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Is everyone shaking in their boots? Retribution has arrived!
Flickering lights, broken microphones, a tipped over car, ring ropes sawed in half, graffiti, and a cinderblock thrown through a glass door? Oh, the humanity!Look, there is nothing wrong with debuting a new faction across both of WWE’s television products. That concept is intriguing.Right now, on paper, the group looks menacing. On paper, they look like a group making an impact. On paper, they look like developing star power enhancing WWE’s weekly shows.
Unfortunately, Raw and SmackDown are television shows and people have eyes. Since the Retribution debuted, their actions, demeanor, and presentation haven’t lined up with the hype they’ve received. The announcer teams talk about them as if they’re a dangerous band of angry misfits, but in plain view the audience sees what amounts to a whiny group of teenagers, ding-dong-ditching houses on Halloween night. WWE needs to get to the point with this. Who are they? Why are they around? Why should people care?
It starts with the “who.” Just who are these people? Is the full group really the small and pesky individuals we’ve seen destroy stuff throughout the last two weeks? Is there more to it than that? That question can’t linger too much longer. The longer the small teenage brigade is out and about, the weaker the group feels and the less interesting they become. Key talent or NXT call-ups pulling the strings behind the puppets gives the angle added credibility and added interest. To fully realize the impact a reveal like that would make, it can’t be watered down by weeks and weeks of more flickering lights. That key talent is the point. That move is what will make the angle and the group tick. WWE needs to get there before it’s too late.
What about the “why?” What’s the reason for all this? What retribution is this group looking for? Revealing who the key players are will help answer this question, but the longer it goes unanswered, the more difficult it will be for the group to connect. WWE has tried to present an environment where Retribution’s current actions have left WWE in chaos. They’ve destroyed the WWE Performance Center? Ok, why? What’s their end game? Providing this context for the audience helps define the group and it gives their destruction a purpose. If the group keeps obnoxiously meandering around, the audience won’t care about the “why” once it’s explained. WWE has to get there, now.
After checking the who and why boxes, WWE needs to quickly answer the question of why should people care. The Retribution angle has had a multitude of issues thus far, but getting the audience invested so they care is the most significant. Are they heels or babyfaces? Right now, nobody knows. Ironing that out will make it easier for audience engagement and interest to grow.
If they are heels, they should act like it. Nothing about Retribution’s current presentation screams danger, fear, or evil. They are like gnats that presumably could get swatted away with a flick of the wrist. Why hasn’t Drew McIntyre just walked to the parking lot and decimated them with five Claymore Kicks? They need to be more credible and more unlikable – unlikable in a way that creates investment and intrigue in seeing them get stopped. If chaos is the idea, show that and force the audience to see them as realistic, dangerous threats. Currently, the WWE is attempting to pull the wool over the audience’s eyes by telling them one thing and showing something different. Consistency is key and right now, nobody is buying what WWE is selling.
If Retribution is a babyface group, they need to act like babyfaces. The current framing of the faction is so hidden in nonsense that nothing is available for fans to connect with or latch on to — unless you’re counting pity laughs. Raw and Smackdown are infested with numerous heels that a babyface faction can focus their attention on. If chaos is Retribution’s middle name, have them focus their destruction on the heel acts. Between Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, The Fiend, Sasha Banks and Bayley, and the heel announcers, the opportunities are endless in giving the group a babyface skew that tells the audience they are good guys. If they continue to hover around aimlessly, the opportunity for fan engagement withers away by the day.
It appears as though WWE has a plan here and that plan has been rooted in tease. The teases have been directionless and thus far has had the reverse effect of watering the group down instead of building them up. They’ve been cheesy and happened without meaning – a lethal combination that dilutes the notion of a tease all together. The teases have hurt the faction and the angle is bleeding. To stop the bleeding, WWE needs to pull the trigger and give Retribution the context it needs to work. Get to the point. Quick.
NOW CHECK OUT HEYDORN’S PREVIOUS TAKE: It’s okay to let stars be stars