The end of days is nigh friends. The dark clouds have formed over the wrestling world and... okay I'll stop myself right there. Contrary to what some may have you believe, the wrestling industry is not at death's door. The WWE is still a multi-million dollar company, independent promotions are doing okay and there hasn't been a huge fan revolt in about oh... let's say eight months. So at the moment things look fine. However, that doesn't mean there aren't any crippling problems that are holding back the industry.
Pro wrestling has always had a fickle place in the cultural landscape. It goes through periods of drought where nobody really cares about it and then experiences surges of absolute feast where everywhere you look you see muscled up men and women ripping each other's heads off. As a result of this, the business always appears to be on the verge of collapsing or rising to the heavens in the minds of some. In reality, wrestling always bounces back and it most likely will continue to do so.
But where's the fun in that statement? Nowhere, it's a hell of a lot more fun to pick out problems which are hounding the pro wrestling business like monkeys on its back. Many of these problems can be fixed quite easily if the overlords of this universe were to do something about them. Unfortunately there are a few problems which are out of the hands of anybody. With that somber note, here are the top fifteen things killing professional wrestling.
One of the few entries which you can't really blame anyone for, injuries are bound to occur when your career involves being thrown onto a wooden plank covered with a little bit of foam. And they're a problem not just the health of the talent, but also for the health of the industry.
When stars get injured, they have to recover. To recover they can't wrestle and when they can't wrestle, they lose momentum. Coming off one of the hottest runs in WWE history, Daniel Bryan was poised to set the world on fire with his WWE World Heavyweight Championship run in 2014. An injury to his neck though would sideline him for months and ended his title reign before it truly got started. Because it can't really be controlled, this entry is only at 15.
14 Finishers Mean NOTHING!
The Sharpshooter, the Tombstone Piledriver, the Jackknife Powerbomb and so on... back in the day, those moves meant the absolute end to a match. They were absolutely devastating moves that no wrestler, no matter how tenacious or skilled, were able to completely recover from. Nowadays? They don't amount to a hill of beans, as wrestlers shrug off each other's finishers like a headlock takeover.
This trend seemed to start because of Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker's WrestleMania matches. Both kicked out of Superkicks and Piledrivers and it was a big deal. Now, mid-carders in meaningless matches on Raw kick out of finishers in order to draw a meager pop from the crowd. The result becomes that finishers don't pack the punch they used to and there's no tension in matches any longer. Yet another problem WWE can easily fix by reserving these false finishes for major PPV matches.
13 Negative Publicity
Any press is good press, that's the classic saying. The wrestling world would have to wholeheartedly disagree with that expression though.
Over the past year, the wrestling world has had one horrible headline after the other. Fans hijacking live shows, CM Punk making WWE's medical staff look like irresponsible jerkoffs, Jimmy Snuka being charged with murder, Hulk Hogan being caught in a racist rant, Greg Valentine claiming female wrestlers "should be home washing dishes and cooking and pregnant and barefoot.” All of these shots keep giving black eyes to the public image of wrestling, black eyes the industry doesn't need.
12 Trying To Appeal To Too Many Demographics
Back in the day (my oh my I'm sounding old for a 20-year-old in this article), the WWE knew exactly which demographic it was going after. The 18-34 male demographic allowed the company to focus its efforts on one market and promote their product as such.
In its current iteration, the company wants to appeal to as many markets and demographics as possible and in order to do so, they have to tone down their product to attract families and sponsors. Personally, I don't think the PG rating of WWE is that bad, but I do recognize that plenty of people have a problem with it and it definitely hurts the bottom line, and the boundaries keep getting tighter and tighter. The problem is the WWE wanta families in, yet they also don't want to lose the young adult males, who pump more money into the product than anybody. This balance makes it really hard to write for both demos.
11 "Cool" Heels
The three man New World Order is one of the most influential groups in wrestling history. Their cool demeanor and awesome presentation made people question whether or not they should boo them or cheer them. In effect, they created the idea of the "cool" heel. That idea has evolved into a problem for modern wrestling.
Many heels in wrestling nowadays seem to be more interested in selling merchandise or being a badass rather than being an evil, hate-able villain. Bray Wyatt, Bo Dallas, Wade Barrett, Stardust, all of Team B.A.D and among others are supposed to be villains, but what about them is there to dislike? Exactly, nothing. They don't cheat, they rarely retreat and they're entertaining as hell. And ineffective villains mean weaker heroes and loss of revenue for the wrestling business.
10 Pushing The Wrong Talent
WWE has a problem of premature ejaculation and I fail to see why they keep making that mistake. For whatever reason the company continually pushes talent who, talented or not, are simply not ready for a big time push.
Just from the start of this year alone, we have seen the company do their damnest to push Roman Reigns as the next big thing to an audience who clearly wasn't ready to christen him as their new hero, especially with a returning Daniel Bryan at the Royal Rumble. Despite their audience telling them "NO", WWE shoved Reigns down their throats and completely destroyed fan morale for the WrestleMania 31 main event. A main event which would have been much more anticipated if Daniel Bryan squared off against Brock Lesnar.
With word spreading now that the company is looking to push Eva Marie as their next big Diva, one has to wonder whether or not the company will ever fix this mistake.
9 Over Reliance on Part Timers
Everybody loves legends and the WWE knows this so as a result they will trot them out as often as they can to spark a buzz. In the short term this is a good thing. In the long term, not so much.
Let's look at the past few years of WrestleManias and see who was main-eventing the cards. The Rock, Triple H, Brock Lesnar, Undertaker and Batista, with John Cena sprinkled in there. If you as a company keep reminding your audience that these legends are continually more worthy of your attention than any of the stars on the current roster, why would the audience think any differently?
8 Lack of Characters
Let me make this clear right of the bat; the Attitude Era had some absolutely terrible gimmicks. Who the hell remembers D.O.A, The Oddities or Naked Mideon (probably for the best on that one)? However, at least they were trying to DO something with those guys and every once in a while you would get a great gimmick like Godfather, Val Venis or freaking KANE.
Who are the true gimmick characters in today's wrestling world? Stardust? Wyatt family? If you want to stretch it, New Day? My point is that many of the people on the roster have a problem of all blending together and forming a very homogenous pot. Having a little personality and color to your character goes a long way to stand out from the crowd.
7 Scripted Promos
Turn on any WWE show nowadays and tell me that you think 100% of the promos feel organic and natural. Wait you actually think they do? Well, you're not really perceptive are you?
Really though, the majority of promos delivered by WWE talent is written by a creative team who, while they may have good intentions, simply don't understand the wrestlers as much as the actual performers do. For most of wrestling's history, the wrestlers were given a couple of points they had to hit in a promo and then figure out the rest. This led to organic, gripping and breath-taking promos. Nowadays, we get "sufferin-succotash".
If you disagree, try disagreeing with this:
"I disagree with (scripting). I think the nature of a promo has to come from your heart and your guts and you have to mean everything that you're saying. Now is the perfect time to go back to that formula..."
"You learn to sink of swim. And guys and gals will start to learn to swim again. That's what's going to make the product feel more organic, more spontaneous and more real."
Who spoke those words? Stone Cold Steve Austin, a man who I think we can agree knows a thing or two about cutting a promo.
6 Over Saturation of Product
How much wrestling is too much wrestling? I don't know the exact amount, but I know that there is too damn much of it now.
On TV and their network, the WWE has no less than five wrestling shows on the air: WWE Raw, Smackdown, NXT, Superstars and Main Event. Combined, that is eight hours of WWE wrestling weekly. Make it 11-12 hours with a PPV. Add in TNA, ROH, Lucha Underground, New Japan and oh my lord that is a damn lot of speedo wearing men. The more product, the more divided the fans' attention becomes until everyone is left with less and less.
5 No Selling
Anybody who has watched a fight scene in a movie, TV show or anime can tell you that a crucial part in those scenes involves the fighters reacting to each other's blows, struggling to get the upper hand and ultimately one winning, but coming out horribly battered. What happened to that?
In what undoubtedly is a holdover from the indy style of wrestling that most wrestlers use before hitting the big-time, wrestlers nowadays have a tendency to rush through a match at a blitzing speed. Athletically pleasing yes, but at the cost of the story of the match. Wrestlers are put through some absolutely horrific moves yet after a couple of seconds they will bounce back up like nothing happened. This makes the babyfaces all look like Superman and Superman is the worst superhero for drama. Anybody want to see Supermen fight each other till the audience falls asleep?
4 Three Hour Raws
Seriously, does anybody in the wrestling fan-base like this? This entry could be seen as an extension to the number six slide, but I feel this is a big enough problem to get its own slot.
Back in 2012, the USA Network made to decision to turn Monday Night Raw from a two hour show to a three hour show. Financially it made sense for WWE as the network would pay them more for a three hour broadcast and both parties get more time to run ads. The only people who don't benefit from this though is the audience.
Not only does this marathon of wrestling leave us feeling burnt out, but it also makes the monthly PPVs seem less impactful as those shows are now the same length as the weekly RAW. This further doesn't make any sense because assuming kids go to school on Tuesdays, why the hell would WWE book a television show that often goes past 11 pm?
3 The Fanbase
If we want to cut to the core of what a big problem with the wrestling industry is, we have to point the finger at us. Yes, a big problem killing the wrestling business is the fanbase.
Obviously, I don't mean every single fan in the IWC is a neanderthal but anybody who's scrolled through the comments of a wrestling news story will surely have ran into a few lifeforms lacking proper brain function. We've seen fans chanting for Chris Benoit, advocating a push for someone and then trashing the talent once pushed, reading spoilers and then calling the show predictable, saying the Attitude Era is the greatest thing since sliced bread and so on...
It's not the job of fans to be blind cheerleaders for the wrestling industry as it is certainly ripe with enough problems, but if more of the fanbase would give some intelligent, well thought out criticisms, then maybe more people wouldn't be afraid to tip their toe in the wrestling water.
2 No Viable Competition
Coca Cola and Pepsi. Sony and Microsoft. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Rivalries are absolutely critical to bring out the best in competitors as they force each other to elevate their game. Enter the Monday Night War between WCW and WWE.
With the backing power of millionaires Ted Turner and Vince McMahon respectively, WCW and WWE commanded prime-time television slots, loaded rosters and cutting edge pro wrestling that fans had never seen before. Just when Turner looked to have McMahon lined up for the kill shot, McMahon dodged the bullet and decimated WCW to the point where he bought his competition for a couple million dollars.
Now that WWE doesn't have WCW nipping at their heels, WWE is able to rest on its laurels as they're closest competition is so far behind from competiting it's absurd to call them a threat. Iron sharpens iron, but now WWE's blade has become a little dull.
1 The Industry Peaked Years Ago
Growing up in the Attitude Era and Ruthless Aggression Era is hard to explain to somebody who just knows wrestling from the modern era. Wrestling wasn't just a little niche thing that a couple of guys in your friend circle might like. No no, it was THE cool thing to like. Everybody knew the stars, everybody talked about RAW and you better be in the loop or you would be left in the cold.
In the current cultural landscape, wrestling just doesn't pack the punch it used to. Ratings which used to hover in the 6.0s now have fallen to the 3s and mentioning that you like wrestling to people often provokes snickers. Obviously, they're missing out on a lot of great things but perception is everything. The best wrestlers of all time were from an era long past, and the wrestlers of today aren't up to snuff. The business went supernova and while it's still alive and kicking, it will never be what it once was. What do you think the odds are that we'll get another Stone Cold and/or another Rock... at the same time?! It's just really hard to see happening.