WWE: Good To Recycle? by Matt Corton

It’s not been a good couple of weeks for the only game in town, has it? From Stone Cold and Wade Keller to the guys on the TJRWrestling Podcast and quite a few of us in between, not many guys have had very much nice to say about the product and what’s happened since Survivor Series.

I still have faith. I still think the genetic jackhammer will have something up his pipeline, he just must have, but they’re sure as hell taking the long road to making us all happy bunnies again. Remember the bunny? That idea went (thankfully) onto the scrapheap. Ditto Adam Rose’s party bus, although he seems to be back with yet another throwaway, short-term gimmick.

There’s another kind of trash though – one that in WWE doesn’t seem to get taken out and disposed of anywhere near as often as it should. Maybe they forget to put it out, what with being in a new city every week.

Or perhaps it’s not put out because it’s squirreled away. Perhaps someone takes that trash – the recycling – and keeps it just at arm’s length. Within easy reach. That way, any time they need to dip in for an idea they can do just that.

They’re only following a trend, after all. Reimagining, or recycling other people’s ideas, is the new creativity; you only have to look at the film industry to see that.

Thing is, fans are different now, or at least a good portion of us are. As a WWE fan, I’ve always felt like a neutral sports fan and us neutrals usually don’t want to see the same team wining every year, we don’t want to see the same person at the top of the perch every year and we don’t want to see the same old tired thing – you get excited when something new comes along and shakes everything up.

But is that what most people are like? People go and watch these rehashed movies in their droves. People watch reality TV, which is essentially the same simple story played out with different characters, in their droves. People watch game shows, which is definitely the same thing played out in exactly the same way every week, in their droves.

If you really look at TV-watching habits, if you really look at the viewing figures for shows, does it really stack up that people want something new and different? Some of us do, sure – the ones who love American Horror Story, Lost, Breaking Bad and other shows that reviewers commonly say ‘it takes a while to get into’ as if that’s something bad. But really, is there any evidence that most people (and the WWE really is, right or wrongly, trying to appeal to ‘most people’ with Monday Night Raw) want new, exciting stories to be told?

I’d say no. But one thing all of these repetitive shows have in common, that WWE currently does not, is that they invest you in the characters. There are emotional journeys aplenty and over the top excitement in abundance.

There’s another aspect to this, too. When Stone Cold, who takes pains every week to point out that his comments on the product are those of the constructive rather than destructive persuasion, takes to the airwaves with Wade Keller to point out the lack of clothes on the WWE emperor and when other stalwarts like Jim Ross come out and say that the emperor needs to think about getting some new natty dreads, then it’s quite clear the mainstay fan base is losing its rag.

So if I’m so sure about it, what is it that’s in Vince McMahon’s pipeline to fix it? What’s he building towards?

Well, he’s reached out his hand to that pile of old recycling, or trash as it could be called. We have a face fighting against all the odds, the deal that gets worse all the time, only to rise triumphantly at the end.

Same as it was with Daniel Bryan.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. That story will work one week, it won’t the next. It’ll work in one town, not the next. It’ll work if it seems to be happening organically, but not if it is shoved down our throats at a rate of knots and feels rushed.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Roman Reigns’ push has been rushed, it’s had more delays than a rush hour journey, but it does feel like WWE is saying “ok, what about now? What about now?” over and over again with him.

If it’s the same as it was with Daniel Bryan, how can it ever have the same impact? It can’t. It can have some impact, though and some impact, positive impact, is what Roman Reigns needs badly so I can see why they’re trying to do it.

So even if it’s been done before, it can still work again. If you do it too often, though, or too soon after the last time, it gets old very fast and things get older even faster these days, because if you want to see an underdog babyface fighting against all the odds, including the booking, to get to the top, you just have to get onto the WWE Network and watch Daniel Bryan’s road to Wrestlemania. It’s there for any member of the Network to see, at any time.

That underdog fighting against everything thrown at him storyline will never be bettered than how Daniel Bryan did it and how Daniel Bryan did it is there to view any day, every day. So don’t do it again.

The League of Nations is another recycled idea (naughty, bad foreigners), but it’s one that hasn’t been done well enough to say “you can’t top that”. It’s short-term, as people seem to be pointing out, but I don’t think the WWE has any intentions of it being anything other than short-term. This is the bridge in their song to Royal Rumble – nothing more. You get a nice reason for Reigns to fail at TLC, (I’m presuming interference), then you can move on to your Rumble winner building to Wrestlemania, whether that Rumble winner is Reigns or Brock or whoever – although if Reigns wins then we’re right back to recycling an idea that really didn’t work very well last time around and won’t work very well again.

There’s something that’s definitely new for WWE though and it’s coming up quite soon. In January. On 7th January SmackDown premiers on USA Network. On 24th January Royal Rumble airs. That’s 5 shows, 12 hours of TV time on the same network in between those two things.

Besides the quite obvious recycling of the appearance of a legend or two for those SmackDown shows before the Rumble, I still can’t help but think that what’s in Vince’s pipeline has something to do with those 3 weeks in January. It’s such an opportunity for change, or if not change then something big to happen that if they drop the ball with it, I’ll lose any shred of optimism I have for the faces that run the place, and I’ve written a whole series of articles on here which at heart support the way they’re going.

I’m going to stick it out with my optimism until January. We’ll probably have some more bad shows until then and I actually don’t hold out much hope for TLC, but I think the WWE’s new year, if they do it right, could be –should be – brand new.