Shock the System: Imagining the Future of WWE

A recent post here at CSS by Geno Mrosko discussed "the problem with the Raw women's division." That problem being, in Geno's view, that there are too few women's wrestlers, with neither enough television time nor matches.

And... fair enough. In the comment section, I disagreed that this is the time to lament the shortcomings of the WWE women's division; I think that this is a time for celebrating the large steps forward that they have been recently taking. But I suspect that I agree with Geno on the goal: parity between men's and women's wrestling. Equal time. Equal prestige. Equal promotion. Let's do it. Let's go.

That said, it's a complicated thing to achieve in reality. Besides the need to train sufficient women up to the level where they can support such an increased role, there are some stark trade-offs to consider. More women's matches likely means fewer men's matches. More women on the roster means fewer men.

So maybe, rather than continue to cram more content into an already overstuffed RAW (or Smackdown), the solution is to re-imagine how WWE presents its wrestling altogether:

I think that the women will ultimately need their own program, like 205 Live, as a dedicated showcase (though perhaps women can eventually be on all shows). But why stop there? I think that WWE should revamp RAW and Smackdown and the perception that they are the "flagship" programs. Instead of implicitly having 205 Live and some prospective women's program as being lesser tier shows, pull them up to the same level. Reduce RAW to 2 hours/week and carry it, and Smackdown, on the Network. Spin off some amount of wrestlers into a modern ECW-like "mature" promotion (versus the otherwise PG product). Treat them all as separate -- and here's the key, equal -- brands. And furthermore, separate NXT out into the indie promotion that it has become, and a genuine developmental league.

Then you would have a number of brands in the WWE Universe: RAW, Smackdown, NXT, True Developmental, 205 Live, Women's, New ECW. (A European/UK/International league is also a distinct possibility, perhaps the better to take pressure off of the developmental promotion I envision.)

That's seven. You could run a new program each night of the week, at 1 or 2 hours a pop. Put them on rotating PPV schedules, so that no promotion is running a PPV monthly, but only every other (or third) month, just like NXT does currently. This will allow storylines to mature at a more natural pace... just like on NXT. :) (I think this might also have ancillary benefits to wrestlers in terms of health/wear-and-tear, travel costs, and so forth, though I haven't thought through everything related to house shows or taping yet.)

IMO, with this sort of arrangement, WWE would be in a better position to hyperserve its customers. Those who can't invest 5+ hours a week to keep up with the main product could better pick and choose the rosters they actually want to follow, while those who wish to watch all the wrestling in the world would have even more to enjoy. Plus it could allow for more risk-taking, more experiment, and more competition within the WWE fold. I would give every group its own writing team, its own bookers, etc., and just allow them to share common production elements. Without an official "top promotion," let them all compete for eyeballs and merchandise sales.

Then, the big four PPVs (or five if we're counting Money in the Bank now) can really stand out as being a time when the top wrestlers from all of the various brands come together for a show.

This is a pretty radical approach, I'll grant, and I'm certain that there would be many kinks to work out over time -- but the crux is, there's only so much time on RAW, or at WrestleMania: only so many slots on the card. And if we want more women, more cruiserweights, more Bruiserweight, more incoming indie darlings, more international sensations, etc., etc., etc., -- and what diehard wrestling fan wouldn't want all of it -- then we need more programs, more PPVs, and probably more niche/targeted marketing. If we don't want 205 Live to perennially seem smaller than RAW, and like a demotion for guys like Kallisto or Neville, then it will someday require a combination of elevating 205 Live (with its own PPVs, etc.) and paring RAW back a little bit.

RAW has had 25 years as the flagship, and it is bursting at the seams. It cannot comfortably handle all of the content we want it to handle (especially if we bring it down to 2 hrs: how many women's matches would it feature then?).

It is time to expand the WWE Universe so that each of its stars can shine.

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