Friday, 30 May 2014

The death of WCW/WWE?


Since TNA is pretty much going the way of the Dodo these days I decided to re-read Wrestlecraps awesome book, the death of WCW.  A highly entertaining and shocking read about the meteoric rise of a wrestling company and it's subsequent fall just a year or two later.  The parallels are obvious when you look at TNA today.  Things like Russo's frequent title changes, emphasis on run in's, gimmick matches galore and pay per view quality matches on free shows are textbook for TNA and is a big reason why they are tanking financially.

But also while reading this book I noticed a few things in there that seemed somewhat close to that of the WWE today.  The company has no doubt become complacent in the last decade after it's victory over WCW and subsequent acquisition of their video library, talent and other properties.  One of the main issues they have is producing a card that is basically the same thing every month.  Guys like John Cena and Randy Orton getting the top spot every event despite not being the champion and guys like Triple H booking his friends to have big matches.

As of 2014 John Cena and Randy Orton have been the top guys of the company around a decade or more and yet the company still pushes them hard like they are still as fresh and young as they were back in 2004.  You only have to look back over the last two years or so to see how many injuries Cena has picked up and been out for, while Orton has had similar issues along with a poor attitude backstage.  I'm not saying these two are like Nash and Hogan who pushed themselves to the top constantly but when you're the biggest and most viewed wrestling show in the world, you need to keep things fresh or else people stop watching. 

It's not like WWE hasn't had the talent to replace these two over the last ten years.  Guys like Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio, The Miz, Daniel Bryan (more on him in a bit), The Shield, Bray Wyatt, Antonio Cesaro, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow and to a lesser extent even Ryback who may have poor microphone skills but certainly had that big man look WWE drool over.  Even when CM Punk was the champion he was still being under sold to push Cena's matches instead.  The company has this fear that without either Cena or Orton the company will somehow fail.  All of these men have seen some limited form of success in the company but because of WWE's lack of interest in pushing younger guys to the top and let the current top men put them over, they languish in this weird limbo between mid and lower card.

Daniel Bryan is the exception here since he was pushed hard because the fans chose him as their new face.  Sure Cena is still over with middle aged women, kids and gay men but Bryan is for all intents and purposes a real professional wrestler who works like a motherfucker in the ring.  His style is fresh, he puts over his opponent and generally puts on amazing matches every time he sets foot in the ring.  WWE however don't really want him to be a top face because he doesn't fit the image they would like to portray.  He isn't 6 "5" weigh 200 - 300 pounds and isn't the most handsome wrestler out there (although I don't see why they think Orton or Cena are marketable as attractive either?) but he does sell merchandise and gets the crowd extremely vocal during his appearances. 

The booking has been lacklustre this year also, with the friends of Triple H being the main focus really.  Kevin Nash appearing for a Royal Rumble, The Old age outlaws winning the tag titles, Batista coming back to win the rumble, reforming Evolution for no other reason than to give Hunter a fucking pay day.  It's just an odd coincidence that much like WCW did with the NWO, Triple H books himself in main event matches over the year, gives himself a Wrestlemania match and regular appearances on the show as the headline heel.  Much like Nash did during his booking run for WCW back in 1999 and 2000.

The other issue WWE is having recently regards financials.  The recently launched WWE network didn't exactly impress with it's projected 1.5 million subscribers within the first three months only coming in at around 650,000.  In doing this they pissed off numerous providers who used to air their pay per views every month.  Viewership is declining each year, probably due to a mix of viewer apathy toward a product that hasn't changed in the last five years and the move to three hours for Raw.  Other forms of entertainment has also broken through and kicked ass such as UFC which produces a product that is far more exciting than WWE's.  Although these two shows are very different, the WWE regularly aims to try and compete with it.

It's not like the WWE will crumble or anything but they do seem to be doing too much at the same time.  Making movies, cartoon shows, reality television amongst other products has hurt the thing that made McMahon the most money - Wrestling.  WWE was great when it had it talent who put on a good match, told a story and really kept you guessing who was going to win.  These days the main event is obvious before the show has even begun.  Any match involving Cena will inevitably involve him looking like the stronger man even after losing.  He never puts over his opponent and this Sunday will be no different.  In a last man standing match with Bray Wyatt where there are no rules and thus Wyatt could come to the ring with a shotgun, Cena will win easily despite it having no benefit for him as a character.  Cena is already over, kids love him and his merchandise sells well for the company.  However Wyatt is new, he is over but it's fragile.  His inevitable loss on Sunday will make him look like a weakling and thus no threat to the last son of krypton.  I mean his cage match with Cena took all three members of the Wyatt family and a creepy demon possessed child to beat Cena.  I mean when a fucking demon has to interfere with your matches to make Cena lose you know you don't stand a chance in a straight up fight.

And that's the issue.  Much like WCW with it's constant booking of guys like Hogan being a super power no one else looks like a real contender.  People become bored of the product and leave either watching other wrestling shows or just giving up altogether.  Plus it sometimes helps a character to have a few hard fought losses to their career.  Cena losing the last man standing gives him a reason to come back stronger to face down his new nemesis in a winner takes all battle.  Before that Wyatt can go over as a real threat and continue causing trouble until Cena takes him down a month or two later.  Just having Cena win near every encounter makes the story stale and pointless.  It's the wrestling equivalent of having a level 1 fighter in Pathfinder take on a level 15 fighter.  Sure the level 1 might get lucky and dodge the first attack and even hit the level 15, but he will always lose the fight.  Or a computer game analogy would be a Starcraft 2 casual player taking on a e-sports champion of Starcraft 2.  They might both build a base and have some units but the e-sports guy will always win.

There are likely more comparisons to be made with the WCW during it's heyday but for now I think I have ranted enough for one post.  Thanks for reading folks and feel free to rip your dick off in the comments section about how wrong I am.

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