WWE has a real chance to right the ship soon.
Some will point to record revenues, the point of a business. That's nice. It's also nice to imagine they'd be a lot higher if there was creatively satisfying programming.
Anyone pretending WWE has been in anything but a holding pattern all summer is kidding themselves. From the ill-conceived and even worse executed Superstar Shakeup to the miserable Wild Card rule, the company has largely been coasting until their new TV deals kick in and a draft separates things.
Based on what I've seen, there have been a few negative steps, but a lot more in the right direction. However, as we've seen in the past, even the best laid plans can go awry.
WWE made a few really wise moves leading in to the WWE Draft this week. Excluding authority figures was one of the better ones, as they eliminated Shane McMahon. I'm not of the belief of many that Shane doesn't have value, but it's been over 20 years of portraying the heel authority figure that for some reason works against their brand's top stars. Making it about Fox and USA Network leverages the talking point of "who wants who" among wrestling fans ever since the new television deals were announced.
Splitting up the draft pools was another good spot. This kept Smackdown from broadcasting all of the important first draft picks, and brings some attraction to WWE Raw. With this not being a "Superstar Shakeup," order matters. Being able to spread that out effectively over two dates helps.
The mis-step that I saw was Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns representing Raw and Smackdown in an effort to determine the number one pick. Corey Graves has done a good job of mentioning the winner's purse on WWE programming, making wins and losses mean something in a company that will beat you over the head with the idea that they don't. I'm not sure what brand loyalty Rollins and Reigns should have had when they could end up elsewhere immediately after. Outside of the spirit of competition, no incentive to be drafted higher had been established. Maybe it was for ego? We might never know. Explaining that the higher draft picks get bonused helps this.
WWE has an inter-promotional match set for the end of the month in Crown Jewel, so who knows what the approach will be in the following weeks. In the past they've waited a few weeks for them to take effect, but we haven't had that clarity.
There have been varying reports on the degree of influence that Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman have. Bischoff, on his own podcast, has spoken about his affection for Becky Lynch's work, and Fightful has been told Ali impressed Bischoff weeks ago. Different approaches are important, as the one, single vision of WWE has missed a lot more than it's hit.
I'm pretty easy to please as a pro wrestling fan. Continuity, sense and consistency is all I want as a baseline. Make sense of what's happening on the screen. Why are these people fighting or teaming together? Money? Opportunity? Ego? Something else? Just explain it. Be consistent and have continuity. If there's a gap in sense, patch it up. There's another fresh opportunity here. It's easier to forgive a lot of the past when you know the reset button is closer to being official.
We've seen in the past that a definitive brand split can at least aid in the quality of programming for a while. With competition and options emerging every night of the week, creativity is more likely to follow. That wasn't necessarily the case when TNA emerged, or ROH increased their profile, but maybe this will be a wake up call. I'm sure there will
Soon after the Draft, WWE heads to Saudi Arabia for Crown Jewel. Instead of the method of bringing in 50something year old wrestlers who don't compete regularly, WWE is bringing in legit combat sports stars in Cain Velasquez and Tyson Fury. Regardless of how the quality of the show ends up, the new approach is appreciated by yours truly.
I don't hate the ideas of having Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair as champions heading into this, either. I'm a major proponent of Kofi Kingston's run, but those are three of your four biggest stars. But what good are pillars if no one can safely seek refuge underneath whatever the hell they're holding up? I mean, decoration maybe? What are we talking about?
WWE has to build new stars, ones that exceed the WWE marquee. They need people that stand out and dare to be different, but that can also work within the confines of the WWE approach. They have tons of them. They've let many of them go.
It's okay. Unplug, wait 15 seconds, plug it back in, and let's all get back to work. The hardware still works, it just needs that reset.