The Winter Solstice is upon us, and like most of the population, we're ready to symbolically put this wretched year behind us. So in the holiday spirit, I want to put a focus on a 'Xmas Wishlist' for each major wrestling promotion, as well as the industry as a whole. In efforts to avoid a "tl;dr" label, I will be splitting these up into three or four separate columns.
With that, let's begin!
World Wrestling Entertainment
First of all, let's address the elephant in the room -- "yOu DOn't WatCh WwE sO hOw cAN yOu coMMenT?" Well, it's pretty easy. It's called investment. Wrestling is the wonderful combination of storytelling and sport -- so I can read results of a Raw or Smackdown and mostly get the idea.
I can also watch YouTube clips or reviews from channels such as Wrestling with Wregret or WhatCulture, and I have many times over. Am I going to set aside 2-5 hours every week out of a busy life to watch every WWE show? Not at all; I can barely make time for the promotion I DO invest in with AEW.
Pro wrestling is not a weekly mystery-thriller where missing one episode puts you out of the loop. When you've been watching wrestling for over 30 years as I have, you get the point by now. With that out of the way, without further ado, my 2021 WWE Wishlist.
1. Get rid of the third hour on Mondays
We'll start with an easy one. Three hours is too much for one night -- and not only does it drag down the pace of the show, but WWE tends to have problems filling the timeslot with enough interesting material to keep one engaged the entire time. I know I'm not alone here, and while McMahon may lose ad revenue by dropping an entire hour, his fans may ultimately be happier for it. You will always get a better quality product if there is no need for filler, and right now Monday nights are ripe with it.
2. Fire all of your writers -- but don't hire more
Like many columnists and reviewers around the internet, I too, have applied to be a WWE writer. Aside from being a fan for over 30 years, I hold two college degrees, one of which is in writing and communication. I have extensive experience writing and editing for local news, and multimedia and writing is still very much apart of my career.
Guess what? They didn't care.
McMahon wants TV writers familiar with TV production (5 years minimum) to create acceptable dialogue to fill the gaps in between matches. The problem is that these aren't actors -- they're professional athletes. As much as I would love to help book and write matches for AEW, I know they don't have a team of writers carefully scripting Cody or Kenny's lines -- and this is why AEW feels more authentic than their competition.
The bottom line is that The Rock or Austin didn't get themselves over with carefully crafted scripts handed to them by a team of writers -- they just went out there as themselves, but turned way up to 11.
A lot of WWE programming feels fake, and that's because you don't have actors that can properly sell the lines they're given -- as they simply aren't trained to do so. So instead, let them get over on their own, and let them be in total control of what they say and how they say it (within reason in accordance to network/FCC guidelines of course).
3. No More Branding
Even with watching a few reviews (and a couple matches) to follow up on last night's TLC, I still could not tell you who is on which show. Does it really matter? Hell, even when the NFL puts the AFC against the NFC in the Pro Bowl nobody really cares to watch. What does being "Team Smackdown" even mean? Are you telling me that King Corbin or Kevin Owens feel some kind of pride because they're specifically on Friday nights inside a blue ring compared to being on Monday nights inside a red ring?
The idea of wrestlers aligning with a "brand" that looks identical to the other sans a color change and a logo is fairly ridiculous and doesn't serve a purpose. Get rid of the draft, and get rid of this ridiculous branding.
4. Slow-Burn/Long-Term Storytelling
We know that Vince's inability to be satisfied with something for more than a month leads to stop-start storytelling and poor character development, but this is where you need it the most. Take the most recent Money in the Bank storyline, where it went from Otis (who nobody really took seriously as a contender) to The Miz, who lost out at TLC. For a concept that is supposedly used to put over new superstars, this year's MITB story was an absolute flop.
How about Retribution? One week they're going to "destroy Raw" and the next they're "signed" to a deal with names out of an 90s action B-movie -- oh, and they're losing. Something tells me there wasn't much of a plan with them. I can also argue that Alexa Bliss's involvement with the Wyatt/Orton angle seemed fairly useless as she didn't even show up last night. I understand she's on vacation -- and well deserved -- but to scrap her involvement entirely in a blow-off match?
As a writer, these are the issues that plague the product, and it would be solved by long-term, slow-burn storytelling that serves a purpose in both character development and the story itself.
5. Unify all titles
There are too many championships. Much like brands, I don't know why the Raw Champion is any different from the Smackdown championship. There's no identity and no reason why Brand A is different from Brand B. It's the equivalent of having no Super Bowl and just crowning an AFC and NFC Champion.
You only really need ONE championship for the men and women's division, including tag team championships. You only need ONE Intercontinental or United States championship (retire the Intercontinental Championship -- it literally just means "world champion"). I would even go as far as to get rid of the NXT North American Championship, because it also makes little sense that someone is champion of the United States, but someone is champion of the United States, Canada, and Mexico...
This clusterf*** of titles just dilutes the entire product in general, and we need to bring back some prestige to these belts again. Less titles means more focus on the storytelling without needing to use so many championships as a prop for empty feuds.
6. Send NXT Back Home
This is a controversial one, but humor me. Has NXT, an alleged developmental promotion, created any big stars as in the past 5-10 years? If you take out the Indies darlings that came to NXT years ago (Owens, Zayn, Cole, Balor), and take out the recent Indies darlings who have been sorely underutilized (Lee, Black, Riddle) how many main event talent on the major two brands got their start in NXT/FCW?
Roman Reigns is the only one that stands out as a main event performer, unless you want to very loosely count Drew McIntyre (who crafted his current gimmick on the Indies scene and Impact Wrestling). Other than that you've got Bray Wyatt (originally packaged as Husky Harris) and that's really about it.
NXT hasn't created any new superstars that weren't already known somewhere else beforehand. Their track record is truly awful when it comes to crafting new talent. The WCW Power Plant has created more main event caliber talent than NXT has (DDP, Goldberg, Nash, The Big Show and Alex Wright...but only in my heart).
Perhaps trying to swoop up every hot Indies prospect out there and throwing them on NXT while forcing them to learn the WWE style isn't the best way to create your future. I wouldn't mind seeing NXT go back to the network to become a one-hour show again so the entire point of creating the NEXT breed of superstars can actually be fulfilled.
7. Vince McMahon needs to step down
Let's face it: Absolutely none of this list is going to happen if McMahon is still at the helm. This is a man that likely will only do what's best for business when it comes to his bottom line as opposed to what is best for fans in efforts to create a really good product. WWE hasn't felt like "must-see TV" in many years, and that's because Vince's own stubbornness has gotten in the way of good writers and wrestlers to create wonderful moments for the product.
You have a handful, sure -- but even a moment like Kofi Kingston's Wrestlemania championship win is muddled when you realize that after decades and decades of the company's existence he was the first true black WWE champion. That, and the way he lost it to Brock Lesnar -- in a squash match.
The point is here is that until Paul Levesque, and possibly even Gabe Sopolsky, can take over the creative direction of the entire product without having to answer to Vince, we're going to get the same old "safe" and mostly predictable product we've been accustomed to for many years now. If TLC is any testament, it's that WWE is still capable of putting on a good show -- but it comes so few and far between these days. For me to want to invest in the product again, and probably many other fans, I simply need to see more than empty promises by the McMahon family that "we'll do better" when in reality, absolutely nothing changes.