When Jason Jordan and Chad Gable were drafted to Smackdown in last summer’s roster split, there was plenty of anticipation and excitement surrounding the former NXT Tag Team Champions. The duo were a well-respected, young, can’t miss act. They had successfully gotten both their personalities over to the NXT audience and their work in the ring was top notch, with very few flaws. The Alphas were an exuberant pair that clearly wanted to be there and wanted to wrestle on a championship level.
Bayley’s NXT run as the top babyface on the brand drafted a very clear blueprint on the most effective way to promote and position Bayley’s very simple character. It was pretty obvious that, with very little effort, the WWE marketing machine was going to make Bayley into a huge, money-making, merchandise-leading star. All they had to do was follow the blueprint laid out during her most successful run as a pro wrestler. In the exact way that they demonstrated with Charlotte Flair’s transition into Raw’s top female star. In the same way that they will hopefully continue with Samoa Joe’s direction and trajectory.
So clearly there is an understanding of the characters on the NXT brand. And clearly there is a willingness to build on foundations that were laid by someone not named Vince McMahon. So why does it seem like some acts get a certain consistency paid to them that others don’t? Could this be a microcosm of what has been obvious to a lot of folks for a long time? After three decades of tremendous success, WWE, and Vince very specifically, has no idea how to make babyface superstars anymore. Sure, Dean Ambrose is a star, Roman Reigns is a star, but there have been no genuine superstars created since John Cena. Bryan and Punk don’t count because WWE went out of their way to make you understand they were nothing special.
It’s almost as if the people in charge of the creative and character directions have no real sense of goodness or sportsmanship because here we go again. American Alpha should be making a difference for the positive right now in attendance, merchandise, and overall interest in the product. They are an act that is perfectly suited to be “the face” of the company. A cornerstone act that everyone knows, understands, and can get behind.
Grown men like Alpha, because they kick a ton of ass in a style that can be respected and is legit looking. Kids and women like them because they are super energetic, young, and handsome and they kick a ton of ass! They aren’t any of those things though. Not even close. The crowd cheered the heel Usos last week when the Alpha’s dropped the Smackdown tag titles to them. That should be embarrassing to the match-makers. They are squandering a young and talented act that they can’t afford to squander.
And Bayley. Talk about an act that you’d have to go out of your way to botch. It seems at every single step along Bayley’s main roster journey there has been a consistent effort to undermine her character and delegitimize her efforts, starting with immediately making her a threat to the Raw Women’s Title. Characters like hers have been proven to work best from underneath. It is a bit counter-intuitive, but that was clearly the case.
Or her most recent character blunder as Raw Women’s Champion. First, she’s made to look like an idiot and her title win a fluke when she had all the facts on her side and instead of emphatically using them and common sense, she gives a milquetoast defense of her actions in the face of a dominating and domineering Stephanie McMahon. Then weeks later the script flips and Bayley did retain her title by dubious means, but instead of owning up to it or putting Sasha in her place for interfering on her behalf, she giggles it off and no one presses her on it except a frustrated heel challenger who now has the moral high ground.
This is a continuous theme that permeates the culture and storylines of the WWE product. Almost a sense of real goodness doesn’t exist. Even the good guys are scumbags in some dark, hidden way. Sportsmanship is for nerds, so get what you want however you can. If you don’t take advantage of loopholes, you deserve to lose. This thinking and promoting style goes against everything the viewing audience experiences in normal, everyday life. Societally, we are not in the anti-hero era. The most popular shows, movies, and cartoons typically have well-defined heroes and villains. All sports have officials and management that cannot be openly bullied or coerced and certainly not the other way around.
There is a serious disconnect in WWE upper management. A disconnect on how people live. How they interact with each other. What they are willing to accept in their entertainment. Most importantly, I think there is a goodness and sense of fairness disconnect.
Just my take.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: BRYANT’S TAKE: The Rebuilding of the NXT Women’s Division’s credibility after the WWE roster split
(Travis Bryant, the newest PWTorch staff columnist, co-hosts the PWTorch Livecast every Friday night with senior columnist Bruce Mitchell, is often part of VIP Post-PPV Roundtables, and hosts the PWTorch East Coast Cast.) ###