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One Count Kickout – Buried Alive

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WWE is creeping steadily toward overwhelming mediocrity. Some would argue that they actually arrived there months, or even years ago. If you’re a frequent viewer it is hard to argue against the fact that the quality of their shows has been in a state of decline for some time now. Ratings have been plummeting faster than Mick Foley off the top of the cell. However, in this instance, if WWE is planning on landing on a table it probably isn’t gimmicked enough to break the fall. Just ask Jerry Lawler about that. A large chunk of WWE’s viewing audience has been gradually turning away from product over the past few years and, unfortunately, WWE’s approach to correcting this issue seems to be to continue doing the same old things with some hotshots here and there.

Some have made the argument that WWE’s aim toward a PG environment has led to nothing but trouble for the company. In light of Linda McMahon’s aim for senate and several contracts with youth oriented merchandise, much to the chagrin of older viewers, it doesn’t seem likely that the WWE will change course on that anytime soon. The idea with PG was presented as an idea to “hook them while they’re young” and follow them as they age. To grab the kids and get them to stick with the product as they get older. The problem is, however, that viewers in the upper teens are losing interest.

It seems irrational to believe that a product aimed at thirteen-year-olds could keep the interest of nineteen-year-olds. Often times the concept of what is “cool” or interesting to a thirteen-year-old is based more around what the older kids are into. By aiming low you’re cutting off the top, whereas, if you aimed to entertain the older kids you’d probably hold onto some of the younger kids. This isn’t to say that WWE needs to make a return to sleazy, sex driven angles with blood spilling all over the place. Lord knows that hasn’t work very well for TNA in recent years. Perhaps, though, it isn’t the fault of the age range at all. Maybe it is WWE’s dedication to maintaining the status quo.

John Cena has been a figure of controversy over the years. He has become the target for most older viewers that wish to hurl their disapproval at the company. At the end of the day it seems clear that one fact is becoming evident: people are getting tired of John Cena being on top of the world. Much like in the late 80s with Hulk Hogan, fans today have grown weary of what they’ve come to call “SuperCena.” Anyone who has watched for a while is aware that when John Cena isn’t completely burying some rising talent (Wade Barrett a few weeks ago, for example) than he is making corny jokes about poop or simply pointing out the fact that he still wears jorts.

Let’s face it, Cena has definitely begun coming down from the pinnacle of his time in WWE. A lot of people are calling for a Cena heel turn and there is a slim possibility that we’re in the early stages of it. Many analysts and wrestling critics see what they believe to be hints towards it. John Cena being spotted with Stephanie at SummerSlam, his distance from the current angle involving the conspiracy, the fact that it seems almost set in stone that Survivor Series will see Cena, Rock and a few others teaming up against a new heel faction which will more than likely include the Miz, R-Truth, Kevin Nash and possibly some others. There has been speculation that we’re about to see a rebirth for the nWo and if WWE is really stuck in the past it would make sense for the biggest face in the company to turn on the WWE and join forces with them. Of course, this could all just be baseless speculation that never leads anywhere. It wouldn’t be the first time a John Cena heel turn was believed to be in the works.

The problem is: what would this really fix? If John Cena turns heel and the nWo makes a return that is actually good, would that fix the horrid booking, terrible burials and overwhelming failure to push new stars? Sure we’ve gotten a few people up there, or at least sitting on the backburner, like Sheamus. However, how many times are we going to see John Morrison get squashed like he did this past Monday, how long will we see the same old names sitting on top? Randy Orton, John Cena, Triple H. How often over the past few years have these three been involved in some way, shape or form with the main events of the PPVs? A lot more than anyone else.

WWE makes the argument that young stars need to “get themselves” over before WWE sees them as marketable, but this could easily be a fallacy, a catch 22, so to speak. Taking John Cena, for example, is he so over because he gets himself over or does he remain over because he has the entire WWE marketing crew keeping him afloat? Even with all of his support, backlash is coming swiftly. If you’ve ever watched anyone in the wrestling business discuss the fall of WCW, one of the major factors they’ve always spoken of is the company’s failure to make new stars. WWE has time to turn this around but they really have sat on their laurels these past few years. It appears they believed the John Cena wave would carry them longer than it appears that it will.

There are so many factors which feed into the ratings, the interest level and the success of WWE. If nothing else, it appears obvious that some changes are plausible and others are necessary. The shear fact of the matter is they cannot and will not fix their current situation by staying the course and continuing to deliver us the same, freeze dried, reheated, recycled storylines. Also, just because they throw us a five star match once in a while doesn’t make their creative direction any different than it currently is. Who thought this whole CM Punk thing would turn to garbage so quickly? They say the definition of insanity is performing the same actions but expecting different outcomes. Well, Mr. McMahon, you might have to actually make some changes if you want to see things change. This isn’t a complicated concept. Maybe, though, some people just have difficulty letting go.

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  • Bingo Nik

    Good article, Steve.

    I think you have to consider that the incredible rise in popularity of UFC is another reason for Vinnie Mac making his WWE product PG-friendly. UFC was very much an underground thing during the Attitude Era, but not any more. The sport, being a legitimate competetion, holds far more esteem and credibility to males who are in their late teens and above. So maybe Vince was wise to target the younger demographic and family audiences, as continuing to target older demographic could have resulted in even worse ratings in this modern era.

    @Joe Thunder – WWE didn’t “let” Batista and HBK leave. They both told WWE they wre leaving, and there was nothing the company could do to change their minds. Vince would have preferred to keep both guys contracted for a long as possible as they were both bonfide main eventers. I’m no Batista fan. but during his last heel run with the company, he was mighty entertaining indeed.

    And Edge was a different case altogether. Again, WWE didn’t “let” him retire. He simply “had” to retire. And what a sad day that was wrestling.

  • Joe Thunder

    I could not disagree more with your conclusion. Yes, WWE has been in a state of decline for some time now. BUT, the WWE did a few things to correct this and I believe they are moving in a positive direction. First of all, Bret Hart made his return and made peace. The end of that mess made room for the Hitman to appear sporadically in the future to help promote events and tour in Europe. This was a good move. The second positive move that WWE made was letting Batista leave. Dave Batista was not entertaining and was nothing more than a subpar wrestler. WWE allowed HBK and Edge to retire properly but still make appearances to help ratings. These were all good movings. Perhaps the best thing about the product is the legitimate quality of the matches that we are now seeing. Every week on Raw/Smackdown AND on the ppv events, we are getting younger athletes putting on some really entertaining bouts. The younger push is taking some time for fans to get familiar with all the faces, but once they do the talent pool will be stars for years to come. Guys like Gabriel, Morrison, Zigger, Barrett, Sheamus, Sin Cara, Kofi, Bourne, Miz and even Zack Ryder who is only 26 years old being led by veterans like Truth, Punk, and Cena is a GREAT way to make these guys into bigger stars. How can you not be excited about the direction of where things are headed for the WWE?