Wednesday 12 November 2014

The Unfulfilling Product

Want to know why the WWE product is failing to satisfy so many people? Because there aren’t enough interesting performers on the main roster. The number of wrestlers outside of the main event who have defined interesting characters and get time on TV on a regular basis is slim. As has been commented on by many people many times, most wrestlers on the WWE roster sound and act alike. That’s prohibiting WWE from booking a sufficiently intriguing or fresh product because there’s little chance of variety with the current setup.

Clashing merch from Cena there.
The two undisputed stars WWE currently has are Randy Orton and John Cena. Both have their well-documented faults, but they at least have their own distinct styles of promo and are portrayed consistently so their actions never seem out of character. Part of the reason for that is that the pair carry enough clout to have a say in how they are presented and what they’re given to do. This is something WWE should try to implement for performers lower down the ranks.

Speaking of which WWE has a deceptively thin second tier right now. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins have unquestionably been established as two future headliners. Bray Wyatt is mostly on a par with them and Rusev is just a step behind (although his ascent is understandably being handled quite differently). At a push it could be said Dolph Ziggler is on this level too although the years of stops and starts haven’t helped him.

The injured list is depriving WWE of a few guys who would otherwise be included in these lists of top stars. Daniel Bryan is the only other bona fide full-time headliner WWE currently has under contract, but there’s no idea of when he’ll be returning to the ring. Roman Reigns would easily be ranked alongside Ambrose and Rollins as a definite future star, though that’s more to do with WWE’s clear infatuation with him than any work he’s done to show that he merits a shove to the top. And Bad News Barrett would be ranked alongside ‘The Show Off’ as a man clinging to relevance at the lower reaches of WWE’s sparse upper mid-card.

But after these names things fall off a cliff. You have the likes of the Uso brothers, Cesaro, The Miz, Sheamus, Goldust and Stardust, all of whom have sketched out characters and not a huge amount else. Some of them have made more of what they’ve been given than others. Miz and Stardust, for example, have both thrown themselves into what they’ve been given, as has Miz’s stunt double Damien Mizdow. But they’ve not been given much and even those who turn what they’re given into something worthwhile don’t have their efforts rewarded.

The trouble with guys at this level is that they only have competitive matches with each other. Any time they interact with people higher up the pecking order than them they lose, and generally in a pretty one-sided effort. We are not given any reason to believe they’re going anywhere and that stops us investing in them passed a certain point.

Two of the handful of guys who stand out in a barren mid-card.
The answer to this, fairly obviously, is for WWE to do a couple of things. First, do more to establish the mid-card characters currently on TV to get us invested in them and believing they might actually amount to something. Once that’s done call up some guys from NXT and give them the same treatment. That would create a more diverse, appealing mid-card to elevate people from as and when they’re needed or they develop naturally beyond it.

This would allow RAW to be fleshed out with storylines involving guys who aren’t in the main event. Which is desirable because it would go a long way towards making RAW a more enjoyable show. The current model of a three hour show retreading the same batch of match-ups week after week isn’t what a wrestling audience wants in 2014. It’s too much to expect everyone to jump into something next week, but a realistic goal is to have everyone doing something by the time WrestleMania 31 rolls around. What else are the writers paid for if not to write storylines, after all?

The overriding message here is that WWE needs to do more with its non-main event performers. Something which I’ve written before and will certainly write again. They’re unlikely to, because there are more pressing concerns for the company right now. But things like the Network’s creaky opening year would all be solved, in the long term, by a greater effort being made with the roster. The wrestlers are, at the end of the day, what we all tune in to see.

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