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Is WWE just drifting into the future? by Matt Corton

I understand where WWE is at right now, it makes sense to me. It makes sense that they are doing so much business that they want to maximise on that, in network content and their other various revenue streams. I get why they have carried out the brand split, to maintain and increase viewership of the secondary brand, SmackDown (it will always be that I think, even if it is a better show right now). Everything they are doing, right now, from a business standpoint, makes sense.

But much like the drifter, settling down just for a while and carrying on with a partner they don’t really want to settle down with, I don’t really understand where WWE is going. I don’t understand the destination or the motives for going there. All the various bits along the way? Sure, I understand those.

I understand why the drifter carries on with the partner, because it’s better than not having the partner. Just like I get why WWE would want to carry on with interminable repeated storylines, because it’s better than not having anything at all, because I don’t think they have anything else.

I understand why the drifter doesn’t want to settle down, because things can go wrong, he likes how things are now and there’s no real reason to change, not when things are ticking over just nicely. Why rock the boat? Just like how I understand why WWE doesn’t want to push their programming toward the next generation and innovate, because they are, frankly, raking it in right now doing without needing to do that, so there’s no reason to change until they absolutely have to.

What I find short-sighted about that last point in both cases though, is that by the time it becomes necessary, or their minds change making them want to innovate or change things, it will be too late – the drifter loses their looks, or isn’t an acceptable package for the age group they’re now looking at, or in WWE’s case, the audience has simply moved on.

So by that token, I understand why they repeat storylines because, well, why not? They worked before, they are tried and tested and I think there’s some mileage in repeating stories from yesteryear, especially if they are repeated in a context such as Dolph Ziggler’s potential retirement at No Mercy. We’ve all seen ‘retirement’ stories before, dozens of times, even ones that end in the wrestler’s actual retirement, but the addition of Dolph’s perceived failure to the storyline with the Miz helped keep it fresh. Their excellent performances were due, in part, to the realism and genuine feeling that they were able to get into the roles they were playing.

Whereas we all knew the Authority’s ‘retirement’, or removal from power, was always going to be temporary and little more than annoying.

Where I just do not understand, at all about where the WWE is going, is in having three hell in a cell matches at Hell in a Cell. I know that’s the name of the PPV, and I love gimmick matches, so I’m not against having themed PPVs, but to have three is too much. Just as having two elimination chamber matches at Elimination Chamber was always too much because it instantly detracted from itself and became less special.

You just need one, big, important event at a themed PPV– and for this PPV it should have been the women’s match. As a first time ever match, something nobody has seen before, that is the match that holds the most of my interest. Rusev vs. Reigns doesn’t hold any interest for me any more, and while I’m sure Seth vs. Owens will be a great match, I’m not sure the cell will add that much to it that I haven’t seen in countless other hell in a cell matches – and as this could well be the third of the night, I think the crowd could have already seen what there is to see in the other matches before Owens and Rollins have even made their entrances.

I understand why they want to do it. I understand that they want to emphasise the dramatic nature of the structure, to give meaning to the PPV, to add finality and drama to some feuds. I just don’t understand why they don’t want to do that in an interesting, innovative way.

Which is why I did like what they did with Bray Wyatt at No Mercy. Whilst I’m very much in the camp that says Bray should never have developed supernatural powers, because he doesn’t need them, if he’s going to have them he should use them to win matches.

Not that there’s much that’s supernatural about the lights going off and Harper appearing, but they followed that up with the switch of Harper and Kane on SmackDown that has a little more of the hint of supernatural influence about it, and preceded it with Bray escaping a room by talking to Sister Abigail (although I’m assuming that’s Harper who let him out now).

What it does do though, is add something a little more innovative to the ‘person comes down to the ring and interrupts’ that we saw playing out again on Raw with Jericho, Owens and Rollins. It’s something that used to seem to happen a lot more in the Attitude Era, and it always made me and my friends groan, simply because they did it too often. It’s a natural consequence of having stables, or half of a tag team in a singles feud, that the other party or parties will try and interfere, and it can work when it’s done well, but too often it seems to be done just as an afterthought or a procedural storytelling element rather than something specific, thought out and interesting.

I’m not suggesting I have an alternative of what they can do instead, each time, but it’s nice to see them do it in a different way with Bray – because everything should be a different way with Bray.

Only…am I being really unfair? Because haven’t WWE done a fair few things that have screamed innovation? WWE Network, having the first former TNA champion hold a major belt in WWE, bringing in talent of all types and sizes from all over the world, original content almost by the bucketload, having the brand extension…when you look at it, WWE is constantly changing to try and keep up.

Yet the on-screen content is more of the same.

Talking of ‘same’, the last thing I understand is bringing the cruiserweights onto Raw, because they certainly add something that didn’t exist to that point. It might not be a brand new idea, but it’s certainly fresh thanks to the passage of time, and the wrestlers concerned are new to a lot of the WWE audience.

What I don’t understand is having each cruiserweight match – and several other matches on the card – start out the same way each and every time with the slide-through, star jump and rope running that I see each and every week. It’s rarely changed up, blocked or innovated so that I actually don’t bother watching the screen for a few seconds while they do it because I know exactly what is going to happen next. It’s exactly the same as Cena’s moves of doom leading to the five knuckle shuffle that everyone groans at now, or Dean’s surprise clothesline of the middle rope – it’s become standard.

So change it up. Do something different. Do something innovative in the match arena and in the storylines, to make me keep watching. Because the biggest thing I don’t understand of all, is that when the little things are predictable like that, then the bigger things tend to be really predictable too.

And when things are too predictable, I don’t care what WWE does, because I really don’t understand is why anyone involved in what is essentially weekly episodic programming would want it to be obvious what’s coming next.

But then I never did understand drifters.

What do you guys think? Do you understand where WWE is going? Would you rather they innovated more or should they focus on things they know, done well?