What is wrong with the WWE?
I’m trying to understand what WWE are doing on a weekly basis. I really am. The problem, though, is that I’ve got conflicting trains of thought. The first train of thought is as a long-time WWE diehard fan. I see some programming where the in-ring performances are fantastic and (for the most part) I’m not embarrassed to watch. They successfully walk the line between PG-rated kid-friendly nonsense and PG-rated adult content. The problem isn’t that the show is rated PG because, quite frankly, there are still a lot of programs out there that are entertaining and serious without crossing that line to PG-13.
The second train of thought is as a member of WWE management. You are trying to grow your viewership. What’s the biggest audience out there that can help the next “boom period”? The kids!! They’re the ones buying toys and getting their parents to get them t-shirts and video games for Christmas and birthdays. The kids may not exactly fit into a Nielson box, but they’re the next generation of fan. If you can grab them early, then you’ve got ‘em down the road. The third train of thought is as fan of the Attitude Era, which WWE references all too often on the WWE Network. Let’s face it, the current product is about as far-removed from the Attitude Era as you can get. Is that necessarily a bad thing? I don’t think anybody would argue that chairshots to the head are missed. I would also argue that in this day and age, blading for the sake of “getting color” isn’t required to make a match entertaining. It can still help, but because everybody knows it’s a work and there are so many fears of disease transferred through blood, it’s probably not missed that much by most fans.
But the Attitude Era fan is still the most vocal, both online and at the shows. The Attitude Era fan is bringing their own kids to the shows and complaining about how things used to be so much better “back in the day”. The Attitude Era fan hates everything PG about the product and isn’t happy unless he’s bitching/moaning about the product. I’d like to think I fall into the first train of thought. I’m certainly a WWE diehard fan and have been for 30 years now when I first saw Randy “Macho Man” Savage make his way to the ring. I can sit back and still be annoyed at storyline continuity issues and the “kiddie programming” while still being entertained by some of the storylines and the in-ring performances. WWE isn’t perfect. In fact, they’re far from it and could be doing a lot better. I don’t know if I agree with their decision to focus on the smaller kids with things like Los Matadores & El Torito or The New Day.
I don’t know if I believe that WWE still know how to create new stars after failing to debut so many NXT standouts like Bo Dallas, Big E, Paige, Adam Rose, and now The Ascension. I don’t know if WWE writers need to continually come up with silliness like the Dean Ambrose segments with the therapist. Sports entertainment is not professional wrestling; that much we can all agree on.
I’d like to think that there is a way to come up with new and exciting ideas for sports entertainment without abandoning the concept of what actually makes up sports entertainment. I mean, with shows out there drawing us all in with their incredibly entertaining and original storylines (i.e. Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Orange is the New Black, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, etc), why can’t sports entertainment do something similar? Why does EVERYTHING always revert back to the lowest common denominator and fart jokes? Why can’t WWE start becoming original? They would probably argue that they don’t need to change what isn’t already broken. My counter-argument would be that you can still improve upon a proven formula. I don’t know where WWE is going, but I’d dare argue that they are losing as many fans as they are gaining…and if there isn’t any growth, what’s the point? It’s frustrating as a long-time fan to see the company in the state it’s in. It harkens back to the early 90’s when everything was a cartoon. I’m watching TNA and PWG and NJPW and ROH and wishing WWE could find some kind of “common ground” where it blends in a realistic form a sports entertainment with some great in-ring professional wrestling. I’m sure I’m not alone. The question I ask you is…will it ever happen for us?