Going Broadway: The WWE is Stuck in Hell
I was in the Orlando airport on Tuesday on my way to a flight to Chicago and who did I see walk past? None other than Nia Jax — presumably getting off a flight to Orlando headed in the other direction.
She was unmasked, hence, easy to recognize. John Morrison, luckily, was masked. (these are the only two I saw)
It is still a federal law that masks must be worn in airports, yet, Nia (Savelina Fanene) Jax, was unable to follow one simple rule. Much like Jax, Jimmy Uso, who has literally put the lives of others at risk with multiple DUI’s, is awarded with a tag team championship run with his brother.
Like many others, these two are untouchable and unsackable, and a part of a bigger culture in World Wrestling Entertainment. A culture of a repetitive corporate hellscape.
Whether or not you enjoy the product is irrelevant to this article. The harsh truth is, however, that WWE is stuck in their own version of hell. This goes beyond 50/50 booking, aimless storylines, start-stop pushes, and predictable champions (Charlotte Wins lol). This is a company that will forever blanket and distract you from their mediocre product with high production values and childhood nostalgia.
The WWE is not a good wrestling product, but it is a good sports entertainment product — and this is likely what many WWE fans grew up with and are comfortable with. Any fundamental change that other wrestling promotions are experiencing will likely never reach Stamford. Here’s a few reasons why…
Stuck In the Past
Malakai Black revealed in a recent interview what Vince McMahon thought of his new theme song before he was given the boot week later. The quote in itself is quite telling:
“I don’t know what the f*** that was. I don’t think that’s music but hey, I’m 76-years-old, what the f**k do I know, right?’” – Vince McMahon (via Malakai Black)
In context, this statement was made towards the music, but one can make an argument that McMahon has been out of touch with professional wrestling for sometime. This becomes quite clear with the absolute lack of new stars taking over the top of the card for major shows.
With Summerslam around the corner, with little build and no effort, McMahon has penciled in his go-tos. John Cena has been brought back to face Roman Reigns, and Bill Goldberg has been brought back to face Bobby Lashley for their respective championships.
Again, whether or not you enjoy the nostalgia is irrelevant. The truth is that this process is nothing new. Over and over again we have seen WWE Creative reach into their bag of old tricks and pull out names of headliners from yesteryear.
The weekly formula has never really changed.
Long show-opening promos, excessive talk shows, bland vanilla babyfaces the crowd are told to like for no reason (currently, Jaxson Ryker comes to mind), the anti-hero versus evil boss storyline rehash, 50/50 booking, uninspiring DQ and rollup finishes, and so on and so forth…
And of course, toss in the names from the past which will pop ratings for a night.
There are two reasons why WWE continues to stay stuck in the past glory of the late 90s/early 2000’s. Their inability to build new stars, and the fact that they are publicly traded. Both have dire consequences to any true progress in what is considered pro wrestling in WWE.
Failure to Build New Stars
A sad pattern has formed in Titan Towers. WWE brass continues to add new up-and-coming talent without building the talent they already have. There is simply too much to go around.
In fact, one could argue that Roman Reigns and Charlotte Flair are the only homegrown WWE talents on a main event level right now. Any other big name they have launched into top-tier status has already been established in other promotions/indies prior. Seth Rollins, A.J. Styles, Daniel Bryan, Finn Balor, Drew McIntyre (post-Indies), the list goes on of talent that didn’t necessarily come from the NXT farm system.
These names were already well-known elsewhere.
When you constantly live in the past you don’t notice the future that’s presently in front of you. This explains why guys like Braun Strowman, Malakai Black, and for a brief moment, Samoa Joe, were released. They didn’t know what else to do with these main event-level talents.
It’s why we have John Cena and Bill Goldberg headlining a major PPV in 2021. Say what you want about AEW, but MJF, Darby Allin, Jungle Boy Jack Perry, Sammy Guevara, Adam Page, and a slew of others are slowly popping in and out of the main event scene over in Jacksonville. In WWE, Sting would have been used to headline a show, but in AEW he’s used to elevate another talent.
There is a reason for this, though. It’s not just that Vince may sell the company, therefore making the company look as profitable as possible by ditching waste. WWE Creative really can’t put new stars in to the main event scene. They’re being held back because…
WWE is Publicly Traded
When you have stockholders to answer to and family-friendly advertisers to keep satisfied, something terrible brews: The inability to push boundaries.
You can’t push a match with blood and guts on advertisers and shareholders. Nor can you openly curse on live television (like you tend to hear on Wednesday nights) with families watching.
Sadly, you can’t let go of some creative control over your talent because you’re afraid that they might say or so something that will anger your streaming host. The WWE is stuck in TVPG hell, and they probably know it.
Instead of darker characters like we would see with Abadon, Darby Allin, or Malakai Black, we get the PG-13 watered down version of “horror” with Alexa Bliss and a stuffed doll. It’s not as if Randy Orton vomiting red blood would get past WWE’s own censors. It must be “black” and “mysterious”.
Even Bray Wyatt notably had to scale back his own character for the sake of family-friendly entertainment.
There is an edge and creative control to the gimmicks not just in AEW, but Impact, New Japan, and many other non-WWE promotions. You simply don’t have that same edge in WWE, and hence, you don’t have the ability to truly develop a character.
Character progression and evolution is a natural part of storytelling, and you’ll see this in other promotions — but not in WWE as much. It’s because creating true character depth sometimes requires pushing the same boundaries that McMahon is unable to do. This doesn’t mean character progression doesn’t exist in the current product, but it comes far and few between (sans a sudden unexplainable gimmick change).
Whether it’s blood and guts, darker, and edgier gimmicks, unrestricted storytelling, or even subversive language, WWE will never be able to push any boundaries within their own product — because they are about as family-friendly as Harry Potter. (Nothing against Harry Potter — I love the series. Why else do you think I was in Orlando?)
WWE is never in any real danger as a product, and as a fan, you’re never in a real danger of seeing something revolutionary or evolutionary. You may enjoy the comfort of this, and your welcomed formulaic enjoyment of sports entertainment is totally okay.
But the needle doesn’t move when stagnation is the norm. WWE is stuck in a constant loop of what used to work.
Shit on Impact Wrestling all you want, but building towards their biggest show with multiple promotions is a site to be seen in 2021. Bound For Glory looks to have wrestlers from AEW, New Japan, NWA and AAA involved on the card.
WWE would never do anything like this in this day and age. They are physically unable to.
Even when WWE puts out a great wrestling product in NXT, it’s clouded with the fact that these roster members will quickly get overlooked once called up to Raw or Smackdown. We’ve seen this now a countless number of times.
WWE lives in a form of wrestling/sports entertainment hell. Forever unable to move the needle, bound to their shareholders and family-friendly advertisers, and giving the nod to their casual fans who yearn for the past — not the future.