I was going to save this for my little five minute rant I've been trying. In fact, I recorded it late last night. Then I slept on it. For all of five hours. If there was a course on how to piss off your fanbase then congratulations, World Wrestling Entertainment, you've just earned your doctorate in all of two and a half hours.
For those that chose to spend their Sunday night with an awards show or an all-star football game, neither of which has been relevant in years (seriously, did you know Kanye West has more Grammys than Tupac, The Who, Queen, Led Zeppelin, and Bob Marley combined?), allow me to beg your indulgence for a moment: Batista won the annual Royal Rumble match, Randy Orton held on to the WWE Championship, and Daniel Bryan, WWE's hottest solo act in years, was not only relegated to losing the opening bout with Bray Wyatt, but he didn't even so much as get a sniff of the Royal Rumble match.
And people everywhere are pissed, and so am I. This isn't just a typical Bitter Internet Wrestling Community Rant. Reaction from Pittsburgh to Long Island to Twitter was also negative, even bordering on full-on rage. So much rage that one Michael Francis Foley tweeted in disgust about the conclusion and promised to take a brick to his television. As of this writing, his disgust about said ending has been retweeted over 20,000 times and has been favorited more than 10,000 times. People were reportedly burning down merchandise booths. The BBC is covering the non-appearance of Daniel Bryan Danielson. THE BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION, people. Something is very wrong when outside, reputable news organizations are calling out your booking. I mean, people were chanting for divas during the WWE title match. THEY WERE CHANTING "WE WANT DIVAS!" DURING THE WWE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH. That NEVER happens. (Maybe it does; probably at house shows or something.)
For WWE, it could not have come at a worse time. On January 8 in Las Vegas, the company announced they were launching the WWE Network following the February 24 RAW. Five days later, Daniel Bryan was suddenly turned face with little explanation, to the delight of many. All that goodwill is now gone in favor of what will likely be the most disappointing WrestleMania main event in recent memory. Perfect time to anger the very fanbase that was ready and willing to put down $59.94 for the WWE Network in about a month.
When it comes to WWE, at least at this moment as I'm writing this, consumer confidence is low. Its hottest act in years doesn't get into the Royal Rumble match, but El Torito, The Great Khali, JBL, and Kevin F'N Nash get spots. No love for Papa Shango or Jake "The Snake" Roberts, but those goofs get in. Dolph Ziggler came back last night. Roman Reigns broke the single Rumble elimination record last night. CM Punk went Iron Man from the number 1 spot last night. No one cares. Dating back to last year's SummerSlam, this is six consecutive PPVs that WWE has served up a less-than-satisfying finish.
For the third year in a row, at least one spot in the main event of Wrestlemania will be occupied by someone who wasn't a full-time member of their roster one year prior. People were willing to let it slide in 2012 with The Rock (considering that people who don't know diddly about wrestling know who The Rock is were watching in droves), but not so much last year when his return came at the expense of CM Punk's long reign as WWE Champion. Batista, no matter how you slice it, is not on the same level of star power as The Rock. He just isn't.
Yet, the WWE Network's first PPV (and probably the biggest show in the history of the company) will ride on the broad shoulders of ½ of the famous OVW Class of 2002. Don't get me wrong; John Cena, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, and Batista will probably go down as four of the top 50 (four of the top 100, worst case scenario) WWE superstars ever, but fans have long tired of most of the group being rammed down their throats (and were it not for Lesnar's long absence, probably all of the group). Where's the next generation? Yeah, I get that Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt are probably on the way up. But D-Bry is on his way to the backburner and CM Punk, another white hot act that got snuffed out via incompetence, is probably on his way out. Why would the rank and file of the WWE bother to work their way up if they're just gonna keep bumping into that six-inch thick glass ceiling with a cement floor on top of it? Why would the average Joe/Jane wrestling fan care if the same people are in the main event over and over? This is what killed WCW. This is what killed TNA for years. There is new blood out there. The next face of the company is right in front of them. Just listen to the consumers. Not just the eight- and nine-year olds; you know, the people that make their decisions with their wallets.
But then again, maybe... just maybe... we're all being worked for the purpose of long-term storytelling. There's just one problem: there's no visible sign of hope. The E in WWE stands for "Entertainment". They have to do whatever is possible to keep the masses entertained. That's what the best television shows do. That's what sports leagues do. I'm pretty sure that's what your favorite band does. Entertain the masses, change and evolve, and give them a reason to come back. And strike while the bloody iron's hot or watch them leave. Sure, one will take their place, but eventually, there won't be someone to take the empty spot.
That's what low consumer confidence does. It keeps the consumer away, and last night's Royal Rumble may have driven some away.