I’ve been thinking alot about changing the subtitle of my blog. It reads: Professional Wrestling News, Politics, Life, Inspiration, and everything else under the sun.” As of late, it seems as if I’ve been covering everything else under the sun except for professional wrestling. Well, there is a reason for this. It’s because professional wrestling, particularly WWE, sucks today. Plain and simple.
For the past few weeks, I’ve voluntarily decided to not watch Monday Night Raw, the flagship show of the company. I’ve consistently watched Raw every Monday night since the show premiered in January of 1993. Unless there was a family emergency or another major event, you could bet your last dollar that you could find me sitting in front of a television set every Monday night watching the superstars of WWE.
Today, I could really care less about the show. The only way I keep up with the latest happenings is through visiting wrestling news websites.
On the other hand, I’m a huge fan of Friday Night Smackdown. Sometimes I wonder to myself when did it exactly become a chore to watch Raw. How did I suddenly lose my passion for a show I faithfully watched, without skipping a beat, for nearly 18 years? In actuality, it wasn’t a sudden decision. It was a gradual decline of interest, which has really plagued WWE on a grand scale for years with the general public. Wrestling is not cool, nor is it the hip thing to be a fan of like it was a little over a decade ago. I’m going to explain a few reasons as to why WWE is throwing itself off the proverbial cliff. There are enough reasons to write a book, but I will focus on four main ones.
Too Few Stars Are Being Made
To the general public that watches WWE, the only true stars are John Cena, HHH (who wrestles sparingly and does more backstage work), Undertaker (basically retired) and Randy Orton. I would define a star as someone who is consistently put in a position to headline television shows and pay-per-view events. The scary part is that Cena and Orton have been established main event level stars for several years.
Others such as Edge, Batista, Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho have either retired or left the company on their own accord. Guys like CM Punk, Mark Henry and Alberto Del Rio have greatly risen in stardom over the last year, but the jury is still out as to whether they will remain long-term stars on the level of Cena and Orton. Guys such as Miz, Rey Mysterio, Jack Swagger, Christian, Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston and John Morrison are super talented, yet aren’t pushed by the company at a level which is commensurate with their skill. Therefore the same guys remain on top forever, thus making the product appear stale and boring to the average fan.
Titles are Absolutely Worthless
This is a problem that has become especially apparent over the last couple of years. Back in the old days, it was possible to make a star by simply putting a belt on them. Titles were treated as something special and it was a big deal whenever a new champion was crowned. Today the belts change so frequently that it’s hard to remember who is champion in a given week.
From 1963 to 1984, the WWE title changed hands on ten occasions. From May through October of this year, the WWE title changed hands seven times. There is something seriously wrong with this picture.
From what I’ve heard, the writers (people who script the matches) switch the belts so frequently because they believe the shock of a title change will lead to an increased rating for the following night’s episode of Raw (titles usually change on pay-per-view events held on Sunday). Yes, the company is prostituting its most prestigious championship for the sake of ratings. Ratings rarely rise above the 3.0 level, yet they still insist on switching the belts just about every month. That is a textbook definition of insanity.
Pay-Per-View Events Mean Nothing
When I was a teenager it seemed like every pay-per-view was special. Of course, the big four of Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, Summerslam and Survivor Series were always promoted in a way that seemed bigger than the others, and Mania has always been the biggest show of the year.
Today, watching a pay-per-view is like watching an extended edition of Raw or Smackdown. You may see a slightly higher caliber of in-ring action and the matches last longer, yet nothing of significance happens. In the 90s and early part of the last decade, watching a PPV was like riding a roller coaster. There were plenty of great thrills and action with a killer cliffhanger ending that left you hungry for the the next month’s show.
WWE’s pay-per-view business has declined greatly over the last few years because the majority of them mean absolutely nothing. There are also way too many. WWE runs 14 shows a year, which is entirely too much for a single company. To show how far business has fallen, this year’s Summerslam did the lowest number of domestic buys in company history; at a mere 127,000. For a comparison, the highest domestic buyrate for a Summerslam event was 800,000 for the 1998 show headlined by Steve Austin vs. Undertaker.
What a difference 13 years can make!
Nothing Makes Sense Anymore
There used to be a time when you could just sit back and watch an entertaining and intelligent wrestling show. Keyword being intelligent. The matches were good and the storylines were relatively straightforward. Plus every moment always built up to something in the bigger scheme of things. There were so many awesome feuds from my childhood through early adult years which will forever remain ingrained in my memory.
A few of the standouts were Rock vs. Austin, HHH vs. Rock, Mick Foley vs. HHH, WCW vs. NWO, Sting vs. Hulk Hogan, Diamond Dallas Page vs. Randy Savage, HHH vs. Batista and Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho. With the exception of the latter two, all of these feuds transpired during the late 90s- early 2001. And three of them are from WCW, a promotion which no longer exists.
Watching an episode of Raw these days is like sitting in on an organic chemistry lecture. Very little of it makes sense and unless you have an excellent teacher, or in this case a friend watching with you who understands every single detail, it can be downright confusing to understand exactly what is going on. Feuds start and stop without warning; the announcing is totally devoid of the ability to project the product to the masses watching on television; and there is little to no storyline continuity. Something that happened one week between two wrestlers is totally forgotten about, with no explanation, by the time you watch the next week’s show. Wins and losses mean nothing and nearly everyone is kept at the same level. Historically, beating, or even looking competitive against, a bonafide star was the gateway to being the top guy in a promotion. Look at what wrestling Bret Hart did for the career of Austin. And remember how HHH was established as a star for life after beating Foley in 2000? These days, a guy could pin the world champion and still be portrayed as a geek on television the following week. Barely anyone but the very top stars are given any sustained momentum, thus creating an environment where nothing matters. When a promotion doesn’t care about its product then the audience watching at home will eventually reach the same conclusion. I don’t believe that wrestling is no longer popular because guys like Rock and Austin are no longer around on a regular basis. However, I believe wrestling’s lack of mainstream popularity is due to the fact that promoters have neglected the basic rules that kept the wrestling industry strong for decades in North America. I’ve always been a firm believer in applying the KISS principle to pro wrestling. KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID!