Friends, countrymen, non-countrymen, it's been a while. I confess that my time to actually watch wrestling has decreased, but I still pay attention to the goings on a bit. That said, I actually did use this week to try and see what was going on. WWE, after all, spent the last week having season premieres and advertising how much has changed. Thus, it was important to see if WWE were actually committed to this idea.
I'm no idealist; it's impossible for WWE to simply pull a hard reset on a weekly episodic television show. But what I was looking for was some confirmation, any really, that WWE understood the core issues it was facing and was determined to deal with them.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
Let's make one thing clear here: this isn't about AEW or any of that. Put that out of your head. This is about WWE having spent the last two decades stagnating in every area other than their bottom line, and them recognizing that they need to actually do things. Because WWE aren't going to change from competition. The only way they'll change is if the networks they run their shows on start complaining about low numbers. And given this week saw the move to a new network for one of its flagship shows, and the first outing of their indie brand on live TV, I was hoping WWE would have the spark needed to actually do what needed done.
Instead, we got WWE's version of the Disney live-action remake; a soulless product trading on the good memories of something that came before, hoping the brand is the star and not the things the brand produces.
It's 2019. The attitude era was half over two decades ago now. Yet the people who were marketed to sell their shows were primarily people who cannot wrestle anymore. The Rock isn't going to wrestle again. Even if he did, you probably wouldn't want to see it. The Undertaker is an old, broken down man who has no business ever lacing up a pair of boots again. But both of these men were relied on to sell a product to a new audience. Keep in mind, the issue isn't that these guys were on the show; the issue is that their being on it was the selling point. It's like trying to sell a new car by talking about how you put in a 20-year-old engine. It's backwards.
And as for Brock Lesnar, at least the guy can still go when he feels like it. But at the same time, we all know that he's not going to be around regularly. Putting the title on him once again shows WWE can't trust any of its full time guys to actually sell the product; so instead we have a guy whose only protection is that he's not around enough to be defiled by the creative writing of the company he works for.
Speaking of Lesnar, let's deal with another one of WWE's bad habits: they can't stop telling the viewer that their own people are terrible and uninteresting. One of WrestleMania's primary achievements was to take mainstream famous people and bring them into the show to make it feel bigger than it was. In time, this meant using celebrities next to wrestlers, to bring a bit of glitz and glamour to the shows they were a part of.
Unfortunately, this has long since transitioned into WWE placing people outside their own company as the real stars of the show. We're not dealing with Mike Tyson joining DX. We're dealing with the Big Show versus Floyd Mayweather. While that encounter may have been better than expected, that's only because Mayweather himself understood how to build his own aura. He understood that to look good in triumph, he needed to make sure his opponent was a threat. But that wasn't WWE's doing. WWE doesn't know how to make anyone seem like a threat.
What we're dealing with right now is WWE not having learned anything from the guest host era. On SmackDown, we're told that Brock Lesnar's only opponent is the guy who beat him in the UFC. A guy who, as far as anyone who only watches WWE knows, doesn't know how to actually wrestle a match. WWE are basically saying 'all these full time superstars can't deal with one former UFC guy, so we need to bring in another UFC guy to handle him.'
Now it's no secret that Vince has always liked hard men. There's a reason he hired guys like Ken Shamrock once upon a time, or Mark Henry, or hell even did that awful Brawl for All thing. But sitting down and going 'well this UFC guy who only shows up a few times a year can't be beaten by anyone, so he needs to fight another UFC guy who will only be around a few times a year.'
It's a mentality that seeped into Ronda Rousey's ascension to the top of the pile, even though she at least clearly wanted to be a part of the pro wrestling world for the time that she was. It's a mentality that causes air time to be soaked up by having a professional boxer have a staredown with one of the wrestlers, like we're suddenly going to start doing boxing matches again.
Someone go find Butterbean, I guess.
But that's just SmackDown, a show with no draws. Compare that to RAW, a show with exactly one, The Fiend. Now, like him or hate him, the fact that he exists grabs attention. He's the closest thing WWE have had since the Undertaker or Kane in terms of real grabbing power, a testament to the skill and genius of the performer under the mask.
But WWE is going to WWE, and the Fiend's first Hell in a Cell match was less Kane ripping off the door of the cell and more House of Horrors. Apparently, the best way to have the Fiend fight in a match was to bathe the entire match in dim red light, and have them fight in a bright red cage. Clearly whoever thought of that never saw that red domed cage match that TNA did. Because guess what? You can't really see anything from outside the cage when everything is red!
It's almost not worth talking about the idea of a disqualification in a Hell in a Cell match. It's so stupid, it's almost Russo-esque. His name might get thrown around a lot, but as the guy who asked why you couldn't be disqualified in a cage match, I feel like it applies here. The cell match isn't new; it's got an entire PPV around it! More than that, we saw another cage match earlier in the night filled with weapons, and there was no disqualification. Exactly what reason was there to end the match that way? And I don't mean "because the writers wrote themselves into a corner."
Here's an idea: if you can't figure out how to end a match, don't have the match.
This goes beyond the "dusty finish." This is literally broadcasting to the world that WWE are like conquistadors finding platinum and throwing it away because it wasn't gold. They can literally be handed treasure, and they don't know what to do with it. This goes beyond mere incompetence. This is the kind of thing that destroys entire years worth of product. We're talking the failed summer of Punk levels of incompetence here, incompetence that is the norm rather than the exception.
WWE is a company that has been putting on wrestling shows for decades, and yet it's clear that in all that time, WWE have not learned a single damn thing about anything at all. It casts their boom periods as luck rather than genius, and encourages cynicism throughout their fan base.
And I still haven't talked about the Rusev and Lana stuff, a rehash of one of the worst angles ever. Except it's now the third time we've done the Rusev cuckhold story, given the second time was with Enzo. Apparently, working for WWE as a woman means getting scripted to make out with other men aside from your husband, because your boss thinks that's entertainment. WWE couldn't produce a half decent telenova, let alone a decent wrestling show.
It's astounding that WWE still has good parts, but these parts are not intentional. They are entirely down to the performers who possess actual talent. WWE has become the Hollywood of the 1950's, chewing up and spitting out talent after talent in an endless pursuit of digestible mediocrity.
Except unlike that era, WWE have shown that they're unable to produce even mediocre quality regularly without their performers having to save it. Imagine if WWE was still using the performers of 20 years ago? Would they still be on television? I doubt it. WWE is only saved because the people they employ to wrestle, the very people WWE tells us don't matter next to their UFC, boxing, and football guys, are so talented that they can create some entertainment out of their broken bodies.
We still haven't even discussed the endless spot devaluation, like the breaking of the announce table spot that is just another spot now. Or any other spot that has been done to death. Because again, WWE hasn't learned anything beyond the fact that people will still watch no matter how bad the show is. No matter how insulting it is, they will still get your money. Sort of like how they got it for the network despite its main selling point, NXT, now being on free TV, and them having said for years now that things like the archive were less important. I guess you could buy it to watch Holy Foley, but then you're a fool.
It all boils down to repetition. It boils down to a lack of real desire to actually do anything. It goes beyond Vince; it's a company problem. Vince could die tomorrow, and the company wouldn't change, because everyone has been bred in his image. Not that WWE will suffer for it. WWE will continue on, wading through its own terrible ideas, content that they can literally put anything on TV and you'll still watch. We're at "Kevin Nash putting no wrestling on the first hour of Nitro" levels of not caring at this point.
I'm not sure why WWE bothered to call this a new season, because it looks exactly like everything that came before it. Bland, boring, repetitive, and incompetent.