Will 2017 be a year of greatness in WWE, or will they continue on the downward spiral they find themselves in now?
2017 is going to be a pivotal year for WWE. The company’s at a crossroads of sorts, stuck between the past and the future. They have one of the deepest and most diverse rosters they’ve ever had. There’s a huge movement to change the perception of women’s wrestling into something that’s equal to men’s wrestling. But most of all, there’s a dire need for change in the company.
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With WWE’s ratings at historic lows, growing fan apathy, and growing competition both within the company from other promotions, WWE should adopt a new mentality for 2017. To that end, WWE’s New Year’s Resolution for 2017 should be for them to get out of their comfort zone and take more risks.
WWE’s product has sailed on the seas of predictability for years now. Following the deaths of WCW and ECW, WWE no longer saw any major competition. Thus, complacency and repetition became the norm in WWE, instead of creativity and boundary-pushing.
The past year has given us plenty of examples of this mentality in action. Vince McMahon pushed his desired favorites to the top, despite overwhelming fan opposition. The writing has reached an all-time low in terms of quality and what’s perceived as ‘humor’.
Storylines are put together without any sense of logic (Bayley and Alicia Fox feuding over a terry bear!). WWE produces so much weekly content that the market is over-saturated, which leads to matches, feuds, and even entire shows being completely pointless in the grand scheme of things.
WWE have tried to placate growing fan criticism by pushing supposed ‘internet darlings’ to prominent positions as well. A.J. Styles and Kevin Owens, two men who, not long ago would have never been expected to succeed in WWE, are now World Champions on their respective brands. Other more experienced wrestlers are likewise given more important positions, often at the expense of the so-called ‘superstars’. The overall amount of in-ring action has increased for the most part as well.
But despite these positives, there are underlying concerns beneath the surface.
WWE are still afraid to do anything that might lead to the short-term loss. They push the same people and repeat the same storylines because ‘it’s safe to do so’. Because they’re stuck in that comfort zone, we have incredibly dull wrestling programming.
Therefore, you have the Authority at the center of, well, everything: WWE feels the Austin vs. McMahon feud still resonates with people almost twenty years later. The problem is that the storytelling these days is so sterile that there’s limited freedom for anyone other than the ‘planned’ people to get over. Once WWE’s top brass decide who their top guys are, everyone’s left to their own devices.
This problem is amplified by the fact that virtually everything and everyone is scripted down to their very facial expressions, and there are restrictions on what wrestlers can do on house shows, which are supposed to be more relaxed environments where the talent can do things that wouldn’t be permitted on the major shows.
So what should WWE do in 2017? Here are a few recommendations:
WWE should give its wrestlers more freedom to create their own promos without everything being 100% preplanned. When someone recites a script word for word, it makes it hard for that wrestler to sound unique.
This is especially true since most of the promos sound the same among all wrestlers, so few people really stand out. Why do you think WEW relies so much on everyone from the past as top draws? Because the current roster isn’t given the freedom to say something different, leading to apathy towards the promos from the fans.
Wrestlers will never become stars on their own if they keep speaking like Vince McMahon. Each wrestler needs to sound different, otherwise, people will interpret them as interchangeable actors on a show where only the brand matters.
The Rock’s still so popular because his promos were wildly different from ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin’s, who was different from the Undertaker, etc. Even Mankind, who was a schizophrenic character, cut excellent promos for a wild man, and sounded so different because he was given the freedom to make his promos his own.
Now look at today’s roster. Who, other than a few select superstars, have memorable catchphrases? When was the last time any wrestler cut a genuinely hilarious promo? If you’re having a hard time answering those questions, you know that the company’s suffering from an over-scripting problem, which must be dealt with in 2017.
Focus on More Realistic Storylines
Vince McMahon is an incredibly disconnected individual. He’s such a major workaholic that he doesn’t have any idea what the modern wrestling fan finds funny or interesting. As such, he thinks he knows better than fans, and blames ‘millennials’ for the show’s current problems. He made this viewpoint public two years ago, and he hasn’t changed his tune at all. He can blame others as much as he wants, but the core of the problem is Vince himself.
Vince needs to reach out and find out what kinds of storylines people like. Nobody likes stories where the authority always wins. Nor do they like stories that are too overly childish (because, let’s be honest, kids like to watch things that are for older viewers). That’s why WWE needs to take more risks and create storylines that seem more realistic and burst the bubble WWE (and Vince) find themselves in. crafting realistic and complex storylines that evolve over time and cause people to think are much better than random storylines put together out of thin air.
Because if WWE keeps putting the same repetitive storylines together without moving forward, the company will be stuck in its current doldrums, sailing listless in a sea of uncertainty.
If Someone’s Getting Over Naturally, Change Your Plans
Many have argued that WrestleMania 32’s booking decisions were made to spite the fans. Most of the fan favorites lost for no logical reason, and WWE went with their planned main event outcome despite overwhelming opposition. This should’ve been a wake-up call for Vince McMahon: reactions like this will not go away if he keeps doing what he did at this event.
Vince should stop going down the safe route and recognize when he’s wrong. No matter how much he and his crew try and manipulate the crowd, fans will only continue to push back against his forced attempts to flip them off. He changed his plans many times during the Attitude Era, and it led to several wrestlers becoming legends at once, instead of only one or two.
Now, Vince still has his own plans set in stone, but those aren’t likely to yield positive results. With 2017 around the corner, perhaps it’s time Vince takes some risks and change his direction in a way that, you know, gives fans what they want.
After all, the whole point is for your wrestlers to sell more tickets and make you more money. Why would someone be punished for doing that?
Find Other Ways to Promote and Advertise
WWE scripts promos in a way that makes them sound robotic and completely unrealistic. After all, if you’re angry at someone and you want to fight them, would you challenge them to a fight while plugging a show on which you’ll fight them? Of course not, because you’re a normal person with a sense of logic.
But in WWE, they have to promote their own products and their sponsors’ products interwoven into the programs. This never happened before; imagine hearing the Rock cut a promo and then shelling out an ad for Subway, or something. His promos wouldn’t be taken seriously, and people wouldn’t have warmed up to him as they have.
There are many other ways WWE can promote their own products and appeal to their sponsors. For example, they have those black barricades around the ring area, so why not put sponsor logos on that space instead? That way the audience will see logos associated with those sponsors without the storylines and promos having to involve shameless plugs for those products. Everybody wins.
No other form of entertainment engages in such overt and shameless advertising in their own product. Sure, many movies and TV shows will showcase a product, but the actors never break character to promote that product or weave it into their lines. Only WWE does this, and it’s a terrible element of the show.
Put the Focus on the Wrestlers
This is a no-brainer, but this emphasis on the Authority needs to die and stay dead. No one cares about who is in power in 2016, and no one’s going to care in 2017. The story involving the Authority has been so disjointed, confusing and disinteresting, yet it’s a regular feature every week.
People don’t tune in to see Stephanie McMahon; they tune in to see the wrestlers wrestle. This shouldn’t have to be such a difficult concept to grasp. In fact, it should be a focal point of their New Years’ Resolution.
The emphasis on non-wrestlers will only harm the WWE product in the long-term. People want to see wrestlers wrestle, no matter how much WWE tries to spin their product as ‘sports entertainment’. People tune in for the unique blend of athleticism and storytelling, not to see what useless award Stephanie McMahon won for her business acumen.
If WWE cut down on the useless backstage promos and gave more for their wrestlers to tell stories in the ring…there would eventually be more people watching out of increased interest in the wrestling product.