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9 Issues Plaguing WWE

A list of problems with today's WWE product with potential solutions.

WWE Chairman Vince McMahon

Despite Vince McMahon not wanting World Wrestling Entertainment to be synonymous with professional wrestling, it is the world’s leading company in the genre.

McMahon has spent the last five decades trying to differentiate WWE from the rest of the pro wrestling landscape as a traveling show that features all-encompassing entertainment. Subtle distinctions like referring to performers as “superstars” and coining the phrase “sports entertainment” are just two of the 76-year old’s proclivities when it comes to branding his product.

McMahon’s fixation with labeling has taken both his company and the professional wrestling world to unprecedented heights. But WWE’s dedication to growing into a media juggernaut has created various inconsistencies in a creative and business capacity even though they are seeing record breaking profits.

With a variety of alternatives like All Elite Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and countless independent promotions gaining traction, WWE is no longer the be-all and end-all in professional wrestling. Fans and performers do not have to endure WWE’s hackneyed booking and alleged toxic work environment. If Vince McMahon is looking to continue his reign atop the sports entertainment mountain, He and the company need to adjust in key areas.

Let us look at the problem points in today’s WWE.

9. Pushing Deserving Talent

Big E after winning the WWE Title from Bobby Lashley

The consensus on WWE is that it is a meritocracy that rewards their performers for their work ethic, professionalism, and connection with the crowd. Unfortunately, a superstar’s trajectory is solely based on McMahon’s perception of them. If he does not view that person as a marquee talent, then the cheers from the WWE Universe are a non-factor. Take for example Big E’s recent run as WWE Champion.

Fans and performers felt his championship win against Bobby Lashley in 2021 was long overdue. E is a beloved figure backstage, a consummate professional, and an undisputed favorite amongst the WWE Universe. But E’s reign seemed like an afterthought in the eyes of WWE. Universal Champion Roman Reigns is the company’s true champion.

Big E’s time as champion consisted of boring filler feuds, a Survivor Series loss to Roman Reigns which positioned him as the “B Champion,” and his reign ended in an anticlimactic loss to Brock Lesnar after holding the title for only four months.

Big E is a superstar that a substantial portion of the WWE viewing audience loves. When WWE had the chance to reward them and Big E accordingly by giving him the title, they failed miserably. If WWE does not do a better job of showcasing performers that fans are behind, then the investment in the company itself is a waste of time.

8. Creating New Stars

NXT Superstar Bron Breakker

One of the biggest criticisms of WWE is their inability to create new stars as of late. The brilliant minds who gave the wrestling world the likes of The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and John Cena cannot seem to produce a star with the same mainstream appeal. Roman Reigns’ recent run may be the exception, but his success is a result of repeated failures at trying to connect with the crowd as a smiling babyface. WWE’s tendency to over script and micromanage their performers is a hindrance that will stop their new crop of stars from crossing over into the mainstream like the superstars of yesteryear.

The recent rebranding of NXT from super-indie to developmental brand is WWE’s attempt at crafting stars that fit Vince McMahon’s imagining of what his superstars should look and wrestle like. In theory, this may help with crafting personalities that will automatically resonate with the audience. However, McMahon is out of touch with the current climate in pro wrestling and pop culture.

This could potentially lead to more cases like Roman Reigns where forced attempts at organic crowd connection will have the opposite desired response. To avoid further missteps with new star creation, WWE needs to trust their performers with character development and promos. It will be a true test of a superstar’s ability while not burdening them with stale and outdated gimmicks and tropes.

7. Releases

Former WWE Superstar Bray Wyatt

Since the beginning of the pandemic there has been a huge influx of releases in WWE. These releases ranged from superstars, commentators, producers, and writers. While few came as no surprise, others shocked the wrestling world. Superstars like Bray Wyatt, Braun Strowman, and Nia Jax were certified headscratchers. Bray was one of the most creative and popular superstars as well as a high merchandise seller for the company, while Strowman and Jax were staples in the main event scene since their respective call-ups from NXT.

WWE’s massive downsizing because of “budget cuts” is a poor excuse when looking at the overall growth in revenue over the last few years. But that’s standard practice when you are a billion-dollar corporation. The real issue is WWE keeping talent who want to leave under contract and against their will. WWE have been keeping superstars who are underutilized or flat out unhappy with their creative direction while releasing stars whose lifelong dream was to work for The McMahon family.

It is of the belief that holding talent hostage is an attempt to keep stars from leaving to go to All Elite Wrestling. Jon Moxley and a host of others have increased their stock in the wrestling business by betting on themselves and joining WWE’s direct competition. WWE needs to put their ego to the side and let those who want to leave be able to do so upon request. It will prevent them from looking like a petulant child who wants to play with their abandoned toy once someone else is interested.

6. Titles

WWE Undisputed Universal Champion Roman Reigns

Recently WWE have treated their titles like props to advance a storyline rather than an achievement meant to anoint a burgeoning superstar. The prestige that came with becoming the WWE or Intercontinental Champion signified the company’s belief in a performer’s potential and star power. Now the WWE/Universal and Women’s titles rotate between the same three or four superstars, while the Intercontinental and United States titles cannot get a prominent spotlight on the pre-show of a premium live event.

The introduction of the Women’s Tag Team Titles was a welcomed addition to help give the division a lift, but the scarcity of women under contract that are actual tag teams have reduced them to the same lackluster booking as the 24/7 title. WWE’s titles need to be more than just plot devices for uninspired storylines, and not lost in the shuffle to the point that fans forget that floundering superstars are holding them.

5. The Brand Split

Raw vs. SmackDown Battle Royal

The splitting of the roster between Raw and SmackDown is a simple concept that becomes more convoluted as time goes on. Usually, superstars from each brand would interact with one another at the Royal Rumble or Survivor Series where the brands go head-to-head. Now the parameters surrounding the brand split are nonexistent.

At a moment’s notice a Raw superstar can venture over to SmackDown and vice versa without any formal explanation in kayfabe. Smart fans understand having popular stars that belong to a specific brand appearing on both shows will increase viewership and ticket sales if announced ahead of time. But crafting storylines that justifies superstars floating in between brands will not make WWE’s abandonment of their own rules and narratives so obvious to the more astute viewers.

4. Character Direction

Ezekiel formerly know as Elias

Vince McMahon’s attention span is one of the most inconsistent components in WWE. Without warning he will change the entire script for an episode of Monday Night Raw mere hours before going live. Matches get scrapped, segments shifted around, and talent, writers and producers are scrambling to adjust to the chaos they are suddenly thrusted into. McMahon’s impulse to go in a different direction instantaneously extends to the character direction of his superstars.

On a whim, McMahon has changed a star’s, entrance theme, wrestling attire, and even their name without any justification to the audience. Imagine watching The Sopranos one week and the following week Tony Soprano the mob boss from New Jersey is now Tommy Tenor the janitor from Arkansas. That absurd level of inconsistency is what is running rampant in WWE.

Fans are on edge about a character they care about going through an extreme character metamorphosis, taken off TV indefinitely because the writers have nothing for them, or released. If WWE is in the mindset of being like other episodic shows that happens to feature wrestling, their characters cannot endure seismic shifts whenever the director sees fit.

3. The Women’s Division

Ronda Rousey putting Charlotte Flair in an ankle lock

In 2015, WWE proclaimed that they were embarking on a Women’s Revolution. They were doing away with labeling their female talent as “Divas” and committed to displaying them as credible athletes instead of sexual objects. Since then, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Bianca Belair have broken through the glass ceiling that was once over the division. These women have made history as WrestleMania main eventers and superstars with the same drawing power as their male counterparts. But the success of a handful of women does not make up for the division’s lingering deficiencies.

The women themselves are not to blame for their division’s underwhelming undercard. It is the company’s inability to book credible feuds that do not revolve around a title. They also lazily book two single stars in makeshift tag teams to compensate for their nonexistent women’s tag team division. WWE is also in the process of undoing their own progression by having NXT’s women’s division enriched with the same salacious presentation as days of old.

WWE needs to place more effort and attention into curating a diverse and exciting women’s division. There is still work to do in the name of the revolution.

2. AEW

AEW Commentator Tony Schiavone & AEW Owner Tony Khan

After World Championship Wrestling imploded and eventually acquired by WWE in 2001, Vince McMahon was unopposed in his control over pro wrestling. There were other promotions like Impact Wrestling and Ring of Honor that offered an alternative, but neither had the money or influence to compete with WWE. That was until 2019, when billionaire co-owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars and avid wrestling fan Tony Khan started All Elite Wrestling.

When the initial announcement of a rival promotion started to circulate, WWE seemed unfazed. But the acquisition of noted WWE talent like Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley prompted WWE to make ill-advised moves to try to stop AEW’s momentum.

WWE took NXT from its streaming platform and placed it on the USA network to run opposite of AEW Dynamite on TNT at the same time on Wednesday Nights.

WWE’s attempt at counter programming led to them getting crushed in the ratings, which led to NXT moving to Tuesday nights and a creative overhaul with focus shifting towards younger stars with little to no pro wrestling experience. AEW’s fresh approach led to the defection of top stars like Bryan Danielson and Adam Cole and was the catalyst for CM Punk’s shocking return to pro wrestling after quitting the business seven years prior.

WWE tends to be very dismissive of AEW’s presence. However, certain acts such as preventing talent who have time on their contracts from leaving and signing AEW star and former Executive Vice President Cody Rhodes suggests that they are aware of the buzz Tony Khan’s company has created. No one is expecting AEW to drive McMahon out of business, but their existence is a factor that may lead to WWE making avoidable mistakes trying to swing momentum in their favor.

1. Public Perception

Shane McMahon, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and Vince McMahon

If you were to ask a casual fan what WWE is, their answer will most likely be “a professional wrestling” company. But if you were to ask a high-ranking WWE official the same question, the word “wrestling” will not be in their response. WWE sees themselves as a conglomerate that provides a multifaceted entertainment experience that is on the same level as Disney. The idea of being just a “wrestling company” does not do them any favors when trying to appeal to different demographics. Pro Wrestling is a very stigmatize form of entertainment that often discourages major corporations from wanting to do business.

WWE is no longer interested in endearing itself to the hardcore wrestling fan. The company knows they will continue to discuss or consume the product whether it is great or terrible despite the groans of displeasure from the internet wrestling community over storylines and scripted promos. Their focus is the casual fan who consumes other forms of entertainment and children who they can turn into lifelong fans.

To the audience outside of the professional wrestling sphere, WWE will always be a professional wrestling company. McMahon can curate buzzwords that aid in the company’s attempt at changing perception and advise his commentators to not use wrestling terms like “belt” and “getting over,” but mainstream America will identify them as such. It would be in their best interest to embrace the wrestling label as opposed to running from it.

For decades they have been the dominant promotion in their industry. To still be the benchmark despite the arrival of a rival promotion like AEW and a revitalized independent scene is an accomplishment McMahon should celebrate not resent.

1 Comment

I really enjoyed the categories that were chosen to highlight , particularly the section on releases ! Very well written !

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