There are a lot of reasons I've enjoyed my time at Fightful and have been very proud to witness the growth that this site has experienced. However, perhaps the biggest reason is that the writers and on-screen personalities here don't just sit back and complain about things just to complain. They actually want to see things change, and they'll give their thoughts on what change could happen. It isn't just "Wrestler A shouldn't get pushed." It's "Wrestler A shouldn't get pushed, here's why, and here's why Wrestler B should get that push instead."
I love that.
Far too often, with other sites and their columns or podcasts (especially the WWE-centric ones), you'll just hear complaining. Everything sucks. Everybody sucks. Nothing makes any sense. It's easy to point out the negatives without saying what you would do differently. People want to hear something new and/or something better. I couldn't even tell you how many times I've listened to a Fightful podcast and heard something that someone like Sean Ross Sapp or Alex Pawlowski said and thought to myself "now THAT would make for some fun WWE television!"
With that in mind, I wanted to give that idea sharing a go. When I watch WWE programming, I see a lot that I dislike, but what would be different if Vince McMahon came to me himself and handed me the proverbial keys to the kingdom. These are ten things I would either do, stop doing, or change so that the overall product would, in my opinion, improve tremendously. Here they are, in no particular order.
Go Back To A Vince Russo Style Of Writing Shows: Hold on... I know what you're thinking. No, I don't want every televised match to end in three minutes or less. No, I don't want wrestlers randomly turning face and heel all the time for seemingly no reason. When I say a Vince Russo style, I mean giving every person on the roster some sort of character and a story. Go back to the Attitude Era WWF or Russo's time with WCW. Whether it was the World Champion or the job guys at the bottom, you were given a reason to invest in everyone you were seeing. Far too often in today's WWE, wrestlers are just thrown on television and are merely... there. Are we supposed to cheer them? They smile a lot, so maybe, but why? Are we supposed to boo them? Well, they're making angry faces, so I guess, but why?
Some people hear points like this, and they think it means to give everyone more television time with matches, promos, and backstage segments. Unless you're going to make Raw and Smackdown six hours each week, that wouldn't work. Back in the day, acts like Right To Censor worked with very little screen time on a weekly basis. You just have to make sure that guys like Apollo Crews have some sort of hook to capture the attention of the audience, or else you're going to end up with what WWE has now... a large handful of wrestlers with no direction, and therefore, no crowd reactions.
Kick Kevin Dunn To The Curb: First and foremost, have you ever heard anything positive about Kevin Dunn from anyone that has ever worked for WWE? I haven't. Technically, that doesn't have anything to do with why he's listed here, though.
While Dunn's production style may have once seemed fresh and innovative, we are a long, long way from his creative peak. Watch any WWE event on television or the Network and you'll see so many camera cuts that it will drive you absolutely crazy. Weird angles, dizzying "shakes", numerous missed spots... it's like watching Amateur Hour out there, which is unacceptable for someone who has been at his job for so long.
You can watch almost any independent wrestling show and see more innovation than you'll ever see with WWE. It wouldn't be difficult to scour the independent scene and bring in someone that can add a new take to the company. Giving shows a different look is very important. WWE has been so stale in that area for so long. Other than the red and blue, it has pretty much always been difficult to tell Raw and Smackdown apart when you watch them on TV. Same setup, same lighting, same angles, same stages, same everything. Let's switch things up a bit.
No More Heel Authority Figures: Initially, I wanted to say there shouldn't be authority figures at all, but I kept thinking about the face figures that we've seen through the years, and far more often than not, the characters worked and didn't harm the product. There is nothing interesting about the heel authority figure anymore. Every single one of them is, essentially, playing the same person, and they always overstep their boundaries to make life a living hell for whatever face they're in a storyline with at the time. On top of that, they dominate air time, often getting the opening promos for television, numerous backstage segments throughout the night, and even matches during the show for active performers such as Baron Corbin.
We need someone that will call things down the middle. We need someone who will command respect from the faces and the heels on the roster. We need someone who, even after he has retired from in-ring competition, isn't a physical shell of his former self.
Ladies and gentlemen, we need Mark Henry.
Ol' Mizark is still over with live crowds, and has been such an intimidating figure for so long that he won't be approached by heels in the same way other faces have been in roles like these. He won't be pushed around, literally or figuratively. Just a suggestion. One way or another, let's take the focus off of authority figures and put it back on the men and women busting their asses in the ring night in and night out.
Listen To The WWE Universe: Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? As simple as it seems, WWE doesn't take this advice to heart very often. Look, I get that Vince McMahon is a billionaire and that he has forgotten more about the wrestling business than any of us will ever know, but doesn't it seem a little strange to not care about what your paying audience wants?
Live crowds all over the world have been clamoring for Rusev to be pushed up the card, and frankly, the man deserves it. What do we get? More and more of Rusev losing, or not even being on television at all.
Live crowds also wanted Becky Lynch to be for the women's division what Daniel Bryan was for the men in 2013 and 2014. Becky was overlooked repeatedly, but it was the WWE Universe who made their voices heard. They wanted Becky to have a more prominent role. So, what did WWE give everyone? A poorly timed "heel" run that nobody bought, because they only cheered her louder and more vociferously. That didn't change Vince McMahon's mind, though. Oh, no, no, no. Becky's supposed to be a heel, dammit! Every week, Becky did something heel-like, and every week, she was cheered for it.
It really doesn't take a lot of time and effort to listen to the fans. I'm not saying WWE should cater everything it does to what the vocal fans demand. I am saying, however, that the people who spend their hard earned money on the product deserve to have their voices listened to. They're the ones that tell you when something works and when it doesn't. They're the ones that tell you which workers should have the rocket strapped to their backs for the moon push. The current WWE product is so frustrating because of things like this. This is so easy even a caveman could do it, but apparently, Vince and his cronies are no cavemen.
Hire Writers From The World Of Wrestling: Honestly, I don't give a damn if a writer has worked on some random soap opera for years. It doesn't matter to me if they come from a sitcom or a police procedural drama. As much as Vince McMahon would like wrestling to be viewed as "entertainment", it's still an entirely different world than other shows. It doesn't matter if it's One Life To Live, The Big Bang Theory, Hawaii Five-0, Modern Family, or anything else on television... nothing compares to what pro wrestling is and should be.
It amazes me that this even needs to be said, but wrestling fans know more about the business than people who aren't fans. They know what makes everything "tick" and they understand what it is that fans, both in attendance and at home, want to see. They know that wrestlers speak a certain way in their promos, and it's a different way than other television characters speak. WWE doesn't seem to understand that anymore.
Before anyone says it, I'm aware that a certain level of experience should be required to be a writer for the largest wrestling organization on the planet. You can't just bring in a random guy off the street, ask him five trivia questions about WWE history, and then give him a job if he answers all five questions correctly. All I'm saying is to make sure the people you're bringing in to write the shows you put out actually understand the shows you're putting out. You don't even have to bring new people in. You already have talented wrestling minds on the roster. Someone like Paul Heyman is right there. He continues to show, in his social media posts through the years, that he has his finger on the pulse of what fans want, and nobody in the history of the business has proven they can handle listening to fans and character development as well as he can. Sure, he clashes with Vince McMahon too much, but guess who isn't there for him to clash with in this scenario? Heyman would work wonders for the product.
Make The Matchups Fresher: When Seth Rollins issued his latest Open Challenge for the Intercontinental Title, fans began to speculate wildly on who would be the person to answer it. People like Ricochet and Apollo Crews hinted on Twitter that they might do it. We ended up with Dolph Ziggler, who had been in 14 televised matches with Rollins over the last four months. That number is absurd.
Finn Balor vs Baron Corbin. The New Day vs The Bar. Cedric Alexander vs Mustafa Ali. The New Day vs The Usos. AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura. These are just some of the matches that we've seen over and over and over and over and over again in the last year or so. By my count, the Raw and Smackdown rosters combine to have 115 in-ring workers, either on a full-time or part-time basis. Even when you take away those who are injured and people like Brock Lesnar who aren't exactly going to be wrestling on Raw every week, you have 107 names that are available at any time to wrestle. That, of course, isn't counting workers from NXT that could get called up at the drop of a dime. With that many people at your disposal, there's no excuse to have the same ten (only a slight exaggeration) people on television every week.
If you go back and see my first point, it fits in perfectly here. Once you've successfully built more characters and given the audience a reason to cheer or boo them, you can start putting more people on television. I don't need to see Seth Rollins take on Dolph Ziggler on Raw, then on the next episode of Raw, then on the next episode of Raw, then square off in a tag match on the next episode of Raw, then at the pay-per-view, then in another tag match on the next episode of Raw, then in a six-man tag on the next episode of Raw, then in another singles match on the next episode of Raw, and so on and so forth. Even if the matches are good, there's no meaning to any of them, and it tells the fans that they can go ahead and miss any show they want, because they'll be able to see the exact same things happen next week. It's a ridiculous way of promoting your own product.
Stop Messing With NXT Unless It's Necessary: How many times have we seen an act get really hot in NXT, only to get called up to the main roster for seemingly no reason? They debut out of nowhere, have no development, and crowds simply don't know what to say or do when they're around. People forget that NXT isn't watched by as many people as the main roster is. Sure, the NXT brand is always red-hot, but no matter what someone achieves while in NXT, there's a very large portion of the main roster audience that has never seen them before.
Adam Rose, American Alpha, The Ascension, The Vaudevillains, Emma, Apollo Crews, Bobby Roode, No Way Jose, The Revival, Austin Aries, Hideo Itami, Tye Dillinger... the list goes on and on of names that saw a good amount of success in NXT before getting called up and going absolutely nowhere. Some of those acts were dead on arrival, while some are in the middle of dying a very slow death, but the point remains the same.
I feel the trend of these suggestions is "things that should be incredibly obvious." That makes me all the more sad that they even need to be said. If you're going to "poach" an act from NXT, that's fine. It goes back to wanting more variety on Raw and Smackdown every week. That's an awesome thing to have. If you're going to do it, though, perhaps try to come up with a well thought out plan beforehand? Calling up The Velveteen Dream could be a lot of fun, but don't just have him show up on Smackdown one week like "Hey, I'm The Velveteen Dream" and then proceed to have him wrestle one week, then not appear for two weeks, then wrestle two weeks, then not appear for three weeks, etc. If you're paying writers to... write... maybe they should actually... write. Have them come up with a plan for Dream. Is he a face? Is he a heel? How serious of a push are we aiming for him to have? What will have to change for him now that he's a main roster performer? If you can't answer any of those questions, keep him in NXT. Same goes for any of the other NXT talent. Taking hot acts that you have under contract and neutering them from the start seems counterproductive, you know? Unless, of course, Vince McMahon thinks NXT is a separate brand altogether, and he does this stuff on purpose like he did with the WCW Invasion, where he took all of his rival's wrestlers and made them look infinitely inferior to his own performers. Vince is going to be 74 years old in 2019, so it isn't outside the realm of possibility that he's losing his mind enough to think that.
Stop Forcing Things On Commentary: Long-time fans of Fightful podcasts will know exactly what I'm talking about here. Watching WWE programming can sometimes be a chore all by itself, but when you have goofballs and corporate shills like Michael Cole and Corey Graves screaming nicknames every six seconds, things can get downright awful.
The Monster Among Men. The Big Dog. The Boss. The Beast. The Lunatic Fringe. The Showoff. The Scottish Psychopath. The Maharaja. The Baddest Woman On The Planet. The Face That Runs The Place/The Champ That Runs The Camp/The Phenomenal One. The Viper. The Man.
Those are just some of the nicknames given to WWE main roster wrestlers, and gosh darn it, WWE wants to make sure you remember those names. When you hear a wrestler's entrance music, you hear their nickname. When that wrestler makes their way down the aisle, you hear their nickname. When that wrestler enters the ring, you hear their nickname. When that wrestler performs any kind of signature move during a match, you hear their nickname. When that wrestler wins (and often when they lose), you hear their nickname. When the replays of said match air later in the show, you hear their nickname. When they have a backstage promo or segment, you hear their nickname.
It's ridiculous, and it isn't a natural way of speaking at all. You can say that it's to help sell merchandise that has those nicknames on it, but who is on the fence about buying a Dean Ambrose shirt until they hear his nickname 17 times a week? If you're an Ambrose fan, you'll buy his shirt even if they don't call him The Lunatic Fringe a single time.
We know that people like McMahon and Dunn are able to talk to the commentators during the show, with almost all reports saying that Vince likes to yell his orders. This is his doing. If I'm taking over, I'm definitely going to want to communicate with the announcers during the show, too, but with a far lighter approach. I love random stats, so I might see about having Cole mention during a match that Wrestler A has the odds stacked against him because he has lost to Wrestler B the last five times they've faced each other. I'd make sure they mention the little things like so-and-so doing charity work in town earlier in the day, or that you tried contacting so-and-so after their actions last week but they aren't answering your calls. That's it. These are professionals making a good chunk of change. They've had to do a lot of work to get where they are in their careers. If you feel they need to be babysat every little step of the way, perhaps they shouldn't be hired in the first place. Stay out of their way and let them do their job like normal human beings.
Stop Adding So Many Events: This would also help to keep some matchups from getting stale. If you want to count the recent Starrcade as a "pay-per-view" event, that would make for 16 such events on the WWE Network in the 2018 calendar year. There were five events in the span of 50 days from October 6th (Super Show Down) to November 25th (Starrcade), but even if you don't count Starrcade, it's four events in 43 days, ending with Survivor Series on November 18th. Of course you're going to see repetitive matches and feuds when you have that many shows.
So cut it out.
There are 12 months in a year. There will be 12 Network events. Done. Plain and simple. If you want to go to Australia and do a few shows, that's fine. The company travels around the world every year, but there's no need to put all of these shows on the Network, especially when they're nothing but big-budget house shows. Don't even get me started on those Saudi Arabia shows.
Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber, Fastlane, WrestleMania, Backlash, Money In The Bank, Extreme Rules, SummerSlam, Hell In A Cell, Evolution, Survivor Series, TLC... 12 events in 12 months. The "Big Four" are still there, as are the "specialty" shows. The men are represented, and so are the women. Boom. Done.
Wrestling On A Wrestling Show: People hear that you're recommending more in-ring action, and they think you're asking for every match to be 20 minutes long. Of course that isn't going to work. I'm merely saying that there needs to be more of a focus on the in-ring aspect of the business.
The current WWE roster is as talented from a ring work standpoint as just about any roster in the history of the business. You'll find "workhorse" performers all up and down the Raw and Smackdown rosters, and yet, there are still weeks where you'll watch a show and notice that an entire hour went by with only one match taking place, and it wasn't even a very long one.
Let guys like Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles, Rey Mysterio and Sami Zayn go out and do what they do best. Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Bayley, Asuka, Ember Moon and others can do the same for the women. We don't need Total Divas/Bellas nonsense. We don't need 28 segments backstage with authority figures. Like I said with the announcers, just get out of their way and let them do their jobs. Try to show the world that WWE isn't just the biggest wrestling promotion in the world, but also the one that puts out the best product.
I'm confident enough to say that WWE's overall product would improve tenfold if they followed these ideas. It's not like I'm calling for miracles or anything. None of the things I've listed would be considered "impossible." They wouldn't cost hundreds of millions to pull off. That's why WWE frustrates so many people these days. It would be one thing if the only solutions were things that could never happen. There are so many small, easy decisions that could be made to improve things immediately, but the only person in charge refuses to make those decisions.
What say you, readers? What do you think of my ideas? If you were left in charge of WWE, what changes would you make that I didn't list? Hit me up on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage) or in the comments section below and let me know what's on your mind.