Planet Kayfabe: WWE, AEW, NXT in 2020 Submitted by Kayfabe Candyass on 02/24/2020 at 10:08 PM
Planet Kayfabe: (Still Spinning) 2020 Thoughts
By: "KCA" Paul Matthews | @PlanetKayfabe
Hey. It's been a while, huh? That Hell in a Cell PPV back in October broke me. I'm back with a message and some quick thoughts.
2020 in the wrestling world is off to a wild start. AEW is in firm control of the Wednesday night ratings war. They have secured a new TV deal extending their current deal another four years and are establishing themselves as a mainstream force in wrestling in the U.S. Are they there yet? No. Everyone wants Rome to be built in a day, but this is a new wrestling company and a new television show. They have to establish Wednesday and grow an audience and create some buzz.
AEW is on the right track. All the episodes have been good to great (aside from one) with a few notable segments that were clunkers. The Dark Order phantom punch beatdown. The Nightmare Collective. However, AEW has shown they aren't full of their own hype and keep their ears on the ground to listen to their audience and see what works and what doesn't. The Nightmare Collective has ended. The unscripted nature of the show has been a welcomed sharp contrast to the WWE style. Promos and interview segments feel way more natural compared to the robotic WWE style where everyone pretty much talks the same. In AEW everyone is allowed to show their own personality or their own wrestling persona. It works. It always worked. WWE can spin that garbage about how "the business evolved" and how they need scripts because it "evolved". Well, scripts aren't creating stars and the robotic dialogue doesn't connect with fans. That's why its 2020 and the company has to bring in Attitude Era darlings every year for Wrestlemania just to generate some annual interest in the company.
I'm disappointed by WWE on Fox. I can't say my expectations were exceptionally high, but I was expecting the show to be bigger and different. Instead, we got a set this is alright, but kind of cheap looking and pyro once in a while. I mean, cool, whatever. We all like pyro, but what about the show? Smackdown hasn't been great. Smackdown has been dominated by this feud with Roman Reigns and Baron Corbin where the heat is on dog food. It seemingly never ends, too. Roman has gotten the better of Corbin. He has beaten him in a match. Why is this continuing? Just to kill time, I guess. Smackdown ratings have been fine if you compare them to when they were on USA, but Smackdown is on network TV and the viewership is pretty much comparable to Raw that has whittled itself down to hardcore fans and people who basically watch out of habit. If you're one of those people who wonder why NXT and AEW draw fewer viewers than Raw, that's why. Raw's been on Mondays since 1993. Those shows have been on TV for six months. Raw, Smackdown, NXT and AEW all started last fall what do you think would be rated the highest? Who knows, but I guarantee Raw isn't drawing 2.3 million every week.
Speaking of Raw, despite it being a ratings hit, I hated the Lana/Lashley, Rusev feud. I didn't like it for multiple reasons. One, it was garbage television. Not that I expect high art from World Wrestling Entertainment, but I was not entertained by watching Rusev's real-life wife have an affair before his very eyes just to do a low-calorie Attitude Era style storyline. The other reason I didn't like this story is because there's nowhere you can go. I mean, look... Where is Rusev now? All 3 of them are just people on the show. They married Lana and Lashley because they know wedding segments draw, but now that they married them they have no idea what to do with them together. Also, Rusev, the babyface, "won" the feud but what did he win? His wife still left his ass and married one of his coworkers. Lashley still parades around the ring with Lana. So he lost a match. Big deal. Lashley loses a lot of matches.
Seth Rollins is better off as a heel, but I'm not a fan of this character. In true WWE fashion, he explains his "turn" as he didn't turn, the fans turned. Then we get browbeaten with the usual talking points. Fans are fickle. Fans don't know what they want. Fans today just turn on good guys.
Fans turn on geeks. That's what Seth Rollins was. He was a geek on TV pandering to fans. He was a geek on social media getting into arguments with wrestlers in other promotions that he clearly knew nothing about. He had the nerve to call Will Ospreay "little guy" despite him being the same size, if not a little bigger than Rollins. Plus, he buried indy wrestlers with the usual WWE "bingo hall" line coming off as a big-headed douche who forgot where he came from himself. Another way Seth came off as a delusional geek with that "little guy" line is because this era RIGHT NOW is the only era in WWE where Seth would even be considered to be a main eventer. Remember the days when Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin were considered not big enough to be world champions? They're both bigger than Rollins. I think the Monday Night Messiah should count his blessings because 20 years ago Sean Waltman was wrestling for the light-heavyweight championship and that's right where Seth would be if he were around in the Attitude Era or even the Ruthless Aggression era.
I know not everyone follows what goes on on social media, but even on TV Seth lost fans during that Bray Wyatt feud when this guy was screaming and crying in fear and constantly running away from a fat guy in a Halloween mask appearing in the ring. Dude, you wonder why fans turned? Is that our hero? Some bitch who comes out screaming "burn it down" only to run and hide? Who the hell would cheer that guy? So, now in true WWE fashion, nothing can be subtle so we have to hear the words "Monday Night Messiah" a thousand times every night and now he's trying to cut promos like an actual preacher. That sermon segment was death. It's not so much that it was offensive if you're religious, I myself am a Roman Catholic, it was just bad TV. Go back and watch it. It sounded like Seth forgot his lines and he kept repeating himself talking about "phase one" of his plan. Then talking about unity and then divisiveness and phase one and unity and whatever. He kept going on and on. People hated this segment and I hear all the apologist excuses when a heel segment flops. People say "he's a heel, you're supposed to hate it" Really? Because people chanted "BORING" and the ratings took a nosedive after that segment. To me, that's not the mark of a good heel promo. Heat is supposed to generate interest. Not drive away the audience.
Drew McIntyre is a great pick for the winner of the Royal Rumble. Yes, this feels a year too late, but at least they're doing it. He works as a babyface, but they need to dial back the pandering a bit. It's getting a bit too "boyhood dream". Drew is a badass that looks like one and should act like one, too. I don't know if he'll beat Brock Lesnar for the title, but if he does good for him. It's been a long time coming for Drew. Were you watching when he first debuted? If you were, you know they had plans for this guy. Big plans. Plans that obviously changed over time. At the age of 25, Vince McMahon even made a rare Smackdown appearance just to put Drew over in a promo. They gave him great music and a great entrance. All signs that they had huge plans for this guy. On top of that dubbing him "the chosen one".
Easy come; easy go. Drew was pushed hard as Intercontinental Champion early on and then quickly pushed down the card where a few short years later he was in the comedy jobber stable 3MB with Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal. In 2014, McIntyre was released. He re-established himself on the independent scene and built his value back up. In 2017 he was signed to WWE's NXT brand to re-establish him as a serious character to WWE audiences. In 2018 he was brought back to the main roster. In 2019 he was WASTED BEING SHANE MCMAHON'S LACKEY WHILE SHANE GOT THE BIG PUSH, INCLUDING A WIN OVER ROMAN REIGNS TO WHICH ROMAN BEAT DREW, NOT SHANE TO GET HIS WIN BACK and now in 2020, a decade after the "chosen one" gimmick was dropped, Drew was chosen for a bigger role. Royal Rumble winner and potential Wrestlemania main eventer. It's been a great journey for him and when he won the Rumble you could see the legitimate emotion on his face.
Looks like I closed this one on a happy note. If you're reading this, thanks for sticking around. After Hell in a Cell I was so done with everything. It was hard to really watch these shows and even care about them let alone have any shot at enjoying them if they were good.
2020 should be a fun year in wrestling, but the fun is clearly on Wednesday nights. I thought Smackdown would be more of an "A" show but right now it feels like WWE has two B shows and NXT that they're trying to get over as a main brand, but people still largely see it as a developmental farm system, well, because it is. It doesn't matter if you put Finn or Charlotte on there. It's developmental. All the new guys are still going to go there first. Not on Raw or Smackdown. Maybe when I start seeing guys younger than the age of 32 on the main roster getting serious TV time and real pushes I'll buy that NXT isn't still just WWE's discount department store take on an Indy promotion only with the brand name prices.
There's a lot of chatter about the future of WWE PPV and the WWE Network. I wish more news was out there because it's an interesting topic. All I can say is, I find it funny that WWE six years ago decared pay-per-view dead and that they are at the "forefront" of evolving methods of media consumption... and now they'll likely be going back to traditional PPV because it turns out there still a shit ton more money to be made on PPV than there is giving away your biggest event of the year for $9.99 or even free to new subscribers. Well, no shit, right? When the Network first started, I was surprised the Big 4 were included and I was especially surprised that Wrestlemania was included and then I was baffled when they started giving away Wrestlemania for FREE just to artificially pump up these network numbers. WWE never met their goal subscriber count of over 2 million and it has since fallen to about 1.4 million. A little over a million of those are domestic US subscribers. NXT moving to USA probably has something to do with the numbers falling on top of 2018 and 2019 not being good years at all for WWE's on-screen product. Obviously, numbers will fall even more if they move PPV off the Network, but by that point, there will probably be less importance put on the Network and it will basically be like that 24/7 Classics on-demand channel they used to have for 10 years prior to the launch of the WWE Network.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care, everyone. I'll see you after Lent. I'll be taking time off and moving, so follow me over on Twitter @PlanetKayfabe to keep in touch.