Acceptance is the final stage of the grieving process; it’s also the most difficult.
Monday Night Raw should be a two-hour program. WWE’s product should be edgy and push boundaries. Roman Reigns shouldn’t be the top babyface of the company. The McMahon family shouldn’t be the creative emphasis of the promotion. John Cena should turn heel. Kevin Owens should be more like Kevin Steen and less like the character type portrayed by Randy Orton, Seth Rollins and Sheamus before him. 50/50 booking is counterproductive and boring. Vince is out of touch. Stephanie McMahon isn’t focused on the right aspects of the business. Triple H only does what’s best for Triple H. Oh, and the Universal Title looks stupid.
I could continue for another 10,000 words, maybe more, but I wouldn’t be telling you anything you don’t already think for yourself or see or hear on a daily basis through the endless stream of podcasts, newsletters, websites or even hotlines (at least one pro wrestling entrepreneur still believes that’s a viable stream of revenue in the year 2016).
If you’ve been living on an island or under a rock for the last six or seven years, don’t worry, the usual suspects repeat themselves every day so you’ll be exposed to it sooner rather than later. And if garage-based journalism isn’t really your thing, just log onto Twitter; those fine folks will get you up to speed in no time.
Do I sound pretentious and condescending yet? Good, because that’s exactly the tone I’m going for. You guys can dish it out, so you can learn to take it every once in awhile.
Raw will never be a two-hour show again. WWE’s product is formatted within the confines of TV-PG criteria and will remain as such as long as advertisers want it that way. Roman Reigns is the top babyface of the company. He’s the man; the hand-picked, meticulously molded, super protected man. The McMahon family will always be the primary emphasis of the WWE product because they own the company and you don’t. John Cena will never turn heel because his target demographic is an eight-year old kid and not you. Kevin Owens will never be like the Kevin Steen you fell in love with in Ring of Honor because, well this isn’t Ring of Honor and most of WWE’s audience doesn’t give a fuck about Kevin Steen and how awesome the character may have been. Vince isn’t out of touch, he views the world through the eyes of a 70 years old man; a distinction that is apparently too nuanced to articulate in a meaningful way. Stephanie’s primary focus is the WWE brand which, last I checked, is doing incredibly well these days. As far as Triple H doing what’s best for Triple H, well it would appear that what’s best for Triple H is often in line with what’s best for WWE…unless you hate NXT, are opposed to the concept of the performance center, were bored by the Cruiserweight Classic and disapprove of the complete revision in talent acquisition philosophy instituted under his direction. Oh, and the Universal Title is red; get the fuck over it!
To steal a line from TJ Perkins, can we hit the pause button on the perpetual airing of these tired and hollow grievances?
Better yet, to steal a line from Broken Matt Hardy, can we just delete it altogether?
The Vocal Minority
If you’re reading this it probably means you’re part of pro wrestling’s inner bubble; the vocal minority, the most passionate and invested consumers of the product. More than anything else, you’re right. Yup, you read that correctly. All of you are right. Angry podcast guy, journalists of the educated and incompetent variety, passionate fan with a blog and the time to express an opinion, snarky Twitter user whose pithy comments and sarcastic gifs aren’t nearly as pithy and sharp as they think — all of you are right. But it doesn’t matter and that — not Roman Reigns’ never-ending push, or what match goes on last, or authority heel figures, or any one of the booking missteps recently taken — is what really pisses you off; it’s the ultimate truth you refuse to accept.
Imagine you woke up tomorrow and WWE had instantly transformed into exactly what you’ve been longing it to become. Raw was two hours, stories more creative, characters more compelling, booking more patient and restrained. Shinsuke Nakamura was the Universal champion and man is he and the awesome-looking Universal Title over. AJ Styles is the supreme hero of SmackDown Live and John Cena the hated heel with a newfound work rate that rivaled God himself (also known as, Daniel Bryan). The McMahons are nowhere to be seen. There’s no heel authority figure, no babyface authority figure, no commissioners, no general managers; just wrestlers battling to decide championships and settle scores.
I’m not above admitting that a scenario like the one just described sounds awesome! But I’m also honest enough to admit that it wouldn’t mean a damn thing in the grand scheme of things. Ratings wouldn’t skyrocket, public interest wouldn’t bounce back to Attitude Era levels and new fans wouldn’t flood the market.
The Attitude Era
The Attitude Era penetrated pop culture because ‘bad words’ were said on television from 9-11 on Monday nights; because Sable found new ways to expose her bare breasts every week; because Shawn Michaels told folks to suck it. It had nothing to do with pro wrestling matches and the devices that make for compelling pro wrestling content. Quite the contrary actually, a man who believes that pro wrestling matches are boring, Vince Russo, largely shaped the creative direction of this popular period. The Attitude Era was an anomaly and not an example of what pro wrestling can achieve when produced with competence and skill; a perfect storm of luck, circumstance and opportunity.
I’m not trying to convince anyone to change their opinion.
If WWE’s current product isn’t for you then it isn’t for you. But I have no problem calling you out either. You know who you are. You’re the guy who ‘stopped watching WWE years ago because it sucks’ but can still spout off every detail of every storyline with pinpoint accuracy. You are the guy that watches Raw every week for the express purpose of documenting everything that was bad. You are the guy that knows exactly what Vince McMahon is thinking at all times because, well just because. You’re the guy that still takes every word of CM Punk’s pipe bomb promo to heart, while failing to admit to yourself that it was all a work. You’re the guy that laments the fact that you have to watch WWE’s product for work, but by work you mean a personal hobby. You’re the guy that still calls Daniel Bryan, Bryan Danielson.
The silent majority respectfully requests that you shut the fuck up stop trying to fix something that has shown no desire to be fixed; stop trying to sound like the smartest person in the room, when in actuality you sound like a mindless zombie feasting on tired talking points of the past. Raw is often difficult to watch.
This past Sunday’s Hell in a Cell event was terrible. The segmented presentation of the product leaves little room for emotional investment of any sustained substance. Swerved exists and it shouldn’t. You’re right, ok? I’ve acknowledged it. But I, and many like me, have chosen to accept it and watch anyway. We’ve chosen to have fun with it; to laugh at the missteps rather than cry about them. To spend a few hours a week (or more) falling down the rabbit hole of simulated combat. Move on. Accept that WWE is a thriving enterprise whether you approve or not. Produce podcasts about things you do like; write articles about the things you’ve been watching and enjoying. Be apologetically positive. Inform me what else is out there to fall in love with! But please, for the love of God (also known as CM Punk) stop whining.
The war is over. You lost. They won.