I'm 42 years old, the last thing I should be thinking about over my enchiladas is how to "fix" a business that according to their most recent quarterly results really doesn't need fixing in the first place. Plus, throwing out crazy ideas for free into the internet is a young man's game, isn't it? Yet, here I am, and so are you obviously, so let's light this candle.
It helps to start by zeroing in on what's wrong with today's WWE to begin with, and that's simple enough, so here goes:
- Lack of a true competitor has made the company lose its edge (not this Edge, the metaphorical kind).
- Pandering to advertisers has created a PG-rated product that isn't nearly as compelling as the blood & guts & T&A fueled Attitude Era.
- They can't create new megastars any more.
- The roster is full of guys willing to take a guaranteed paycheck and they don't "reach for the brass ring" the way wrestlers that had to walk to school uphill in the snow both ways used to.
- Everything is about trying to get people to subscribe to the WWE Network, and each show is a three-hour commercial featuring occasional fits of wrestling between actual commercials.
- The storylines are boring, Vince McMahon is out of touch, HHH ruins everything, Shane should come back and start throwing himself off of balconies into flaming piles of garbage, etc.
Ok, I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Bottom line (don't do it) is that, to many fans, despite the constant reminders of how worldwide trendariffic everything they do is, the WWE just doesn't feel relevant to most of their fans these days. We watch out of a sense of inertia, or worse, we hate-watch it so we can rip it to shreds the next day on our favorite social media outlet.
Honestly, how could it feel relevant in 2015? The current formula of TV/PPV/Live Show in Podunk, USA hasn't changed since the 1980's really. As a wise man once said, the world has moved on.
What to do?
Easy, emphasize the Sports in Sports Entertainment. The answers are right in front of you if you look to the professional sports leagues that continue to do crazy business even in today's face in yer phone world (except Hockey. Nobody cares about Hockey).
HHH said something very interesting on the Stone Cold Steve Austin Podcast recently. I'm paraphrasing, but he spoke about how they tell a story that never ends, so you can't ever judge them on one week or one month without knowing what's coming up in the future. Jokes about three-hour Raw episodes aside (which even Hunter seems to think is a mistake), I think the never ending story aspect of the WWE is exactly what's getting in the way.
So let's not do that, ok? Here's what I propose.
Just like sports have done for many moons, have a season. A finite, real-deal, beginning, middle, and end season every year. This lets them tell actual stories with actual arcs. It's kinda like what happens in the NFL every year, only you get to script it in advance and the officials can adjust the outcomes depending on how the fans are reacting. Wait, ok...that's exactly like the NFL. Zing.
All of the pieces are in place, and I think it would actually be a super compelling product. I think you'll agree that it makes a lot of sense, which is why it will never, ever, happen.
- The WWE Season would run from late August through April. Essentially Summerslam to Wrestlemania. Plenty of time to start long term storylines, have a few different shorter arcs that wrap themselves up cleanly, but most importantly, build momentum from the beginning of the season to the end of the season. Just like the NFL, everything is about getting to the big dance at the end and walking out as champion.
- In order for this to work, THE CHAMPIONSHIPS HAVE TO MEAN SOMETHING. No more non-title crap where the champ gets pinned for no reason. Everyone is trying to win. All the time. Every match fits into a bigger picture of trying to move up the ladder and contend for the big prize at the end. So, if Ryback and Luke Harper are having a meaningless match on a Monday night, it's slightly less meaningless in the bigger picture. Does this require someone to pay attention to the internal logic week-in, week-out? Yep. Not my problem. Get an intern to do it.
- With that in mind. Keep score. Wins and losses matter. WWE fans are nerds (and I don't mean this in a bad way, I mean it the same way movie fans are nerds, comic book fans are nerds, baseball fans...wait nobody are nerds the way baseball fans are nerds), and they actually already keep track of this stuff. Don't believe me? Check this out. Why not make it part of the show. Introducing stats and facts and figures opens up a whole new level of engagement for the true fans, and honestly does nothing to kill the enjoyment of a casual watcher. Again, put that intern to work. Hell, people on the Internet already do it for free. Either way, the stats become part of the story, and that's honestly all you need to pit Wrestler A against Wrestler B 99% of the time anyway.
- Everything builds towards Wrestlemania, which instead of being compared to the Super Bowl, actually IS the Super Bowl. You're not just competing for the title, you're competing to become that season's Champion, and all of the glory that goes with it. Think about it...you could have meta stories over years of dynasties, comebacks, one-season wonders. This stuff isn't that hard, people.
- The Hall Of Fame starts to make a lot more sense in this context, by the way, and really fits well into Wrestlemania weekend.
With me so far? I know, this is already a lot longer than I anticipated. Now I see why Raw is three hours. Hold on. Nope. That still sucks. Carrying on.
- April to September is the offseason, just like every other sport on the planet. Guys go home. They rest. They heal. And they come back stronger and raring to go next season. The WWE can still do occasional international shows during this time with the main roster if they must, but I think it would be best for everyone's well-being if they truly took some time off.
- The WWE Network opens up all sorts of opportunities to do cool offseason programming to both review the happenings from the previous season, have "hot stove" conversations, and check in on how injured Superstars are planning their comebacks. Very little momentum need be lost.
Let's not forget about NXT. It's kind of a big part of this whole plan.
- First off, not a whole lot changes about the Performance Center, the Full Sail shows, or the developmental nature of NXT. That has to continue, because this plan will require rookies that can make an impact every season, and the younger guys need a place to hone their craft.
- However, NXT takes center stage during the offseason. April - Late August is their time, as they take over the weekly spot that Raw holds, host their own PPVs and live events, and tell a totally different story focused on making it to the main roster.
- Again, wins and losses matter. Stats matter. Championships matter, man. Because...
- The end of the NXT season features their version of "NXTMania" or whatever you want to call it, and whoever is left holding the respective belts at the end moves up to the main roster next season. It's a story that endlessly repeats itself, is always exciting, and provides a true path for the future WWE stars to get to the main roster.
That's it. Simple, blatantly stolen from NFL Football and Premier League Football, and it'll work. So, of course it'll never happen. Let me know what you think.
A few things before you hastily spew them in the comments:
- I didn't forget about Smackdown. I don't care about Smackdown. I think we need less hours of Wrestling on TV, not more.
- I know USA Network might not be all about this plan. Again, not my problem. The endgame here is to get enough Network subscribers to have the whole deal be self-contained. I'm not an accountant, I don't know what that magic number is.
- None of this means Ryback should be given a push. Under no circumstances should that ever happen.