10 Milestones of WWE's long road of decline
This week's chaotic edition of Raw, which some fans are already putting into the conversation as one of the worst ever, should serve as yet more evidence that Vince McMahon is losing his marbles and that it's time for him to go. In many ways, this week's chaos was the visible manifestation of WWE's decline from beetling heights into a bottomless pit of desperation and irrelevancy.
At the turn of the century, the company ruled the airwaves, with buzz oozing from its pores. When I was a 5th, 6th, and 7th grader, it was impossible to not watch Raw and SmackDown. You'd have nothing to talk about in school the next day. All the boys, and even many of the girls were talking about what Stone Cold Steve Austin was doing, what The Rock was doing, and so on. Yes, even at that age group, we were all watching.
That buzz is long gone. WWE is far from the minds of most kids in school these days, and we know this is true because the median age of the company's audience keeps going up every year. These problems, which have been built up for many years, are now cascading, and Vince McMahon seems incapable of dealing with them. The company has driven so far into the woods that its driver seems to not remember the way back.
Let's look at 10 milestones - 10 ominous signs, of how the company got so far off the right road. Only by seeing what went wrong since 2001 can we diagnose and medicate the patient.
#1 The Invasion angle
Obviously, the road begins with the end of the Monday Night Wars. Vince McMahon was right to be gleeful, but the purchase of WCW opened a major opportunity for the then-WWF. The company was still getting a couple of million viewers a week even in 2001. Now, possibilities that fans had been dreaming about for years suddenly became open - Stone Cold vs. Goldberg, The Rock vs. Diamond Dallas Page, DX vs. the nWo, etc.
None of those possibilities came to fruition, and while that isn't entirely WWF/E's fault (many of the bigger names were signed directly to Time Warner and so chose to sit out their contracts), that shouldn't have been a fatal setback. Smartly-booked, the WWF and WCW superstars could have had a meaningful story.
Instead, the WCW stars were treated as jokes, and the story centered mostly around Stone Cold's heel turn, which had already been poorly-received even before the Invasion. For about six months, the two sides meandered in a "war" that aimlessly meandered from show to show until finally ending anticlimactically at Survivor Series.
The Invasion should have been a major step up for the company. Instead, it anticipated many of the creative problems plaguing it today, and was the moment WWF/E jumped the shark. It still had inertia from the Attitude Era, but the company has never gotten the same buzz it had from before the Invasion.