Storytelling 101: Leave 'em Wanting More

Whenever we end a pay-per-view (PPV) with Daniel Bryan still no closer to regaining the belt that was stolen from him at SummerSlam 2013, apologists for WWE creative come out of the woodwork to reassure us that this is a slow build and all will be fine come WrestleMania 30. They may even be right. But what these apologists -- and Creative -- have forgotten is that a slow build still needs to hit the right emotional notes if it is going to be effective, entertaining storytelling, and this one is not.

It doesn't matter if the hero of your story faces a temporary defeat at the end of every chapter, provided the ending leaves the audience excited to see what happens next. The end of SummerSlam 2013 pulled that off with events so shocking and outrageous that everyone had to tune in to RAW the next day simply to see the fallout. Recent PPVs, however, have left the audience feeling alienated, frustrated, and disappointed. Whatever the emotional rollercoaster you want your audience to experience, "glum disappointment" isn't a place you should ever want to visit even by accident, let alone on purpose (as the montage of sad faces we were treated to at the end of Elimination Chamber seemed to imply). The old showbiz adage, which still holds true, is "leave 'em wanting more," not "leave 'em wishing they'd stayed home".

The crazy thing is, it doesn't have to be this way. Bummer endings to PPVs affect audience morale far more than a slack midsection. Literally the only thing stopping audiences leaving Royal Rumble or Elimination Chamber feeling exhilarated is the placement of matches. Had Battleground ended with the Rhodes brothers vs. Shield match, we'd have all forgotten about the ridiculous non-result to the WWE championship match and would have finished the evening smiling at the Rhodes' triumph. Likewise, had Elimination Chamber ended with the Wyatts versus Shield war, we would have ended the night filled with exhilaration, not disappointment. The feeling you had at the end of a show is always going to colour your overall opinion of it.

If Creative must serve us up with disappointments, they should at least follow them up with something we can smile at. This is entertainment, and entertainers should aim to have their audiences ending the night happy.

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