411Wrestling Special: 10 Ways To Save Wrestling - Part 3
Posted by Michael Benjamin on 10.15.2003
What else can be done to save wrestling? 411's Ken Anderson continues his acclaimed editorial...
NOTE: Part 1 of this special feature is available here! Part 2 is available here!
7. Make thought-out, intelligent decisions on who to push, and DO IT.
One of the major problems in the WWE right now is the lack of true push that ANYONE is recieving. Wins and losses don't mean a damn thing anymore in the eyes of the casual fan. In the WWE, there's really no such thing as a true push.
Let's look at Chris Jericho for example. Over the last two years, Jericho has gotten the typical WWE push. He'll win a big match against a big opponent on RAW, only to have the match completely ignored the following week. Then, he'll lose his match and the person he beat the previous week will win theirs. No one gets anywhere in the process, and we start the whole inane cycle again the next week.
Vince is so concerned with upsetting his talent that he never truly pushes anyone. Everyone gets their big wins, everyone gets their big losses. It's a big endless cycle that does nothing but damage every single wrestler in the process. He didn't care about upsetting his talent in 1997, and he sure as hell shouldn't care now.
The WWE braintrust needs to sit down, decide who to push, and PUSH THEM. It won't do any good to give someone a half-ass push, where they win a big match here, get screwed over the next match, win with a weapon the following week, and so forth. They need to get behind someone, and have them win big-matches decisively on a regular basis until they're at the desired level. If their opponent is pissed about jobbing so decisively, so be it. They'll get over it. It's not like they have another option.
Clean jobs by upper-level stars are the only way anyone is going to become a true superstar. When it comes down to it, no one has jobbed to Van Dam, no one has jobbed to Booker T, and no one has jobbed to Eddie Guerrero. Unless that happens, the WWE is going to find itself in a very, very bad place when their current crop of main-eventers slowly retire one-by-one over the next year or two.
8. Listen to your Fanbase:
The single biggest mistake Vince McMahon has made over the last two years is his complete and total disregard of the will of his fanbase. At times, McMahon almost seems to have contempt for the paying customers who keep his company afloat.
Vince McMahon's business approach since the turn of the millennium has always seemed incredibly crooked. Instead of bending over backwards to please his audience, Vince has made a conscious effort to try to rape the hands that feed him over and over again.
"Bait and Switch" should be McMahon's official slogan, because over the last thirty months, McMahon has made promise after promise and broken almost every one of them, seemingly with a smile on his perverted, wrinkly old face.
Vince has all but ignored the wishes of his consumers, jobbing those that they cheer, and pushing those who they just don't care about to the top of the card.
Names like Rob Van Dam, Booker T, Eddie Guerrero, and Chris Jericho permanently remain opening acts while guys like A-Train, the Big Show, and Kane, three men who haven't drawn a legitimate dime in the last three years, headline each show.
You can hear a pin drop in the arena when Stephanie McMahon makes her entrance, yet she's involved in every major match on Smackdown. It's almost laughable when you really think about it.
Vince is so concerned with stroking his ego and masturbating over his power that he's digging his own company's grave.
There's absolute no excuse as to why Rob Van Dam hasn't won the WWE title yet. None. He's been the most consistently popular wrestler on RAW for the last two years, and he hasn't even headlined a PPV yet. It's ridiculous. Absolutely insane. If Vince McMahon is serious about bringing wrestling back into the mainstream radar, he needs to push the fucking wrestlers that the casual fans cheer. It's as easy as that.
The net needs to be ignored. We're cynics. All of us. Despite that cynicism, we'll always watch the product, despite our bitter, arm-swinging "I'll never watch again" gestures.
Vince needs to sit in the damn front row of a house show, RAW, Smackdown, or PPV, listen to the crowd, and push the wrestlers who get the loudest cheers. It's as simple as that. Those are the wrestlers who casual fans will be willing to pay money to see win. We're not talking rocket science here.
By continuing to do things his way and insisting of giving the majority of television time to heatless ogres, he's just murdering his own product.
9. Recombine the Raw and Smackdown Brands:
This necessity will in all likelihood be the most hotly debated, but in order for the WWE to survive, it's without a doubt the most important step that must be taken.
As things currently stand, both Raw and Smackdown have such shallow talent pools that they are both one or two injuries away from a total meltdown.
Triple H is the only full-time, well-established main event star currently on the RAW roster. Chris Jericho has yet to fully reach that level, thanks in large part to Triple H. The crowd loves Jericho, but he's just not at the level right now where he could carry the brand on his back.
Shawn Michaels and Bill Goldberg are both on the last legs of their careers. Michaels faces serious injury each time he steps into the ring, and with the risks he takes each time he steps between the ropes, it seems like it's only a matter of time before he's in a wheelchair. Bill Goldberg has made his general distaste for the WWE very vocal, and once his contract expires, there's very little chance he'll ever step foot in a WWE ring again.
Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner have both proved to be colossal letdowns. Neither has the in-ring aptitude necessary to be a main-event level star in the current day WWE, though it's somewhat inconsequential as both of their bodies are falling apart by the day.
Booker T is out indefinitely, and has made it well known that he will not be a wrestling 18 months from now.
A year from now, the RAW brand that can't even fill a three hour PPV when healthy faces the very real possibility of being without Shawn Michaels, Bill Goldberg, Kevin Nash, Scott Steiner, and Booker T.
If Triple H gets injured or requires time off, that leaves an unestablished Chris Jericho to carry the load entirely by himself, with no other stars on the horizon to share that burden with.
If Jericho were to go down too, RAW would be dead in the water. It's as simple as that.
On the Smackdown side, only three legitimate main-eventers exist: Kurt Angle, Brock Lesner, and The Undertaker.
The Taker's time is coming to an end, and if Brock Lesner missed a superplex on Kurt Angle and both injured themselves badly, the Smackdown brand would also be left without any true main-event level wrestlers.
The brand extension has served many practical purposes, but now is the time to think about ending it.
Many logistical problems have not been fully thought-out in regards to the brand extension. For example, what happens if a wrestler does manage to catch fire with mainstream America like the Rock did in '99. While it would boost ratings and attendance for that particular brand, there's no guarantee, and in all likelihood very little chance, that attendance and ratings would increase for the other brand as well. You might just end up in a situation where the hot streak of one brand is balanced out by the slump of another. Imagine how much less revenue the WWE would have brought in during 1999 if The Rock only wrestled on every other PPV. Imagine how much less advertising money would have come in if the Rock only appeared on half of your television shows.
The WWE has an opportunity in the next six months to a year to turn Smackdown vs. Raw into the biggest angle in wrestling history. If Vince waits much longer than that, he's faced with a situation much like the Invasion disaster, where half of the big name stars are either retired or crippled.
If Vince pulls the trigger on Smackdown vs. Raw immediately after Wrestlemania, he still has Shawn Michaels, Bill Goldberg, Ric Flair, Kevin Nash, The Undertaker, Kane, Steve Austin, Booker T, Scott Steiner, and a healthy Triple H, Kurt Angle, and Brock Lesner to make the angle massive.
If he waits much longer to instigate the feud, he could very well lose most of those names, blow one of the most profitable angles of all-time, and in the process, do irreparable damage to his company.
Several problems will need to be addressed in recombining the brands, but they can be easily managed if Vince and his creative staff carefully book for the highest long-term benefits.
The problem of overexposure will need to be addressed. Wrestlers will never wrestle or cut lengthy promos on more than one major show per week, and the champions will only fight on free television once or twice a month. The World Titles will be combined in an epic blowoff match, and some form of legitimacy will be restored to the company's World Champion. The IC, Cruiserweight, and Tag Titles will remain, everything else will go.
Smackdown also needs to be cut down to 90 minutes, with more of an emphasis on wrestling, and less of an emphasis on storyline development.
Despite all the hard work and effort that has gone into seperating the brands, for the long-term good of the WWE, they must be combined again. The longer Vince waits to take this drastic step, the smaller the window of opportunity grows to use the angle as a massive springboard back into the mainstream spotlight.