It's not been a great 2019 so far for WWE. With the continued Saudi Arabia deal causing controversy—declining viewing figures for both RAW and SmackDown and a new rival gaining both critical and commercial acclaim in the form of AEW—something clearly needs to change for the giant of the pro-wrestling world.
That's not to say that the future of WWE is in jeopardy — they're far from it; WWE is making so much money it would make Scrooge McDuck quack with envy. But the cracks are starting to show and, if not rectified, this could be the start of the decline for Vince and chums.
So what can WWE do to turn the tide?
10 Stop Running RAW At Three Hours
Okay, okay, so that third hour of RAW makes WWE a ton of money in ad revenue, that can't be disputed. However, the issues the third-hour causes from a creative viewpoint are starting to be catastrophic. The short term financial gain is no longer offsetting the long term creative malaise.
Trying to generate 180 minutes of compelling content every Monday is a tall order and one that WWE creative rarely achieves. Instead, its audience is treated to rinse and repeat matches, interminable 50/50 booking, and lengthy feuds that overstay their welcome. Less is so often more.
9 Stop Botching Your NXT Callups
NXT is, objectively and without doubt, the current jewel in the WWE crown. Triple H has overseen the creation of a division that offers matches that are genuine showstoppers. There hasn't been a bad Takeover yet. With a host of compelling stars in NXT, why is it that the recent call-ups and their resulting pushes have all been pathetic?
EC3, despite showing great promise, was squashed on arrival, Kairi Sane was called up to only disappear, SANITY was ruined, Heavy Machinery spent more time gurning than wrestling, and the Viking Raiders (is that still their name?) have done nothing of note. WWE, please make plans for your NXT talent before you call them up.
8 Stop Shane's Push
At a time when WWE needs to be creating new, bonafide main event talent, it's a mystery why they're using so much of their RAW and SmackDown screen time to push a middle age part-timer. Shane jumping off high things to the delight of his cackling children is one thing, Shane being promoted as the top heel in WWE is quite another.
With a victory over the big dog Roman Reigns and an upcoming tag match with the Undertaker to look forward to, Shane is having the kind of push that other talent would quite literally kill for. It's high time to give them that chance. Not to commit murder, that is, but to receive a sustained push.
7 Stop The Wild Card Rule
Does anyone understand the Wild Card Rule? Despite the commentary teams repeated and awkward attempts to explain the rule's nuances, fans seem to be at a loss. Who can blame them? It's been poorly handled and inconsistent from the offset.
The results have been clear to see, however. The same 12 wrestlers are now seen on both RAW and SmackDown and the brand divide is as good as dead. These two factors mean there's even less chance for fresh talent to get over.
6 Stop Killing 205 Live
205 Live has, despite a very rocky start, seen notable improvement over the last 12 months. There's been some remarkably inventive and thrilling matches on a Tuesday night, it's just a shame that fans still don't seem to care.
What hasn't helped is the treatment of RAW and SmackDown's 205 acquisitions; Ali had a strong start before suffering a rubbish name change and disappearing, Cedric Alexander could have been a contender but has done nothing and what happened to the brilliant Buddy Murphy?
With so much repeated content on RAW, surely the cruiserweights could have some time to push their brand?
5 Stop Changing Names
This has been briefly mentioned but requires further clarification due to how it destroys a superstar's momentum. What is the point of these pointless name changes?
The War/Viking Raiders became a laughing stock when they were briefly dubbed The Viking Experience. Not the sort of online attention you want to court. Mustafa Ali lost the Mustafa to become only Ali, what was the reason? We'll probably never know.
The entire point of NXT and, in part, 205 Live, is to establish new stars and build a brand and fan awareness around them. Changing their name when they turn up on the main roster only serves to undermine all that work.
4 Stop 50/50 Booking
50/50 booking makes everything boring. It is also common practice across RAW and SmackDown. Originally intended to artificially extend a feud until the next PPV, WWE creative has since lost all control and unleashed 50/50 booking on almost everyone and everything.
Wrestler A beats Wrestler B one week, then Wrestler B returns the favor next week, this continues until maybe there's a resolution or everyone forgets the feud was even occurring as it became so dull. Fans need compelling and fresh reasons to invest in a feud, wrestlers interacting like a turn-based tabletop war game is hardly thrilling.
3 Stop Hiding Rusev
Why has WWE refused to pull the trigger on Rusev and push him to the moon? The man has the talent and charisma required to fill arenas and bring in network subscriptions. He even managed to get himself all the way over with 'Rusev Day,' and with no help from WWE creative!
Despite the monster reactions that the Bulgarian Brute was commanding from audiences, WWE failed to capitalize on his success. If anything, Rusev seemed to be buried for daring to achieve popularity on his own. It's not too late WWE, push Rusev to the top of the card as a babyface — where he belongs.
2 Stop With All The Authority Figures
The authority figure angle has been done to death. It's now on life support and it's time to let it slip away in its sleep. Ever since Austin and Vince set the wrestling world alight with their stellar feud from the midst of the Attitude era, there's been a similar angle on our screens ever since. Surely there must be a better way?
Whether it's Shane, Steph, Vince, Hunter, or Corbin, the malicious authority figure using their position and power to bend the rules in their favor is a story that has seen increasingly diminishing returns and has run out of steam. It's time to create some truly compelling heels that break new ground with their villainy.
1 Stop Relying On The Past
Nostalgia and wrestling have always gone hand in hand. Unlike traditional sports where dream match-ups have to remain the stuff of dreams, wrestling can make the impossible possible. Which fan could forget the iconic moment of Wrestlemania 18, when Hulk Hogan stared down The Rock? Match-ups that simply wouldn't be practical in a legitimate sport are entirely achievable in pro-wrestling.
Yet, of late, relying on the stars of the past has been a Band-Aid for the lack of megastars in WWE. But wheeling the Deadman out of retirement won't hide the malaise much longer. If WWE spent a fraction of the time pushing new talent as they did promoting the old, then their future success would be guaranteed.