This would give wrestlers, writers and fans breaks that everybody needs.
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