In you didn’t read the site’s Roadblock recap, that show left a really sour taste in my mouth. And let’s get a few things out of the way first. I don’t hate Triple H. I’m not a Dean Ambrose fan boy. I don’t hate Roman Reigns. I have tons of respect for Triple H as a performer and for the work he’s done for NXT. I like Ambrose well enough, but him winning or losing a match on its own isn’t enough to upset me. And Roman Reigns is just a poorly developed, poorly written character that I’ve been given no reason to care about as a wrestling fan.
That said, WWE is currently set to limp into the “biggest WrestleMania ever” with a ridiculously weak line up; especially at the top of the card. As it stands right now, I’m excited for the Charlotte / Sasha Banks / Becky Lynch match. It’s the first real definitive step in the right direction for the women’s division since those ladies were all called up. I’m cautiously optimistic, at the very least, that the Undertaker / Shane McMahon match will be a “sports entertainment spectacle” and be enjoyable to watch regardless of the outcome. Beyond that, I’m less interested in the Sami Zayn / Kevin Owens program now that’s definitely going to be some huge multi-man match. I’m sure it’ll have some good spots, but like last year’s IC title ladder match at WrestleMania, it’ll be some sort of gimmick match, and I’m sure the pairings at the post-Mania PPVs will be more enjoyable to watch. I have absolutely zero interest in the tag team championship match since pairing New Day with the League of Nations is one of the worst ideas WWE creative has had in 2016. What’s left at this point? The Andre Battle Royal? A AJ Styles / Chris Jericho match that I’m sure will be fine, but would not have been the fire that them beating the New Day for the tag titles would have been? Brie Bella vs. Lana in Lana’s first match? Come on.
I know that Vince McMahon has gone out of the way the least few decades to disassociate the WWE product from the term “pro wrestling”. It’s “sports entertainment”, dammit. Okay, cool, Vince. That means it’s a TV show. That makes it no different than, say, The Walking Dead or Breaking Bad. The argument has long been people like me outside of the “business” aren’t able to critique it probably because of the long guarded carnie secrets that pro wrestling has been built on. But, when you throw that out with the bath water, you’re up to the same scrutiny as any other show on TV.
So, for the sake of argument, let’s compare some of the recent happenings on WWE TV to other popular TV shows. Take for the example the character of Dean Ambrose. Dean is arguably the most over character on WWE TV right now. It would not be out of line to say he’s essentially the “Daryl Dixon” of WWE Raw. He definitely has the rabid female fan base that Norman Reedus’s The Walking Dead character has. So, let’s imagine that way back in Season 1 of The Walking Dead, the writing team and show runner noticed a huge fan reaction to Daryl’s character. But really, they’d wanted the people to connect to the character of “T-Dog”. Imagine how different The Walking Dead would be right now if they completely ignored that fan response and continued writing the same story of T-Dog becoming Rick Grimes’s right hand man. Despite this, fans use social media to say they want more Daryl, but… nope… T-Dog shows up to save the day while Daryl becomes a background character that goes on “B plot” supply run missions. Fans with zero connection to T-Dog would start to lose interest in the show. Imagine if The Walking Dead had an episode where from the commercials it looked like Daryl was going to do something epic but it was just clever editing and the next week we’re right back to seeing T-Dog shoved down our throats? Yeah, pretty awful.
Now, I realize WWE has this “built-in audience” so they seem to have traditionally felt they can do whatever garbage angles they want and the people will always be there no matter what. They do have that leeway that more traditional television programs don’t have the luxury of having. That said, why then, doesn’t WWE use that leeway to make a daring show that takes risks, instead of using that same leeway to rest on their laurels? And when I say “take risks” I don’t mean go back to the “Attitude Era”. That was an example of WWE flipping to the other end of the spectrum and being way to extreme with doing daring things on their show. But, it’s like there is no middle ground when it comes to WWE writing. They either do a boring, predictable, safe show like we’ve been seeing for a few years now (probably longer, remember I started watching WWE again in early 2015), or they do a completely over the top show like we saw in the late 1990s. They seem to feel like they can either present an off the wall Jerry Springer Show or do the super predictable, by the numbers, CSI: Sports Entertainment. They act like there is no room to throw in a few curveballs to make the show still safe for advertisers, but more cutting edge and unpredictable for the fans that want something new.
I get that “hot shotting” is a terrible idea for long-term booking. I’ve read enough books and listened to enough pro wrestling legends in interviews to understand the concept. But seriously, I don’t believe putting the title on Ambrose for the three weeks leading up to WrestleMania would have been “hot shotting”. If anything, it solidifies that a show like Roadblock could have long-term implications. Seriously, right now, any wrestling fan with a brain will never take a “Live from MSG” or “Roadblock” Network exclusive show seriously again since neither show delivered anything that altered the current programs in any way. Not only that, you give your hottest star, whether it’s who the company wants on top or not, a moment to shine and win back a few good graces from that guy’s fans. That seems especially important if your current “main event” at the biggest show of the year is being savaged by your fan base. Instead, we now have proof that “Network specials” mean nothing, we get a Dean Ambrose / Brock Lesnar match that we’ve been given no reason to care about, and, worst of all, the same “main event” of Triple H vs. Reigns that has been largely panned by the WWE Universe.
As for Roman Reigns, as I said at the top of this post, he’s a poorly developed, poorly written character that no one has been given a reason to care about. Clearly a lot of people don’t want to like him. That is obvious. Turn the guy heel already, do it in glorious fashion at WrestleMania or shortly thereafter and do so in a way that forces the fans to have feelings about him. It seems like the biggest no-brainer in the world, but for some reason WWE creative refuses to do it.
At any rate, I’ll still be running this site despite it sounding like I was ready to give up on the WWE product after Roadblock. With all of the new signings, the proposed call-ups from NXT, and even a great, new generation of commentators waiting in the wings, WWE literally has all of the pieces to make a truly great puzzle. They’re just not making that puzzle right now. A few times I’ve compared the current state of WWE to 1995 WWF. However, that is sort of unfair, the talent on the current roster blows away the talent on the ’95 WWF roster by and large. It’s just frustrating that a lot of that talent is either injured, not being used, not being used well, or booked inconsistently.
A great man once said, “Enough is Enough and It’s Time for a Change“. WWE should listen to those words.