Booking WWE In the 21st Century

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Hello WNW People Mitch "BIG M" Adams here and I will like to welcome you to the 2nd edition off….The House of "M".

Ok, WNW People, let's face it we, a sub-section of the Internet Wrestling Community, complain a lot. Maybe too much. Maybe we should stop overanalysing things and just sit down relax and try to enjoy the show.

But on the other hand, I think we do have some legitimate reasons to complain.

From the way WWE writes its TV shows to the way certain wrestlers are presented. Even down to the way WWE treats its INCREDIBLY loyal fan base like idiots for daring to critique a product we pay very good money for in a global economy that's seen its better days. So I thought I'd write a little retrospective on the way WWE's Creative team and, more importantly, WWE's higher-ups book Their brand of Pro Wrestling (Or as they like to call it Sports-Entertainment) in the 21st century.

Point No.1 They no longer know their audience.

Roman Reigns the No.1 contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship had some rather interesting things to say about WWE's fan base and their perception of him in a recent interview.

“If that’s what brings you joy, if you want to boo me, boo me. If you want to cheer me, cheer me. Either way, I’m going to go out there and do my thing. I’m going to have fun, I’m going to bust some [expletive] and try to do it again the next day.

“I think there are a few different reasons why. You could name a bunch of them, I don’t think we could actually put a finger on one and say this is the reason why.

Typically if you hear the boos, it generally is grown men my age and I’m not really in this business for the grown men, (laughs) I’m in this business for the families.

That’s what we are; we’re a PG product, We’re a family-based product, We’re here to entertain families and give them enjoyment.

If you’re a 30-year-old man and you want to flip me off at a kids show, then, hey, like I said, you paid your money but just be careful because you could get kicked out.

“There’s nothing to complain about as far as reaction because we’re storytelling here and not everybody is going to have the same opinion about the story. My only concern is you’re setting a bad example, I’ve seen grown men flip me off and there were children right there. A lot of times, these pay-per-views andMonday Night Raws, they’re on school nights so it is a lot more of a grown-up feel. I think if you pick and choose and just think with logic, everything will be all right. That’s just one thing, you have to be concerned with the example we’re setting, At a show, I’m not the only role model. These kids are sitting next to these other grown-ups and they’re seeing how these people act. That’s just a reflection of what they see and they probably act the same way.”

Now I'm sorry but I think we can all agree these comments show a spectacular lack of understanding of your audience. WWE is NOT a kids show…Family Friendly yes but not a kids show. If it were a kids show would the bulk of the audience (say 60%) be adult males? No. Yes, WWE is a PG product…But so was WCW back in the day, And I don't think anyone would call a program involving people getting gang bashed and then branded with the letters NWO with black spray paint a Kids show.

Thing of it is though I don't think Roman was using HIS words…I honestly believe these were the words of a Vince McMahon or a Kevin Dunn. Yes, a very sizeable portion of WWE's current fan base are children and that fan base has proven lucrative with merchandising. However, it is still not WWE's core audience. WWE's core audience is still whether they like it or not are the people who make up the 18-49 age demographic. For years now they have chosen to focus less on this all important demo by pushing workers like John Cena and Roman Reigns to death in cartoonish story lines and cartoonish gimmicks in order to keep younger fans happy. I'm not saying WWE should be catered exclusively for grown-ups, of course not, but it shouldn't be catered exclusively to kids either. Besides, can kids buy tickets to a live event? Can they buy merchandise? Can they subscribe to the WWE Network…nope, only adults can do that.

Point No.2 Not only did they used to understand their audience…They used to listen to them.

What truly birthed the quality of entertainment in the Monday Night Wars was that WWE had a legitimate competitor in WCW and was forced to give the fans what they wanted, even if it went against their plans, or the fans may go elsewhere.

From 1995 to 1998 WWE was losing the ratings war with WCW and the reason being wasn't just that WCW had WWE's former Main Event talent. It wasn't just because of the cruiserweight division. It wasn't just because of the NWO or Billionaire Ted's checkbook. It was because they had the better product…. period.

They had a product that everyone could enjoy because it had something for everyone. Kids had Rey Mysterio a worker of such small stature in the land of the giants. A worker who you would think would have the tar beaten out of him every night but still managed to get his hand raised more often than not. A worker who would stand up to the big bad guys and win. Plus he could FLY! What kid wouldn't love watching Rey Mysterio?

But WCW also had the NWO a dark almost Gangland group who broke all the rules and turned an industry on its head. Flipping off elders who would dare criticize them for not respecting tradition and values of the past. What adult Male (and Female) aged 18 to 49 wouldn't love watching the NWO. WCW made the decision to have their storylines grounded in reality and in logic, as opposed to WWE's storylines and characters of the day looked like there were torn out of an 80's Saturday morning cartoon. What did WWE have? Duke The Dumpster, The Berzerker, The Ringmaster and Rocky Maivia…None of which were well received why because they were cartoonish silly characters designed just for kids.

We all know the story of The Ringmaster and his evolution into Stone Cold Steve Austin, but I think right now the story of how Rocky Maivia became the Rock is more fitting given current events. Rocky Maivia was booked to be the next big babyface star. He was of a great pedigree (His father and Grandfather are both Hall of Famers.) He had the physique of a Greek God. He was good looking and marketable. So why then did fans start chanting "DIE ROCKY DIE"? Simple really, to the fans he was just another pretty boy. Just another inexperienced worker who was given a push based purely on his "look." Another worker that WWE over scripted to death and wouldn't let him be himself. So what did WWE do when fans said NO to Rocky Maivia? They changed his name to The Rock, gave him a microphone and said, "Be yourself just turned up to 11"…The rest is history. WWE began to book all their talents in this fashion and wrote storylines that were more intelligent and mature. In other words, they listened to their audience and changed their product accordingly.

Why WWE refuse to do that today is beyond me. Why WWE can't stop over-scripting workers to death and just let them be themselves but turned up to 11 is beyond me. Why WWE can't try to appeal to more demographics while keeping the ones they already have is beyond me.

Why WWE can't listen to their fans today and change things up IS BEYOND ME!

Point No.3 WWE places FAR too much emphasis on who's "marketable."

This is nothing new, obviously. Vince McMahon has always been stuck in that 1980's mindset of "bigger is better" when it comes to a worker's look. Whether they could wrestle or not (The Great Khali's World Championship run anyone?) However, there is another factor at play here…Marketing. Essentially, I believe WWE's higher-ups think solely about "marketability" when deciding which workers get pushed and which workers don't. It's the reason, like it or not, Roman Reigns is the person main eventing Wrestlemania as opposed to someone like Dean Ambrose. Roman is a good looking family man, a 6'3", 260 pound mass of "marketability" from the Samoan Wrestling Dynasty. If I were in marketing I would pick him, too. I mean he is the obvious choice, but that doesn't mean he is the right choice.

Take for example the main event of Wrestlemania 30, with the original plan of Batista going up against Randy Orton. Marketing people's mouths would lather at the prospect. It's easy to see why, too. Batista was a former World Champion who drew big money for WWE. He had left on his own terms to pursue other interests. Since he had left he had begun an acting career and had just landed his biggest role to date as Drax The Destroyer, in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. A very successful and critically acclaimed film in the MEGA popular superhero genre. But now he had returned to WWE to reclaim the richest prize of all…The WWE World Heavyweight Title. So why, then, did those plans flop so spectacularly? Because while he was the obvious choice he wasn't the right one. The right choice was, of course, Daniel Bryan. I don't blame a marketing person for not understanding why fans preferred Daniel Bryan over Batista. I mean Batista looked like he could bend iron bars with his bare hands while Bryan looked like a sawn-off Bruiser Broody look-alike working as an organic farmer.

So why did WWE fans fall in love with Bryan and hated the return of Batista? Simple really… marketing people don't understand that heart, passion, talent, and desire resonate more with the general public then muscles and fame. Essentially, it was superficial flashiness versus genuine substance…at least in the eyes of the fans.

Marketing people don't understand that the most talented and admired individuals don't need big muscles, money or fame to be loved by the general public. All they need to be is the absolute best at what they do. You can market products like a car superficially by saying, "Oh look how big and shiny it is! How fast it can go!" And people will buy them. But unless the car can get you from A to B without any mechanical trouble, you're not going to sell many cars after the initial marketing campaign ends will you?

Moral of the story is in today's day and age people are smarter buyers. They're not going to buy a new car unless they test drive it, know it's worth the money and is the right fit for them. That's why fans chose Daniel Bryan over Batista. They thought Batista looked good, but they knew he couldn't deliver what they wanted at that time and Daniel Bryan could. Kinda like how I would love to own an Aston Martin Vanquish, but I know a Toyota Hilux would probably suit my needs better in the long run.

Point No.4 They protect established Main Event stars and the expense of creating new ones.

The biggest problem with WWE today is there is NO Main Event level in WWE for workers to aspire to. There is only "Cena" Level. The problem is that NO-ONE is allowed to be at "Cena" Level. When Stone Cold Steve Austin was on top of WWE as their NO.1 star, workers like Triple H were allowed equal standing, and as such Triple H won more than one program against the companies then NO.1 guy. And as a result, WWE created new Main Event stars who could get others over to Main Event status. Guys like Randy Orton, who in turn helped Seth Rollins get over as a Main Event star and so on.

You won't see this as much as you should in WWE today. Decision makers in WWE are convinced that the mystique and mythos around workers like John Cena is so HUGE, bigger than Austin and Hogan combined, that he can NEVER lose a program. He can lose a match sure but he can never lose a program. This ridiculous idea results in many logical outcomes in programs that can create new Main Event Stars being completely ignored to protect this mystique. A recent example was last year's program between John Cena and Kevin Owens.

KO's "shocking" victory at Elimination Chamber provided WWE with the most compelling storyline of the year, and the eventual Cena win in the rematch at Money in the Bank only served to heighten it. Come the rubber match at Battleground and you had potential history in the making an established star who's done everything you could do in the industry with literally NOTHING more to prove and a young upstart with the crowd behind him (Yes KO had the crowd firmly behind him. Re-watch the match if you don't believe me.) Surely the logical thing to do was book the established star to go under the young upstart. Thus creating a NEW star that could one day Main Event WrestleMania, make WWE a lot of money and, most importantly, put over other new stars.

But obviously, that's not what happened. Cena went over much to the disappointment of 80% of the audience at battleground and the people watching at home. WWE was savaged by critics for this and rightly so.

At this point in his career John Cena losing a program does NO harm to his legacy nor does it threaten his spot. It does, however, do a lot of harm to the up and comer who has to put Cena over. I mean just look how low someone like Rusev's career has fallen since losing a program to Cena. Look how low Bray Wyatt's career has fallen since losing a program to Cena. Like it or not WWE's higher-ups bury people to protect John Cena. Cena inadvertently confirmed this fact himself during a promo to Seth Rollins before SummerSlam 2015 "When it's all said and done you won't be remembered as WWE Champion you will just be remembered as another guy who got beat by John Cena". Thus, my point. You're allowed to get to Main Event level but no-one, not even Roman Reigns, is allowed to be on John Cena's level.

Point No.5 WWE's Developmental Program puts on FAR better shows.

If Ring of Honor was well equipped like WWE, a lot of people sadly still wouldn't even try to give their shows a shot. Why? Because Vince did a lot to kill territory based wrestling promotions which were the precursors for the modern indy scene. He did a lot to argue the perception of independent promotions as being "minor league" compared to his all-mighty corporation. Even though companies like New Japan Pro Wrestling and Triple A are putting on AMAZING Shows and are more popular in their own countries than WWE. Ring of Honor even did the unthinkable and outdrew WWE in a tour of Texas last year.

Vince broke the overall wrestling scene in general while Triple H is trying to repair it with NXT. The guy promotes and uses other indy wrestlers, takes notes from ROH and doesn't overproduce the show.

That kind of production is what got Jushin "Thunder" Liger to step a single foot in something owned by WWE. It's bewildering how NXT is owned by WWE, yet it's just so different! To the point where you wouldn't know it's WWE-owned if the logo wasn't in the middle of NXT's logo. And I, like I'm sure many fans, are honestly more excited for NXT Takeover: Dallas. How can you blame me given just how good NXT is? It's so good I don't have a problem in saying NXT consistently puts on a better show than WWE…There I said it. Their story lines are grounded in reality, their workers aren't hindered by management's perspective of their "look" and, simply put, workers there are given the time and the freedom to give the best promos and put on the best matches they possibly can.

Conclusion.

Yes, WNW People we sure do complain a lot (I know I do) but the thing of it is, complaining doesn't change anything. Because as bad as WWE programming can be sometimes we still watch it. Not that we don't have viable alternatives in Ring Of Honor, Lucha Underground, and New Japan Pro Wrestling. The problem is those companies, as AMAZING as they are, still don't have anywhere near the exposure of WWE so most of us don't watch them. Until WWE starts losing viewers either from competition or just from fan apathy, WWE's higher-ups will still dismiss someone like me as a "vocal minority," and continue to ignore me because at the end of the day as much as I complain I'm still watching.

What do you think WNW People?

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