SummerSlam season is here. Everyone is hoping for epic matches, excellent storylines and creativity. We all want to be pulled in. It’s our escape from reality. But let’s face it, the WWE is not what it used to be. All of us who grew up watching wrestling in the 80s and 90s understand this. In fact, it bothers us so much that we watch wrestling today only to complain about it!
When the company was owned solely by the McMahons, WCW still existed and there was reason for creativity. As of today the corporate mind set is bent on diluting their content with a PG product—a boring package to say the least. There was a time when creative juices were flowing and the WWE could do no wrong. It seems over the years though they've forgotten how to do certain things. While it's important to remember from past mistakes, it's also important to remember past successes and if it can help in your future. There are some old recipes WWE and other wrestling companies used for decades and there are some that WWE should keep in mind when putting out their product.
Having said that, let’s look at what WWE has forgotten how to do.
15 The Women's Division
Outside of Sasha Banks and Charlotte—maybe Becky Lynch—there isn’t really anything to look forward to. Okay, there are no bra and panties matches any more… but women are still dressed up to look pretty. They still do photo shoots, just check out their website. Their promos are mediocre at best.
The women’s division is better served when wrestling in front of an NXT crowd. Now, those are some good matches. While women's wrestling has gotten a lot better on the main roster, the matches don't quite seem as captivating as NXT. It seems those who are piecing together matches on the main roster don't have the same touch on NXT. For example, Charlotte and Natalya tore the house down in their NXT match a couple of years ago, but they produced a couple of lackluster PPV matches earlier this year.
Maybe WWE should take a few pointers from their developmental system.
14 Keeping the set fresh
WWE used to change up the stage sets frequently. Their pay per view sets were often creative, flashy and unique. This added appeal and added a type of persona for the matches to come. Even the lighting was sharper. Some of the past stage sets that stand out the most are the SmackDown fist, WWE King of the Ring 2001, WWE Royal Rumble 2006, WWE Fully Loaded 1999, Taboo Tuesday and WWE Armageddon 2003. The current RAW and SmackDown are identical with different lighting and colors.
All the stage events for most of the current pay per views are practically identical to the main shows. Outside of WrestleMania, WWE has forgotten how to dress up their televised events. Shows don't have a unique feeling anymore and it reeks of laziness for WWE to pull out some breathtaking sets. With two brands going, it's even more important for WWE to differentiate their sets.
13 Announcers Selling Matches
The good old days with Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby the Brain Heenan calling matches are gone. These commentators added so much to the product. They sold the in ring product and kept the storylines alive. Their humor and witty dialogue kept you laughing and interested. Fast forward to now. The current announce teams consist of Michael Cole, Bryan Saxton and Corey Graves on RAW. On SmackDown the team consists of Mauro Ranallo, John "Bradshaw" Layfield and David Otunga. Mauro Ranallo was an excellent hire by the WWE. His commentary is refreshing and he often seems excited to be calling his matches.
Outside of Mauro, the commentators are boring and offer little excitement. They barely call the matches or name the moves you see being executed in the ring. Michael Cole is the John Cena of the announce table. He has a few tricks up his sleeve but he really doesn't offer much range.
12 Creative pay per views
WWE had a knack for establishing interesting and creative pay per views. The original King of the Ring pay per view was innovative and important. The Elimination Chamber match existed for the World Heavyweight title and appeared at several pay per view events. WWE one day decided to make it a themed event called Elimination Chamber. The same thing happened to the Money and the bank ladder match. It started at WrestleMania and became an event on its own. WWE needs to reinvent their pay per views. Matches outside of the Royal Rumble and maybe the Money in the Bank are the only exceptions. Bring back events like No Way Out or Halloween Havoc from the WCW days. Then you fill your matches based upon your feuds and requirements.
Create pay per views that are unique instead of the very generic repetitive shows that we see from one month to another such as WWE Fastlane.
11 Talk show segments
One of the most famous talk shows was the Piper’s Pit. But, the segment that stands out the most was the famous super kick that launched Shawn Michaels singles career, which took place on Beefcake's 'The Barber Shop'. He super kicked his tag team partner, Marty Jannetty, right through a pain of glass during a Brutus Beefcake-led 'Barber Shop' segment. Now fast forward to today’s talk show segments. Chris Jericho’s ‘The Highlight Reel’ was interesting when it was first conceived. Now, it is a silly time filler with not much to offer. That probably goes hand-in-hand with Chris Jericho himself being stale. The Ambrose Asylum segment… now there is something we would rather see. Talk shows are simply not planned out well.
They appear to be 15 minute fillers and used only when the creative team can’t think of anything else. WWE simply forgot how to produce a talk show segment.
10 Dragging out feuds
WWE designs feuds to drag out over a long period of time with no real build up from beginning to end. For example, the feud between Hulk Hogan and The Macho Man. These mega powers were friends and allies. However, that changed during the second Royal Rumble event when Hulk Hogan eliminated The Macho Man. This created a sense of friction between the Mega Powers. At the same time, Macho Man was over protective of Miss Elizabeth. He misinterpreted Hulk Hogan's intentions of helping her and attacked him backstage. This eventually lead to a match between the Mega Powers at WrestleMania V.
Fast forward to today, we still have John Cena versus AJ Styles going absolutely nowhere. Overall, the current feuds are pointless with no clear direction. Sort of like Chris Jericho versus anyone. Have a plan in mind when beginning a long feud, please WWE.
WWE matches used to consist of blood regularly. It gave that sense of realism that we all wanted. But, with the introduction of the PG era… blood was taken off the table. Even to the point that matches had to be stopped so wrestlers could get patched up quickly. However, from time to time we see the odd drop of blood or a few cuts. Regardless, it’s just not the same.
Wrestlers are not taught how to bleed well. The WWE needs to refer back to their own material. I recommended watching Bret Hart versus Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13. Bret Hart had Stone Cold in the sharpshooter. Austin passed out after refusing to quit. The most important thing here is the visual of him passing out. He was bleeding profusely and blood was everywhere. It gave that sense of realism we all desire. It also put Austin over as the company's top babyface.
8 Building characters and new gimmicks – squashed!
There are also countless gimmicks that are less desirable. Bo Dallas went from boring to even more boring as part of the social outcasts. That whole gimmick is terrible… or maybe it wouldn't be if they actually won matches. However, WWE creative is content with Bo Dallas and the social outcasts on being squashed. Let’s hope the new Jinder Mahal has something better to offer.
WWE is wasting valuable time and money on characters that are under performing. Quite frankly it is not their fault. Cesaro anyone? Cesaro should be winning matches. He is one of the most talented wrestlers on the WWE roster. When it finally seems like he is gaining momentum, he is booked to lose a match. This is a wrestler that should be set up to win the Money in the Bank ladder match or the Royal Rumble. He is the one advocating for himself. All the Cesaro section signs in the crowd were printed by him. Currently, Cesaro’s gimmick is similar to a James Bond type of guy.
However, there are also characters on the roster with no gimmicks. For example, Baron Corbin, Apollo Crews, Health Slater, Curtis Axel, Randy Orton, Tyson Kidd, Jack Swagger and Zack Ryder (now in a tag team). Where are all the cool gimmicks?
7 Ring psychology!
Wrestlers today are very athletic and acrobatic. They are even more talented than previous generations. But there is a big issue. They are not selling many of their moves. More so, matches are not complete from beginning to end. They do not seem realistic in a scripted setting. We all know matches are predetermined… but wrestling is more than stringing a couple of moves together. Traditionally, wrestlers are meant to appeal to your feelings with you favoring one character over another. Either a good guy or a bad guy. Afterwards comes the dance. Near falls and impactful slams. Fans jump to their feet hoping their wrestler gets the 1,2 and 3. Nowadays most matches are fast paced and high flying. There is no real climax building. Most wrestlers are not selling their punches.
Wrestling matches today are all very similar across the board, unlike previous generations where wrestling focused on small details. It’s like comparing your mother’s cooking to fast food.
6 Wrestling creativity!
Wrestlers used to come out and speak off the top of their head. Their character and promos were based on whatever material they were able to come up with. Wrestlers of today are handed scripts to memorize and perform. For example, Roman Reigns trying to use the expression suffering succotash on a few occasions. That sounds like writers having no real idea on how to be creative. Why not let wrestlers have a little bit of freedom and fun? Refer back to Cody Rhodes leaving.
There are very few wrestlers today that come up with gold on their own. The reason Enzo Amore has been a breath of fresh air on the main roster is because anything coming out of his mouth is clearly his own work. Nerdy writers carrying pencils on their ears didn't think of SAWFT and 'how you doin'?'. Wrestlers need to get thrown into the fire and from there, let the cream rise to the top.
5 Creating and maintaining tag teams
The tag-team division thrived during the 90s and early 2000s. WWE was set with tag teams like the Dudley Boyz, the Hardys and Edge & Christian. But since then tag-teams are just thrown together with wrestlers doing absolutely nothing. For example, R-Truth and Goldust or also known as the Golden Truth.
Thankfully a team like The New Day has stuck around, even though they were also a team just thrown together. That's not the creative team's doing though, as Big E, Kofi and Xavier Woods came up with their gimmick on their own. The three are good friends in real life and it shows in their on-air chemistry.
At some point this team will break up and they will become jobbers again. Hopefully SmackDown creates a new set of tag-team titles and actually keeps teams together. They definitely need it if they're going to compete with RAW's teams.
4 The Undertaker’s WrestleMania Matches
The Undertaker’s WrestleMania XXX match shocked everyone around the world…including that one guy in the audience. You know who I am talking about. Who would have guessed that Brock Lesnar would have ended the streak? It seemed like such a bad idea at the time and probably a last minute decision.
How about facing the same wrestler multiple times? The Undertaker faced Kane twice, Shawn Michaels twice and Triple H three times. Personally, the two matches between 'Taker and Michaels were amazing. But, you never really got the impression he was going to lose any of his matches year after year. The Undertaker vs. Wyatt build up was lackluster at best. Now there is a wrestler that should have been built up to take his place in the company. Bray Wyatt and the Wyatt family have done amazing stuff. Bray Wyatt himself gives the best vignettes. Somewhere down the line the WWE forgot how to build strong opponents for The Undertaker.
3 Pushing Championships
How many times has the United States Championship been on the pre-show? The mid-card titles are not being taken seriously. Nor are the Tag-team titles. It seems like WWE only cares about the men’s and women’s heavyweight titles. Everything is so politically correct today that the WWE has tried pushing the women’s title as equal to that of the men’s World Heavyweight title. However, I doubt it will ever reach that status.
When Cody Rhodes brought back the original white Intercontinental Championship, it brought back some distinction and credibility to the mid-card. Fast forward to today and The Miz is the Intercontinental Champion. No one really cares about the title and The Miz for that matter. It’s about time WWE start pushing these championships again and place it on a wrestler that the fans want to see. Cody Rhodes! Right, he left the company.
2 Fresh Matches
Thankfully the brand split was brought back to life. Prior to it, matches were repeating themselves week after week. If you watched Roman Reigns battle the Wyatts on RAW, that same week on SmackDown, you would get a rehashed version of the same match. An almost identical match with the same sequence of events would even appear at pay per view events. Painfully boring. Not only that but generally wrestlers repeat their same scripted moves over and over without any creativity.
The biggest culprit of the aggression era… John Cena. The WWE simply forgot how to put on a fresh entertaining match week after week. Not sure what I am talking about? Try going back to the WCW days. Booker T versus Chris Benoit in a best of seven series. Every match was different and entertaining! Matches seem to have the same routine nowadays.
1 Booking Wrestlers Properly
There are several WWE superstars who have been booked poorly in their past and current roles. Take for example, when Batista came back and won the Royal Rumble. Do we remember how that worked out? Batista was referred to as Boo-tista. Not long after he left for bigger and better things, namely a role in Guardians of the Galaxy as Drax. Orton on the other hand is always booked as a heel or someone right smack in the middle…with a little bit of Stone Cold Steve Austin attitude. His match at SummerSlam is a perfect example. He is set to face Brock Lesnar, the beast incarnate. Brock Lesnar is meant to be the heel here, while Orton is getting off the injury shelf. They each have taken shots at one another, both invading RAW and SmackDown. But, let’s be honest, we can cheer for either Brock Lesnar or Orton because this match doesn’t matter. WWE’s 50/50 booking is simply an injustice to their roster.
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