by Max Crider
Yes, we all know that wrestling is fake and that nothing is for real (except for the Pipebomb Promo from CM Punk in 2011). In order to make the product good, you need to make it as real and as unpredictable as possible. The WWE is doing just the opposite of that. Their TV ratings are currently in the mid 1s. And for the flagship professional wrestling company, that, very clearly, is very bad. It’s time to make the WWE great again.
Problem #1: Predictability is off the charts.
One thing we all want from this product is good unpredictability. It’s usually a pleasant surprise to see a jobber (a wrestler without a push that always loses to a wrestler with a push) come up and get a push for a title shot, as long as that jobber has gotten himself “over” with the crowd. “Getting over” means that you’ve gotten the fans on your side and they want you and only you to succeed (i.e. John Cena, after achieving the impossible, is now over.) Having a jobber win is, well, rather shocking, unless the Creative team makes it obvious one is going to win. There are rare exceptions to a jobber being pushed to the top and the fans liking it; one of them being very recent. Jinder Mahal, a wrestler who was a jobber but mostly disliked throughout the fanbase, won the granddaddy of them all, the WWE Championship, at Backlash. We actually saw that one coming. Jinder Mahal, someone who was given a losing streak over on Monday Night Raw, is handed the WWE Championship? Once he won that match for becoming the #1 Contender for said championship, I said to myself “Welp, he’s winning at Backlash.” Another wrestler that is super predictable is Roman Reigns; I will get to him later. Every match he wrestles in, he wins. If he ever loses clean, it’s a shock. He’s, in a way, the equivalent to the Golden State Warriors’ playoff run from this year. He just wins every time! More predictability comes from matches on both Raw and Smackdown. Half of the matches are thrown out due to an outside interference! And no, it’s not the wrestler’s decision. It’s decided by the Creative team. Wow, guys. You’re the Creative team but your ideas are nowhere close to creative. Make the product unpredictable (in a good way) and WWE will be going places.
Problem #2: Few big names to draw outsiders in.
How many WWE wrestlers can non-wrestling fans recognize? They would most likely only recognize the icons, like John Cena, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Triple H. How many of those people are still wrestling/have an important role backstage? Not many, if you think about it. Cena works part-time, Kurt Angle returned to be the temporary General Manager of Monday Night Raw to replace Mick Foley, another big wrestling name, who is currently out of action due to surgery on his hip. This problem was somewhat fixed when the Hardy Boyz returned at Wrestlemania back in April. The key word in that sentence was “somewhat.” The Rock only appears once in a blue moon; the same goes for Triple H; Hulk Hogan has been forgotten about entirely by WWE after the digging up of his racist sex tapes back in 2015; and Steve Austin has a podcast on the WWE Network, but never shows up on TV. The WWE has a lot of great performers, just not many performers that are universally known. Big names=big ratings, as long as they still have it in them.
Problem #3: The commentary
“Oh my!” “Ballgame!” “STONE COLD! STONE COLD!” These are signature phrases used by commentators Michael Cole, John “Bradshaw” Layfield, and Jim Ross. Commentators, like everything else in WWE, are scripted. Michael Cole, most notably, does a really bad job of hiding the fact he’s heavily scripted. At Wrestlemania 30 (which took place in New Orleans), after Daniel Bryan’s journey to the top was complete with a championship win over Randy Orton and Batista, Michael Cole proceeded to shout “THE MIRACLE KID! THE MIRACLE KID!! THE MIRACLE ON BOURBON STREET!!!” I just… need a moment to let that sink in… it was a good moment up until Cole had to ruin everything. At Wrestlemania 32, after Shane McMahon had crashed through the announce table. Cole screamed “FOR THE LOVE OF MANKIND!!” while the camera was on him reading from a script.
This is, in Donald Trump’s words, SAD. You know what else is SAD? JBL still being on commentary. JBL is not necessarily the worst commentator ever, but he is infamous for pulling lots of ribs (backstage pranks) on other wrestlers. He even caused a commentator to walk out on WWE. Allegedly, JBL bullied former commentator, Mauro Ranallo, backstage to the point where Ranallo couldn’t take it anymore. Ranallo walked out and, because Vince McMahon is crazier than a swarm of rabid bats, JBL still has his job. Clearly, JBL should be the one without a job because of said bullying, but no. #FireJBL trended on Twitter for a long time afterwards. Also, David Otunga needs to go. His emotionless commentary kills a great moment every time. “1,2, thr– WOW, WHAT A KICKOUT!” “OH MY GOD WHAT A KICKOUT! THE FIGHT’S NOT OVER YET!” “Wow… how did he kick out of that.” That last one was David Otunga. At least JBL actually can be emotionally invested into a match. Byron Saxton is basically David Otunga, but slightly better. Cole, Saxton, Booker T, Otunga, and JBL, most of all, have to go. Maybe we can return to the two commentator format from the old days. Maybe put Jim Ross with Corey Graves on Raw, and pair Tom Phillips with Jerry Lawler for Smackdown. Good commentary is important in selling the product, and what we have now is not getting it done.
Problem #4: Roman Reigns
Roman freaking Reigns. Prepare for your slow, painful roast session. Your days as a member of The Shield were good. You beat up people without saying much. Back then, we liked you. It was obvious he was going to get a World Title push. He would win the 2015 Royal Rumble, then beat then-WWE Champion Brock Lesnar in front of a crowd that’s entirely on his side in a match for the ages. His character is essentially the equivalent to John Cena from 2010-13: super strong hero for the children. On the January 8, 2015 episode of Smackdown, the fans lost their trust of Reigns. He called former rival, Seth Rollins, a “sniveling sell-out suckup full of sufferin’ succotash.” I’m not kidding about this; go look it up. When Reigns won the Rumble, the Philadelphia crowd booed incredibly loudly. The fans hated him so much they made #CancelWWENetwork trend worldwide. Reigns’ problem is that he lacks any charisma whatsoever. At least Cena is good on the mic and can make an MOTY (Match Of The Year) candidate out of nowhere. At Survivor Series, Reigns finally won the championship. That wasn’t meant to be however, as Reigns’ title run only lasted for 5 minutes as Sheamus, then-Mr. MITB, cashed in and the crowd went wild. He finally won the WWE Championship on the Raw after TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs, going full John Cena mode and defying all the odds.
At the 2016 Royal Rumble, Reigns was forced to defend his title in a 1992-esque situation, in the actual Rumble. Once Triple H, the heel, eliminated Reigns, the crowd went insane. However, at Wrestlemania 32, the tide was turned as Roman Reigns beat Triple H in one of the worst matches of the night. He won the championship, and the Dallas crowd was very angry, to say the least. Ever since, the support for every opponent of Reigns increased tremendously. Reigns was also booed at Hell In A Cell when he defeated Rusev for the United States Championship. A couple of months before that, Reigns was suspended for 30 days for violating the Wellness Policy. Of course, since Reigns is the “chosen one,” he’s handed the United States Championship after a suspension. He then went on to have a very forgetful 106-day championship run. At the Royal Rumble, Reigns unceremoniously entered at #30. He got the most heat (hatred) when he ousted The Undertaker, WWE icon. This lead to a feud between the two, culminating at Wrestlemania 33. Reigns proceeded to beat Taker, with the crowd in dismay. The Raw after Wrestlemania 33, Reigns came out to a very vicious crowd. The crowd booed incredibly loudly and yelled lots of foul language at Reigns. Unfortunately, WWE censor the hate for Reigns. When Chris Jericho defeated Reigns for the US Championship, they showed a fan jumping up and down. However, in a future promo package, the WWE used a clip of the same fan, but this time, he was upset from earlier. All of this is a problem, and here’s how to fix it: turn him heel and say nothing. You can take all this hate for Reigns and use it to your advantage instead of mute it. A turn like this is rather extreme, but is worth the try.
With these solutions fixed, WWE can go from where it is now to where it was in 1998, when it jumped ahead of WCW in the ratings war. Can they turn things around? Can they kick out at two and keep their hopes alive? Or will they get pinned for the three-count and succumb to defeat? If these problems don’t get fixed, WWE’s reputation will be Stunnered harder than The Rock at Wrestlemania X-Seven.