Despite the fact that the Attitude Era, in retrospect, was as fun and exciting as it was misogynistic and at times, silly, there's one thing could not be discounted:
The programming and the writing was focused.
Here's the truth -- if a booking decision is written well enough and comes across television and the live audience strong enough, armchair bookers like you and myself probably will not have convulsions. However, if it's the opposite, well, we'll take to websites and discussion forums like this one and rant.
But of course, back then, the late Chris Kreski who was the WWE's primary writer from when Russo and Ed Ferrara left in the middle of 1999 to when Stephanie McMahon took over late in 2000 used storyboards to write episodes. Angles back then had a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end, whether it was the Triple H-Rock feud over the WWE title or The Radicalz versus just about everyone else in the midcard.
The WWE's lack of balance and focus has been telling. Examples include:
- The Bella's sibling feud being dropped without any reason
- The fact that the Paige is left to job to the Bellas over and over and over again.
- Bray Wyatt has went nowhere in a year and a half.
- We have a relationship-in-peril angle -- we've only had one nearly every year for the past 5 years.
- Roman Reigns was structured to appeal to a demographic that comprised a minority of WWE fans.
- Dean Ambrose has peaks and valleys in his character trajectory, despite the fact that he has, by far, been the most over babyface on the roster outside of Daniel Bryan in the past year.
- Seth Rollins quickly becoming one of the worst written heel champions of the past 10 years (only one worse was The Miz)
Yes I know, that's being overly critical. If I was talent and just read that, I would probably go "Hey fan, what gives?" But here's the truth: the WWE does not produce consistently great television. Actually, most of the television that the WWE produces is just mediocre to really bad television.
I'm not saying that everything is bad. The WWE's tag team division is as lively as it has been in years. Cena is putting on some of the best in-ring performances of his career. ROH alumni Kevin Owens (Steen) and Cesaro (Claudio Castaganoli) are making major impressions on today's audience. But unfortunately, the WWE televised product overall is simply not that good.
But how do the shows lack balance and focus? Consider this:
The opening segment of any professional wrestling show sets the stage for the rest of the evening's entertainment. It's been that way for years. The momentum that any show has will start with that opening segment and continue throughout the night. Attitude Era shows generally started out as they do now with a 10 to 15 minute opening promo, but even though those shows were only two hours, a great deal of the shows still had six matches, occasionally seven.
Matches were far shorter back then (longer matches were on PPVs as a way to sell them), however, performances were crisp and well choreographed and the character work was unsurpassed. Even though the performers back then are not as athletically and technically gifted as the current slate of performers are, they were far better actors. With strong character work and storytelling abilities, the shows were written with clarity so that the audience understood quickly motives and justification. There were few loose ends that were not tied up. That's the kind of balance and focus the WWE has been lacking for years.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not being an Attitude Era shill. There were quite a few fucking duds back then such as "Sexual Chocolate", misogynistic Jeff Jarrett, the "sex sells" era of the Divas division (even though Lita, Jacqueline, Molly Holly and Ivory were women that could work in the ring), most of the late Big Boss Man feuds in 1999, the Corporate Ministry -- I digress -- the shows were written and balanced enough to be tolerable. The good overwhelmingly and carried the bad. Writers were not being pushed to do too much. McMahon wasn't trying to do too much. The WWE put on two hours of content every Monday and Thursday night, and they made every minute of it count.
When a playlist recap of the highlights of Raw has more value than the actual three hour broadcast, it serves as a major indictment against the actual televised show. It shows that, for the most part, the vast majority of Raw and Smackdown broadcasts are meaningless. That's a damn shame though, because the roster works hard to put on the best show possible for the fans.
The WWE only still manages to get into the top two or three programs on Monday nights because of the legacy of the brand. Last week, Monday Night Raw managed total fewer viewers than TNT's Major Crimes. It didn't even double the viewership of The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News. The WWE only does so well on Thursdays because the rest of the Thursday night cable line up is absolutely terrible. The WWE only does so well on Twitter because wrestling fans are among the most actively engaged on online discussion and the WWE is really the most accessible promotion North America at this juncture.
Compelling television draws viewers. Viewers draw advertising dollars. Remember when commercial breaks wouldn't happen during matches and now they occur during nearly every televised match? That's a symptom of weak advertising dollars due to weak television viewership. But the WWE is still the USA Network highest rated show -- that's what high brand equity does for a company, because believe me, the numbers aren't necessarily an endorsement of the product.
I'll give the WWE credit: their shows are not at trainwreck status. And the fact is that very little will change due to the lack of a second promotion that can alter the entire wrestling market, similar to what WCW to the WWF in 1996 and vice versa at the beginning of 1999. You would not be ludicrous to defend the current WWE programming. But WWE weekly programming has a serious deficiency in quality -- the fact that a 15 minute playlist reel has more value than a 2 to 3 hour show illustrates it.
The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.