I’ve been covering WWE Mixed Match Challenge all over the place, largely because nobody else wants to and I feel like it’s my obligation to watch as much WWE content as possible to be as informed as I can be, in order to bring the most in-depth analysis to my punditry.
But good lord, does this show seem superfluous and hard to justify the meaning of, in more ways than one.
Sure, at times, it can be entertaining. I actually enjoy the Mic’d Up videos when we can hear some banter we’d normally be muted from, and since it doesn’t matter all that much, the wrestlers can goof off and have more fun with silly things like dance breaks and shenanigans.
That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t make for a show that people feel like they have to watch and there’s a ceiling of viewership of people who are supremely dedicated and watch every little thing and/or people who specifically like that silliness and/or people who are specifically watching just for the particular people competing on that night (e.g., they’re a fan of Naomi and Jimmy Uso, so they watch those matches only)
At this point, we’ve had two seasons and I wouldn’t be shocked if WWE goes ahead and continues this with a third—even though I’m hoping that’s not the case—and I feel it’s necessary to point out the problems they keep having and how they might be able to avoid running into them with a potential season 3.
Problem #1: Nobody Cares / It’s Not Meaningful
The first season had a charitable donation on the line. That’s great for those charities, but the average person doesn’t care about the outcome for that, because they see no consequences of the tournament’s actions on WWE programming or elsewhere. We all know it’s scripted and they had a charity in mind from the start they wanted to donate the grand prize to, so it was just like watching a drawn-out “and the winner is…..” announcement.
The second season had nothing at all on the line when it first went underway, which was the absolute worst thing they could have possibly done, because it literally gave people ZERO reason to watch it!
Without stakes attached in some fashion, it was just a series of matches that didn’t fit in the true canon, so to speak, and it might as well have been Main Event—a show WWE has such little investment in that they don’t even have it on their own website’s list of programming.
Eventually, they did announce this “all-expenses paid vacation” (which was just a promise for stupid vignettes to fill up some time on a future Raw or SmackDown) and the #30 entry spots in the Royal Rumble, which was actually something valuable.
Had they announced the Royal Rumble thing ahead of time, maybe people would have been interested enough to tune in. However, I’m of the belief that they didn’t have that planned out in the slightest bit, because they truly had no plan for what this tournament would be about until a few weeks ago and simply started it with the mentality of “we’ll figure it out”—the worst thing a company with short-term memory problems, a lack of coherent direction and a refusal to stick to anything can ever do.
My solution to this problem is two-fold: 1) make the tournament worth something particularly valuable that fans would be interested in seeing, and 2) make sure that is announced weeks before the show even begins.
Theoretically, let’s assume Season 3 starts sometime after WrestleMania, when the more important things are out of the way and the Superstar Shake-up can formulate some different teams. By that point, the Royal Rumble thing is out the window and they can’t just say it’s for some prize of money for the winning team or something, but maybe, it’s for “a championship title opportunity of their choosing.”
This would open up the ability to have someone win and challenge for a world title (or, for the woman on the winning team, the Raw or SmackDown Women’s Championship), a midcard title, or even a tag title as they could always just pick a partner. It doesn’t have to be at a specific pay-per-view to go down, it doesn’t have to act like Money in the Bank where they can pull it out of a hat whenever they want to, but at least it’s something.
The best part is that WWE doesn’t have to commit to anything crazy. If they’re stuck in a bind where a particular team “has” to win and they’ve fallen out of favor, they can get squashed in their title shots on Raw or SmackDown. They don’t have to do it on a pay-per-view like SummerSlam.
It would even be interesting to see someone go into the tournament as a champion and still want to win the title shot opportunity, as they’d like to get the chance to win another belt to add to their collection, or even the opposing brand’s championships or something.
At least it’s a prize that has value and if it’s announced from the start, people know it isn’t going to be a tournament that devolves into all being about the winning team getting a coupon for a free t-shirt on WWE Shop or something ridiculous just to make Vince laugh.
Problem #2: Injuries and Replacement Teammates
If you can get people to tune in because they’re interested in what the winning team will get, you need to make sure your teams aren’t going to flip flop around like they’ve been doing.
In season 1, Enzo Amore, Samoa Joe, and Alicia Fox had to be replacement partners. In season 2, Alexa Bliss was replaced by Ember Moon and Braun Strowman was replaced by Curt Hawkins (meaning that team completely changed from the start), Mickie James filled in for Sasha Banks, Apollo Crews filled in for Finn Balor, Bobby Roode took over for Kevin Owens, and Jeff Hardy was slotted into AJ Styles’ spot.
Injuries aren’t something WWE books, and they’re unavoidable to a certain extent, but maybe it’s not the best idea in the world to take your go-to people that are working all the time and give them another night of traveling (for the Raw stars) and another match to get beaten up in.
Perhaps, instead of putting the biggest names possible out of the ones that are willing to go through this dumb show, WWE should make better use out of the lesser-utilized talent.
Why in the world wasn’t No Way Jose on this season? How come it took until the last opportunity for Apollo Crews to be involved? Where was Chad Gable before he won the tag titles? Why no Tyler Breeze? Heath Slater? The Ascension? Mojo Rawley? Zack Ryder?