The WWE appears to be thriving as attendance, television viewership and merchandise sales are all boasting healthy numbers and trends. Despite all the success, the product has become more of a sporting event where creativity in storylines seems to be taking a back seat. Tickets are selling and that might be the bottom line, but to many old-school fans, the product seems to be missing some opportunities that could be so easy to exploit.
As the WWE fan base becomes more and more diverse, the characters and storylines have become more vanilla and less compelling. Feuds are undeveloped, love triangles only exist on Divas and the major stars continue to be predominantly white. Gone are the days of Booker T, the aristocratic Alberto Del Rio and the high flying antics of Rey Mysterio. These great ambassadors of the sport brought more diversity to the WWE. There are fewer heroes and villains who are relatively tame and less blood and theatrics that added more zest to any conflict. The show has become more Rated-G, more politically correct and most of the effort has been made to attract women to the male-dominated sport.
The following 10 things are currently missing from the WWE. Although a couple of these “things” are actually wrestlers who are already sorely missed, some of the other things on this list could be easily fixed. While moves have become more athletic, and throws involving men who weigh in excess of 300 pounds have become commonplace, it’s still the character development that makes the business truly unique. In the WWE, a rooting interest or character we despise makes a good match great.
10. Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio’s ring entrance alone has been something that has been missing from Raw and Smackdown events. From the antics of Ricardo Rodriguez, his personal ring announcer, to the automobiles that used to be part of Del Rio’s grand entrance into the ring, his cocky swagger and ability to back it up in the ring have both been sorely missed. Alberto Del Rio played the part of Mexican aristocrat with many wrestling moves that incorporated a little of his background that includes MMA. Del Rio was a great representative of the Hispanic community who added some cultural diversity to the WWE lineup that has been more focused on Canada, Europe and Asia.
It seems like Alberto Del Rio had the expertise, durability and endurance to continue to quench the thirst of the loyal fans south of the U.S. border. If not for an incident with the corporate brass, Del Rio would probably still be drawing in even more Latino fans. At this point, Sin Cara has become irrelevant, Rey Mysterio battled too many injuries to warrant any push and there really is no one waiting in the wings to replace either of them, save for the Lucha Dragons tag team. Del Rio was the man with good size, durability, a good storyline and excellent moves in the ring. His departure has paved the way for Russev’s push and the fancy cars have been replaced by Russian tanks.
9. Blood (At appropriate times)
There have been many epic fights in the past where blood was all over the place. Blood was a part of the sport, helping to promote the wrestlers as gladiators or tough guys who could handle pain and work through adversity. The sport has cleaned up its image, broadening its appeal to younger audience members, but blood had a little more impact than storyline injuries like tweaked shoulders, arms or legs and even wooziness from taking too many blows. It was an easy way to make the audience believe that the wrestlers were at war.
There have been some nicks and cuts, but nothing that has been planned quite like the blading episodes of the past. Blood at the right time really adds to a story, i.e Hell in a Cell matches, and the best example being WrestleMania 13 between Bret Hart and Stone Cold.
8. Mystery behind characters
Mick Foley was a man of many faces, selling the Dude Love, Cactus Jack and Mankind characters with incredible attention to detail. Foley was an artist, a theatrical lead, and on top of all that, a terrific wrestler. His characters were always entertaining, his matches were electric, and he was such an innovator in and out of the ring. WWE currently has no wrestler with the creativity and versatility of Mick Foley. Costumes and personalities have been dulled down as the WWE universe has been subjected to more of a push to make the sport more mainstream. The characters are no longer as extreme, the costumes have been replaced by flashy video screens and the storylines are less complex.
Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio helped add some cool masks to the ring, but their ability to withstand the onslaught of larger foes has been a hurdle that has been too hard to overcome. Cody Rhodes is trying to prove his versatility with Stardust and Erick Rowan has freaked out audiences with his rather large somewhat ghoulish mask, but there are certainly no characters like Mankind and Cactus Jack. To many of the old-school fans, this is a big element that is missing from the WWE. Even Kane has removed his mask and now we even have to see him wear a suit. Without the old Kane, Rey Mysterio and The Undertaker, the WWE loses much of its “Mick Foley” artistic flair.
7. A Universally Loved Top Babyface
The WWE has jumped on John Cena’s back, using his positive image and highly visible work with charities to more or less promote him as a hero. Despite battles with the “People’s Champ”, The Rock, the always popular Randy Orton, and other well-liked stars of the WWE, Cena has persevered.
Great heroes are hard to develop, requiring both believable storylines that create conflict, and a level of performance in the ring that ties it all together. The WWE has tried to make Roman Reigns the top face, but the crowd is still divided on him, as they’ve been divided on Cena for years. Top babyfaces like Hogan, Austin and Rock were loved by all, and whoever the next face of the WWE is should be someone every fan across the world can support.
6. Diversity in Top Champions
When you look at all the major sports in the United States, besides hockey and maybe golf, African-American stars are well represented. In the WWE, however, the stars are and have been predominantly white. As you look around the arenas that host the WWE events, it is obvious that the WWE community is becoming much more diverse. The WWE is not Nascar and even has more of a diverse fan base than MLB, but it is devoid of diversity at the top of its ranks. It often seems like European diversity is promoted more than the American diversity that seems to be powering the sport.
In the modern era, Booker T had some success with title runs as the WCW Champion, the less prestigious WWE International Champion and the World Heavyweight Champion. He is now a commentator and still seems to hold the distinction as being the most recognizable African-American in the WWE. The Rock has been solid as a champion of the people and a representative of a wrestler of mixed race. There are still few prospects with the angle, charisma and wrestling ability to take either the Rock’s or Booker T’s place. Some possible choices for the future could be Big E, Titus or Uhaa Nation, who was recently signed to NXT.
5. A Prominent Villain or Heel
The villains of the past probably would have a field day with such a politically correct cast of characters that the WWE has today. Brock Lesner is simply too cool of a legitimate badass to hate, Bray Wyatt gets some love due to his promos and Seth Rollins’ matches are so good, and as a result he gets some cheers. There simply aren’t hardcore villains that fans love to hate. A prominent villain would help elevate the top babyfaces.
The WWE has invested lots of time and energy in promoting “The Authority” to fill the role of the villain in more than one storyline. The problem is simply that heels and villains are not cultivated and popularized with storylines built on the premise of good versus evil. However Triple H and Stephanie aren’t full-time wrestlers. The WWE needs a top heel who is a full-time wrestler.
4. A Hispanic Main Eventer
Mexican luchadores have long been some of the most popular figures just south of the U.S. border. Professional wrestling has currently been devoid of prominent Latino champions. In many urban areas in the United States, Latino sports fans have been well represented contingents of any WWE crowd. It just seems like the WWE is missing the boat here with no real Latino threats coming up as prospects in the constantly evolving cast of characters in the WWE.
Rey Mysterio was a fantastic wrestler, but his numerous injuries limited his effectiveness in his latter years with the company. Alberto Del Rio had a lot of talent, but never quite was able to carry the company torch. The only Latinos (or Latinas) with a big role are the Bella Twins. There are so many Hispanic wrestlers, MMA fighters and boxers, and yet there are no prominent characters in the WWE. As the Hispanic population of the U.S. continues to expand, the WWE might want to look into filling this void or hope Kalisto can rise to the occasion.
3. Love Triangles
What happened to love triangles? Apparently the WWE has decided that developing the women wrestlers with their “Total Divas” approach is more important in order to make more inroads into the female fan base. This push has, however, taken a little something away from the entertainment of each show. Who could forget the dramatic love triangle with Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and Kane, all vying for AJ’s interest? AJ was at her best, sassy on one hand, and jilted and constantly pouting on the other hand in her own bi-polar way. Remember the kiss planed on John Cena by Eve Torres that basically marked the end of Zach Ryder’s WWE career or the kiss planted on Daniel Bryan by AJ that led to a 20 second loss? Love Triangles of the past have been even better, but they seem to have been eliminated from the show.
It seems like divas are now doing their own thing, but it has reduced the entertainment value of the show as a whole. The WWE has been cleaning up the show, making a bet that it can broaden its appeal to a younger and less male dominated audience.
2. Hot Feuds
The feuds in WWE have been rather vanilla in nature. The whole angle with “The Authority”, and some of the current minor rifts have paled in comparison to the feuds of the recent past. The angle with CM Punk and John Cena was strong, as well as the feud that led to the car crushing brawl between Randy Orton and Wade Barrett. Everything since that time has been pretty weak and lacks any intrigue. Even The Rock versus John Cena towards the end was rather bland and too nice. Lately, it seems like the microphone is carried by John Cena, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon with very little interference from the rest of the cast. The feuds add to the drama by building up the anticipation for each big match, increasing the entertainment value of each and every show.
In the WWE today, the biggest feuds are probably between Randy Orton and Seth Rollins, John Cena and Russev, and the Authority against many of the WWE stars. The drama is still not the same as the feuds have yet to be fully developed and the characters still seem to be too nice. A feud livens the crowd by making people take sides and adding more unpredictability to each match. The backstage brawling and action that has often spilled into the streets and parking structures goes a long way towards promoting the next match. Bad blood sells and builds up more anticipation. The current development of feuds has been slow and cumbersome at best.
1. CM Punk
Phillip Jack Brooks, or CM Punk, was the type of character who brought back a little dose of the attitude era along with his straight edge storyline. He was decidedly anti-establishment and a breath of fresh air in a lineup that has become a little boring. Punk had the charisma, the swag, the independence, and the ability to connect with an audience that he used to entertain his adoring fans. Punk was the one WWE character who could carry the show with his rants and the calling out of his bosses and wrestlers who would dare to cross his path. For shear entertainment value alone, Punk has been the number one thing missing from the current product of the WWE.
In addition to his gift with the microphone, Punk’s wrestling was solid as well. He could handle the big men of the sport and was athletic enough to hold his own against lighter wrestlers as well. Punk had good stamina, could do a multitude of difficult moves, and was even charismatic inside the ring. Punk had stints as both the World Heavyweight Champion (2008-2009) and WWE Champion (2011-2013), where his ability and performance in the ring were justly rewarded. Punk retired early in 2014 following a rift with management and a new found desire to test himself in MMA. In the end, it might have been Punk’s anti-establishment approach that ended up sealing his fate.
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