Brian Damage, Jamie Lithgow, Padraic Toolan and Craig Wilson
It has been six months since Vince, Shane, Stephanie and Triple H all gathered in the ring to open up Monday Night Raw and proclaim change was coming to the WWE. After a slew of bad Raw’s, bad ratings and other missteps, the McMahon family promised to change with the times. Stephanie said, “We’re out here tonight because we haven’t been doing a very good job for you lately. We haven’t been doing the one thing that my father has always taught us to do and that’s to listen to our audience. We’ve been suffocating our Superstars and all of that is going to change. And that starts tonight. We’re off to a fresh start.” Now fast forward to the here and now…has the McMahon family changed? Are they listening to their audience more? Are they giving us less of what we don’t want and more of what we want? All this shall be discussed in this week’s Sunday Sermon.
Jamie: I suppose you could make the argument that WWE is giving fans what they want right now. Becky Lynch was the hottest thing in the company 6 months ago since then she has headlined Wrestlemania unifying two championships in the process. Kofi Kingston experienced a massive, and organic, groundswell of support in February and, to their credit, WWE did a hell of a job capitalising on it and he’s now the WWE Champion. Seth Rollins is the Universal Champion when 6 months ago he was probably most fans’ pick to slay The Beast and be the next champion. So, in this regard, WWE has a strong case.
Does this, however, indicate a change? Becky Lynch was over as hell, with or without holding a title. It was common sense to have her feud with Ronda Rousey headline Wrestlemania, that does not indicate a huge change in approach to me. Also, I have to believe a women’s match going on last at ‘Mania was the plan a long time ago anyway. Kofi Kingston is the WWE Champion which is cool, but would we be complaining if Daniel Bryan was still holding that belt and Kofi was just doing his thing with New Day? Probably not. Having a long term mid-carder break through the glass ceiling is a good sign though. Seth Rollins as Universal Champion while popular, was pretty predictable. Plus, Brock Lesnar is still a factor with his Money In The Bank briefcase. So WWE has changed some champions, shuffled the roster a little, but has anything really changed? I can’t recall a massive demand from fans to ‘shake-up’ the roster and move championships around so I can’t argue that WWE is giving fans what they want. I think I’m right in saying that what fans would most like to see is an episode Raw that doesn’t bore them to tears, but that hasn’t happened. The common complaints still circulate; it’s too long, it’s too scripted, the storylines either suck or are recycled and it’s just not entertaining. So, I guess WWE has changed by putting the TV in the other corner and moving the coffee table when what they really needed to do was relatively major renovation work.
Brian: All valid points made by Jamie. It does seem that WWE has dangled a few carrots above fans heads. Meaning that they give fans just a few things to show they a changing with the times like Kofi winning the WWE title, like Becky Lynch winning both the Raw and Smackdown belts etc, etc. I’ll admit, that the pay per views have recently been spot on good as well. Despite all of that, RAW continues to be the main problem.
Yes, the show is brutally long, but a great show is still a great show whether it is one hour, two hours or three hours. The shows haven’t been good period. A major part of that is the McMahons have made themselves too much a part of programming. Do we really need Shane McMahon as a top heel? Vince should only be used sparingly. When Vince appears on TV, it should be a big deal. He has been used way too much since this “promise” was made.
Jamie: To that point, I have an idea for how WWE can give fans what they want, maybe. So Raw is 3 hours and Smackdown is 2 hours, there’s not much even WWE can do about that. They have a process for writing the show and scripting promos. In my opinion – and Jon Moxley’s too – it needs to be re-thought, but that’s unlikely so long as the cash keeps rolling in and people have their positions in the company justified. So what kind of big change can be implemented to give fans the impression that WWE is changing their approach? Well, I’d scrap the McMahons as on-screen performers and remove all authority figures. Put the focus back on the wrestlers. Let’s face it, the top heel will always be whoever is in charge and whoever is making the top babyface wrestle the bad guy wrestlers. Do we, as fans, really need to know who is booking the matches? I prefer wrestling matches to be treated more like sporting fixtures. On any given episode of Raw, the wrestlers have to wrestle, that’s their job. With such a stacked roster, luck of the draw will turn out some damn good matches as a result. If two have an issue with each other or someone has fought into contention for a championship then can’t we just imagine that they have reached an agreement to have a match at the next pay per view, just like boxers, MMA competitors and wrestlers in NJPW do? Remove the middle man and reserve any heat for the actual wrestlers involved. I’ve always seen the McMahons and any authority figures as above the wrestlers because they are. They tell the wrestlers what to do, but do they really need to be depicted on television? Back in the day, the answer was yes because Mr McMahon was such a good, and fresh, character. However, we have reached a point where I think WWE just use authority figures because they have for the last twenty years and don’t know any other way to structure a television show.
Padraic: NXT works just fine with William Regal coming out and saying “HERE IS THE MATCH IN TWO WEEKS” and that’s it. And Jamie you’re right, even that is unnecessary, but I guess it gets people fired up and something to look forward to in the coming weeks. To Moxley’s point, the process is broken. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence that after his Talk is Jericho interview, and later saying they don’t let Roman Reigns’ personality shine, that on Raw this past week, Roman cut a very natural-sounding promo and it was one of his best ever. The cool this is that Roman seems to be carrying both shows. The problem is also that Roman is carrying both shows. Create more stars! THAT’S what the fans want. I want characters that are larger than life. Let the cream rise to the top. Let these guys shine. It was painfully obvious years ago that Moxley/Ambrose has a tremendously creative mind and a great idea of what he wants his character to be, and they didn’t let him do that. Instead, fans ended up pitying him for the material he was given to work with. Stop with cheap heat, stop insulting fans’ intelligence, and start giving us real CREATIVE and in-depth stories and characters. Let the wrestlers script their matches and paint their pictures like they’ve done their whole lives. Moxley’s interview opened my eyes to a lot, and hopefully, the threat of wrestlers having another place to go will make the McMahon’s REALLY re-think what the fans want.
Craig: For me, WWE programme is at its peak most unwatchable. I really struggle to think of a time when the product was so difficult to be interested in. Sure, there were years when the WWF was poorer – am thinking 1995 – but looking right now you almost get the impression that decisions are made to spite fans. It’s quite remarkable.
Sure, we’ve seen the promotion of Becky Lynch and Seth Rollins winning the title but the constant pushes of certain stars – am looking at you Baron Corbin – almost feels like the fans are being trolled.
Ultimately, it all, I believe, comes down to the stubborn nature of Vince McMahon. When we look back at the history of wrestling, we’ll look back at this period as a time when Vince displayed many of the same problems that the likes of the AWA did when he managed to take control of the world of wrestling. Remarkable how things turn around, isn’t it?
Padraic: There are very few true heels these days; everyone wants to be the cool heel and get their cheers too, it seems. Baron Corbin is one of the few who is universally despised and loves it. That what a heel is SUPPOSED to do. The heat he has is so natural. It’s also why I think, to the contrary of most people’s opinion, that Jinder Mahal was a great WWE Champion.
I know I’m getting off topic a bit, but the pushes of Corbin and Bobby Lashley to top heel spots give the faces formidable foes as well as guys that the audiences aren’t going to start cheering for. The feuds with them and McIntyre has certainly worked to get Reigns over more. Toolan: There are very few true heels these days; everyone wants to be the cool heel and get their cheers too, it seems. Baron Corbin is one of the few who is universally despised and loves it. That what a heel is SUPPOSED to do. The heat he has is so natural. It’s also why I think, to the contrary of most people’s opinion, that Jinder Mahal was a great WWE Champion.
I know I’m getting off topic a bit, but the pushes of Corbin and Bobby Lashley to top heel spots give the faces formidable foes as well as guys that the audiences aren’t going to start cheering for. The feuds with them and McIntyre have certainly worked to get Reigns over more.
Craig: But there’s a difference between heat and ‘go-away heat’. I think Corbin has the latter.
Padraic: I think Corbin has the crowd in the palm of his hands. They want to see him get his ass kicked. He is the troll, not Vince.
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.