WWE has been on a creative role as of late. Daniel Bryan is becoming the dominant super-face on Monday Night Raw, The Shield is one of the most feared and hated groups today, and Cody Rhodes might now be a legitimate main event star. Triple H is continuing to do his best stuff, Big Show is now interesting once again, and Brad Maddox is killing it as Raw's General Manager. WWE's programming has been building momentum and catching fire, driving us into the next era of mainstream wrestling.
The ratings haven't picked up yet, but they should soon enough. If they keep their current pace and keep going on this roll, 2014 should be the year that the numbers start to rise. Don't expect them to rise too much, though. WWE has one major barrier to jump over first.
The WWE itself.
The biggest problem with WWE's programming that might prevent them from becoming a more powerful television entity than they already are, is the fact that while Raw has been consistently good this year, WWE's programs are still needlessly obnoxious. Ridiculously obnoxious. Stupendously obnoxious. Just pick your favorite adjective and put it in front of the word "obnoxious." I'll probably end up using that word a lot, because its the only way to describe WWE most times.
For long time wrestling fans, or just any poor soul who watched Raw from 2011 through 2012, their levels of what they considered obnoxious might have been diluted considerably. Heel Michael Cole was pretty much the epitome of the word. He was a grating, annoying presence that added nothing to the program but seriously hampered any enjoyment one could receive from it. Watching a WWE program with a heel Michael Cole commentating was like having your head stuck in the vice and some sadistic government agent turning the handle, squeezing your head more and more. After that mercifully came to an end, the vice loosened and we let out a sigh of relief. Now the red hot poker jammed up our collective ass is only a mild annoyance, even without a tube of Preparation H in sight.
Meh, could be worse. We could be employed by Dixie Carter.
That red hot poker is of course, WWE's Randy Marsh like obsession with social media and its general self-promotion. Shameless self-promotion has always been a staple of professional wrestling. Hell, it's practically the lifeblood of America itself. However, wrestling's self-promotion always had a certain carny attitude to it. The sort of old timey snake-oil salesman charm that made West Dickens such a lovable character. There's a fine line there and WWE crossed it years ago.
This last Monday night, we were treated to a video package of John Cena's recovery and return at Hell in a Cell. Now, Cena's quick return should be applauded and his hard work certainly acknowledged and celebrated. But the video package seemed to be less about showing us his hard work to get back into the ring, and more concerned with convincing us that John Cena is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. It went from an understandable fluff piece into an obnoxious attempt at deification.
Now let's discuss that fucking twitter feed that scrolls at the bottom of the screen. Does anyone give a shit about that? Does that add anything to the program other than WWE's constant self-fellatio? That is what makes it so obnoxious. This isn't self-promotion to increase ticket sales, ratings or ppv buys. It's an attempt to show how awesome and hip WWE is. They're down with the Twitter, which makes them boss. Then they constantly have those little messages before or after commercial breaks, proudly crowing that they are the most socially active thing on television or whatever.
Well hooray! Huzzah! Congratulations! Nobody cares.
WWE's use of social media is highly commendable. They have utilized these opportunities better than any other entertainment entity in our culture. The fact that they have a WWE app is great. They're reaching out to their fans and trying to maximize the value they put out and establish a real connection with their fans and customer base. No one else does this. Companies like EA and Comcast would rather set their customers on fire just so it can refuse to piss on them. WWE would rather make its fanbase and customers feel welcome and valuable so they can continue to sell them more shit. WWE has the better business plan.
But once again, they take these positives and constantly drive them to obnoxious extremes. WWE's product is better than it has been in years, yet sometimes I still find it hard to sit through a live Raw broadcast. For one, its three hours. That is an absurd amount of time to ask for every week. Then I have to sit through their constant self-fellatio. They're like that guy on Sons of Anarchy who can't stop masturbating so the Chinese gangsters cut his hands off.
Hmm, needs more Twitter.
The three hour length and the fact that too much of that time is dedicated to showing the WWE Universe how awesome and saintly WWE is, may be a big turn off for more casual viewers. After all, people watch Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to watch Agent Coulson be awesome, they don't want to see three minute packages of how amazing ABC is and how many friends it has on Facebook.
It's the kind of thing that is starting to make Americans uncomfortable, because it's same type of bullshit that politicians have fed to us about themselves for decades. And since the political class would rather screw the country over than run a somewhat functional government, the way we view this particular type of self-promotion is rapidly changing. A company such as WWE who constantly shoves their charitable endeavors down viewers' throats in an effort to make themselves look good, may have the opposite of the intended effect. As a country, we're so used to being lied to by both government and corporations, that we automatically assume everything is bullshit.
If WWE showed the slightest bit of restraint with these types of vignettes and whatnot, this wouldn't be much of an issue. But the constant feed of it week after week wears on the nerves. Longtime WWE fans maybe able to tolerate it. After all, wrestling fans are particularly good at focusing on the good while overlooking the bad, as long as the good stuff is good enough to cover it. A fantastic fifteen minutes can go a long in way in elevating an otherwise unremarkable show. After all, there is always next week, and those fantastic fifteen minutes were enough to keep me interested in the ongoing product. The Attitude Era money train was pretty much powered by McMahon/Austin, leaving the more idiotic stuff like Big Bossman dragging Big Show on his father's casket around a cemetery hidden from memory.
The casual viewer maybe more unforgiving. He may like Daniel Bryan and think those matches with The Shield are awesome, but does he really want to sit through video package after video package of WWE bragging about its social media presence and how saintly it is? Once again, WWE's most commendable and praise worthy attributes are turned into negatives, because WWE is incapable of showing even the most rudimentary restraint when displaying them. It comes off as just more dishonest, corporate worshiping bullshit, even if it's genuine. Vince McMahon's and the WWE's greatest asset has always been in its ability to see the big picture, but it may be getting lost in it.
Plus, getting a commentary team that doesn't make you push the mute button may also help.