The ending of bringing kayfabe into major interviews and media appearances. Pro wrestlers on TV are actors and actresses akin to any other actor or actress on other scripted television shows. Doing interviews with major publications and on radio in character is extremely passé. The future of pro wrestling depends on its accessibility and doing interviews in character or trying to keep kayfabe in interviews is not going to win new viewers in 2020s television.
Fans having a better understanding of pro wrestling business models. "This guy is not a ratings draw!" or "This guy didn't draw an audience." I see it all the time from both AEW and WWE fans. Here's a secret: both promotions build their respective business models on the brand itself being the top draw. Why? Because it is literally the most sustainable business model in modern pro wrestling as stars will consistently come and go and fans can be very fickle (see what I did there?) towards individual performers.
The end of dumb debates over TV ratings. Pro wrestling is a niche product with a mainstream reach. Despite the fact that pro wrestling draws fewer total viewers than in years' past, pro wrestling still often finishes in the top 10 in key demographic metrics and, depending on the show, adds anywhere from 20-40% in viewers when accounting for DVR viewership. In other words, ratings for WWE's Smackdown and Raw and AEW's Dynamite and Rampage are actually range from decent to very good. The discussion over ratings should not compare to historical levels, but rather contemporary realities of modern television.
The end of toxic fan entitlement. Fans definitely have a right to opine on the product of various promotions as they wish, but personally attacking performers on social media over their skills (or lack thereof) is toxic, disgusting, and has no place in pro wrestling fandom. There is a time to criticize behavior and there's a time not to criticize behavior; the latter especially when the complete story is not public and speculation is being passed off as legitimate rumor. Fans have to realize that regardless of the anonymity that social media offers, their words and behavior on these platforms can have a serious, negative impact on very real people. There's no such thing as some sort of imaginary in between "online" and "real life"—there's only one life and one existence.
Promotions not punching above their weight. This is specifically a WWE problem more than any promotion, including AEW and Impact Wrestling. WWE wants to be seen like Marvel—a vertically integrated, all-encompassing multimedia franchise with wide mainstream appeal. Admirable; however, there's three issues that is hampering WWE from achieving that. For one, scripted television is not a strength of WWE. For two, WWE wants to present their performers as actors, but its hard to do that when WWE only employs four people that have had formal actors' training (Roman Reigns, The Miz, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch). Finally, WWE is a slightly disjointed brand that I don't even think the McMahon family and Nick Khan can coherently say what their identity is behind a clear and concise value message aside from "entertainment".
Much more discipline out of AEW TV. I love AEW. I am an AEW mark. It pains me to say this, but I often feel that AEW's TV shows are all over the place. While Khan wants to make each episode of Dynamite and Rampage a unique broadcast—which is very admirable, by the way—broadcasts end up being extremely disjointed. On one hand, that's the nature of live television; on the other hand, that's a lack of discipline on Khan's part. Segments run long; matches are not optimized for commercial breaks (that's one thing Danielson vs Hangman was very good about); and the shows are not consistently tight. I will say this: Rampage has a much better flow than Dynamite; this is true even when Rampage is live. Audiences don't need to see 15 to 16 different angles play out on a single broadcast.
Much more discipline out of Tony Khan's public statements. AEW is Tony Khan's baby. He's very protective of it, sometimes his own detriment. Whether it is openly criticizing what another promotion does, over-promising and under-delivering, or in the case of me writing this post, openly criticizing a former talent's in-ring skills with poorly written tweets, Khan needs to learn the value of speaking softly and carrying a big stick. He doesn't have to respond to every single time someone criticizes his product. For what its worth, most of Big Swole's criticisms are valid: except for long-term booking decisions, AEW is unstructured and all over the place. And I say this as someone that considers AEW to be their favorite pro wrestling promotion.
AEW changes Dark and Elevation. As much as I love AEW, there's a lot of things that the company does that doesn't make much sense on the surface. The decision to shoot AEW Elevation before Dynamite and Rampage and AEW Dark at Universal Studios is a real head-scratcher. It would make far more sense if AEW Dark was filmed before Dynamite and Rampage exclusively featuring lower-card and mid-card talent. Dark could give contracted AEW talent valuable experience in developing their characters for the camera, participate in week-to-week angles, and placate fans that are increasingly concerned about AEW's roster that has clearly outgrown 3 hours of weekly first-run TV. Move Elevation to Universal Studios, and let those tapings be used for established versus enhancement talent. Elevation is the least consequential of all of AEW's offerings and I hope they switch it around.
Angles that carry through an entire broadcast. This is a lost art. AEW does not do this and this is the thing WWE is worst at. The one innovation that Chris Kreski made during his 10 months or so as WWE's head writer in 1999 and 2000 is that each show had a clear angle that was going to define the episode. WWE's best TV episodes—which include Steve Austin's cameo appearance on the last Smackdown before Backlash 2000 and the Raw Is War episode after Judgment Day 2000—focused on an overarching angle setting the tone for the entire show. This formula keeps viewers engaged and is more likely to soften the fluctuations that will occur across a multi-hour pro wrestling broadcast.
Improved presentation of babyfaces in WWE. WWE's Big E won the WWE Championship, the company's second-tier world championship, from Bobby Lashley when he cashed in his Money In The Bank contract. Since then, he has made the rounds doing various media, including appearances on College GameDay and The Breakfast Club. He has been one hell of a brand ambassador for WWE. Unfortunately, his corporate promotional work did not yield a better presentation as the protagonist of Monday nights. Vince McMahon loves booking for the big moments, but McMahon has not successfully booked a bankable babyface that is a clear box office and ratings draw since Steve Austin and The Rock. For one, that's partially by design: the brand is the draw, right? For two, he probably has no idea how to do and he's spent the last 20 years trying recreate what he had with those two.
What would you like to see in 2022?