Thursday, 19 June 2014


Part of the reason WWE programming is so uninspiring these days is because so few wrestlers are given things to do. The most recent rivalry to feature non-main event talent was between Hornswoggle and El Torito. Before that the last one I can remember was between Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow. While a feud between Sandow and Rhodes is no bad thing it took place in July and August of 2013. That nicely illustrates the distinct lack of frequency for mid-card feuds and the general lack of attention.

The trouble with concentrating exclusively (or as near to exclusively as makes no difference) on writing for the main event crew should be obvious. It means scenarios get recycled and become familiar, creating indifference in viewers. It also makes it needlessly difficult to elevate fresh acts, exacerbating the staleness problem.

Every Monday a three hour RAW airs but much of it can be skipped, too much of what takes place being inconsequential filler. The opening of the show, the close of the show, the first match, and whatever airs at the turn of each hour are the only things that are likely to matter long term. Even then the specifics are repetitive and uninspired.

Give this guy something to do. Please!
What’s frustrating is that things don’t have to be this way. WWE has more than enough guys on the main roster to be able to get a healthy mid-card scene going. Bad News Barrett, Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, Damien Sandow, Cesaro, and Cody Rhodes all have significant enough followings and the required amount of wrestling ability and personality to draw people into storylines. That list omits tag teams the Uso brothers and The Wyatt Family, guys who are ready and waiting for their shot in NXT, guys like Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins who are not guaranteed permanent top spots quite yet, and the entire Divas division.

It’s not just the talented wrestlers WWE have access to, it’s the writing staff too. Over the years WWE as a company has proven capable of creating balanced television shows that give people the top stars they want while prepping new talent for the future. It also has a history of putting out satisfying storylines (and stinkers too, but that’s always going to happen). That the writing team has changed a lot in nature over the years doesn’t matter. Nor does the fact the people drop in and out, coming and going from the company and the creative process. The WWE product is always overseen by Vince McMahon, and has been for over thirty years. He has proven he knows how to oversee a quality wrestling show, including the prep-heavy periods of prosperity. It just seems that right now he’s not bothered about quality (or that he’s distracted by other things like his company losing money, although in truth that’s not a completely separate issue).

Even beyond the fact that they still have Vince overseeing them we’ve seen the current WWE system has capable people involved. I’m not talking about Paul Heyman or ‘Dirty’ Dutch, although the writing team could do worse than tap them for mid-card plot inspiration. I’m talking about the team of writers who put together NXT.

NXT is a different show to RAW, SmackDown and Main Event. It emphasises wrestling far more and isn’t as long. The talent of those involved in its writing are obvious. They ensure everyone on the show gets an introduction that explains what they’re about, has something to do when they appear, and gets the chance to connect with the audience. Storylines progress logically with a clear beginning, middle and end, and there’s a reason for things happening, including losses in matches.

The NXT approach is not something that could be copied and pasted onto RAW. They’re different shows that target and attract different audiences. But the approach to storyline construction would be a welcome addition to RAW. How about handing over writing duties of Dolph and the gang over to the NXT scribes? The current main roster writing crew would be freed up to make their sections better and the newcomers would be giving meaning to a bunch of talented but overlooked guys.

Even if that’s impossible for whatever reason surely something could be done about the uninspired undercard. I’ve watched wrestling for long enough to know that it doesn’t take that much to get a good mid-card scene going. Have Wrestler A and Wrestler B interfere in one another’s matches and trash talk one another for a month as Wrestler C and Wrestler D do the same for the Intercontinental championship. Have Wrestler A win his feud and make fun of Wrestler C for losing, setting them off in their own feud leaving Wrestlers B and D to do the same, maybe mixing in the birth of a plastic hand or a mysteriously vibrating gym bag or honour being regained by chopping off reproductive organs for good measure (because, y’know, that’s entertainment!). Then wrap up with the final combination before introducing Wrestler E and possibly even Wrestler F for some fresh combos and new stars. Is having a meaningful Intercontinental championship match on a pay-per-view really too much to ask?

Give mid-card wrestlers things to do, basically. The whole point of the above alphabet string would be to create matches that have meaning, giving people a reason to root for certain wrestlers and against others. It would help create anticipation for future matches too. And as much as WWE may not want to admit it it’s the lure of a hot match that elevates a show from run-of-the-mill to red hot success.

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