A portion of WWE fans are perpetually calling for Vince McMahon's head to roll over this wrestler not being pushed or that storyline making less sense than paper pudding, but it's Vince's renewed XFL quest that might get them their ultimate wish. The WWE chairman has announced that his new Alpha Entertainment group will be working throughout 2019 towards the 2020 launch of the new/renewed football brand, and that means the WWE is in for drastic changes as the balance of power shifts, factions within WWE vie for that power in the vacuum left by Vince's preoccupation, and the reigns for WWE truly, for the first time, are up for grabs.
Not only is Vince's departure/diversion a major internal shift in WWE's hierarchy, but their new television deals with USA for Raw and in particular FOX for SmackDown Live are external factors that demand major changes to come. SmackDown Live will not only be moving to Fridays, but by all accounts will be morphed into a much more 'sports' oriented program rather than the classic WWE 'variety' show where comedy, drama, and shenanigans are preeminent.
We could be about to see the greatest shakeup to the largest wrestling company in the world since the Attitude Era. These eventualities even being a possibility should excite us no end, and if there's one thing wrestling fans can sink their teeth into, it's some major upheaval and the chance to invest in new aspects of our favourite entertainment.
It's been tried before in Impact Wrestling and SmackDown tried it for a cup of coffee just to start a feud between Bobby Roode and Randy Orton (with a side of Jinder), but genuine rankings associated with wins and losses could immeasurably up the value of even the meanest match taking place. Imagine seeing a Chad Gable upsetting AJ Styles and his ranking sky-rocketing him into title contention. Or perhaps Randy Orton takes a sudden loss to one of the Usos and just like that, Randy is no longer a perpetual title contender and Jimmy Uso can stake his claim for a singles title run.
Interesting stuff and most importantly, surprising without being implausible, the key to proper interesting stories in my (unwritten) book.
It has to come at some point and with the wealth of talent currently bottle-necked within NXT, I'm calling it now. A mass exodus from NXT upon one or both of the main rosters could fill up an entire year, Post-WrestleMania Raw to WrestleMania 36, with new, exciting, athletic clashes that make fans sit up and take notice again.
Shayna Baszler, Ronda Rousey and the MMA Four Horsewomen against WWE's Four Horsewomen in Becky Lynch, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Bayley has money printed all over it.
The Undisputed Era has infinite combinations of dream matches across both brands. Ricochet, EC3, Velveteen Dream, The War Raiders, Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate, the possibilities for a true revolution are chomping at the bit.
Behind the scenes, Vince and his family members are unlikely to ever give up real control of their monolithic wrestling empire, but on-screen, the well-known fact that Vince is loosening the reigns is a perfect catalyst for a struggle of power for the ages. Whether that's the reputed real-life heat between Shane McMahon and Kevin Dunn against Stephanie McMahon and Triple H playing out, or a more fictitious power struggle where the roster demands control over their own destinies, the storyline could legitimately rival the WCW Invasion for potential greatness. As long as the focus is primarily on the wrestlers, of course.
WWE has consistently expanded their women's rosters since NXT provided them a source of talented women who they could rely on to carry their half of the in-ring equation. No longer do dedicated women's wrestlers have to share the ring with failed models or centerfold aspirants biding their time before jumping ship.
To that end, it would seem that WWE has not only the talent but the timing to legitimately create an all women's wrestling show that stands on its own merits. With Ronda Rousey providing the initial star power and Becky Lynch the conduit between mega-stardom and women's wrestling's heart, WWE could do this and never look back at it's mud-wrestling, puppies-laden past.
Some fans have never known another voice to their wrestling experience and so don't mind him, but for nearly everyone else the guy is an ear sore that detracts from every Raw and Pay-Par-View they watch in spite of him. Genuine emotion and investment are key to any wrestling announcer's job and Cole has lost that somewhere along his journey. Worse, he's a perpetual fount of misinformation and grating catchphrases that make a 'No Commentary' option on the WWE Network legitimately preferred.
He may be spoken of highly behind the scenes but when people like Mauro Ranallo absolutely demolish his efforts in every way there are no more excuses. Without Vince vouching for him, he needs to go.
Vince Russo may be a bit of a laughing stock in internet wrestling circles these days but from his big bag of nonsensical tricks, there's one element that would still be useful to today's product. That is storylines for every member of the roster, from the champion down to the chump. The recent Heath Slater and Rhyno issue would be much more interesting if any investment at all had been put into this pair in the preceding months.
WWE certainly has the time to lend, with three-hour Raws more than ample coverage for the roster half they cater to. Let's get more investment and fewer replays so fans have some underdogs to enjoy between the top-tier conflicts.
One of the advantages of having both Raw and SmackDown Live under their belt is that WWE could and should differentiate these brands. Whereas SmackDown seems destined for FOX's 'sports' lineup, Raw could engage in a full-on bombardment where the entire roster gets split down the middle. Men, Women, Tag Teams, Cruiserweights, nobody should be immune once the lines are drawn. Heck, individual tag team members could fall on opposite sides of the engagement.
It's been forever since a truly epic battle was waged for power and control over an entire brand by all the competitors within the brand, and it's nearing time WWE pulled this trick out of its bag.
In Vince's never-ending obsession with The Attitude Era and constant fear that current stars aren't up to snuff, he's squeezed the living hell out of every marketable veteran he can gainfully employ. The WCW remnants had their individual runs, Triple H, Undertaker, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, all have resurfaced over and over again to diminishing returns. It has to end, and it looks like the last of the shots are being fired this year with Undertaker and Shawn Michaels dragging themselves around for some last big paydays. The modern era of elite hybrid superstars needs to not only take the reigns but start scoring important milestone victories over these ancient athletes.
With the rumors of Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks organizing a new promotion (All Elite Wrestling, if the reports are to be believed), you know that tag team wrestling is going to get its due. WWE can't sit on their hands when they've got teams like The Revival, Chad Gable + Anyone, War Raiders, The Usos, The New Day, Cesaro & Sheamus, AoP, and even more down in NXT who could properly move the needle if given half a chance on a different show.
We might finally see WWE forced to highlight this form of needlessly neglected matchup. No more of Strowman squashing the entire division, or random singles pairings defeating established teams. Take them seriously and watch fans invest.
Before WWE, before even WWF, there was the WWWF, and the important part of that acronym was the 'World Wide' part. With NXT UK launching and WWE's NXT firmly established as perhaps their best brand currently going, we could legitimately see NXT Centers appear in major wrestling hubs the world over. Australia and China have all been sighted as potential homes for NXT expansions, with WWE ironically returning wrestling to a territorial format, albeit beneath their own umbrella. Maybe not as imminent as some other things on this list, but an understandable 'endgame' WWE must be seeking.
One of the major things that could be addressed when FOX gets their 'sports' version of SmackDown is the presentation of the legitimate sporting aspects that wrestling, and particularly WWE, often tries to keep minimized. It's more difficult to tell in-ring stories if you employ more rigid refereeing, instant replays, objective commentary, multiple referees and an overall bent towards The Rules, but that may be where WWE has to go.
A decent creative mind would see this as an opportunity to use real-life sporting controversies as inspiration, and ironically, that would bring WWE storytelling full-circle. Not a bad thing when that alternative has been neglected long enough for old to become new again.
The brand split is a contentious issue for some fans who see it as a dilution of talent but I've always seen it as the right move in that it allows double the opportunities for more superstars. Hopefully, FOX's reported insistence on separation because they 'don't want to promote another network's wrestlers' really divides things once and for all.
Separate branded Pay-Per-Views should make a return, especially if SmackDown is going to be seen as an A-1 show to Raw's A-show status. Clear delineation has a bunch of benefits WWE seems hesitant to exploit, as does the very occasional times anything cross-brand materializes, such as Royal Rumbles and the like.
We've seen a hint of it with Raw's obnoxious introduction of the Lucha House Party, but the real opportunities will come when they properly allow the true top-tier cruiserweights to mix it up with their larger counterparts and have some success. Even if that doesn't necessarily mean actually winning, good showings will do wonders. Mustafa Ali challenging Seth Rollins for the Intercontinental Championship right now would be a potential Match Of The Year dark horse. Buddy Murphy mixing it up with Drew McIntyre to prove the current Cruiserweight kingpin is a legitimate threat could be stellar. The list goes on and on and should be a vital component to things moving forward.
Another consequence of the SmackDown Live move to FOX in October is that it returns to Friday nights, and as such, will require an entirely separate production crew to accommodate. Currently, the Raw crew simply heads to the next town and also does the SmackDown setup, but with this new doubling of jobs, WWE should consider another way to differentiate their brands. Namely, camera angles, interview segment placements, and generally everything in terms of the show being distinctly different from Raw even though they're both still under the WWE banner. SmackDown briefly dabbled with this concept upon the original brand split, and it should not only be reintroduced but put into overdrive.
Fans have kind of absorbed this little wrestling fallacy for long enough and it's time it got resolved. Interference is not the same as a disqualification, and this, in particular, affects title matches and title changes. If the defending champion willfully elects to break the rules of their own accord, they should relinquish the championship.
Interference, on the other hand, currently gets lumped in with DQs and it could be better used as an alternative ruling instead that doesn't activate a title loss. Once again this would likely be a SmackDown Live innovation due to their new 'sports' focus, but it would force WWE to be either more creative or more diligent in how they finish matches involving championships.
NXT has seemingly perfected the blueprint for a satisfying big show with their Takeovers and one of the key things in that recipe appears to be a runtime of two-and-a-half to three hours. This change could greatly revive fans who have become burned out at major events like SummerSlam and WrestleMania where the opening and closing bells can be over six hours apart.
Limiting the length of the shows will also encourage WWE to maximize their time instead of cramming in replays, advertisements and filler matches that haven't earned spots on the show. Quality over quantity, especially since they can have as many shows as they want as long as they adhere to this restriction.
It's been rumored and whispered as a legitimate option the WWE has looked into in the past, that being that the actual WrestleMania event extends over two days rather than the regular single endless day. This ties into the previous point, with fan burnout a real concern as the last handful of WrestleManias have had fans rejecting the main event and no doubt the tedium played its part. The upsides to a multiple day WrestleMania stands out as well, with double the gate takings, double the merch sale opportunities, and the ability to market equal but separate main events so fans can feel that if one match isn't their choice, the other is.
One of the holdovers and staples of Vince McMahon's WWE is the dips into childish 'humor' that embarrasses fans and makes nobody look good. We saw it resurface just recently with the Drake Maverick saga and it reminded people that for all the praise landed at McMahon's feet he is also woefully out of touch with modern or even clever humor. If Triple H's NXT and the generally hopeful notion that we're past this kind of stuff is an indication, WWE would quickly lose this aspect and it honestly can't come soon enough. Fans shouldn't have to watch WWE dreading the thought of being seen doing so.
Sure, the current commentary teams are technically doing their jobs at the same time as the action is in the ring, but any reasonable listener can tell that a large part of what we're forced to listen to is pre-written, rehearsed, and worst of all disconnected from the emotions of the moment, and that's a Vince "innovation". Nothing devalued Shane McMahon's leap from atop Hell In A Cell a couple of years back like Michael Cole clearly reading "For the love of Mankind" off of a script.
Lars Sullivan's recent introduction has been hamstrung by WWE commentators somehow insisting that he's the "biggest free agent in WWE history". You can massage the truth, but you can't tell us objectively false things incessantly without losing credibility.
It's going to take Vince stepping away almost completely, and the tragically unfortunate Roman Reigns situation to do it, but in 2019 fans may have the first genuine chance to choose their next favorite superstar to head the world of WWE. So many of our favorites get marginalized, sidetracked and derailed because Vince McMahon 'didn't see it in them', and it's been long enough for his vision to be proved wrong as often as it's right. Maybe Cesaro will get let loose on Brock Lesnar. Sami Zayn may recapture his NXT golden run on Raw. AJ Styles, Nakamura, Finn Balor, and Daniel Bryan could form one of the greatest main event scenes ever witnessed. Time will tell, and it's on our side, not Vince's.