It started when former WWE creative team member Jimmy Jacobs responded to a tweet from Wrestling Observer’s Brian Alvarez saying that the Dec. 10 television numbers were “embarrassing”. Jacobs assertion that writing Raw is “f***ing hard” was then pushed back on by some fans, and supported by wrestlers and another former writer.
As a process wonk, this was pretty fascinating. While more out-in-the-open than at any time in wrestling’s history, the behind-the-scenes details of how a show is made are still much less well known or documented than other television, movie and live productions.
As a wrestling fan, though? This has nothing to do with me. I’m a consumer, with limited time and resources. I make a decision on tuning in or buying a ticket based on my perception of whether I will enjoy myself or somehow be benefited by doing so. If I’ve checked out your product before and not been entertained or enriched by it, and therefore choose not to partake of it again... it doesn’t really matter that making it was difficult.
Admittedly, as many have pointed out, wrestling fans (in general and some of those who are active online in particular) can be a unique brand of pain in the ass. There are those among us who will go after anyone involved in the business, often for things they have no control over. Confusion about not only who does what, but whether someone is in character or not when they do something, can make “wrestling twitter” more toxic than just about any online fandom out there.
So the case being made by Jacobs, and Seth Rollins, and Tom Casiello is not only interesting, but a worthwhile defense against anyone blaming wrestlers or writers individually for the quality of Raw or its performance in the ratings.
But Alvarez wasn’t singling out the writers’ room as being at fault for the decline in WWE viewers. And a lot of the criticism of Raw lately hasn’t pinpointed one particular role in the creative process. The focus on Baron Corbin as an authority figure probably gets the brunt of it, but even that spreads blame around the decision to focus on that story and any number of performers, writers, producers, etc. involved in presenting it.
Fans enjoy picking these things apart. You can see it happen with sports teams & leagues, or specific brands in fiction like superheroes or fantasy universes. But football fans arguing about what’s wrong with the NFL, Manchester United supporters unhappy with the team’s recent results, or DC Comics buffs who hated the Snyder-verse may like to debate why things have gone wrong, but mostly they want the product they enjoy back.
Take a not-apples-to-apples-but-not-apples-to-sparkplugs-either example. If you go to a store and get crappy service or a malfunctioning widget, you’re likely to stop going there. It doesn’t matter that hiring staff is tricky, or if there was a weird supply chain issue or whatever. And if the doctor or mechanic you go to diagnoses your problem incorrectly, you’d find a different doctor.
Obviously, this takes us to questions about WWE’s dominance of the industry and some fans unwillingness or inability to seek out alternatives. But it doesn’t change the fact that “it’s hard” is a somewhat acceptable answer if someone says “you, WWE writer, are bad at your job”.
The problem is still that a lot of people don’t enjoy the product. And the people who’ve stopped watching?
They’re not even around to hear that excuse at all.