Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Editorial5 Things WWE Clearly Doesn't Care About (So Neither Should Fans)

5 Things WWE Clearly Doesn’t Care About (So Neither Should Fans)

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This week and last, you’ve seen plenty ads promoting “NXT 2.0” on Raw and SmackDown. WWE actively wanted you to know that there was a change going on in NXT and that you should check that out.

Can you remember the last time anything else was promoted regarding NXT during these shows? Where was the reminder on SmackDown that Raquel Gonzalez would face Dakota Kai for the NXT Women’s Championship, or any mention on Raw that Ted DiBiase was appearing regularly with the Million Dollar Championship lately?

WWE didn’t care enough back then to spend time promoting it. Whether it was an active choice of “don’t bother” or a passive choice of “there are more important things”, it’s a sign WWE just had other values in mind.

Whenever that happens and WWE is transparent enough to let fans know that people in the company don’t care about something, fans inevitably follow suit. Funny enough, while it works that way, it isn’t necessarily true about the opposite. Just because WWE cares a lot about something and is heavily invested doesn’t mean fans echo back the same enthusiasm, but the apathy is 100% transferable.

WWE cares about Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns at Crown Jewel. That’s why you keep hearing about it, even at the expense of Finn Balor and the build to Extreme Rules. Most likely, if you polled the average person in the WWE Universe and asked which match they were more interested in, it’s Lesnar, not Balor.

That got me thinking. What are some things WWE has been obvious about that they aren’t invested in, so the fans have also checked out in response?

Here are just five examples off the top of my head for what I’m sure could be a longer list (and I encourage you to add more in the comments below!)

WWE Doesn’t Care About 205 Live or Main Event

You don’t watch 205 Live or Main Event. Admit it. It’s okay. Almost nobody does.

WWE knows it, but cares so little that you don’t watch them that not only is nothing being done to fix that, it’s actually the opposite. Instead of attempts to upgrade the quality of the programs so viewers will be incentivized to tune in, WWE uses them as a dumping grounds.

That’s not to say the talent is bad. Far from it. But there’s a difference between someone like Andre Chase being able to perform well in the ring and someone like Drew McIntyre who is talented and WWE gives a shit—as brutal as it is to say.

The wrestlers themselves joke about Main Event being meaningless. Not only do the matches have no storyline to them (outside of the situation where two people wrestle 100 times in a row and we’re told it’s a “storied rivalry”), characters flip flop between babyface and heel because it doesn’t matter, and it’s always filled with midcard acts at best.

You’ll never see Big E defend the WWE Championship there, even though that would make people tune in. You won’t even see Damian Priest defend the United States Championship. What you’ll see is Humberto Carrillo against Veer or Jaxson Ryker against Mace.

WWE doesn’t even list Main Event as a show on its website. This has been the case for years. They care so little that they can’t even have someone take 5 minutes to put that on there. More than likely, they know it’s so bad that they are embarrassed about it and would rather as few people watch it as possible. There’s no Twitter account for the show, it’s never promoted—it may as well not exist.

205 Live has ceased to be anything of what it used to be. The entire purpose of the program is no longer a thing. It’s not strictly wrestlers under the 205 lb weight limit, nor is it live!

It used to be that this was the showcase of the cruiserweight division. That title merged into the normal NXT and this became the backup for that. Now, if you showed it to someone for the first time, they wouldn’t know it has anything to do with a cruiserweight division.

Boa competed last night. He’s 220. Joe Gacy (249) and Josh Briggs (268) have been regulars as of late. Odyssey Jones as well has been on 205 Live quite a bit and he’s 405!

Women’s matches are happening every week, too. Amari Miller just lost to Valentina Feroz. While both are under 205, they’re not eligible to fight for the Cruiserweight Championship, nor is any emphasis put on their weights.

WWE does this all because these two shows are under contract with Hulu. As it stands, from what I’m able to tell, Hulu’s contract only allows for 90 minute versions of the bigger shows, but they can do the entirety of Main Event and 205 Live since they’re smaller. This deal likely makes Hulu think they’re getting original content, particularly with Main Event, since you can’t watch that elsewhere, so they’re paying for “our own WWE show that can draw subscribers”. Hulu gets the ability to stop Peacock from putting replays of 205 Live up for 15 days, too, so if you missed the live show, you have to go there.

WWE cares about one thing and one thing only when it comes to these shows: the contract money from Hulu. Once that ends, seemingly in the next few months, they’ll enter negotiations. WWE will want to make as much money for as little work as possible (pre-taping 2 or 3 do-nothing matches that they don’t need to advertise; the bare minimum) while Hulu will want something to draw in audiences and ask for more bang for their buck. If I were Hulu, and I’m on the Disney side of things now in more control than before, I wouldn’t be signing on for another season. Then, WWE will likely kill off Main Event, unless Peacock can be enticed to make it seem like they’re getting something sweet with that, too.

What will probably happen is that if Hulu wants to continue to host WWE content, it’ll ask to still have its own Hulu-specific show. Then, WWE will say “well, you’ve got Main Event. We can keep doing that. There’s equity in the name (lie).” They’ll either agree on a price or WWE will say “For that low of a price tag, we’re not giving you your own show, then. Just our reruns.”

Marking Out

Remember when Matt Striker was super excited about all the appearances during the 2011 Royal Rumble (good lord, that was 10 years ago) and said it was a mark out moment and he’s marking out, but was met with “take a chill pill”?

WWE will tell you over and over when something is a “first-time ever” scenario, because it sounds good on paper. It will potentially fool some people into thinking something is a bigger deal than it really is, more often than not. Someone in the marketing department absolutely adores this strategy and swears by it.

WWE will also repeat the company edict ad nauseam that “it doesn’t matter if the fans are cheering or booing, so long as they’re making noise.”

But what’s strange is that WWE doesn’t like to indulge on many of the true fan-based things. In fact, WWE often seems to punish people for being excited about being a fan of professional wrestling.

Triple H has made the joke several times that “my friend Mark complained about ____” because it’s a slight on the Internet Wrestling Community and our tendency to care so much that we point out the flaws in something, instead of just going along for the ride. He’s manifesting his frustrations in a comedic way, but he’s still venting. Justifiably so, in some cases, mind you.

But when WWE tells you, the viewer, that you’re part of the family, you’re the most important part of this thing and we just want to put smiles on everyone’s faces, and then refuses to listen to criticism, it means your happiness and “marking out” is more of a theoretical concept and not a tangible thing to WWE.

WWE doesn’t care about YOU the paying customer, it cares about you THE PAYING CUSTOMER. If a whole arena boos a match and chants “this is awful” and “change the channel”, instead of reflecting on that as a sign that bad creative should change, WWE will not think anything of it unless there are tangible negative repercussions that can solely be blamed on that and not twisted in any other way. If you pack the arena the next night, WWE just says the previous night was a “bad crowd” and now feels justified in ignoring other warning signs.

WWE has no problems saying they have 50 million subscribers on blah blah platform, but wouldn’t be caught dead saying Roman Reigns was #2 in the PWI 500. Even if he were #1, it wouldn’t be brought up, because that gives power to the fans who have an opinion, and to avoid the negative ones, you have to downplay the positive ones by proxy.

That’s why it’s so refreshing to watch Matt Camp and Ryan Pappolla geek out with Sam Roberts during The Ultimate Show. They’re enjoying themselves, love pro wrestling and want you to have fun with them, rather than looking down on you.

Keep in mind that when WWE acts like you’re kind of pathetic for being so invested in storylines that they’re inadvertently telling you not to care about any of the product and to just ingest it like a good little drone. It’s more important that you took the medicine, rather than that you feel better.

Going Back on Promises

WWE absolutely does not care about breaking promises. Not one bit. It doesn’t matter what the promise is, either. Absolutely nothing WWE says is ever to be taken at face value, and the phrase “the card is subject to change” is the get out of jail free card.

December 2018 was when Vince, Stephanie, Shane and Triple H came out on Raw and apologized for the way things have been. They promised change all across the board in more ways than one. Nearly every single one of those died out within weeks, with countless other promises falling short in the meantime.

No more automatic rematch clause. What happens instead? The former champion just wins a No. 1 contender’s match to win the shot to get a rematch. Lately, someone’s been harping on the idea of calling them “Championship Contenders Match”. It’s the same thing, but WWE can milk a match out of it and try to pitch it to you as being meaningful.

No more general managers. Constable Corbin gets the boot. You, the fans, are the boss. Except, you know, Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville. Those two aren’t “general managers” though, and that’s supposed to be the key. They’re exactly the same authority figures, but without an official title, WWE can still act like it’s not the same thing.

WWE promises matches that are advertised in advance just to drop them. This past week, we were supposed to get RK-Bro against MVP and Bobby Lashley for the Raw Tag Team Championship as well as Franky Monet against Raquel Gonzalez for the NXT Women’s Championship. Neither happened and there hasn’t been an excuse as to why. We might know now that MVP is injured and that could be one of the reasons why it was changed, but WWE should tell audiences. It’s not like we wouldn’t understand. That way, people don’t just get pissed that Sasha Banks was supposed to be at SummerSlam, but WWE waited until the moment her match was going to start to say “Gotcha.”

When WWE doesn’t care about advertising something and then not following through, why should fans care about the promises going forward? The Boy Who Cried Wolf continues to teach its lessons.

Long-term Storytelling

Speaking of hyping things and not following through, this is a subcategory of the broken promises, but its an entirely different issue in the same regard.

Triple H, Seth Rollins and others have complained that fans aren’t patient and should just let these stories play out. Blaming the fans and playing the victims, WWE thinks people don’t like their feuds because everyone wants instant gratification and just won’t let the genius of this story reach its climax, where it’ll all be worth it.

Then, inevitably, there is no big climax. The conclusion ends up not being worth the journey. But what does WWE do, instead of apologizing and putting more effort into making sure that doesn’t happen again? They say “plans changed” and tell fans to get over it and move on. Even worse, WWE acts as though fans are being unreasonable for not being just as excited, if not more, about the next big thing, as if there isn’t a mountain of evidence proving the historical track record is that it won’t be worth the investment.

Tell me again how great RETRIBUTION turned out and why we were being too dismissive from the start. Remind me of the “unique way” you were going to explain why Braun Strowman replaced Roman Reigns against Goldberg at WrestleMania, only to just blurt it out as “It’s Strowman against Goldberg now” on the night before during a rundown of the card, then fire Strowman a year later?

Oooh. Here’s a good one. You’ve seen Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton before, but let’s go back to that storyline, drag it out from November until April, and trust us, it’ll all be worth it when you see what we do at WrestleMania. Because at WrestleMania…Wyatt’s going to…lose because Alexa Bliss popped out of a jack-in-the-box. Then, Wyatt will disappear and we’ll fire him. The end! Did you guys have fun on that trip?

If WWE truly cared about long-term storytelling, the effort would be put into it to follow through with these stories and have them reach a logical, worthwhile conclusion. Since WWE doesn’t care enough to put in that work, why should fans care enough to go on the ride?

Building New Stars for the Future

A byproduct of long-term storytelling is getting invested in the career of a particular Superstar in the hopes they’ll become the next big thing. More often than not, it doesn’t work out well. Sometimes, that’s not WWE’s fault, but other times, it most certainly is.

Don’t get me wrong. WWE will actively tell you on many occasions when someone is being viewed by WWE as “the next big thing.” The trouble is that WWE doesn’t follow through with that enough.

Go back over the past few years and you’ll see that any time the future of the women’s division is mentioned, Rhea Ripley’s name gets brought up. She is constantly touted as someone to pay attention to and who will carry the division on her shoulders for years to come.

What happens when she builds momentum by winning Survivor Series and WarGames and taking down Shayna Baszler? She challenges Charlotte Flair for a match at WrestleMania, taps out, cries about it, and spends the next year floundering. Ripley takes the pin at TakeOver: In Your House so Io Shirai can win the title, but Flair doesn’t have to look bad. Then, Ripley mostly spends months off, popping up here and there to lose every important match.

But hey, she got runner-up in the Royal Rumble. That’s good, right? It wasn’t probably the game plan, but it’s something. Then, another game plan goes awry and they wait until a week or two before WrestleMania to announce “Eh, screw it, Ripley vs. Asuka, I guess.” She beats Asuka and it seems like she’s on the upswing. Then, she goes up against the brick wall of The Queen and repetitively can’t beat her. Eventually, Flair takes the title from her, proving for the third or fourth time that she’s better, and Ripley is just a former champion who still needs to prove herself.

A win for Ripley meant more than a win for Flair. Likewise, a loss for Ripley was more detrimental than it ever would have affected Flair. But whether it was subconsciously or not, WWE decided it mattered more to stop Flair from going from 10/10 to 9.5/10 than it mattered to either boost Ripley from 8 to 9, or to stop her from going down from 8 to a 6.

In WWE’s eyes, Flair’s the star, so why should she lose?

But there’s the problem. If you keep bringing back people like Goldberg to rely on, and you feel the need to blame low ratings on “not having Brock Lesnar” all the time, then that means you have zero faith in your roster to be stars for the future. When you say to the fans “but these people you watch on a regular basis aren’t the REAL stars that any of you care about”, eventually, the fans do stop caring.

Then, when you run out of the older stars to use, you’re left with no one. You can’t get water from an empty well.

WWE is reaching this point already. A few years ago, every possible indie star was in NXT, every legend was doing appearances for WWE and the main roster was stacked with talent the company couldn’t even get around to pushing. Now, who is left?

Fans care about the Superstars, but if you tell them enough times that they’re all not good enough, then the biggest stars on the roster simply pale in comparison. Cesaro could be someone’s favorite and they could want to see him win the world title, but if you beat it into their head that he’s not good enough, they’ll eventually stop caring. Then, when he’s in the main event and you try to act like he’s a big deal, fans will say “Bullshit. You spent years telling me that guy wasn’t good enough. Now, he’s good enough? I guess he’s good enough in comparison to not having anyone else on a higher level, and a B+ guy is now an A+ when you have no one left.”

That’s not fair to Cesaro, nor is it fair to the fan who lost faith in him, and it’s no one’s fault but WWE’s.

WWE should treat every Superstar like their namesake. If they’re not wrestlers, but “super stars”, then every one of them is larger than life and should be a big deal, right?

Tell that to the people on Main Event, if you can find the show. And if you do, tell me how that long-term investment of that 50 match streak between Tony Nese and Cedric Alexander turned out.

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