Hello everyone. Happy Easter. It's the post-Wrestlemania lull has begun. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. WWE buries itself six feet under until the build of SummerSlam begins. You'd think it should be the opposite and they should try even harder to capitalize on an casual fans sampling WWE television after Wrestlemania but recent history in the 2010s has shown WWE's usual weaker periods are after Wrestlemania until July and after SummerSlam until the Royal Rumble.
Now that I got you in a good mood... Hi. I hope you're doing well. In this piece, I'm going to touch on a few topics. Why I feel WWE stumbled out of the Wrestlemania gate this year with two below average television shows afterward. Also, how a Roman Reigns heel turn may actually be more likely than before he left to battle leukemia. Yeah, it's probably not going to happen but I'm going to explain why it could happen and still be good for him in the long term because the polite reactions he gets now are not good. The first thing I'm getting into though...
THE VIKING EXPERIENCE:
This past Monday on Raw the former War Machine/War Raiders get "called up" to the main roster where good gimmicks and wrestlers go to die. They debuted in dominant fashion getting a win over the current Raw Tag-Team Champions, Ryder and Hawkins, but no one is going to remember that. Instead, the fans are going to remember this for the day Rowe and Hanson were renamed Erik and Ivar (as in "E-VAR") and as a team now called "The Viking Experience".
That is just the drizzling shits rolling down your legs and filling your shoes. The Viking Experience? When I first heard that I couldn't believe it. On Twitter, I thought it sounded like an interactive dinner play at Disney Land or a ride at Universal. Are you kidding me? The Viking Experience? What a joke name. That is just bad. Either Vince has completely lost it or whoever came up with this name is an overpaid sorry excuse for a "creative" writer and needs to be fired. Vince has to O.K. it anyway, so the out-of-touch old man isn't getting off that easy.
This name screams of a comedy tag team or even worse a nothing happening generic jobber team. For those saying "its just a name", you are either a WWE apologist or too short-sighted to see how important an act's name is to their success. Let me ask you this, how many "Ringmaster" shirts do you own compared to 'Stone Cold'? It's not "just a name" its a large part of your identity. "War Raiders" sounded cool and painted a picture. These guys didn't have to convince us they were "real" Vikings. They just needed to be tough and aggressive like Vikings. Now WWE wants to tell you they really are Vikings because WWE has no sense of subtlety and has to turn two tough guys into a couple of cosplaying geeks as you'd see at a Rennaissance fair.
The Hardcore Shill Mick Foley had this to say on Twitter
So maybe #VikingExperience wouldn’t have been my first choice, BUT, had there been social media in 1996, I’m guessing the name #Mankind would not have been greeted with much happiness either. Enjoy this match with Fergal ....um, Finn Balor.
There's one for "Sad Tweet", Solomonster. I find it funny that Mick Foley would say this. The same Mick Foley who upon signing with the WWF was met with Vince McMahon who DID NOT like Cactus Jack. Instead, he wanted to put Mick Foley in a mask and call him "Mason The Mutilator". In his own book Mick said when he heard that his heart sunk and thought his career was over BECAUSE THIS WAS A f***ING SHITTY ASS NAME THAT HE KNEW PEOPLE WOULD LAUGH AT AND NEVER TAKER SERIOUSLY so he suggests "Mankind The Mutilator" and it was later just shorted to "Mankind" upon his debut.
Mick, I've always been a big fan and I don't know if you're just trying to stick up for your son who is on the writing staff and could have possibly come up with this ridiculous name, but you were clearly wrong here. Not one WWF/E fans have ever -- EVER said Mankind was a stupid name. Not back then. Not today. In fact, most fans were like me and thought it was one of the cooler names in the company. On top of that, personally, I think it is the best name of the 3 gimmicks Foley wrestled under. This wasn't just a bunch of angry people on Twitter tweeting. People in the arena were f***ing laughing when "The Viking Experience" appeared on the Titan Tron and people at home were laughing when Michael Cole had to explain to us they are called "The Viking Experience" because they make their own tools, make their own clothes and hunt for their own food. Oh, f***, yeah that's what I think about when I think of Vikings. Dudes who make tools and hunt. That could be any guy living in the backwoods of West Virginia. Give me a break. They better change these guys back to the War Raiders because these guys are going to die a death out there. Also, don't tweet me or comment saying they had to change the name because of the word "war" when this company now holds War Games events and would, later on, refer to Ember Moon as "The War Goddess".
WWE STUMBLES AFTER WRESTLEMANIA:
Ever year now WWE openly promotes the Raw after Wrestlemania as being one of the best of the year largely due to a hot crowd still in town from Wrestlemania the day before. WWE usually tries to make the show special to capture the eye of any casual fans who came back to watch WWE for Wrestlemania. This year's Raw after Wrestlemania was just an average show that will largely be remembered for that garbage bait-and-switch ending. Way to screw over your most loyal fans, WWE. Nice job.
In case you don't know the story, WWE began the Raw after Wrestlemania with Seth Rollins and Kofi Kingston in the ring as babyfaces accepting a friendly match for each of the titles they just won the previous night. This match was promoted as the main event and promoted all throughout the entire show. After sitting through the entire show the match began and before long the Smackdown team of Cesaro and Sheamus, The Bar, ran in to break up the match. The fans booed, but they were booing WWE because they knew what was coming next. Seth picks up the mic, the fans boo. He says to Kofi "we will settle this some other time", the fans boo. They make a tag match to close the show... The fans boo. The fans chant "bullshit". They chant "AEW". They throw beach balls. They start leaving before the show is even over. Well done, WWE.
Now, for you apologists out there, most fans were not expecting a title unification. So they weren't complaining about something we all knew was highly unlikely, but WWE still went about this the wrong way. First of all, you don't promote a HUGE main event at the start of the show to take place at the end of the show and instead deliver us a nothing tag match that means diddly dick. You could have put this match on to start hour 2 or hour 3 and done the same thing and maybe it would have been more predictable that there would be a screwy finish but at least you could have sent the fans home happy at the end of the show.
You also could have kept this as the main event and had pretty much anyone other than The Bar, who have NOTHING to do with anything run in minutes after the match starts. You let Seth and Kofi wrestle for 15 minutes and then maybe a crazed and angry Daniel Bryan runs in to attack Kofi. Perhaps instead you could have had Lars Sullivan interfere to close the show. Anything other than promoting a huge main event for 3 hours and then instead of giving them a pointless tag match with two guys from Smackdown that will never have anything to do with the main event picture. Back in the day, those chants of "bullshit" meant something though. I bet most of those fans will still spend money on WWE events in the future. Back in the day fans taught the company a lesson when they didn't deliver on a promise. Just look at WCW. Today, fans will voice their opinion but they largely drop their pants and take it. Especially the hardcore fans. Never-the-less, this was a terrible way to end the Raw after Wrestlemania and if there were any casual fans still watching, by the end of the show they were probably like "yup, this is exactly why I stopped watching WWE". The year-over-year ratings were also down by 1 million viewers so maybe the fans are indeed teaching them a lesson.
THE SUPERSTAR SHAKEUP:
The Superstar Shakeup is basically a less exciting version of the WWE Draft. I don't really like the draft either because all it does is basically tell us who the "real" stars are by the order they are picked. I'm not really a fan of the brand split anyway and if you're a regular reader of mine you probably already know that. If I had to pick my poison, though, I'd stick with the draft format because it added some suspense and it really felt like two brands trying to one-up each other to build the better roster. With the Shakeup, it just feels like guys just show up at random with no input from the GM's without any rhyme or reason. Plus, with how relaxed the split has been during Wrestlemania season it isn't really that big of a deal to see guys appear on a new show when they've routinely been on that show at various points between the Rumble and Wrestlemania.
The only real big move that is going to feel different is one I actually like and that is moving Roman Reigns to Smackdown. For a while I've wanted WWE to separate Roman from his Shield binkies and with Dean Ambrose leaving the company and Seth Rollins as Universal Champion on Raw, Roman Reigns will be by himself over on Smackdown. I know some of you are worried that the usual ever-changing main event scene on Smackdown will just be Romanized, but you need to put the guy somewhere and he could use a change of scenery. I also wouldn't be surprised if this move has a lot to do with Smackdown's move to Fox coming this October. If you believe the rumors (and in full disclosure, I do believe them) Fox is already having buyer's remorse with Smackdown given their ratings. You may think that ratings don't matter, but they do. They matter to these networks. WWE didn't get this sweet deal despite their shitty ratings. The deals were negotiated when WWE television was on a bit of an uptick. Since the deals have been done Raw and Smackdown have both recorded some record lows and are doing poorly in key demo's, which is nothing new. If the Fox deal was negotiated today there is no way they are getting a 5 year 1 billion dollar deal. There's not even a guarantee they end up on a national network like Fox. There have even been rumors that Fox may even move Smackdown to their FS1 cable sports station which would be horrible for Smackdown. It's not a terrible spot, but it's not as good as being on the Fox network. For those who are curious Fox Sports 1 is available to about 84.4 million homes. USA Network which airs Raw is available to 94.3 million homes. Smackdown already rates lower than Raw on the same network, now imagine it on a network that 10 million fewer people even have and on Friday. I'm sure this will be the year that WWE loads up Smackdown to make it both attractive to viewers and the network. I also wouldn't be shocked if we end up seeing Roman Reigns on both shows throughout the summer and during the fall around Survivor Series. All this Roman talk brings me to my final topic...
Roman Reigns' Reactions and Why A Turn Is More Likely Than Before:
Roman Reigns is officially back full-time and it is clear that the honeymoon has worn off. The reactions he gets aren't bad... but they aren't good. They're just... fine. Fine is fine for a lot of guys but not for supposed top main eventers like Roman Reigns.
Booing Roman became very much un-cool when he announced that he was battling for his life last October. He returned quicker than anyone expected with the best news possible to the biggest babyface reaction he would ever get. Now, 2 months after Roman's return to the ring, fans seem to be a bit in limbo. They don't want to boo him because they'd feel bad and they don't want to cheer him because, quite frankly, they were never enthusiastic legitimate fans of his in the first place and were more cheering the real person battling a real issue than cheering the character as a babyface on a wrestling show. Roman may have earned a lot of respect from WWE fans, but he didn't necessarily make them fans of his on-screen persona.
So, why turn him heel? I think fans need to be told that it's ok to get lost in this world of make-believe known as World Wrestling Entertainment. Like Roman Reigns or not, before he left to battle leukemia he was getting the biggest reactions on the show. Fans were very vocal about Roman. He had his supporters, but he had more detractors. The fans who didn't like him would boo loudly and this would also cause his supporters to cheer even louder than they normally would. Now its like his music hits and the fans that always liked him cheer a bit and the large portion of fans that never liked him just kind of sit there and quietly clap by their hip out of respect. The result is a very tepid reaction and that is probably the worst reaction Roman could get.
Do I think the WWE is going to turn him? Hell no. On Smackdown the show closed with Vince McMahon coming out promising the "biggest acquisition in Smackdown history". (Again, for you Brand Split defenders how is the owner of the company and not the GM of the brand making this acquisition -- but whatever) Vince was over-the-top with his announcement so you knew something funny was going on and out came Elias. After they met in the ring Roman Reigns' music hit. He got an ok reaction. He then took the mic and simply said "Smackdown Live is my yard now" and punched Vince McMahon. This got a good reaction but, really, Stephanie McMahon could punch Vince in the face and get a pop. The show closed with Tom Phillips saying Roman Reigns is the BIGGEST ACQUISITION IN SMACKDOWN HISTORY (that includes Undertaker, Edge, Kurt Angle, Triple H, John Cena, but whatever) so I doubt a heel turn is anywhere on WWE's radar for him right now, plus like I said, with the move to Fox they're going to want stars on the show. Preferably babyface stars. Phillips continued, Roman Reigns is the future of Smackdown and the future of WWE. That is straight out of WWE's playbook of firing up the Roman promotion machine and its the exact mentality that put off a lot of fans because WWE piles on the Roman love so hard that he just came off as a corporate manufactured superstar and not a bad-ass, tough wrestler who rose to the top and won the respect of the fans. From the start of WWE's heavy-handed approach with Roman has felt forced and fake. It's as if WWE is one step away from just saying "we are promoting Roman Reigns as the face of the company so cheer him!" instead of putting him in situations that would endear him to the masses.
After that heavy-handed promotion by Tom Phillips, I thought if the honeymoon wasn't over for Roman it sure as hell is now and WWE can only blame themselves for it. They're not acting like Roman beat cancer but that he f***ing cured it just by moving to Smackdown. Pump the breaks a little bit. The fans wanted to like Roman when he returned and WWE is going back to their old browbeating ways that turned many fans off. It's like its all this company knows is to go hard with everything. Roman can't just be a big acquisition. He has to be THE BIGGEST AQUISITION SINCE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF WAS SENT TO EARTH and the War Raiders can't just be tough guys that have a hint of Viking attitudes and ways of being. They have to be Viking cosplayers and called "The Viking Experience". What a joke.
As for Roman's future, if the continued heavy-handed approach doesn't get him his old heavy boos or new loud cheers and instead he comes out to tepid reactions with light applause and scattered quiet boos they might just turn him as a way to tell fans that it's okay to get it out of your system and lose yourself in this made-up universe. You might ask "how could they really turn him?" after overcoming a legitimate battle with cancer. People said the same thing about Daniel Bryan after his career was thought to be finished and now he's the hottest heel in the company. Roman wouldn't be the first guy with a feel-good story in real-life that got heat. They've had heels in this company that served in the armed forces. Lacey Evans is one of them and they have openly promoted that, too and she's still a heel. Bobby Lashley is another. It's not impossible. Fans are very much capable of separating the real person from the gimmick.
I don't think they have to turn Roman right now, though. I think if WWE cools down the promotion machine a bit for this one guy the fans will be cool with him. Its the constant, relentless browbeating approach by WWE constantly telling us why we should like him and why he's a big deal and why he's the Big Dog and why its his yard and why he's so amazing instead of just showing us and letting the fans decide on their own that has become off-putting for many people. It's not a "smark thing", like they like to chalk it up to. Its not "rebellious older fans". It's not any of those things WWE likes to say when they ignored their own flawed process in creating stars and its no secret that their process is flawed. Compare today to eras past. In the '80s, 90s and even early 2000s, they had a ton of unique stars and promoted them well. Who is a star now? Who has WWE made into some mainstream star in the 2010s that is a household name and you see people in public wearing their shirts? Anyone? No. Its because the process in which they go about promoting their talent is flawed. Not because their most hardcore of the hardcore fans want to just boo whoever they push like WWE thinks is the case.
There are my thoughts on the Wrestlemania fall-out in WWE. Obviously, I think they've dropped the ball and based on the ratings the Raw after Wrestlemania doesn't really seem to be appointment television for many fans. Also, don't give me this garbage about streaming and DVR's because those viewers are counted in the ratings too and over 90% of Raw's viewers still watch the show live on TV, not on a streaming service. So, put any excuse you have for the constant decline in ratings to rest and just accept that there is a problem here and an obvious disconnect with WWE and not just wrestling fans but much of the country. I've said it a thousand times but the over saturation of their own product doesn't help and the numbers for Raw since moving to 3 hours in 2012 speak for themselves.
Oh... As for Kevin Owens, I hope for his sake this is all the start of a heel turn where K.O. ends up being Kofi's first challenger for the title because if his new gimmick is comedy fat guy dancing around his career is f***ing dead -- DEAD!
Thanks for reading everyone. Happy Easter. Happy Passover. Enjoy your weekend and I'll be back here next time with more of my thoughts on happenings in WWE. Follow me over on Twitter @PlanetKayfabe
For NoDQ, this is Planet Kayfabe, I'm K.C., God bless, take care and I'll catch you here next time.