Monday, January 26, 2015

Rocky Rumble Makes You Concerned For WWE's Future?

After the WWE Royal Rumble happened, I was struck with the line Richard Sherman said to Tom Brady “Are You Mad Bro,” ringing in my head. The answer was as obvious as the booking of the rumble itself. The show as a whole beyond the WWE Heavyweight Title match was some of the worst stuff I have seen on a Rumble ever. This was as "mail it in" as the WWE can get for one of its biggest events of the year.

The thing is if you consider yourself an informed fan nothing that happened should have been a surprise and part of the massive out pouring of anger was in a sense fans being mad at themselves for expecting something different. The plan for Roman Reigns to win this Rumble has been widely reported and speculated on since months after the last Wrestlemania. Why fans held out hope the WWE would run with Daniel Bryan again was at best wishful thinking. WWE never wanted to go with him last year so why would they do it this year. Daniel Bryan has been injured for the majority of the year and honestly can’t be considered being a top guy for practical reasons. He has comeback with little change to his style that concerns me for his long-term future as a human being forget if he ever gets another title match or Wrestlemaina Main event.

Roman Reigns was being cheered against the WWE’s pick to win last year in Dave Bautista. Now a year later has the WWE’s chosen one he is booed as loudly as Bautista was perhaps louder given it was in Philadelphia this year. Not even an appearance by The Rock could change this. Fans wanted no part of this, and they were not going to be tricked into being compliant to it with the use of the Rock.

Beyond Bryan’s early exit, many of the WWE’s fan favorites were unceremoniously thrown out of the rumble. The bigger thing that angers me is how the WWE can seriously consider closing a match of the Rumble’s importance with Kane and Big Show. These dinosaurs of the roster have no ones interest. If Kane and Big Show went on Raw tonight and said the retired the general consensus of wrestling fans would be it is about damn time. Both have far over stayed there welcome in the wrestling business. This does not make them unique in any way. Still the fact they are booked as top heels in this company suggests the real problems this company has in depending on its younger talent.

Show and Kane could take a cue from Road Dogg and Billy Gunn who show up often but know when to get in and get out and still have a positive response from the fans.

When you look at this logically, which sometimes in times like this is lacking on all sides this is a simple matter of the WWE failing to connect with the fan base. While in the 80’s it was easy to tell fans who they are suppose to like and they would in mass that no longer is the case in 2015. Fans have become to demanding and almost to the point of entitled and spoiled about it.

This speaks as well to the failure of the WWE Network, how fans have used that network as a means to end to express their displeasure. After the Royal Rumble, fans crashed the cancellation page for the WWE Network. The WWE has made many mistakes in the almost year the WWE Network has existed but perhaps the most massive mistake was recently making it easy to cancel the service on simply a whim. Imagine if cell phone providers took a similar approach. How often to people become unsatisfied with their service? This is why most cell companies lock their clients into a contract. It avoids having to deal with knee jerk reactions of people not being satisfied with service.

WWE has created a huge problem for the company and it will be very interesting to see how they handle things going forward. Last year they caved to the pressure fans put on them to alter their plans for Wrestlemania. I don’t foresee them doing this for a second year in a row. Evidence of that fact was The Rock’s involvement last night. It was a failed attempt to help get Roman Reigns over.

I need to make this clear Roman Reigns isn’t the problem here it is how he is being presented. Reigns may not be completely ready for this moment and he may still have a lot of growing to do. He has been handcuffed in his growth and development by some of the worst creative for a top WWE Star perhaps in years and that is the issue. He isn’t the problem it is the system and creative element of this company that has grown so out of touch with their core audience it is easily evident every single work in the WWE. Which if they were growing the audience outside of its core it wouldn’t be a problem. The fact is they are not building much beyond the core. Things like Total Divas are not translating to a new audience for WWE. It is just creating an audience for a different branch of the WWE that does not seem compelled to watch the core product. Evidence of that fact is Total Divas often runs in direct competition with WWE Special Events like last night’s Royal Rumble.

The core wrestling audience for WWE is shrinking and being driven to alternative programming like ROH and NJPW to get what they are looking for. While the new fans they are creating is not enough to offset this erosion of their core audience that grows smaller gradually over time.

WWE has grand plans of filling AT&T Stadium in Dallas for Wrestlemania 32 in about 14 months. How this Wrestlemania comes off may well determine the fate of if such grand dreams are possible to achieve. WWE has some serious issues without question.

The WWE has in a lot of ways painted themselves into a corner and perhaps have build the business to big to match the level of interest that is lacking from the peak of wrestling during the Monday Night Wars. Their choice to be more family friendly entertainment has not worked to the extent they have hoped. You can say whatever you want about John Cena and his appeal to children it pails in comparison to the appeal a Stone Cold Steve Austin had to a rebellious teenage and older fan base. Regardless of the letter grade, you present the WWE product in; they have to find a way to connect with what their audience in demanding.

The success of NXT is a good example of what fans truly crave right now. They want a product that is more traditionally wrestling based that has guys who can be entertaining but can do it first and foremost in the ring itself.

Vince McMahon may think he is producing sports entertainment but the Wrestling Fans still want wrestling. Ultimately, Vince’s age and lack of knowledge of this new more active and socially aware audience is likely his core of the WWE’s issues. I refuse to believe an entire creative team is this out of touch and stupid on mass. This comes down to one man trying to flex his muscles and still show he is ultimately the final decider. He has lost his Midas touch and everyone seems to know it other than him.

If you’re simply pissed off your guy Daniel Bryan didn’t win last night my advice is grow up. However if you see the larger picture and how disjointed and massively screwed up this company has become I share your concern.

It is rapidly becoming a case of does Wrestlemania and WWE survive to see Wrestlemania 40, 50 and beyond. Sounds crazy to suggest but this company is in some serious trouble if you understand all the impact of the changes they have made and how badly the Network is floundering. If the WWE can not be profitable, it can’t really sustain itself.  We are not close to that point right now but lacking a serious change in direction; we could be their sooner than people think.

It was not a good night for anyone that cares about the WWE product and its future.

For a preview of the Fall out of the Rumble on Raw from Hartford check out what Josh Lopez has to say with 5 things to expect from Raw. Booing will be likely one of them.