Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Raw Has Fallen And It Can't Get Up

Dean Ambrose came back and for five minutes, it looked like he had saved Raw from the abyss that it had fallen into in his absence. Not even Dean can be on the screen for three hours straight. Raw is really suffering and adding another member to the long-term injury list in Roman Reigns is not helping it get better. Despite many thinking, it might be a massive chance for Dean himself to get to a different level. While we can debate about the individual players for days the team as a whole is getting a butt kicking the last five weeks.

Brian Fritz my colleague at Between the Ropes wrote an excellent piece on some ideas the fix what is wrong with the WWE. One of the points he made was about the WWE commentary team that I think almost everyone agrees with at this point. Michael Cole gets more passionate about a man in a bunny costume wrestling than an I-C title match. While the man himself defends Cole, you have to believe Jim Ross deep down knows Cole couldn’t hold his jock strap. Meantime you have Jerry Lawler who we all were concerned when he had a heart attack live on air a few years ago. Has the statue of limitations ended on this yet, because I challenge anyone to come up with a night since returning from that where Lawler has been even passable in his role? Let’s state the obvious, Jerry Lawler does not watch Smackdown and would not know a NXT superstar if he ran into them at a mall. He does not watch the product other than when he is on the air for Raw or a special event/pay-per-view. Some may question if he even does that. However, perhaps the most annoying of the lot of them is JBL. He is loud, bombastic, and more interested in cutting jokes on his buddy Michael Cole than doing his job. He seems to wander between being a heel announcer to neutral and even at times a babyface with no really reason for it.

While commentary is a major problem it is only the most obvious and in your face one on a weekly basis consistently. Lack of consistency hurts building fan bases for your various wrestlers and that has been obvious. Take a guy like Cesaro that fans have been rallying behind or trying for last year to 6 months. He seemed primed to be launched to the next level coming out of Wrestlemania only to have him play a secondary role to Brock Lesnar who was not even on the roster. If you look at all the ups and downs for Cesaro just as a fan, you feel frustrated. Imagine how that actual man that is Cesaro feels. You can just sense his desire to move up the ladder and I challenge anyone to give a solid reason why he should not.

Bray Wyatt has gone from working a program with John Cena and being the hottest thing in the WWE to forgotten  in the shuffle with no real program to speak of. We had a group of Xavier Woods, Big E and Kofi Kingston appear for a week and disappear the next. You have this idea of 50/50 booking in many feuds like the one with Dolph Ziggler and The Miz that has seen the Intercontinental Title change hands like it is an unwanted stepchild. Dean Ambrose may not be dead the fans caring about the Intercontinental Championship is on life support. This is not even mentioning the U.S title that even the most hardcore fan has to struggle to remember whom that champion is at the moment. The answer is Sheamus for the moment if you were struggling to remember.

There is also a lack of faith in the performers in 2014 that needs to change. We need to get away from the scripted promo for most of the roster and go back to the point form ways of the past. If you want a couple scripted lines this is fine. Is it always going to work and will you sometimes have a Nikki Bella I wish you died in the womb moment? Sure that is going to happen from time to time but more often than not you will get a better promo and performance overall. If you did not know the womb line, was an ad-lib by Nikki Bella.

I think if you allow this to happen than it will cause guys and gals to feel who their character is not just simply reading a script of someone else telling them who they are. The people that were great in this business did not have to be told who they were. At some point, they understood who they were and reacted as such in ever situation they would find themselves. Dean Ambrose is perhaps the one person on this roster that fully grasps this concept. He is the same guy every time we see him on our television screen.

Austin had the famous and perhaps over used line, about the best wrestling characters being an extension of who these people were in real life, just turning the volume up to like 10. Which is somewhat lacking in the current WWE.

Now let us talk about some women’s wrestling shall we. I will start with a simple statement that with opportunity it comes with responsibility. This simple statement applies to all of the ladies but specifically to the Total Divas crew. If the WWE is going to use you on its programming, based on Total Divas and not really anything else you need to step up.  It is on you to take these segments and matches and prove you are worthy of this valuable real estate that is television time. The gaffs we have seen in matches and the lack of being able to get across promos and angles is clearly evident.

While I love women’s wrestling, if the ladies are not going to step up to the plate, I can’t honestly defend them nor should I. They need to be held just as accountable as their male counterparts are and I question if that is really done.

What else can we say that has not been said so far? Here is a point about booking and predictability with in that.  Predictable booking is fine in the long-term but it isn’t in the short term. What I mean by this is simple I am fine with already having a clear idea where the company wants to head for Wrestlemania next year but not for Raw next week. The true success for Raw is when it embraces that old WWE slogan where the WWE was where anything can happen. That does not mean exactly having a bunny wrestling in a tag-team match. It means that I never really am 100% sure what could happen next. I am not going to the point of Vince Russo where I need to be treated like a kid with the patience level of a 6-year old in my viewing habits. I am just saying in the sense of needing to wonder what could happen from segment to segment as we go through the show. If I am wondering about what might happen next, that is less time I am looking at the clock wondering if this is over yet?

What also seems painfully clear even as an outsider is that Vince McMahon and his son-in-law Paul Lévesque (Triple H) seem to be at odds over a great number of talents and their futures. This validates why we have seen this wild inconsistencies in the booking of people. You only need to watch NXT to see that Paul seems to be much closer to understand what this generation of fans want in comparison to Vince. You can say C.M Punk might understand it better than both might combined still he isn’t concerned with how you have to implement that change in a corporate setting. Paul Levesque does as he has created the entire brand and developmental system that hardcore fans love. He is the guy that has brought in guys like Sami Zayn, Kevin Steen, Kenta, Prince Devitt and Adrian Neville along with others.

At the end of the day, the biggest problem might just be Vince McMahon himself. Think about it, he has been the guy behind the John Cena build we saw to the re-match with Lesnar, which no one really thought was believable. Vince McMahon might be too distracted, too old or just to out of touch to make this work as he has in the past. There is little question the WWE Network has been a huge distraction and is taking Vince out of the mix in terms of his normal hands on role with creative. I just wonder if it is BEST FOR BUSINESS to have Paul takeover creative until Vince is able to stabilize this network. If there, is not a split focus maybe that can lead to both having better success? This $9.99 campaign is about as successful as the show has been recently. Least it looks that way on the surface.

So what happened on Raw? Ambrose is back and Cena is trying to ride the coat tails of his popularity and a man in a bunny suit wrestled on Monday Night Raw. This was not a banner moment or episode in the longest running episodic program in television history.  

Raw has fallen and it can’t get up.