WWE is in trouble. It’s been building for a while to be sure but the injury to Seth Rollins has led to massive ratings downturns for RAW and SmackDown, record lows in some cases. Fan apathy is high online and the loss of Rollins and Cena is being felt. It’s showing how WWE has been making the mistake of not building guys better to keep the main event as fresh as they could or should. Combine that with the usual pushes of bigger guys over more talented ones and cutting the legs off of acts that are promising and it’s no surprise word is growing of morale being low.
The issue is that WWE has grown far too complacent with its success and lack of competition (and to put it bluntly, TNA has never been competition). It’s also clear Vince McMahon’s vision is complicating things more with his “my way or the highway” road and while Triple H has done good work like NXT, his own issues are clear in running things. WWE needs to change, wrestling has always needed to evolve but right now, they need to make some big steps to do that. Here are 15 ways WWE can revitalize themselves, make the company and the product more enjoyable and relevant and help themselves as well as the business.
15 Let go of the past
Look, we all know the Attitude Era was a great time in wrestling, maybe the greatest ever. But WWE has to stop trying to repeat it and that includes so many appearances by “old-timers.” Sting’s arrival was a complete waste and the Dudley Boyz were fun but no one seriously wanted them as tag champions in 2015. Sure, it’s nice to get a pop now and then but having guys like Rock or others pop in and even get runs as champion over more deserving young stars is a big issue with WWE. They should be looking ahead, not backward, should be getting ready for new guys rather than continuing to give older ones the spotlight. No, WWE does not need to sign on Kurt Angle, a guy long past his prime when there are slews of young talent more deserving of attention. Remember and respect the past but stop trying to live in it.
14 More tag teams
The tag team scene has been lacking for a while. The New Day has turned into a terrific act but they lack real challengers. The way they dropped the ball with the Ascension is troubling and the Usos and Lucha Dragons are fun but still only a handful of teams. The fact is that there are plenty of guys you can see are just lost in the mix but being formed into actually serious teams might work out. History is packed with guys who were just thrown together only to become fantastic teams and that can happen here. You need a tag division with more teams than you can count on one hand and this would give guys on the undercard more of a shot at becoming winners. Speaking of which…
13 Build the undercard
Say what you will about Vince Russo but he was smart in building the undercard of WWE in his time, helping to turn the likes of Triple H, The Rock and others into major stars that they were able to take to the next level. Russo's successors continued with Kurt Angle, the Hardyz and even Cena was an undercard guy before building up. Today, of course, we have too many cases of guys (Swagger, Sheamus, Del Rio) given huge main event runs before they’re truly ready for them.
The main event is important but the undercard is just as vital and needed to test guys and make sure they have the real goods before they can take off. More importantly, it avoids situations exactly like what WWE finds themselves in now when you lose a couple of major main eventers and need viable replacements. Just a bit of care can turn the undercard into just as important to fans as the main event and improve the entire product massively.
12 Use real wrestling terms
Let’s be clear: Wrestling has always been “sports entertainment,” Vince was just the one to make it obvious. However, the last several years have made it worse as seen by how WWE has openly banned the use of terms from “title shots” to even calling guys wrestlers but instead “superstars.” It wasn’t always this way, Vince really did recognize the wrestling portion of things and it’s time to get back to that. Drop the stuff of “WWE universe” instead of “fans,” call titles as belts, regular move sets and more, acknowledge the past by using the names fans know. We’ve had so much of “entertainment” in wrestling, time to get back to the sport part.
11 Bring back managers
Managers brought something special to wrestling. They could do the promos for guys who weren’t as skilled on the mic, they were easy heat for interfering in matches and were seen as great guys to help out. Paul Heyman still provides that but there can be so many cases as a good manager can help boost some seemingly “lost in the shuffle” person around. A woman is notable but surely you can find some guys capable of filling the role out and help create stables and give a good rub to those in need. It’s a lost art in wrestling and one that should be revived to freshen things up.
10 Organic pushes
To be fair, WWE is hardly alone as throughout the history of wrestling, promoters and owners have been reluctant to go along with stuff that wasn’t created by them. But the recent mess with Daniel Bryan is a clear sign of how WWE is ignoring a great organic push. It made perfect sense, Bryan returning from injury to face Lesnar for the title, and what the fans wanted. But because it wasn’t in WWE’s plans, they ignored it for Reigns and it’s happened time and again.
Ryder is another clear case, getting over big time but WWE not wanting that so he got buried. WWE has to recognize that their own plans pale compared to the great stuff that forms on its own and pushing that instead can work out a lot better for everyone.
9 Make titles matter
An obvious but still important move. Hot-shotting the belts has been a major mistake for WWE over the years as it weakens the titles, making them props. They have done better with the long run of Punk and Rollins might still be champ if not for his injury. But it still needs work and that counts for the secondary titles. The IC belt was once a truly revered championship that went to great workers but in the last decade has just been bounced around and ditto for the U.S. title. Unifying them would be a good start but more importantly is to have them defended regularly and by real workers.
Owens is a good pick but needs a stronger push to make the belt mean something and that is supposed to make the worker mean a lot more as well. To give these titles more meaning would be a great thing for the company and the workers themselves and boost the excitement of WWE as it should be.
8 Better Network Content
The WWE Network has been a big deal for fans of old-school wrestling with its fantastic mix of classic programming that reminds folks what wrestling can be. However, the original content can use a big boost. We’ve had some nice stuff like the “Monday Night War” series but there is a ton of potential for shows that WWE is ignoring. Bring back that “Are You Serious” series as a regular show focusing on the worst of wrestling. Or more looks at the backstage life of wrestlers and maybe focus on more key moments in history while also showing the real lives of various workers.
It’s a great way to get viewers interested in the current product while providing some nice insight to the workers and win you over more. As noted before, the past is great to remember but WWE needs to look to the future a lot more in order to keep going.
7 Turn Cena Heel
There’s reasons why WWE won’t do it. He’s a huge moneymaker in merchandise, he still gets good reactions and his Make-A-Wish work is a source of good will the company would hate to lose. However, it’s clear fans aren’t happy with the constant “Super-Cena” pushes and the way WWE keeps going to him constantly as the hero. Maybe it wouldn’t work, maybe the fans will realize they prefer Cena as a face and cheer him on no matter what. But at least trying would be something important and a sign of WWE at least willing to change a bit and even Cena must be eager to try a change of character. If anything it would at least be a sign of WWE breaking from “same old, same old,” a heel Cena would be a major one.
6 Lose the Hollywood writers
Yes, we get Vince wants an “entertainment” feel for WWE, he’s always been like that. With that said, it’s time to let these guys go as it’s quite obvious that they know nothing about how wrestling works. The “skits” are worse than ever, the promos are terrible (Reigns’ pretty much killed his Mania push) and it’s hurting what good pushes there are. It also has added to the issues regarding builds and storylines rushed too fast as these guys just want to get to their next thing. Wrestling and Hollywood don’t mix as well as some hope and the obvious problems are all too clear.
Dumping these guys and getting some folks who actually know wrestling on board would be a fantastic step to getting WWE back on track and reminding fans, and the workers, what the wrestling business is supposed to be about.
5 Let wrestlers be themselves
The fans hated Rocky Maivia. They were so-so on Mankind. They were lukewarm to The Ringmaster. It was only when they used their inner talent to become The Rock, Mick Foley and Steve Austin that they took off. The old mantra is that the best wrestling personas are simply the real guy taken to the tenth level and that’s been proven true lots of times. Today, too many WWE guys are forced into roles and not allowed to blossom. It actually has done wonders in NXT and even the old OVW but they’re held back by bad characters in WWE itself and that has to stop.
There are so many guys who can be fantastic if let loose a bit more and help get the company turned around. Just look at how the New Day have taken off with their goofy antics and gotten over with the crowds.
Stop giving them scripted promos that all sound alike, stop pushing them in directions they’re not suited for but let them use their own personalities to spark themselves up. If these guys can just be allowed to be themselves, a lot of workers in WWE today would be far better off.
4 Less PPVs
The PPV market is way too glutted, that’s obvious. It was one thing to keep these up when we had the brands separate and swapping the monthly ones but now that the concept's been scrapped, it’s time to cut back. With the Network providing more content, the need for regular PPV buys isn’t as high and thus cutting back can help. Fans won’t feel the burnout of a huge show every single month (sometimes two) and it can make the big battles more meaningful when you know they won’t be repeated in just a few weeks somewhere else. It will make the actual PPVs more meaningful and truly an example of how less is more.
3 Slow builds
Look at the Nexus. Their debut was absolutely brilliant and made them an immediate force to be reckoned with. However, WWE blew though this in just a matter of weeks, not giving it the time it needed. This has happened numerous times since and shows WWE is making the same mistake as a lot of TV networks: They want instant results and no patience for the slow build that such acts need.
Even the New World Order needed time to build and take off for WCW and the same for Austin and McMahon’s own feud. You can’t push things too fast but give them some time to brew and build and thus the payoff becomes better. Yes, WCW blew Sting/Hogan but the year-long build was terrific and boosted them to massive success. If WWE can just show a bit of patience, these programs will go much better and give the fans plenty to root for without worrying about something ending too fast.
2 LISTEN to the fans
It’s true it can be a danger listening to fans too much. As the old joke goes “If WWE did only what folks on the Internet wanted, they’d be out of business.” Too many forget that an IWC darling may be a great worker but not able to carry a company on his back (see Zack Ryder). However, the Daniel Bryan mess earlier this year was a huge sign of WWE ignoring what fans wanted, Bryan facing Lesnar at Mania rather than Reigns.
The constant chants for Bryan, to have Cena heel, the wish for a better build for some acts, it’s become clear that WWE needs to listen to their fans a lot more. Yes, it can be tricky but there are so many guys deserving of a push with the fan backing and WWE should be able to step up and use that. After all, WCW was infamous for ignoring their fans’ wishes and we all know how that ended up…
1 Vince Steps Down
Vince McMahon has been the reason WWE has gone so far and truly is a genius in many ways. Sadly, it’s become apparent that Vince has turned into the very “old-timer” promoters he put out of business, clinging to the same old formula and thinking it’ll work. As proof, see the constant push for Roman Reigns despite fans not wanting it and then yet another title run for Sheamus. See how the Sting debut ended in him beaten down just because Vince refused to acknowledge that WCW’s biggest star could be at WWE’s level. He pushes commentators to say only certain things and his refusal to acknowledge he’s wrong is just doing the company more harm than good.
The common mantra is the reason WCW fell apart was they never had a boss like Vince. While Vince has been that guy for a long time, that time has passed. It’s now obvious that Vince is just too out of touch, not able to grasp that what worked 30 or even 10 years ago won’t now. We need a fresher eye and while Triple H has issues, the way he’s helped build NXT into a fantastic product shows he does have some insight and ability to take WWE into a new age. It’s true that Vince will probably be six months in the grave before he gives up control but if he wants his creation to outlive him by a long time, he has to let go sooner because his “vision” of what WWE needs to do is clouded by his ego and clinging to the past. If he doesn’t do the right thing soon, he’s going to join those same old guys he crushed in the first place as being unable to flex with the times.