Every wrestling fan and pundit has an opinion on the state of the WWE today. The success and failures of the company have both been on display in various ways. There are various metrics that would say WWE is in a better place than ever before with financial security and global branding. To match the business aspect, the on-screen product also provides a polarizing reaction from fans. Every performer, match and promo is scrutinized on a weekly basis with instant reaction and hot takes from all over the world.
WrestleMania 32 shattered the all-time WWE attendance record by bringing in over 100,000 fans to AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas. The flip side is the majority of fans were unsatisfied with what actually went down on the show and some proclaimed it among the worst WrestleMania events of all time. Another negative has seen the ratings for RAW hit an all-time low along with attendance numbers for the live events steadily declining. While that’s very concerning, the popularity of the WWE Network gives great hope for the future. The most recent figure showed 1,824,000 subscribers and the subscription service is growing with more and more people ditching cable for the world of online content.
WWE has its fair share of ups and downs and we’re going to break that down today. The on-screen product ultimately effects everything else. RAW, SmackDown and PPVs will cause fans to want to attend shows, buy merchandise and continue to support the WWE in just about every way possible that leads to success. The company is not only a mixed bag but it has strong results in both ways. The best things in WWE appear better than anything else in wrestling but the worst are among the most annoying things on television. This is a look at the state of the WWE with eight of the best and eight of the worst things in the company today.
16 Worst: Commentary
The commentary in WWE is hit or miss but it’s among the worst of all time when it misses. Mauro Ranallo does a great job as the new play-by-play man on SmackDown and Michael Cole is fairly decent when playing the straight man on RAW. The problem is the analysts are typically spending the majority of matches making lame jokes or trying to spark debates as if they are hosting a talk radio show.
JBL is the biggest culprit and that’s likely due to Vince McMahon instructing him most on what to say through his headset. The excitement in JBL’s voice when talking about Roman Reigns being “The Guy” regardless of if you like it or not is nauseating enough to make you hit the SAP button. WWE’s commentary issues hurt the overall product in the ring.
15 Best: Tag Teams Are Back
The New Day’s popularity is one of the best things to happen to WWE in the past few years. Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods show their naturally humorous personalities and harness their friendship to connect to the audience through silly promos. New Day becoming a hot commodity added importance to the tag team division and the momentum is growing.
The Vaudevillains along with Enzo and Big Cass were called up from NXT to become fixtures on the main roster and American Alpha is not too far behind in the developmental brand. The Usos are extremely consistent and the addition of Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows is giving us a loaded tag team division that should show its potential this summer.
14 Worst: Injuries
WWE has been hit with a flurry of injuries over the past year. Seth Rollins, John Cena, Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt are currently on the injured list. Enzo Amore suffered a scary concussion just a couple of weeks into his main roster debut and there’s no timetable for his return. Luke Harper is out for the foreseeable future. Hideo Itami has been out for about a year now.
There have been rumors of A.J. Styles and Sasha Banks are also dealing with minor injuries. The injury problems are decimating the WWE and they are trying to get by until the roster is back to 100%. Health concerns have always been a problem in pro wrestling but it has never been this bad for the company.
13 Best: Exciting Returns
There is always a silver lining at the end of the day and the big return of a wrestler is the only positive to take from an injury. Seth Rollins is rumored to be back on WWE television very soon, while John Cena is set for his comeback on Memorial Day. Two huge main event level names returning is a huge addition and should improve the WWE, especially if their returns are done in exciting manners. The crowd response to Cesaro’s first night back on the RAW after WrestleMania showed how tremendous a moment it can provide and we have quite a few to prepare for.
12 Worst: Predictability
One of the more underrated and negative aspects of the WWE product on television is how predictable it can be. The Attitude Era is often remembered more fondly than it deserves but the unpredictability during that time frame is what truly made it a must-see show every week. Nothing of major importance happens on television today and most PPVs have a couple of main events with results any casual fan can predict with ease.
That’s just one of the reasons ratings are down. You don’t really have to watch any WWE program unless it’s a big PPV. RAW features very little exciting or unpredictable moments, so you can skip it and watch a few short YouTube recap videos to make up for it.
11 Best: Women’s Wrestling
For the first time in WWE history, the company is genuinely trying to make women’s division a credible equal to the men’s. Trish Stratus and Lita had the high point in the division for any women of the modern era but they were even saddled with gimmick matches or sexualized storylines. The popularity of Serena Williams, Ronda Rousey and many other female athletes has forced WWE’s hand into finally making a true change.
NXT’s rise, with amazing women’s wrestling matches, also pushed the movement and the WWE is hoping to make the division relevant on the main roster. Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch having a classic match at WrestleMania 32 and ditching the Divas butterfly belt for the Women’s Championship was a great way to show the positive change.
10 Worst: Overexposure
The abundance of content offered from WWE is at an all-time high. While it should be a good thing to have as much wrestling as possible available, it has created a negative effect. RAW moving from two hours to three hours has made the show a less entertaining program and is asking you to commit more time than you would to the average movie on a weekly basis.
The other shows also suffer by WWE having too many programs to run. SmackDown is still irrelevant, no matter how much branding WWE tries to use to make it seem otherwise. No one cares about Main Event and very few people realize Superstars even exists. Every match on every show should be important, but it’s become impossible in today’s WWE.
9 Best: New Era Stars
WWE has introduced a lot of new talent to the main roster and it has given us something fresh for once. The predictable writing and lack of relevant storylines would be torture at just about any other point of the past decade but the stars recently coming to WWE has added great depth. Most of the WWE roster is really good with talented performers up and down the list of Superstars.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn being added to a storyline with The Miz makes the Intercontinental Championship picture more interesting. Enzo and Big Cass coming up to the main roster created a new shift in what to care about in the tag division. The fresh matchups and new feuds are giving fans a reason to get excited.
8 Worst: Even-Steven Booking
The concept of Even-Steven booking has nothing to do with the old Disney Channel show starring Shia LaBeouf, but rather WWE’s inability to have decisive winners or losers. WWE’s booking typically features a feud that will see both performers trade wins on television and PPVs before someone ultimately wins the war. While that person is technically viewed as the winner, the past losses water it down. Baron Corbin’s booking since coming up from NXT is a perfect example.
Many expected he would blossom after winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32 but he has been exchanging wins and losses with Dolph Ziggler since his debut. The lack of a decisive winner is making both men look mediocre rather than Corbin becoming more credible.
7 Best: Signing Performers From Other Companies
The old WWE philosophy was nothing matters if it took place in another wrestling company, but they have changed their stance for the better. A.J. Styles was signed at the start of 2016 and made an impact at the Royal Rumble with a huge ovation. Instead of changing his name and identity, Styles was allowed to be the same wrestler we knew from TNA, ROH and NJPW and it has him in the World Title picture at the moment.
Kevin Owens is arguably the best heel in the WWE today by playing the same character he played on the independent circuit. Shinsuke Nakamura is tearing it up in NXT with literally no changes from his Japan run. WWE is finally allowing stars from other promotions to bring their name and legacy over with them and it’s helping everyone involved.
6 Worst: Sacrificing New Talent To Legends
We all love seeing the legends from our childhood celebrated on WWE television, but we have also reached the point where enough is enough. The young stars of today are trying their best to make a name for themselves despite the lackluster writing on the show. WrestleMania 32 showed the drastic difference in the portrayal of the past and present WWE names.
The Rock absolutely humiliated The Wyatt Family and beat Erick Rowan in a few seconds. Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley not only beat down The League of Nations but Austin stunned fellow babyface Xavier Woods for no reason. The older names like Brock Lesnar, Triple H and The Undertaker are also always made to look dominant at the hindrance of the full-time performers and that is hurting the product when the legends aren’t around.
5 Best: NXT TakeOver Specials
One of the most surprising positives in the WWE today, and over the past year or two, has been the uprising of NXT. Triple H’s developmental project turned into a legitimate brand and created something that was once impossible to believe. WWE owns and operates the only true successful alternative to the WWE. NXT has some of the hottest wrestling names in the business with Finn Balor, Bayley, Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe leading the brand.
The TakeOver live specials are truly what sets NXT apart from any other wrestling entity today. WWE Network has aired the shows seasonally for the past two years and there has yet to be a bad TakeOver show. The matches are always telling great stories with tremendous action and are quite frankly the best thing in the wrestling industry today.
4 Worst: Poor Storylines
A consistent to this list is that the good things in the WWE tend to be thanks to the talented performers and the bad things are due to weak creative writing. The writing team struggles to help add to the talent and end up harming them most of the time. There are so few interesting storylines on WWE television these days.
Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho have been going through a heated rivalry based around plants and light-up jackets. Apollo Crews made a highly anticipated debut the night after WrestleMania and has yet to engage in a single storyline. The writing team is the biggest heel in WWE today as it seems.
3 Best: Amazing Match Quality
There has never been a time in the WWE where the match quality is as high as it is today. The variety on the roster would always have the good workers be the minority rather than the majority but that is changing. Aside from a couple of people, just about everyone on the current WWE roster is capable of having a great match on any given night.
NXT’s rise and the fan base putting an emphasis on talent has led to great matches on a weekly basis. We are getting spoiled with the likes of Kevin Owens and Cesaro having a match on a weekly episode of RAW. John Cena, Randy Orton and Roman Reigns get a lot of flak for their characters but all can keep up with the best of them. The roster is loaded and we get more exciting matches than ever before.
2 Worst: McMahon Family Drama
The McMahon family is definitely interesting and has the ability to create excitement on television. The problem is the show becomes too much about them at points rather than the actual in-ring performers that sell the tickets to live shows every weekend. Shane and Stephanie both have outstanding strengths that could be used brilliantly on television but another storyline between the two is just silly.
We could be better off with a brand split or each McMahon having their own stable of wrestlers they have storylines with. Instead, we are back in 2000 where the McMahon kids are arguing with each other on television while Vince comes around once in a while to give a laugh. This is helping the McMahon family brand but hurting the wrestlers trying to get over hungry for more on-screen time.
1 Best: Characters With Shades of Grey
The best recent change to WWE television has come after WrestleMania 32 with Roman Reigns’ character (of all people). A large portion of fans absolutely loathe Reigns and let him know it on a weekly basis, but many children believe in him as “The Guy.” There was talk about Reigns turning heel but WWE made the brilliant move to add more depth to his character instead.
Reigns is a jerk to the fans that give him crap but shows love to the fan base that appreciates him. The story in the Reigns vs. A.J. Styles angle provides a much more realistic and mature approach to pro wrestling rather than the ol’ good vs. evil. WWE appears to be moving in that direction with various characters and it would be the best decision to create interesting stories in a better future.