I’ve been watching WWE for a long time and over those decades (gulp), there have been some highs and lows. Some WWE programming has been among the best television that wrestling has ever produced. You know the wrestlers, the catchphrases, the matches and the moments that I’m talking about and there are a lot more of them than some critics would like to believe. Those moments are a big part of why I am still a fan to this day, but I would be lying if I said they were still happening as often as they did at different points in the past.
On the other hand, there are times when WWE puts on some of the most dreadful, uninteresting, uninspiring and at times wretched television. There is uninspired wrestling, inane promos and in general a bunch of people running around doing one dumb thing after another with nothing that would make most people want to keep watching. That has been the case far, far too often in recent years as WWE continues to slide down the ladder (while its bank accounts go up, up and up for a variety of reasons that have very little to do with television quality).
Somehow, Monday Night Raw and SmackDown have gotten worse and worse in the last few years and that was starting to seem like something that would never change. In short, with Vince McMahon in charge, the television was going to be a near disaster almost every week because that was how he wanted things. It was clear that something needed to get better in a big way, but as Paul Heyman said at Wrestlemania X7: “He’s the owner of the company!”
And he still is, but now the McMahon influence is gone. Back in July, McMahon officially retired from WWE (retired, forced out, had the chance to leave before he was fired, what have you) and all of a sudden, everything was changed in a huge way. We now had a brand new style in WWE and that does not just mean all of the returning wrestlers (though we’ll get to them in a bit). This was long, long overdue and now things have changed in the ways that had been necessary for a years.
From one week to another, there was suddenly hope, and that was a great feeling. The biggest change was to the feeling of the show, which was now a lot less rigid. It felt like people acting more naturally rather than going out there and being part of a firmly timed, scripted program. WWE has done a terrible job of letting its television shows feel like staged productions and that has made for some very dull events week after week.
The biggest illustration of this has been the Dexter Lumis story, which still doesn’t make a ton of sense. We have seen (presumably) Lumis involved in a car wreck, being chased by police, and then kidnapping Miz last week. The key to the whole story is that it doesn’t feel like something that is planned, but rather something that happened on the spur of the moment.
While of course it is part of the script and written in advance, there is a feeling that this is suddenly happening rather than going from one part of the planned story to the next. Lumis popped up in the crowd, made a distraction and caused some chaos before his part of the show ended and everything went back to normal after the shakeup. That last word is where the change comes from and that is so great to see after it has been lacking for so many years.
What Lumis did was shake the show up for a few minutes, thereby breaking up the pattern it tends to fall into. That lone change, which came out of nowhere, didn’t last long, and was then gone a few moments later, woke the fans up enough and let us get back on to the rest of the show. It might seem small and insignificant, but it is a case where something small makes a big difference.
Monday Night Raw is a three hour show and that is a very long time to watch anything, let alone a pretty dull wrestling show. Just that little two minute (at most more often than not) change from Lumis was enough to invigorate the show and make the fans feel a bit better about what is coming for the rest of the show. Now, instead of watching a three hour show that has very little going on, there is a bump in the middle (or somewhere) that breaks up the monotony. That alone makes the rest of the show feel that much shorter, because, believe it or not, there is something entertaining that gets your interest, even for a little while.
Now obviously you can’t have someone pop up and shake up the show every few minutes (or at least not without Vince Russo running things), so something else has to be involved to wake it up a bit. That is where you need something else to do and sometimes that means bringing in some new faces. That is where another shakeup has come in and it has done rather well.
In the last few weeks, some familiar as well as new stars have come back into the fold, which opens up all kinds of new doors. Between people like Bayley, Iyo Sky, Dakota Kai, Johnny Gargano, Lumis and more, there are now all kinds of fresh match ups and pairings that can be used on any given Monday Night Raw or SmackDown. How many times have you seen the same matches taking place on either show and sat there thinking something along the lines of “this AGAIN?” While there are going to be matches that you see again, just not doing them over and over again can make such a huge difference.
It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but just giving the fans something different to watch or look forward to can change the perspective of the entire perspective of the show. That alone can make a show that is going to run multiple hours feel that much more fun, or at least easier to watch. That is something that has been missing from WWE, the land where rematches abounded for years on end, no matter how dull the matches might have been in the first place.
While there might not be a way to define what is going on with WWE that is making its TV feel that much easier these days, what matters is that things have changed after being done the same way for such a long time. It might be due to the way the show is presented or who is on the cards, but things have gotten a lot better in just a few weeks. While McMahon’s work did not exactly make things better, it is hard to believe that just removing a single person from the company’s day to day activities has made this much of a difference every week.
WWE is not perfect and there are still a lot of problems that need to be fixed, but what matters at the moment is that things are fun again. It might not be the case for a long time and you can only have so many returns and surprises from the days of NXT yore, but just offering a different way to do things can help a lot. That has been the case in recent weeks and it has made the weekly shows that much easier to watch after so many (and I do mean many) years of the same dull stuff. This isn’t the ultimate fix of everything, but with so many new things going on, the most important thing is a new hope.
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