Anyone can do that with any kind of promotion. It requires no effort to dangle something special in front of someone to make them go “oooo” and temporarily have their attention. What really matters is sticking the landing and continuing to keep their attention once you remove that carrot.
It’s Not Rocket Science
Figuring out trends is difficult. Most of the time, something catches on out of nowhere because of some x-factor and by the time you can analyze and pinpoint why, it’s too late to capitalize on it.
But here’s the thing: some of this is self-explanatory and incredibly easy once you have the right experience to know how certain trends work out.
WWE has been in business decades. They know there’s more interest on the Road to WrestleMania, for instance. It’s also no surprise that NXT gets better ratings if you promote interesting matches and call it Great American Bash instead of just having it be a normal episode with segments you can see every week.
That’s just how shit works. You get more people to come into your store if you have a sale going on. More people will go see a movie if they hear good things about it from other people, and less people will venture out to theaters if there’s bad word-of-mouth.
You’re not going to keep returning to a restaurant that continually overcooks your steak, right? Why would you? So why would you tune in to WWE if you’re not fond of the show and nothing ever changes?
This is simple. You know this. I know this. WWE knows this. They have people in marketing departments who get paid just to know this kind of information.
The problem isn’t that WWE is stupid. It’s that WWE is stubborn.
Systemic Problems Are Long-Lasting by Definition
It takes a lot of effort to change. That’s why most people who are overweight don’t lose it (or quickly gain the weight back after crash dieting), addicts tend to fall off the wagon, etc.
What good does it do if you touch a stove, get burned, realize it’s hot, and then opt to keep touching it? You clearly didn’t learn your lesson or you value something else over the negatives that come from continually repeating that mistake, so you prioritize that over the risk of suffering the same consequences.
WWE suffers from the same error where the powers that be just do not want to do things differently. This is how they want to steer the ship and damn it, why doesn’t everyone just go along with it?
Think about all the things that have become rhythmic in WWE over the years and how even the little things rarely ever change.
Why is it that after all this time, interviewers still ask a question to a superstar, wait for their response and then just stare off into the distance like they are robots who shut down? In NXT, McKenzie Mitchell will actually say “Well, there’s your answer. Back to you guys at the desk.” But on Raw and SmackDown, they just go quiet and stare blankly.
Why is it that every single tag team match ends with all competitors getting into the ring and trading shots? Insert 100 examples and ask yourself “How come ____”?
Because Vince likes it that way. And there’s the root of your problem.
Innovation Needs Innovation
Vince McMahon is forever a legend and a genius for being able to turn the wrestling business into a global phenomenon. There’s no question about that. He did something amazing decades ago and was able to make his fortune from that.
But sometimes, WWE just stumbles into success, like with Steve Austin. Other times, WWE tries a ton of ideas, but most of them fail. Remember Tout? WWE Studios? Icopro? World Bodybuilding Federation?
If you can afford to fail, you can try over and over until you succeed. But if you stop trying, then you don’t find that success.
WWE is in a rut because WWE hasn’t tried to do anything with its formula for well over a decade. Nothing is inherently different from really 2007 or so, even, except stuff that is face value.
There have been 2 changes: the WWE Network and NXT. That’s it.
The WWE Network is great for some things and the pay-per-view business model has changed accordingly. NXT is fantastic, by and large, because Triple H runs it as something different from Raw and SmackDown, and they have the Performance Center to help train people going forward, which is also amazing.
But what is the creative difference in the product for Raw and SmackDown compared to 2006? They still write the same feuds, have mostly the same characters and depend on the same tropes.
I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and so do you, probably). But even though Iron Man is one of my favorite films of the franchise, if every single story was a copy/paste of that, it would get tiresome. That’s why Captain America: The Winter Soldier is so good, because it’s a spy thriller. Guardians of the Galaxy is a team comedy. Ant-Man is a heist comedy. Black Panther was by no means a comedy. They’re all well done AND they’re different enough from one another while being similar enough that they can attract new audiences and keep the same fans returning.
WWE doesn’t do that. Nothing appeals to the lapsed fan who isn’t fond of this product, because the product doesn’t change. There aren’t any hooks for casuals because nothing is happening to draw casuals in, other than temporary “hey look, it’s Rob Gronkowski!” moments.
WWE is constructed with this “audience of one” mentality where everything is to please Vince’s vision. However, Vince’s vision clearly isn’t what audiences want right now. The ratings show it.
This is simple and everyone in WWE knows it. If Vince is the one calling the shots and his idea of what the product should be is how they do it, and the product isn’t selling, then Vince is wrong. That’s it. The end. Discussion over.
Fix the problem or don’t. If you don’t, stop crying when you suffer the consequences.