Being the pretentious sorts that we sometimes are, we look at others and know what resolutions we'd like to make *for* them. Shallow as it may sound, we can all find the flaws in others, and WWE is certainly a flawed entity that we're all apt to criticize. And it's true, we all find fault with WWE, even for as much joy as it admittedly brings us. If I were to say, "What's one thing you'd fix about WWE?", your various thoughts would trip over your teeth (and each other) trying to be first out of your mouth.
So let's package this under the header of New Year's resolutions that we'd like to make on WWE's behalf, in the hopes that they'll follow a few. Though by January 15, we could probably break out the Swiffer duster.
This article was penned before Vince McMahon's "shake things up-athon" on the December 17 WWE Raw. So who knows, we could have had a premonition or two during this article...
10. Repeat Matches Less
Unless you're really raring to institute that WWE Network collection of Finn Balor vs. Baron Corbin, as well as The Riott Squad vs. any combination of Sasha Banks and/or Bayley, the repetition on WWE's programming can be mind-numbing at times. If you sucked down a packet of Taco Bell Diablo sauce every time Michael Cole said, "...a rematch from last week's Monday Night Raw," you'd be filling a tissue with brain lubricant.
Now, I get why repeating matches can be necessary - you've got three hours to fill, and running through fresh matches every time out isn't the most economical of strategies. But when Raw ratings are hitting lows that are on the verge of making Impact's "glory days" look superior, you may wanna change it up a little bit. Figuring out how to excise the monotony is a reasonable place to start.
9. Micromanage The Announcers Less
The enthusiasm for Renee Young as a Raw announcer has certainly waned, hasn't it? We remember the Renee that was a joy to listen to on NXT broadcasts some time ago, and when she took over for Jonathan Coachman this year, people saw it as an upgrade. Until everyone realized that her role was reduced simply spewing the same lifeless soundbites that any chair-filler could.
It's not the fault of the announcers - we rag on Michael Cole and Byron Saxton and the like, but we know that they can at least be competent (check out the work of those two at Beast in the East). When they're forced to spout cliches and "branded" nicknames with as much enthusiasm as a colonoscopy patient, instead of soundtracking the "excitement", it can sour the audience. If someone like Cole or Tom Phillips is supposed to be the salesman of the product, and they sound lifeless or robotic, do you think a sale is being made? Let their instincts and gut take over once in a while.
8. And Let The Performers Be Natural, Too
Check out a backstage segment with multiple people some time, and watch how awkward it really is. Everybody's standing as though they're on the same line, torsos facing the camera, with their necks slightly craned so that they can acknowledge each other. It just looks so unnatural when they're forced to adhere to the carefully-plotted camera blocking layout, while also delivering hard-boiled dialogue that was probably rewritten three hours before showtime.
There's no sense of spontaneity or realism any more, and this hasn't been a problem confined to 2018. Watching an episode of Raw from the wilder 1998-99 time frame, and there's a chaotic sense to the backstage bits, with a little more improv and a little more unpredictability. "Prefab" isn't a good formula for a wrestling show that's supposed to be a welcome assault on the senses.
7. You Don't Have To Spell Things Out So Much
In the weeks building up to Money in the Bank, there'll be a briefcase hanging above the ring for the qualifying matches, in case anybody forgets that they're qualifying matches. During Royal Rumble season, somebody will throw a rival wrestler (or even a friend) over the top rope in a post-match angle, while the announcers bray that, "that could happen come January 27th, when both superstars are entered in the Royal Rumble!" And don't even get me started on the build to table matches at TLC, where somebody gets put throu--see, you're way ahead of me.
WWE does this kind of spoonfeeding a little bit too much, and although we're aware that wrestling isn't Masterpiece Theater, it does feel condescending that they drive the gimmicks home as hard as they do. We get it, there's a ladder match coming up at TLC - you don't need to show a ladder on the SmackDown entrance stage to remind us. And that Survivor Series' "It's the one night a year where--" tagline - gahhh.
6. A Few Less Gimmick PPVs, Please
I'm not talking about gimmick pay-per-views that serve a grander purpose, where a grudge doesn't have to be the driving force - Royal Rumble and Money in the Bank are fine, though for the latter, the surprise cash-in gimmick is a bit played out. I'm talking about the need to schedule events Hell in a Cell, TLC, Extreme Rules, etc without there being ongoing angles that justify the gimmicks.
Hell in a Cell shouldn't just come up because it's the second Sunday of October or whatever - it should come up because there are two wrestlers who hate each other enough that the only way to settle their score is with life-altering violence. There should be a feud that needs a blowoff gimmick, not a blowoff gimmick that needs a feud. I realize saying this has been a losing battle for a decade now, but not every gimmick match warrants its own standalone show.
5. Spruce Up The TV Formula
Although the ratings for the December 3 episode of Raw had nothing positive to show for themselves, it was nice to see the show open with something besides a 15-minute gabfest featuring authority figures and those who have gripes with them. It's been 20 years since Austin and McMahon made instant magic whenever they shared the same scene, and with few exceptions, it's dull as dishwater if it isn't those two.
WWE happened upon a winning TV formula 20 years ago, but that formula has gotten long in the tooth - coupled with the sterility noted earlier, shows feel like motions after motions gone through. Granted, it's hard to be motivated to change things up with huge rights fees revenue burning holes in your pockets, but a fresh take could do wonders long-term.
4. Stop Saying "Historic" & "First-Time Ever" So Much!
Man, we sure have seen a lot of barrier-breaking moments in WWE over the past few years. Of course, some of those barriers were honoured for a long time without much inclination by the powers to bust them down, but that's beside the point. Hey, it's great that the talented women get their own Royal Rumble match, their own pay-per-view, and it's awesome that WWE wants to rewire some of their own circuitry at times.
But calling it "historic" in your press copy and as part of the designed narrative takes all of the sentiment out of it. "First-time ever" also sounds like one tooting their own horn, but that's at least closer to factual. "Historic" indicates that you're only making the changes or moments just to have your name etched forever in lore. And really, it's up to the beholder, not the bestower, to decide how historic it really is.
3. Not Every Real-Life Tragedy Or Story Needs To Be Exploited
I think back to the death of Paul Bearer nearly six years ago, and how fast WWE incorporated his demise into the Undertaker/CM Punk WrestleMania storyline, with four weeks to go before the big event. In recent times, it's been Dean Ambrose making negative assertions about Roman Reigns' illness, or The Riott Squad tormenting Natalya over the death of her father, Jim Neidhart.
While there's understandably a temptation to do something that will actually draw heat from an audience that cares increasingly more about quality, star-rating-acquiring matches than cheering heroes and booing villains, I don't think this is the way to go. A larger segment of the audience views heat-garnering moves such as those as crass exploitation plays, and are more conditioned to hate the company than the heel defiling the sacred.
2. Phase Out The Older Guys
Every year or so this is a rallying cry, but it rings out louder now, when the roster is overcrowded to the point of absurdity. But we know that WrestleMania is going to feature a 15+ minute Shane McMahon match, an Undertaker match, and (if he's healthy in time) a Triple H match. Kurt Angle could face Baron Corbin for all we know, and it's possible that the part-timer involvement won't end there.
The popularity of part-timers isn't just because of their past glories - it's also due to their freshness, since we're not waterlogged on seeing them wrestle every damn week. The oversaturation of the TV product makes part-timers in big matches more palatable, and it's doubly damaging - the guys being counted on to carry the shows week to week are not only seen as inferior for being relegated to less-important matches when the time comes, and they're less special by virtue of the audience having seen them far too often. The problem runs deeper than "the old guys are taking their spots!", but removing the crutch is a start.
1. Try To Do Right By The NXT Call-Ups
I really question the fans who want to see their favourite NXT wrestlers get called up to the main roster, as pattern recognition is apparently a dying trait. Over the past couple years, Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, Asuka, Bobby Roode, The Revival, SAnity, Chad Gable, Andrade "Cien" Almas, among others, were called up and are (subjectively) not being used to their fullest potential on the main roster. It's a sticking point for many fans who see NXT as a revelation.
There is an increasing perception that an NXT call-up is ultimately doomed once Vince and Co. get their hooks into them, and the more it happens, the less people will care. The fact that NXT TakeOver: WarGames II outdid Survivor Series 2018 in terms of Network views is a sobering look at the modern perception of both shows, that WWE is the land where happiness and idealism go to die. I'm not saying every NXT darling needs to be treated like a conquering hero upon their call-up (the midcard needs wrestlers too), but there seems to be an imbalance, a disconnect, that further sullies the perception of main roster WWE.