We live in the golden age of episodic television. From Breaking Bad to Arrested Development to Mad Men and everything else in between, people love episodic television. They love long form stories told over years and have no problem following storyline threads that are being followed up from seasons past. With shows of this nature there is usually a "show bible" which can be described as this:
...updated as a series progresses, and are expanded with information on the characters after the information has been established on screen, and often go into extensive detail about the character's histories. The Frasier show bible, for example, was "scrupulously maintained", and anything established on air — "the name of Frasier's mother, Niles' favorite professor, Martin's favorite bar...even a list of Maris' [dozens of] food allergies" — was reflected in the bible. The bible then serves as a resource for writers to keep everything with the series consistent.
They can also contain the "rules" of the universe. For instance on a sci-fi show like Battlestar Galactica the capabilities and limits of technology used on the show are documented.
These are invaluable to showrunners because they allow the universes they create to seem real. Nothing takes a viewer out of reality like a lack of continuity and viewers are trained (from watching shows religiously) to look for these things. There are often people on staff at TV shows to keep track of these things because they believe that continuity matters.
And yet WWE, who like to brag about having the longest and one of the longest running episodic television series, doesn't do this. In fact, they often willfully ignore their own history in order to tell whatever story they want to tell. Big Show getting fired storyline? Sure, we'll just ignore that ironclad contract storyline from a year ago. Even when they do acknowledge it, they don't treat it with respect. Remember this, very real, conversation from WWE just a few weeks ago:
Edge: Hey, remember when I tried to kill you all those times?
Cena: LOL YEAH
Edge: Hey, remember how I hated you and beat up your dad?
Cena: OMG LOL THAT WAS AWESOME
Edge: You are my worst enemy. I made my entire career off of hating you.
Cena: I respect what you did. Let's be BFFs forever now.
Cena: LOL CHRISTIAN WHO
The message is simple: history doesn't matter. Read more
I consider the 1993-95 period of WWF to be my pro-wrestling formative years. These were flawed years, but they were the ones I fell in love with so I always hold a certain reverence for the era. At the same time I realize that the product that they presented in 1995 has little to resemblance to the stuff that I watch today. Still, that doesn't mean there aren't lessons to be learned from that era. To succeed in the future we must learn from our past.
My favorite wrestler in this era was Razor Ramon. Why? He wasn't a main event guy, after Royal Rumble 1993 he never had another World title match, and it didn't matter. He was cool, had charisma and had a cool finisher. He also NEVER lost. According to ProFightDB in 1994 he only had four losses, total, and three singles losses. Those losses were to Owen Hart (King of the Ring finals, after Razor had already won two matches), Diesel (title change) and Shawn Michaels (due to Diesel's interference). That's it. He won the majority of his matches despite not being in the main event of the show and his losses mattered. How did he do it?
The reason I keep watching WWE despite being continually letdown by the quality of the shows and the storytelling is simple: I love wrestling and I love the characters. Despite the poor storytelling, the characters still connect. It's why Dolph Ziggler can be a joke for months and then suddenly become friends with John Cena, defeat the Authority single-handedly and have it all seem completely plausible. It's why Ryback can be a joke, get injured, come back as his early career character and have everyone accept it without asking "Where's Axel?" The characters connect.
A favorite line of talking heads in WWE is that the best characters are the ones who take their real personalities and turn them up to 11. Steve Austin is a tough Texan who likes drinking beer so he turned it up to 11 and became a star, The Rock is a charismatic movie star so he turned it up to 11 and he became a star, Kane is a real life demon so he turned it up to 11 and so on. This is something that WWE trumpets over and over as what it takes to make a real superstar. So, why do they actively try to stop people from being themselves? Read more
It's hard to argue against John Cena. He sells the most merchandise, he gets the biggest reactions and he just seems like the biggest star on every show that he's on. Some of this is a self-fulfilling prophecy on the part of WWE, but a lot of it is earned and deserved. Like it or not, he's the biggest star there is right now.
The problem with John Cena comes when he gets involved with, basically, anyone else who might have a future. The Nexus, Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio, Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins and many more have been hot then feuded with Cena and lost some of their muster. Some of them got shuffled back down the card, some persevered and some disappeared. The list of people who have benefited from feuding with John Cena in the last few years is CM Punk and... that's about it.
I don't blame John Cena for this, he could probably do a little better, but it's not his fault. It's the fault of WWE's storytelling and their need to insert him into stories with people who need anyone but him. Guys get to a certain level and it is decided that it is time for them to feud with Cena which means that it is time for them to lose to Cena. There is value in losing to Cena, but (much like I touched on yesterday) it loses value when you've seen it before. It loses value when it happens on six out of seven matches that are all televised. You know how Cena vs. Rollins ends because you saw Cena vs. Wyatt and Cena vs. Ziggler and Cena vs. ALL. LOLCENAWINS and all that.
So, how do we fix it? How do we let John Cena do John Cena things and make a ton of money off of him while still giving Rollins, Ambrose, Ziggler, Wyatt and everybody else a chance to make it? Read more
I decided to watch Royal Rumble 2000 on the Network and then I realized holy shit, this was 15 years ago. I am an old man filled with regret. 2000 WWE was definitely a high point in the company's history. It's post-Vince Russo and while there is still a lot of dumb "Attitude" stuff, it's less two-minute matches and more pro-wrestling as a soap opera for men. It was that "bunch of guys fighting for for their spots" time that Triple H loves to talk about and a time when everyone on the roster not only had a character, but had a story to go along with it. It was a good time.
It was also a great time for business. WWE was so big that they opened a football league. The Rock hosted Saturday Night Live, the first time that a wrestler hosted SNL in 15 years which was one of the last times WWE was that big. The difference between 1985 and 2000 WWE is borderline unrecognizable. Despite their previous success, a big part of 2000's success was destroying the past. In 2000 fifteen years ago was a long, long time. In 2015? Not so much.
Let's take a look at what a difference 15 years makes. Read more
I love wrestling and, for better or worse, my favorite form of professional wrestling is WWE. I hate the commentary, I hate their short term memory, I hate the lack of importance put on titles, I hate the sexism, I hate the racism, I hate the announcing and I hate a ton more stuff that WWE does, but at the end of the day it is still the best. They have the best wrestlers, they have the best characters and they have the ability to put on a big event and deliver a big moment like no one else. I wish there was a better alternative, but just like there won't ever be a new NFL there will probably never be another WWE. We're stuck with it.
I don't watch wrestling as much as I used to lately because it isn't really fun to watch sometimes, but I am always thinking about it. I am always analyzing it and trying to figure out how it can become something that I do want to watch. In another life I dreamed of being a WWE writer and I always try to think of it on those terms. Not how I would do things, but how you could make things work within the framework of WWE. How you could make things work in the mind of Vince McMahon. Trying to do this is hard and shows why the turnover is high at that job and why that dream job was in another life, but it's what I do. What can I say, I'm a master of procrastination and spending my time doing things that don't matter.
Anyway, this week I'm going to take these thoughts to the blog. I am not here to complain about what I don't like about WWE, but instead try to fix it. I'm here to offer my solutions to the problems that face this company in a way that someone within that company should probably do. That's my goal at least.
These are just my opinions on things that I think could be done to make a better product. You may agree and you may disagree. These are just the opinions of a life long fan that are meant to start a conversation. Ideally, a conversation that takes place in the offices of WWE.
So, enjoy. Ole Wrestling's Creative Week starts now.
On Saturday morning I'm getting in the car and driving to St. Louis. I'm going to Survivor Series and I want it to be good. My definition of good isn't BROCK vs. BRYAN vs. ROMAN REIGNS vs. CENA in a Luchas de Apuestas with a Royal Rumble, cibernetico and Rollins vs. Ambrose TLC match on the undercard. I just want a fun show. A few good matches, some guys I want to see and no insulting of my intelligence. I'm easy. I love wrestlers and wrestling so I don't need this to be the biggest show ever. It's Survivor Series, it's basically a synonym for a fun throwaway show. That's all I'm looking for.
WWE storytelling apparently had other ideas. They took my fun throwaway show and turned it into this one big match with super serious, Universe altering stipulations. If Team Cena wins, the Authority is fired If Team Authority wins, all of Team Cena is fired. Cool, I guess.
Actually, it would be cool if it made any damn sense. Read more
I don't normally get into the financial side of WWE because that's not really my bag (man), but the Q3 announcement and expectations around the Network got me interested. From everything that I saw and everything that I read, I thought things were going to be bad. So I emailed my dad and asked him about put options, which is basically betting it will go down. He found some and replied to me and I... wimped out.
I read too much, talked to friends too much and let the optimist in me win out. I knew that Network numbers were going to be the only thing that mattered in this call and I put my safe prediction around 850k which would be neither so bad or so great. I expected stagnation, basically. That isn't what happened, the numbers ended up being low and I ended up losing out on literally hundreds of dollars. I want the WWE Network to succeed, I really do, and that hope is probably what ended up costing me.
But enough about me, this is about the WWE Network. What can they do? In WWE's minds this is about price. There are no more commitments, no more higher price points for early termination, it's just $9.99 month-to-month. You can sign up for one day and cancel. The price of a WWE PPVs is now cheaper than a Chikara IPPV. This is wrong. $9.99 is nothing in this world. $9.99 is a four-piece chicken combo at Popeye's Chicken, a single beer at a sporting event or a pair of John Cena licensed texting gloves. (That's a real thing, btw.) Anyone who cites price when cancelling the WWE Network is an asshole. If you eat out or partake in alcohol, you can afford the WWE Network.
It isn't price, but WWE's focus on price is a problem. People show every year around this time that they will spend money. Black Friday is a day where people burn money whether they can afford to or not. If people want something, they will get it. Price does not matter. Therefore, the problem with WWE Network must be that they aren't making people want it enough. How do they do that? Read more
I like the WWE Network. It's not perfect, but it's so much better than anything else we've ever had before that I'm willing to overlook certain things. I signed up for the Network on the very first day it was available and I'm probably never canceling unless something terrible happens to me (like growing up). I am the ideal customer because I actually like watching the old stuff and the special events/pay-per-views are an added bonus. The value, to me, is in the sheer amount of content on the Network, but I'm not everyone.
The idea behind the WWE Network is that you get the special events/pay-per-views included. A lot has and will be said about what this means to WWE on a business level, but on paper this is a great idea. $9.99 for SummerSlam? Sign me up. $9.99 for Wrestlemania? Sign me up. It works because you want these events and as soon as more of the world starts to figure out how an online network works I think it will be a success. I really do.
There is only one small problem: WWE has changed the entire way they do things and special events aren't so special anymore. Read more
Full disclosure: Cesaro is my favorite and I want the very best for him. I am as biased as it gets for this guy. He is amazing and deserves everything and more from this company.
When Cesaro became a Paul Heyman Guy after Wrestlemania, I was excited. We all were excited. Despite every non-Brock Lesnar Paul Heyman Guy not really working out (and I'm including CM Punk here), we were excited. It made perfect sense. This was the guy that had everything you look for in a WWE Superstar, but was missing that one thing to push him over the top. Paul Heyman was going to be that thing. Cesaro was going to be Heyman's One Man Dangerous Alliance and he was going to take the ball and run away with it. I knew it, we all knew it and then...
It went to shit.
I've heard theories tons of theories as to why. Vince doesn't like him, WWE was just using him to keep Heyman on TV and Lesnar fresh in everyone's minds and even that he would've gotten a big push if it wasn't for Daniel Bryan's injury ruining everyone's plans. Whatever the reason, it doesn't matter now because it's done. The Heyman thing didn't work out.
Then one day we were given hope. Cesaro went back into Triple H's office and told him that he wasn't a Paul Heyman Guy anymore because he was a Triple H Guy. This had potential. This was something he could really sink his teeth into and take the ball and run away with it. This was going to be his thing and then...
He got booked in a match against Ambrose and it never really went anywhere past that. Read more