Welcome back ladies and gentlemen to the Magnificent Mind! You got it right, Nicky Martin is back, amidst my legal woes that were brought on by my esteemed so called partner in crime, Phil Gordon, you have the utmost enjoyment of yet another article written by yours truly.
Today, we are going to focus on storylines. Now, if you have watched the WWE product of late, you may notice that things seem and even feel a little rushed. Stories are not fleshed out how they should be. With the exception of Randy Orton, who somehow every single time he hits the ring, manages to get me invested in what he is doing, and the current direction of Bayley and Sasha Banks, the great storylines that WWE became known for are few and far between.
That begs the question – Why?
Seth Rollins hit the nail on the head when he said that people today don’t have the patience for “slow burn” storylines. But it’s that long, slow burn that I, and I’m sure a lot of other fans miss so much, and it’s what I believe has made WWE so hard to watch of late.
Let’s look at current stories. The love triangle with Otis and Mandy Rose,with Dolph ZIggler and Sonia Deville… Remember that? That story has pretty much run it’s course, and WWE themselves have shifted the focus of that angle to Rose and Deville almost exclusively. Otis and Dolph have seemingly either taken a back seat, or in the case of Ziggler, gone on to showcase his skill in the newly debuted RAW Underground. So this Sunday we get a hair vs hair match, which will surely showcase the vanity of each star, I’m betting one much more so than the other. But what happens after that? Where do they go from there? Are they going to do everything that they can to ensure fans stay invested? Time will tell.
Then we have the self proclaimed Role Models. Truth be told, this storyline has hooked my attention and it is something that I have enjoyed over the past few weeks of both RAW and SmackDown. Both ladies have proven that they are quite capable of carrying the WWE Women’s Division on their backs, and their promos continue to just get better and better each and every week. One has to wonder what is going to happen as Asuka has the opportunity to become a double champion when she faces both Bayley and Banks in separate matches on Sunday.
Moving to SmackDown we have Nikki Cross turning her back on The Goddess Alexa Bliss and Bliss has now found herself deeply involved in the story between The Fiend Bray Wyatt and his former cohort and WWE Universal Champion, Braun Strowman. Both of these men are extremely talented wrestlers and they have done their best to further the story along, and with the addition of Bliss in the mix, one would have to think that no matter what the outcome, it will be one hell of a conversation piece. They have ventured into the swamp with the cinematic concept, they have battled back and forth on the microphone, but once this all comes to end, the question of where do they go is there again.
Then you have the tag team division with Cesaro and Shinsuke with a huge chip on their shoulder, Sheamus and Jeff Hardy going tooth and nail with Jeff reliving all of his personal demons and the prospect of Big E breaking out on his own for a singles run. Let’s look at AJ Styles with the Intercontinental Championship, and the newly reunited Riott Squad… There are so many things going on that you can’t help but be excited about SOMETHING.
So again, why does it feel rushed? Why is there a constant need to get to that finish line? This writer feels that there is a plethora of different reasons, but for the sake of this article, I’m going to break down my top three.
1. The Internet – With the IWC or the (Internet Wrestling Community) you have thousands of personalities coming together to be the first to report “news” or provide their opinion on just about everything. Whether it be a show, or a specific superstar, or a match, or a gimmick, the list goes on and on. Everyone has an opinion. One of the biggest things regarding the internet is also the fact that fans can watch different programs online and use pages and sites like Facebook to post spoilers, and segments as they happen. What this means is that anyone that is not in the vicinity to be able to tune in live, they can read results and skim through highlights if they so choose. This to me, is a disappointment and I try to avoid spoilers whenever possible because I forever will enjoy the product and I have no interest in knowing the outcomes of shows or matches. With spoilers comes opinions on what might happen in any given angle or story. This again, is something that I dislike. I want to know what is going to happen as it happens. Not after the fact. When you look forward to a movie that you haven’t seen, if you had someone spoil the entire thing for you, what is the point of watching? Then, even if you do go to watch the movie, it takes away from the film if you know what is going to happen doesn’t it?
It’s not the same as going back to watch historical matches. You may know the outcome of said match, but in those cases, you are watching for the history and the sheer enjoyment. I’ve said it time and time again, the internet has been a black mark as opposed to a blessing on pro wrestling and that brings me back to the topic at hand. If you know what is going to happen, if you know the result of a match, or you know about that turn, or you know that someone came back prior to evening sitting down to watch, then the magic of the storyline isn’t there. This is one huge reason why the attention span of fans today is almost non-existent. Fans in this generation want immediate gratification. They want everything now and they don’t have the patience to let things build to that glorious pay off in the stories and matches of yesteryear.
Back when it was the territories, fans had no way of knowing the results prior to an event. They couldn’t just turn on a computer and look at the results of an event from The Sportatorium, the only way that they could see the results was by being there, or reading a report from the newspaper on the following day. Fans then, were not glued to their cell phones, they were not pre-occupied with other things and they were solely focused on the action that is going on in front of them.
I suppose you could say that technology as a whole could be to blame. So many distractions and bells and whistles, I mean who can blame people now right? I’ll tell you who, ME. People are doing themselves such a disservice by missing out on in ring action, especially when they are there in person.
2. Fan Entitlement – I touched on this briefly in the last paragraph. Fans now think that they know it all. I’ve read time after time that fans think they can book better shows, have better storylines and book their favorites to win and lo and behold EVERYONE will magically like it. But the fact is, unless you really and truly know how the business works, unless you’ve worked on shows, or booked matches or set up, taken down, been backstage, the cold hard truth is, you really don’t know. But fans will talk a big game and they will essentially complain about absolutely everything no matter how good it is. Here’s a newsflash. Not everything can suck all the time. WWE still has it’s bright moments. I’m not naive in that I know they have their areas that need improvement as well, but the fact is, they have too much unbelievable talent on the roster to not have something good going each and every week.
Wrestling fans seem to be too busy trying to get themselves over that they are missing out on the actual product and the matches. Again, if you look at the territory days, each one gave you JUST enough to want to tune in the following week and they did it with each and every story that they had going on a given show. So much so that most fans couldn’t wait for their weekly fix of heels, faces, and slams. Some territories even went as far as to join forces for different types of matches, matches like title for title, and interpromotional bouts.
There was a whole different kind of excitement. Starcade 83, everyone wanted to be a part of that event. It was history in the making and when Ric Flair stepped into that cage with Harley Race you better believe that everyone in attendance had their eyes glued to that ring.
Wrestling has lost this over the years and it’s due to the need to have instant gratification. You can’t have a build up to the cage match between Race and Flair today because that build up took so long. You can’t have the three year journey that Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant embarked on to get to that earth shattering moment at WrestleMania 3, the “Slam Heard Around The World”. There are so many countless storylilnes that just don’t happen today. The build to the faceoff between Ricky Steamboat and Jake Roberts after Ricky had been DDT’d on the concrete floor. The bloodbaths between the Midnight Express and the Fantastics, or the Road Warriors… The epic encounters that had Curt Hennig and Nick Bockwinkel or Jerry Lawler and Kerry Von Erich. Macho Man Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan… Because the thing that all of these matches had in common was the story leading up to that big moment. A story that sometimes last two or three YEARS.
Now, fans are lucky to have an angle last two to three months before someone complains that it is stale or that “they’ve seen that match.” I think that is the one that I hate most of all. Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat wrestled each other in excess of 3000 times, and today’s fan is complaining that Edge and Randy Orton is boring and stale. ARE YOU KIDDING me? Two of the absolute best in all of professional wrestling, and this is the complaint? Give me a break.
My take is that fans today have given up novels for a collections of sub par short stories. Both AEW and WWE, along with Impact have had no choice but to water down their stories, and in doing so, those same entitled fans continue to say that the product has gone down hill.
No. Let’s talk about what it really is. It’s sheer impatience and ignorance on the part of today’s wrestling fan that has resulted in a downturn in ratings and the quick stories that make a company look like they are in it to make a quick buck. The truth is, maybe, just maybe the writers and the talent are just sick and tired of putting in all the work that they do, for some cheap ending to what could be an absolutely phenomenal story. Maybe today’s entitled fan needs to take a step back, look in the mirror and realize that the companies aren’t the problem, the FAN is the fan is the problem.
3. TV Writers – This is something that really and truly grinds my gears. It’s something that has bothered me for a long, long time. Let me ask you a question. If you are looking to write a novel, are you more apt to hire a novelist that has completed several hundred books, the likes of someone like Stephen King or perhaps Danielle Steel? Or are you going to hire someone who has two or three newspaper articles to their name?
If you are needing a new roof, are you going to hire a group of teens looking to make a quick buck or are you going to search out quality and experience? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. So WHY, do companies hire TV writers? TV writers do just that, they write for TV. Wrestling writers, write for WRESTLING.
Over the years I’ve read countless dirt sheet articles saying Impact hired so and so or WWE has hired this person, or that person to help with writing. This has left me scratching my head on more than one occasion going who the hell is that? If, you are wanting a good TV show, sure! Hire TV writers, but if you are wanting a good WRESTLING show, would it not make sense for you to hire former wrestlers? Or bookers? Or managers? Or gee, I don’t know, people that have actually had experience in the WRESTLING BUSINESS??? Honestly, I could give a damn about Ryan Satin, or any of the other so called writers that I can’t remember because they’ve literally done NOTHING memorable for their entire careers and lives.
But tell me that you have hired someone like Jake Roberts in a writing and booking capacity. Or tell me that Terry Funk has joined the fold. Or Paul Heyman, or Larry Zbyszko, or Jim Cornette. THEN you’ll grab my attention.
Why you ask? Each of the above have a TON of wrestling knowledge. Each of those listed above know how to make a wrestling show work. They know what fans want, and if they don’t fully know what the fans want, they will know how to steer the ship to get to the desired reaction, the desired emotion and they will know what to do to make sure that those same fans WANT MORE. They will do everything that they can to make each and every week, each and every episode have just enough to make even the casual fan want to come back for more.
I will never understand why this hasn’t been done 100 times over. If you want storylines that work, you go to those who have experienced storylines that work. Hell, brainstorm, sit down and have a meeting with any or all of them that I’ve talked about above and I’ll bet my last dollar that at the end of the day you’ll have one of the absolute best programs, the likes of which haven’t been on network television since the days when wrestling came to you from the studio of the local town that the promoter happened to be in for that given week.
To me, it is a crying shame that the days of the slow burn are all but gone. Not so much because I enjoy old school wrestling, but moreso the fact that I feel it is a huge loss for today’s fan that they can’t fully grow to appreciate the long storyline. I mean sure, you could go back and watch all of the old school wrestling you want, and you could see all of the long, drawn out, top quality angles from just about any territory that there ever was. But after doing so, if you take the time to really delve into the different selection of wrestling genres and venues and stars and content from “the old days” I will challenge just about any fan, to then name another story from today that has had a pay off or an ending as satisfying as any of those. But I’ll save you the trouble and tell you now, that you won’t.
Could professional wrestling see a resurgence of the slow burn storyline? Perhaps. But then you would have to look at the companies themselves.
Impact Wrestling is the one company today that has made an attempt to have more fleshed out and enjoyable storylines, and if they continue to do this, there’s a strong possibility that it could become a saving grace.
The WWE? I think that if they were to want to return to the days of the long stories and that beautiful slow burn, they would need to reassess the sheer number of pay per views that they have today. Not only that, but they would have to have a serious conversation regarding the timing of each pay per view. Take the next two weeks for example. This Sunday, WWE presents Summerslam, and just one week later they bring their Payback show. Now, this is the perfect example. HOW is one to build stories up (Or at least anything new) with one week to prepare. Or one week to get that shock factor. This is a huge part of the problem. The impossibility to truly flesh out a story concerning any type of angle that they could have coming out of SummerSlam is near impossible in a seven day time span.
Now, scale back and really focus on your four big extravaganzas, The Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, Summerslam and Survivor Series, and then sprinkle in a Payback or a Backlash here and there, and what you have is a model with which you could realistically bring back the slow burn kind of story.
Ladies and Gentlemen, while this SOUNDS great, the sad reality is, business is business, and the WWE, and Impact and AEW and on and on, they are businesses, and wrestling today seems to revolve around making the quick buck.
I truly hope that one day, someday, storylines can return to their former glory, but I truly believe that in order for that to happen, they would need to completely cancel the internet for a time, and for some reason, I truly don’t see that happening.
What are your thoughts on longer storyllines? Are you in the population of wrestling fans that joneses for that instant gratification, or are you one of the rare breed that longs for the days of getting just enough and just enough and just enough, and tuning in week, after week, after week, until you get that rush of the epic payoff?
Feel free to leave feedback and let me know… Until next time, this has been the Magnificent Mind!
To Phil Gordon – Your comments from last week concerning MCW Management did not fall on deaf ears. Yours truly actually took the time to speak with management and I was informed that you had no dealings with them last week, or for the last several weeks in fact. They advised that they are not impressed and have deemed your re-implementation of the three strike rule to be unprofessional. As a result they have reinstated myself to full duties. Furthermore they have given me the responsibility of letting you know that due to the outright dishonesty on your part, you have now been suspended without pay with the exception of your weekly Grand Slam until further notice.
The tables have turned Gordon!!!!!