CALDWELL'S TAKE CALDWELL: Poor planning leads to poor performance - the story of WWE's current product
Oct 30, 2012 - 2:46:31 PM
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By James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor
"Poor planning leads to poor performance."
The above quote can sum up the last two nights for WWE. Hell in a Cell's much-anticipated PPV main event ended with a referee heel turn and screwjob to keep the WWE Title on C.M. Punk and attempt to keep Ryback strong.
However, the next night on Raw, the Biggest Heel in The History of The World - according to the hyperbole the announcers were asked to use - was nowhere to be found on Raw. Yes, the central figure in the PPV main event the previous night was nowhere to be found and his actions were rendered just another event on just another show.
There is an epidemic with WWE's storytelling. Previously, it was Heel Michael Cole as the lead voice, to where if heels did anything dastardly that should generate heat, Cole doused water on the flames and there was no off-setting voice to help create a genuine fan response of anger that would lead to them wanting to see the heel get his comeuppance.
Now, Heel Cole is gone. Instead, WWE has three hours to fill every Monday night. The result is Raw feels like a marathon show of endless replays, re-matches, and head-scratching, non-compelling, derivative storylines that the announcers and wrestlers are just laboring through before getting out of town and going to the next town.
Insert heel ref Brad Maddox. According to the Wrestling Observer, Vince McMahon settled on the Heel Ref Angle at the last-minute Sunday night when trying to figure out how to get WWE out of a clean finish for Punk vs. Ryback, while trying to keep Ryback strong.
Fast-forward to Monday and WWE had nothing of substance to follow up with on Maddox. Sure, the idea was for Maddox to sell injuries after Ryback destroyed him in the post-match, but why not create a fake hospital room (ya know, like the fake restaurant where John Cena and A.J. had their "business meeting"), have Maddox give a bunch of pathetic excuses for why he did what he did, rile up the crowd because he's an obvious crook and a liar, and follow up next Monday on Raw when WWE has a week to figure out a strong follow-up?
Instead, the Biggest Heel Ever In The History Of The World - according to the repeated hyperbole used by the announcers - was nowhere to be found, the audience didn't care about the angle by the end of the night, and the audience won't care next week when WWE tries to re-heat a half-brained storyline idea.
The other part of why the audience won't care is because Ryback didn't care. As PWTorch editor Wade Keller broke down in his VIP Raw Hotline last night, Ryback didn't need to be a crybaby complaining about the loss, but he needed to show that he cared and that he was intent on getting back the WWE Title. Instead, the Ryback character spewed out a few cliches and led the audience in a tepid round of Feed Me More chants.
Either WWE has stopped caring, they've completely lost their way, they're don't think USA Network execs are paying attention to see what a dreadful show they're producing, or there are way too many distractions in WWE that Vince McMahon is not engaged.
Speaking of not engaged, WWE's top star John Cena seems like he would rather be anywhere else in the world than involved in this A.J. Styles/Claire Lynch/Christopher Daniels ordeal. When the top star seems like he doesn't care on WWE television, it affects how the audience receives the product.
Let's look at the audience portion of this issue. According to the Observer, WWE was disappointed with the audience the last two nights in Atlanta and Charlotte. It's laughable because WWE only has themselves to blame for this. The three-hour Raw era has led to WWE over-exposing their talent more so than usual, giving away matches without allowing the audience to anticipate anything more so than usual, and creating an environment where the audience is so overwhelmed by fast-food-style booking that they only react when told to react. A thrown-out-there U.S. Title match between Antonio Cesaro and Justin Gabriel and another round of Alberto Del Rio's tired entrance, tired ring intro, tired submission-victory-the-day-after-another-PPV-loss is not going to engage a crowd.
WWE has to get back to the basics of mapping out stories with a true beginning, middle, and end, and developing stars to create anticipation for when the established stars do face-off. Simply throwing out Randy Orton vs. Wade Barrett in another Interchangeable Star vs. Interchangeable Star and expecting the audience to get excited is foolish and arrogant.
Poor planning, as captured by the PPV main event finish on Sunday and follow-up TV show on Monday, has resulted in a flat, non-compelling product right now. If WWE wants to turn it around, major, major, major changes have to be made - not plugging holes in the dam that has been cracking for years and been exacerbated by three-hour Raws - or key people have to re-engage in the product. Otherwise, WWE will just keep plugging away with drab three-hour Raws that will eventually drive away an already worn-out audience.
BIO: PWTorch assistant editor James Caldwell has contributed to the Torch since the late '90s, became a Newsletter columnist in July 2005, and became full-time assistant editor in October 2008. Caldwell has covered Raw since the mid-2000s.
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