Brian Damage, Jamie Lithgow & Craig Wilson
There has been a lot of talk on social media lately about the movie ‘Back to the Future’ and why not? It just celebrated a milestone with its 30th anniversary recently. In this week’s Sermon, we will be going into the Delorean and back in time to 1995 and compare how the WWE has changed in 20 years to the present of 2015. What’s changed? What’s different? What is still the same…if anything at all? The clock starts now!
Brian: As we all know by now…1995 was not a very good year for the then WWF. Ratings were bad, buy rates for pay per views were down, attendance for shows were low and creatively they were in a serious funk. (No disrespect to Terry) They certainly had the young talent with guys like Shawn Michaels and Scott Hall etc…but it just wasn’t “kliqing” with the majority of fans.
Fast forward to 20 years into the future to 2015 and ratings are at all time lows…attendance for house shows pretty much stink and while the pay per view business is changing for the now WWE…the WWE network has been a slow a slow, methodical struggle to build and grow. Despite all that…there is a plethora of good young talent on the roster…ie Kevin Owens, Neville etc. Sound familiar?
Jamie: Like in 1995, the 2015 version of WWE is stale. Despite the ‘New Generation’ term, WWE was still very much in the cartoon era in 1995… as it had been for the previous 10 years. As a comparison, could anybody tell me what has changed between 2005 and 2015? I was about to argue that WWE has gone full circle since ’95 but – aside from hitting a purple patch during the ‘Attitude Era’ – it feels like WWE has barely changed in 20 years.
Here’s a comparison to make; HBK is still relevant enough to appear on Raw from time to time. Ditto Bret Hart, Kevin Nash and perhaps Scott Hall. That’s four guys from 1995 who would still be considered relevant enough to appear on Raw today, and in the character they played in 1995. So, who from the current roster can we see appearing on Raw in 2035 in their current guise? John Cena…. that’s about all I can think of.
Brian: Excellent point Jamie! I doubt we will see a 40 or 50 something year old Dolph Ziggler or Roman Reigns re-emerge to any kind of fan fare. It really isn’t an indictment on those guys…just the WWE’s lack of vision in what they could become. It’s a promotion filled with mid card stars and not much else. They obviously can’t go back to the cartoon era of ’95 for fear of being totally laughed out of business.
Craig: As is well documented on here, I’m a huge fan of 1995. Not in terms of admiring the in-ring work or the storylines, in fact the exact opposite: It’s a good case study of how bad things can be. Rubbish characters, dreadful storylines and poor crowds and ratings. Sound familiar?
I think Jamie’s remark about a purple patch is certainly quite interesting but not as interesting as the point about the old school guys appearing on Raw, even those didn’t pop a rating on Monday past – scoring a poor 2.2.
There’s a strong argument that now is actually worse than 1995. The talent wasn’t as good as it is now but the product is arguably worse. It’s alarming stuff, really. The WWE needs another purple patch but without a rival promotion of any note, will it be something like the US Network cancelling Raw or looking for the WWE to ditch a third hour? Is that the shot in the arm that’s needed to change things? After all, it took years for the WWE to turn it around from its low point in 95. Do we see a quicker turnaround in 2015?
Jamie: Nope. Don’t get wrong, the talent is there to turn things around but I don’t think current circumstances will allow for them to shine. WWE insist on forcing the issue with fans, they are incredibly stubborn. I get and accept why John Cena is pushed as a babyface despite the boos, and it works extremely well for him. However, they are forcing Roman Reigns upon us in the hope that he will catch on. Fans want to boo this guy, so turn him heel and let him play up to that heat. It’s not like the Roman Reign’s brand can’t be replaced at the merch stand, he ain’t exactly John Cena is he?
It’s that WWE mentality that’s the problem for me, they will not accept someone like Dolph Ziggler might draw as a main eventer. They think he won’t and that’s the end of it. They think Reigns will though, and will keep trying to spite themselves. It feels like one man’s opinion is being forced upon us, and that just doesn’t fly in this day and age. They did show some adaptability leading into Wrestlemania 30 by inserting Daniel Bryan into the title picture. However, I’m convinced that only happened because it was Wrestlemania and WWE did not want the embarrassment of having fans shit all over the biggest show of the year while the world’s press watched. They say they listen to the fans, but do they really?
Brian: I think they do…but only to a point. They don’t let fans dictate every aspect of their plans. Which in a way, I guess is good. WCW tried catering to fans in its last days and the product was a miserable failure. The biggest difference between ’95 and ’15 is the WWE is now a public owned company. There are stockholders to answer to and with that…more money at stake. Can they weather the storm? I absolutely think so…but they have to trust guys like Cesaro will sell better than Roman Reigns as a babyface etc.
Craig: I think Monday’s Raw showed a bit of a change. I think we can all agree that it was the best Raw in a while. It showcased different guys, the fact that the winners from Hell in a Cell fought in a tournament to name a new number one contender was fun – and also showcased the importance of winning which I like in itself. There’s speculation that Dutch Mantell’s return at HiaC was important as it’s believed he’s got the ear of Vince more so than most. But if he was at all instrumental in the little things that made Raw better on Monday then I’m all for it.
Here’s what I was thinking last night. If I was a booker with the WWE I’d certainly be more able to book a 3 hour Raw with today’s talent than with 1995’s.
Jamie: Oh Jesus, a 1995 three hour Raw does not bare thinking about! I’m not going to bang my drum about the length of Raw, it’s well established that I think it should be a two hour show. However, it is what it is and this week’s three hour Raw did hold my attention throughout. Even the nothing matches like the six man tag had a reason for being.
I’d say it’s more frustration with today’s product versus straight up depression in 1995. WWE’s 2015 roster is overflowing with talented performers, but so many of them are – or have been for too long – misused. This week’s Raw was an example of square pegs in square holes, but we don’t always get that. Even Big E, Kofi, Cesaro and Neville were put over because they got entered into the tournament when the likes of Sheamus and Rusev did not. Obviously we can’t have a tournament every week, but whoever put this week’s show together obviously had a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve. It felt like a show in itself rather than a series of predictable, inconsequential matches designed to kill time until the Survivor Series.
More writing and booking like this would definitely help. It was simple, it was logical and by the end of the show fans were going ape shit for Roman Reigns…. and Dean Ambrose wasn’t even standing next to him!
Craig: the optimist in me thinks that this week represented a new start. Previous weeks everything was set in stone due to Hell in a Cell but night after you’ve got more room for manoeuvre. There’s my optimism. It’ll probably last until end of tomorrow night’s Raw!
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.