Before I get started I’ll admit that it’s been years since I’ve watched WWE programming, although I was once a “seasoned” WWF/E fan of about 25 years. However, thanks to the outstanding blow-by-blow coverage from my colleagues at Pulse Wrestling which I read extensively, I am quite familiar with what’s been happening lately in Titanland, and it seems there is very little in the way of innovation or creativity in Sportz Entertainmentville.
TODAY’S ISSUE: WWE fans make life too easy for Vince McMahon and company.
During the acclaimed “Monday Night War”, WCW came out of nowhere with the incredibly effective nWo angle and an influx of phenomenal wrestlers on the undercard, and blew McMahon’s doors off for an extended run at the top of the pro wrestling world. This threat of annihilation forced Vinnie Mac to make changes to his product and to push the envelope to deliver the most exciting, innovative, fan-pleasing product he’d ever put together, making the then-WWF a huge hit. So incredible was their success in fact, that they eventually became strong enough to swallow all their major league competition (including the original ECW, then a distant third in the US pro wrestling scene) and, for all intents and purposes, monopolize the American arm of the industry.
But for years after this conquest of the competition, the re-dubbed WWE faced no real challenge, and even though Vince’s boys started defecting to Total Nonstop Action Wrestling as an alternative, TNA has never had a chance of negatively impacting Vince’s bottom line. Today’s WWE is completely unchallenged, uncreative, and lazy, and there’s only one reason Vince is able to keep shilling the same uninspired, hackneyed, boring nonsense over and over: the fans keep buying it!
Let’s take a look at one of the prime concerns among fans who are tired of seeing the same thing over and over. According to Iain Burnside’s recent news post (credit to Pro Wrestling Insider) Triple H, John Cena and Randy Orton have been dominating the main event scene since September of 2004.
“Starting with Unforgiven 2004, which was Randy Orton’s first world title defence, WWE has booked a combination of Orton, John Cena and Triple H on no less than 24 occasions. This includes singles, tag team and multi-man matches, though not Royal Rumbles. Cena/Orton at SummerSlam 2009 will be the 25th match in the last five years to feature some combination of those three facing one another.
During that time period the three have missed significant chunks of time due to injury and other incidents – 13 months for Orton, 14 months for HHH and 7 months for Cena. Only two of them have been on the same brand for three of those five years, which also covers the period of alternating brand PPVs. Since SummerSlam 2007 the combination has been involved in 17 matches from 26 eligible PPVs.”
The report goes on to add: ”If you add Batista and Shawn Michaels to the mix the numbers go up to 44 matches involving some combination of the five men.”
Why on earth would wrestling fans, especially in this time of economic uncertainty, spend $40-50 a month to see the same stuff they’ve already seen? It’s not like they’re getting Hart/Austin or Michaels/Angle, which you could at least argue would be worth the money based on the match quality alone. Hell, they aren’t even getting charismatic entertainers like the Rock anymore, and many fans would agree that his antics were worth the price of admission. There aren’t a bunch of fantastic tandems tearing down the house in tag team action, nor are there many death-defying cruiserweights marveling fans with their innovation and high-flying maneuvers. WWE is almost literally producing the same show they’ve been selling for years, and their fans continue paying good money for it.
For $40-50, a fan can load up on several DVDs featuring outstanding wrestling action from any number of indies, or they could invest in a few specialty events (such as the King of Europe or 16 Carat Gold tournaments). I’d suggest purchasing a few DVDs per month, where you’ll get much more bang for your buck, instead of buying WWE pay-per-views highlighting the same wrestlers in the same tired feuds. And for the fans who watch WWE television program but don’t indulge in the ppvs, there’s still a free alternative with better wrestling action and new faces for the uninitiated: Ring of Honor has been stepping up the quality of their HDNet program lately, and it’s even moving to the traditional wrestling timeslot on Monday night. Now before you say, “I don’t get HDNet with my cable package”, neither do I; but I’ve found every episode for free online shortly after it aired on cable. Also, while the pickings are a little slim there’s still some decent free wrestling available at ROHvideos.com.
Since there are so many great ways to watch innovative, fresh, quality pro wrestling for no more than what Vince’s core audience pays for the WWE product, I simply don’t understand the average fan buying ppv after ppv from World Wrestling Entertainment (to say nothing of the nonsensical junk TNA produces month after month – just who the hell buys THOSE shows?). While the “IWC” consistently produces several ideas that would vastly improve the WWE product, and also contains coverage and analysis of promotions big and small from around the globe, we represent the minority of wrestling enthusiasts. I’m sure most fans eat up whatever McMahon is serving that day, and think of WWE as the entire wrestling world. In other words, there is no professional wrestling outside of McMahon-o-rama, and that narrow view is no doubt what allows Vince to stay the course.
Look at some things that are exactly the same as they’ve been for years: Christian is a singles wrestler in the mid-card, which means he’s gone absolutely nowhere since leaving WWE in late 2005 after his aborted feud with Cena, and his entire run in TNA did nothing to improve his status or enhance his character. As stated above, Triple H and John Cena are still dominating one title scene (RAW), and very little every truly changes around the other two (SmackDown! and ECW). Yes, John Morrison is getting some love, but many other young lions are forced to sit on the sidelines or play a minimal part compared to what their potential could allow them to do if given the opportunity.
While Rey Mysterio is still a major player in the promotion, only far slower and less exciting than he used to be, a guy with a world of potential to take Mysterio’s place as the next high-flying cruiserweight marvel, The Brian Kendrick has been released. Unfortunately, whenever somebody lower on the card finds a little niche that seems to work, that wrestler stands a great chance of being shown the door. Why? So the established vets needn’t worry about somebody stealing their spot? Ridiculous. As many other writers and fans have correctly stated in the past, the more stars in your company, the better everyone does financially. It makes good business sense to have more people who the fans are willing to pay money to see. Plus, it generates fresh feuds when new blood is added into the mix.
Back to the here and now of World Wrestling Entertainment, Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker will both no doubt be thrust into key programs once they return… again. And speaking of HBK, if another DX reunion doesn’t thrill you, you may be in for a long summer. Meanwhile, fresh talents like Legacy and CM Punk are treated as children sitting at the adults’ table. They get some scraps, but they aren’t booked as the future of the company; instead they’re presented as distractions until the big boys eat up all the “real” main events. Edge and Chris Jericho are phenomenal, but they don’t need to be working with each other and/or Big Show at this point. These “made men” of the industry need to do a little bit of what Mick Foley was famous for – reach down to help out a young stud and give him a true superstar rub in the process. A guy like Morrison should be allowed to work an extended program against one of the godfathers of the company, and come out of it looking like a seasoned killer whether he wins or loses the blow-off match. I’m surprised that of all the newer guys on the roster, not even MVP can crack the glass ceiling, and he’s far more of what Vince loves in a main-eventer than Punk could ever hope to be.
Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler may be the latest pet-projects of the Connecticut steroid freak, but how long will be before Vince’s “true” main-eventers start guzzling these two? Can you imagine Undertaker or Triple H actually selling for one of these young lions? Would Shawn Michaels, who doesn’t lose to anybody, be willing to lie down to make a young stud into a true top-of-the-card talent for the next several years by convincingly losing a feud? Come to think of it, I’ve seen colleagues write that John Morrison could benefit from an extended program with HBK. This would be true if Michaels had any Ric Flair in him, but for as much noise as Michaels and Triple H make about respecting Slick Ric, they certainly don’t emulate him between the ropes. At least not when it comes to putting over new talent or making opponents look good in the ring. Triple H is following in Flair’s footsteps regarding the number of total world title reigns, however.
In more not-so-shocking news about how things stay the same in WWE, a big, lumbering, physically imposing yet not-so-skilled freak is starting to make some waves. Just as Kane, Big Show, Khali, and countless other giants with limited talent have in the past, Vladimir Koslov is threatening the ECW champion with his impressive bulk and… well, that’s all that’s impressive about the big Russian. His size. What’s the opposite of evolution, stagnation?
Rather than be truly creative, they wrap the same show over and over again in slightly different packaging. Ownership of the company at stake? Done to death. Evil authority figures? Beaten into the ground. Heel/face turns or brand switches for the main players? No shock value left whatsoever. Imagine how good WWE programming could be with the right balance between their young lions, whom they have in abundance, and the skilled veterans working alongside, “opening the books” to make these young men into legitimate top dogs in the sportz entertainment industry. But as long as Vince’s core audience keeps paying to see the same thing again and again, McMahon won’t be challenged to do anything different in the way that Eric Bischoff once challenged him. It’s too bad, because there’s a lot of potential there but the fans are now the only ones who can challenge McMahon to do something different, to demand change, to force WWE to allow their newer talent to truly rise to the top.
By turning off WWE television shows, not buying ppvs or merchandise, and skipping live events, or even better, by spending your time and money on the plethora of more satisfying independent wrestling that’s readily available, you can tell Vince McMahon that you want to see something new and exciting once again. But until that happens, it’s going to be business as usual in Titanville, regardless of how tired, uninspired, and boring that business might be. WWE fans, you didn’t ask for it, so you didn’t get it. Enjoy.
Vin Sanity is not categorized as a psychological disorder… yet.
p.s. – “All things must change to something new, to something strange.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The original version of this syndicated column, titled Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic, appears each Monday morning on Pulse Wrestling.
Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this week…
Tess Nolde returns with another WWE Vintage Collection Recap.
John Wiswell takes another look at injuries in the indies in this week’s Cult of ROH.
Anthony Perillo debuts here at Pulse Wrestling with a very detailed look at the wacky hybrid fed in the first CHIKARA Chronicles.
Finally this week, GRUT makes his triumphant return with his unique view on the news in Junk News, Huzzah!